Pennies on the Dollar

Last week I was part of a conversation about someone who was ‘caught on tape’ buying soda pop and junk food with food stamps. I don’t share the outrage that others expressed about someone on food stamps buying processed junk food, but I did feel deep sadness. I feel sad that along with pretty much everyone else in America, the person in the video is missing out on the opportunity to experience true peace that comes with having a well-stocked larder/pantry in their home.

After our conversation, I wondered if it is possible to establish a well-stocked larder on food stamps. I looked up the max. monthly amount of food stamps available for a family of 3 (the size of my current household). The maximum benefit available is $526/mo. With that amount of money, a larder could be established in 3 months using the following lists at your guide for a family of 3 (please adjust according to your family size).

Monthly Staples – $404.50

4 dozen eggs – $8.00
4 gallons of milk – $10.00
Butter – $5.00
Veggies (per personal tastes) – $75.00
Tomato pastes and sauces 24 cans – $12.00
Lettuce/Cabbage ($2.50/head) – $40.00
Onions 5 lbs. – $10.00
Garlic 1 lb. – $5.00
Potatoes 20 lbs. – $16.00
Fruits (per personal tastes) – $50.00
Rasins 40 oz. – $6.00
Oranges 20 lbs. – $26.00
Apples 10 lbs. – $20.00
Lemons 10 lbs. – $7.50
Oatmeal 18 oz. (4) – $13.00
Honey 1lb. – $8.00
Sugar/Brown Sugar 8 lbs. – $6.00
Peanut Butter 28oz. (2) – $12.00
Meat & Cheese $2.50/day – $75.00

Building the Larder – $114.00

Beans 20 lbs. – $15.00
Spices – $7.50
Oils 50 oz. – $16.00
Vinegar & Salts – $17.50
Sweet potatoes 6 lbs. – $8.00
Rice 25 lbs. – $29.00
Flour 25 lbs. – $21.00

Monthly Total – $518.50

Mason Jars 4 Boxes/month (not covered by food stamps) – $32.00

Following this buying guide will give you all the food you need to eat very well and under budget. If you aren’t practiced at cooking all your meals, you will need to learn. A tip, I bet there are a handful of mentors just waiting for the ask at your local church. I for one would jump at the chance to share what I have learned on my own journey with someone who is taking their first steps towards true freedom!

For couples or singles the time to establish a well-stocked larder will be longer if you go it alone. The maximum benefit for a single is $200/month. Try to find a couple friends in the same circumstance and pool your resources. With 3 singles pooled together for just a 3 month agreement, you could use the above table and to establish your 3 separate larders and have about $80/month left over.

After the first three months, things get pretty exciting fast. First you may notice that once your larder is established and you can cut your monthly spend by $135/month*. Or you could start enhancing your larder with a diversity of flavors the first three months you couldn’t afford. Coco powder, fresh roots like ginger or turmeric, seasonal fruits/veggies, or an organic small animal like a rabbit or chicken to make bone broth and experiment with organ meats** are all great choices. Or you could use your extra resources to buy and dehydrate pounds of carrots, celery, and onions to use later to brightened up your recipes for months to come.

Getting to Pennies on the Dollar

After some time cooking out of your larder, you will likely start feeling drawn toward the full freedom of being able to provide for yourself and your family. When you start feeling pulled to self-sufficiency it will be time to start your own garden and maybe even buy a few animals. Chickens and rabbits are a great jumping off point on the full freedom path.

My family has chickens, turkeys, rabbits, bee hives all on our suburban lot. Check your local laws before taking your journey to the next level, and make sure you take great care of your operation so there are no complaints from neighbors. In my town we can keep 4 fowl and 4 adult rabbits (bunnies under 90 days don’t count). The amount of food produced by such an operation may surprise you. Also the beehives don’t just produce honey, our bees increased the garden yield for us and our neighbors. When we started gardening and raising animals, in addition to cooking, we started to learn traditional food preservation techniques. Mentors, YouTube, books, and classes are all ways I learned on my journey to establishing a traditional kitchen.

With a garden and a few animals, your monthly quarterly food expenses could start to look closer to this:

Quarterly Staples

Dairy Needs – $40.00
Amish Butter – $8.00
Fruits (not able to grow) – $50.00
Veggies (not able to grow) – $50.00
Oatmeal 18 oz. (8) – $26.00
Sugar/Brown Sugar 20 lbs. – $16.00
Peanut Butter 28oz. (2) – $12.00

Maintaining the Larder

Salt & Vinegar
Potatoes & Sweet potatoes

Replace based on your stores ~$60.00

Quarterly Total – $262.00

* Examples used in this article used the amount of money for a 3 person household on food stamps. However, the model works even better for someone who isn’t receiving public assistance. An independent person is free to start spending the money that was previously spent on building your larder in the first 3 months, on buying animals and planting a garden. Food stamp can only be used for food from approved grocers.

** I do not recommend eating the organ meats or making bone broth from animals that you didn’t either raise yourself or trust the organic practices of the person who did.

(originally appeared on Shawna’s former blog, Lion’s Thunder, 1/27/17)

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