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Food insecurity is a real problem.
I get it. Our family used to get SNAP benefits.
We moved to a new state with thousands of dollars saved, thinking there would be plenty to last until my husband found a job. He had a good job history, having worked the same job at the same company for 10+years. He’s clean-cut and likable. We just knew that finding a job would be easy for him… but we were unprepared for the job market in our new home. It took Rick three months to find part-time employment. The money we saved ran out quickly. For a while, my husband worked two part-time jobs and I worked part-time, too. He was unable to find full-time employment for about a year- and even when he did, we were below the poverty level. We needed those benefits to get by. And while we worked hard and got off Food Stamps (as they are commonly known) as quickly as we could, it was a struggle. We were feeding our family of 5 on only $100 a month. You can read my blog series by that link which gives lots of tips and tricks on how we did it or watch the video below where I show you.
The truth is, regardless of common misconceptions, most families who get SNAP benefits are not taking advantage of the system. They have real needs and want to get to the point where they can stand on their own two feet.
I see stories everyday in our Frugal Family Food Community Facebook group about families who are struggling with food insecurity. There are so many reasons why families may need help to get by during trying times. Even with those benefits, folks come to the group for advice to make them stretch. It’s not easy to get by even when you have this kind of help.
So, here we are.
Facing the real possibility of food stamps running out.
What can we do?
Here are a few suggestions for everyone- those who will possibly be losing benefits and those who will not:
What can you do if you are a person who needs them and will not be getting them anymore?
The first things you can do if you will possibly be losing your benefits for a while is take a deep breath. It’s going to be OK. We are all on your side, and no one wants you to go hungry. There are options available to you.
Make the best use of what you have. We all can have periods of time when we are less careful about using what we have in our pantry. This is not the time for carelessness. You want to be intimately aware of every item you have and how to make the best use of it so nothing goes to waste. Right now, we are in the middle of our Low Spend Month Challenge for January. The first step- do a pantry inventory- is key to spending less. If you have not started our Low Spend Month Challenge, get the calendar and start it now. By stretching and saving, you can make what you have last as long as possible.
Meal Plan. Plan every meal. Every. Meal. You need to sit down and plan it out. This strategizing is what will ensure that every item you found in your pantry/freezer gets eaten. If you don’t know how to meal plan, I just started a “Meal Planning for Beginners” series. It’s free on my YouTube channel (Here’s a link to Part 1).
Coupon/ Shop wisely. I know. You are already doing the best you can. Make an extra effort. Check prices online. Get coupons from friends and family members. Plan your meals around sale/clearance items. Make every penny count. We created the Frugal Family Food Community Facebook group to help families who are trying to eat well on a budget to connect and share information. Join the group (linked above), and see if you can give or get advice that will help with shopping more wisely.
Preserve as much as possible. Freezing, canning, dehydrating, fermentation, and other means of food preservation will help you to make what you have last. Don’t let your celery rot. Slice it and freeze it for future soups and stews. Dehydrate your fruit and turn them into homemade fruit leathers. Cook those mushy apples into applesauce and can it for future use. Slice that end of cabbage and make sauerkraut. The possibilities are endless.
Consider nutrition and ration appropriately. Now, I am not saying cut out critical food. What I am saying is, cut those items out of the budget that cost money, but add little/no nutrition. Sodas, sweet snacks, and other empty calories waste your food dollars. Consider very carefully your family’s nutritional needs and choose what you spend the dollars you do have access to wisely.
Call 211. This phone number is a referral line to will help you find community-based and government agencies that help families in need. While the government resources may be limited in this time, community resources will still be available. 211 will be able to direct you to places in your community that regularly help people in your area, like food pantries, soup kitchens, and other food-centered charitable organizations.
Connect with places of worship and religiously affiliated organizations. Many religious organizations have food pantries and other resources to help families in need in their community. If they do not, they may be able to point you in the direction of an organization that can help in your area. If you are a member of a religious organization, they may be your best resource. Check with them first, then ask affiliated organizations. They may have special programs for members.
Find ways to increase your income. I am well aware that you would not receive SNAP benefits if there was a way to get by without them. Still, it is worth saying that, you may be able to find something if you search diligently. If child care is a problem, ask another mom if you can trade childcare so you can each get part-time jobs. It may be a help to you both. Sell things you don’t need. Resale things you find at thrift stores. Consider online employment. Again, I know it’s not that easy, but I would be remiss if I did not at least mention finding ways to increase your income as an option.
Finally, if you run out of options, ask your friends and family. You don’t have to tell me how much you are loathe to do this. I know you are. I would be, too. But you and I both know that, if our friend or family member was going hungry, we would want them to ask us before they went without. Remember what I said at first- we are all on your side, and no one wants you to go hungry. It’s true. Just ask. You will be glad you did.
What can you do if you are a person who does not need or get food stamps right now?
Have compassion. Remember, we all need help sometimes. Give someone the love and grace you would want if you were in their shoes.
Give. To individuals who ask (because they would not ask if they had no need). To organizations (as they will be overwhelmed with requests for help). As generously as you are able. Without expecting a return. Without demanding an explanation of the circumstances. Just give.
Consider what you can do without. Will you really be able to enjoy that island vacation when your cousin and her children are eating PB & J everyday? Is it the right time to upgrade your vehicle when you see your elderly neighbor is getting rides to the food pantry every week? Do you need new furniture this year, or could you get by for another year and make an extra donation to your local food bank? We need to ask ourselves what we would be willing to give so that others can eat well. If all of us make little sacrifices, I am convinced that no one need go hungry.
This is the time to get serious. Food Stamps may run out, and we may need to take strong steps to feed families in our community. Let’s, everyone, do all we can to make sure no one goes to bed hungry.
I am earnestly praying that everything will be resolved so that that this advice is not necessary, but if it is, we are here for you in whatever way we can be.