Hunger Challenge Wrap Up

I’m glad my family participated in the hunger challenge.  I learn more from each year’s experience, which will not only help me for next year’s, but the way I shop, cook, teach and think about food without the challenge. 

I did have some items from my list, that I didn’t use including:

potatoes

chinese pasta

tofu

And I do have some ingredients remaining, which were opened and partially eaten:

sunflower butter

fruit spread

garlic

veggie broth

goat cheese

You realize some items you’d buy that would last a long time, such as sunflower butter and not have to worry about finishing.  However others such as fresh fruit, you’d have to consume quickly.  Thus you may have more fresh produce during the beginning of the week, vs. the later, or whenever you went to the pantry.  Also I felt bad about the “free” pantry items that I didn’t use, because someone else could’ve used them.  However you would plan to use them the following week if something like chinese noodles.

Here are some of my take-aways:

It can be done.  Parents and caregivers are ingredible at making things work and sacrificing for their children and families.  Cooking and eating healthy may be harder to do than giving in to fast food, however it can be done with lots of planning and disclipline.

An extra $1 makes a huge difference.  I hope the awareness the hunger challenge brought to others will enable the extra money to be supported beyond the Jan 2010 deadline.

Everyone likes variety, however sometimes too many options can lead to waste.  Take for example my usual whole grain bread purchases: lavosh, mini wheat bagels, crumpets, whole wheat sandwich bread, mini pita bread, tortillas.  Sometimes a few pieces of  one variety will go stale as we’re eating the others.  How about choosing 2 or 3 this week and then 2 or three the next?  Same goes for cheese, snack items, cereals, mustards, dressings etc.

Being prepared with a stocked pantry and refrigerator is great.  This means you’re ready for last minute playdates or hosting a dinner.  However waiting for something to actually run out, gives more money for the items you actually need.  By this I mean, sometime I buy an extra item to have on hand (peanut butter, fruit spread, whole wheat crackers, etc)

Stick to the list and budget.  It’s easy to get sidetracked, especially with children as your shopping helpers.  Remind them of what you actually need and explain the idea of a budget. 

Out of sight out of mind.  I think if doing the challenge again, I will clean out my pantry and refrigerator, so we don’t see the extra food we’re not allowed to have (that was already there).

Left-over planning is key.  Some of the items I made were just too much.  The bean stew/soup was quite heavy.  Especially after the pasta.  And not something I would usually eat for lunch (but certainly wanted the food).  I felt better when I made “my food” (reference to Top Chef again), meaning things I know my family likes and feels good after eating (such as the fish tacos).

Next time I’ll plan to shop more than once.  I was so afraid to go to the store more than once because I would be tempted by things I couldn’t buy.  But really this would’ve allowed me some room to learn and create new menu items and not be so overwheled by thinking of every meal for 7 days.  (I finally did it at the end and glad I left some money left-over)

We take for granted that we’ll always be able to go to the grocery store and buy whatever we want.  It’s sobering to know that many food stamp recipients have jobs or recently had jobs, and how quickly economics and circumstances can change.

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