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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Food Bank Challenge Wrap Up

I'm not dead (and not for sale.) I was hungry occasionally on the challenge, but that was my own damn fault for not having thought farther in advance.
I got reinforcements on Sunday:


For $6.63, which brought my total to $32.09, only .59 cents over the limit, which ain't too bad. (Although if we must count the beer, like Andrea insists, I totally failed by uh, day 1.) However, I still have half a jar of peanut butter, 3/4 of a canister of oatmeal, most of that bag of spinach, two bananas, most of the broccoli, and a serving of collard salad and chickpeas left. SO I calculate each meal to have come in under $1.50 each, it's just that we have to put money down up front.
For more accurate results, the challenge should probably be a month long with about $126 per person. That is a lot to ask of people to do voluntarily, though, but it would drive home the fact that there are a lot of people who do that out of necessity. One problem I had with the challenge was that the rules asked that you not accept food that was offered at functions, or by friends. If I were on food stamps and I were hungry, I'd eat as much as I could for free! I'd be sneaking crackers and expired candy into my pockets constantly.
Point is, it's tough. I certainly cut back a lot on how much I ate, was a lot more vigilant, and mindful of each chew. In this way, it was funny - like a diet or a cleanse, I had to think about every bite. But on a diet, that's a choice to eat a certain way. People who may run out of food at the end of the month if they aren't careful NEED to consider that. It's really sad. Not to mention that now that schools are almost out for the summer, kids who get free lunches won't be able to for 2 1/2 months!
Also, I didn't do daily updates for you guys because I basically ate the same thing every day: banana, peanut butter, raw collard salad, carrots, chickpeas.

This is a little bit of a change - chickpeas, jalapenos, spinach, zucchini tossed with tahini dressing.

Tonight's "still roughin' it" dinner: zucchini and broccoli in tahini sauce.
I tried not to deviate much from my normal meals, but I definitely feel like my vegetable intake went way down. I also typically buy almond butter rather than peanut but that shit is like 6 dollars for a cheap jar. I didn't feel deprived, really, but the monotony got to me.
But yo, chickpeas > tofu. Or any dried legume, really. ALSO, raw > cooked. Cooking food makes it such a smaller yield! I could eat this raw collard salad for five meals, or cook it and eat it all in two days.
I don't know what to do at a grocery store now. Do I go wild and buy cherries and Gardein? Do I torch all my money and live under a rock nibbling on carrots? Guys, I have no middle ground to run to here. Thank goodness I still have my no-Whole Foods plan to keep me on the straight and narrow.

20 comments:

  1. I am so impressed with your dedication! I think you also proved that even on this budget it is possible to eat a healthy diet that is vegan, therefore "proving" the myth that veganism is expensive wrong.
    Chickpeas are awesome!!! I keep making roasted spiced chickpeas (salt and smoked paprika is my fav) and always have a few cans around.
    Going forward i am sure you can find a way to balance your food budget- maybe frugal breakfast/lunch and a more indulgent dinner? That collard greens salad looks great no matter what it costs!
    Ttrockwood

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    1. Thanks! It's totally possible to eat a compassionate diet on a budget! In fact, it's probably cheaper. I can't imagine having to try to find a cheap cut of meat on food stamps.
      Roasted chickpeas are the best! I just didn't want to turn on the over :)
      Dinners are the best to treat yrself to, but seriously I could eat that collard salad for every meal. It was SO good! I think the key was the chunks of vidalia onion, honestly.

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  2. I didn't "insist," I only mildly suggested. It makes sense that if you spend the money on booze you can't spend it on food too since it won't be there. But, now that you're no longer as limited to what you can spend you should accept your improved circumstances and widen your diet. You can have those cherries! (Notice I didn't say anything about Gardein.)

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    1. I'm going to wait for the cherries to hit the farmer's market, I think... and, yes, pass on the Gardein. (Are you not a fan?)

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    2. I think it has gluten, which makes my stomach hurt. But I never bought vegan meats or cheese on a regular basis — they are very occasional foods for us. We might order a pizza with daiya occasionally, but we almost never buy daiya, and if we do, it usually goes bad before it gets used up. I guess we're weird vegans.

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  3. It sounds like this was a worthwhile experience! I imaginey it's tough to live on a tight food budget - why do you think your vegetable consumption went down? While I gripe about my profession on occasion, I recognize how fortunate I am to have a job, and not need government assistance. Thanks for sharing your journey, and I plan on doing more shopping away from WF, and only pick up a few things (probably off the hot bar) on occasion.

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    1. my vegetable consumption probably went down because while I make one or two vegetable dishes to eat throughout the week, I definitely supplement with meals I buy, or juices. my food consumption probably went down in general, and I just really missed something.
      Whole Foods is fun, I just tend to get carried away and rely on it more than necessary.

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  4. Sounds like a really great experiment. You are right, it's sad to think that people have to be mindful of every bite since there may not be another for a while if they done. You are also so right about chickpeas > tofu and raw> cooked. You can probably recall my dismay when my big beautiful bunch of greens got cooked down to 2 small servings. Sad sad.

    It's really tough to manage a food budget so I definitely can commiserate. If there's one thing I can recommend: Asian Markets!! Prices are much lower and they have really nice quality stuff.

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    1. Yes, I totally remember that! Leafy greens are so much water, but I guess that's good because then they fill you up better.
      I'll check around for local Asian markets, thanks!

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  5. Ah, very interesting point about, if you were truly having to live on this amount of money, free food anywhere would be a boon. Must say, having left my job in Australia almost a year ago now, I'm totally doing the student-lifestyle thing of pocketing packets of raw sugar and mustard at convenience stores when the opportunity arises...

    The middle ground can be tricky, but I think it's also a good thing to achieve, in life in general. I used to get caught in either/or/all/nothing mindsets in 'most all aspects of life, but life is, and is better, with grey areas.

    Also... beer is totally necessary. Just pretend it's the Ye Olde times when everyone had to drink beer 'cause water was unsanitary. ;)

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    1. Haha! I wonder how much you are saving on mustard costs. I am so bad at finding a balance in life, but it is important and necessary to happiness, yes!

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    2. Considering I don't normally buy mustard to begin with... not much.

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  6. I admire you doing this challenge. I wouldn't last a day on it.

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    1. Says she who stretches every dessert into 4 servings! You'd do very well, I think, as long as you don't count whatever you pay for the CSA.

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  7. This was all very interesting to read about and like Shen, I admire you for doing it. It is sad that so many have to think far ahead about if they'll have enough to last. Mike & I are very spoiled as far as food goes and we're very thankful for it.

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    1. It is sad but we shouldn't feel bad or spoiled for being particular or eating what we'd like to; we just need to realize it's not the only way to eat, and to be thankful - like you are!

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  8. It's been a really interesting experiment to watch, not sure I'd fancy joining in - mainly for that whole monotony thing. And yeah, the lack of booze.

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    1. Booze and variety are the spice of life. Also spices. Spices are also the spice of life.

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  9. Way to stick to it. I appreciate your willingness to engage with this challenge as a way to bring attention to the issue of poverty. The thing about you not being able to plan ahead just goes to show how working-class people who work multiple jobs and take care of families also couldn't plan ahead to make "healthy food choices." I grew up on fast-food because my single-mom worked two jobs and that's what was cheap and easy. Something's gotta give....(hint: capitalism!).

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    1. True. It's grab and go a lot of the time for them. I wonder what the food forest would be like for people on food stamps.

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