The Hunger Challenge Grocery List

grocery bag
grocery bag

Before I even started thinking, shopping and planning (but forgot to amend in my previous blog), I revised my rule number one and cancelled my CSA box for the week.  With all the extra produce coming free from the “pantry”, I decided the $44 could be used elsewhere – like more of my necessary staples and kid favorites.  More cereal, usual lunch box items and my husband’s favorite iced tea.  Also while I love getting the produce box, part of the fun is the surprise.  My kids and I open the box with great anticipation, as we unpack, wash and put away.  While we’re looking it over, I’m trying to determine what I’ll make and how to cook some of the items.  The box luckily comes with some yummy recipes too.  However  this week, I didn’t need the added and last minute surprises – I needed more of a strict plan.

 I must say the list isn’t too bad.  Although some of the variety is missing.  My son and husband’s cereal cocktail of 4 or 5 types, will be limited to 2.  There also is a lack of animal proteins – fish, chicken, meat.  I must say this won’t be too bad for a week, especially since my sister was just visiting and is approaching a vegan diet.

So here’s my list, with a thought about what I’ll do with it.  I went under budget so I could shop again if I ran out of something such as eggs or fruit and wanted to build in cost of small ingredient amounts such as butter, oil, vinegar, soy, salt, pepper.  Remember I created this list at home (using past receipts, since many of these items I already had onhand.  This was also easier to buy just the few items on my list (I didn’t already have) and not take my kids.  Because we always tend to buy more when we’re hungry and seeing everything looking so yummy in the market.  I avoided the emotional please of “Mommy can we buy these huge mushrooms?” or “Mom let’s buy a whole chicken!”

Pantry Items – SF Food Bank

Granola Bars – free – good for on-the-go or son’s snack for school

Chicken Apple Sausage – free – add to pasta and/or bean dish

Chinese Pasta – free – perhaps chinese long life noodles or put with veggie stir fry

Black Beans – free – good in veggie salad or as a side 

Watermelon – free – alone and for a salad

Strawberries – free – snack, good breakfast and lunchbox item

Nectarines – free – snack, breakfast and lunchbox

Carrots – free – snack, lunchbox in stir fry

Garlic – free – perk up main dishes

Onions – free – stir fry and added spice to bean dish

Potatoes – free – serve with beans or with sausages and cabbage

Cabbage – free – with stiry fry or above beans and sausage


Garden – my home

Cherry tomatoes – free – snack, lunchbox

Mint – free – perk up fruit

Basil – free – for pasta and pizza


Purchased at Trader Joe’s and Farmer’s Market

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread 3.99 – toast, sandwiches

Milk (gallon) 4.29 – drink and cereal

Eggs (12) 3.99 – hard boiled, egg salad, scrambled

Cheese Cheddar 3.99 – pizza, cut in lunchbox, grilled cheese, on noodles

Cheese Feta 1.69 – salad, pasta

Mini Wheat Pita (8) 2.29 – lunchbox, bake for chips

Crumpets (6) 1.69 – breakfast

Cereal (Hemp granola and Mighty Bites) 3.39 x 2 = 6.78 – husband and son breakfast

Yogurt – large 32 oz. 2.49 – cereal, snack, to make smoothies

Penne noodles  1.19 – main dish hot pasta or cold salad, left-over in lunchbox

Dry Beans and Barley Mix 2.69 – main meal with sausage

Bananas 4 x .19 = .76 – breakfast, snack or lunchbox

Apples 4 x .59 = 2.36 – snack with sunflower butter, sliced for lunchbox, baked for chips

Lemon .50 – kick to plain water, seasoning

Lime .50 – ”

Orange Juice 3.39 –

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough 1.29 – pizza, breadsticks

Veggie Broth 2.29 – stir fry, bean soup/stew dish

Oatmeal 2.29 – breakfast, made cookies or muffins

Hummus 2.19 – spread on pita or dip for veggies, lunchbox

Frozen edamame 1.69 – lunchbox, snack, side

Sunflower Butter 4.69 – spread on crumpet, pita, apple, sandwich with fruit butter

