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The Hunger Challenge: Convenience Costs, Plan Ahead

The first day of The Hunger Challenge took time and effort — including three grocery stores and an invented recipe.

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
  • Serve

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:

Monday: 
Tuesday: 
Wednesday: 

Do you have a recipe or advice to share for eating on a budget? Let me know in the comments.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Chris Kapsalis June 13, 2012 at 07:51 AM
I think whatever the percent is of abuse of the system is, or faking it, needs to be weededout to leave more money for the truly needy. This would cut way downon resentment by some. But how to do it? I know a lot of peopel feel they work very hard, with pain, stress, who knows, and also have the burden of pulling someone elses wieght, feeding them etc. Especially durign an extra stressfull hard day of work can leed to bitterness and assuming too much. I know many need the help, and any of us could need help at any time, who knows what life can throw at us, but until we find out fruads and cut them off, people will give less and less money for those who deserve it.
Anne Mobley June 13, 2012 at 04:18 PM
I remember very well how hard it was to feed a family of four when the ex lost his job and we had no benefits back in 1972 and the kids were under 3. I feel for those today because everything costs more. Many people are in this situation with the loss of jobs, house payments for a llittle home nearing the amount per month you would pay for a Blackhawk home due to people being upside down in their loans, and other factors such as gas prices, food prices, utility payments, as well as personal catastrophies. Those people are our hard working Americans. Stop giving money to countries who hate us and help our own Americans for a change. Even people who worked all their lives can't even retire on what they accumulated on social security. Help our people not foreigners or those here illegally. I, just like many of us, don't want to support those who are ablebodied living the life of generational welfare. But what "mama" is going through is heartbreaking and I, for one, feel her pain. I hope she can get some SS or other benefits for her elder parents which would help. Seems like social services inform foreigners on what America can do for them because they seem to know ALL the loopholes natural born citizens are not even aware of. Ok, I am off my soapbox for now.; Whew!!
"The Black Panther of Poetry" June 13, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Mama, people are scared little cowards!!! They only get tough with the 'little guy" because they are too chicken sh-- to take on the big guy. Jason and Mark Heffel are prime examples of it. Why aren't they out there screaming at the republican party and george w. bush for putting us in this mess. Why aren't they out there protesting the one percent that controls 99 percent of the wealth. Why aren't they out there criticizing the banks that got the stimulus money from President Obama but refuse to give back in the forms of loans. I'll tell you why, its' because they are bullies and bullies are just scared little men on the inside!!! Just like the Wizard of Oz when Toto pulled back the curtain to reveal that the All powerful and scary Wizard was just a little old feeble man. I now give you the same advice, "Pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain"!!! They lack courage. God Bless You Mama!!! Hang in there and you are not alone!!!
"The Black Panther of Poetry" June 13, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Mama, people are scared little cowards!!! They only get tough with the 'little guy" because they are too chicken sh-- to take on the big guy. Jason and Mark Heffel are prime examples of it. Why aren't they out there screaming at the republican party and george w. bush for putting us in this mess. Why aren't they out there protesting the one percent that controls 99 percent of the wealth. Why aren't they out there criticizing the banks that got the stimulus money from President Obama but refuse to give back in the forms of loans. I'll tell you why, its' because they are bullies and bullies are just scared little men on the inside!!! Just like the Wizard of Oz when Toto pulled back the curtain to reveal that the All powerful and scary Wizard was just a little old feeble man. I now give you the same advice, "Pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain"!!! They lack courage. God Bless You Mama!!! Hang in there and you are not alone!!!
Mark Heffel June 13, 2012 at 06:28 PM
I love the way Bobby just spews out all of the Liberal talking points w/o any facts what so ever. How can you honestly sit there and believe what you say and blame all the nations ills on Gearge Bush. Its as if all the Libs have Terets syndrome "its Bush's fault". I am a conservative and did not like Bush either either, spent to much just like the Marxist in charge now. The truth of the matter is that Liberalism is a lie and liberalism creates misery by trying to create a society of equals, dude you need to read your history! I want people to be self sufficient and the fact that more poeple are on food stamps is just wrong and does not have to be that way. Mama, I want you to contact me with your resume as I am sure you have skills and I will help you get back on track. Unlike like our boy Bobby who only wants to blame everbody else for what he doesnt have and or redistribute in the name of "fairness" I will actually step up and put my money where my mouth is. Mama, we are the ones who have your back not government and misplaced idelology. You let me know if you are interested and I will get you my contact infromation. God Bless you.
Mark Heffel June 13, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Mama - Sounds good. You let me know what you feel comfortable with in terms of communication. Dont think it is wise to put your email over a public forum.
