Right now, the economy is tough on a lot of people. As one who has been surviving on jobs that paid less than $14 per hour, I am living testament to just how much one has to “steal from Peter to pay Paul.”

Recently on Facebook, I got into a discussion with folks because the latest political trend/ploy is for politicians to live on the amount SNAP (LINK card for folks in Illinois) gives. A single individual who gets the maximum amount on LINK gets less than $140 a month. Now as one who has fed two people on that kind of money from out of my own pocket, and who has seen my taxes steadily increase to pay for more LINK and other government waste, I’m not a happy camper.

I recently had $15 to get groceries. Now I know if you are an amateur shopper, that isn’t a lot of money. But when one knows how to grocery shop, it got me five bags of food. Here is what I bought and the corresponding costs: Rinaldi’s Spaghetti Sauce, $.99; Penne Pasta, $.79; bag of potatoes on sale, $.69; two heads of lettuce @$1.49 each, one Ranch and one Russian salad dressing @$1.49 each; 3 large tomatoes, $1.09; one dozen eggs, $.69; hot dog buns, $.99; cream cheese, $.99 and deli “end” meat (ham and roast beef), $1.57. My total was $14.62 on the receipt (store forgot to give me the coupon price on the eggs and I went back and had them make the correction).

With the eggs, I can cook them, either fried or boiled, for breakfast and toast the hot dog bun to go along with it. I can chop the deli meat up into the egg to make an egg and ham omelet or I can put the meat, lettuce, tomatoes and Russian dressing on a bun for a submarine type sandwich. I can boil several eggs and potatoes and cover it with ranch dressing for a potato salad. I can use some of the deli meat for a julienne salad. I can toast a hot dog bun and add cream cheese on top. I can boil the pasta and eat it with the sauce. I will have 4-5 days’ worth of meals. And for the most part, they will be healthy meals.

The point is that when one lives on a limited food budget, one has to be “smart” with what you buy, as well as creative with what you make. I grew up knowing that meat for the week would always be what was on sale. Sunday’s pot roast, for example, would become Monday’s meat and potato hash.

One of the best deals around is to buy saddle leg chicken. Cut off each leg for frying/baking and then debone the thigh meat to use it in a stir fry or make chicken tacos. I once helped a friend do that and we were able to feed 30 people on less than $10 worth of chicken meat. We fried the legs, and the boneless pieces of thigh meat had everyone marveling at how my friend served wonderful “chicken nuggets.”

Now I know that living on less means one cannot eat shrimp and steak. Nor should those sucking from the taxpayers’ tits expect it to. LINK dollars should buy basics and never pay for any high-tax item like soda, bottled water or prepared foods. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to parallel the obesity of poor people next to the availability of more and more LINK benefits. Where once a very nutritious meal of rice and beans was the staple, it’s now been replaced by high-sodium ramen noodles cups of soup, hot dogs and frozen prepared foods.

Of course, folks on LINK are going to be highly offended that the government can tell them what they can’t buy. Then again, WIC does it without a hitch. No sugary sweetened Frosted Flakes cereal. Just plain corn flakes.

Lastly, it is insulting to see a politician trying to make a point about LINK while shopping wearing designer clothes, glasses and sporting a handbag that costs more than the LINK benefits. Then again, she may have been keeping it real. LOL. Recently the news had a story about a man who lost 250 pounds by shopping at the 99-cent store. Being thrifty plus losing weight can go hand-in-hand. The combination of smart shopping and eating paid off in getting a healthier body. The LINK program needs an overhaul. As a society, we can’t afford to pay for people to be unhealthy.