Apple sauce (6 cup individual) 3.29 – on the go snack or lunchbox

Fruit Spread 1.99 – on crumpet, toast, sandwich, flavor plain yogurt

Fig Bars (12) 3.99 – lunchbox, snack

Trail Mix  3.99 – snack, salad

Tomato starter sauce 1.29 – pizza, pasta

French/Olive Loaves (1 lb) 2 x 3.99 – potluck sandwiches

Goat cheese – $3.99 – potluck sandwiches, pasta, salad

Broccoli (bunch) 2.29 – stir fry, steamed for lunchbox or with hummus

Firm Tofu 1.29 – stir fry or baked for tofu fries

Minestrone Soup 2.69 – dinnerside, lunch

Heirloom Tomatoes (6)  $4 farmer’s market – gazpacho, pasta, salad

Summer squash (3) ,zucchini (5), bell peppers (3), japanese eggplant (2) -$8. Farmer’s market – potluck sandwiches, pasta, with hummus and pita

Tejava Ice Tea 1.19 x 2 = 2.38

Total $96.82

extra for butter, oil, vinegar, soy sauce, salt, pepper


Got Food? The Hunger Challenge

hunger logo
hunger logo

I participated in last year’s Hunger Challenge led by the San Francisco Food Bank.  I didn’t realize how many were effected overall and especially in San Francisco.  We know what an expensive place this is to live, but there is the assumption that those living here are doing well.  Not so, as 1 in 4 San Francisco children lack regular access to food they need to learn, grow, & have a healthy start in life and  60% of the clients served by The San Francisco Food Bank are working families.  This year when asked to participate I’ve learned the numbers of those served is even higher and over 34 million people in the U.S. received food stamps in April 2009, up about 20% over April 2008.


While the numbers have increased, thankfully so has the amount given to food stamp recipients.  Last year the average family living on food stamps has just $1 per person to spend on each meal (example my family of four would have $4 total per meal).  So the challenge was to try spending just $3 per day on food (per person in your household).  This year the amount has been increased to $4 per day, or about $1.33 per meal.  Thus $4 x 7 = $28 per person for the week.  Thus a family of four would get $4 x 28 = $112.  This increase is good for my own family’s challenge since my family’s appetite and food bills have increased as my children get older (now ages 3 and 6).  There’s no factor for age.  I can imagine this is quite a bit harder for a family with a few teenagers.  Unfortunately the increase is due to a stimulus bill that is only temporary (through December 2010).

Another benefit of this year’s challenge is factoring in foods that someone would have access if going to the SF Food Bank.  This was a big improvement.  Not having to factor in some fresh items such as potatoes, strawberries and melons, plus adding a few staples such as beans and pasta goes a long ways when you’re using such a limited budget.  However in looking at the pantry list, I’m sure some items do not appeal to everyone.  I think those in need can’t be picky, however I’m surprised to learn from my friend Adrienne at Leah’s Pantry (a non-profit educating people living in transitional housing about nutrition and shopping choices) that some recipients do not take some items offered by the pantries because they are unfamiliar with the food (bok choy, even cabbage) or it does not fit in their culture (such as Chinese pasta).  However I’m also thinking of those people on food stamps who have health issues and are elderly.  Having some processed items such as sausages (high sodium and possible nitrites) and chai tea latte (possible high fructose corn syrup and additives) is going to make someone with diabetes or high blood pressure feel worse, not better.