"The Black Panther of Poetry" June 13, 2012 at 07:09 PM
I agree, it's not w. bush fault.....it's the fools that put him in office!!! Stupid is how Stupid vote!! Thank God for Stupidity for it has its’ place Thank God it transcends all Genders, Religions and Race Thank God for Stupidity The step-child of Humanity No brains required just loyalty and vanity If stupidity was a Country at some point we’d all be citizens eager and valiant soldiers fighting for its’ Soverienity Hell I’ve pledge allegiance to its’ flag on many occassions I’ve fought in its’ wars with blind faith and pursuasion So in November when you go out of your house and into the voting booth with little or no wisdom,no knowledge No Ruth Allow me to tell you when you got like that and why you did It was the day you voted the Republicans' in office and helped create this Economic Tsunami Now you know STUPID!!!
Mark Heffel June 13, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Hey Bobby - You know what I dont want to argue with you as I bet you are good guy, as am I. Lets leave it a that okay? God Bless.
"The Black Panther of Poetry" June 13, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Thats' fine and dandy Mark but I will always be here to voice my objection to politicians, news agencies, law enforcement and just plain ole regular people who find it necessary to pick on 'the little guy"!!! Those people in my opinion are cowards and don't have the courage to take on the bigger guy in the bigger picture. The little guy is an easier target because it doesn't require any effort and quite frankly we humans like easy road, it's human nature. There are a lot of examples in our society for such selective disdain. Hell, what about corporate welfare. No one dares take on that issue. What about the Commerce Secretary John Bryson who recently crashed his car twice and drove away from the scene of an accident. I can assure you two things will come of this: He will get a slap on the risk or get totally let off. "Speaking on the American Family Association radio show, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) doubted that Commerce Secretary John Bryson actually suffered a seizure when he was in a car accident last weekend. Rep. Gohmert, who is not a doctor, offered his unprofessional diagnosis and called Secretary Bryson “not honorable, honest.” But despite all logic and reasoning pointing to him not having a seizure and crashing into two cars and leaving a scene of an accident. He will probably escape punishment for the simple reason and most important reason to me. Is that he is big and powerful and people would rather not confront big and powerful people.
Renae Wilber June 14, 2012 at 05:50 AM
Mama, I empathize witih you. I adopted both of my daughters when they were babies, spent my life working hard, paying taxes, and yes, planning for a family. Ironically, I took both children "out" of the system, but after being hit unexpectedly with the loss of a husband and the loss of our savings - and I had left my job previously to stay home with the kids...I had nothing. I cashed in cans to buy food and made a lot of macaroni in those days. Until I lost it all, in the blink of an eye, I had no idea how quickly ANYBODY can have the rug pulled out from under them. Yes, even those who claim that you should just "get a job." Until I was hit square in the face with a reality that was the antithesis of everything I ever knew, I was just as ignorant as those that so readily spout their opinions out here and are so quick to judge. They find comfort in thinking they are exempt. I hope they never have to learn the hard way that life doesn't discriminate and that no one is exempt; not even those of us who plan for a rainy day. (I had over a year of savings prior to losing it all). I feel your pain and I am thankful that my life is richer for the struggles. I am wishing you the best. Keep sharing!!!
Renae Wilber June 14, 2012 at 05:53 AM
@Jason - I wonder how many paychecks away you are from homelessness yourself. My guess is that you are in denial.
Renae Wilber June 14, 2012 at 05:58 AM
....and my guess is that you have never had to truly "adapt and persevere" or you would know that people die of hunger while "adapting and persevering." Shame on you for your smug and callous attitude.
Cindy June 15, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Jason needs a taste of his own meds. First we need to get rid of the "Greed" thinking that they are getting something for free while I have to work. True there are folks out there like that..but...most folks that are facing these challenges do not have the support of family during their younger years, help paying for college, help getting started...I bet many of you wagging your finger at these folks have. Compassion goes a long way...sometimes that is all it takes to give someone the extra boost to try one more time to get up and put themselves out there. As Ranae said...people are dying while adapting and persevering....lets show some compassion.
Rachel June 15, 2012 at 07:03 PM
There is only about 1% fraud with the new SNAP/EBT system which is why they don't call it Food Stamps any more. Most recipients DO use it to lift themselves out of poverty http://www.fns.usda.gov/ORA/menu/Published/SNAP/FILES/Other/BuildingHealthyAmerica.pdf.
