Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end

stan blended soup

The first entry of this post is from our CalFresh Challenger, Stan. He again shows us delicious food (supplemented from his garden) he has made for this week. Hunger doesn't elude him either and he recalls the feeling from last year. The second entry is a Challenger who decided to do a week on his own. His grocery list includes many organic items and we appreciate his unique perspective. After a big meal last night I was not hungry this morning. I forced myself to eat two small flour tortillas for breakfast with my coffee and had a couple of apples for lunch.

I forgot about the danger of work meetings and went to a staff training at 1:30 that had a heaving table of snacks to tempt me. I was good and just watched others eat the food that I could not.

By 3pm I was feeling the dull headache and hunger pangs that come with not eating enough.  I remember this feeling from two years ago when I took the challenge. I can also relate to some of the other bloggers that are looking at their remaining food stores and dwindling benefits and wondering if it will last through tomorrow.

It’s like some sort of natural rationing mechanism kicks in and you ask yourself do I really want to eat that right now or save it for later?

Reflecting on the week, my wife and I were discussing how much of an impact our three community garden beds made on our experience. Without it we would have had much less to work with – Tomatoes, peppers, onions, raspberries, gooseberries…I have not purchased an onion since April. I have 19 pints of roasted tomato sauce in the pantry I canned in July and August (we use it for pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, bruschetta, etc). I estimate the same amount of produce consumed this week from the garden would have cost me at least another $20.

Eating your mistakes.

Last night I started a no knead ciabatta dough and put it in the oven with the light on to rise for 24 hours. The recipe said let it rise for 18 hours, then turn it out on the pan and let it rise for another 2 , then bake.

I don’t know if it was because I chose to bake a loaf of bread on the hottest day in recent history, or if I let the dough rise too long. In any case, when I got home today the dough looked more like batter than bread dough.

Knowing we had limited resources and no bread, I went ahead and put the wet dough in the oven.

I am told in Italian, Ciabatta means “carpet slipper”. What came out of my oven was more like a salty sock.

 Oh well. My wife said the crust made a good spoon for the soup, and my Chihuahua Chico (my sous chef) liked the bread so it was not a total loss.

Tonight we had butternut squash soup with really tough Ciabatta bread.

Tomorrow – to the garden to get beds ready for fall planting and clean up the leftovers for the week.

-Stan of North County Community Services



Before starting this little journey I recruited my wife to go along with it. We have professional jobs that involve lots of food and drink-related events. Also, she does most of our shopping and cooking (in her “spare time”–yes I am aware of my own good fortune) so her buy-in was pretty important. Here’s a photo of the initial handywork she managed to pull together. We had $58.80 to work with because we are doing this for 6 days. We had food at home so we itemized that down to the penny, planned to use $36.02 worth of that food and that left us with $22.78 to spend–wife pulled it off at $19.90.

The roughly $3.00 we saved will be socked away for either a food “emergency” or some type of splurge on our last day. Oops, just realized we didn’t account for coffee/milk/sugar. Dang. There goes the $3 savings. Our menu for the week is reasonably tasty, if a bit monotonous. We’ve got breakfast burritos, split pea soup (wife adds ham and celery) for lunch–for the next four days–and meatloaf for dinner today, tomorrow and Tuesday. If you click on the split pea recipe you’ll see that it is both incredibly cheap to make and very, very good for you. We like the taste, so that’s a plus. I am trying to dispell the notion that you can only eat over-processed crap if you are on food stamps (read this). It’s an oft-repeated refrain, but it appears not to be entirely true. Side note: We planned to have a third person join us for breakfast, but he didn’t make it and the impact of a house guest on our food budget was significant. So that’s something to keep in mind. Oh, we itemized our breakfast burritos and coffee, here’s a breakdown:

Bacon (no nitrates, preservatives Coleman Natural Hickory Smoked–I do not know if we could use foodstamps for Linkery bacon, but will check) $5 – used 1/3: $1.63

Eggs (Organic Omega-3 cage-free Sprouts brand–you can take the yuppie/buppie out of the…whatever) $4.50 – used 4 eggs: $1.50

Potato (regular old potato, nothing special) 2 for $1 – used 1/2: .25 cents

Avocado (nothing fancy here) .77 cents used 1/2: .38 cents

Uncooked tortillas $2.49/dozen used 4: .83 cents

Cilantro .50 cents/bunch used 1/4: .12 cents

Butter (Organic Valley, organic grassfed pastured butter–yup, super fancy) $4 used 1/16: .25 cents

Coffee (Starbucks–yes, that Starbucks–French Roast Extra Bold*) $25 40 oz, used 2 oz: $1.25

Half & Half (Organic) $2, used 1/4: .50 cents

Grand Total per person for two breakfast burritos and two large cups of coffee: $3.35

This is a useful time for two observations. First, we got the Starbucks coffee at CostCo, which has a $55 annual fee. Please feel free to contact them here to encourage them to offer free memberships to CalFresh recipients. This isn’t a “reward” for needing help, it’s a useful way to make taxpayer dollars stretch farther and help people get on their feet. Second, I live in San Diego and today is the first Chargers home game. I have no idea if it is blacked out, but the thought of watching football with no local craft beer or unhealthy junk food is a little daunting. It’s not on the budget, so it’s the first legitimate casualty of my week on $4.90/day.

I don’t have any illusions that attempting to live for 6 days the way that some people live all the time is some great accomplishment nor that it’s a true portrait of that life. What I hope this week turns out to be is an opportunity to raise awareness that, in my opinion, providing people basic levels of nutrition isn’t worthy of a tacky attempted insult. I also want to share some recipes and tricks so that maybe someone living on a tight budget picks up a new recipe–or shares their food stories so I can learn something. Life is hard, at least for many, and shaming people for needing help is disgraceful. We can encourage hard work and frugality and education and sacrifice without also putting people down for needing help.

-CalFresh Challenger starting his week