Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Food Stamp Challenge Mirrors Reality

Reflections from a Former Food Stamp Recipient
Shandi Penrod
As I read others' posts for the week, and especially in the discussion following the screening of Food Stamped, I felt an uncomfortable connection to the participants in the SNAP Challenge as they each learned a little bit of what it's like to live on the budget of a SNAP recipient. I lived on food stamps in grade school and high school--perhaps before that too, I don't remember--and I lived on a food stamp budget for the next four years while in college, though technically courtesy of government loans rather than a government EBT card.
Grade School
In grade school I remember wondering how my friends could buy both lunch and an extra carton of milk. In junior high I would sometimes skip lunch and just drink milk so I could save $1.20 for some spending money, hoping perhaps a few weeks out I could see a movie with my friends. "Sample days" at Sam's Club were among my and my sister's favorite days, and my mom made a point to make a game out of eating enough samples to make a meal before we left.
In high school I would start my day with the choice of a glass of milk or a store-brand frosted Pop Tart. Our school didn't have a breakfast program, so that was never an option, but I remember begging my mother not to put me on the lunch program which required students to check in to an office every day to collect a green token and, worse, to pay for lunch with the token in front of hundreds of my peers. Back at home, a typical dinner was a $1.50 frozen meal--the other frozen meals were too expensive, my mom would say--or a bunch of tortilla chips and dip leftover from some relative's birthday party--because, of course, a meal didn't actually have to be balanced or nutritious as long as it was enough food to fill you up. I was tired every day and sick a lot, but I didn't know one of the main reasons for this was from the food I was eating.
In college, I was completely on my own without parental help. Though going to school for 16 to 18-hour sememsters didn't leave time for a full-time job, I did work part-time. Half my meals were spent in the fast-food-filled school cafeteria, because that's what my student loans covered. When I met my friends at Denny's I'd order water with lemon, squeeze the lemon and add a bit of sugar; my other "poor" friend and I joked about our "poor man's lemonade." I ate a lot of Ramen noodles and dollar-menu items. I usually skipped fast-food water because they often charged an extra 10-25 cents for the water cup.
I cried a lot.
A pet died because I couldn't afford to have her benign tumor removed and it became infected. I'm supposed to choose my own welfare over a pet, right? I still feel awful.
If I spilled something or accidentally left food in my car overnight, that meant I lost a meal. Similarly, losing and buying a new notebook (or worse, a calculator) would bring a fresh wave of tears, because that meant cutting from either my healthcare or food budget. I learned to clean my plate and accept every bit of free food I was offered. I literally rushed a sorority because they were having a free picnic outside my freshman dormitory. Restaurants only received my patronage because I was lucky enough to have a boyfriend who didn't mind paying for his girlfriend's dinner dates.
Instead of personal choice dictating my diet, circumstance did.
On the otherhand, I knew a lot of people were worse off than me. Therefore, I never considered taking food from a food pantry when that meant I might take that food away from someone who may have been starving; I was still scraping by somewhat okay. Well, pride in my perceived self-reliance may have played a part, too.
Life wasn't awful. I didn't starve. I just wasn't very healthy, and I spent a lot of energy in stress and tears over paying for food.
Flash forward to today.
Today I'm much more secure about my finances and my food, even during the hardest times, and I never rationally worry about from where my next meal will arrive.
Irrational worry is a different story.
I regularly spend time reminding myself that while it's not okay to negligently waste food, it is okay when I accidentally spill milk or find forgotten, spoiled food in my refrigerator; I don't have to clean my plate if I'm full; and I don't have to eat those free hydrogenated-oil-filled pastries at my relative's birthday party if that's not what I want. I try to ignore my worry that I consumed enough hormones, BPA, PCBs and other chemicals found in cheap American foods to leave a lasting health impact--something to which I'll never truly know the answer.
And now food is very personal to me in a completely different way. I eat a vegetarian diet, eat as organically as I can comfortable afford, and learned the nearly forgotten art and science of growing one's own food.
Maybe I used to need to, but today I don't have to cry over spilled milk.
And yet, millions of people still do. Will you do something to help ease their pain?
by Shandi Penrod
Here's a place to start: Jewish and Muslim Day of Service

Monday, November 19, 2012

Our Week

Cyndee Levy

We survived the challenge without much difficulty in terms of the quantities of food that we purchased.  Having a large family probably actually made it a bit easier as long as we made good choices and stretched our dollar. With a total budget of $189 we ate fairly well.  The kids were fine with apples and peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, they didn’t really miss the extra snacks that they often have to round out the lunch.  However, they came home hungry and we didn’t have much to snack on.  They finished off the breakfast cereal on day 3 as it became the after school snack.  We also discovered quickly that portion control, which they are not used to, was an issue.  We never had leftovers and once or twice there were little grumbles from the boys.  We had an additional $60 to spend during the week, but it was used up quickly for after school slurpes (the boys used their own money initially, I paid them back out of the food budget), extra cereal mid-week and a few extra things for Shabbat.  There was a beautiful Kiddush lunch at Traditional so that took care of one meal.

We learned that $31.50 per person each week doesn’t go very far.  We also talked a great deal about how much easier it is to shop with a Costco membership (several family members suggested that Costco shopping might be cheating), and will a nice Walmart near buy for us to do most of our shopping.  We wondered want it would have been like to shop only at a discount food store in the city.  We also wondered what it would have been like if I was not someone that liked to cook. 
For example, one night we have spaghetti squash, tilapia, mixed kales in a salad with roasted beets, and melon for dinner.  It was great and we actually had 2 guests that night for dinner.   If I didn’t like to cook or if I was a working mother holding down more than 1 job, I imagine that a home cooked meal would have been much harder to pull off.

The Levy family will go into this season more thankful for all that we do have and a bit more sensitive about the challenges that others face.  We are planning to make a donation of one week’s family budget to the food pantry…it seems like a great deal of money, but we know it is only a start.

Final Thoughts

Andrea Kaiser

Obviously, it takes a few weeks to create a habit, and perhaps our food stamp society spend the first two-three weeks learning what they can and can't afford, in order to get some variety in their meals.

Doing this for ONE week was eye-opening for budget and what the dollar buys. Often, we walk into the store and buy impulsively. This required planning on many levels: Pre-planning activities and coordinating easy-fix meals for when you are not home, and more intensive food prep for when you are home. Even though I did this, I found I did not wish to eat what was on my pre-planned meal schedule, and often varied from it. My homemade vegetable soup lasted me five days. My bean mixture lasted the entire week plus 1-2 more days! But I am tired of beans, now. I was wise in what I bought so I would not be so hungry. Potatoes can go a long way when bought 5-10 lbs at a time!

