Sep 25, 2009

hunger challenge: day 3 & 4

On Wednesday I was able to complete the Hunger Challenge, eating on just $4 dollars for the entire day. With a very satisfying dinner of chicken and lentils (see recipe below) I had quelled my hunger, and was happy to come up with another recipe that fit the budget and tasted good. I resolved to finish the project through its completion on Thursday.

However, after an early morning workout on Thursday, I was completely wiped out. Driving my exhausted self home from the track I found myself torn with how to make my food dollars stretch out for the day, and really needing to fuel and refuel my body (especially thinking about an upcoming long run on Saturday). Deciding it was healthier to follow my body's instincts I ate more fruit, and a bigger dinner than I would have planned in order to meet the challenge. Throughout the day I realized how lucky I am to have the choice to do this. To be able to workout, and feed myself in a way that sustains me. And again I had a reality check when getting off of BART on Thursday morning there was a woman standing outside the stop holding out her hand saying she was hungry. I walked past, in a hurry to get into the office and on with my day. But then I stopped, turned around and handed her my plum. It cost 0.37 cents.

Overall this week has been exhausting, from planning out every single penny, to worrying about making it to my next meal, to thinking about how to make a healthy tasty dinner on very little. It has taken a lot of time to think about every meal and plan them out as best as possible.

Several times this week I thought about trying to eat on $4 per day and be an athlete. Working out hungry is hard, and not good for me. The number of good calories (in the form of fruits and veggies, protein, dairy, and healthy fats) that I was able to consume on this budget was not enough to energize and replenish me as I ran or swam this week. And those calories are expensive. I spent 0.75 cents on a nectarine, where I could have bought a small Snickers bar 0.50, there is something wrong with this reality.

Mid-week I got an email from the SF Food Bank with more information and several questions for us challengers to think about. They asked us if we had been able to go to the food bank would that have made a difference? Yes, it would have been a huge help! Especially when the list they gave of some of the items to be picked up this week included fruit, vegetables, whole wheat bread, and chicken sausages.

Can I imagine doing this all the time? Quite simply and quite gratefully the answer is no. I will forever be grateful to food banks for the work they do. I have learned so much this week and know that I will be much more aware, thankful for my privilege, and compassionate going forward.

Chicken and Lentils
(serves 2)

1/2 cup lentils (0.32)*
2 tablespoons butter (0.15)
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (0.37)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (0.12)
1 pound bone-in, skin-on chicken** (1.99)
1 carrot, chopped (0.14)
1 small zucchini, chopped (0.40)

total cost: $3.49

This fit into my budget as I had eaten left over pizza for lunch during the day, remained on my 0.65 breakfast, had no snacks, and was able to add Matt's $1.75 to the budget.

In a small pot boil a cup of water. Once the water is boiling, pour in the half cup of lentils and bring to a boil. Once the lentils have boiled, cover and turn down to simmer for approximately 30 minutes until the lentils are tender and have soaked up all the water.

Meanwhile melt the butter in a saute pan. Once melted saute the chopped onion and garlic until soft. Add the pieces of chicken and cook for 5 minutes to brown, and then flip. Cover the pan to cook the chicken for 5-7 minutes. Flip the chicken again and add the carrots and zucchini. Cooking until the chicken is done, then hold in a warm oven until the lentils have finished.

To serve, place cooked lentils on a plate the add chicken, carrots and zucchini. Scope up some of the juice in the saute pan for a light dressing.

*One bag of dried lentils is 1.25 for a 16 oz bag at Safeway.
**I talked to the butcher about the most cost effective way to buy chicken. I learned that a whole chicken gave you the most bang per buck, and he very graciously cut up the smallest chicken they had into serving sized portions for me. At 1.99 per pound for an organic chicken, this was the healthiest, most cost-effective way to purchase good meat.

Other thoughts:
- This morning, I realize that I've already added walnuts to my oatmeal, and milk to my tea - two small luxuries not allowed when trying to eat on $4.

- I had a minimal amount of cheese this week and no other dairy was in the budget. Milk, yogurt, and cheese is expensive and when faced with choosing fruit or dairy I chose fruit. I wonder what the best choice is.

- After Tuesday's post I had a comment from a friend asking about communities coming together to combine resources and budgets when on such a tight budget. I think this is an excellent idea. By having the extra $1.75 for dinners because Matt was joining me really helped stretch my food dollars and allowed for things like cheese and chicken that I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise.

- I went to two stores, and thought a lot about my meals, and creating healthy dishes with little this week. If I wasn't able to spend the time, or go to a couple stores, this would have been much more difficult. What an eye opener.

