Friday, September 16, 2011

San Francisco Food Bank Hunger Challenge - Day 6

I got up this morning at 5:20 for my typical Thursday morning run. I wasn't sure how I would feel, but I was pretty good after my slice of bread with peanut butter and half a banana. It held me pretty well through all 8.5 miles of my run as well, so I was pleased (I think I may have found a new pre-run snack!). When I showed up for the run, my friend Elizabeth presented me with a Gu, but I politely declined, telling her that if I were really on food stamps, I wouldn't be a member of the running club, and I probably wouldn't have friends who could give me extra Gus (which are something like $1.20 each!). She joked about "accidentally" dropping it and other funny things, but it was a great way to get the group talking about the Hunger Challenge! One of my friends said, "I can't believe you're doing this and training at the same time!" But I explained that I'm actually getting enough calories. Plenty of carbs, in fact! They're just not the calories that I'd prefer to be eating (like fresh fruits and veggies). We also talked about the poverty level in the U.S. and other similar current issues, so I was happy to see that the challenge provided food for thought.

Déjà vu?
Breakfast was oatmeal again, which was nice and filling, and since we didn't have any more nectarines, we opted to eat the two extra hard-boiled eggs. Instead of eating them at that point, though, we saved them for a mid-morning snack, which was even better, because it helped stretch the calories out a little longer.

For lunch, we went with egg salad sandwiches and some of the tomato soup that Stephen made. I also brought the leftover "pico de gallo" that I made for dinner last night because we'd already priced it out, and it was going to go to waste. It was a nice addition to the egg salad! I ate half of the soup with my sandwich and was plenty full, so I saved the rest for later. I chatted with Andrea at lunch again - they had a dinner party on a budget, and had friends bring food that stayed within the allowance as well. Sounded like a fun idea! We also got a few of our coworkers talking about the Challenge, which brought up some of the same issues that we discussed on the run this morning. Our office volunteers at the SF Food Bank a couple of times a year, so lots of our coworkers are familiar with what goes on there, but this just takes it to a whole other level.

I worked a little later than usual, but I managed to space out the rest of my snacks (some snickerdoodles, a banana, and the rest of my soup), eating the banana just before I headed home. I have to admit that as I was leaving the office I noticed that I could still taste the onions I'd eaten at lunch. I didn't have a toothbrush or toothpaste in my desk drawer (I think I must have taken it out when I was traveling somewhere), so I was really conflicted about what to do. I didn't figure that gum was part of the budget, but I finally decided that, for the sake of my fellow passengers, I would have a piece of gum. I mean, have you ever sat next to that person on the bus? The one with the really awful breath that makes you turn the other way before you can breathe in? I didn't want to be that person. I'm not considering it cheating since I did it for the sake of others. :) Who knew a piece of gum would create such an issue?!?

Probably the most vegetables we've had all week!
Stephen and I got home at about the same time, so we started cooking dinner pretty much right away. I made some buttermilk biscuits, and he took charge of the tuna patties - tuna, cornmeal, flour, onion, and a little mayo - and we reheated the rest of the tomato soup and collards. And yes, we only used one can of tuna. :) Altogether it made for a really nice meal, and we were more than satisfied with the amount and selection of food.

As I was calculating the costs of the different ingredients, I had to price out the wheat flour because that was already in the pantry. I also checked for the price of the buttermilk to see if there was a discrepancy between there and what we'd paid at Whole Foods (I was sure it had to be cheaper at Safeway). I was very surprised to find that both ingredients were cheaper at Whole Foods! The flour is what surprised me most - it's $2.99 for a 5 pound bag at Whole Foods, and the cheapest one at Safeway is $4.69!!! That's a huge difference, especially when Whole Foods is so often referred to as "Whole Paycheck"! The buttermilk was similar - $1.79 at Whole Foods and $2.19 at Safeway. These differences combined with the deals we got on produce at the Asian market in the Richmond yesterday just go to show that you really have to make sure you're getting the best deal. I know that I'll definitely be more careful about it moving forward, even when I'm not on a crazy tight budget!