May you think about the many single people out there who just desire variety and small packages, as well as families who desire larger quantities?

May I suggest that as we sit down at our meals this week and ALWAYS that we consider the plates of the hungry? Take a brief moment before you indulge to reflect on this. You will delight in your food much more. And try a little silence as you consume each bite and discover its true flavor. 

Heartfelt thanks for this opportunity!


Lenna Tasley-Broome

I went over my budget - Friday.

Also, today looks shaky at best.

Some people are able to use the stamps as supplements in their budget - those that depend on them - it is scary. The blogs have addressed so many of the realities: - good food choices are not accessible, transportation, preparation of the time healthy budget minded meal - and the harsh reality.

I feel sad today.

To all the children in this experiment - my hug.

To all - my hug.

A New Situation

Andrea Kaiser

Okay, I found myself in a new situation---and I was surprisingly comfortable.  I went out to eat with my sister at Pi's (pizza) in the Kirkwood area. I took all my own food with me. Tammy was ordering from the menu. I told the waiter he probably had never had THIS situation come up, and I explained the Hunger Challenge. How could one eat only $31.50 for an entire week was his question. I shared my purchases and he started coming up with his own ideas for success!

 I ordered a glass of water, and also asked if he could take my meal and heat it up. He happily agreed, and was curious to see what I was eating! I explained to him I missed a meal that day to be able to consume this full plate of food: I had two soft corn tortillas and a bean mixture I had been eating all week, made with fat free refrieds, black beans and canned tomatoes. I garnished it with a small amount of shredded Mexican cheese. Beside it was a boiled red potato, and some broccoli with another small sprinkling of the same cheese. My plate was full, and later so was my belly, especially since I had a hard-boiled egg as an appetizer and a small banana for dessert. A gastronomic delight! Oh, dear, I forgot about ordering water with lemon, and adding sugar for my own free lemonade!

My meal was quite substantial--I almost felt like I ate enough for a queen. I wasn't hungry the rest of the evening like I was most of the week by 9 or 10 PM. No sunflower seeds tonight!

On day 5, I invited a friend for a meal, but was refused. He didn't want to eat beans! I didn't have much left from my groceries for the week: eggs, beans, broccoli, some frozen mixed vegetables, a yogurt, some milk, and my Joe's O's (Trader Joe's version of Cheerios). Variety is dissipating, and boredom is truly settling in.

Tonight I locked myself out of my car at 4PM, and feared I wouldn't get home for dinner by the time I was really hungry. I was beginning to feel the pangs. Earlier this week, when I got past the point of hunger, I would just skip a meal; but tonight, knowing I was going to Shabbat services, I wanted to eat something beforehand!
One more day to go!

It's only been a week -- how would I have survived if this was endless??

When I am job seeking, I eat minimally, and somewhat healthfully as well. What was different this time, was the tinier budget allowance; I normally spend a few more bucks than $31.50; not much more. I am so glad I don't indulge at all in coffee, alcohol, or cigarettes. And I very rarely buy bread or desserts, including cookies/candy. I keep my snacks minimal and make them last a long time. I keep my drinks to water and milk; occasionally juice. I periodically make lemonade from unhealthy concentrate, for something different to drink. I will add seltzer water to juice and make my own soda. That in itself, saves a lot of money! 

I recall when my childhood family was on hard times, Mom served Jell-O with milk as dinner. Sometimes with toast. Or rice with milk and cinnamon; adding a can of fruit. (She thought it was a good source of protein).  When she baked chicken, 8 of us had to eat off just ONE chicken. By the time it was served to her, she was left with the back! 
We all would share ONE can of vegetables. Most of our meal was meat and potatoes. Our salads were always iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. I didn't know salads any other way! I learned when I was 50 and diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I had been severely malnourished as a child.

Having lived a life in financial abundance with a husband, I saw the other side: pure indulgence! And unfortunately, that's when my diagnosis showed up! I was banned from many foods for the rest of my life. What I learned: Moderation reigns over gluttony.

Now that I am single again, my past patterns of moderation return, whether I like it or not! AND this time I am healthier!

I am thankful for the opportunity to reflect on prayer before my meal! In addition to thanking God for the gift of food, I prayed for my stomach to remain full for as long as possible! 


Janet Rodgers

Thursday:  Chanukah came early to the Rodgers's household.  I had 2 red potatoes and one onion left so we had latkes for dinner!  So yummy.

Friday:  Uncle.

Day 6

Lenna Tasley-Broome

Homemade soup - frozn veggies, small pot, chix broth, lots of spices and bread.
snack - hot tea/pbutter spoon.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Access & Time

Will Soll

I think it's possible to eat healthfully on food stamps. That said, I think many don't. I believe that one contributing factor is access. Low-income areas are often served only by mini-marts with limited and generally unhealthy selections of food. I was pleased to see that Aldi has two locations in the city itself.

Another factor: cooking good food takes time. Processed food is convenient and well-marketed. This, indeed, is a health factor in the US at all levels of society.

Day 6

Cheryl Lyons

It is day 6.  I went to my co-workers office for a meeting and as I was leaving they were celebrating someone’s birthday with a table full of delicious brunch items.  Wow it looked and smelled wonderful! There was 8 people and I shared my current Food Stamp Challenge participation for this week.  I did not eat.  Some were interested and a few thought it was odd. I am glad that I am being odd this week.  Each day during this week has made me more aware of the constraints and difficulties that many people experience all year long, or longer.  I have a job, a car, health care, good health, friends that allowed my food stamp challenge days to be much more tolerable than millions & millions of those not as fortunate.   At the end of this week, I will have a few eggs, apples, carrots, noodles, etc and if I was on food stamps I would be very excited to know that I could purchase again the necessary food for the next week with my $31.50 limit.  My 3 year old grandson visits me on the weekends and he usually spends the night.  I would need dinner, breakfast, lunch and soymilk and snacks for him.  He usually eats twice as much as me!  If I was on food stamps, most likely my few leftovers would be not be enough for this young, growing grandson of mine and I go with less food…


Leslie Bursack

I think I'm doing fairly well on this diet.  In fact, I haven't felt terribly deprived which is surprising to me.  I am definitely hungry by the time I get home from work, but it's been manageable.

It's possible to maintain a healthy diet on the food stamps budget of $31.50 per week, but very boring. I'm getting pretty tired of pb and j sandwiches, baked potatoes, rice and beans. 

I'd have to say that the hardest part of this week for me has been saying no to social invitations.  I had to say no to two fun lunches with co-workers. I don't think Crown Candy offers a Food Stamp lovers plate. I've decided to accept an invitation to attend a trivia event tonight and am contemplating how I'll feel if I veer off  the diet. I'm leaning towards sticking it out and just drinking water. This seems so very trivial, certainly not what people living on food stamps would ever have the opportunity to contemplate.

