Hunger Challenge Day 3

When we woke up this morning, in addition to making our usual lentils for breakfast, I had another thing to prepare–our Holy Sh*t Pork Cheeks for tonight! When you’re on a budget and buying cheap cuts of meat and plan to come home hungry, the slow cooker is a girl’s best friend. It turned out to be a nasty rainy day and I was coming down with some sort of illness, so sitting at work all day remembering the deliciousness boiling away at home made me very happy.

Lunch was another Chicken Bahn Mi–I was going to branch out and use the leftover steak, but B liked these so much, and I figured we had plenty of chicken, so I tossed the rest of the ribeyes and fixed up another Chicken Sandwich. To go with it we had some leftover grilled bok choi, leftover grilled masa cakes, oranges and bananas. That was the end of the fruit, and I knew it would not due to run out of fruit–B would give up the challenge instantly, so I ran down to the farm market by my office and spent another $4.22 (Total: $52.29) to pick up four more bananas, a pound of grapes and a bag full of potatoes. Reason for potatoes? Umm, yeah, this is why I’d be bad at living on a budget. I just bought potatoes for absolutely no good reason. Yes, I’m still well within the budget, but there was simply no reason to buy them. I probably won’t use them before the end of the challenge. I just like potatoes, so I got them.

Okay, so back to dinner. In addition to the pork cheeks–which I made with roasted jalapenos instead of chipotle peppers, since I hadn’t bought those and it was easy to roast the peppers, I made a salsa of jalapenos, cucumbers, lime juice and cilantro. Aside from being horrifyingly spicy, it was delicious. After realizing I may have over done the spice there, I made a big batch of caramelized onions and garlic to cool off our tacos. Then I made my homemade tortillas.

I don’t own a tortilla press, I love making mine the way the little old ladies in the markets in Guatemala do–by slapping them back and forth in my hands. They end up a little more rusticly shaped and a little smaller, but they are way more fun to make and they taste delicious!

All in all, day 3 was another breeze, other than the end of the fruit, though I think that problem is solved. I made a casserole for tomorrow nights dinner (you’ll hear about that tomorrow), so I really only have one dinner left to go and a fair amount of food–mostly vegetables, so we’ll see how that goes. As for the $7.71 left? I could buy some meat for Friday, but it’s more likely I will put it toward a bottle of wine for that night.


13 Responses

  1. This sounds delicious! Good for you for taking part in the challenge.

  2. “All in all, day 3 was another breeze”

    I don’t know what to say about that sentence. It’s so out of line with the reality of people who are actually on food stamps. How do you think people who don’t have your knowledge are doing? People who don’t have a car, who are working 2 jobs and have kids. For them it isn’t a game. This isn’t about you being clever, you know.

  3. Absolutely! Tom, I understand what you are saying. And not to be contrite, but you should know that I do work 3 jobs and do almost all of my grocery shopping by foot–these places were all within a mile of my house, with the exception ABC, which is about 2 miles, though I run by it daily on my jog. No I don’t have kids, but that is why I have the 2 person household price range.

    I don’t consider this challenge about being clever, I consider it an exercise in meal planning to ensure that I can serve balanced, tasty and healthful meals every day on the money that someone on basic foods would have. Do I think this is in anyway realistic? No! Do I think it is that different than how I normally live my life? Not really. I was asked to participate to demonstrate how this challenge could be done without resorting to Ramen and pizza. I’m doing that. Do I think I have any idea what it is like to live under the poverty level? No! The hardest part of my week has been turning down all the free food I get on a daily basis via my various jobs and daily life. So no, it isn’t about being clever, but no, I’m not exactly enduring hardships here!

