Bountiful Baskets–Stretch Your Produce Dollar & More

UntitledWhen I started the Michy’s Food Stamp (SNAP) 30-Day Challenge, I posted about it all over Facebook and asked my friend there to help me keep it real. I explained that, to appease politicians, I would do the challenge with some ‘supplemental’ cash kicked in, since certain politicians insist a food stamp recipient is, by natural of the name of the program “supplemental” nutritional assistance, supposed to supplement their grocery budget with food stamps, not make it their entire budget. Well, I debunked that with the guidelines USDA has posted about how the food stamp allotment is calculated. (Essentially, the food stamp maximum allotment is figured on the USDA ‘thrifty food budget’ for a family. If you have zero income, after your deductions, they give you the maximum allotment, and if you have some income, they deduct from that allotment, award you less than the maximum, and YOU supplement the difference between that and the maximum allotment. So the point is, it’s only supposed to be supplemented with your own cash if you are receiving anything less than maximum–which means, the $6 per day figure is pretty much what you’re supposed to work with.)

So that said, I worked with it. I basically estimated a food stamp budget of $180 for the month, per person, based on the family maximums for Texas, then I added another $20 total of my own cash to the budget. That leaves us with $20 to spend on food in cash, while the rest if ‘food stamp budget’ money. That means, $20 can be spent anywhere–farmer’s markets, co-ops, etc.–and I took a chance and decided to order from Bountiful Baskets. The basket of food was supposed to be full of produce and I’ve heard mixed reports about what to expect. However, the majority of the reports said the food is really good.

When you’re on a limited budget, buying $15 worth of food that you haven’t seen and don’t know if it’s any good, well… that’s a risk. You never know if it will be worth it. Scared me a bit with the challenge, because if I got a dud basket, that would be a lot of wasted cash for stretching the budget. But if it worked, that would be fantastic!

So I took the chance. Food stamp recipients have to take chances too. It’s realistic to the challenge.

Fortunately I was NOT disappointed!

BOUNTIFUL BASKETS CO-OP

The first impression of their website wasn’t great, because it’s rather simplistic and a little clunky for navigating, but the database for locations was clear and easy to use. I quickly found my location for where I live and was fortunate to learn it was right down the street from me, literally almost walking distance for someone who can walk (I can’t, in a wheelchair)… interestingly, a lot of the people using Bountiful Baskets are in similar situations: elderly, disabled, mostly homebound, etc. I mean, where else can you get fresh produce without having to go to a grocery store, let them pick it out for you, you pay online, and all you have to do is show up to get it?

But it gets better: At our location, if you volunteer to help unload the truck and sort baskets, they let you choose extra large items for your basket.

So what did I get? See that pic at the top of the post? That’s my haul. It included:

  • 1 head of leaf lettuce (fresh, fluffy and crisp–no wilting at all)
  • 2 lbs sweet apples (best apples I’ve had all season, crisp and juicy–yes, I ate one! Conner (the bird) helped!)]
  • 2 med. tomatoes (not bad, but had better vine tomatoes than these–great for cooking)
  • 2 pints of grape tomatoes (divine, juicy, sweet)
  • 3 lbs of bananas, half ripe/half green (none were brown or rotten, all firm)
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh small round asparagus–sweet and crispy–love asparagus!
  • 2 med. green bell (sweet) peppers
  • 1 lb. carrots
  • 3 lbs Idaho potatoes
  • 1 x-large sweet potato
  • 2 unripe mangos (unripe is good–mangoes have a short window of ‘edible’ after they go ripe, so unripe lets you plan when to use them!)

I estimate I got about $30 bucks worth of produce (at current prices at the grocery store) for $15, and I didn’t have to go shop for it or anything. The produce was all fresh, nothing was wilted or even bruised or anything. If you are able-bodied and help them unload the truck you get to pick one additional ‘large’ item and another for helping sort baskets (I’m sure that’s site-specific, so check with your local site to see if volunteering can get you free product). If you can’t afford to buy into the co-op, contact the local co-op and ask them if they would exchange an hour’s time volunteering in exchange for a box of produce–I bet most of them would work something out with you, ’cause they could use the help.

STRETCHING A BUDGET WITH BOUNTIFUL BASKETS

So my final take on this is that you could easily stretch a budget with Bountiful Baskets and you’re helping in other ways when you buy from them too. For example, a lot of what they buy comes from ‘local’ co-ops and producers. They have an organics basket, all with stuff that is 100% certified organic. They offer artisan breads and grains and granolas and other neat stuff, including some ‘craft foods’ that locals make and sell. You can usually see what they are offering on the website before you go. They have ‘theme basket add-ons’, like this time, was an Italian add-on for $8 more to get Italian meal compatible veggies. One of my Facebook friends said they did a Mexican veggies one, with jalapeno, cilantro, limes, that type of thing. I like that. I sort of like not knowing what you’re going to get, and it means you’ll likely get to try some new stuff too. It’s seasonal, and eating with the seasons is good for your body. It supports the co-op, supports small and local farmers, and it’s a great volunteer, grassroots type of organization.

All said and done, you can’t beat that. I was impressed. I can’t use them for the rest of the challenge, ’cause I only had $20 for the cash budget and they don’t take SNAP benefits for the baskets, so until the challenge is over, I’m stuck with being only able to use or buy what food stamps allows. However, fresh apples and bananas, and these were some of the best apples I’ve had in years, sure are great snacks and help stretch a budget. I’ve eaten four apples in two days, just grabbed one and dug in, that’s how good they are. The bird loves them too!

Highly recommend Bountiful Baskets to stretch your budget. Click here to see if they have a location in your area. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed at all!

Love and stuff,

Michy

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