I'm glad that I participated in this challenge. It's certainly been thought provoking and has raised my interest in finding some meaningful volunteer opportunities in this area.

Day 5

Lenna Tasley-Broome

From another perspective:
read the shaare emeth blogs - soulful.

We gain knowledge each day - we become more adaptable and in this more creative and efficient with our meals and budget. Is coffee a staple? Yes, about the pet food? Trade-offs.  Then - our own recriminations - our own fault finding - even tho out of our control - still 'it's our own faults'.  To live with this daily - and be the provider - the - 'it's all o.k. honey - we'll be fine'.  strength in adversity - was gonna use the word weakness - how inappropriate.

I'm just one - most of the teamers are multi - and the children being troopers and the adults teaching the realities - and finding alternatives to the usual treats.  I applaud you.

Food for Day 5: smoothie with pbutter/ 1/2banana
                        oatmeal-made with h20 - 1/2banana,pbutter
                        snack - pbutter on spoon & hot tea

Kind thoughts

Let food be your medicine

Maria DeShields

I think it is possible to maintain a healthy diet on food stamps as long as you put in the effort to plan ahead of time. By this I mean, taking time to base your meals around locally grown and or organic fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and if you are not a vegan or vegetarian, buying grass fed meats along with wild caught fish. It is important to become a label reader and be aware of what goes in our bodies. So many of our foods are GMO's, full of sodium, high fructose corn syrup and other harmful additives and preservatives. I know this can be an inconvenience to some who are just use to going to the store and picking out whatever because of time constraints but in the long run it pays.Throughout my life at various times, I have used food stamps to fed my family and I maintained a very healthy diet. Spending time to be an informed consumer beats sitting in the doctors' office for hours waiting to find out what is wrong with us. I am not against doctors just painting a parallel. Hippocrates, often called the father of medicine said,"Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food."

Day 5: Priority One

Michael DiPlacido

In the Talmud, we read: "Rav Hisda says, "one who could eat barley bread, but eats wheat bread has violated "ba'al taschit."  Rav Pappa says, one who could drink wine, but drinks beer, has violated ba'al taschit." (Shabbat (140b))  Later, the Talmud states: "But this isn't the case. ba'al taschit of one's body takes preference."

Ba'al Taschit is the Torah's prohibition on wasteful or pointless destruction of property or resources. Ravim Hisda and Pappa are saying that this prohibition, as it relates to what we eat, is based on the cost of the food. But, the Talmudic commentator looks at the concept through a new lens: how food affects our body. Is my diet healthy? Do I eat foods that are nutritional? Do I consume no more than my body needs? In terms of good health, in many cases, the diet composed of simpler foods is better than one containing processed foods. Over-consumption contributes to being overweight. Highly processed foods contain additives that simpler foods don’t. What I have found this week is that I feel much better eating less and eating simpler. I have dispensed with my overindulging, and eliminated the chips and dip.  This is not to say that people who have food shortages are better off. It points to the fact that I eat too much, and eat the “wrong” things. My experience this week has reinforced what I already knew, and what the Talmud teaches: eating right is a top priority.

A Hasidic Tale for Day 6

Michael Getty

Day 5:

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and toast
Lunch: For me, the last of the *%$!! lentil soup; for Brian: leftover macaroni and black beans
Dinner: Pasta with marinara sauce, baked acorn squash

After a week of very survival-level food strategy, as opposed to all the contorted and hoity-toity things I did before this week, I'm remembering a Hasidic story.

A man goes to his rabbi and complains that all his friends are more prosperous than he is -- bigger houses, more beautiful wives, and more thriving businesses. He tells the rabbi that every day he looks around his cramped, dingy house and feels like a failure. “Rabbi," he sobs, "My house is much to small for my wife, my two children, myself and all my dreams to fit.

“Everything will be fine,” the rabbi assures him, “but first you have to go back home, buy a cow and bring her into your house as well.” Now the man is sure the rabbi has lost his mind, but being brought up to always listen to the rabbi, he goes home, buys a cow and brings her into his house as well.

By the third week, he is going out of his mind, so he runs back to the rabbi and explains, “First I complained that my house was too small, so you had me bring in my two dogs and cat and the family goat. Then you had me buy a cow and bring her into my house as well. Now I can’t sleep, can’t eat, can barely think at all from all the noise, and thrashing about, and chaos and clutter that is everywhere I turn. Rabbi you have to help me – it’s driving me crazy!”

So the rabbi takes the man by the hand and says, “Everything will be fine. Go home immediately and take the two dogs, the cat, the family goat and the cow out from your house."

The man runs home as fast as he can, empties the house of all but his wife and two daughters and himself, and then sighs a giant sigh of relief, looks around his empty home and says, “Thank God for this beautiful home with all this luxurious space in which my family can live. What a lucky man I am!”

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 5

Ursula Bamnolker

I have come to the conclusion that it might be possible to maintain a healthy diet on the food stamp budget IF and only IF you have the tools and the resources to back it up. I think that, if one learned how to prepare more lentil and bean dishes, they'd have a better shot at staying healthy and staying on budget. 

We have gone $25 over budget thus far and it looks like we'll have to go shopping soon!
If I had to shop again, I'd buy more fruits and veggies and bulk lentils/beans and less processed foods. I'd get oatmeal instead of Chex and ditch the yogurt covered raisins and applesauce (and make my own!) 

In addition, I would buy a waffle maker, make my own waffles, make my own bread and create dishes from scratch - instead of buying gluten free items from Dierberg's (a weekly ritual of mine.) They would be healthier AND cheaper.  

I've actually been inspired to do all of the above. I don't think it is possible to live on a food stamp budget. However, I think that it is possible to spend less and eat more healthfully. If you focus on eating whole foods (not necessarily from Whole Foods!), you can cut down on your expenditures and improve your health. 

Ironically, I gained weight this week. (Which, for me, is FABULOUS - I am in remission from Multiple Myeloma and have needed to gain more weight for a few months now.) It looks like lentils and beans provide the body with healthy weight gaining calories. Gotta love that. I'm glad that we participated in this project. I learned a lot by doing it. 

Day 4

Michael DiPlacido

Things are going well. I feel like I am “coasting” now. I have become accustomed to my new eating routine and the lesser amount of food I am taking in. It feels refreshing and liberating to no longer think continually about what to eat next. At least for now, food is no longer a compulsion: no more snacking, foraging, and overeating. I feel comfortable before, during, and after my meal. Comfort food has become comfortable food. I feel like I am honoring the act of eating now; and, honoring me – by not eating more than my body needs or what is not nutritional. Outside of the specific issues around eating on $31.50/week, I can’t stop thinking about the comparative advantages I have over the typical food stamp recipient; and, how those differences would make this “challenge” so much more difficult.  

