Cooking Up A Storm

18 Jan

How do you live on food stamps without having got the food stamps yet?

It’s hard, actually.

I woke up this morning at 3.33am with intense hunger pangs. My stomach wanted a bowl of my flax cereal with fruit, nuts, oats and skimmed milk and I wanted it now. This wasn’t an option however, so I pulled myself out of bed and had some of the dry corn flakes that I had picked up at the food distribution. It felt like a low point.

My whole nutrition rhythm seemed confused. I was used to being in charge of what went into my stomach and for three days now I had given over the rhythm to whatever the outside world would throw in my direction. I had to get the food stamps to be able to assert some kind of control over my digestion.

I weighed myself and discovered that I had lost three pounds in the six days since I had previously weighed myself (3 on the challenge, 3 off it). This isn’t the food stamp diet, so I need to find a new balance.

As you know, I have not actually placed a real food stamp application, I am just going through the process and waiting the period I would have to wait before getting help if my situation was bad. Today would involve going out to the DSS and waiting as long as it took for a cancellation, so that I could get my interview. Next week in my month-long odyssey, I’ll be interviewing a couple of representatives from the DSS in Santa Barbara to get their perspective.

At 2pm I attended the weekly Mobile Farmers Market that the Foodbank runs at the Franklin Center. On the first day of my challenge I attended the monthly pantry distribution there. Today was a a once a week vegetables only. And this is what I scored:

Salinas Salads Assorted – approximately 4 lbs

Upland Cress – 1 pack

Celery – 2 bunches

12 oz. bags of Salad Mix – 2 bags

Potatoes – 5 lbs

Cabbage – 1 head

Carrots – 3 lbs

Cauliflower – 1 head

It was good to know what produce I would have so that I could have my food stamps stretch further.

Finally by 5pm on day 3 I opted to assume that I would have my EBT card by now which would give me $200 to spend on food items at stores that would accept them.  I wasted no time in packing up my youngest daughter Mia (18 months) for what was going to be the most exciting shopping trip I had undertaken in quite a while. Forget about Black Friday, this was Food Stamp Thursday.

Mia Regina Talkin: Is this what I wear to go shopping with food stamps, dad?Dad: Perhaps a little overstated??

Mia Regina Talkin: Is this what I wear to go food shopping?
Dad: Perhaps a little overstated.

I remember someone at college advising me not to grocery shopping when you are hungry. Sound advice and I tried to control myself. I was working with my comparison shopping list that I had developed, showing the prices for Cabrillo Market, Fresh and Easy and Trader Joes.

I hit all three stores and spent a combined $43 – I’m trying to keep it modest and focused on items that will allow me to create multiple meals for the month, but that’s still nearly 1/4 of my money in one pop.

This is what I bought:

Cabrillo Market

Brown Rice – 2 packets

Rice Vinegar – 1 bottle

Onions – 1lb

Cilantro – bunch

Parsley- bunch

red wine vinegar – 1 bottle

Pablamo peppers – 2

Avocados  3 super-ripe ones that were on sale

Fresh and Easy

Fresh tomatoes – on sale

Canned black beans and Garbanzo beans

wholewheat pasta

Spot those bargains at Fresh and Easy

Spot those bargains at Fresh and Easy

Trader Joe’s

Olive oil

Sesame Crackers

Licorice Allsorts – A man has to have a vice

Almond bars

Oat and Peanut butter bars

5 bananas

chili powder

Returning home it was time to fight back against the hunger beast by using my materials to generate multiple meals that I can put in the refrigerator and the freezer to last me for the rest of the month. By this point I felt very weak from hunger and shopping and trying to prevent Mia from squishing the avocados with her fingers ‘just because she could.’

I made some of my famous (to my family at least) Inauthentic Authentic Guacamole to give myself the strength to cook the rest of the meals. I even felt some generosity of spirit return, so I shared some of it with Mia and my wife Mari.

Gordon Ramsay with blander language

Gordon Ramsay with blander language

All that cooking was hard work. I spent about three hours preparing three different dishes at the same time. The guacamole first and then a chicken soup and a turkey chili.

I utilized a lot of things like the chicken and the ground turkey I had got from the MFP and the celery, carrots and other items from the MFM distribution.


I used a lot of old plastic containers to fill up with my soup and my chili.

At last I was back in charge of the Talkin gut, and ready for what my 30 day siege would bring!



Inauthentically Authentic Guacamole

This uses less hot peppers and sacrilegiously includes vinegar.


3 mushy avocados

2 large poblamo or anaheim chilis

1/2 white onion

Juice of one lime

3 large tomatoes

Tablespoon of Cumin

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro

Tamed Jalapeño Tobasco Sauce – had to leave this out as didn’t buy any

salt and pepper

1/4 cup of red wine vinegar

Steps: Do all the usual stuff and eat rapidly.

Breakfast: Dry cornflakes

Lunch: Bagel

Dinner: Homemade Guacamole and Chips

4 Responses to “Cooking Up A Storm”

  1. heyppraisal January 22, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    I’m fascinated by this project and intend to follow closely. Although my husband and I do not qualify for food stamps, we (even having a two income house with no kids) struggle each month to make ends meet. Your experience will no doubt provide some helpful tips.
    I’m curious, however, if you’re feeding your entire family during this project as that would be a more accurate experience for most food stamp recipients. $200 / month, plus monthly and weekly distribution, for a family of five. Does the amount of aid increase by the number of people in a household, or does the above apply despite the number in a household?

    • eatinginSB January 22, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

      The amount you receive is different for the number of people. We were on it for a while and the amount changed over time…lowering. We received about $270 for a family of 4.

    • Erik Talkin January 22, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

      Thanks for your interest. To answer your questions:
      My family declined to be involved in the Challenge – who can blame them!
      So I am cooking only for myself. You can get additional food stamps for each family member (at same $200 level) which makes the whole thing much more doable as you can buy larger quantities at better cost.
      I hope to get some good tips from our dietician this week on how to stretch the dollars.

      • heyppraisal January 22, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

        And thank you for your response! I’m eager to read your next entry. Best of luck!

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