$5 Family Dinner: Spicy Tuna Melt Pie

We know that making a good, hearty meal on food stamps is tougher than with a regular grocery budget, but it’s still more than entirely possible. But finding that perfect meal your family will love, while still leaving enough food stamps for the rest of the month, can take more time and planning than you’ve got, so we’re more than happy to give you ideas every week. As always, we keep it delicious, inexpensive, and enough to feed all four of you.The Meal: Spicy Tuna Melt PieTuna melt pie is a fantastic meal idea because you get the high protein content of tuna, the crispy goodness of a gourmet dish, and the ease of preparation that takes very little time to make at all. In case you have family members who turn their noses up at tuna, all they’ll need is one bite to see just how tastefully disguised the tuna is. Warning: it may disappear so fast, you’ll have to put it on the menu again.What You’ll NeedBefore you start amassing your ingredients, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. 1 teaspoon oil: If you’ve got olive oil on hand, go for that for a healthier kick. But if not, don’t worry about. The super small amount of oil you’re using in this recipe will hardly matter what kind you use.1 cup onion: Get a regular cooking onion, and then chop it up into pieces as small as you want. Usually, semi-finely minced onion does the job the best.6 ounces mushrooms: Using fresh mushroom will make a world of difference in taste, especially if you go for cremini or Portobello mushrooms. But if not, then a can of drained mushrooms is a suitable substitute.4 ounces green chilies: Again, using fresh green chilies is a better option but if it’s a matter of cost, then pick up a can of them instead. 18 ounces tuna: You can normally find tuna in 6-ounce cans, but keep an eye out for larger cans if the price per ounce is less. Sometimes, you may end up spending what seems like more initially, but having extra tuna on hand tends to come in really handy. Just make sure you look for low-sodium tuna that’s packed in water, not oil, and then drain the cans thoroughly.3 tablespoons mayonnaise: Go for the low-fat version with this ingredient. As well, some people notice a difference between the generic and name brand versions of mayonnaise. If you’re one of those, then go ahead and splurge because the difference between the two really isn’t that much at the end of the day.1 cup cheese: You’ll want shredded cheese, but stay away from buying cheese already shredded. It’s horribly expensive and though it takes a bit of time for you to manually shred the cheese, the savings in cost is well worth it.1 cup milk3 eggs1/3 cup flour2 tablespoons butter: The decision of whether to use butter or margarine rests entirely with you, but either way, melt it before cooking.Hot sauce: How much hot sauce you use depends on your family’s taste buds, but you’re generally looking at a couple squeezes of the bottle.15 ounces corn: You can buy a can of corn, or you can use frozen corn and boil it. Both ways work just fine. What You’ll Need to Do Take a round glass dish, like a pie plate, and grease the inside thoroughly so nothing sticks when you go to bake it. You can also use a cake pan, but just make sure it’s about 9 inches.While the oven’s preheating, you’re going to heat oil in a pan and start off with the green chilies, mushrooms and chopped onions. Let them sauté for a few minutes, waiting until the onions are almost translucent.Next, make a tuna salad of sorts by mixing the drained tuna and mayonnaise together thoroughly. Use your hands to get the best evenness, as you don’t want separate tuna or mayo clumps when you serve the food.Once the veggies are sautéed, you can pat them dry to get rid of any excess oil, and then add it to your tuna and mayo.You can either add in the shredded cheese now, or wait until just before you stick everything in the oven for a crispy cheesy coating.Whisk together the milk, eggs, flour and butter. It’s super important to do a good job on this step, or else you’ll end up with flour clumps, which are infinitely worse than tuna or mayo clumps. A good rule of thumb is 40 to 50 whisks, or until you can’t see separate bits of flour. And if you don’t have a whisk, use a dinner fork (the one with the longer tines).Add both bowls together, mix in the hot sauce, and then pour it into your glass dish or cake pan. If you opted to skip the shredded cheese before, add it in now, and make sure there’s a layer on top.Leave it in there for roughly 30 or 35 minutes, but keep an eye on it through the glass door. You’re looking to see it turn golden on top, or you can also open the door when you think it’s ready and stick a toothpick in the middle. If the toothpick is clean when you pull it out, your food’s ready.If you used canned corn, heat it. If not, boil the frozen corn now.Let it cool a bit so it’s firm when you serve it, and then add in a helping of corn for everyone. Bon appétit!&l

The Average Monthly Food Stamp Benefit Per Person Is $133.42

Have you ever kept close tabs on how much you spend each month for groceries? Or do you at least have a rough idea of what that figure is? For the millions of people on Food stamps, they know the dollar amount right down to the penny. That’s because food stamps recipients get a set amount each month that rarely changes, and they’re painfully aware of just how short it falls each month. Between 2008 and 2012, recipients may have noticed an increase, however slight it was. In fact, in that four-year period, the average amount of SNAP benefits allotted to an individual increased 30%, from $102.19 to $133.42.What Exactly Went on Between 2008-2012?We all know the one major event that struck our country hard, and sent us in a downward spiral from which we still haven’t recovered: the Great Recession. It was the worst economic event since the Great Depression, and affected just about every single citizen, no matter what their income level.When the recession hit, people everywhere suddenly had to tighten their belts, but the poor were the most hard hit. Compared to the middle class and wealthy, which could afford to feel a few effects of the recession, the poor were left with almost no wiggle room.How the Consequences Played OutLet’s take two imaginary people: the first makes $50,000 a year as a paralegal, and the second pulls in $15,000 working at a fast food restaurant full-time. If you take away $5,000 a year from both of them, the paralegal will still be fine, even if they have to adjust and make things tighter. But do the same to the fast food worker, and they’re suddenly this close to being destroyed.Besides actual numbers, the second consequence of this is the type of job each works. Becoming a paralegal requires school, training, licensing and examinations, which makes the employee harder to replace. A fast food employee, on the other hand, is a dime a dozen. So if they speak out about anything, they can be very easily replaced.What This Means for Food Stamps BenefitsJust as we outlined before, those living around or under the poverty line have fewer options, so every dollar counts a lot more for them. Our paralegal may be making just over $4,000 a month, but can still qualify for food stamps if the total household income is at a certain level. However, they’d be getting more than the $133.42 we talked about, so let’s move onto our fast food worker.Our fast food worker, needing to get by on a yearly salary of $15,000 a year, will have developed the skills necessary to budget her spending on groceries. And, only receiving an average of $133.42 a month, again, they have very little wiggle room to buy one of life’s most basic necessities: food.How the Numbers Break DownA monthly allotment of $133.42 is very little, and what one person could reasonably spend on groceries in a week, let alone a month, especially when you take into consideration what constitutes a healthy diet. A few dollars for a gallon of milk, another couple for a loaf of bread, about $10 for a whole chicken and some frozen vegetables; it all starts to add up very quickly.This isn’t even taking into account all the other expenses an average person has, like rent, utilities, phone, internet, transportation, clothes and gifts. While our paralegal could afford to buy less expensive clothes, use the bus instead of driving a car, and scale down on gifts, our fast food employee receiving $133.42 a month can’t. There’s just no room.So before you criticize the food stamps program as something not worth investing in, ask yourself how you’d get by each day with a quarter of your current income.l