I Think We're Actually Doing Really Well

Michael Getty

Day 4

Breakfast: Toast with peanut butter and jam, one banana each and a half glass of orange juice each
Lunch: For me, round 5 (no kidding) of lentil soup, plus some unexpected office food; for Brian, leftover ramen noodles and steamed vegetables
Dinner: Macaroni and cheese and black beans, bananas and peanut butter for dessert

I think we're actually doing really well, especially for not having planned things out. It helps that we don't eat meat.  I'm having the last of the lentil soup for Day 5 lunch. It is not in the least bit appetizing, but it is filling and protein-rich. And it's part of why we have about $10 left in our budget, enough to restock on fresh fruit, peanut butter and, who knows, maybe even a bottle of wine for kiddush.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day 4

Lenna Tasley-Broome

Meals for 2day: 11/14/12 4:43 p.m.
smoothie of apple/banana - a.m.
tuna stuffed potato with chopped apple - p.m.
snack p.m. - apple/pbutter
Good eating - and moral support

Hungry, tired and crabby

Michelle Shanker

I have spent much of the week wondering how people on food stamps survive. I am hungry, tired, and crabby. I think about food and miss the “noshing’ all day. Mostly, I can’t figure out how hungry people can be expected to work – or how hungry people are able to look for work? 

This has been a great education in morality for me. Doing good and charitable work is a very important thing, but a hungry person has no energy to do tikkun olam. How  often could you afford to do charitable work if you are on food stamps? And for me, that would be the worst part of it – having to take without being able to give back. To never have the satisfaction of being able to take care of someone else.  


Janet Rodgers

Tuesday - 3 pm:  Hungry, go for a walk at 3 pm to take my mind off it
4:30 pm - only short term benefits from walk regarding hunger.  Note to self - get the Halloween candy out of the house.
6 pm - Using dried black beans because they are cheap, but 2 hours to cook!  This is a lot of work.
Wednesday:  I can't believe it's only Wednesday.

Coffee muß ich haben

Will Soll

The cheap produce at Aldi's emboldened me to spring for coffee. $3.99 gets you 12 oz. of their Donut Shop Blend. This meant spending 13% of my food budget on an item with zero nutritional value.

It was a smart choice. I would have been miserable otherwise. And it’s a reminder that all of us—rich and poor alike—use food for other reasons beside nutrition.

Here's a link to an aria from J.S. Bach's "Coffee Cantata", actually a mini comic opera about a father trying to get his daughter to give up drinking coffee (he thinks it's not seemly for a woman). She outwits him. English text of aria below. 

My, isn't coffee delicious?
Sweeter than thousands of kisses,
Milder than muscatel wine.
Coffee, coffee, that's what I require.
To fulfill my heart's desire
Just, just pour me out some coffee
Pour me my coffee so fine.

Living Without

Andrea Kaiser

How perfect to title this week in just two words: Living Without. 

(Ironically, it is the name of an online magazine for Celiac Disease, and Gluten Intolerance!! It showed up today to remind me of the foods I miss; bananas, berries, chicken, fish, gluten free goodies: bread, muffins.)

I look at what others are eating. My diet is too healthy. Brian, find me a Jolly Rancher. No, forget that, I would rather have a Reese's Peanut Butter cup! I am craving them!...Where's my peanut butter? 

It was tough to pass by a fast food place when I was hungry tonight, and knew I had to head home. It's okay, being unemployed through this hunger project is another eye opener! Wiser for the budget. But I am noticing my mind is less sharp without the right foods! And my digestive system is lazy. 

Day 3: Less Is More

Michael DiPlacido

My single meal of the day becomes special by virtue of its uniqueness. A modicum of food served daily at 7:00 PM. Compared to my usual diet of continuous “foraging” from awakening to retiring, my Food Stamp Challenge meal is a mere pittance. Yet, it has so much more character than my normal fare. In the Jewish tradition, the Rabbis liken the dinner table to the altar in the Temple, and the food we eat to the offerings made to G-d. The singular nature of my meal has turned the act of eating into a well-defined moment in time, and, as such, elevates it from the level of the mundane to something special. I experience heightened awareness, appreciation, and fulfillment. I can’t help but be reminded of the Torah’s injunction: You shall eat, be satisfied, and bless G-d for the good earth.

Focusing on keeping busy

Andrea Kaiser

Breakfast is getting boring: cereal and milk, oatmeal or eggs. I normally have a balanced variety. This week, it is mostly cereal --Trader Joe's version of Cheerios (but no wheat).

I noticed today it's no longer about the food that I concentrate on; it's about staying busy! so I don't think about what I will eat, or how hungry I am feeling. I was in class tonight, and my stomach was reminding me it's feeding time, but it would be at least another 45 minutes or so before I would be home. When I got out of class in a hotel, there was fresh FREE popcorn in the lobby which I couldn't refuse. It's my favorite food and I had planned to give it up this week! It not only called to me, but it seemed to have had a 'cord attached' which would not let me leave the building unless I indulged! :) It was the worst popcorn I ever had, short of the burnt stuff! I was not meant to eat popcorn this week! I tossed it out!
I went home and ate a steamed potato au naturel. My stomach shut up.

Yesterday, I was at a friend's house and she offered me anything that was in her fridge. I politely declined. She had noticed I was losing weight already, and felt sorry for me. 

Four days to go! I am rationing my food

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Real Bargain

Michael Getty

Breakfast: Oatmeal with diced apples, half a glass each of orange juice
Lunch: Round 4 of lentil soup for me - for Brian: Round 3 of leftover pasta, a cheese sandwich
Dinner: Ramen noodles with steamed broccoli and grated carrots, bananas and peanut butter for dessert

Thoughts for the day? I cannot imagine facing unemployment or disability while also worrying about going hungry. For now, it seems like $63 for both of us is enough to get by on for a week -- no frills, no margin for error, but keeping 45 million people out of the direct threat of hunger -- all for about $75 billion per year? That seems like the real bargain, and I can't comprehend the moral direction of politicians who would hold it hostage for the sake of  ideological purity. And in my eyes, who thinks voluntary, spontaneous, and uncoordinated efforts by faith communities could ever be a good substitute for this program is -- pardon the pun -- out to lunch.

