About this Blog

Welcome! Thanks for checking out On Food Stamps.

I created this blog in 2009 when I began working at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. My work at this organization opened my eyes to food justice issues in America, and I had a strong desire to better understand the difficulties many people face when trying to access healthy food on a limited budget. So, I embarked on my own Food Stamp Challenge, living on $31/week as a vegan. I used this blog to chronicle my experience.

While my Food Stamp Challenge project has come to an end, you can see what I learned from it by reading the Greatest Hits posts linked to the right side of the page. Please excuse any out-of-date links, as I am no longer updating this blog on a regular basis.

Stay Hungry,


Monday, May 11, 2009

Shopping Trip #1: Echo Park


The 99 Cents Only Store
After I discovered this old LA Times article titled Making A Meal of 99-cent Items I thought, "Maybe the 99 cent store will make this really easy!"

I could hypothetically walk to this store from my apartment in the Echo Park area of LA, so it is realistically accessible to residents of an affordable (if gentrifying) neighborhood.

Unfortunately, I have to report that this time around the 99-cent store really disappointed me. There was not a single Organic option (I had thought maybe I'd luck out an find one), and the produce was not too appetizing. The apples were waxy, the strawberries were bruised, and the tomatoes looked like they'd been shrink wrapped in Mexico a week ago. I would have bought the onions or the garlic, but those aren't the type of bonus/add-flavor items I can afford on a weekly budget of $35.

I moved on from produce to check out the canned goods. MANY of the cans were dented. I have too many memories of botchulism from 7th grade biology class to buy those. I found several canned soup options. I was absolutely shocked when I read the labels on these cans.
One brand called Riveria had 2120 mg of sodium per can.
Cambells Tomato Soup (dented can) had 2,485 mg of sodium for a can that was slightly bigger. In the future I need to be more exact about mg to oz. of food ratios, but I actually think there is something to be said for measuring in "cans." Let's be honest, most of us will eat the full can of soup if that is all we are having for dinner. These were average sized cans, and I will guess that the normal diner would consume the whole can as a meal. In the case of Riveria or Cambells, that is a hell of a lot of sodium.

I waited over 20 minutes in line to check out.
I left with the following:
  • 16 oz. bag of lentils for .99999 cents
  • 16 oz. of Thai Lady brown rice for .9999999 cents
  • White Arabic Pita Bread (whole wheat pita was not available, and while whole wheat bread was, I can't eat that as a vegan) - 8 pitas for .99999 cents
  • a bottle of water for .9999 cents. I really didn't want to buy that, but I'd just got done running and I really needed water. Lesson #1: Food Stamp budget does not allow for emergency buys. Everything must be planned for, and I should have brought a water bottle that was full of tap water instead. Great, $1 down.
Total: $4

On to... Save-a-Lot

This store is further from my house. Walking there would take me 1/2 hour, and it is too dangerous to do that alone at night anyway.
I did, however, discover that Save-a-lot in Echo Park offers a shuttle service. If you spend $25 or more you can use their shuttle to get to and from your house up to 3 miles away from the store. This shuttle service is free, but it only runs from 9am-6pm, so it is really only practical for day time shoppers. Still, I found this service interesting. At least they're making an effort?

Nothing Organic at all at this store that I could find. I bought:
  • 1.03 lbs of dry bulk pinto beans - $0.89 cents per pound = $0.92 This is going to be where its at. Dry beans are cheap! Later I even found an 8 lb. bag of the same beans for $4.99 or $0.63 per pound. The big bag was cheaper, but there was no way I needed that many beans. Plus, buying that bulk bag would have meant spending 1/7 of my entire week's budget on beans. No thanks. Lesson #2: buying in bulk is hard with an inflexible and low weekly budget.
  • Fresh carrots - 1 bag at 2/$1 = $0.50
  • Frozen Corn -16 oz. bag = $0.99
  • Great Red Grapefruits - bought 2 for $1 (priced at 2 for $1) = $1
  • 1.7 lbs of jicama for $0.85 (priced at $1 per 2 pounds)
  • One Lemon - $0.69/lb (luxury buy) = $0.19
  • One large head of Iceberg Lettuce (yum? wait wait didn't anyone tell them I prefer baby greens!) = $1.49
  • 3 Valencia Oranges - 1.87 lb at $1/3 lb = $0.62
  • 1 Sweet Potato - 1.07 lb at $0.79/lb = $0.85
Total: $7.41

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