Here are the guidelines I set up for myself and family for the challenge.  Those with a * are new items that make the challenge different from my rules for last year (good be good or bad – we’ll see):

  1. Buy food how and where I would normally shop.  I frequent Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and farmer’s markets.  I will buy most items from Trader Joe’s because of price, as I did last year.  *However this year I need to factor in my bi-weekly produce box, which happens to come this week.  Every other week I receive a CSA box from Capay Farms.  This is $44.  Thus I will reduce my $112 by $44, for a total of $68, since my box will arrive on Tues. during the challenge.
  2. *Use some of the free pantry items provided by the SF Food Bank, that I would normally buy. 
  3. *Use items from my garden.  Last year I didn’t have a garden, but this year the kids and I have been working hard to grow herbs and veggies.  While we don’t have as much as we had a month or two ago (no more peas and beans).  We will enjoy our free and very tasty cherry tomatoes.  I’ll also appreciate the fresh mint and basil to add some flavor to some of our dishes.
  4. Stick to my usual values and food philosophy of fresh, whole foods when possible.  Buying organic for the dirty dozen.  Thus I’m not going to buy a conventional apple just because it is cheaper and sacrifice health and pesticide exposure.  If it doesn’t fit the budget I will make another choice.  Also I’m not just going to buy a $1 on-sale chicken pot pie because it will satisfy hunger (but little else).  Although I do understand how someone could make that convenient choice.
  5. Buy usual items my family enjoys and I feel good about feeding them. 
  6. *Create a menu and list of groceries based on past grocery receipts.  (The benefit of keeping receipts is knowing the cost of foods, my family’s usual staples, and creating my plan and menu before shopping)  Some items I already have and a few I will buy.  I will use these items only.  This will keep me from having to determine the cost of each ingredient for each meal (I did that last challenge and it was painstaking).
  7. The challenge was accepted by me, not my family.  Thus you’ll see in my day’s food journal below I went over (as noted) budget when my children asked for more.  I didn’t think it fair for them to go hungry (but explained the challenge and wanted them to appreciate what they have).
  8. My husband will participate in breakfast and dinner, but not lunch.  Again it was my decision, and he has lunch meetings that were out of my control.  Going to an office with a limited budget means brown bagging the same lunch as my kids’ or heading unfortunately to fast food.  Quickly you realize how someone with few means goes there because their hunger will be satisfied for $1.  Unfortunately cheap food and convenience rules over nutrition and health.

While I’m behind on my posts, I did start the challenge yesterday.  I am hungry, but the real challenge so far was setting up the blog…so stay tuned to what I’ve been eating and recipes I’m working on.

Want to learn more about the challenge and read other bloggers recipes and experiences?  Go to  Also learn how you can help make sure Tyson Chicken donates 100,000 pounds of free chicken to the Food Bank.  All it takes is a quick tweet or a blog.


The Lure of the Top Chefs

From Lisa Barnes

When did chefs become so popular and get notoriety like rock stars? Don’t get me wrong, I get caught up in the hype too. And I am usually more nourished and fulfilled by an amazing meal than a great song. But cooking, eating and food overall as entertainment seems to be a phenomena of the last 10 years. I don’t remember knowing names of chefs or watching them on T.V. when I was a kid. Now I have many friends whose children love to watch cooking shows and can tell you the names of the Iron Chefs, like a baseball line-up.

A few months ago I saw the advertisements for the Pebble Beach Food and Wine event and saw the list of chefs, food discussions and meals – and I began salivating. I bought tickets for my husband and me. I was not in a position to splurge for a weekend package or even more than one event, but that didn’t matter. We opted for the grand tasting. How could “grand” not be anything but wonderful?

We got there on a cool gray day and went into the tents, which were enormous. At first all we saw was Lexus advertisements and we wondered what we got ourselves into. Then we got the lay of the land (tent) and saw that all the chefs were around the perimeter. There were lines of foodies (although not too long) waiting to compliment the chef and taste their offering. However for each chef there were probably 20 wineries offering wine. Many more organic wines than I had ever heard of, which was nice to see and learn about.