Here's today's breakdown:

$0.12 = (36 raisins)
$0.24 = coffee (4 6oz servings)
$0.40 = 2 hard-boiled eggs
$0.22 = milk (1 cup) 
$0.02 = 4 tsp sugar
$0.44 = oatmeal (4 half cup servings)
$1.44 total for breakfast

$0.60 3 hard-boiled eggs
$0.40 2 large slices bread
$0.25 2 small slices bread
$0.18 2T mayo
$0.03 1T mustard
$0.82 2 servings homemade tomato soup

$0.20 1 large slice bread
$0.19 1T peanut butter
$0.08 1/2 banana
$0.44 snickerdoodles
$0.30 2 bananas
$0.10 1 carrot

$0.82 2 servings homemade tomato soup
$0.75 2 servings collard greens
$0.36 2 whole wheat biscuits
$1.00 1 can tuna
$0.12 1/2 cup cornmeal
$0.04 1/4 cup flour
$0.12 3T oil
$0.20 1 egg
$0.10 1/4 onion
$0.27 3T mayo

$8.71 total for the day
$39.81 for the week (still a little surplus!)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

San Francisco Food Bank Hunger Challenge - Day 5

Seeing a pattern here?
This morning started with another oatmeal breakfast. I'm still convinced that this is the best way to go, because I felt full a lot longer. Unfortunately, we're out of nectarines, so we didn't get any fruit this morning. We're definitely having to make some tough decisions. Since we were out of nectarines, we decided to each have an egg with breakfast, but in trying to save the $0.04 that it costs for a tablespoon of oil, we ended up with some sorta crunchy fried eggs (sorry, sweetie!). I'm just glad I didn't ruin them completely - that would have been a total waste ($0.40 is a good chunk of the budget - can't afford to lose it!). 

We packed lunches again for the day. I didn't really want bologna sandwiches again (even though S was a sweetheart and made them for us - thank you!), so I took the leftover Tuna Mac from last night along with the other half of a pear, a banana, and two snickerdoodles. Stephen took his two bologna sandwiches, a pear, and two snickerdoodles. I did a much better job of spreading things out today - I held off on the pear until after 11:00, and I didn't eat lunch until 12:30 when I'm usually eating at 12 on the dot. 

Yay for leftovers!
I spent most of my lunch break chatting with my coworker Andrea, who's also doing the Hunger Challenge. I wish I'd planned better, because the meals she's eating sound a lot healthier than the ones I've been eating. Shopping at the markets in the Mission seems to be key. The produce is a lot cheaper there, and we could have gotten a lot more fresh veggies for our money. Andrea also calculated what she had been spending on food, and she's going to donate the difference from the week to the SF Food Bank. I think it's an awesome idea! After the reading the NYT article about the poverty level in the U.S., she also decided to divide that amount of money by the Federal Minimum Wage and volunteer that number of hours at the SF Food Bank. Very cool idea, and I wish I'd come up with it (but I might just copy it!).

Yummy snacks and my trusty pink water bottle
Today was a lot better in the food rationing department. Since I ate lunch a bit later, I also managed to hold off on eating the cookies until later, having one before my 2:30 meeting and one after. I saved my banana all the way till 4:15, when I was getting ready to go home. I met Stephen on the way there, and we walked home from the bus stop together. He had a better day too, spreading his two sandwiches out over 1.5 hours, but the cookies didn't do too much to tide him over throughout the afternoon. We decided to split a peanut butter sandwich when we got home because we knew it would be a while until we'd be able to eat - I had a video conference for work, and he was going to look at an apartment. 

