Day 4 – Big Dilemma

So my morning was good.  Started my day with oatmeal and apple.  My husband is back so he did breakfast for the kids (which is what happens most mornings) – cereal and fruit and OJ.  He didn’t take photos.  I’m sure they were glad for the break.  My kids keep saying “more pictures?!” as I make them wait another minute to eat.

son's lunch

I packed my son’s lunch.  Pretty standard.  I never mentioned their drink for lunch – it’s water.  Always has been.  I do have this great new water dispenser on the counter in the kitchen.  I ad citrus and/or mint for flavor.  The kids can reach and then help themselves all day long.

getting water

By lunch I was very hungry.  After taking the kids to school, I went paddle boarding with friends.  We went to Starbuck’s first so they could get coffee.  Nothing for me.  I feel didn’t like I was missing out.  I’m not a morning coffee gal, and was full from the oatmeal.

my lunch

My daughter and I came home and had left-overs from dinner.  I ate the rest of the minestrone from dinner with a veggie wrap and she had some some noodles from the night before, along with some veggies and crackers with sunflower butter.

snack

Later was snack.  Celery and crackers with sunflower butter and a bowl of frozen pineapple.  I’m a bit bored with some items.  But no one compalined.  We usually have lots of choose from – nuts, dried fruit, nut butters (almond, peanut, soy), crackers, tortilla chips, graham crackers etc.

Here’s the dilemma.  It’s my kids’ open house at school.  Only parents invited.  We were able to get a babysitter last minute, so my husband and I can both go.  We have the sitter for 3 – 4 hours – kind of a minimum.  So what do we do after?  Normally we would go to dinner – but I don’t have much money left and should keep it for the rest of the week.  My husband suggested a movie, but the times aren’t working out well.  Funny it’s ok to spend money on entertainment – although if you don’t have it for food, there’s not much of that either.  Perhaps out for coffee/tea?  Drinks would be more.  I have about $25 left….

pizza fixin's

For dinner we’re making pizza and a roasted veggie parmasean dish.  I bought premade dough from Trader Joe’s for $1.  I make my own dough 50% of the time – being that sometimes I just don’t have time to wait for dough to rise.  The pizza sauce was the reserved sauce from pureed tomatoes and the sauce for the veggie dish was left-over fondue.  Interesting right?  Well we’ll see.  We need to have some for the our friend babysitting too.  I didn’t tell her about the challenge.  She may already know as she is a caterer, baker extrodinaire and restaurant consultant.  We’ll see her reaction.  Hopefully she won’t be hungry here.  I’m so used to being a host with plenty to offer.

 

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Day 3 – I am Hungry Challenge

Today was rough.  It wasn’t about not enough food, it was about not being near my food when I needed it.

First I woke up with swollen eyes.  I’m guessing because of the sodium in the canned tomatoes from the fondue from last night’s dinner.

For breakfast I had my usual oatmeal and half a banana.  Although we were running late for school, so I didn;t get to finish it.  My daughter had her yogurt, with granola and fruit.  My son had a 42 second egg and cinnamon toast.  What’s a 42 second egg?  I crack an egg into a ramekin and mix in a splash of milk, then cover with a piece of wax paper (important so it doesn’t explode all over).  This timing works for my microwave.  But you may have to adjust for yours.  It’s a great, quick way to make an egg.

My son's toast and 42 second egg

I made the school lunches.  Typical veggie, fruit, crunchy snack (here crackers) and roll up.  His is turkey and hers is hummus (remember she doesn’t eat meat).  It looks like an orange color theme today.

school lunch

My planning problem was mid day.  I dropped the kids, went for a run, got ready and went to a meeting.  I figured it would only last about an hour, so I’d grab lunch before getting the kids when I got home.  Well the meeting was with a wonderful group of people and we were talking and went over 2 hours.  During the meeting we sat down for their coffee break and they invited me to join them for birthday cake.  I turned down the cake and explained about the challenge.  At this point I was very hungry (red velvet cake smelled great), but hadn’t had lunch and even if it wasn’t the challenge the cake on an empty stomache would’ve felt bad.  Turned out I felt bad anyways – since I hadn’t eaten since 7 am.  If it weren’t for the challenge I would just stop someplace near the school (La Boulange or Whole Foods) and get a salad or sandwich and eat it leisurely.  Instead I remembered I had a Cliff Z-bar (emergency for the kids) in my purse which I ate on the way to my house because I had a horrible headache.  I think from lack of food and lack of iced tea. (I unfortunately bought unfamiliar, inexpensive tea bags and brewed it myself thinking I was prepared with hot and cold options.  But, yuck.  Too much spice and cinnamon.  I miss my Mighty Leaf and Tejava).  When I got home I had 5 minutes to use the bathroom and make a wrap (turkey, cheese, hummus, tomato) and ate it in the car on the way to pick up the kids from school.  That wasn’t until 2:20 pm.