In the center of the tent there were presentations and book signings. We immediately saw Chef Jacques Pepin was up first. Thinking there would be a big line waiting we headed towards the center. There was no one there but us and Jacques. He was a delight, and we took a picture (above). But it was kind of sad that he didn’t have a bigger following. Everyone was more interested in Trey from the last season of Top Chef. Don’t get me wrong… it’s one of the few shows I watch on T.V. (See below) But let’s show some respect to a pioneer and forefather.

Later in the day a crowd of people was trying to get a look at Top Chef Judge Tom Colicchio and a man was pushed into my husband. My husband helped the stumbling man and it was poor Jacques!

O.K. yes I like Top Chef. The biggest surprise was how nice Judge Gale Simmons was. I think she gets edited as the picky and hardest to please. In person she is very likable and seemed genuinely happy to hear about what I was writing for this blog and my philosophy about feeding children. We even swapped a Food and Wine Cookbook for a Petit Appetit Cookbook.

So as far as the food, some was great and some was unimpressive. My husband and I thought we were Top Chef Judges the way we picked apart and praised the food. Surprisingly some local S.F. favorites like Elizabeth Faulkner of Citizen Cake (a strange pudding shot with tasteless cookie) and Charles Phan of Slanted Door (a ho-hum wonton) were a disappointment. Our favorite savory offering was a duck and seared fois gras dish from Cal Stamenov at Marinus Restaurant at the Bernardus Lodge in Carmel Valley. At the other end of the tent was an amazing dessert table with carrot cake cookie sandwiches and “ocean” chocolate truffles (unlike anything I’d tasted) and that too turned out to be from Marinus. So guess where I want to go?

One thing I found missing at the event was signage. There are so many people with food allergies and intolerances and very few of the tables had a sign even saying the name of the dish/food item let alone the ingredients and where they came from. I thought this was remiss. Having a food allergy I didn’t like having to ask if something was hidden in food that may cause me to go to the hospital. A few chefs told exactly what was in the dish and where the ingredients were grown. Call me crazy but I expect to know (and don’t think we should assume) that the peas are organic and were grown locally when at an event such as this.

So what about children? Yes, there were a few in attendance. We even talked about how much our foodie son would’ve enjoyed some of the chocolate and seafood dishes. But then remembering the ticket price and the fact that this was a real weekend get-a-way date with my husband I was very happy he was home with grandma and grandpa.
See also Lisa’s I Met Alice Waters
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: Lone Pine at Pebble Beach, WikiPedia Commons |
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The Heat is On… Time for Lemonade! (Recipes for Kids)

From Lisa Barnes

For us in the San Francisco Bay Area, the temperature has soared this week. A favorite to quench thirst for all ages is lemonade. In working on my latest book I test drove all kinds of lemonades – sparkling, traditional, herb infused, and more. The basic lemon can really be turned into something special.

Besides the yummy drink, making lemonade can provide a fun activity for children. If you have a tree, there’s the picking. My kids love to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s to pick lemons with “the picker” — a long handled pole.

Then there’s the juicing. Of course this can be done with a machine, but you can also use a hand-held citrus squeezer. Kids love to test their muscle strength, plus it makes the chore last longer (sometimes a necessity for parents looking for some down time). If you have too many lemons and an abundance of lemonade, be sure to share with friends or set up a stand.

The positive power of one child and a refreshing drink created a unique foundation that evolved from a young cancer patient’s front yard lemonade stand to a nationwide fund-raising movement to find a cure for pediatric cancer. Since Alexandra “Alex” Scott (1996-2004) set up her front yard stand at the age of four, more than $17 million has been raised towards fulfilling her dream of finding a cure for all children with cancer. Nationwide the effort continues:

Refreshing and Inspiring!
Here are two different recipes, one requiring lots of lemons and ice for a thirsty few and one that makes a glass or two with just a lemon hint (from my friends at SmallShed Flatbreads in Mill Valley, California).

Frozen Lemonade

This is the perfect lemonade for sipping on a hot afternoon. It is really great whipped in the blender, but if you don’t want to bother you can skip the last step and just pour over ice. Please note the color if this will be golden rather than bright yellow due to the use of raw sugar. You can always substitute white if you prefer.