Sep 22, 2009

hunger challenge: day 2

Day 2 of the hunger challenge was not quite as intense as Day 1. Partly because I knew what to expect, and partly because once again I cheated. Not terribly, but I did grab a few almonds and some yogurt this afternoon. I had a pre-planned 3-4 mile run this evening and running while super hungry did not sound like a good idea. So tomorrow I will try again to stick to this very strict, very difficult budget. Just in case anyone was wondering, $4 dollars a day per person is not very much at all! And for anyone doing any kind of even moderate exercise it is simply not enough.

Last night, after realizing I needed to make dinner sans water, I decided to saute up veggies for a veggie burrito. Without any water I didn't feel it was very sanitary to be cooking with meat and not be able to wash my hands, so I substituted in beans as my protein. The veggie burrito turned out pretty good, and with a minimal amount of cheese and no extra spices besides salt and pepper it almost felt like we were camping. Here's the cost breakdown and recipe:

Veggie Burritos
(this served 2, with leftovers)

2 whole wheat tortillas (0.38)
1/4 pound Cheddar cheese, sliced (0.82)

2 tablespoons butter (0.15)
1/2 medium white onion (0.37)
2 cloves of garlic (0.12)
1 medium russet potato (0.29)
1 small zucchini (0.40)
2 small tomatoes (1/4 pound) (0.37)
1/4 cup black beans (.22)

total cost: $3.12

First, after poking a few holes in the potato, moderately cook it in the microwave for a couple minutes. Meanwhile start heating up your saute pan and the butter. Once the butter has begun to melt add the onion and garlic to soften. After the potato is partially cooked, cube it and add it to the pan. Next add the zucchini, tomatoes, and black beans (undrained if possible). Stir in a touch of salt and pepper and let cook on the stove for 7-10 minutes.

Heat the oven on low, around 200 degrees F, and slightly warm the tortillas with cheese until the cheese is beginning to melt, a couple minutes.

Assemble the burritos and serve.

There were enough veggies from dinner last night to cover my lunch today, leaving more for dinner tonight. With that extra money I decided to add cheese to the homemade pizza planned for tonight. After the same breakfast as yesterday, coming in at $0.65, leftovers for lunch, and Matt's additional $1.75, I had exactly $4.55 for dinner.

I made a homemade pizza dough, and then added broccoli raab, frozen corn kernels, tomatoes, and a little cheese. While this sounded good in theory, everything worked but the broccoli raab. I purchased a 1 pound bag of it for $0.99 in the seconds or day old area of the store. It looked okay and so I thought I was getting a great deal. However, it was more bitter than expected, and truthfully I'm not sure if I would go that route again. Next time I might add a small zucchini or just stick to the tomatoes and corn.

The homemade dough was a definite bargain. Making it myself cost $2.73, but this made two rounds of dough large enough for a large sized pizza. I can by pre-made dough at Trader Joe's for $1.99 for one pizza. Here is the cost breakdown and recipe:

Homemade Veggie Pizza
(makes 1 large pizza - 6 slices)

One round of dough from homemade dough recipe* (1.36)
1 tablespoon olive oil (0.15)
1/2 pound broccoli raab (fresh is best, or eliminate all together) (0.49)
3/4 pound tomatoes, sliced (1.11)
1 cup frozen corn kernels (0.32)
1/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced** (1.00)

total cost: $4.43

At least two hours prior to assembling the pizza make the dough. This will give it enough time to rise accurately.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Once your dough has risen roll it out using a rolling pin to a thin crust. Lay the crust on a slightly floured pizza stone. Evenly spread the olive oil, broccoli raab (if using), tomato slices, corn kernels and cheese. Cook the pizza for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is golden and the crust baked through.

*When making recipe listed from previous post divide dough into 2 rounds instead of four in order to make a large sized pizza.
**This is not a normal amount of cheese, it is much less than I would usually add to a pizza. However it wasn't in the budget to add any more.

(photographs by: alison clayshulte)

Sep 20, 2009

the hunger challenge: day 1

This week I'm following the Hunger Challenge. I'll be taking the challenge Monday - Thursday, as Friday we have a out-of-town pre-wedding BBQ already planned. I'm taking part to help raise awareness about hunger in San Francisco. I'll be eating as healthy as possible on just $4 a day and trying to find new ways to stretch my food dollars. I plan to post every day this week to let you know how its going...

