Project update: I came up with a name and a little intro into the planning process.

Oh, SNAP!

I couldn’t resist.

I mentioned earlier this week that I cooked up a project for this blog. The Hubs and I were going to eat on what would be the amount of SNAP benefits for two adults for the entire month of October.

I knew I needed a catchy name. But I’m not good at thinking up those sorts of things. That’s my disclaimer. It’s kinda cheesy: “SOLE on SNAP.”

I’m a big fan of acronyms, you know. SOLE is jargon for “Sustainably, Organic, Local, Ethical.” Those are food principles I try to live by. I don’t always adhere to them perfectly, but I certainly strive to. Of course, SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as “food stamps.”

So now that I have a name, I wanted to talk a little bit about how I’m preparing for the project.

I started out by doing what I do every month. And, let me just say, I know I’m a little type A when it comes to this. But this is just what I do.

I go grocery shopping on or about the 28th of every month. Why? Well, because my credit card billing cycle starts over on that day. To be honest, my credit card is usually on “lock down” for about the last week of the billing cycle. It is what it is.

About a week before I go grocery shopping, I start thinking about what I’d like to make for dinner next month. I take inventory of what I have in the freezer/pantry/larder that I can use. I flip through some of my favorite cookbooks to see what strikes my fancy. And I think about what’s in season at the farmer’s market. I make a list of about 20 or 22 dinners, based on all this inventory, cookbook perusing, and cravings. I’ve been doing this for more than a year, and I’ve determined I only need between 20 and 24 dinners for the entire month, based upon our eating schedule.

As I make a list of the dinners I want to make, I also make a store list, adding things that are in the recipes that I will need to buy. And of course, adding the things that I buy on a regular basis like yogurt and lunch stuff.

After I have my list, I print off a blank calendar from outlook. I look at my schedule for the month, and mark off the days I already know I won’t cook. Then, I fill in the dates with the dinners. I try to make it varied, i.e. not having fish twice in one week, etc. I also take into account evenings that I have meetings or if I expect to be working late, and try to schedule crock pot dinners or something that I know Jeremy won’t mind cooking. The final product looks something like this.

I leave a few days open for spur of the moment meals and things like that. We do eat dinner out about once a week, and we usually visit either both or one set of parents on the weekend, and we’ll have dinner at their house.

Now, I’m ready to shop. I do try to make one big shopping trip per month. I know that I’ll need to go back, hopefully only one more time in the month to get things like milk and a few odds and ends. If I have something on my list for a meal late in the month that is perishable, I’ll usually hold that off until the second run to the grocery store. I also order from the Monroe Farm Market, which delivers every other Thursday. I usually get eggs once per month, and maybe some meat or vegetables, depending on what’s offered by the market. I also have my “Delicious Potager”, from which I get some vegetables and herbs too. (It’s still going strong, by the way. I planted arugula Monday, and yesterday I picked some peppers and radishes.)

I would say the whole process of flipping through cookbooks, making a list of menus, making a store list and filling out the calendar takes 3 or 4 hours. But I don’t do it all in one sitting. In the evenings when I sit down to watch tv with Jeremy, I might grab a couple cookbooks and flip through them. Or sometimes when I’m eating breakfast, I am thinking about what I’ll make for dinner and adding menus to the list. The hardest part is filling out the calendar, because I have to think about “are we eating too much red meat this week? are we going to get burnt out on meatless meals this month?” and I have to take into account my busy schedule. (Seriously, I need to drop some committments… Junior League, Eastern Star, serving on the session at church… It’s getting out of hand.)

I can get my shopping done in an hour or less, and I try to go on Sunday afternoon, or an evening through the week, if that is when the 28th falls. One thing that saves a huge amount of time at the grocery store is making a good list. I am pretty familiar with my grocery store, and after I get my store list done based on the menus, I make a new store list, with the items listed in the order I come to them in the store. Like I said. I’m type A. I also write down if I have a coupon for the item. I do coupon, but I’m not an “Extreme Couponer.”

So, I know this post is already REALLY long, and probably boring, but there are a few loose ends I need to tie up for the project.

I’m still not really sure how to count the stuff I already have in the freezer/pantry/larder. We have quite a bit of chicken in the freezer, as late summer is the time of year to butcher chickens. I bought a lot of it from the farmer’s market in July and August, when it was available. I’m still mulling that one over, and I’ll figure something out.

And I’d still like to talk to someone who has formerly received or is currently receiving SNAP benefits, just to ask some general questions and get some perspective. I WILL NOT use any names on this blog. I think that the project would have a little more credibility if I could get that perspective from someone. At any rate, I’m moving forward. And excited to get this thing started.

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