Rachel June 15, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Very true. And how can we get our country back on its feet if we don't have healthy citizens and growing children who make up 50% of SNAP recipients. It's why Food Stamps were created. http://www.fns.usda.gov/ORA/menu/Published/SNAP/FILES/Other/BuildingHealthyAmerica.pdf
Chris Kapsalis June 15, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Anne.. Some countries, even that like us, we give tons of money to.This is one small country, and how much we have given them over the last 60 years,( $134,791,507,200) even though they have one of the worlds highest per capita income levels and lowest populations of any country? Virtually no homelessness. WHY? When Americans are hungry? Homeless? Nothing against this country, but what about our country? Geeeze.
Snafuli Patchouli June 16, 2012 at 01:40 AM
http://www.markscandrette.com/spiritual-practices/reimagine/farm-girl-reflects-on-abundance/ This is a girl who made tens of trips to the outside garbage when a group dinner because she knew she could line her mop bucket with plastic grocery sacks, instead of buying them or an extra garbage can. Lisa was composting before it was hip. Well, penny by penny. These folks did right by their money, now it does right by them. It's an intelligence very foreign to even us most intelligent. In the Depression people hunkered down, got more invented, in every way, and got more out of life. Wow, maybe the answer to life is inside of ourselves, not in a TV or constanly lending opinions on every Patch article, especially this one, when we've lived a completely indulgent life (I digress). BTW, here's the antithesis of farm girl abundance: http://www.techspot.com/news/47031-icann-selling-custom-top-level-domains-for-185000.html
Renae Wilber June 16, 2012 at 02:25 AM
It is very true that not everyone knows how to be resourceful, especially in difficult times, however, Lisa mentions they live on one income. Not everyone has a spouse that brings home the paycheck so they can spend their days tending to the vegetable garden and rearing the children. Not everyone has grandparents around to watch the children. When you take a single parent who works 40 hours a week or more, throw in a few hungry children, laundry, homework, housecleaning, bill paying, and exhaustion and throw in lack of support from any nearby family - there is absolutely no time left to tend to countless hours composting, growing vegetables, making mops out of grocery sacks. I do remember raising my children however, and enjoying the music in the park, museums, swimming, hiking the hills...all the free things that made our time together quality. None of those hours involved a television set or even a computer. Patch article opinions? Next to a good book, there is nothing quite as stimulating as learning from the differing opinions of one another, whether we agree or don't disagree...for many of us, this is called our "down time."
Mary Frances Poh June 16, 2012 at 06:42 AM
Please remember that we have the Benicia Community Action Council here in Benicia. They are our local food pantry. On Monday's they get in fresh fruits and veggies and pastries from the Food Bank. Additionally people in the community bring in the extras from their garden to the CAC on Mondays. You do have to register for their services and you do have to prove a need but the help is here and has been for over 45 years. Address: 480 Military East and phone number 745-0900. There is no reason for anyone to go hungry in Benicia.
Snafuli Patchouli June 16, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Reinforcing ignorance through "group think" that does not take in new academic information is dangerous. PARTICULARLY when people are using Patch (which I assumed is an information agency) just to get attention or invent a false front for the world or cover for some other really bad actions. Then, we are just dumbing down ourselves as if this were the video game of texting. I merely was pointing out something inspirational for all of us living in these times, some people never lost the pioneer approach to frugality and self reliance (such as Lisa Scandrette who made the best use out of every single thing in their tiny flat--they saved alot of money by living very very cheaply in San Francisco before they bought a run down crack house at the bottom of the market and now rent the bottom flat. Three full grown teens and two adults live in about 800 sq feet and the value of their house has quadrupled in 13 years.) Youre right, though, energy is not destroyed only transferred so like dieting, one must have the time to sacrifice to switch from convenient to healthy, one must have time to have the energy, too. Maybe we need a new mantra: "Raise chickens, not children!". LOL. Single mothering, no thanks!
Cindy June 16, 2012 at 04:19 PM
I totally disagree with Snafuli on "group thinking" we need more of this healthy communication. We need more community communication as it helps people of all opinions grow and hear from folks from various backgrounds. There is not going to be one way to solve all our ills it will take the ideas and work of many. What an awesome program Benicia has....others sharing their fresh produce from their garden with those in need! Now that is a community coming together for the good of all.
Renae Wilber June 16, 2012 at 05:45 PM
I absolutely love Emily's blog here and hope she will continue to write more about this as it is bringing much awareness. Mary Frances, I bet so many people don't know about Benicia's food pantry. What a great resource to share here! Also, 211 is an information resource for Contra Costa County that can provide many resources to those in need who may not be aware of all the assistance there is out there. Just call 211 - ran by the Contra Costa Crisis Center. Cindy you are absolutely right about needing more of this healthy communication. Mama was courageous to put her story out there and I believe in doing so there are many people learning from her story. Go mama! We are here for you and all those who you represent. I would like to reiterate that Mama's point that no one chooses poverty, and no one is exempt from the possibility of being there...or being a single parent. It can happen to anyone, in the blink of an eye.
