saving money

What if Food Stamps Run Out?

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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.

My friends…

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.

what if food stamps run out?  frugalfamilyfood.com
        

5 Ways Keeping Track of Your Grocery Spending Saves You More

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2018 is just about finished. After the holidays, all the year end tasks can be overwhelming, but there is one task that I actually look forward to every year- going over our grocery spending.

I know. It doesn’t exactly sound like date night. But it’s more fun than you think!

You see, we keep track of our receipts throughout the year. Then, at the end of the year, we look at the grand total. We figure out what we are averaging- every month, every week, every day, per person, and per person per meal. It’s a little bit of math, but it feels like a little competition we have with ourselves every year- and I like to win!

I know you want to be a winner, too, so I thought I would share with you 5 ways keeping track of your grocery spending will save you MORE! You can start right now, and this new year can be your best year yet! Here’s how you can SAVE:

1- You have accountability for your budget.

You probably have a grocery budget. Every time you shop, you limit the amount you spend so you can meet your financial goals. BUT, do you ever go over budget? Go ahead. Admit it. We all do sometimes. In order to keep overspending from becoming a budget-wrecking habit, you need accountability. That comes in the form of tracking.

Little numbers in black and white will not lie to you. They will tell you the truth about what you are spending- and you need truth! You can’t look at week after week of going over budget and continue to tell yourself their is not a problem. You will have to face it. It’s a good thing!

2- You can make changes

Once you have faced your spending patterns and you understand them better, you can make changes. You can change your behavior so that you are staying under budget. You can change your budget so it more accurately reflects your needs. You can changes your habits to help you be more successful. There was a time when we shopped bi-weekly and I found that our diet was less varied because I was limiting my opportunities to take advantage of sales. This made me more inclined to overspend on the things we were not getting. I changed our bi-weekly shop to a weekly shop, and it was so much better. It felt like new groceries were coming in constantly and we were not stuck with the same things all the time. The overspending stopped (and, in case you were wondering, the savings even made up for the costs of the additional gas to make the extra trips).

3- You can get/keep your family involved.

I have been in this grocery game for a long time. Our Frugal Family Food Facebook Community Group has over 100,000 members who are sharing posts daily about their grocery shopping struggles and successes (Join the group by clicking here and learn more tips to save you money). If I had a nickel for every time someone told me their spouse of children were not supportive of their grocery saving efforts, I would be a millionaire. Seriously.

You know how to change that problem? Get them involved! We keep our weekly family expenses on a white board in our kitchen. The whole family knows our budget, and they know how much I spend every time I go shopping- and it’s right next to our weekly meal plan. They know when we have extra, and the know when things are tight. It is so much easier to get them to understand when they see the numbers on the board. Just like they tell you the truth, they will tell your family the truth about your financial situation, too.

Believe it or not, your family wants you to succeed. Keep them in the loop by tracking your expenses, and you will save yourself a bunch of time you would have spent before explaining why they can’t have 4 different boxes of cookies and money buying said cookies when you couldn’t take any more of the whining. And let’s not even talk about the stress you will save. In fact, you will probably save even more money because you will save what you would have spent on coffee or therapy just to deal with the whining and complaining. You are welcome.

4- You can plan ahead for bulk purchases.

Last year, my family made some pretty major bulk purchases, the largest of which was 1/8 of a cow to get local, grass-fed beef from a local farmer. It was something we wanted to try for a long time, but we had never felt like we could afford to do. Because we were tracking our grocery expenses and the cow was ordered weeks in advance, we had the opportunity to cut back in a specific way to make up the money to pay for it. It worked out beautifully.

There are lots of items that you may find are more affordable in bulk. My friends and I buy meat at butchering time, but you can also buy grains (like wheat and oats), vegetables in season, and amazing sale items that are only found at certain times of the year (like oranges in December or turkeys, hams, and baking goods at Thanksgiving). Tracking your spending and using your saving can help you meet your financial goals and making the most of every dollar available with bulk purchases.

5- You can set goals.

Honestly, the most fun my husband and I have when we go over our annual tracking is when we start considering our goals. We start by looking at our goals from the previous year. Then, we consider how well we preformed. After considering our successes and failures, we make plans for the next year. This is the fun. I LOVE to dream about what’s to come. How can we do better with our money? What will we use our savings for? And we sometimes get goofy when we make our plans. You can watch us as we go over our grocery spending and talk about all of our goals here:

Some folks I know use their grocery savings to take a vacation every year. Want to talk about getting your family on board?! Her kids and husband are downright cheap about what they spend because they want to do something awesome each year!

Setting goals are not abstract. We pick numbers and use our finances for a purpose- so we can accomplish the things that are on our hearts.

This year, I am challenging you to start tracking your grocery spending and save even more money. Get some accountability, make some changes, keep your family involved, plan ahead for bulk purchases, and set some amazing goals! Then, come back here and tell me all about it! I love to hear saving success stories!

          



About Amanda Frugal Family Food


Amanda is a wife, mom, and all around frugal lady.  She shares her family and faith on The Fundamental Home and Fundamental Faith YouTube channels.  She also blogs at thefundamentalhome.com   There, you can find her blog series, “How I Feed My Family of 5 for $100 Every Month.”  Amanda is co-creator of Frugal Family Food and, as such, is dedicated to helping families eat well on a budget. 

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