Eating Early Tonight

Lenna Tasley-Broome

So here it is:  peanut butter sandwich / jelly - thick peanut butter- cut into 3rd's - banana on it  - chips, frozen veggie - peas.  Beverage - hot tea (chai - in the house already).  I'll have apple and hot tea for when i get hungry again.  Actually - my eating pattern is:  1st. meal is dinner.  Then bedtime then
  wake up snack sleep wake up - a dysfunctional lifestyle.  At work have salad and snacks - restaurants lend to this behavior -  but on vacation now.

I'm deducting cost of chai tea and peanut butter from my allotment - Sunday looms in the faint distance..  We're at midweek tomorrow.  Hang tough.  We could  eat 'ramen' all week - or the knock-off.  Many many many Food Stampers do - bags of chips, starch starch starch - fill the belly.  Like a blogger wrote - getting in touch with our hunger - mental or physical.  But we all know how strong the mental is - nice full belly.  From the blogs - my teamers are a healthy bunch - this is an experiment -  remember:  you joined in and that makes you all winners!!!!!

The Good News ...

Nancy Weigley 

I had a good weigh-in at Weight Watchers this morning!  Andy and I are actually doing pretty well so far with the biggest challenge being “to keep it healthy.”   We are both creatures of habit, so we found a few things that work and are repeating menus.  Breakfast for me is Trader Joe’s frozen oatmeal ($.85) and coffee ($.36).  Andy has two pieces of toast ($.33) and a banana ($.19) and coffee…he drinks it black so it comes out to (.04 per 6 oz. cup).  Not good coffee by the way. Lunch for me consisted of a left over piece of Trader Joe’s lasagna ($1.50) and Andy had PBJ ($.56), and an apple ($.18). I was totally happy eating half a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese for dinner ($.50) and Andy had a frozen chicken pot pie ($1.37).  Now if we can repeat that for the next 4 – 5 days, we are there.

Obviously, we both realize how this will get progressively more difficult as the week goes on.  And, while we can have a little bit of levity with this challenge, we also are not making the hard decisions where we are deciding between paying the heating bill verses putting dinner on the table or buying prescriptions instead of grocery shopping.

I will say that shopping on Saturday afternoon at Aldi’s in University City, was also a sensitivity reminder.  Again, as a group we were doing our shopping and comparing notes on what to buy.  As we shopped we were among folks where the hunger challenge is their reality. They most likely aren't thinking about what they plan to eat next Sunday when the challenge will be  over for us. A lot to think about.More to come.

Day 2

Cheryl Lyons

Left work yesterday on the metro link from BJC Hospital to Delmar Metro Station. It was very cold and dark at 5:30pm. I saw some people on my journey home and I knew that many would go to homes with no heat, food, etc.  or maybe no place to call home. I was thankful to go heated home and dinner of crackers hummus, veggies (from frozen bag), and apple.    

Day 2: Don’t Be Confused

Michael DiPlacido

At 4:44 PM, on the second day, I think: It’s not even 5:00 PM, and I’m thinking about dinner.  I pause, step back a moment, observe myself: I can’t say that I am really hungry; my stomach isn’t growling; I’m not experiencing any discomfort, but I’m thinking about food.  I will put off eating dinner until around 7:00 PM.  I think many Americans, those of us who do not experience food shortages on a daily basis, have too much to eat; or, maybe just eat too much.  In doing so, we always have a full (or over full) stomach.  Our stomachs are not used to emptying out; we are not used to not feeling full.  So, when we no longer feel full, we confuse this state for “being hungry”.  I need to be mindful of my real needs, and be more aware of why I am eating; why I feel “hungry”.  I must not confuse the need to eat with the desire to eat; nourishing with consuming.  At 7:10 PM, I sit down to my only meal of the day.  Calmly, I joyfully survey the plate of food.  I notice myself taking my time (compared to my normal dinners), eating slowly, seeing the food, tasting the food, and enjoying the food more than usual.   I am thankful for this opportunity to learn.


Joel and Patti Smiley

Nervous about running out of food at the end of the week...we are reducing consumption. Processed turkey sandwiches with mostly lettuce, carrots, pasta, watered-down orange juice are our new staples.


Cheryl Lyons

I take the metro link home from BJC hospital to Delmar metro link....very cold and dark at. 5:30pm....thought more of homeless and those hungry rather than what I would have for dinner from my $27.48 food purchase for the week.....

Day 2

Joel Achtenberg

Before even sitting down to make my shopping list, I knew there were a couple of quick NOs:  

•NO fast food, NO meals out. Fortunately I like to cook. 
•NO Soda. Water is better for me anyway

I was worried it might be hard to get decent fresh fruit and vegies at Aldi's, but in fact I was able to find some nice broccoli and carrots, and a small bag of apples. I usually try to have fruit at every meal, but will be limited to "an apple a day..." this week. 

Shopping for one person, I knew I wouldn't be able to take advantage of buying in bulk. For example, I planned to get some fresh ground beef to make chili, but Aldi's only had 3# packs, so I ended up with a small pack of frozen meatballs. 

Sunday was our monthly havurah brunch. I took a sandwich, carrots and an apple. Hard to say "no thanks" to the great offerings prepared/brought by the others, but a good opportunity to talk about the Challenge. 

I'm eating pretty well so far, and should make it through the week, but saved some money in case I get desperate for something extra by Saturday. 

More later...

Hard to be easy-going

Janet Rodgers

Yelled at one of my kids today for eating some of my carrots. It's harder to be easy-going when you are on a tight budget. Heading back out to the grocery store to fill in holes in my menu planning.  I have $10 left to spend, and then that will be it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Day 2. Food Memory.

Breakfast: For me, toast and jam, a banana, a small glass of orange juice -- for Brian, cereal and milk, a banana, a small glass of orange juice
Lunch: For me, leftover lentil soup, a slice of toast, a banana, an apple -- for Brian, leftover pasta, a cheese sandwich, a banana, an apple
Dinner: Round three of lentil soup, pan-fried potatoes with grated carrot

We've been talking about how familiar this food is to us (minus the meat). We both grew up in the seventies and eighties, before the democratization of haute cuisine and boutique ingredients. Fried potatoes, root vegetables. Simple and stewy.

If the taste is simplicity, the rest is complexity. We are already rationing the bread. We left our one jar of peanut butter in the bagging area at Aldi, and it won't be cheap to replace. If I cook five potatoes instead of four, will we have enough for the rest of the week? How many carrots are really in that five-pound bag? What are we going to eat when things start running out?

