After years of buying groceries on a limited income, Murphy of Fargo knows the best food for stretching her dollar.
“Hot cereal is always the best bet,” she says.
Nearly 50 years old, the Fargo resident works temporary jobs around the community. She receives some SNAP benefits, but typically runs out of money for food by the end of the month. That’s when she visits the Emergency Food Pantry, where she is eligible for a cart of groceries every other month.
“The best time to come is when there’s fresh produce,” says Murphy, who prefers being called by her last name. “Fresh fruits and vegetables are so expensive in the grocery store. I can’t afford them.”
She also chooses perishables like bread and luncheon meat. With these ingredients she can make sandwiches, which are easily eaten while she is working. At work sites, she seldom has access to a microwave.
Winter is the hardest season for Murphy, who doesn’t drive on snow or ice. She rides the bus to the food pantry, but only takes home what she can easily carry. Because of this, she stocks up on items like beans, rice and canned goods during the more mild months.
Murphy knows how expensive and unhealthy it can be to face food insecurity. In the past, she has experienced homelessness. She would purchase expensive cheeseburgers from a convenience store because she didn’t have a fridge or a stove.
“I’ve had a variety of experiences where it’s a challenge to eat every day,” she says.
Today Murphy has an apartment, reliable transportation and sporadic work. After her set expenses like rent and phone are paid, she pays for household items like laundry detergent and soap.
Without a food pantry, she would struggle to eat a balanced diet. She would rely more heavily on processed foods for meals. And she’d probably skip a lot more meals, especially lunch.
One thing is for certain.
“I’d run out of food before the end of the month,” she says.