Makes 3½ cups

½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, juice from about 4 lemons (organic if possible)

½ cup raw turbinado sugar

1½ cups water, divided

2 cups ice cubes, break into chunks if large

Heat sugar and ½ cup water over medium heat in a small saucepan. Stir until sugar has dissolved and mixture has thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. This is simple syrup.

Combine lemon juice, simple syrup and additional cup of water in blender with ice cubes and blend until slushy. Add more ice as desired.

Small Shed’s Fresh Squeezed Maple Lemonade

“I have always found foods to be most enjoyable when prepared simple, and nothing is more simple than our house-made lemonade. Frequently our customers will bring a box of Meyer lemons in from their yards and trade us for a Flatbread pizza!” – Ged Robertson, chef owner at Small Shed Pizza.

Makes 2¼ cups

Juice squeezed from 1 lemon, about ¼ cup

1-2 tablespoons maple syrup, or to taste

16 ounces sparkling water

Put ingredients in a pitcher and stir with a spoon. Pour and serve over ice.

Tips: first roll lemons pressing between your hand and a counter. This will make them easier to squeeze, and yield more juice.

Variations: You can substitute regular still water for sparkling, and honey for maple syrup. This lemonade tastes great made with hot water too!

See also Organic Lemonade Has 10x More Antioxidants Than Regular
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: © Norma Cornes | |
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Kids on a Plane (with Organic Snack Recipes)

From Lisa Barnes

So we’re headed to the East Coast to visit family (and see a Red Sox game). It will be great once we get there. However anyone ever traveling with (or unluckily, near) small children knows how touchy and anxious the plane flight can be. Even if you’ve packed all the old favorite (and new) books, games, stickers, toys, DVD’s, etc. it may still not work for a child who is confined for more than an hour.

I’ve been stockpiling and preparing snacks now that only peanuts and “cereal bars” are the only edibles offered any more (unless you are flying first class). And you can’t bring in liquids, gels and other food type textures (forget the yogurt, hummus dip and apple sauce). Some of the items in our (large!) carry-on include: bananas, apples, carrot sticks, trail mix, dried spicy peas, yogurt covered raisins, and fig bars. In addition here are a few recipes for things my children (and husband and I) will enjoy en route. In addition I’m sure we’ll be buying food (an actual meal) in the airport (an activity for the lay-over, right?)

Organic Cherry Almond Granola
This is from my baking friend, fellow mom and food blogger Amy Andrews. It is the perfect crunchy snack for on-the-go packing or enjoyed at home in your child’s favorite cereal bowl with milk. It also makes the perfect top layer for a yogurt parfait.

Makes 5 ½ cups

Granola base
2 cups organic rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup organic sliced almonds
1/2 cup organic unsweetened grated coconut
3 tablespoons organic flax meal
1 cup dried cherries

Granola syrup
2 tablespoons organic, expeller pressed canola oil
3 tablespoons organic agave nectar
3 tablespoons organic maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 250°F.

Line a cookie sheet pan with parchment paper. In large bowl combine the oats, almonds, coconut, and flax meal.

In small bowl whisk together canola oil, agave nectar and maple syrup. Add the vanilla and salt. Pour over oat mixture and stir with wooden spoon to combine.

Pour the granola mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet pan and spread to an even layer. Bake for 1 hour stirring every 20 minutes until golden in color. Remove cookie sheet pan from oven and add the dried cherries. Stir to combine and let cool. (At home, enjoy as a topping to organic yogurt or as a cereal with your favorite milk or nut milk.) Store airtight.

Organic Apple Crisps
An alternative to boring potato chips, this simple treat satisfies a child’s need for crunch. Having a mandolin provides convenience and accurate cuts for even baking. However a careful, steady knife works as well. The apples crisp because of the low heat which dries out the moisture. Once in the oven these need no attention (just remember to turn off the oven overnight), until it’s time to pack them (or eat) them in the morning.
Makes about 48 apple crisps.