Only thing missing was some Tapatío!
Stephen got home just as I was putting the rice on for dinner, and he had just bought a bunch of produce at a little Asian market in the Richmond, so we did a little food prep while dinner was cooking.  He did an amazing job shopping - 5 ears of corn for $1.00 and 6 pounds of tomatoes for $0.59, among other great finds!!! I fried up some onions and bacon to add to the beans that we still had left over from Days 1 and 2, and then I chopped up some more onion and tomato to make some "pico de gallo" (wish I'd thought about cilantro before he went to the store!), which really spiced up the beans and rice. We had some corn with it too - lots of starch, but better for us than the Tuna Mac we had yesterday. :) 

After dinner, we walked up to Whole Foods to buy some more bulk oatmeal and cornmeal. On the way home, I realized I hadn't gotten the quarters I needed for laundry, so I asked Stephen if he had any. He stuck his hand in the pocket of his fleece to check, and pulled out a chocolate chip cookie! He had grabbed two of them on the way out the door, and then put one in his pocket because he wanted to eat it, but needed his hand free. He somehow forgot about it and found it an hour later on our walk home. Hilarious!

When we got home, we sat down to plan out tomorrow's meals. Let's just say we totally got into it, arguing over spreadsheets (Stephen is a whiz at Excel - I prefer pen and paper) and whether or not we could afford a second can of tuna to get some more protein. It got pretty tense for a bit, but thankfully we were able to laugh it off once we realized how silly it was. Thing is, for most of the people living on this kind of budget, there's nothing silly about it. It's serious business making sure that you're getting enough nutrition and staying within the allotted budget. After a couple of days, we're even more convinced that it would become second nature if for someone who is constantly living under strict budgetary constraints - walking into any store, you would generally know how much your typical purchases are going to cost you (except maybe those that are more variable like milk or fruit), and at a quick glance, you would know if a certain product was something you could buy. Not that it makes things any easier. I'm sure that part of this "being used to it" includes skipping complete aisles at the grocery store, not even thinking about getting that cereal your kids like, or foregoing healthy fruits and vegetables in exchange for other, more filling foods that are less expensive. The Food Bank helps solve some of these problems, but there is no reason that anyone in this country should have to face these issues on a daily basis. Now if we could just get the government to get their act together...

Here's today's breakdown:
$0.12 = (36 raisins)
$0.24 = coffee (4 6oz servings)
$0.40 = 2 eggs
$0.22 = milk (1 cup) 
$0.02 = 4 tsp sugar
$0.30 = oatmeal (2/3 cup each)
$1.30 total for breakfast

$0.62 turkey bologna (4 slices) (S)
$0.50 bread (4 slices) (S)
$0.31 cheese (1 oz) (S)
$0.02 mustard (2t) (S)
$0.66 Tuna Mac (J)
$2.11 total ($3.41 overall)

$0.25 pear (S)
$0.12 1/2 pear (J)
$0.35 banana (J)
$0.19 peanut butter
$0.25 2 slices of bread
$0.16 snickerdoodles (2 each)
$1.32 total ($4.73 overall)

$0.33 Pinto beans (1/4c dry) 
$0.23 bacon (to flavor the beans)
$0.15 Cheese (1/2 oz)
$0.40 Corn (5 ears for $1!)
$0.31 Rice (1/2 cup dry)
$0.06 tomatoes ($0.59 a pound!)
$0.05 3/4 of an onion
$0.24 Corn tortillas (2 each) 
$2.03 Total for dinner  ($6.32 overall)

$0.08 2 snickerdoodles (J)
$0.18 2 chocolate chip cookies (and some pocket fuzz) (S)

$6.58 total for the day
$30.47 for the week (beefed up the surplus again!)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

San Francisco Food Bank Hunger Challenge - Day 4

Tasted like peaches and cream!
Today's oatmeal breakfast was much more satisfying than yesterday's Cheerios. I'm glad we decided to go that route, because more than three hours later I was just getting hungry. I also really like oatmeal, so I don't mind having it on a regular basis. Granted, I'd like it better with blueberries, but I'm not going to be picky. :) It was plenty tasty with raisins and that half of a nectarine!

