By Food Bank Board Member Jill Steele: I decided to take the Hunger Challenge and see what it is like to eat on $4.50 per day. By taking the Hunger Challenge we are committing to eat all of our meals this week from a limited food budget comparable to that of a SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) recipient. We are a family of five, so our total weekly budget is $112.50. This is a pretty big reduction from what we normally spend on food. I usually spend between $150-200/week on groceries, plus we eat out once or twice for dinner and my husband and I often eat out for lunch and grab coffee for a total of about $300/week on food.
When we decided to do this challenge we sat down with our two older children to explain what we were doing this week and why. We explained that there are many people in America (1 in 6) that don’t know where their next meal is going to come from and that many of those people are children (1 in 4 people receiving emergency food are children). By eating on a SNAP budget and blogging about it, we hope to raise awareness for people that may not know where their next meal is coming from. We also thought that it would be good for them to learn more about budgeting and healthy eating.
I am a working mom with three kids, so I often rely on prepared foods and/or take out to manage our busy schedules. Knowing that I won’t be able to do that this week, I spent almost the entire day (Sunday), planning what we are going to eat, grocery shopping, and preparing food for the week. I started out the day planning what we would eat for the entire week (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks) and estimating whether or not we could get it all within our SNAP budget. I didn’t clip coupons, but did leverage the Safeway Just For U app which helped me save over 30% on my grocery bill which ended up costing $84.00. We have a couple of items already in our house (milk, pears, sunbutter, rice, popcorn, spices) that we will use for our meals this week, so I wanted to try and be under the $112.50 budget. I realized that the only way to make this budget work, was to not rely on pre-packaged convenience foods and to make more of our meals/snacks from scratch. I then spent about three hours preparing food including home-made granola, granola bars, and banana chocolate chip muffins. All of these foods will save us a significant amount of money, but did “cost” me a lot of time.
I am hoping that this will be a good learning experience for the entire family and will help to raise awareness for those who are food insecure and don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
Day 2: Stretching your food
Our meal for dinner last night was stir-fried pork and green beans. This is a pretty regular meal in our house, but to stretch it into two meals (dinner and next day’s lunch) I did two things: 1) added more green beans, and 2) served it with more rice.
Knowing that we wanted to use this meal for lunch the next day, I made sure we didn’t eat more than half for dinner. Because of that I ate less than I normally would – assuming I would be fine given a late afternoon snack I had. This morning I woke up before my alarm went off feeling hungry. This was something I normally don’t feel and I realized it was probably due to controlling how much I ate last night to ensure we had enough for lunch today.
This feeling of hunger gave me a moment to reflect on what we are doing with the Hunger Challenge and to remember the 149,000 people that the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano serves each month.
It’s not too late to join the Hunger Challenge. To learn more and sign up, visit www.foodbankccs.org/hungerchallenge.