Renae Wilber June 16, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Yes mama, I have absolute faith from your writings that you will get through this. You are a strong woman. Just to reinforce to you - I don't think any of us in our right mind have felt that any of your posts have been for people to feel sorry for you. All of your posts have been honest and informative and extremely positive in raising much needed awareness. I was guilty of living a very sheltered life until my eyes were opened...I, like many others, thought I was exempt at one time - or didn't want to believe it could happen to me...but I was not, nor is anybody. Keep posting your story and bringing awareness...this blog was after all for the purpose of bringing empathy to the readers, as I understand it. Have a wonderful weekend. :)
Rachel June 16, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Thank you all for your thoughtful comments on the Hunger Challenge. If you are in need of food assistance, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is here to help. Call 925.676.7543 or 1.800.877.3663 or visit www.foodbankccs.org
RidinLow June 16, 2012 at 11:29 PM
I agree Renae, and Mama you do your best to take care of you and yours. It is fear that makes working people so quick to judge. They are not experiencing life without much at all YET. If the actual number of people who are long term unemployed, without homes *due to foreclosure, unemployment or both, were published actual number would be 70/30 or worse. How do they do it: I wonder about families with 2 working parents in their 40's/50's, couple of kids, I'm seeing new cars, kids with Ipads, Ipods, IBooks, traveling often like there is no tomorrow. What if they suddenly lost their jobs? how is it they are untouched? luck of the draw, doubt it, timing is all. Let's all be good to each other.
Snafuli Patchouli June 17, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Yeah, my posts were not directed to single mothers who keep their children and go through that horrific stuggle. It's more people who are using that issue and hunger to grandstand here to cover for their antisocial behaviors, but I suppose you would not know who it was and so please forgive me for not making sense. This subject is very sensitive to me, and I do think that the link I shared about my friend managing money is helpful--even if she was not a single mother. I beg forgiveness. I purposely have not become a mother because I know how hard and tenous security is with it.
Renae Wilber June 17, 2012 at 02:45 AM
It's okay Snafuli, you have just as much right to voice your opinions without need for forgiveness from anyone...your link was incredibly informative and yes, there are many people who don't know how to manage their money or be resourceful with it. I think that we who have experienced the other side are sensitive to it, as living those struggles makes one aware how quickly people have an answer but how little they truly understand. There is the plausible theory of how it should be (get a job, be frugile, etc.), and then the harsh reality when one ends up struggling (cost of daycare, getting the children to daycare and getting to work when the car has been repossessed, emotional exhaustion, etc.) ...and those two truly do collide, as theory doesn't take into all the variables of the reality. That's where I think people who are struggling are misunderstood much of the time....and for those who truly have worked hard all their lives and end up struggling - there is shame. It's an awful place to be.
Renae Wilber June 17, 2012 at 02:58 AM
@RidinLow - I think many of the people that spend as if there is no end sooner or later do become a statistic. I've had eight friends (all in a two mile radius) right here in San Ramon who have lost their homes. It was very very sad, but while some of them were making exorbitant boat payments and buying new cars, my daughters thought we were "poor" because I shopped Target and Goodwill instead of Nordstrom and drove my car until it died...my daughters soon learned that (although I am not exempt) mom was still hanging on to her house, while their friends were being foreclosed upon. It was an unfortunate, but good lesson in economics. Anyone can buy anything and look as if they have money - but can you make the payments if the rug is pulled out from under...most can't. "We buy things we don't need, with money we don't have, to impress people we don't even like" - author unknown.
Sam McAdams June 22, 2012 at 12:32 AM
This is the definition of "group think": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink. It is actually in par with what you said above. ;)
Renae Wilber June 22, 2012 at 01:37 AM
It seems the "groupthink" model is on the part of those who have no ability to empathize with the reality of those who cannot feed their families (i.e. T Hart (1998) developed a concept of groupthink as “collective optimism and collective avoidance)...the collective optimism seems to be held collectively by greedy conservatives in thinking that people just need to "get a job" and they won't need assistance because somehow they will be able to feed their family on $80 - $100 per day in income when they have to pay a minimum of $50 a day in childcare...etc. etc. etc., totaling much more than what they can bring in (now that's optimistic!) and the avoidance in that we'll just look the other way and avoid the problem without wanting to help with a solution. Of course, it could "never happen to me." Now that's avoidance. Groupthink of the greedy and the ignorant. So unfortunate.

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