Day one of The Hunger Challenge is over, and I have to say I'm glad. It wasn't easy. In fact, I made it quite difficult for myself.
For a start, I failed to plan accordingly. I did this somewhat intentionally, after seeing that the other Hunger Challenge participants had, intelligently, pooled their $4.46-a-day food budget and bought a week's worth of groceries.
I did not do this.
Instead, I tried to take a meal-by-meal approach. This is, after all, how I usually eat. Food needs to be available on-demand sometimes, especially on busy Mondays. And I happen to be one of those people who gets hungry suddenly, and hard. I'm grouchy and useless, without warning.
But convenience costs. When lunchtime came and passed, I couldn't grab a quick salad from a cafe. Instead, I drove hungrily to Concord Produce in the hope of finding a pile of fruit and vegetables to fill my empty plate. Yet, it was difficult to envision a meal out of all the greenery, especially as I was searching for the cheapest ingredients I could find — and I was hungry, of course. Despite stocking up on cucumbers, lettuce, yams, mushrooms and tuna, I still couldn't figure out what I was going to concoct, so I ended up stopping at another store on the way home and buying eggs, beansprouts and tofu. I was lost.
By the time I got back to my kitchen, I was cranky and drained. The last thing I wanted to do was cook.
Nevertheless, some half-an-hour later, I ended up with was a bowl of what I have named, "The One-Stop Shop" — romaine lettuce, cucumber, a small yam, soy bean sprouts, mushrooms and tuna. It was an odd ensemble. I crammed it all together, and to my surprise, it was strangely delicious.
However, I was hungry again within a couple of hours. And I hadn't budgeted for snack food. I ate an orange, drank a lot of water, and got a headache. In the evening, after my husband left to go get himself a burrito from a local taqueria, I started work on a vegetable barley soup. At 64 cents a portion — it was a dream come true. The recipe follows below.
Vegetable Barley Soup (Serves Four)
1 and 1/2 cups of raw barley
4 carrots, chopped
1/2 a head of cabbage, diced
1 can of diced tomatoes
Pepper, garlic, rosemary and cilantro to taste
1 bouillon cube
- Bring four cups of water to a boil
- Add barley and reduce heat to a simmer
- Add garlic, pepper, rosemary and cilantro to taste
- Cook for 20 minutes
- Add cabbage and carrots
- Cook for 10 minutes
- Add bouillon cube and diced tomatoes
- Simmer for 5 minutes, and stir
The conclusion? I spent $4.02 and invented a dish, the house smells tauntingly like carne asada, and I still have a headache. But tomorrow looks a little brighter — with soup on hand for emergencies.
To follow along with my experience of The Hunger Challenge, read:
Do you have a recipe or advice to share for eating on a budget? Let me know in the comments.