My friend Irene, a hardworking single mother who also cuts my hair, is an absolute inspiration to me and I’m sure many others fortunate enough to cross her path.
Moms like Irene silence all the naysayers like Dr. Oz who claim that it isn’t possible to eat healthy on a very tight budget or that those who eat organic are elitist.
You see, Irene is on food stamps.
Irene’s situation is not at all rare anymore. The number of Americans on food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as it is now called, has increased by 260% since 2000. In a more sobering statistic, the actual number of people relying on food stamps to eat has increased from 17.1 million in 2000 to over 44 million in 2011.
Despite Irene’s challenging budget which includes food stamps, she manages to buy nearly everything local and/or organic to prepare the healthy, homemade meals she prepares.
By refusing to settle for anything less than the best for herself and her son and by using creativity and streetsmarts to carefully plan and implement her food stamps budget strategy.
When you demand the best and refuse to settle, as Irene does, the world frequently seems to open up to you with opportunities and people necessary to fulfill your goal suddenly coming across your path.
Irene also gets competent alternative medical care by shrewdly trading hairdresser services for routine chiropractic care which has prevented her family from requiring any conventional medical treatment or antibiotics or other drugs for quite some time.
How does Irene do it? How does she manage to source only the most nutrient dense foods for her family including more expensive, gourmet items like grassfed raw milk and butter while on food stamps?
The brilliance of Irene’s food stamps budget plan is in its incredible simplicity.
- Irene has learned which farmer’s markets around town accept food stamps and so she buys much of her produce at these venues. She also buys fresh, locally made, artisanal bread at the farmer’s market. Yes, it’s true! You can use food stamps at many farmer’s markets if you just ask around!
- Irene buys her grassfed meats and bones to make stock at Whole Foods. Did you know Whole Foods takes food stamps? Another option would be for Irene to split a cow sourced at a local grassbased farm with one or two friends. This may present itself as an option for Irene in the future, but for now, Whole Foods is the best stand-in source for her meats given her limited time and storage space.
- Irene has figured out which healthfood stores carry what organic brands at the best prices. She uses her food stamps to buy foods like freshly ground almond butter, raw honey, cheese and other staple items this way.
- Irene uses the food funds she is able to contribute herself for raw dairy which is not covered by food stamps (although I do know of one other friend in town who is able to buy raw goat milk with food stamps because she is allergic to cow milk).
- If Irene finds that she must buy something at the supermarket, she makes sure that it is a low spray item like asparagus or a GMO free item based on analysis of the ingredients label.
Hat’s off to Irene for showing us all how to eat healthy during hard economic times. Her refusal to accept anything less than the best, nutrient dense fare for herself and her family is the line in the sand that opens the door to solutions.
Well done Irene!
Are you on a food stamps budget too? What are your tricks for eating healthy, local, and/or organic despite this challenge? Please share to inspire those who may be facing a similar situation.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
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