my wrap to go

The kids were happy with their smoothie popsicles for their after school snack.

smoothie pops

Dinner was still just the kids and I.  My husband is back tonight.  We got home late from Tae Kwon Do, so I put out some of the left-over cut veggies from the fondue to ease everyone’s hunger,  while I made dinner between kids’ showers and homework.  They chose minestrone soup (Trader Joe’s from a can), tuna melts and spinach salad.  This was good and quick.  However halfway through dinner I got a horrible heartburn pain.  I actually had to take an antacid and lay down for a few minutes.  I’m guessing (and who knows?) maybe I was so hungry and ate too fast that I gave myself the gas and then heartburn.

soup and sand
spinach salad - note croutons from left-over baguette

So if I’m planning to be out and about I need to pack something for myself to eat (an apple, half a sandwich), so I’m not stuck having to come all the way home to make food.  I would usally have some raw nuts with me, but didn’t think I should splurge at $9 a pound for this week’s shopping.

 

 

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Hunger Challenge/Meatless Monday – Day 2

Today was easier than yesterday.  I knew it would be.  The kids have more of a routine, are at school and not asking about the unsmiley faces.  There’s been lots of talk and then stress at my house about what’s going to happen during the week in regards to food.  I imagine in a house where food is lacking this would always be on a child’s (and parent’s) mind too.  Wondering if you’ll be provided with enough to fill you up (physically and emotionally).

My husband ended up on a plane today for 24 hours, so we didn’t need to worry about him.  No, it was work related.  At least I don’t think  he wasn’t trying to get out of the challenge.

Breakfast was the usual for me – oatmeal with a sprinkle of granola and a half of banana.  The kids had yogurt with berries and granola and orange juice.

kids' breakfast
my oatmeal

I made my son’s lunch for school.  I had to remind him that we were not only on the challenge but it was Meatless Monday so no turkey sandwich.  He settled for sunflower butter and fruit spread plus carrots, pretzels and grapes.  My daughter and I had lunch at home after I picked her up from kindergarten.  Her wrap was avocado, cheese, and spinach.  Mine was the left-over roasted veggies from dinner with hummus, avocado and spinach.

son's lunch
daughter's wrap
my wrap

Later was snack time between school and Tae Kwon Do.  My daughter suggested smoothies which was perfect.  I plopped in about a cup of frozen pineapple, a banana, about a cup of orange juice and about 3/4 cup yogurt.  We all had some and put some in popsicle molds to freeze and eat tomorrow.

smoothie (and those pretzels again)

 

Dinner was very exciting.  My kids love fondue.  And this is a fun and easy recipe for pizza fondue (see recipe on previous blog here), which works great for Meatless Monday too.  What’s not to like – tomaoes, cheese and spices?  Plus they love to break out my fun orange fondue pot I found on Etsy.  (We serve in it only.  I don;t risk burners on the table with kids).  Although my son questioned why I was opening a can of tomatoes saying “Aren’t canned food bad?”  We usually use Pomi in a carton, but I explained about the price difference and they were still organic.

While my son was at Tae Kwon Do my daughter and I made a trip to Whole Foods for a baguette, some celery, a box of crackers, brown sugar (not my usual, but cheaper version) and a few plums ($8.46).  There were a few discussions when my daughter said “Mommy can we get this?” or “Mom we’re out of this.”  I had to remind her about the challenge, which she mistakenly (or freudian) calls “the hungry challenge”.  She’s only 5, but she’s starting to catch on…if we buy the olive bread for $4 instead of the french for $2, then we can’t buy the crackers.

Since my husband is gone I removed a few big scoops of the tomato puree to reserve for pizza sauce later in the week, and then saved on cheese too.  I also transformed the lentils from left-over Sunday night to a lentil salad (now cold with rosemary salt, vinegar and oil).  I made japanese sweet potato chips for dipping.  We also dipped the baguette, red pepper, broccoli, and celery.  My son doubted that a family on food stamps could make this since it was so good.  I said yes they could, as long as they had the time and energy and liked to cook (no orange fondue pot necessary).

cooking fondue
Dinner

 

 

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Shopping and Planning – Hunger Challenge Day 1