...I wrote this note last night (Sunday) prior to embarking on this challenge. Let me tell you this is a challenge and hunger is real, and I haven't made it through my first day. I had the best of intentions yesterday as I planned out my hunger challenge menu. Breakfast at $0.65 cents, lunch for $1.34, and dinner between Matt (who is joining me for dinners) and myself for $3.76.

The reality started to hit when I was walking to the office this morning and could not buy my normal chai tea for $2.50, not in the budget. By lunch I was famished and quickly inhaled my greens and beans, and later a plum that cost $0.37 cents. With no snacks in the budget for the the rest of the afternoon I was stomach growling hungry when I walked in the door at 6 p.m.

Unfortunately, I lost all resolve when I turned the faucet on at home only to find no water. Which I learned, after a bit of investigation to check out the trucks and digging up the street, was due to a broken water main that happened sometime today and that water is not slated to go on for another couple hours. Bam - I lost it. Back to the house I went, opened the cupboard and grabbed a snack.

Without water tonight to help make dinner I'm not sure what we'll do to stick to the budget. Do we try to make something sans water? Do we hit up the local dollar menu at the fast food place around the corner? If I had no other resources (meaning I could not go out to eat) how would I make a meal right now? If I had kids, how would I make it work?

Let me just say that my privilege is slapping me in the face today. What a wake up call. I'll let you know what we ended up doing for dinner tonight in tomorrow's post along with how well I can stick to my budget tomorrow.

Today I had the following for breakfast:

1 bag English Breakfast tea: $0.04
1/2 grapefruit: $0.34
1 hard boiled egg: $0.12
1/2 cup oatmeal: $0.15

total cost: $0.65

Here are three facts about the realities of hunger in San Francisco:

  • In San Francisco, 150,000 people are unsure where their next meal is coming from.
  • 1 in 4 San Francisco children lack regular access to the food they need to learn, grow and have a healthy start in life.
  • 1 in 5 San Francisco adults cannot count on the daily meals they need to lead healthy, productive lives.

Sep 13, 2009

green chile cheese burgers and fabulous chile roast

The first time my husband traveled back to New Mexico with me to visit family he was a bit taken aback by my father's necessity to stop by Blake's Lotaburger on the way to the airport. To Matt, this sounded like just another burger joint, and since we were already short on time, it made sense to grab a burger at the airport instead. However, Blake's isn't just any burger spot, they have the infamous "Green Chile Cheese Burger." Having parents that were both raised in New Mexico I grew up hearing stories about this place.

Green chile in itself holds a special place in our lives, a long with tortillas, pecans, and a host of other New Mexican ingredients that I can never get enough of. So, last weekend when Matt's brother in law invited us over for a New Mexico style chili roast and promising "the best homemade chili cheese burgers this side of Albuquerque" my answer was "how early can we show up."

The chile roast was awesome! Boxes of chile around the yard, two grills going, sweat bags next to each grill (to steam the freshly roasted chile), a pot of chile verde with fresh corn bread in the house...does it get any better? We roasted 10 pounds on Saturday and then skinned and bagged them the following day.

No photos of the actual burgers this time, I was to busy eating to think about it. However for a fabulous green chile cheese burger here are the steps:

1. make up a couple yummy hamburger patties and throw them on the grill
2. after first flip of hamburger top burger with freshly roasted chile - 1 or 2
3. on top of chile place cheese
4. grill buns
5. assemble burger and add ketchup, or other "must-have" fixin's
6. ENJOY!!

I learned this weekend that all chile starts out as green and as it ripens it turns either red or yellow. Most red chile's are then dried and must be reconstituted in hot liquid before using. This is the standard rule, however some chile, such as habanero, jalapeno or serrano, will become red and still be used in their fresh form. I'm thinking the next time I go back to New Mexico I need to pick up a ristra for a little chile decor. I can't wait to join the roast again next year.

bags of green chile skinned and waiting to be frozen

Special thanks to Matt who is letting me use a couple of his photo's in this post.

Sep 3, 2009

busy week

It's been a really busy week for lots of exciting reasons that I hope to share here soon. However, I'm taking off for the weekend, and so wanted to put up some of the foodie shots I took this week before I head out. I'll be back next Wednesday with another recipe. I have several brewing that I want to share.

yummy street food

visiting Novella Carpenter's farm...yes those are goats at the top of the stairs

not foodie, but pretty

young brie goat's milk cheese, it was quite mild and very tasty

in our garden the tomatoes are finally starting to come

at the San Rafael Farmer's Market, the grapes are back and fabulous

(photography by: alison clayshulte)