I'm taking the SFM Food Bank Hunger Challenge for 5 days to help spread awareness about food insecurity during Hunger Action Month. By eating on $4.50 a day (value of food stamp benefits) plus the items in the pantry box list from the food bank, I am experiencing what it's like for someone who barely has enough to eat. I love food and do not take it for granted, but it's been a long time since I had to budget or ration my food. I come from a low income family and there were times when we did not have a lot to eat and used food stamps. In grade school we were often on the school lunch program, and even the school breakfast program, so I'm not just doing this for kicks. It's a serious issue.
My goal is to see if there is a way to eat healthy, nutritious and possibly organic meals on a tight budget and learn what I can along the way. I just tried to eat closely to the way I am used to eating which I found to be optimal for me, which is mostly vegetables and fat with some meat, no added sugar and very little carbs. I already base my diet around a produce box delivery from my CSA that I can customize. I had to do some research at different grocery stores and hunt down the deals. Safeway and Trader Joe's seemed to provide the most affordable options.
With my $22.50 budget I bought a 4lb chicken (Rocky), 1 cabbage (organic), 1 yogurt (organic), some peanut butter (organic valencia peanuts), butter (kerrygold) and a box of tea. The pantry box for an individual comes with onions, potatoes, carrots, oranges, apples, nectarines, strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, white rice and 6 eggs. Let's say I'm on a low glycemic diet to manage diabetes, then half of this box is not good for me to eat unless I'm able to balance out the glycemic load with ample proteins and fats. So I will just keep the onions, carrots, strawberries, eggs and a little watermelon or cantaloupe. It would be nice to be able switch out the potatoes for sweet potatoes. Some of the items were seasonally available in my Farm Fresh to You CSA box, except the strawberries. They were also out of those delicious Yellow Doll watermelons.
I think the pantry box can be customized for special diets. In that case, I would swap out the fruit sugars for some celery, parsley, zucchini and leafy greens! I usually eat about 6 cups a day of vegetables, so it is really tough not to. With a tight budget, you don't get a lot of variety. I just planned to eat the same thing every day. Here is what I am eating:
Hot buttered tea. Yes, butter is my strategy to not get so hungry! I'm used to drinking coffee with butter and coconut oil, so this is the low-budget version.
Butter .20 cents a tablespoon / Tea 4 cents
3 cups max
Breakfast: This is intended to be a post-workout breakfast of plain yogurt and fruit. This is what I would normally eat after my workout, except I would add some protein powder. Sometimes I will have a veggie omelet. I skipped the first day and had an egg instead, which makes the portions larger for the other days.
.82 cents a serving and the strawberries came in the pantry box
Gotta have a snack! I can't be expected to do the Warrior Diet. Have a carrot and some peanut butter. This is what I would normally eat except celery instead and almond butter or nuts. I usually have 2 snacks but can't afford to with this plan.
12 cents a tablespoon, carrot from the pantry box.
4 T max per day, and I am going to eat it!
Butter .20 cents a tablespoon, egg from the pantry box. The chicken is accounted for in dinner.
Dinner: 4oz Roasted Chicken, Cabbage (about 1 1/2 - 2 cups) and onions sauteed in chicken fat and drippings (rendered from the cooking). This is what I would normally have for dinner, except maybe fish or grass-fed beef and more variety in the vegetables. I managed to get seven 4oz servings from a 4lb chicken, plus all the soup! I have some extra to add to my soup for lunch.
Chicken 1.13 / Cabbage .52 cents, onions from the pantry box
Dessert: Watermelon popsicles or cantaloupe wedge. I try to limit my sugar and fruit carbs to 1/2 to 1/4 c servings. I usually have some cottage cheese with or without fruit or coconut cream as a dessert, depending on what I need that day.
Total: $3.87 a day
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