Lessons learned - and food craved - during the SNAP Hunger Challenge

I know I should be reflecting on hunger and poverty in my blog, but on day six of the SNAP Hunger Challenge, I can't help but think what I want to make when my $30 per week budget isn't an issue. I've spent more of my time than usual this week thinking about food, so I can't resist a list.

I want to make or buy:

  • cookies. Any kind of cookies. They're an expense I couldn't justify this week, but I've been itching to bake some. Any suggestions of what I should try?

  • meat. (As I mentioned before, I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't eat a lot of meat.) There have been times this week, especially when it's approaching noon, that I would have killed for a burger and fries. Or a juicy pork chop. Maybe even a grilled steak. If you know me well, you understand how strange this is.

  • fish. Individually frozen salmon fillets are an easy and healthy go-to lunch for me, but they're not as inexpensive or filling as the bean dishes I've been eating this week. Doesn't a lemony salmon fillet with a side of brown rice and veggies sound good?

  • fruit. For the most part, I've stayed away from it because I know its sweetness can spike my blood sugar and then leave me crashing. And again, it's not as inexpensive as the beans I've been eating. But don't some grapes sound good? Or a banana? (These items usually aren't too expensive, so I guess I could buy some to eat before the challenge ends.) I've especially been craving what I can't have, like honeycrisp apples. I bought three earlier this season and they cost more than a whole day's food budget.

  • coffee. My mom pointed out that it's not expensive to make coffee in your home. But I skipped it this week, partly because the decaf I drink is more expensive than regular, and I wanted to make sure it wasn't the item sending me over-budget.

  • soy milk. Again, I've been relying on water because it's less expensive. But I'm looking forward to more variety.

 However, I've learned some valuable things this week. For example:

  • TVP may become more of a staple in my kitchen. It's not bad, and can be an inexpensive meal if I'm looking for a meat-free dish.

  • I've eaten some sugary items this week because they've been free. I love sugar more than I should, but in the past couple of days, I've been more acutely aware of the crash in blood sugar after I consume these items. It never seemed like an issue before. If I got really hungry, I'd go buy a snack from the wellness choices in our break room. Now I realize that if I make a healthier choice to begin with, the second snack won't be necessary.

  • cooking up low-sodium beans up is easy with a slow cooker and a little planning. I've learned to soak them the day before and throw them in to cook overnight. They're cheaper and healthier than canned beans, and generate less waste (although I recycle) as well. Plus, you can cook up a big batch of them, which may assist me in eating more of them and making healthier food choices.

  • a high-protein, high-fiber breakfast will give me a great start to a productive day. The day I made black bean burgers for breakfast, I felt pretty good. I had steady energy from my 5:30 a.m. spin class until I arrived home at 9:30 that evening (I had a two-hour break in there somewhere, though.) I imagine that I'll want to take at least a little break from the beans, but I'll keep their high-energy punch in mind on days I know will be busy.

If you're doing the challenge, what's on your list of things to enjoy next week? Or what have you learned while participating?

 

Photo is from this website, which contains a peanut-butter chocolate cookie recipe I may be trying soon.

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cys wrote on September 24, 2010 at 2:09 pm

In our family, most of cooking is done by my wife so I can not give your much advice. She is a scientist working for CDC so I assume she know how to eat healthy. :) She has a very strict policy that no soda or sweat drink in our home. The only drink we can have is water, organic milk and maybe organic soil milk. The only exception is Gatorade, and it is only allowed when I am doing distance running. For kids, no more than one candy or cookie per day. Actually for the most of days they don't have any of these because my wife does not stock them. And of course when their grandparents come these policies are all gone as my wife's authority got overridden. :) None of our kids addicts to sweat stuff and none of them have cavity. My wife insists that this is the result of her policy. Fresh vegetable every lunch and dinner (kids do not like this). We usually don't eat them as salad, instead, boil them slightly with a little bit of vegetable oil, and some seasoning. I think this is better than some high-fat salad dressing. We have poultry, fish, egg, and pork from time to time, beef is not common.
I think this country somehow got spoiled by abundance of food as we probably consume more calories per capital than most of the world. It is kinda of ironical that we have to fight obesity and hunger at the same time. I lived in China when I was young. At that time, wasting food was considered as a morality issue. My mom always taught me that even leaving just one grain of rice in my plate was considered immoral. Today nobody gives a damn when kids throw half of their plates into trash can.

virgil g wrote on September 27, 2010 at 12:09 pm

If you are looking to save, and would like make a habit of it (if you have the freezer space), a good way to do it, is to go to the store and get meat/poultry on the "sell by" date. Prices are usually drastically reduced. Any beef might be slightly brown, but it's still good if you freeze it or cook it immediately. We recently got boneless chicken breasts (enough to last a week it seemed) for around $2 at Meijer on a thursday.

Meg Dickinson wrote on September 28, 2010 at 8:09 am
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That's a great idea. I've heard of people doing that but have never really considered it. One of my favorite cuts is pork loin, which goes on sale occasionally for prices like $1.59 a pound. I cut it in half and freeze it and it makes several delicious meals.