Hunger Awareness Project: Snacking on a SNAP budget

Could you make 30 days of snacks out of $16 of groceries? Here's what's snacking on days 22 & 24 of my plan: Cucumber Raita with Radishes and Cucumbers

This is the first in a series of three posts I’ve written for the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance Hunger Awareness Project. I recently joined the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance and we’re all working together with the Capital Area Food Bank to help raise awareness about hunger in Central Texas.

For this first post, I’m focusing food education for kids by making healthy, easy snacks on a tight budget– just $16 for two kids’ snacks for the month. $16 is the smallest amount of support the government provides to food stamp recipients, and it’s possible that this small sum could make the difference between a family’s kids eating snacks after school and going hungry.

My snack menu features six easy recipes that I imagine children might enjoy preparing and eating. No cookies here. These snacks are all fruits, veggies, whole grains and healthy fats like olive oil. The total cost of all the ingredients for my month’s worth of snacks was $16.02 at HEB, a grocery store on the bus route home from my job. I bought organic eggs, popping corn, and yogurt; the rest is conventional.

Grocery List
32 ounce bag popping corn, $1.99
4 ounce bottle olive oil, $1.79
16 ounce bag of dry chickpeas, $1.09
32 ounce bag carrots, $.88
small bag of radishes, $.99
two, 8 ounce packages of plain greek yogurt, $2.84
one cucumber, $.50
Garlic powder (no salt added– just plain garlic), $1.50
Ground cinnamon, $1.13
Five small apples, $.85
1/2 dozen eggs, $2.50

Shopping for these ingredients made me highly aware of what a sacrifice it can be to cook with high quality ingredients. For example, that tiny bottle of olive oil was twice as expensive as a mid-sized bottle of canola oil. Garlic powder costs three times as much as garlic salt. And organic, free range eggs cost $1.50 more than their factory farmed counterparts. Choosing to cook with these good ingredients meant that I could afford dry chickpeas, but not canned. And I had to settle for five tiny, Red Delicious apples instead of my favorite Pink Ladies or Cameos.

Even though shopping for the ingredients was a bummer, I like the snack recipes I created. I think I would have enjoyed eating all these things as a kid, especially the popcorn and the deviled eggs. (Mom? What do you think?) Here are the snacks I prepared with my $16 of groceries. In my instructions, I did my best to keep everything kid-safe, but since I don’t have kids, these are educated guesses.

Apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon: Grown-ups should slice apples, kids can sprinkle with cinnamon. Step-by-step instructions.

Popcorn: This one’s super easy. Pour 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels into a plain paper lunch sack. Fold the top of the bag over three times, then cook for 90 seconds in the microwave. Eat the popcorn plain, or sprinkle with garlic powder or cinnamon. Detailed, step-by-step instructions.

Popcorn is an inexpensive, healthy snack for kids. Just put 1/4 cup of popcorn in a paper bag, close the top and microwave for 90 seconds. No need to add butter or oil, and it costs less than $.15 for two servings.

Carrot sticks with chickpea hummus: Grown-ups should slice carrots into sticks. Kids can make hummus by using a fork to mash together in a bowl 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas, a little olive oil, a tablespoon of water and a heavy sprinkle of garlic powder. The Kid Can Cook has an ingenious, kid-friendly method for making hummus, too.

Roasted chickpeas: Kids can use a paper towel to dry 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas, then toss the chickpeas in tablespoon of olive oil with some garlic powder. Grown-ups should spread chickpeas in an even layer on a cookie sheet, then bake at 450 for 30-40 minutes until chickpeas are crunchy.

Confetti deviled eggs: Kids can help crack and peel hard-boiled eggs, and grate one radish and 1/4 of a carrot. Grown-ups should cut eggs in half and scoop out yolks. Kids can mix together the egg yolks and most of the grated veggies, and then spoon the yolk mixture back into the egg halves. Garnish with remaining veggie “confetti”.

Shredded veggies provide lots of color and texture in this simplified deviled egg recipe. Kids can help peel eggs, grate vegetables and smash together the yolk filling. I used a sprinkle of garlic powder instead of salt for extra oomph.

Cucumber raita with radish and cucumber slices: Kids can grate half a cucumber and mix it with 8 ounces of yogurt and a sprinkle of garlic powder. Grown-up should slice the remaining cucumber and radishes. Raita tastes best if it sits in the fridge for a few hours before serving. (This dish is pictured at the top of the page).

By using these simple recipes and staggering snacks throughout the month, I stretched $16 of food into 62 servings of snacks. You can see there’s a whole lot of popcorn on the menu, and lots of chickpeas. I tried to alternate these inexpensive snacks with more luxurious offerings like the cucumber raita and deviled eggs.

Do you think the snack plan I laid out here is realistic for a single, working parent to carry out? And would kids really eat these things? How would you stretch $16 to help feed your family?

Find out more about the Capital Area Food Bank and the Austin Food Blogger’s Alliance Hunger Awareness Project here. 


14 responses to “Hunger Awareness Project: Snacking on a SNAP budget

  1. fantastic post-I love your calendar.

  2. This is a GREAT post. I love seeing things like this. Something to think about when I think of my students’ eating habits.

    Also, I had NO idea you could pop regular ole kernels in a paper bag. I don’t have a microwave, so I can’t try it, but I love the idea of it!

  3. Those are so much healthier than the deviled eggs we make! My wife does hate mayo, so I’m going to show her this idea. Wait, I love mayo, hmmm, maybe I won’t!

  4. This is such an interesting idea. What a cool blog alliance too. I like the snacks that you laid out. I can’t imagine my kids snacking for less than $16 month – that’s really eye opening. I know they would eat the popcorn and apples. They would like the hummus too – but I’m not sure I could convince them to eat the carrots. And I know they wouldn’t eat the deviled eggs – but I sure would!

  5. These are awesome snacking ideas, Kathryn! I’m going to clip and save!

  6. Rufus: these deviled eggs may not satisfy your mayo-loving tendencies, but we sure enjoyed them at my house. 🙂 My husband hates mayo, so they were right up his alley!

  7. Love these snack ideas! And I think it’s super cool how you broke it down into kid-friendly and adult-required jobs. Cooperatin’ in the kitchen!

  8. Kathryn –
    This post rocks! I love your calendar and your ideas. The DIY microwave popcorn is great – cost-cutting plus you control what goes into it. Inspired!

  9. Pingback: » Austin Food Bloggers Hunger Awareness Project Roundup: Part 2 Capital Area Food Bank of Texas Blog

  10. I have actually had to live off of food stamps before and it is difficult to find healthy inexpensive options. There wasn’t a whole lot of organic eggs in the house, but we made do. It frustrates me when you hear people with overweight children complaining that it is impossible to eat healthy on their budget. You’ve just proved them wrong. And as for whether my kids would eat them or not, they’d have to get past me first! I don’t think they’d dig radishes but the other options sound doable. And now I want some deviled eggs, damn it.

    • Anastasia, thanks for your honesty about being on food stamps. I found out through the course of this project that lots and lots and lots of people I know have benefitted from the food stamp program. I think it would be really, really hard to find healthy meal options for kids on a limited budget– it took me several hours to research and develop this menu, and I am not sure that’s realistic for many parents. Anyways, thanks so much for the kudos and I hope you get to eat a deviled egg soon! 🙂

  11. Pingback: CAFB Hunger Awareness Challenge: A Follow Up | The Austin Gastronomist

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