I find it a difficult to write about hunger when it comes to my own personal story. I remember being hungry too but no, we were not poor. So I believe… Although my father was nowhere in sight ’cause he was living on a different planet (OK, not planet, continent), my mother had a good job as a computer programmer years before they started invading our lives. I assume she earned a nice salary and money wasn’t the issue. The real issue was little energy and a lack of interest in setting foot in the kitchen, going to the grocery store, cooking food, stocking the fridge and the pantry. My mother worked long hours and spending time in the kitchen or home making were never her passion.
As a child, I didn’t like to eat much. Almost every day, I came back home from school with hardly touched food in my lunchbox. I usually threw it in a garbage can on my way home so my mother will not get upset about me not eating my lunch. By the time I was in high school, I stepped into the kitchen and cooked every weekend. On weekdays, I was responsible for preparing my own lunchbox which meant I didn’t make any. Was I a lazy teenager? Most days I didn’t eat anything before 2 PM or later. I remember sending hungry looks at the boys who took big, thick, generous sandwiches that their mommies made for them out of their backpacks, or devouring a home-made lunch at my best friend’s house, and shoplifting food from the grocery store near my high school during recess. There were no cafeterias in the schools I went to and I didn’t have money to pay for food anyway. Sometimes I stole money out of my mother’s purse, if I thought she will not notice, and bought half a loaf of bread stuffed with whatever while a stolen chocolate milk hid in my pocket. With the stolen money I also bought snacks which I secretly kept in my desk’s drawer, just in case there won’t be any food at home. I might have been hungry, but it wasn’t only for food.
Big jump to the present…
Not throwing away food and using leftovers makes me terribly happy and proud. I feel so resourceful and smart, like yesterday when I used old, but still good, cheeses I had in the fridge to bake savory cheese “cookies”and a fancier Mac and cheese. (More recipe and leftover ideas can be found here: Leftovers)
We do splurge from time to time with more expansive food, but mostly I cook simple meals with basic ingredients that don’t cost much. I think this is what my children prefer and it saves me time that I can spend with them instead of in the kitchen. I invited my son to cook the Mac and cheese with me but he didn’t feel like it. So, it’s best to make it quick and simple and then go play.
Other money saving tips I learned:
* Growing a few herb plants which cost $2-$3 each saves a lot of dough and add a lot of flavor to simple dishes. A package of fresh herb costs about $3 and it dies fast unlike a potted plant you can use for a few good months, even years. It’s beautiful too. Make sure to read Willi’s post Gardening for Food Security!
* Portion size. We calculate 4 oz. of protein/meat (beef, lamb, pork, and fish) per adult. A 6 oz. portion is considered very generous here. It is healthier and… better for the environment.
What food-money saving tips do you keep in your pocket?
Here are a few examples of pretty inexpensive recipes and more tips that I have previously posted:
Breadcrumbly Pumpkin Ravioli, Leftovers Creamy Orecchiette with Roasted Vegetables, Chicken, and Leafy Greens. More pasta recipes here, Pasta
Chicken is relatively inexpensive. Last year when I took the challenge on a budget I even managed to buy organic chicken. Breasts cost more, but legs and liver cost less. I’ve got a lot of recipes for chicken (click Chicken.) A few of my favorites and cost-effective are Chicken soup, Crispy chicken legs, Amazing, but simple, Chicken Wrap, Chicken Liver with Cinnamon and Apples… Ah, the list is long. We love chicken.
A whole dinner of Pork schnitzel, potato-yam mash, roasted cauliflower will cost only $4-$5 per serving.
1 lb. of boneless leg of lamb is enough for 4 adults. With one skewer per person, I make dinner for the whole family. My lamb recipes are under Lamb. They are all my favorites, but if I had to pick only a few, I’d say go for the Marinated Lamb Kebabs with Cilantro and Honey or the Mexican inspired lamb wrap I made foe the challenge.
During the previous hunger challenge I made Pear Clafouti with pears that refused to ripen.This brings us to cakes, cookies, and other desserts. I never tried to calculate the costs of baked goods. The prices, of course, vary from store to store. Flour and sugar are pretty basic and stretch a long way to making many goods. 12 eggs are $3.5 give and take, butter – $2 +/-, sour cream – $1.5, heavy cream – $1, chocolate chips – $2… I assume you can make a cake on a $6-$7 which is good to make 10-12 happy. Maybe not what’s on your mind when you’re dealing with a tight budget, but if you get a chance to breath, it’s a little treat. It costs less than store bought and it tastes a lot better and fresher. Sour Cream Coffee Cake uses pretty basic ingredients as well as Honey vanilla pound cake and you can even make this chocolate cake.