This week I’m participating in a hunger challenge. To explain the challenge in the best way I know how, I’ll share my conversation with Daniel as I told him all about it yesterday afternoon.
Me: Monkey, what should I make this week for our dinners?
Daniel: Umm…how ’bout lasagna, salmon, beef stroganoff, and…hot dogs?
Daniel: Why not?
Me: Because I forgot to tell you that we’re participating in a hunger challenge to support the United Way.
Daniel: Who’s ‘we’?
Me: You and me. The love bugs. Best friends forever. BFFs. Soul mates.
Daniel: First: cute. Second: You told me Kate was your BFF. Third: Thank you for making decisions for our family without consulting me. Fourth: What is the challenge?
Me: First: I know. Second: Kate is my BFF, good call. Third: You’re welcome. Fourth: It’s Hunger Action Week from the 21st through the 25th of March and the challenge is to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner spending only $7 a day to get a sense of what people who rely on food stamps experience. $7 is the maximum food stamp benefit given to one person in the state of Washington per day. For a family of two, like us, we’d get $12 a day. This will be a way of expressing a sort of empathy for what millions of people deal with on a daily basis, and also a way of bringing awareness to hunger.
Daniel: Sounds like a really good cause. Couple questions: 1. Does this mean that you will refrain from buying a $10 jar of almond butter this week? 2. What are the rules? And 3. Ok, I don’t have a third question, but I’m sure I should.
Me: Yes, a fabulous cause. Answers to your questions:
- How dare you, but yes, and well, now I hate you for bringing this fact to my attention.
- The rules are:
- Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner spending only $7 per day. (For couples- $12, for larger families, see here)
- Salt and pepper don’t count but all other seasonings, cooking oils, condiments, snacks, drinks, and everything else do.
- Don’t use food you already own.
- Don’t accept food from family, friends, coworkers and others. Not even the free samples from Costco!
- Try to include fresh produce and healthy protein each day.
- Keep track of expenses, food choices, and recipes and share your experiences.
Daniel: OK, well, I think it’s going to be hard, but we can do it. I love you for being such a good person. [For journalistic integrity, Daniel would like me to insert a note that he did not, in fact, say that.]
Me: Yeah but… I think you might have a point about the almond butter. What do you think we should do about that? I mean, should we just fail the challenge and buy it? Should I tell Whole Foods that I’m in need of almond butter but can’t pay for it, technically, because, like, I’m competitive, and I like supporting good causes, and I need to enter a challenge, but that I’ll just fall over and die if I don’t have it? Or maybe tell the United Way that I have a condition in which my blood needs to be coursing with thick almond butter or else I’ll die and it just has to be Maranatha or else I’ll die and then if I die I can’t complete the challenge and—
Daniel: I’m calling Dr. Drew. He’s an addiction medicine specialist.
Me: He’s busy.
Daniel: No he’s not.
Me: Yes he is.
Daniel: No he’s not.
Me: I want a divorce.
Daniel: We’re not married yet.
Me: Good point, I should save that one for when we are.
Daniel: No you shouldn’t.
Me: I want to break up.
Daniel: Because you need a $10 jar of almond butter and therefore can’t complete a really fantastic challenge to bring attention to the hunger that millions of people deal with?
Me: Yes. I need it.
Me: You obviously don’t know me. This is never going to work.
Daniel: OK, well we’re going to try it for 5 days and at the end of it, if you do indeed die from lack of pricey almond butter, I will tell your mom it was my fault.
Me: OK. Just also tell her that I didn’t mean to rub Elmer’s glue all over my nightstand at Christmas in 1990. Tell her I thought it would look like snow.
Daniel: I bet she doesn’t even remember that.
Me: Of course she does! I’m still upset about it.
Daniel: …OK I’ll tell her.
Me: Oh, and tell DeeDee I love her and I’m sorry I cringed when she licked my face because it smelled like a fish market. She probably didn’t mean it.
Daniel: Yeah, because she’s a pug and that happens. OK I’ll tell her.
Me: K thanks. And Monkey?
Daniel: Uh huh?
Me: Thanks for doing the hunger challenge with me. Even if I die of almond butter starvation.
Daniel: I thought we were broken up?
Me: No, we’ll wait until the 26th. Give the challenge all we’ve got until then.
Daniel: [walks out of room]
In seriousness, the challenge is very important, and it means a lot to me to be taking part.
To kick off my week, I went to the grocery store on a strict budget. $84 is all that Daniel and I would be allotted for a full 7 days according to the Basic Food Program, and by golly, $84 is what I stuck to. Here’s what I’ll be working with this week:
Vegetables: Broccoli, asparagus, organic butternut squash, parsley, organic spinach, organic carrots, tomato, organic cucumber, organic red bell peppers, romaine lettuce, garlic, onion, lime, lemon, scallions
Fruit: Frozen strawberries, frozen blueberries, bananas (I always choose ones with brown, spotty skin because they taste sweeter in my oatmeal, and in things like banana bread), organic grapefruits, organic apples, organic oranges
Beans and Grains: Flour, whole wheat flour, organic stuffing mix, whole wheat English muffins, organic bulk old fashioned rolled oats, quinoa, dried black beans, dried garbanzo beans, short grain brown rice
Poultry, Fish, Dairy, and Eggs: organic eggs, 3 cans solid white tuna fish, one 5lb whole chicken, organic lowfat cottage cheese, organic lowfat sour cream. Oh! And I bought a 1 lb block of extra firm tofu! How did she escape the photo?
Canned and Jarred Items: two 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes, salsa, tomato paste, organic sweet corn
Pantry Staples: organic French roast coffee, unsalted butter, organic olive oil, sesame oil, black pepper, salt, brown sugar
My Livelihood: Kerrygod Irish cheddar cheese, Hershey’s special dark chocolate chips, creamy salted peanut butter
I found it very hard to stick to my imposed $84 budget. Very very hard, especially considering that Daniel and I typically spend $140 a week for all of our meals and snacks. I can’t imagine how it would work on weeks where I need to buy other household items like toilet paper, soap, and the like. I picture trying to feed young children and the many “No”s I’d have to muster when they wanted even one boxed snack food. It all must be homemade- from cookies to if we’re really to make it work.
I’m glad to say that I was able to get some organics, and I’d say that at least half of my budget went to produce, which lets me know that it is possible to buy healthy, fresh ingredients despite strict finances. Although, I did several times frown that one pound of white pasta was almost always two times cheaper than one pound of any fruit or veg.
I’m both excited and a bit nervous to see how this will all play out. Will I be able to make all of this bounty bend to the length of a week? Will I be able to make one roasted chicken stretch six ways to Sunday? Does Daniel realize I’m only half joking about the divorce? And who gets custody of our dehumidifier? It’s anyone’s guess.
Stay tuned as I take the hunger challenge and blog all the meals!