I finished baking the Snickerdoodles this morning, so there's an abundance of yummy cinnamony, sugary goodness sitting in the kitchen that's pretty tough to resist. Fortunately, they're only 4 cents each, so it's not a big deal.

The last of our tasty pork stew
The morning was spent working from home, taking conference calls and just trying to get things done. Stephen had to go do a volunteer project for work in the afternoon, so we shared our last two portions of pork stew and cornbread (fortunately, he had the brilliant idea to add more water to the pot last night, making for a lot more broth to soak up with the cornbread!). It was delicious, as usual! Stephen packed up his snacks for the trail (some popcorn and cookies), and headed out, while I stayed home to continue working for the afternoon (not implying at all that S wasn't working - in fact, he came back from the volunteer project and continued to answer emails long after working hours!).

I also prepared some low-budget Tuna Mac for dinner, knowing that we were both planning on running in the evening, and that we'd be too hungry to actually make dinner when we got home. There was a recipe on the box of mac and cheese ($0.75) that contained milk, cream of mushroom soup, and tuna, but I went ahead and made up my own thing. Rather than making the mac and cheese by the box directions, I cut out the margarine to save a few pennies. First, I added some extra whole wheat pasta to the pot to make our meal go further. Then I used half of the amount of margarine that was called for ($0.07) along with some flour ($0.02) and milk ($0.33) to make a very thick béchamel sauce to substitute for the cream of mushroom soup that we didn't have (and which would have cost $0.58 more than the sauce I made). I mixed that in to the mac and cheese, added a little bit more milk and the tuna, some salt and pepper, and we had a pretty tasty meal ready for dinner.

While I was preparing our dinner, I made the mistake of eating my two cookies way too soon after lunch, leaving very little for me to snack on between 1:00 and my afternoon run. We had already budgeted everything out for the rest of the day, and I knew we'd be cutting it close at the end of the day, so I had to be careful with the snacks. This is when I realized that working from home is a lot harder when you're on a budget because there's all kinds of food sitting around the house that you can't eat! I'm sure there are plenty of moms who deal with this if they're home during the day, taking care of kids, preparing food for others, etc. If I eat a little bit more than I should, we risk going over our "budget", but I can't even imagine the pressure faced by those who actually suffer from hunger. If they eat just a little bit more than their allotted amount,  it might be their child who doesn't get enough food at the next meal.

I saved some popcorn until mid-afternoon, but as we all know, a little baggie of popcorn doesn't do much more than satisfy the need for something crunchy/salty! At some point in the afternoon, I couldn't think of anything other than food, so I looked for something cheap and healthy to eat. I settled for half of a pear ($0.12), which was good for a while, but then the other half of that pear sat in the fridge and taunted me for the rest of the afternoon (I was so desperate, I actually tweeted about it!). Not to mention, there was also a huge plate of snickerdoodles sitting in the kitchen. So much for not obsessing about food!
Yummy pre-run snack!

When 5:00 finally came around, I broke out my lovely little half of a peanut butter and banana sandwich (our pre-run snack), and then ran over to Kezar Stadium. The first few miles were pretty tough, but then the sandwich caught up with me and I felt much better. I did the warmup and drills with the group, and then sent them off to do their speed work while I did another mile and a half of easy running on the grass. We all gathered for planks, and I was still feeling good, so I ran to the bus, putting me at about 9 miles for the evening (more than usual, and I had a good spring in my step at the end), but then I had to wait for the bus. I missed the 43 Masonic, so I ran up to catch the N Judah, which would take me to the 49 to get home. The N wasn't a problem - just a few minutes' wait, but when I got the 49, the bus that was supposed to come never did. I'm pretty sure the only thing that kept me sane during that whole period was Angry Birds. I also realize that if I were actually living on food stamps, it's pretty certain that I wouldn't have Angry Birds to distract me (I probably wouldn't have gone on a 9 mile run with my running club either, although there are some good programs out there for inner-city youth, so who knows). Point is, I couldn't just step into Walgreens or some other store and get a Muscle Milk ($3.29!!!) or even a banana, which is what I would have done under normal circumstances. As a running coach, I'm always reminding runners that it's really important to eat something small right after a run - this is when the muscles need to repair themselves and store energy for later. Here I had no choice but to wait.

