Thursday, October 2, 2008
To compensate for the days that I missed, I extented my participation in the Challenge until the food I had purchased was consumed. I ate the last of my chicken and pasta last night...and, now I will not have "Chicken Tonight" as my dinner time theme or menu. I could rehash the meals I had during the Challenge, but that part of doing the Challenge is of little importance other than the lessons the menu taught me, which included recognizing how easily one can become trapped into eating foods that are low in nutrition value, allowing yourself to eat more calories to supply the energy you need rather than eating foods that would produce that same energy with less calories, and most of all realizing how fragile your existence is when you have a fixed income in the world of constantly rising prices.
The final leftover from my Challenge is my commitment to work harder than ever to bring more nutritious food through the Food Bank system to those in need and to constantly work to get benefit levels increased.
If you read any of these blogs and have a question about any of the collective statements...try the Challenge for yourself and you will understand what motivated the words.
Monday, September 29, 2008
I'm grateful for this experience and will be ever mindful of how paltry our safety net benefits are.
But, before I bring more awareness to the issue of whether or not $25 per week is enough food for one person who is on government assistance in Illinois, I will put a fork full of pancakes in my mouth for breakfast. I will have a hearty lunch -- maybe.
For dinner, well, just read my last post. I detailed what I would be looking forward to.
I can't wait!!!
Thanks again for the opportunity.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
I knew I could do it, however, it's not something that I would want to practice. I am very thankful that I'm fortunate enough to not have to survive on $25 per week on food. It's a great saver, however, it's just not for me.
Taking this challenge reminded me -- not that I needed one -- how fortunate I am to be able to afford what I have and can provide for my family.
There are too many scratching and surviving on less than $25 per week for food.
I was born and raised in Chicago, but foodwise, I was raised on southern cooking. My maternal grandmother is from Georgia and I have enjoyed southern cooking all my life. She taught me my culinary skills and my children are being raised on southern cooking.
With that said, I can't wait until tomorrow so I can enjoy some greens, sweet potatoes with brown sugar, turkey and dressing, with gravy, corn muffins, peach cobbler and iced tea. I will pass up my usual Dr Pepper for some Georgia-style sweet tea.
Oh, I did lose one pound. After my soul food dinner tomorrow, it will be back.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
I have a family of four and thought I would make sure that $25 of food would do for the entire family of four for the week. I planned it out so that it COULD work, if we were extremely disciplined.
I bought a whole chicken, a loaf of bread, a bag of salad, a box of rice, a bag of egg noodles, a gallon of milk, a box of grapes, a 24-pack of bottled water, a box of deli turkey for sandwiches, a bag of cheese and a 30-count package of eggs...all for $24.88.
The chicken would be baked and portions would be used one day in homemade chicken noodle soup and one day in fajitas.
My husband and I rarely eat breakfast and sometimes if we don't get a chance to eat lunch, because we are so busy in the field, we will just eat dinner.
Yeah, no breakfast and sporadic lunches...
Considering all of that, I said that although it's supposed to be $25 per person, my family of four could do it with just $25.
Boy, I am starving and my husband said to count him out after day one. And, my hungry-jack girls (ages 9 and 5) began to wonder why they were getting less snacks between meals than before.
I didn't have the heart to tell them that I included them in mommy's food challenge. So, I let them off the hook about four days into the challenge.
So now it's just me...and...I'm glad the end is very near.
It has saved me about $30 this week from eating lunch , but I need to get on a scale to see if the little weight I have is diminishing.
Until tomorrow...the last day of the challenge.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Nearing the end of Day 4, I hopped on the train to commute home. My usual procedure is to sit down, put on some mellow instrumental music (Jazz, classical, etc.), and then start reading whatever book I have in my bag. I tried and failed. I have lost a lot of concentration and patience due to the Challenge. I have become extremely agitated for no decent reason. Last night when I came home, my girlfriend asked me what I would like for dinner and said I wanted something I bought off my list. She said fine, but proceeded to fancy up the dinner by adding some things to it. My tone came off negative as I told her I could not have the fancied dinner because of what she was adding was not within my $25. I'm not sure if I was just grumpy because I hadn't eaten much, but I did not like it. After I ate, I was cheerful again. It's a weird conundrum.
When I rode the bus this morning to get to my train, I looked at those sitting around me. How many of them are being challenged every day? How many of them receive assistance from organizations like my food bank? How many of them have trouble making it through the day with a stomach that won't stop making noise?
For their sake, I hope none of them.