The hardest thing about the challenge is planning.  Last week a friend invited me to see a film called Food Stamped.  I told her how timely it was (thanks Ann) because of my upcoming challenge.  The filmakers, Shira and Yoav Potash (husband and wife) made a film about living for a week on the food stamp budget.  What they started as a fun challenge and YouTube video, ended up being a one hour edited documentary that has played around the country.  Besides their shopping trips to Berkeley Bowl and taking bread out of dumpsters, they edited in some interesting facts and food issues our country is facing (farm bill, for one).  The most intriguing interviews for me were with members of Congress (all democrats) who took the challenge (said they were grouchy and sleepy) and a school director in the mid-west (proud to get ideas for school menu items from fast food marketing).  The film is successful in sharing their challenge experience and giving insight into America’s food issues (obesity, manufacturing, distribution, education).  The other major difference between Shira and Yoav’s experience and others who have taken and written about the challenge, is going the extra step to visit a nutritionist and see how their meals added up health wise.  Turns out good choices but a lack of calories.  But what my friend and I discussed after watching the film, was that it lacked passion.  These people didn’t set out to fix the system, just show it (which of course is valuable too).  I had to remind myself that not everyone knows or has experienced this.  It’s new to many in this country.  Too bad.  Where are the solutions and follow-up?  If you haven’t seen it, queue it on NetFlix.

Anyways, it was good as it got me thinking and planning (and starting my lists and budget).  I shopped yesterday at Trader Joe’s and my own pantry.  I know the prices from past reciepts and checked the store so I would not be buying things I already had in my pantry (don’t want to waste food either).  I spent $50.56 at Trader Joe’s and $29.69 from my pantry.  The problem is I have other food in the fridge and pantry which will not be included in this week’s food.  With my kids (and husband) this is a problem.  I moved all the food not to be eaten this week to shelves with unhappy faces so they know not to eat it.

Unhappy Fridge

 

Today I went to the farmer’s market and spent $15.10 on fresh produce and a baquette for dinner.  Which leaves me with $26.31 for the rest of the week.  Hopefully I can get a few things we’ll be out of and maybe hit the Thurs. or Fri. farmer’s market again.  It struck me by how much better the prices are there.  I also did more shopping there.  Wandering around and checking prices.  Lately I’ve been stopping at Whole Foods more becasue there is a new one by my kids’ school.  But I need to stop that for now and reduce overbuying there in the future.

food from farmer's market

 

The first day has come to a close.  Being a Sunday it is harder than during the week.   On the weekend my family often goes out to eat for one meal.  Also we’re used to bringing more snacks (nuts, energy bars etc) if we’re out and about doing physical activites.  (Note to self – Get and make a few more snacks for the week.)  This morning we went to the farmer’s market and while I bought some produce, (and had free samples) we didn’t have any crepes or muffins or coffee.  We had brekfast before we went and came home when it was time for lunch.  Here’s some of what we ate today..

For breakfast the kids had french toast topped with yogurt and berries (no syrup, too $)

Making Breakfast
French Toast with Yogurt and Berries

I had my usual oats with soy milk and topped with a sprinkle of granola and a few berries.  I eat oatmeal every morning anyway.  I vary the fruit on top.  But it fills me up and gives me good energy for the day.   My husband went for a run and came home to a bowl of cereal and banana.  We only have two cereals now.  We usually have 4 or 5 to pile in the bowl.  My husband was hungry later at the park.  My daughter and he were playing restaurant and he joked was able to order all the imaginary food he wanted.  Fake eggs, bacon, pancakes – bring it on!

Making sunflower and fruit spread sandwiches

For lunch my kids wanted to make their own sunflower and fruit spread sandwiches with carrots, pretzels and grapes on the side.

My husband and I had turkey, cheese, hummus, spinach and tomato wraps on flatbread.

Orecchiette pasta with lentils and roasted veggies
dinner deconstructed for the kids

For dinner, I made a variety of our farmer’s market veggies by roasting in the oven with some olive oil and sea salt.  We had the lentils and orecciette, which I had purchased from our pantry.  We also made kale chips.  The kids ate their’s separate, while I layered the veggies and kale chips over the pasta and lentils for my husband and I.  It was a hit and we completed day one.

 

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My Hunger Challenge 2011

I did my first challenge 4 years ago as one of the founding bloggers, and a few
things have changed in the country since then…

1. The amount has gone up from $4 to $4.72/day/person (this is average for
those in California – it’s less in other
states). Likley to be reduced by Republicans in January.

2. The amount of people on food stamps has increased to 44 million nationwide –
21 million are children. The number of new recipients increases 15% each
year.  I find these numbers staggering!

3. Nationwide one out of every seven Americans relies on food stamps. And
locally one out of every five children, adults and seniors living in Marin and
San Francisco counties struggle with hunger every day.

