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Eating Healthy on a Food Stamp Budget

Most food stamp recipients don’t realize that there are multiple avenues to access healthy food at reasonable prices. You may be living on a limited budget, but with a little creativity and research, you can feed your family a healthy diet. You can even prepare meals that are suitable for family members who are diabetic or pre-diabetic.

Eating healthfully is an important piece of building a successful life. If you are struggling financially, you will want to take extra steps to protect your health. If you neglect your health and eat an unhealthy diet, you may develop health complications. These potential health problems can affect your ability to work, care for yourself, care for your family, improve your living arrangements and result in crushing medical bills.  It is especially important to eat meals that will help you maintain a healthy weight, avoid obesity and prevent or manage diabetes.

In particular, those who have diabetes will want to take diet seriously. It’s important to stay away from highly processed or fried foods and to eat plenty of lean protein, low-fat, high fiber meals. If you eat a lot of lean protein (lean meats, eggs, beans) and high fiber foods (vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains), you can keep your blood sugar stable. In this way, you can potentially manage your diabetes through diet, reducing your dependence on medications and lowering medical bills.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF PROGRAMS AND DISCOUNTS

As you learn how to cut corners, you will want to educate yourself about the government programs and grocery store programs that offer great deals on expensive groceries.

Government Programs
The first thing you will want to do is to contact SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the country’s largest food stamp program. While talking to the people at your state’s division of SNAP, ask what local programs might offer assistance (including food shelves and co-op programs). You can find out how to apply in your state by following this link to apply for SNAP.

Farmer’s Markets
While traditional farmer’s markets can still be a little pricey, you’ll find inexpensive roadside stands and people who sell produce from their homes for low, low prices. Keep your eyes peeled for roadside signs and ask friends about community garden sales and low cost farmer’s markets. You will get plenty of fresh, in-season produce through these options.

Meat Sales
You will also benefit if you buy family packs of meat, especially when on sale. Buy them, divide them into smaller packages, and freeze them for future use.

Store Programs
Watch for store specials. For instance, your local grocery store may reward you for collecting coupons or certificates, such as rewarding you with a free turkey if you buy at least $40 worth of groceries at their store for the six weeks before thanksgiving. Watch store circulars and read the fine print of coupons printed with grocery receipts.

Rebates
Keep your eye out for rebates as well – in many cases rebates can be redeemed without even purchasing the advertised product. For example, Mike’s Hard Lemonade is known for offering $5 rebates off $10 worth of “holiday meats” (which means any meat product – they will not quibble over what meat you buy) if you mail in the rebate coupon (found by the Mike’s Hard Lemonade). You don’t even have to buy the hard lemonade! Just send in the receipt and the rebate coupon and you’ll save five dollars. Not bad, right?

Look for ways to save money on affordable lean meat to help your family stay healthy.

INEXPENSIVE FOOD STUFFS TO KEEP IN THE PANTRY, FRIDGE AND FREEZER

If you are trying to eat healthfully, you will want to stock up on the following foods and keep them in your house at all times. These foods are affordable and can be combined in a variety of ways to create healthful meals.

Dried Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are great sources of fiber and protein. They are filling, flavorful and a great meat substitute. Beans and legumes are known to lower cholesterol and prevent or help manage diabetes. They are super cheap as well. Buy bags of beans and learn how to make bean soups, bean side dishes, and bean dips for tasty treats. In most cases, you will only need a few supplemental ingredients, like spices and olive oil.

Canned Beans
If you are diabetic, you’ll want to check the can for added sugar (for example, baked beans are usually too high in sugar for diabetics), but overall most canned beans are great for healthful cooking. Use pre-seasoned black beans as a side dish, on top of eggs for breakfast, for filling for tacos (use low-carb tortillas), as ingredients in casseroles or in salads. Use all kinds of beans (garbanzo, navy, lima, kidney beans) as a filler in any dish that uses ground turkey or ground beef – you’ll stretch your dollar and cut the amount of meat you need to use in half.

Celery
Celery is a great filler, both as a snack (eat with peanut butter, cream cheese or salad dressing) and as a part of meals. Chop celery for salads, soups, casseroles, meatloaf, stuffing… you’ll find celery is a great way to get more fiber into your diet. Add it to just about every meal you make and you’ll lower caloric consumption while increasing fiber.

Lettuce and Greens
Lettuces and greens (especially kale, collard greens, mustard greens) are inexpensive and extremely good for you. Try braising greens in a little olive oil and garlic and eating them just wilted, or cook them with crumbled bacon or a slab of ham for a delicious side dish. Use them as the base for salads and in place of tortillas or wraps for healthy dishes like ham and cheese roll ups (in romaine lettuce) or lettuce wraps. Lettuces and greens are packed with iron, vitamin A and fiber. They are low calorie and deliver antioxidants that will help you stay healthy.

