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Around a year ago, I posted wondering whether or not I should apply to food stamps.  Beorn has been unable to work since he graduated last spring. Even before that we were barely getting by between my TA salary, Beorn’s part-time work in a student tech support position and our student loan money.

I wasn’t sure if we would qualify or not since we were both students.  It took me a long time to actually get up the courage to apply, but Beorn is now a food stamp recipient. At least here in Purple State, in order to qualify for food stamps as a student you have to be working at least 20 hours a week.  Since officially my TA position is a .40, I don’t qualify. I don’t really know what would happen if I was working more than 20 hours a week, but then my income would “count.” But that means Beorn qualifies because he didn’t have any income. I don’t understand it, but the nice social worker seemed very sure about it.

Since Beorn had no income when we applied he got the full $200 award, which is a big help for our food budget. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about food and trying to eat healthy on a budget. Lately we have been eating healthy, but not staying on budget. We spend a lot of our income on food. I’m going to post again soon about some of the changes I have been making in my eating habits, but that’s a long story.

As someone who is now on food stamps, I have to say that I’m a little bit puzzled by all the folks who try the eating on a food stamps budget. Everyone seems to choose the average amount that a family on food stamps receives monthly and then try to stay within that budget. The thing is that the government is assuming that people are going to spend some of the rest of their income on food. It’s true that some families may try to eat just using their food stamps since they have to pay their other bills, but it seems like an arbitrary exercise. I guess I have trouble imagining that so many folks have never had to eat on a small budget.

One thing we have been doing to economize this last year is eating more and more beans. In fact, we bought two huge bags of locally grown organic dried beans for $.75/lb last September. I think they were 25 lbs each (garbanzos and pintos) and we are still working our way through them. This year the local bean farmers had a crop failure, so I guess if we were truly relying on local farms it would be a lucky thing that we had extra stores. Every week I try to cook up a big pot of beans and then come up with creative ways to eat them throughout the week. This week I discovered a easy and tasty way to spice up pinto beans without adding extra sugar or fats (remember, we are trying to eat healthy.)

Cheap and Delicious Pinto Beans

  • 2 cups dried pinto beans
  • salt
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder

Wash the beans and carefully check for stones and bits of dirt. (Our beans came to us very dirty.) Cover beans with plenty of clean water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit for an hour. (This jumpstarts the cooking process.) Heat beans on medium heat until very soft. (Undercooked beans are not fun to digest.) You may have to add more water to keep them covered, but in the end you should end up with not much excess “broth”. Add salt and spices to taste.

Note: Smoky paprika is the tastiest stuff ever! The brand we bought, “La Dalia” from Spain, was pretty expensive at $5 for 70 grams, but it lasts us a long time. I find that regular paprika is pretty tasteless. I would estimate that the amount in this recipe can’t cost more than $.25 and it turns the beans into something fabulous.