  4. The discussion between the gastrognome and tom highlights some of the problems inherent first in Hunger Action Week and second in inviting foodies to participate. First, “live on a food-stamp budget for a week” smacks to me of some of the phoney-ness of the college students who pretended to be homeless on the streets of Seattle for a week, or of the misbegotten elementary-school exercises in, “now pretend you were a slave in the South”: it’s just not the same thing if you know you can stop whenever you want, no one is making you do it, and in any case you’re done in a week. Second, there’s a tension between doing Hunger Action and feeling really deprived for a week, and doing it as a true challenge to see what creative meals you can produce on that budget. One of the Hunger Action Week posts (not the gastrognome’s) is of mango frozen yogurt, brought in within the Hunger Action budget. But is it going to persuade legislators to raise the amount of food stamps people get to point out you can have mango frozen yogurt or enough money left over at the end of the week for a bottle of wine? Or is the point to show people living on food stamps what some options might be? That confusion is not the gastrognome’s fault; it’s inherent in the project.

  5. Do you think it’s easier to do the challenge living in the ID, where cheaper food is easier to come by?

  6. Heck, yeah! I mean, having the wealth of cheap shops, restaurants, etc around certainly made it easier. One could easily drive across town, but when there is an mini-mart selling bulk spices next door to me, I don’t need to worry as much about planning ahead and what not. And I can always fall back on a Vietnamese Sandwich for $1.50 if need be!

  7. […] Hunger Challenge Day 3  from The Gastro Gnome Hunger Action Week: Day 4: Tacos! from Eric Rivera’s Cooking Blog United Way Hunger Challenge Day 2  from Favorite Freezer Foods […]

  8. It’s been so fascinating to watch the discussion in the comments (not to mention reading the different approaches to the week). I applaud your efforts, particularly because I think that you really do know how hard it is, and realize how lucky you are.

    There is a risk from this challenge that somehow “us foodies” (which is not really how I think of myself at all) somehow make it look all too easy and that somehow that having a hard time surviving at lower income levels is somehow the fault of the person in that situation. The truth of the matter is that sometimes that is in fact the case (where I grew up in South Georgia, I saw a lot of people on food stamps who could have easily gotten themselves and their families into better situations), but largely it isn’t. There are countless reasons why a person living in poverty may be stuck there despite their best efforts. Mostly, I think it comes down to a roll of the dice.

    I think that everyone participating in this challenge knows that this is a serious issue and that a week of living on a limited budget isn’t the same as truly being in that situation. And whether our approaches are the same, if we somehow make it seem easy, or even if we fail… the idea is to raise awareness of the problem with our readers and think about how we can make a difference. I think you are doing a great job of that!


  9. “so I tossed the rest of the ribeyes”?
    I wouldn’t do that challenge or not! You could use them for Friday’s night dinner or lunch…

  10. I missed that. You threw meat away. Wow. Couldn’t you have at least frozen it for another meal?

    Oh, and you couldn’t pick up a Bahn Mi for lunch – food stamps don’t cover restaurant food.

  11. Households CAN use SNAP benefits to buy:

    Foods for the household to eat, such as:
    — breads and cereals;
    — fruits and vegetables;
    — meats, fish and poultry; and
    — dairy products.
    Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.

    In some areas, restaurants can be authorized to accept SNAP benefits from qualified homeless, elderly, or disabled people in exchange for low-cost meals.

    Households CANNOT use SNAP benefits to buy:

    Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco;
    Any nonfood items, such as:

    — pet foods;
    — soaps, paper products; and
    — household supplies.
    Vitamins and medicines.

    Food that will be eaten in the store.

    Hot foods.

  12. Tom,
    Do I understand it that you can get cash back on those cards? Is it an honor system that prevents use for prepared food and such?

  13. There are two different types of assistance cards – Food and Cash. I think you can use the Cash card for food, and of course, get cash, but you can only use the Food card for food – there’s no cash back option.

    All foods are coded into categories in the store computer (sku). Deli items are tagged as something that can’t go on the Food card, like liquor and non-food items. When you buy groceries, if you have deli items, the Food card will pay for the allowed items, and the deli/liquor/nonfood items show as a balance which the user needs to pay with cash or credit card.

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