Final Day 7

Our last day started the same as the first – with french toast.  My kids and husband had french toast with yogurt and fruit on top.  My son asked “Where’s the powdered sugar?”  Then he quickly remembered.  Yes, in the cupboard but behind an unhappy “not to eat” face.  I had the last of the oatmeal with a sprinkle of granola and half a banana.  So glad I bought those last evening.  I mistakenly put the last of the grapes on the table near my daughter and they were quickly eaten without sharing.  She likes her fruit.

a few good grapes
sleepy Jonas cutting his toast
Ellery dives in to a banana

My kids both had soccer games, so that also meant snacks provided afterwards.  My daughter enjoyed fruit kebobs while my son had strawberries and pirate booty (not my favorite – oh well).

my lunch leftovers

For lunch my son had flatbread with sunflower butter (we’re almost out).  My daughter had a hummus wrap.  My husband had the last of the turkey, hummus and a spoonful of avocado (left from dinner).  I ate last night’s taco left-overs – a few beans, some tofu and ground beef.  We rationed the last of the carrots – trying to save some for dinner.  We finished the bag of pretzels.  It kind of seemed bottomless during the week.  We were so hungry, I missed photos of lunch, except for mine (above).  Doesn’t look super appealing does it?  Ellery’s best friend came over and I felt bad not being able to offer more than carrots, pretzels, and water (although that’s what she usually eats at my house).

my snack

My daughter went to a friend’s birthday party.  Besides fun and friends, she got a cupcake.  Seemed like such a luxury I’m sure.  Friends of mine asked (who knew we were doing the challenge) if my kids would be allowed “outside” food.  I said yes.  I’m mean, but not cruel.  But I didn’t accept any food.  Thus when the party was done and we were home about 4pm, I was famished, with a headache.  I poured my last 1/2 glass of iced tea and finished off the last of the yogurt (so glad 32 ounces lasted through the week), topped with a bit of granola.  I felt much better almost immediately.

egg in a hole. note: my son made a "cap" for his milk with the cut out

Dinner wasn’t so hard – mostly because there wasn’t much to choose from.  There were eggs and bread, one sweet potato, some spinach, some leftover rice and a few carrots.  I don’t usually make individual meals, but I let each person decide how they wanted their eggs.  I made egg salad (I still had 2 hard boiled eggs from the week, and I made 2 more) for my daughter and husband.  Then my son and I chose poached/fried.  Acutally my son came up with egg in a basket.  Good thinking.  I decided to eat the remainder of the stir fry rice, topped with some sauteed spinach and egg on top.  We also had sweet potato chips.

dad's dinner
Ellery's dinner
my dinner
sweet potato chips

We always say our “thankfuls” at dinner each night.  Tonight’s involved soccer, birthday parties and completing the hunger challenge.  I’m thankful for my family participating again this year and putting up with me this week (tired, hungry, preoccupied).  We’re all thankful we don’t have to live on a food stamp budget as a way of life.  I’m thankful my kids aren’t teenagers.  I can’t even imagine how you feed a 16 year old boy with these limitations.  (And what about a pet?  We only have hermit crabs who eat a little spinach or fruit now and then).

I’ll be happy to going back to the convenience and freedom of eating when, what and where we want.  Healthfully, of course.  I also won’t be so (overly) preoccupied with food and photos.  And we’ll be more social.  I don’t like not being able to freely share food and host meals for friends and family.  Hunger effects everything – your mind, body, spirit, and your way of life.






Day 6 Continued – $118,000 Raised for Bay Area Food Banks

my lunch

So I ate my left-over oatmeal as promised, mid-morning.  Then enjoyed my left-over stir fry from dinner.  Not lots of veggies, but there was some chicken left and the rice filled me up.   I finished my daughter’s apple from this morning on my drive to San Francisco.

inside the food bank
my chat on KGO

I made it to the San Francisco Food Bank where KGO was broadcasting live for the KGO Fights Hunger Day.  This was a great sight.  The Food Bank was in full swing.  Volunteers working outside and in to receive and stack food.  It’s amazing at how large the space is and how much food you see, and realize it’s still not enough to meet the community’s needs.  I sat down and chatted on the air with Gil Gross about my family’s experience with the hunger challenge.  In the brief time I was there (about 1/2 hour) someone came in to the front office and dropped off a check donation for $500.  During the interview an AT&T repairman came in to give $40 to Gil since he was working down the street and heard the KGO broadcast.  It was really special to be a part of.  And today KGO raised over $118,000 for Bay Area Food Banks.  That’s what the challenge is all about – raising awareness and funds.