2 large organic apples such as Fuji or Braeburn
2 tablespoon evaporated cane juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 200°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Stir together evaporated cane juice, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl.

Using a mandolin or a steady hand cut the apple vertically in to 1/8 inch thick rounds. You do not need to core or peel the apple. The seeds will fall out or can easily be removed from apple slices once cut.

Place apple slices on baking sheet in a single layer and sprinkle with cinnamon mixture. Bake in the middle of the oven and cook for 1½ hours. Rotate pan and cook an additional hour. Turn off heat and leave pan with apples in the oven overnight if not dry and crisp.

Loosen chips with a spatula to remove from parchment paper.

Shake it Up! The easiest way to lightly and evenly sprinkle sugars and spices is to transfer to a spice shaker. Having a specially marked shaker for cinnamon and sugar saves time when making other snacks such as cinnamon toast or spicing up plain yogurt. This is also a “neat” way to get children to help with decorating and flavoring tasks.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: Ripe Oats © James Virgin | |
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Getting Greener or Getting Fooled – Label Deception

From Lisa Barnes

Advertisers and marketers are having a field day with the going green trend and making millions on labels for everything from cheese puffs, to laundry soap, to toys. Everyone wants to buy “greener” products and we simply look for a quick “seal” or buzz words – but what do they mean? Is it eco-friendly, or sustainable, or recyclable, or animal-friendly, biodegradable or “other”?

I recently taught a baby food cooking class to new parents who were just starting to feed their children solids. They of course are very concerned about what goes in and around their babies – as they should be. I showed them how not only to read labels but decipher them and be careful about products marketed for babies and children. Brands our parents and grandfathers trusted aren’t necessarily helping the confusion.

We discovered baby teething biscuits with partially hydrogenated oils. Turkey labeled as “natural” (however it’s legal for “natural” turkey to have been raised on a diet that included hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified corn). Typical “junk foods” (cheese puffs, potato chips) labeled as “organic” (but still no healthier due to trans fats and additives and preservatives). And the biggest shock to the class was baby food packaged in #7 plastic (thought to leach chemicals in foods) – with microwave directions!

This past weekend was a helpful article in the San Francisco Chronicle about green products seals, and claims surrounding green products. We’re still so new at determining and establishing some product standards that some companies are just making them up themselves. Do we want to trust Johnson and Johnson’s “green” label conducted by an in-house team? We need to educate ourselves so we’re not caught up in the marketing tactics of large companies who just want to sell us products (healthy or not, truly “green” or not). Those of us trying to go “greener” need help as well as some time and patience to read between the lines. I found the article to be helpful which you can read here.

As far as food goes, it’s just one more reason to avoid reading labels and shop for whole organic foods at the Farmer’s Market. I know we can’t always go there and they don’t have everything, but it sure makes shopping, cooking and eating easier (and healthier). The good news is that there is a federal standard for “organic” food. However staying away from processed foods cuts down on much of the label deciphering, but if you must do it keep these things in mind for “organic” food claims.

Those small stickers with the numbers on the fruit mean something too. Did you know?…

*A four-digit number means it’s conventionally grown (not organic).

*A five-digit number beginning with 9 means it’s organic.

*A five-digit number beginning with 8 means it’s genetically modified (GM).

According to the Center for Food Safety, GM foods have been in stores only since the 1990s, so we don’t know the long-term health risks, and in a 1998 EPA sampling, 29% of the foods tested contained detectable pesticides.

Here’s a reminder of the organic labels on multiple ingredient foods:

Labels and definitions are as follows

“100 percent organic” All ingredients are organic.

“Organic” At least 95 percent of ingredients are organic.

“Made with organic ingredients” At least 70 percent of ingredients are organic. If less than 70% of the ingredients are organic, the word “organic” can be mentioned on the information panel, but not on the front of the package.

Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California. |
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