We all worked together to plan our menu (a lot of carbs, leftovers, and pb&j), collect coupons, and find the best sales. We between 2 coupons we had, a brand deal, and a store discount we actually got 6 boxes of cereal for free! However, at the store, when we had to stay away from our organic, whole grain, carbonated fruit juice all natural soda, and anything at all convenient the challenge began to be less of game and sunk in for real. We were terrified as our sub-total climbed and we still had meat, dairy, and produce on the list.
As the week has progressed, I feel an overwhelming sense of failure and guilt for not providing for my family. I cannot help but to think of the families who face this every week.
Now we are out of milk and fresh fruit. We have 6 boxes of cereal to eat, but no milk...
Thursday, September 25, 2008
What I really want to share with you is an observation: the Food Stamp program is changing its name to SNAP--Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If I had been a member of a "test or pilot group" I would have failed the nutrition rating part. The sad fact is that unless funding gets increased at some point in the future...anyone who must use food stamps as their main source of food will not have a nutritious diet.
And we wonder about obesity, type 2 diabetes and other health issues. We can't blame the fast food restaurants for the growth in the percentage of people suffering from food related issues when our federal food assistance programs are as much the culprit as anything.
1. Thank goodness for my home economics teacher and my mom for teaching me meal planning and budgeting.
2. Even with the aforementioned skills, this challenge is extremely difficult. (That's the point, right?)
3. Perhaps I should grow a garden. It should definitely include herbs and spices.
4. If someone offers you an apple, take it.
Yesterday while contemplating more about what I am doing, two points came to mind. What I would do as a parent on food stamps and how the lack of food may cause me to turn to unethical practices.
If I were a parent who had multiple children, would I sacrifice my meals so that my children could eat? Parents have to face tough decisions every day for the health and well-being of their children and some have to go to drastic measures. This was an extremely powerful thought that shook my emotions yesterday.
If I were a child living off food stamps, I kept thinking whether I would steal to stop my hunger pangs or to get more food for a younger sibling. People turn to unethical practices, but sometimes it's out of survival. Could you blame them for being that hungry?
I am hoping everyone taking this challenge has been thinking deeper about the root of the food stamp situation as I have in the past week.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Skipped lunch and now someone is making microwave popcorn in the office kitchen. No matter where I go I can smell popcorn. Earlier this morning someone brought Krispy Kreme doughnuts to work. It's like looking through the candy store window but being locked outside.
More ham & beans tonight but it's only 3:15 now.
Tuesday evening meal of ham & beans and cornbread was delicious! One of my favorite meals and I've made it often in the past. It was so good I sampled it all night. I made it with 2 pounds of dry pinto beans that should last me through Friday. Unfortunately, that's all I'll be eating for lunch and dinner the rest of the week. Already experiencing some "gas."
Have no idea how a parent could provide a nutrionally balanced diet much less some variety to children on $25 a week.
Frank Finnegan, St. Louis Area Foodbank
Sunday afternoon - went to my Target Superstore to buy my store brand staples: loaf of bread, jar of peanut butter, box of cereal, box of macaroni shells, jar of pasta sauce, 4 oranges @ $1 each!!!!, small brick of cheese and bag of frozen spinach leaves. My total bill was $19.53 - figured I could use the milk, jelly and eggs I had at home but if I had to buy them I would be right at the $25.Clearly I was not going to be eating very healthy - the fresh fruit and vegetables would not fit into my budget, neither did frozen or canned. Frozen spinach in a pasta dish and my 4 oranges for a week fall far short of the recommended 5 servings/day.
Monday - had several meetings - one out of town so I didn't even use any of the food I bought. So to keep from starving, I did eat the food provided at my meetings but didn't eat nearly what I would have if I weren't feeling guilty about my access to free food as part of my job. As I looked at the spreads of rolls, eggs, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit, salads, beef, potatoes, eggplant, and cheesecakes and pastries I realized that this is the food that is offered for people who work and pay to attend conferences and meetings. If the food weren't offered, most of us in attendance would stop on our way to the meeting and grab a meal to go from any number of fast food or even restaurant carryouts. I could spend my entire $25 on Starbucks some weeks and I didn't even buy coffee to make at home because I couldn't afford it.
It was really eye opening to think of how much excess food I have access to and heartbreaking to realize others are going hungry.