I was really hungry by the time I was driving home.  I stopped and bought 4 bananas at $.19 each.  I saw this morning that after doing totals, I could spend $.80.  I thought that the bananas would be good for breakfast – since we’re just about out of fruit.  I came home and had a snack of pretzels and sunflower butter.  My daughter and husband were home.  Both my kid’s had playdates while I was in SF.  They of course reported what they ate.  My daughter had fruit and a grilled cheese sandwich and my son had a snack of homemade pumpkin bread.  Am I the only hungry one around here?

taco fixin's
my hungry family didn't wait for me to sit down
roasted broccoli

For dinner we had our taco/burrito night.  It was later than I wanted to eat after picking up my son from Tae Kwon Do.  A few times this week I’ve been so preoccupied with hunger I’ve had trouble thinking straight.  I was crabby when making dinner.  Everyone started without me.  I gave them a pass on manners as I took a few photos before I sat down.  It was tasty and filling and everyone enjoyed.  I browned the ground beef.  I also drained and sliced some tofu and browned that a bit as well.  There was some remaining tomato and shredded cheese to use.  I made guacamole with the avocado.  And heated the black beans and corn-wheat tortillas.  I also roasted the rest of the broccoli with a drizzle of olive oil and some sea salt.  No one complained – although a bit of salsa and fresh cilantro would’ve been great.  It’s a fun meal because the kids can make it themselves and build it to their liking.  Tofu, guacamole and cheese for my daughter and meat, cheese and beans for my son.  All of it for my husband and I.  Self choices and participation is always key to get kids to eat healthy foods.

So tomorrow’s our last day and I’m thinking we’re going to make it.


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.


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.



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:


chinese pasta


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

sunflower butter

fruit spread


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.


Final Challenge Day


So yesterday was the final day.  Although probably the easiest.  We were so busy, there was not much time for eating.  The days started early, as my son had a 9 a.m. soccer game.  Once again I only finished half my bowl of oatmeal.  We were out of berries, bananas and nectarines, so it was plain.  The kids and my husband finished the last of the granola (there’s a bit left of the Mighty Bites) with milk, and the kids had plain yogurt sweetened with brown sugar and cinnamon.  We all had a quick glass of O.J.

We were headed for miniature golf after the game so I packed a quick lunch/snack of sunflower butter and fruit spread sandwiches, along with some trail mix, and sliced apples (last 2) and cheese.   We also had my son’s friend with us.  Luckily there was enough bread.

Later we went to friends’ to swim.  My kids were offered some snacks of crackers and cheese, grapes, watermelon and grape juice.  It looked good, but I passed and luckily had some apple slices left-over.  I explained about the hunger challenge and they said, but you’re not paying for this.  Seems I could eat what was offered at someone else’s house right?  Then I started to think about all the places you could go and sample food if you wanted.  Even when I shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s there’s usually something to taste and nibble.  In fact sometimes my kids want to go back repeatedly.

Many that I spoke to about the challenge had stories about college or struggling days on their own away from home.  Remembering back, you had a certain amount of money and knew how to budget to feed yourself.  It often meant lots of baked potatoes, spaghetti, PB&J and boxed macaroni and cheese.  And let’s be honest you had to factor in beer.  One friend joked that the beer would be a name brand favorite at the beginning of the month and then get more generic and watery by the end of the month.

So dinner tonight was a kid favorite – breakfast for dinner.  I still had 6 eggs so why not?  If you remember I was just under $99, then I went to the store and bought the fish and tortillas, putting me at about $106.  Well I decided to buy (from my own pantry) a can of pureed pumpkin for $2.29 to make my kid’s favorite pu,pkin pancake recipe.  Getting everything out I realized I wasn’t going to be able to make the usual pumpkin pancake recipe as I needed to use 4 eggs.  Luckily I had created a recipe for a mom who wanted to give her son (who was allergic to eggs) pancakes  and out it my book, The Petit Appetit Cookbook.  Aha!  I will add the pumpkin to get the veggie factor in and please my kids, to the “no yolking around pancakes” recipe. (see my new recipe below).   I made a double batch which makes quite a few.  Left-overs will be welcome as a lunchbox snack or a quick re-heat for breakfast. 

While these are rib stickers I also wanted to make eggs.  Thinking of TopChef, I made eggs two ways.  One way was over easy, my son’s favorite.  While the other was a simple omelet with cheese (one thing I still have plenty of), my daughter’s fav.  A typical breakfast for dinner night would also have turkey bacon, but not tonight.  That’s was o.k.  We were all so tired from the day’s activities, no one missed it. 

Pumpkin “No Yolking Around Pancakes”

 Makes about 15 (5-inch) pancakes

 2 cup organic wheat flour

2 tablespoon organic cane sugar

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups organic milk

1 tablespoon expeller pressed canola oil

1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree 

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together milk and oil. 

Add milk mixture to flour mixture all at once.  Stir with a rubber spatula until just blended.  If batter is too thick, thin with milk.