I now realize that many of the people standing around me at the bus stop on Market and Van Ness were probably feeling the same way, except that this is their life, not just an experiment that they "get to do" for a week. Hunger is a challenge that they deal with every day. I'm pretty ashamed to admit that I was so cranky and hungry that this thought didn't even occur to me in the moment. I've gotten so used to having what I want when I want it, that in the midst of doing this Hunger Challenge for the purpose of raising awareness about those who are less fortunate, I didn't even stop to think that I've got it good. I knew I was going home to a warm home and a hot meal; that it was just a matter of time before I'd get home and eat. Only now, as I'm writing this blog has this actually occurred to me, but as the week continues, I will make it a point to keep this in the forefront of my mind.
Collards and Tuna Mac - so good!

Because of our budget, I had planned for him to eat two servings and for me to eat just one, but he was super sweet and gave me a couple extra spoonfuls of his. The collard greens he made were really tasty, and it was nice to finally have some green vegetables! We had each had a couple of snickerdoodles for dessert, and went to bed feeling full. We're pretty damn lucky.

 Here's the breakdown for the day:

$0.12 = (36 raisins)
$0.24 = coffee (4 6oz servings)
$0.40 = nectarine
$0.22 = milk (1 cup) 
$0.02 = 4 tsp sugar
$0.44 = oatmeal (4 half cup servings)
$1.44 total for breakfast

$0.58 for cornbread
$1.97 for stew (see yesterday's post for the breakdown) 
$2.51 for lunch

$0.20 for popcorn
$0.12 for half of a pear
$0.48 for snickerdoodles
$0.80 for snacks

$0.25 for two slices of whole wheat bread 
$0.19 for 2T of peanut butter
$0.35 for a banana
$0.79 for our pre-run snack

($0.75 for mac and cheese
$0.23 for 3oz whole wheat pasta
$0.66 for milk
$0.07 for margarine
$0.02 for flour
$1.00 for tuna
$2.73 for the full Tuna Mac recipe)

$2.04 for three servings of Tuna Mac
$0.75 for collard greens
$0.16 for 4 snickerdoodles
$2.95 for dinner

$8.49 total for the day
$23.89 for the week (our surplus had dwindled to just 11 cents!)

Monday, September 12, 2011

San Francisco Food Bank Hunger Challenge - Day 3

I'm not gonna lie, I was a little bit nervous about how Monday would go. I'm used to having cereal with yogurt and berries and a substantial cup of coffee before heading to work. Mid-morning snack is usually a banana and some string cheese (or something similar). Not today. Today we got Honey Nut Cheerios (the really huge box was on sale for $3.33!) and half of a banana. One cup of milk and one small but strong cup of coffee (much better than yesterday!). We each had 3 servings of Honey Nut Cheerios, which is a decent amount, but seeing as how I've still got the hunger mechanism of an Ironman triathlete, I was pretty dang hungry by mid-morning.

The banana definitely made this meal!
$0.90 Cheerios (3 servings ea.)
$0.44 milk (1c ea.)
$0.24 coffee (2 servings ea.)
$0.35 banana (1/2 ea.)

$1.93 total

I broke into my popcorn snack at about 10:30 (great idea, Stephen, and only 20 cents!), thinking that I would save some for the afternoon, but I pretty much devoured it within a few minutes. I'm not looking to trade jobs because I know I've got it pretty darn good in my cubical here, but something tells me I wouldn't be thinking about food quite so much if I were up and moving around during the day. This is probably a temporary thing, though, because normally if I'm hungry, I can just grab one of my snacks from the fridge or desk drawer, or go to one of the many nearby food establishments here in the FiDi. This has also become a bit of a bad habit because oftentimes I'll just eat because I'm bored, not because I'm actually hungry.

