Tuesday, October 23, 2012

4 Weeks of Meals on a "Food Stamp" Budget- Read this One First ! :)

  Here we are at the beginning of 4 weeks of healthy meals plans and snacks that will feed a family of 5 on less than $700 per month.  My hope with this is to encourage you that it is possible to be able to afford to eat healthy.  The meal plans are priced with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in mind, but really anyone can use them.

  $700 is the approximate amount of food supplementation money that a family of 5, in the state of Minnesota, might get.  What amount a family gets can greatly vary, as the amount given depends on a lot of different factors that are evaluated.  The $700 is based on a family that I know of that has 6 people, and just started receiving $850 per month.  The amount is also based on what I could find online, although as I said a lot of factors play into the amount.

As I look over the menus and shopping lists I have put together for this, I can see how someone would be tempted to start hacking away at the quality of food in order to reduce how much they are spending.  I totally understand this desire, however I would caution you not to do it.  As I have researched food for the last 2 years one thing became very obvious to me.  The quality of the food matters.

The quality of food matters because it was originally created to meet the exact needs of our bodies.  When we start changing food by changing what animals have been fed for thousands of years, and adding chemicals  then we are changing what we get in our food.  And what we are now getting is causing mass malnutrition (even in over weight people), and diseases like heart disease and cancer that are killing huge numbers of people.  The changed food doesn't have the vitamins, minerals, and perfect balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 that it other wise would have, and therefore weakens our immune system.

To understand this better here are some articles that I've written to help you understand why you would spend more on an item, like beef, to have better health for you and those you love.  They are all helpful, but I have put an * by the ones that are most relevant to these meal plans...

*Does it Matter What Kind of Meat We are Eating?-  Explains the balance we need of Omega's in our meat.
Why We Should Eat Beef and Play with Legos-  Explains what nutrients we get from meat, and some meat alternatives.
*Eggs...To Eat or Not to Eat?-  Helps you understand the health benefits and concerns of eggs, and how to know if you are getting good quality eggs.
*Back in Time Means Back to Healthy-  Explains why we should be eating sprouted grains, like those used to make Ezekiel bread.
Margarine or Butter?-  Explains the health risks that margarine is causing, and some good alternatives.
*5 Ways to Reduce Your Risks of Getting Cancer- Show cases a few common foods that can be cancer causing, and some alternatives to them.
What Does Buying Organic Really Get You?-  Explains the standards that are in place to make sure we truly are getting a chemical free product.
*Why I Shop at Trader Joe's-  You'll notice on the shopping list that I recommend Trader Joe's a lot, here's why.
*One Way to Eat Healthier-  Explains what benefits we get from rice, and why brown rice is so much healthier.
Decoding GMO's-  Explains what a GMO is, why we have need to be concerned about them, and what foods to look out for.  I highly recommend watching the Genetic Roulette movie (which is also available in Spanish), for a good understanding of what's the big deal with GMO's.
A Peak at a Food Researchers Dinner Table-  Shows how a meal, like a hamburger and french fries, can be  made so much healthier, and still taste amazing!

Don't feel like you have to read it all at once, but these articles can help you know why certain foods make a difference in our health.

As far as organic goes... chemicals just don't mesh with our bodies.  They can seriously disrupt our hormones, they can even cause cancer.  Organic also keeps the GMO's away.

BeansIf you are saying $700 a month is more than your family can afford, I get ya because I've been there.  I've been on WIC and MN Care.  I've shopped shopped the discount grocery stores for the bargains, and you know what?  We got sick.  I really can't see any other factor that has changed in our lives.  There is still stress, we still aren't great about getting enough exercise.  Just the quality of the food has changed, and now we hardly ever get sick, and when we do our immune systems seem to be strong enough that we recover very quickly.  I am not bragging just putting us out there as your human guinea pigs as to what works and what doesn't.

If you need to cut back on costs I would recommend adding more beans instead of meat.  I would also try to add in quinoa, as it is a complete protein, like meat.  I have some friends who are feeding their family of 4 on $250 a month largely by eating meals of beans and rice for dinner, and oatmeal for breakfast.  It can be done!

The meal plans are simple, and yet hearty.  This really is the way that our family shops, and eats, the majority of the time.  If you have a sixth person I would just add a bag of organic frozen vegetables to it to stretch it out farther, if needed.  So with out further adieu, here we go!...

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