WTVO/WQRF - Families who rely on federal SNAP benefits to eat are adjusting to smaller allowances this month, but tighter budgets could mean less nutritious meals.
"Usually, we just keep the basics around: milk, butter, eggs, all that stuff" says Leah Hughes, a SNAP recipient. Hughes and her two kids live on a tight budget. They can only spend a couple hundred dollars a month on groceries. So, they have to shop smart.
"We buy fish sticks, that's one of the biggest things that we buy. We usually get Hamburger Helper meals and then we get the big package of meat."
But, the family's razor thin budget sometimes mean sacrificing nutrition. "They love fruit and any fresh items" says Hughes. "But, when it's like .59-.60 per pound you have to choose over getting a meal or getting bananas."
Hughes says she wants to buy fresh, it just isn't practical. "We can't buy anything fresh really. We have to just go off based meals of what we know is going to last."
And the Hughes aren't alone.
"When you begin to talk about cuts to SNAP benefits, quick, easy, cheap becomes the default" says Dr. Kemia Saraff of the Gen H Kids Coalition, a group that promotes healthy eating habits for kids. "Carbohydrates are cheap. They're easy to come by, but most of the carbohydrates that are inexpensive are not good for the body."
Experts says there are ways to eat healthy on a budget. Their best advice? You should plan ahead and keep your pantry well stocked. "When you are working with a really tight budget you have to plan accordingly" says Saraff. She says there are certain stock-up staples that can make the dollars stretch thin without stretching your waistline. "Frozen vegetables and fruits keep as long as they're frozen and nutrionally they are of high quality."
She also says canned vegetables are better than nothing at all, but they lose quality as they sit on the shelf. "The exceptions to that are canned tomatoes and canned beans."