Tuesday - still on the road but home for dinner. I was hungry as I walked in my house but realized I had nothing to munch on from my $25 grocery supply. Veggies and dip, cheese and crackers - things I take for granted as my pre-dinner snacks, aren't affordable in this Challenge. I quickly got to work so I could eat - boiled the macaroni, heated the spinach and pasta sauce, chopped some onions but realized, they were not in my $25 purchase - another luxury of eating beyond my means. Got me to thinking - if $25 has to pay for the necessities, and knowing how expensive spices, onions, mushrooms, and garlic are - how does one make good tasting food on such a limited budget?
Still trying...Kathy Ryg
Tonight I have a choice - go to my father-in-law's eighty-first birthday dinner and drink a glass of water or stay at home and eat some more chicken and dumplings. Tough choice.
On the first night of the challenge, I was on my couch watching television after eating six bite sized chicken tenders and wishing I could follow that up with a snack of chips and salsa. At the same time, my girlfriend starting making popcorn and the smell drove me crazy. She sprinkled some speciality garlic seasoning on it and ate the bag. All I could do was watch as popcorn did not fit into my $25.
However, after the first few days I have grown to accept the growling of my stomach as something that will happen. I still think about food almost every few minutes, it's getting easier. By the end of the week, I may not be saying the same thing
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Well it only took me two days to get off the plan. I am almost glad except that when you read my meals of yesterday and add my two free pieces of pizza today to the carbohydrate count you might see that I may be in danger of dying of carbohydrate overload.
Yesterday I had Oatmeal and a tiny slice of margarine for breakfast, a hard-boiled egg for lunch and I made my Mac&Cheese-Tuna Casserole for dinner....It was really tasty...I even had two slices of bread with margarine. I weighed two pounds more this morning than yesterday. I had really tasty food yesterday. Does that mean that good tasting food is good for you?
Free pizza aside, I have my dinner cooking, it is a salmon loaf with some left-over chipotle sauce and some of my oatmeal. It is now obvious to me that you can start from scratch and do meals, but, on the other hand, if you do have to start from scratch you will not even eat as well as I am going to eat since I already had some of the seasonings. We forget that you need simple things like Pepper, Salt, Sugar, Mayonaise, Mustard, Ketchup...seasonings...to make most stuff taste good.
Is it right for us to think that we provide food to people through special goverment programs, like Food Stamps, and even through the generosity of our Food Banks and our connected agency partners when we cannot guarantee that there is a sprinkle of salt to season a very bland dish of oatmeal.
Or, to cover up the really fishy taste of low grade Salmon bought at a drug store.
It's somewhat easier to achieve the $25 goal if you still have a garden and preserve fruits and vegetables in season. Making things from scratch is another way to live within the limits but skills to do all the cooking and baking are less common. My mother was good about teaching me to cook so those skills are still employed in our household. Eating out is corrupting the family budget, time together, and nutrition (spelled obesity).
A curious thing. I have an event tonight and normally I would grab a bite to eat on the way to the meeting. I am planning to swing by home and eat dinner before I go to my event. I will be rushed, but the fact I won't eat until late if I don't do this really drives the decision. Again, the way I am buying food and the resources I have influence other parts of my daily life
It is about the choices.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Tonight while riding the train home, my stomach was growling and I kept tring to read a book to take the focus off of the sound. The sound prevailed. When I got home, I spoke with my girlfriend about what happened during the work day, but the entire time I pondered what I would be eating for dinner and how I could stretch a box of frozen chicken tenders into possibly three dinners this week. Nothing else mattered more during this time.
In almost finishing up my first day, the subject of how this directly affects the education of students keeps circling my mind. Around 2:00 p.m., I could barely focus on what I needed to do. I had to start-stop-start-read what I had written-start again for over an hour because my concentration level hit a plateau. How do students who live this challenge as a reality do this everyday? Without having a nutritious breakfast or ample amounts of food in general, their educational progress will falter.
Perhaps others doing this challenge have encountered the same problems. I can only hope that this week will get easier. I can only hope that by the end of this week all of us will learn a lesson we will use and never take for granted.
Breakfast: I didn't get to the store over the weekend so I had to skip breakfast - saved $1.19 if you figure 3 meals a day for seven days. Now I can splurge on dinner.
Lunch: Had a business lunch meeting that I could not cancel. Made up an excuse about an upset stomach and only ordered ice tea. There were six of us at the table. The others ordered a salad, chicken sandwich, Reuben, open faced beef sandwich and and a Cuban sandwich. The sandwiches came with home made potato chips that looked and smelled really good.
Dinner: I plan to stop at Jack in the Box on the way home and order off the value menu. If I can get a hamburger and fries ( no drink) for $3.57 or less - I can stay on my daily budget. So much for splurging on dinner.