Heat a large non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Lightly grease skillet with cooking spray or melted butter. 

For each pancake, pour about 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle or skillet.  Cook until bubbles form on top of pancakes and bottoms are golden and set.  Flip with spatula and brown other sides until golden.   Warm finished pancakes in a 300 F oven, while continuing to use batter to make more batches.



Drink Up for the Challenge

So what we were drinking during the challenge?…lots of things.  Most of what I drank was water.  Although I did factor in two bottles of Tejava iced tea.  This was mainly for my husband, but I didn’t realize how much I missed it too.  I don’t reglarly drink coffee (sometimes a decaf drip or cappucino).  However I do have a glass of unsweetened iced tea per day (either fresh brewed or Tejava).  I woke up with a headache a few days into the challenge.  My mid-day I think I missed the caffeine and had a glass of iced tea.  Abracadabra!  I felt better.

My kids drank their usual – milk, water, juice (1/3 juice mixed with water) and splashes.  What’s a splash?  It’s simply a way of getting more flavor from water, but lots less juice.  This is a good money saver (and sugar saver), which works well anytime and especially during the challenge.  I even put it in my book, but there’s really no recipe required.  Simply add a splash of juice to water.  We had orange juice this week, but would also usually have cranbery or pomagranate.  We also do this with bubble water.  Makes a refreshing drink (and good non-alcoholic drink) for all ages during the holidays, etc.  Along the same lines of adding flavor to water is what I call “hints”.  This is simply squeezing a citrus slice into water.  Kids love to do this.  This week we used some lemon and lime slices.

There were two other drinks we made this week with the ingredients on hand – smoothies (see previous post) and a watermelon juice.  This simply means place fresh watermelon (remember we had a whole one) in the blender.  You can even add some bubble water (not this week) for a special watermelon spritzer.  Super refreshing.


Fish Taco Night!

tacos 008
my son's fish taco creation

I did it.  I went to the store and thankfully I was able to buy some fish.  At Whole Foods, there was a sale on Dover Sole for $5.99 a pound.  This is a thin fish, so 4 fillets came in at about 2/3 of a pound or $3.29.  I had to rethink my idea of stir fry and the chinese noodles.  I just can’t do noodles again.  So I factored in the cabbage, cheese (I still have cheddar), black beans, and onion and came up with fish tacos.  I was missing tortillas, but figured I had enough cushion (remember I only spent $95 and change) and bought those for $2.99.

This meal was a real treat after the heavy dinners I had been making.  And it looks like a lot, since there’s many dishes of individual things (shredded cheese, cabbage, diced onion, beans).  Tacos are always so great because everyone can make their own choices and participate.  Without holding back some of my budget, I wouldn’t have been able to alter my meal plan.  I was worried if I went into the store another day during the week, I would buy too many other items.  I did buy a few more, but told myself and kids we couldn’t eat them until next week.  I realize that through this challenge I need to go to the store less often.  Out of sight out of mind.  Instead of waiting until we run out of something or we only have 2 kinds of cereal (and not the usual 4 or 5), I go out and rebuy, along with other things. 

Tonight I even got creative with a bit of dessert and made sugar-cinnamon tortilla crisps.  So easy and the kids love them.  Simply cut desired shapes in tortilla with a cookie cutter.  Don’t toss the scraps (those make tasty/funny crisps too).  Place on a baking sheet lined with foil and brush with melted butter.  Sprinkle a mixture of sugar and cinnamon (we keep some handy in a shaker) and bake in a 375 oven for about 8 minutes (turning half-way through) until browned and crisp.

sweet tortilla crisps
photo before baking

I also used more of the watermelon and feta for my salad again.  And there was the rest of the broccoli which I roasted in the oven with olive oil and rosemary salt.

Let’s get to one of my addictions…rosemary salt.  This perks up everything – roasted veggies, potatoes, meats, dressings, etc.  We get it at the farmer’s market or order it online at Eatwell Farms.  I realize that while I only use a bit at each meal, this would be a cash layout of $8 for a jar.  Kind of a luxury given the hunger challenge.  You’d have to give up something one week to have this (althugh for a while).  For me it would be worth it.  Even if you couldn’t do the rosemary salt, a sea salt is so much better and smoother than traditional Morton salts, and not so salty.  A big shaker is worth the extra money, say $3.50 vs. $1.00(?) for Morton.


Snack Time

So I’ve got kids and like to graze, so this means snacks.  Snacks sometime get a bad reputation.  There’s the thought that a snack is something big on carbs and suagr, low on nutrition and processed out of a bag.  Not at our house.  I like to think of snacks as mini meals with various textures (a little creamy, a little crunchy).  They could even be left-overs.  I think it should have some carbs but also some protein to sustain energy and not give a sugar rush (which will leave you hungrier and unsatisfied).  I factored in snacks when making my hunger challenge food list.  Both for packing for my son’s lunch, when we’re on-the-go and eating at home. 


