Stretch Your Food Stamp Dollars and Grow Your Own Food

November 1st marked the beginning of nationwide cuts in food stamp benefits. If you are one of over 47 million affected by these cuts, now is the time to start finding new ways to stretch those dollars even further. There is no point in waiting on the boys and girls of the Beltway to figure out whether you deserve help or not. Help yourself! One way you can stretch your food stamp dollars and increase your food supply is to start growing. Yes, that’s right. Grow your own food!

There are many vegetables you can grow, even without a garden plot and even during the winter, which is fast approaching here in the northern states! Herbs, cucumbers, lettuces, peppers of all shapes and sizes and tomatoes are just a few of the veggies that lend well to indoor container planting. Here are the things you’ll need to start growing your own food indoors this winter:
  •  Containers (planting containers, at least 12” to 16” in circumference)
  •  Potting soil (store brands work just as well as brand-name varieties)
  •  Seeds or starter plants (which may be nearly impossible to find locally this time of year)
Contain Yourself

Containers don’t have to be fancy, in fact they don’t even have to LOOK like your typical pot. They just have to be able to hold soil and have some holes at the bottom for good drainage. Two-liter bottles and milk jug or cartons, cut in half, make excellent planting containers. You can also check out garage sales, flea markets, swap meets or local trade paper for cheap or even free containers.

Playing in the Dirt

Potting soil. I’m sure there’s lots of controversy out there about the “best” potting soils. All I can tell you, from personal experience, is that I've used brand name and generic soils with much the same success. Right about now, you might be able to find it really cheap at local garden stores or check out bargain stores, like Dollar General, Family Dollar, Big Lots or whatever discount stores populate your area. Most potting soils have added nutrients already so you won’t have to mess around with adding plant foods or fertilizers right away. Bonus, right? 

Sowing the Seeds

Seeds and plants, according to the USDA, are eligble items under the SNAP program. You may still be able to find them in local big box stores (Meijer, Kroger, Wal Mart, etc. ). They might be tucked away in a clearance aisle. However, if you can’t find them in a store that takes food stamps, there are resources for finding free seeds. Seed exchanges, locally or online, local cooperative extension agencies and gardening clubs are good places to contact about getting seeds.

So, now is the time to start hunting down the things you’ll need to start your indoor food supply. I know this latest cut in food stamp benefits is going to be rough, but I also know that necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention. Inventing (well, re-inventing) your own food supply will help you keep calm, carry on and eat better in the long run!  


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