Not a bad little treat, but not very filling!
Stephen also made a good point - we're not exerting any kind of physical energy here at our computers. Many people who are on food stamps are working hard labor or are at least on their feet all day long, so while food might not always be on their mind, they're definitely in need to more calories because of their activity levels at work. Unfortunately, the calories that they're getting are often not of the healthy variety, they're the easy kind, which may be filling, but they're not nutritious.

By the time lunch rolled around, I was so hungry that I totally forgot to take a picture of my lunch until I'd devoured (daintily) my carrot sticks and half of my turkey bologna sandwich. I decided to save the nectarine until a little bit later so that I could stretch out my lunch for as long as possible. We did a good job of planning our lunch by packing it all up last night - I made three turkey bologna sandwiches (one for me and two for Stephen) with two slices of whole wheat bread, two pieces of bologna, 1/2oz of cheese and a tsp of mustard on each. Since Stephen got two sandwiches, I added some carrot sticks and a nectarine to my lunch.

So hungry I forgot to photograph the carrot sticks!

$0.93 turkey bologna (6 slices)
$0.75 bread (6 slices)
$0.46 cheese (1.5 oz)
$0.04 mustard (3t)
$0.10 carrot
$0.40 nectarine
$2.68 total ($4.81 overall)

This brought up a minor point of contention last night as we were preparing for today's meals - when Stephen told me he'd like two bologna sandwiches, I was like, "Esssscuse me??? Why do you get more of the budget than I do???" ($1.45 for him, $1.22 for me). Thankfully, I didn't say that out loud, because I realize the poor guy has 6 inches and 60 pounds on me, so he obviously needs to eat more than I do. I've been offering him more beans and more meat when we've shared meals because I've always expected him to eat more, but the prospect of making him a SECOND sandwich came as a bit of a shock to me.

This has to be really difficult for families that are on food stamps - kids will have to go without at times, but I'm sure the parents are the ones who more often have to skimp on their meals so their growing children get enough to eat. I know I can get pretty cranky when I'm hungry, so I'm sure this creates a lot of bad feelings amidst an already tough situation.  

By the time I left the office, I was getting pretty hungry again. I had done a fairly good job of rationing out my food for the afternoon, but I think I could have done a better job. Next time, I'll cut my sandwich in half, I think! I ate one cookie right after my carrot sticks and sandwich at about noon, then waited for about an hour and a half to eat half a nectarine. Half an hour later, I ate the other cookie, and then at about 3:40, I ate the other half of the nectarine. I still can't believe that I managed to only eat half of that thing at a time, but it was definitely a good call on my part!

After work, Stephen and I chose to walk home, which might not have been the best idea, because we were both clearly hungry and a little bit out of sorts. It did, however, give us the chance to stop at Cala Foods to pick up some mayonnaise and collard greens to finish off some of the meals we've got planned for the rest of the week. As soon as we got home, we put the stew on the stove and heated up the cornbread. The stew, like last night, was great, and the cornbread was a real treat. I made sure to serve up a few more potatoes in Stephen's bowl than in mine so he wouldn't go hungry. :) We also treated ourselves to a chocolate chip cookie.

I can't get this picture to turn, and I don't care anymore!

$0.58 for cornbread
$1.97 for stew (see yesterday's post for the breakdown)
$0.18 one cookie each
$2.73 total ($7.72 altogether)

After dinner, I also made some snickerdoodles (one of my favorite cookies!) because someone posted the recipe on my friend Andrea's Facebook page (she's also doing the challenge). At 4 cents a cookie, I couldn't resist! We've got kind of a bad cookie habit going on here, but considering that we're still running and that it's really our only treat, I'm not too worried about it. We each had 3.5 snickerdoodles and 1/2 cup of milk (two cookies before we went to see a show at the Fringe Festival, and 1.5 afterward!).

