1 family. friendly food. » Hunger Action Week – the end – updated

UPDATE:
I write this update after receiving a comment from a reader (see at the end of the post) which made me think that I might have failed in getting my message across. I know I can’t please everyone but I’ll try to explain my point again.

What I was trying to say is that I can’t really put myself in someone who lives on food stamps’ shoes. I’ve never been in that situation. Yes, I did participate in a “hunger challenge” and managed to barely make it within the budget and buy good food at the stores I usually go to. Seeing what I had left on the 5th day would have made me terribly sad if it were for real. Not being able to give my kids extra food, a cake, or ice cream when they want to would have broken my heart to pieces.

But, as I wrote before, I don’t know anything about those peoples’ lives. I can’t pretend to be in their shoes because I’m not. Even though we limited our food during the “hunger” week to the things I bought for the challenge, I had other food around the house, in the fridge, in the pantry, in the freezer. Even though we did not use it, it was there, reassuring and making us feel safe. I never had to tell my kids “no food today”.

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When United Way approached me about participating in the Hunger Action Week I hesitated at first. I know myself. I always buy a lot of food. I collect food.

In recent years I became more aware about good foods and bad foods, genetically modified foods, organic, free-range, local, sustainable, and seasonal foods. I try to buy the best I can find. I want to be healthy. Of course, most often these foods cost more. I wondered about this challenge:

* Will I still be able to buy good food if I only had $22 per day to feed my family?
* Will I still be able to shop at my favorite fancy food store?

At my preferred store a cilantro bunch costs $2. Other food blogger in this challenge say they bought a bunch for $1 and even $0.25 in other stores or at the market, so I might not be the best shopper around. (On the other hand, and I might be wrong, I believe that what I save on buying cheap food – which sometimes means “bad” food – I will pay later in medical bills. I’d like to avoid the latter in the first place. [5/25/09 update: I know some of you might feel angry now after reading this paragraph. Of course it calls for a discussion. But not in this post. Please read this post “I want the cheapest, most rubbish one. Or do I?” where I explain more about this idea. Thank you.])

So since most of the ingredients at said fav store tend to cost more, I had to plan wisely and very carefully. My strategy was:

* Shop only once for the whole week
*Plan the menu ahead (but be open to change if something is on sale)
* Try to estimate costs in advance to avoid spending too much time at the store
* Choose quick and easy recipe (as always, so I have time to do my other tasks)
* Choose recipes that the whole family likes (I can’t afford to throw food away if the kids don’t like it, right?)
* Use simple, maybe less variety, but the best ingredients I can get
* Cook from scratch (it saves money)

You can see the menu I planned in this post.
 
And I did it. It took a lot of careful planning, though (which usually I don’t do).

I think what helped me stay within the budget was choosing a few good recipes, simple and maybe unsophisticated, with only a handful of ingredients, but healthy, wholesome, and family-friendly ones. We did not take the easy road to pizza and pasta all week long. But it wasn’t easy.
 
So I tried to understand, if I and other food blogger managed to eat on the budget, what is the real challenge?

I don’t have a complete answer for that, and this is not the place to do this anyway (go to the United Way page if you want to know). But I’ll tell you, I was very relieved when this “project” was over. I managed to do this for 5 days, but I dont know how I would have handled it if I had to live in this situation longer than that. I was very anxious on the first two days, and what helped me during the rest of the week was knowing that we won’t be hungry for real because, worst case scenario, I can declare that I failed the challenge, but my fridge is always full of food.
I never had to worry how long will the food last? Where will my next meal come from and when?

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I’ll post about more money saving tips I learned later on this week. Visit again.

Meanwhile, if you would like to donate to United Way to support their hunger relief plan, click this link. The money collected goes to their Basic Needs fund, which invests the dollars in carefully-chosen community partners including food banks and large regional distributors of donated food. $7 feed 1 person for 1 day. $22 feeds a family of four…

 

New book giveaway: “real food” by Nina Planck. To win a copy of the book comment on any post starting today and ending on Sunday, 5/17/09. More details here.

 

Other posts in this “Hunger” series:

Hunger Action Week – This is what’s left

Hunger Action Week and thoughts of empty fridges

Hunger Action Week – 1st day & grocery shopping

Hunger challenge – Budget, groceries, and menu

Lots of planning… and cakes

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