Just got a call from a friend inviting me to the Cardinal Baseball game tonight. My first thought was that I can't afford to order a hot dog. I'll let you know who wins tomorrow.
The fact that I had to take the time to figure out just how this would play out for me for the week is the purpose of the whole exercise. It is about choosing and sometimes the choices aren't that good. I am not eating fresh veggies and miminal fruit. But lots of carbs. So much for my low fat, low choloresterol diet.
I did not stop at the coffee shop today and fork over my $2.23 for a Cafe' Americano. Never thought of coffee as a budget buster but it is this week.
I will be in touch.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Kate Maehr, executive director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository and president of the Illinois Food Bank Association, posted a message that suggested that we buy our food today at today's prices. With inspiration from my wife and admiration for Kate, I decided to start over in my purchase of food for the week.
I will NOT be having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as I mentioned earlier. I will be having a lot of chicken, tuna and pasta. I was able to get a real good deal on 40 ounces of frozen chicken breats and some canned tuna. I will even have some frozen vegetables...although, if I were not from South Carolina, these vegetables would not be very appealing. However, I like Okra, Black Eye Peas and mixed Vegetables that were on clearance price at $1.00 per package...and the Okra is a family sized pack which will be three or four meals for me.
It was revealing to shop the paper for sale price items and let the lowest prices dictate my menu. I found four cans of tuna and one can of salmon in a Drug Store's ad and went there to buy the food. Fortunately, that store was on the way to my regular grocery store where I spent the rest of my money except for 81 cents. I will look for a bargain on something as the week progresses.
I am going to have oatmeal tomorrow morning for breakfast and a hard boiled egg for lunch. I have to decide on chicken or seafood with pasta for dinner.
The challenge is on.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I got the following...one Peanut Butter, one jelly, one box of Mac and Cheese, one can of Tuna, one small loaf of bread, one dozen eggs, one half gallon of milk...and I spent almost $14.00.
NOW, I have to decide how to live next week on PBJ, Tuna Casseroles, Water...and, I am afraid to spend my next $11.00 because it will not go far.
I think the worst part of my experience so far is that I realize that I am doing this as an attempt to make people aware of the challenges that people who are hungry face...I am now realizing that you can lose hope real quick when you can not feed yourself.
share your thoughts. save your money, by dieting. give the difference to a hungry neighbor.
While I was at the store I ran into my State Representative. She's taking the challenge with us - and we compared notes standing the aisle. She told me that oatmeal is 2 for1 - but only through today. I pointed her toward the big bags of pasta that are 88 cents. We agreed that fruits and vegetables will be a luxury.
Here's a cruel twist - I don't think I have ever thought so much about food as during this time period where it is clear I will have to go without.
Friday, September 19, 2008
I'm consideraing fasting all week and drinking nothing but water and fruit juice.
The water will be free but will $25 buy enough fruit juice to get me through the week?
St. Louis Area FoodBank
Monday, September 15, 2008
If you are reading this, you already know there is a group of us representing the eight food banks across the state that will attempt the challenge. Next Sunday, we'll each take $25 and go shopping. And rather than buying food for a lovely, albeit thrifty, meal for 4, we will attempt to buy enough food to last for an entire week. The whole wheat linguini, olive oil and fresh green peppers from the menu in the newspaper are all out of the question - as are many of the things I consume, starting with the cup of French roast coffee that I always begin my morning with. Needless to say it will be tough - maybe even impossible. Which is, of course, part of the point. How on earth can $25 spread across 21 meals??? The answer is that is doesn't - which helps to explain why so many of the food pantries across our country are seeing record numbers of visitors.
In the week ahead, along with my colleagues, I will begin plotting - sharing advice on just how we can stretch 21 meals out of $25 dollars. Along the way, we hope you will join us as we think about what it means to be hungry in America.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Well, here I am thinking about how I'm going to make my $25 stretch for the week. I'm humbled by that fact that there are so many people out there that do this, who use their food stamps, frequent the food pantries and don't complain. Although I haven't quite figured out whether I will use the sample shopping list or make a list of my own, one thing I'm fairly certain of is that one of the items will be peanut butter.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
I am on the way...I am planning a menu of free water, one big piece of cheap pork that I can cook on the grill and eat from all week and a discounted loaf of bread. But, I now realize that the food store with the lowest prices is 10 miles farther from my house than the local Jewel. Should I spend $4.09 on gas to save a little on the food. I must plan the entire week to know...what a tough thing to do.