Carrots and Sweet Potatoes
These low-cost food items are high in fiber and vitamin A. Try eating steamed carrots for a filling side dish or a baked sweet potato with a sprinkling of cinnamon for a sweet-tasting, but relatively low sugar side dish. Both of these foods are great for diabetics who are tempted to eat high sugar foods. The fiber will help offset the natural sweetness inherent in the carrots or sweet potatoes, but the sweet flavors will help you resist foods that are worse for you like candy or cookies.

Eggs
Eggs are an inexpensive source of healthy fats and protein. Use eggs in omelets, casserole dishes, and to supplement salads. Eat eggs with a low-carb English muffin or a side of lean ham for a great protein-rich meal.

Brown Rice
Brown rice is easier on your blood sugar and yet is still filling and cheap. Use it as a side dish or as the base for healthy stir-fry dishes.

Lean Ground Turkey, Ground Beef, Chicken and Pork
Look for sales on meat or buy ground turkey just before it expires and freeze it for future use. Lean ground turkey or ground beef is a great base for just about any meat dish – from tacos, burritos, chili, meatloaf or meat sauce for pasta. Use eggs and chopped vegetables (celery, carrots) to make meat go further, or add beans or brown rice into the recipe to add protein and use as a filler.

 

RECIPES THAT USE AFFORDABLE HEALTHY FOODS

Homemade Hummus
Ingredients You Will Need:

1 can garbanzo (chick peas) beans, drained
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine ingredients and puree in food processor or blender. Keep chilled. Serve with veggie sticks (celery, carrots, cucumber slices, etc.)

Try making bean dips with various seasonings (chili powder, paprika, curry powder, turmeric powder, garlic salt, onion powder or dill) to see what types of dips you like best. These sorts of snacks are a great way to get your family to eat raw vegetables and get protein and fiber in their diet.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Ingredients You Will Need:

Leaf Lettuce
1 cup diced chicken breast
1 cup chopped carrots
½ cup chopped celery
¼ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

Heat olive oil in skillet. Sauté chicken until cooked. Add carrots and celery and cook for another two minutes. Add spices and salt; mix well. Serve in lettuce slices.

Healthy Meat Loaf
Ingredients You Will Need:

1 pound low-fat ground turkey
4 eggs
3/4 cup bread crumbs
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup minced carrots
½ cup minced celery
1 cup chopped spinach
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two loaf pans with nonstick spray. Combine all ingredients; mix thoroughly. Pat meat loaf into pans and bake for 40 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. Serve with a side salad.

TAKING ACTION

Many celebrities, like Paula Deen, ignored signs of impending diabetes until the symptoms were severe. Make sure you’re taking action to prevent becoming obese or developing diabetes by feeding your family healthful meals. If you cut out expensive junk food (like chips, cookies and donuts) and make wise choices in the grocery store, you can feed your family healthful meals at an affordable price.

 

Sources:

http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/apply

 

3 comments

  1. Coupons for healthy foods are extremely rare. Even if one is available for a “healthy” food, the discounted price for the brand name product is still likely to be greater than the cost of a comparable store brand.
    Many (definitely NOT all) SNAP recipients have low literacy skills. They do well to just find the foods they want, much less handle the hassle of couponing.
    Freezer, what freezer? Cooking equipment is often limited. Sometimes, a microwave is the only thing available, only thing understood, and/or the preferred method of “cooking.” A gas or electric stove range may expensive to run, even if one is available.
    Being in poverty is time consuming. Many of the poor work two or three minimum wage jobs. Searching for a bit of help for this, that, and the other need, and coping with all the paperwork and I.D. requirements is nearly a full-time “job” in itself. Time to shop, time to cook, is difficult to come by.
    Often, an actual grocery store is not available in low-income housing areas. Hoping in the car and going to the grocery is often not an option. Transportation choices can be cumbersome and limited.
    Not many neighborhood convenience stores sell celery. Sometimes, apples or bananas – but not much other “fresh” food.
    Everything is even more complicated if children are in the household.
    I have started a FaceBook group called “I Only have a Microwave.” I hope to turn it into a blog, when I figure out how.
    Local person involved in managing transition housing for the formerly homeless was bemoaning the fact that many of the people there bought only burritos and such, because they could be quickly cooked in the microwave. She wanted to form a cooking class for them.
    The nearest actual grocery store to that shelter is a least a mile away. (Ten city blocks.) The main low-income area of that city is more like two or three miles away from any available fresh food.
    The shelter is now growing tomato and pepper plants in their flower beds, and residents are learning to tend them. SNAP benefits can be used to buy food producing plants and seeds if sold by stores that take the card. But, if store clerks are not made aware of it, they may balk at selling the seeds and plants. (Wal-Mart here has both a food and gardening area. Other groceries sell some plants and seeds.)
    I also hope to persuade a few local gardeners and farmers to donate surplus vegetables to local shelters and food banks.
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/663166687089143/
    I hope you rethink your “eating-healty-on-food-stamp-budget” article a bit. (Yes, it is possible to cook brown rice, and lots of other stuff in a micro.)

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