The Hunger Challenge

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.

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