This one time

Lenna Tasley-Broome

Hi Food Stamp teamers,

When we have and inherently know we have - then doing without comes to a choice of 'this one time', 'I have this everyday and really love it or need it' and most importantly we can cheat a little. Food Stamp citizens similarly navigate this quandry - resulting in going without - having to just go without. I'm in a place and time in my life where finances aren't as robust - and need to budget - but still I have wiggle room and my mom. It's only me and my pooch and $4.50 a day - yipes. No Panera salad, I guess cause it's simpler than cooking - which I didn't do much since being in food industry many years and my beloved never expected from me. No children either a money credit - an emotional debit. 

Yesterday had the Panera salad - 2nite will have frozen veggies, tuna with stewed tomatoes - ya know one of those meals only you'd eat. I eat dinner only - have a food/weight schtick - so that's a savings. 

We'll see - the blogs were great - so heartfelt - like being right there with some of you.  Thanks.

1 1/2 Days

Cheryl Lyons

Had Oatmeal with raisins for breakfast.  Banana for snack.  Cooked northern beans and cottage cheese for dinner.  Did fine.  Missed my sparkling water.  (12 pack $4.49) 

At work today, Monday 11/12 and started my day with oatmeal and raisins.  Brought sweet potato, two boiled eggs, and 2 carrots, for my lunch and snacks today.   J       

Hunger Challenge - Day Two

Andrea Kaiser

I began my day with a bowl of steel cut oats/ about 1/4 cup fat free milk with a garnish of four walnut pieces (leftovers from last week), and a tablespoon of  cranberry sauce. Nothing else to drink but a little water. I was hungry 2.5 hours later. I waited another hour before I ate.

I made my own tomato vegetable soup for the first time. (I'm not much of a cook, but having to get creative this week in my food choices!) The soup was made with frozen veggies: green beans, corn, julienne carrots, soybeans, canned tomatoes, tiny red pepper strips (more for color!), pearl onions,basil, garlic, and I added half a boiled, red potato. The other half I sauteed with 1 Tbsp olive oil and a seasoning mixture of garlic/onion/salt/pepper. My meal was quite tasty; not exactly filling. I was still a bit hungry. A green apple awaits me in two hours, followed by dinner: 2 slices of ham, sweet potatoes with cranberries--maybe a couple of walnut pieces, and fresh steamed broccoli--perhaps with a little Mexican cheese mixture. At bedtime, I will have 1/4 cup sunflower seeds.

What I noticed:
1.) As I was turning on the water about to wash out the soup bowl, I spotted a couple of tiny pieces of potato, and before the water splashed in, I quickly swallowed up the tiny morsels! In the past, this would have been an appetizer for the garbage disposal!

2.) When you know you can only eat a couple of items at a meal, you tend to TASTE them more than normal! The flavor seemed more enhanced. And I slowed down my eating process, to savor each miniscule bite. Each tiny piece of vegetable came alive in my bowl of soup.

3.) Watching TV can make one hungry quite easily. I am striving to remain busy between meals, so I don't think about my hunger. When I am less busy/active, I am aware of a growling tummy.

4.) Operating at 40-60% full after meals.

5.) Seeing the difference between Lack and Abundance. Lacking food makes me more appreciative for every spoonful.

6.) I am reminded of my parents saying to eat everything on my plate; the children in Europe(China/elsewhere) were starving! That meant nothing to me as a kid, but everything to me as an adult!

7.) Last night, I forgot to pack my food to take to a friend's home. I was caring for her mother for 7 hours: 2-9PM. I managed a small portion of mixed greens, and two scrambled eggs.
 To healthy eating!

Making different food choices

Cyndee Levy

We decided to begin tomorrow, Monday, as we could not get our act together before Shabbat. So we have menu planned and gone shopping and will begin in the morning. 

We did fairly well shopping; we had a budget of $189 for our family of 6 and we still have $60 left for later this week. The menu planning wasn't too difficult as I do cook almost every night of the week. But we decided to use more frozen veggies instead of fresh as we were able to get more for our dollar. This experience is already showing us that we have to make different food choices in order to have enough and that we will absolutely have to go with smaller portions in order to stretch the dollar, with three 18 y/o boys in the house this will be the biggest challenge.

We decided to deduct $20 from the overall budget for the coffee, flour and sugar, condiments and the like that we will be using. But, we did pull everything out of the pantry that was part of our menus for the week and deducted their dollar value from our budget. Now the pantry is closed for the week.

In some ways we are lucky because of the fact that I cook a lot and my family are already very healthy eaters.  So we don't some of the things that families usually have on hand for snacking. My family are also big veggies eaters, salads, kale, greens...the less expensive items that can be stretched a bit further.

We will do without meat, expect we have planned turkey meatloaf for Shabbat dinner.

Thank you again for sharing this experience with us through Mirowitz. I know we will learn a great deal.

I live with a woman

rabbi james stone goodman

I live with a woman who is into this exercise but I can’t say that it has grabbed my imagination. Yet.

There are some consciousness challenges that arise. I am, like most everyone else who lives in my neighborhood, a food snob. Everyone seems to be an expert in food nowadays. My old friend Stevie grew up on frozen fish sticks and wouldn’t eat a single fruit or vegetable until he was well into adulthood; today he calls himself a “foodie” and every time I hear him evaluate an artesian pizza crust or a particular olive oil I wonder who is speaking.

I enjoy shopping at Trader Joe’s, as I see all my neighbors do. I could lobby for local ordinances every time I go there. But I also respect the fakery of our lives; Trader Joe’s started with that faux South Seas routine reminding me of Trader Vic’s when I was a kid. We didn’t have a nickel and I didn’t go on a vacation until I got married but Trader Vic’s was like dinner on a cruise.

The poverty of our inner lives; such things work. Everybody in Pasadena wanted to shop the first Trader Joe’s because of all that Polynesian narischkeit as you strolled the jungle aisles and left your sad little Chevy Vega hatch-back life outside. It’s still in business by the way. TJ’s, not the Chevy Vega.

So we go to Aldi to shop for food stamp food. TJ’s, founded by Joe Coulombe, has been owned since 1979 by a family trust set up by the late German businessman Theo Albrecht, one of the two brothers behind the German discount supermarket chain Aldi Nord.
Ha! It’s the same family! Serving two different worlds in contiguous neighborhoods that rarely intersect. Who wrote this story, Salman Rushdie?

It’s the novelistic intersections of these stories that delight and depress me. I feel like I’m scurrying through this microcosm-maze operated by mystery relations that intersect in some other envelope of reality; here we intuit the TJ-Aldi connection, not sure how it plays out, but what it means on the micro level – we are the snobs who shop TJ and I for one have never set foot in Aldi and it’s totally a noblesse oblige kind of concept I admit – I am just like the people I bump into at TJ’s and what a surprise that I know everybody in the store. I wouldn’t know a soul at Aldi I’m sure. If I ever went there. Which I won’t.