The challenge is to shop, cook and eat on a food stamp budget ($4.72 per day) and make yourself and others aware of what millions of Americans face every day. By participating in the challenge and sharing with friends and family about your experience (through blogs, facebook, twitter and actual conversations) the awareness and issues are brought to light.

Unfortuantely I wasn’t able to participate in last year’s challenge, as my dad was living with us on hospice care.  I couldn’t imagine having to add that to my caretaking, and spending extra time and energy on worrying about a meal budget.  I am lucky.  People living on food stamps don’t get a “time out” when taking care of a sick loved one.

A few things have changed in my life since that first challenge too…

1. My kids are older (now 5 and 8).  This is a big.  They were too little to know about budgets and hunger.  They were also too little to have many friends over, which I’d have to feed.  And they couldn’t open the refrigerator themselves.

2. We eat a lot less meat in our family.  This actually helps with the budget and we are more versed with beans, legumes, tofu etc.

3.  We’re a bit out of practice.  Lately I’ve been spending more money on groceries as there is a new Whole Foods next to my kids’ school.  This is good because of the convenience, but I know I end up spending more as I run in to pick up last minute items.

Here are the rules I set up this year, which are not unlike those from 2009 (check back):

1. Stay true to my philosophy of creating healthy, fresh foods for my family.  This means buying organic when possible and of course for the dirty dozen.

Kids get theirs.  Like any parent – you’ll sacrifice yours (food, shelter, etc) for your child’s needs.

2. I’m shopping carefully and not at once.  Just like our usual grocery shopping we don’t do it all at one store and we go more than once a week.  I also wanted to have money left after my big shopping to figure in those items I’ll need to buy again before the week’s up such as bread, milk, hummus.  Plus I want to always have fresh produce on hand.  I’m using our usual grocery stores – Trader Joe’s, farmer’s market and Whole Foods.

3. My budget is based on $4.72 x 3 (son, daughter and self), plus 22.03 for my husband.  He’s at work or meeting for lunches and out of my control, so I subtracted 33% from his share.  I hope that seems fair.  Thus our total for the week is $121.15.

4. Using my pantry.  I also don’t spend all my money and set aside about $5. so I can factor in things that you don’t have to buy every week and use a small quantity such as pepper, salt, oil, vinegar, baking soda.  I did have to buy brown sugar as I was out and needed it.  Eventhough I won’t use it all in one week, it is normal to have to buy something for the pantry.

5. Hitting the “food bank” pantry.  It’s great to know the Food Bank is there to help me with such items as potatoes, pasta, beans, etc if I need it during the week.  With so many people relying on the food bank, and funding and budget cuts, I’ll use this as a last resort.  This is really what makes the difference for many families.  It is an incredible operation full of great volunteers.  They even have community gardens and fresh produce available to those in need.

Stay tuned and see how my family does.  Hopefully they won’t give up on the challenge or me by Saturday.

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Thank You Ms. Waters

Portrait for National Gallery

As many of you know last weekend was the 40th anniversary of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, CA.  It is consistently ranked as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world.  Of course Chez Panisse was and is more than a restaurant.  It’s a place where a true pioneer Alice Waters, discovered and shared with Berkeley, California, and America about how simple slow cooking made with fresh ingredients grown locally, right out of the garden, benefits everyone and tastes best.  It seems so easy and obvious now, but not then.  Of course during the last 40 years Chez Panisse has been a spring board for not only a healthy eating philosophy but a spring board for hundreds of chefs and new restaurants.

Then of course there’s the Edible Schoolyard Project.  Where Ms. Waters planted a garden in Martin Luther King Middle School and turned it into a classroom (and now dining hall) for kids to learn about food, growing, cooking and community.  It has become a national and international model and curriculum for schools all over the world.

I can’t say enough about what she’s done and continues to do.  Neither can the National Gallery as her portrait (see above) will go there after being on display in Berkeley.  I got to see the portrait and experience what she’s built with the Edible Schoolyard Project last Saturday with my family as we attended the OpenEducation event where the Berkeley Art Museum was transformed into an open classroom and living kitchen.  There was a variety of “school” projects to highlight to the public what goes on in garden classrooms around the country thanks to Ms. Waters programs.  My family enjoyed fudge made from goat’s milk and saw the responsible goats.  My kids made a jar of pickles and tortillas.  We brought home seed bombs and lettuces.  We saw grain being ground by a bicycle.  And saw 5,000 honey bees in action.  It was a wonderful day to celebrate food, community and the power of teaching.  I was, and am, quite inspired.  Thank you Ms. Waters and Happy Birthday Chez Panisse!

Open Education Event
the bees
the goats
grinding grain with a bicycle

 

making pickles
making tortillas
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