Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hunger Challenge 2011, Week One - Prep and Predictions

The Hunger Challenge starts today! Beginning with tonight's supper, I'll be eating on a food stamp budget of $4.46 per day for the next month. You can read all about why and get all the details of the challenge here.

I feel like I'm operating at a bit of an unfair advantage because the official San Francisco Food Bank Hunger Challenge ended this week. I've got loads of blogs, tweets and emails full of trials, tribulations and best practices of fellow food challengers. After reading them over the weekend these are the major points I took away:

  • I'm extremely thankful I'm only responsible for feeding myself.
  • Exercise seemed to be a concern for some because it made them hungrier.
  • I think 32% of food made by food challengers this week was pasta and red sauce.
  • Fresh roasted, local coffee. I shall miss thee. You are so out of my price range.
  • I've never been happier that I don't drink soda regularly.
  • I am determined to not perpetuate boring meals, if I can help it.
There are a few rules of engagement. All of my "extra" kitchen appliances and implements are off limits. The kitchen aid mixer, food processor, immersion blender, etc. are items that will be collecting dust for the next 30 days because it isn't reasonable to expect all of those items to be in everyone's kitchens. The only existing food items in my kitchen I'm able to use are ketchup, mustard and mayo as condiments. Any spices I use from my own stock will be prorated at their bulk price. I could be buying them straight from bulk bins, but am opting to use up what I have.

I'm predicting a few things will happen over the next four weeks:

  • Nutritionally, I think my sodium intake will go up considerably based on the amount of canned items that will replace fresh.
  • As far as calorie sources, I think my carbohydrate intake will increase, fat will go down, and protein will remain relatively the same. 
  • I will spend more time at the store when I grocery shop to ensure I'm picking the right items and getting the best value.
  • My mental math skills will increase exponentially.
  • I will have to pass up opportunities to provide food for something or dine with friends.
  • Whenever The Vegetarian is over for dinner I will watch him like a hawk to make sure he doesn't eat too much of my food. I am certain he will love this. 
  • I will surely screw up at least one recipe and wish I could just order a pizza instead of deal with the ick I just managed to cook. 
  • I will desperately miss fresh roasted coffee.
  • At least one of my normal grocery shopping tendencies from before the experiment will be determined unnecessary. But not the coffee.

I did all my shopping yesterday with six cents to spare. Here's the rundown:

About half is fruits and vegetables. Some not as fresh as I'd usually get (but there was a buy 1 get 2 sale on the baby carrots and was I not buying those?), but overall, not too different from a normal grocery haul. Of the other half of the groceries, protein and dairy made up the majority with coffee, oil and spices rounding out the spread.

The menu for this week is chili and cornbread, zucchini fritters, quesadillas and zucchini with pasta.

Stay tuned for this week's recipes. I'll be posting them throughout the week along with information on price. Food stamps or not, I'm confident there will be some great cheap eats on the site over the next month.


  1. I bet you don't make it through the month. You'll crash and burn halfway through, and people who live like this on a daily basis will laugh at you and say that you're just another rich kid that doesn't "get it".

    As someone that has been on and off food stamps for their entire life, I'll look forward to being able to laugh at how pitiful you are, because that will make me feel better about my situation.

    I will feel strong and victorious, while the rest of the world tells me that I'm a failure for not being rich. I will congratulate myself on not only living, but surviving on a restrictive budget. I will momentarily forget how much it hurts that other people consider me lazy because I was born into poverty and have struggled my entire life to get out of it. I will momentarily forget the dirty looks I get from being obese due to a less-than-nutritious diet from birth.

    So please, fail. The rest of us would like to see how even the upper and middle class can stumble, fall, and be reduced to our level.

  2. I think you're missing the point, anonymous. I'm saddened that you feel so vindictive toward someone who's trying to raise awareness about poverty and hunger and to create recipes so that those with incredibly limited budgets can eat healthfully.

    Maybe as someone who's been on foodstamps in the past, you can gain something from following the blog and the process.

    I know that in the popular discourse there is a tendency to blame the poor for their (incorrectly perceived) laziness, but this is not one of those hate outlets. I know people blame the poor because it's easy too. It's easy to blame the poor! They usually don't fight back.

    I know what it's like to feel that shame in the grocery line. To feel those people judging me, looking over my purchases trying to justify their preconceived notions, and going out of their way to be indignant about the food I bought and how that's the reason I'm poor or somehow reflects my irresponsibility.

    I know what's it's like to be teased for wearing outdated, second-hand clothing and for only being able to go into that one lunch line at school with the other poor kids.

    I know what's it's like to find drug needles and prostitutes on my street, to run home from school because I would be chased, to constantly look over my shoulder and to have nothing to my name.

    I know what it's like to always have disconnect notices filling my mailbox and to be terrified of getting sick enough to miss a paycheck.

    I know what it's like. And this is a wonderful project.