One other thing. I don’t like the whole subject of food stamps and poverty. I’d rather not think about it unless I get lost and wander off the corridor and into the world where I don’t live. So does the rest of America. How much did we hear about poverty in the last election? How obscene is that. Lyndon, yours is the last voice I hear in my head when I think Poverty. A little Bill if I sit with it for a while.

One last thing. In 1971-72, that winter, I was living in the back of a white Rambler station wagon (American Motors, CEO George Romney hello again Salman) in a rest area in Phoenix, Arizona. There was a recession then, those old enough to remember, one would have to line up for blocks and hours to get gas. I parked my white Rambler station wagon in a rest area in Phoenix, Arizona, and moved only when the po-lice roused me.

In those days, that part of America was on the move. There were families living next to me in that rest area rolling across America from the dying industrial North and Northeast looking for work. I felt like Woody Guthrie and the dust bowl. At night we would make fires, I sang songs with a guitar, and on a good night someone showed up with a box of potatoes secured from who the hell knows where and we roasted them over the open fire. I had no food stamps ‘cuz I had no address.

That’s another reason I don’t care for this exercise. I had left home and another life and was trying to start over; I could not ask my parents for money and there wasn’t a home to retreat to. I considered crime.

I don’t talk about this story much, too soon. It was forty-one years ago.

james stone goodman, united states of america

Difficult to say "No"

Ursula Bamnolker

It's only the second day and already we (my daughter Isabella and I) have learned so much. I found the shopping part to be incredibly challenging. First of all, Isabella was with me. She had her own ideas about what we "needed" to get. And I have a hard time telling her "No" for food items. I grew up in a household where money was tight and was often told, "We can't afford that." I have avoided that lingo with my own daughter. I will either simply say "No" or will cave and get it for her. 

So, when I told her what we would be doing and how we would only be spending a certain amount of money, she had a very hard time understanding it. Last week, we had a discussion about what "middle class" means. (She had heard political ads on TV and wanted to know what it meant so I explained what lower (I used the word "poor" instead of lower), middle and upper class (I used the word rich instead of upper) meant. When I told her what we were doing, she said, "I don't want to be poor. Are we going to be poor now?" 

For a moment, I questioned our participation in this project. It brought back a lot of discomfort from my own childhood - discomfort that I have always wanted her to avoid. So I immediately responded, "No! No, we are not going to be poor. We are doing this to understand what it is like to be on Food Stamps. It's a good project to help us understand it." 

It was very hard to say "No" to different things in the store. We ended up going to Whole Foods the next day for Coconut Oil (something I just can't live without) and she asked for Probugs, a fun probiotic drink for kids - one of her favorite healthy, extremely over priced foods.  I said "No, that will put us over our budget."  I think this is the first time I have ever said anything to her about not getting something because we couldn't afford it. It made me feel awful to do this. Just awful. 

When we got to the check out counter, she started to lay it on thick, "I'm hungry. Can't I get something to eat?" (I had Coconut Oil and lentils in the basket.) "How about one of those?", she said, pointing to the Lance Armstrong Honey Treats near the register. "Okay," I said, caving. We went $1.76 over our budget. And she was happy. And I didn't feel like I was starving my child. 


Rabbi Susan Talve

Day 1 was thoughtful. Thinking about the victims of the hurricane who lost everything and would have to use 'food stamps" to build back their staples, condiments, etc. Thinking about how important it is to stock food pantries with healthy items that are hard to get in food deserts and just too expensive. Thinking about how if you don't have money for food, you don't have money for distractions and eating "comfort food" becomes an activity. Thinking about the food service director in the Food Stamped film who just wanted to give the children calories to fill their stomachs. Thinking about how there is a lot of wrong thinking out there. Remembering how the nutritionist at Children's hospital in the early 90's told us that calories were more important than our "organic" ideas and watching our kids get hooked on Spaghetti-Os and colored cereal with marshmallows in the hospital! Thinking about the other food service directors in the film teaching kids about healthy eating, exposing them to farms and gardens and delicious dishes with fresh vegetables that they ate! 

Day 1, Jim and I talked about what we would eat so that there would be enough for the week, trying to eat healthy and not be hungry, praying to be part of a movement that will grow a more just and healthier culture.  

Day 1

Michael Getty

Breakfast: 2 eggs each, two pieces of toast, and coffee
Lunch: Lentil soup and grilled cheese
Dinner: Elbow macaroni in marinara sauce, 3 carrots each

We bought two loaves of bread, and we're already halfway through the first one. Plenty of leftover lentil soup and pasta for lunch on Day 2. We figured out we left our one jar of peanut butter at Aldi's, and it will take about a third of our remaining budget to replace it. 

Scraping every morsel

Andrea Kaiser

I am noticing I am scraping every morsel from the pan I cook in, and the plate I eat off of, and thinking about food more often; even considering the time of my next meal, which I almost never do! I usually listen to my stomach. But I seem to fear not having enough food for my day.

Also, I just took my vitamins which I know feed my brain and my body, and figure vitamins are probably not on the grocery list.

Perhaps as I get away from house and engage in activities, I will be less fearful of the food issue. after all, this IS the first day! Any change is fearsome to some degree.

I use the phrase "Feel the fear and do it anyway!" as my reminder to stay on task! 

It's one thing to pretend

Michael DiPlacido

Here is what I bought for my one week Food Stamp Challenge:
$5.85     2 lbs. tilapia filets (8 filets)
$9.60     2 lbs.  skin-on salmon filets (8 filets)
$8.00     2.30 lbs. boneless ham steak
$23.45  Total Amount Spent

I figure it is enough for me to live on for the entire week.  I have $8.05 unspent from my budget.  If I run out of food to eat, or feel the need to eat more than what I have now, I will spend the remainder on additional items. 

Day 1: Today went well. I had only one meal, dinner. I worked hard baking challah at CRC this morning and afternoon. I ran some errands. Went home and relaxed for a few hours, and decided to fix dinner around 7:00 PM. My cooking routine changed as a result of the Challenge: instead of microwaving my meal, which is how I prepare virtually every meal, I used the broiler to cook my two pieces of raw fish. I am so used to Straub’s fully-cooked Lemon Pepper Tilapia and Grilled Salmon, I was a bit concerned that I would not like this new fare. But, I was pleasantly surprised: it was delicious.

My meal consisted of the following: 1 tilapia filet ($0.73), 1 salmon filet ($1.20), ½ lb ham steak (0.575 lb.) ($2.00) for a total of $3.93. So, I have 57 cents to carry over to a future meal, if I feel the need. 

