Hunger Challenge 2011: Day 3 – A Case for Quinoa & Other Grains

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(Due to some technical issues, my recap posts for the Hunger Challenge had to wait until I could finally log back into my account [it appears someone was trying to hack in – eek!].  New, non-Hunger Challenge posts are in the queue, but I hate leaving a story untold!  So I’ll be posting the last few recaps & recipes before we move on to the new stuff.  Thanks so much for your patience this past week!  And now, on with the show. 🙂  ~ Kimberly) 

Day 3

Day 3 - A Case for Quinoa & Other Grains

After some much-needed rest and the promise of a bowl of quinoa for breakfast, I awoke to feel energized and ready to take on Day 3 of the challenge.  How could I possibly go wrong with a quinoa-filled day?  The mother grain has saved me from many a food crisis with its versatility and nutrition profile, especially in past Hunger Challenges, so I knew it would help me out this time, too.

I started off with a rather stripped-down version of my Cranberry & Raisin Quinoa breakfast bowl (the lack of dried cranberries, yogurt & almonds will do that, lol), then proceeded to make my new favorite Hunger Challenge dish: Tangy Coleslaw & Quinoa Salad.  With the last of my hard-boiled eggs on hand for snacking purposes, I was set for a day of eating quite well for less than the allotted $4/day budget.

But how is that even possible, Poor Girl?  Isn’t quinoa ridiculously expensive?  

As I mentioned in my last post, quinoa is swiftly gaining popularity and, consequently, in availability, making it possible for more people to reap the benefits of this nutrition powerhouse. Regular grocery stores are now starting to carry quinoa, and even stores like WinCo, FoodsCo, and other discount grocers are bringing the mother grain to the masses in their bulk sections.  I’ve even found boxes of quinoa at the Grocery Outlet!

So am I always harping so much about this grain, especially during the Hunger Challenge?  Because when all is said & done, it’s an inexpensive source of basic nutrition.  And when you’re struggling to stay fed & energized while on extremely limited means, you need to eat foods that will multitask in the basic nutrition department.  I could be wrong, but I think this is part of the reason why many folks on assistance will choose to eat off the 99-cent menu at their local fast-food chain.  It’s not only affordable and available everywhere, but something like a burger will give you carbs & some protein in one handy package.  Add lettuce & tomato to that and you could almost argue that it’s a balanced meal.

But we know that’s not the case, and this is part of the reason why many folks living in financial dire straits are afflicted with a slew of health issues, including obesity.  Nutritious foods aren’t always affordable or accessible, so they do what they can with what’s available to them.  So when something like quinoa – an excellent source of protein (it’s a complete protein, at that), complex carbs, and rich in key minerals – can be found in the bulk section of a grocery store that most people can get to, you open up the doors to better nutrition.

Quinoa is versatile, healthy and once it’s cooked, it yields far more than you started off with.  The best way to get the most bang for your quinoa buck is to buy it in bulk.  Even at Whole Foods, which is notorious for its high prices, you can purchase quinoa for about $4-5/lb.  And since one cup of dried quinoa can yield close to three cups of cooked product, those $5 can go a very long way.  Add to that the fact that quinoa is usually enjoyed with add-ins like vegetables & legumes, and you can see how you can turn one cup into a small mountain of food.

This doesn’t just apply to quinoa, though.  Other fabulous grains and things like rice & pasta are also great bare-bones staples to have around the house.  Again, if you purchase items like these in bulk, you will see much greater savings.  But even if you can only buy packages of pasta or rice, it’s still a much more cost-effective, nutritious option than processed foods & fast food.  They all yield quite a bit of cooked product and they’re all incredibly versatile, making eating well much less boring than people may think.

So after all that, what exactly did I spend on food for Day 3?  Since I didn’t have all the fixings for my Cranberry Raisin Quinoa with Yogurt, my modified version only came out to about $1.55.  My snacks came out to $0.17 a piece (don’t you just love eggs?), and my lunch – Tangy Coleslaw & Quinoa Salad – was just $0.89.  With some veggie scraps, some of the beans I cooked up on Day 1, and my remaining quinoa, I made a tiny batch of my Quinoa, Black Bean & Summer Squash Salad for dinner. Grand total for Day 3: $4.03.  Not too shabby!

If you’re looking for more fun examples of what you can do with things like quinoa, Kamut berries, and other fun grains, check out the recipes under the Quinoa & Other Grains label.  The recap for Days 4 & 5 – as well as a couple of new recipes – are all coming soon, so stay tuned!

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