As of today, the Hunger Challenge has drawn to a close in our household, much to everyone’s relief. We closed out the week with a large pot of slow-cooked vegetarian chili, which was tasty, but it pretty much proved that everyone is tired of meals that are pumped up with copious amounts of tomatoes, carrots, celery, and onions. In other words, we’re ready to move on.
So what did we learn? First, it’s hard to stick to a budget as restrictive as this one. For instance, it’s nice to have all varieties of fruit in the house, but fresh fruit can get expensive, so we pretty much stuck with two different fruits for the week. That can get awfully monotonous. And it would have been nice to mix things up with lots of different snacks to fill the space between the meals, but we basically just budgeted for a box of Triscuits and hoped for the best.
Second, we learned that it’s hard to recreate life on a food stamp budget if you’re not truly experiencing it for real. We took advantage of quite a few appliances (slow cooker, for one) that families in need might not have. And time can be a scarcity, too, if you’re a working family, so even though we took the time to roast a whole chicken and then cook down the bones for soup, not all families would have that luxury.
Third, sticking with this budget made us think about food a lot. As in, almost all the time. Everything became a little calculation: If I snack on this beef stew now, will there be enough left to make enchiladas tomorrow? Should I use this last carrot to add flavor to the soup, or save it for the kids’ lunches? And once you start thinking about food, you want it more and more.
I have tremendous respect for those families who are struggling to survive on food stamps and who make it through week after week, month after month, trying to provide the most healthful meals they can on a very limited budget. If nothing else comes out of this week, I hope just one person will think a little more about those families who are struggling and maybe find a way to give back. (By the way, how ironic that the news this week shows the U.S. poverty rate at its highest ever – nearly 1 in 6 are living in poverty.)
Looking for some some ideas on how you can help? Visit Feeding America to find the food bank closest to you. Also – especially if you are in the Bay Area – visit the San Francisco Food Bank’s page to learn more about the Hunger Challenge and what you can do to help.
And if your family is eating well tonight, this week, and for the foreseeable future – be grateful and count your blessings.