It’s one thing to pretend that you are on food stamps, living on $31.50/week, but what we aren’t simulating here is all the other insufficiencies that many people on food stamps may endure.  Just the fact that I was able to “run some errands” this afternoon in my car, for example, sets me apart from a real food stamp recipient. Many people on food stamps don’t have a car, and thus are severely restricted in where and when they can go places, and what they can do. I am grateful for the independence that a car gives me to do the many things I want to do.  

Some people on food stamps don’t have heat or electricity in their houses or apartments simply because they can’t afford it. I’ve seen entire families living in one room of a two story house, because they can only afford to heat one room. I am grateful for my warm and well-lit home.   Many people on food stamps don’t have warm clothing to wear as the weather begins to get colder. I have more than enough clothing for all seasons; and if I need something new, I get into my car and drive to a store and buy what I need or want. I could go on and on. The point is that there can be so much more to “being on food stamps” than simply having only $31.50/week to spend on food. I am grateful for the opportunity this simulation gives me to consider these things.

Day 1 has gone okay.

Brian Vetruba

Day 1 has gone okay. One thing I noticed is that I'm viewing food much more as a scarce commodity. It's not that I ever thought it wasn't before; but, now it's hitting home at a personal level. I wanted to have a second sandwich for lunch today and Michael said we've already gone through half a loaf of bread and I probably shouldn't or else we might run out by the end of the week. This is also seems to require a lot of planning and coordination among family members.

I also don't know how you can do this and exercise. After spending time at the gym, I inhaled three of those small apples from Aldi at work. I also found a jolly rancher which I'm considering a condiment :)

Day 1

Susan Spiegel

I'm doing well nutrition-wise and satiety-wise.  I accidentally skipped a meal today; I didn't have breakfast until 11:30 & then skipped lunch other than a carrot. I enjoyed my dinner -- Greek lentils with rice and steamed broccoli, followed by an apple. 

The biggest challenge so far is planning the portions to make the food last. It's not something I usually think about; if I run out of food, I just go get more. Here I need to be more careful about measuring and considering  how many portions can be made from an item. Making these kinds of calculations on a regular basis would prove mentally taxing. I am also very aware of the lack of variety available through the few foods I was able to buy. Eating could easily become less a pleasure and more fulfillment of need, which is not entirely a bad thing in our over-consumption society. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Approaching Day 1

Michael Getty

The circle gathered outside the entrance to an Aldi store in University City. It was time to go shopping -- on a budget of $31.50 per person for a week. Our guide on this excursion, a staff member from a nonprofit serving the food-insecure, couldn't make it, so it was just a dozen or so of us with Rabbi Susan. 

I haven't shopped at an Aldi since the early nineties when I was studying in Germany, where the chain originated. It has the same reputation over there -- dirt cheap, low quality. It was where homeless people would go after a decent haul from panhandling. 

I could be wrong, but I think there was a widespread sense of awkwardness. I think most of us haven't had to live on a food budget since college. I'd even wager that a lot of us spend $31.50 a week just on high-end coffee and artisan bread. It's uncomfortable to admit this, but most of my thoughts in the days leading up to today have focused on how much I'm going to miss my favorite, way-out-of-budget condiments and spices.

In the meantime, tips have been coming in from friends who have lived or are living on a budget close to that of the Food Stamp Challenge.

One night's menu: pinto beans, cornbread, fried potatoes, spinach (either in a can or a frozen block). I'm pretty sure that will come in at under $3. Breakfast menus are easier ... eggs and toast, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles .. all those are going to be well under $1.50 per person

I feel like such a clod, even more when I remember that to this day, my father won't touch beans or peanut butter, because when he was growing up, that's all his family could afford. 

In the circle, Rabbi Susan tells us about the film, Food Stamped, we'll be watching together at the end of our weeklong exploration. After a while, a middle-aged security guard approaches and asks us to disperse. If he lets us gather in a big group, he says to Jen, then he'd have to let everyone gather in a big group. The racial overtone is hard to miss. We disperse and go in.

It's a small store, but the products don't look half bad. Some of us have lists and menus, but Brian and I are doing it all on the fly, with just a calculator and some scrap paper. I'm thinking low-budget vegetarian staples -- rice, dried beans, root vegetables, peanut butter. You can get a lot of prepared, boxed foods -- Including macaroni and cheese for 45 cents a box, a 20-pack of ramen noodles for $2.19. Hard to pass up a bargain like that. 

The produce selection is pretty good -- broccoli crowns and a nice acorn squash for 99 cents each. Altogether, we ended up spending $31.40 at Aldi. Later, we hit an international market in our neighborhood, a food hub for many immigrant communities, and pick up a mess of dried beans, lentils, brown rice, and a big bag of carrots. I splurge on some nicer low-budget coffee. 

As we unpacked the groceries, I felt like we did pretty well, but there's no telling how soon we'll start running out of things. 

Getting Started

Andrea Kaiser

Here’s what I bought for under $31.50. I spent $31.47 between Aldi and Trader Joe’s!
  • Dairy: Eggs, Fat free milk, Mexican shredded cheese, Greek yogurt 
  • Vegetables: Yams, Red Potatoes, Mushrooms, Onions, frozen mixed veggies, frozen spinach, fresh broccoli, canned tomatoes (good value—to split for meals)
  • Fruit: Cranberry Sauce (splurge!), Apples
  • Grain: Oatmeal, Joe’s O’s (risking potential gluten-oats can be contaminated in the processing, but are gluten free typically.)
  • Meat/Protein: Deli Ham (gluten free), Sunflower seeds (good value—dollar per quantity/protein), Black Beans, Refried Beans
  • Drinks for the Week: Milk and water

Day One of the CRC Hunger Challenge:

I awaken early 6:15 to get my meditation and my day started. 
I spent the last few days preparing for this week, mentally, and logistically.

I am striving to maintain my gluten free (GF) diet in process. My #1 rule: avoid costly GF food products, including bread which costs between $5-7/loaf. This means that sandwiches are out for the week, which include peanut butter and jelly, cheese, and lunch meat (bread-free meal--okay). I am also striving to cut sugar in my diet to prevent at-risk diabetes. I generally eat some fruit and berries, but this week will treat myself to cranberry sauce, and two apples instead.
Breakfast: Joe’s O’s, milk (Hey, where’s my banana?)

After breakfast, I am making vegetable soup for the week: made with canned tomato as a base and mixed frozen veggies, and two-bean chili, made with canned tomato as well. These are my lunch and dinner. At lunch, ¼ cup of sunflower seeds (1 portion) will accompany my soup. If I am hungry, I will eat a boiled red potato as filler, with nothing on it, or a hard boiled egg.