Here’s are some favorites:

pita with cheese (pita could be toasted or not)

pita with hummus (pita could be cut or not, or baked in the oven for “chips”)

organic carrot sticks and edamame with hummus

organic apple alices with sunflower butter (we like nutspreads too, but not duing the challenge) – above

smoothies – any combo of yogurt, and fresh and frozen fruit (see yesterday’s below)

fruit with yogurt dip – a simple dip of plain yogurt and lemon and squeeze of honey, syrup or agave is good with fruit.

slice of cheese and trail mix – we usually create our own trail mix from raisins, cereal, seeds and nuts (though too expensive this week to buy all thins individually)

organic apple sauce and fig bar

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

You can make just about any smoothie with some fruit and yogurt and either milk or juice.  I like to have bananas in the freezer waiting and ready (or just think ahead an hour or two).  This makes the smoothie creamy and thick and there’s no need for ice, which can be a choking hazard for little ones.

makes 2 cups

1 frozen banana

4 strawberries (about 1/3 cup), tops removed

2/3 cup organic milk

1/3 cup plain organic yogurt (can freeze too for thicker texture)

Blend all together in a blender.  Adjust thickness and consistency with milk. 

kids drinkingsmoothie


Should I Feel Full?

I find I do better throughout the day with smaller meals spread out.  Especially because with my kids in school and increased activities, I’m out and about more.  This means eating part of a lunch now (1/2 sandwich) and then the other half later (other 1/2, or soup, or veggies and dip).   This works well for the challenge too, because I don’t let myself get too hungry.  However for some reason at dinner I’ve been feeling very full.  Is it because I’m making heartier meals for dinner to make sure everyone is full?  Or is it because the one dish meal is just heavier?  Or is it that I’m really not eating enough during the day and then am overdoing at night?  I guess it’s all of the above. 

Last night’s pizza was good.  Simple wheat pizza dough (Trader Joe’s) with tomato sauce, shredded cheese and fresh basil (from the garden) with a side of roasted broccoli.  However it came on the heels of pasta the night before.  Also being that there is left-overs of both, there’s more heavy lunch items for me to eat (not wanting to waste).  Tonight I planned for Trader Joe’s bean and barley mix.  The funny thing was my son had been asking to make this before the challenge, and I hadn’t.  He’s not a big soup guy, but liked the colors and look of the variety of beans (black eyed peas, kidney, cannellini, pinto, lima).  Being that the price was under $3, and made over 6 cups I thought it would be good.  It took some planning to soak the beans overnight and then cook 1 hour.  I added some canned tomato sauce and broth and sauteed some onion and garlic and 2 of the left-over sausages (all free pantry items) and salt and pepper.  After I soaked the beans I realized my husband would be out of town and not around to eat.  So much for planning.  More for me…this is both good and bad. 

beans and barley

The kids finished the broccoli from the night before (I only cooked half to reserve the rest for a stir fry) along with the last of the pizza and some beans.  I had raw carrots and tomatoes (garden) and the beans (like a chili or stew, really).  While it was pretty good.  Again tonight, I just feel heavy.

leftover pizza

Last night I watched Top Chef (as always) and longed for the light sea scallops and salmon.  I realized I should’ve cut back on my list (why did I do three cheeses?) and factored in some fish.  I did go under budget on my shopping, so I may just have to check out the store for some budget friendly (but eco friendly) fish and see if we can do a lighter meal tomorrow night.


What’s for Breakfast?

Unlike some bloggers thru this challenge I haven’t discussed each and every meal.  Many are similiar, such as breakfast.  Here’s the breakdown:

Me – oatmeal with sliced fruit (loving the pantry “free” strawberries).  I simply cook old fashioned oats with milk and add sliced fruit a sprinkling of granola for texture and a dash of cinnamon.  This is hearty and keeps me full through morning.  I should note this is my usual and preferred breakfast, with or without a challenge.  (In fact I priced it all out when I took the challenge last year and it’s a clear winner under $1). However on Monday I didn’t even have breakfast.  This was not due to the hunger challenge, but the challenge of getting my new kindergartner to school on time.


my oatmeal
my oatmeal

Kids – some variation of plain yogurt sweetened fruit spread or just a dash of cinnamon and brown sugar, and maybe a sprinkle of granola.  Sometimes a toasted crumpet as well or instead.  Sometimes (usually my daughter) also likes cut fruit too (nectarine, apple, strawberries or combo)

Husband – bowl of cereal (usually up to 4 kinds, prechallenge) with milk if time permits midweek.  Maybe a banana.