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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.

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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