Free Food and other Amenities


What am I doing right now? Drinking a (free) cup of coffee at IKEA, of course (and two little coconut chocolate oat balls, which at .49 each represent quite the splurge on my part!)

One of the things that is difficult about working and committing to living on SNAP benefits for a season is planning.  So far, we have found that it is more than possible to live within the constraints of our SNAP benefits, as long as you have the luxury of time to plan out and prepare your every meal.

My family is blessed with two working parents that have the luxury of flexible work arrangements, which means that we have more time than many to plan our meals.  It is a luxury that I often take for granted, and one that I am increasingly aware of as we continue this experiment.  Even my best laid plans fall to the wayside if (read: when) I forget to pick up an ingredient (like, say, dried chickpeas for your curry, or eggs for breakfast).

Which brings me to IKEA.  One of the inevitabilities of my work as a pastor is that I do not always work in an office.  I am often on the road, traveling to visit parishioners and shut-ins, out and about in the community, or participating in clergy groups that help me improve myself and my work as a pastor.  In practice, this means that I am not always in a position to pop on over to the manse and heat up leftovers, nor am I always in a location where I can heat something up that I have brought with me.  Most difficult of all, very often the people I am visiting want to meet over a meal. I have already had a few people ask me whether I can get lunch with them during this experiment, or whether it will count if they pay for the meal.

After a good deal of thought, I have come to the following set of conclusions that (I hope) will guide my decisions about food on the road without becoming so legalistic that I miss the point of this whole process:

1) If free food is available to anyone, I can eat it without counting the cost too.  So the coffee at IKEA, which is free for anyone with a Family Card, is free for me, as is coffee hour at church on Sunday.

2) Speaking of Sundays, did you know that the 40 days of Lent technically do not count Sundays?  According to my Liturgical Year Professor, Mary Luti, this is because “each Sunday during Lent is like a mini-Easter.” If Mary Luti says Sundays in Lent don’t count, we won’t count them either.  This amounts to a small and gracious reprieve for our family once a week, which takes on an added significance when you consider that our kids didn’t choose this Lenten discipline, and don’t understand why we suddenly aren’t eating dessert every night.

3) I will still go out with folks within the context of my work.  As a Christian, meals and hospitality are intimately connected, and it would be bullish of me to isolate myself for the sake of purity. At the same time, I will try as much as possible to capture the cost. This will mean sacrifice in other areas.  It may sometimes mean that I enjoy my “Sunday reprieve” on a different day of the week.  But I believe this discipline is important enough that it is worth suffering a little bit for.

So that is where we are with this.  As a side note, IKEA coffee tastes simply delightful after a week without it!

Monday, Feb 23
Breakfast Monster: 1 piece toast, 1 egg water $0.37
Alex: Oatmeal, 4 dried apricots $0.43
Sarah: 1c Oatmeal, half banana, tsp honey, tea $0.46
lunch Monsters: leftover pasta with peas, yogurt, milk $1.23
Sarah: potatoes, leftovers, tea $2.81
Alex: free lunch at office 0
Dinner Calypso Beans, cornbread and greens from the garden $3.57
Snack Peanut Butter, Cookie $0.49
Total $9.36
Tuesday, Feb 24
Breakfast Monsters: leftover pancakes $0.68
Sarah: leftover pancakes, Peanut Butter $0.98
Alex: toast with jam $0.27
Lunch: Monsters: leftover rice, beans, cornbread, dried apple (already accounted for) 0
Alex: Chana Masala with rice (already accounted for) 0
Sarah: leftover rice, beans 0
Dinner Pasta with mushrooms, home dried tomatoes, canellini beans $5.18
Monsters: Milk $0.24
Snack: tea, two lindt truffles, grapes, peanut butter $1.56
Total $8.90

Total spent on food in Week 1: $58.01

Total saved (for donation): $96.13

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