Archive for September, 2011

I’m talking about #HungerChallenge at Pens Fatales today!

September 17, 2011

Um, that’s all. Go say hi.

If you have to fail, fail miserably

September 16, 2011

So here we are. Day 6 of the SF Food Bank‘s Hunger Challenge, and I am here to admit defeat.

This challenge was never really about whether or not I could do it (I say defensively). I always knew I could – millions of people do, every day. I was just curious about how healthy I could be, and how much awareness I could raise. Man, was I confident.

Thus, the failure stings even more. I’ll post a picture of the amazing soup I plan to make tonight (the soup that should have been made on Monday) to cheer me up later, but for now… sigh. I’ll look at my oh-so-Important Lessons that I planned to rely on, and see where they let me down.

1. Soup. This would have gone excellently, had I actually made the soup. I wisely planned all soft foods, soup and mashed potatoes and scrambled eggs, knowing that on day 2 I would be having a root canal. Smart, except I forgot that the post-canal Vicodin would sap me of any will to make anything. Which means I sent loved ones out for piles of Boston Market mashed potatoes, milkshakes, and soup, all of which was way outside my budget.

2. Go Freegan. I actually kinda excelled at this, but it still felt like a failure, for reasons I’ll return to in a minute.

3. Plan. See item 1, re Vicodin.

4. Pick your shops wisely. A mix of failure and success on this one. The Sunday closing-time farmer’s market was as perfect as it could have been, but that success made me careless in other places, buying milk at Walgreens and a burger at In-‘n’-Out. Not that a burger anywhere should have been in my shopping plans.

I was weak, I know. People living on food stamps have days like my Vicodin-hazed Monday all the time, and they still have to stick to their budget. But I caved, and told myself it didn’t really matter. I’d get back to it soon enough, and finish up the week strong.

Except I didn’t. The leftovers from my weakness lasted me out the rest of the week, with a few freegan meals thrown in for good measure. Friends gifted me with Burma Superstar leftovers. Sisters brought me cheesy bagels and coffee. And there was a reeeeally good seminar at work that left behind brownies, cut veggies, and more coffee.

I ate it all with a guilty heart. Part of the reason I’m not on food stamps is because of my support system. Heck, it’s pretty much the whole reason. If this challenge was to really put myself in the shoes of a person on food stamps, wasn’t relying on them cheating?

Yes. Yes, it was. I’m consoling myself with the fact that I am still writing about it, and raising awareness, and really, if given the opportunities, wouldn’t anyone hungry do the exact same thing? But I cheated, with willful impunity. I’m sorry. I’m a bad, bad person. I think I’m going to go donate to the food bank in order to make up for it. You totally should too.

My Hunger Challenge, Day 1

September 11, 2011

I was ready to go when I woke up. Saturday was the monthly meeting for my writing association, and I was able to squirrel away a cup of leftover fruit for my breakfast. I also picked up a cup of beautiful tomatoes, grown in East Oakland by the most amazing silver-maned erotica author you could ever hope to meet.

freegan melon and tomatoes on a window ledge

Then I went back to bed. With the Netflix increase this month, it’s no longer in my budget, so I watched my last online movie in bed (Tees Maar Khan; good, but not as good as Dil Bole Hadippa. You can’t beat cross-dressing romance and cricket stars) and put my account on hold. Sigh. I’ll be back. But I bet I’ll get a lot of writing done in the meantime.

I braved the world outside the covers just long enough to make a fried egg and fresh tomato wrap (with some Barbados hot sauce a co-worker brought back for me last year) and heat up leftover squash soup, and make a quick trip to the Farmer’s Market.

fried egg and tomato wrap, bowl of green soup

I hit Walgreens first for some milk and cash (already breaking my rule 4; milk at walgreens is anything but cheap, but I forgot to hit an atm) then the Temescal Market, just before closing. And what a haul I was able to pick up!

bags and piles of fresh veg

There wasn’t much variety – everyone was packing up for the day – but man, the deals! All of the above cost me $7.75, and should get me through the week. A full bag of peaches for $1!

Which is good, because my summer squash soup plan went out the window (goodbye, rule #3) as soon as I got home and realized I’m out of olive oil. Luckily, there just happens to be some leftover from my work’s summer courses; no one’s going to use that before next year. Score! But, it means I had to scavenge through the fridge and end up with a pricier wrap.

So. Freaking. Good. And there’s enough for tomorrow’s lunch. Shrimp, zucchini, fresh corn, tomato, and hot sauce. Yum.

So here’s my tally so far, including any tax:

$7.75    veg for the week
$3.00   milk
$2.00   shrimp, roughly
$2.50   leftovers for tonight & tomorrow, roughly (zuke, corn, squash soup)
$2.00   eggs
$0.90   whole wheat tortillas
$18.15

That leaves me with $15 for meat, bread, and pasta. Let’s see what I can do tomorrow.

I’m stoked with the healthy choices I’ve found so far, but it’s a heck of a lot of work. Plus, I’ve still got it easy with my freegan opportunities and markets; they don’t take food stamps at the farmer’s market.

The Hunger Challenge

September 9, 2011

I signed up for the SF Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge, and starting on Sunday, I’ll be trying to eat for $4.72 a day.

Actually, I kinda feel like I’m cheating. See, I’m broke, and on Tuesday I had the first part of a very expensive root canal. So not only am I very unexcited about food right now, I also have just about $30 to eat on for this week. So hey, that works out.

I’ve been eating on that budget for a while now, but in even more of a cheater’s fashion, slowly emptying my cupboards of the unattractive beans and strange boxed meals. The cupboards are getting bare now, and it’s time to put what I’ve learned into action.

1. Soup. There will be TONS of soup this week. It’s a great way to stretch pretty much anything, and you can use not-quite-molding ends and tops to make killer stock on the cheap.

2. Go Freegan. I work at a fabulous place to find free food. There are workshops and meetings every week, and about half of them leave their snacks and leftovers behind. Coffee is easy to find, pastries a bit more of a challenge (Real Estate groups always bring the swankest scones), but the best day is when the retired school teachers get together for their monthly meeting next door. They bring a BOMB potluck hot lunch, and always bag it up nice for us rats after.

3. Plan. This is something I hate to do. I like to find a good, seasonal recipe, pick up the few ingredients I still need on my way home, and wah la. Dinner. Budget eating don’t work that way. I’m going to plan, plan, plan. One shopping trip, with hopefully a little leftover $ for emergencies.

4. Pick your shops wisely. Obviously, avoid Whole Paycheck and Andronico’s. But even supermarkets can be improved on. Farmers markets can have great deals, especially late in the day (and on a sidenote, does anyone remember when farmers markets actually catered to early morning restauranteurs and low-income moms and had the BEST deals? I swear, it was only yesterday that they turned ’boutique.’ Sigh.) and little local groceries often can beat out the big stores on prices, especially if you’re still trying to go organic.

I think I can already safely say that living on this budget takes serious work. Planning, searching, lots of cooking (just think, one night out at Zachary’s pizza would completely wipe that budget out). I think, think, that there won’t be as many surprises for me. But like I said, I’ve been cheating up until now.

This upcoming week, I’ll be staying away from the major foodstuffs left in the larder, but I think staples like flour and honey are okay. And I’m totally using my stock, because since I made it myself from leftover bits and pieces, it counts as freeganism in my book.

Here we go. Let’s get hungry.