Today I began my Day 1 of the San Francisco Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge. Though the challenge officially started yesterday, I chose to use the Monday through Friday workweek as my challenge timeframe.
Oddly enough, this challenge coincides with the return of my uber tight living, now that my rent is due again. For those of you who are new or don’t remember, I had prepaid a couple months after I received my tiny little windfall this summer, so I was able to have a little breathing room and catch up on other bills for a change. Now, the evilness of rent looms before me once more, and because I am a temp at this new job – meaning no real benefits or cushy things like holiday pay – paying for everything will just be that much harder from now on. I knew I’d be facing this, so the Hunger Challenge will actually be helpful to me, as it will keep me more mindful of using my bare bones recipes more often.
I only bought a few things for the week, partly because I still had a decent amount of food from when I’d last gone shopping, and partly because I currently have $18 to my name and have to feed the cats, too. I have been very good about keeping the grain portion my Bare Bones Staples well stocked, so I had a good starting base. As usual, I surveyed what I had before I went shopping so that I wouldn’t waste my precious few dollars on any duplicates, and because of transportation & time issues I had to head to my local Safeway for my shopping trip. Of course, I would have preferred to go to Trader Joe’s or even Food Source, but I’m not certain that TJ’s accepts EBT cards (California’s food stamp card) and Food Source was just a bit too far & expensive to get to, since the transit fare hike started this month.
Still, if you really pay attention to prices and keep an open mind, you can do wonders with very little. I spent $10.37, $4.50 of which was actually cat food (my babies need to eat too), and I was able to get:
~ 2 cans sweet golden corn (on clearance at 50% off)
~ 1 can garbanzo beans (also 50% off)
~ 1 yellow onion
~ 2 packets of thin sliced deli meat
~ 2 tomatoes
~ 2 containers of yogurt
With the grains and few veggies I still had at home, I know I’d be just fine this week.
The trick was just finding the right combination and being mindful of serving sizes (something that actually ends up helping you out in the long run to ensure healthy portion control). As you can tell by the picture of my lunch today (Pasta & Tuna Salad), I packed it in my ridiculously adorable bento box, which holds about 1 ½ cups of food. That’s actually a pretty decent size amount that definitely satisfies you, and I was able to make that one dish last a little longer by not eating as much. Gotta love that. So far, I saw this as a great exercise even for someone as frugal about things as I am. But that’s not the point of the exercise, and I became very aware of that today. Even though I cut costs and calories, which is always awesome, today I also realized that those who are receiving the very limited assistance that’s available to them need to do this all the time just to make sure they don’t go hungry. I go through moments when I have to do that myself, so I know what this is like. But I never go through it for more than 2 or 3 days. Five days will definitely be a challenge.
Day 1 hasn’t been bad at all, except for the not-being-able-to-have-coffee thing. Though I don’t do it for the caffeine and only have what’s at work (which is quite good for an office), I love my morning coffee routine at work. But it’s against guidelines (you’re not allowed to take food people offer you either). Other than that, I think I fared okay. Here was today’s menu:
Breakfast: Scrambled Egg & Tomato Sandwich
Lunch: Pasta & Tuna Salad
Dinner: Chipotle Corn Chili and Rice
Dessert: Pomegranate Raspberry Yogurt
I ate about $3.30 worth of food when all was said and done today, and that was with a tiny serving of dinner seconds (seriously, that chili turned out really good!). I did feel hungry throughout the day, as I’m used to grazing during work hours (grazing… I just made myself sound like cattle, lol); having to stick to my 3 squares again was a little rough. But I made it through with my incessant water drinking, which I normally do anyway but will definitely be stepping up this week to help feel satisfied.
I do have to admit that it was tempting to wait until payday to get the kitty food and get a few more items to bring a couple more elaborate recipe ideas to life now. But I remembered the rent, rent, evil rent, and did the prudent thing, knowing I could do just fine without the fun stuff. It’s kinda fun to be a little less impulsive every now and then and really appreciate the little one does have.
Don’t forget to check in tomorrow for Day 2! And now, here are the recipes for breakfast & lunch. Dinner tonight will be the spotlight recipe, so it gets its own post. Enjoy!
DAY 1 BREAKFAST & LUNCH RECIPES
Scrambled Egg & Tomato Sandwich – Cost per sandwich: $0.82
1-2 T chopped tomatoes
2 slices whole grain bread
1 T butter or margarine, divided
Toast the bread and spread 1/4 T butter on each slice. Heat the remaining butter in a small skillet. Whisk the eggs together briskly and pour into the skillet. Scramble together until light & fluffy but not too dry. Add the tomatoes and mix in well. Spoon the egg mixture onto the bread, put sandwich together, and enjoy!
Pasta & Tuna Salad – Makes 2 1-cup servings; total cost per serving: $1.10
1 can chunk light tuna in water, drained
1 Roma tomato
3 green onions
3 T Italian salad dressing
Cook the fusilli according to package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool. Add the tuna, tomatoes, green onions and salad dressing, and toss together until completely combined. Throw some crumbled feta on top if you’ve got it or have on its own, and enjoy!