Stephen gives the cookies his seal of approval!
It was a challenging day at times, and I feel like we're totally food-obsessed, but I think it will get easier as we get used to it. Though we were up a little bit today, we're still doing well on our $4.00 per day budget going by a weekly basis:

$8.62 total for the day
$15.40 for the week!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

San Francisco Food Bank Hunger Challenge - Day 2

It's Day 2 of the Hunger Challenge, and so far things are going pretty well.

Thank God it's Sunday, because the morning started with a frantic scramble to figure out how much a serving of coffee costs. Not sure that's something I could handle on a Monday morning. :) Anyway, if you make an actual serving of coffee, it's $0.06, which isn't too bad. Thing is, an actual serving of coffee is only two teaspoons of grinds and 6 oz of water, making for some rather weak coffee compared to what we're used to. We opted for two servings each this morning, and we were pretty satisfied with the result - tomorrow we may need to reduce the water a bit so it's a little stronger and more enjoyable. 

The nectarine put it over the top - definitely a bit of a luxury!
The rest of breakfast consisted of some oatmeal (1 cup of oats each), raisins (18 raisins each - those little buggers are pretty pricey!), a little bit of sugar, half a nectarine each (pretty expensive at $0.40 each, but I didn't want them to go to waste since I bought them last week), and half a cup of milk each (for the coffee and to cool down the oatmeal.

So excited the natural PB was on sale!
$0.12 = (36 raisins)
$0.24 = coffee (4 6oz servings)
$0.40 = nectarine
$0.22 = milk (1 cup) 
$0.02 = 4 tsp sugar
$0.44 = oatmeal (4 half cup servings)
$1.44 total for a pretty tasty breakfast

After breakfast, we had to run some errands, and we decided to go for a little trail run up at Tennessee Valley, so we opted for a quick PB&J snack on our way out the door. 

$0.25 for two slices of whole wheat bread 
$0.19 for 2T of peanut butter
$0.10 for 1T blackberry preserves
$0.54 total for a PB&J (which we split) ($1.98 altogether)

After our trail run, we were pretty much bonked and desperate for lunch, mostly because it was close to 3pm by the time we got home. Didn't plan that one too well! We had already planned to have some more beans and some of the cornbread that Stephen made last night, so it didn't take too long to heat things up. Since Stephen obviously needs more calories than I do, I gave him some of my beans (I don't think I could have possibly eaten any more of them even if I'd tried!), and I used a few more cents to add some margarine and honey to my cornbread.

Starting to get desperate for some veggies...
$0.66 for the beans
$0.58 for the cornbread
$0.02 for 1/2T margarine
$0.05 for 1tsp honey
$1.31 total for lunch ($3.29 altogether)

We each also had a mid-afternoon chocolate chip cookie ($0.18), so that put us at $3.47 for the day.

I was particularly looking forward to dinner, a vegetable and pork stew that Stephen made last night. It turned out to be pretty freaking fantastic! It's probably going to be our only fresh meat of the week, but it will last us for three meals, so that's great. When we were shopping yesterday, we went straight for the clearance meat first, to see what was available. Most of it was a scary greenish-gray color, so we didn't go there, but we did find this one nice little package of pork that was cut up for stew. We'd already planned to have stew on the menu, so it worked out well for us. Beyond that, we bought a bag of carrots and a bag of potatoes. Add water, salt, pepper, and a little bit of vegetable oil to brown the pork, and voila! Add to that some cornbread to soak up the broth, and you have yourself a mighty fine dinner. Thinking back, I sort of wish we'd bought that head of cabbage to throw in there, but considering the amount of beans we've eaten in the last two days, maybe it's better that we didn't. :)
Very tasty, and filling too!

So, for dinner we had:
$0.66 for the potatoes
$0.28 for the carrots
$0.98 for the pork
$0.01 for the vegetable oil
$0.58 for the cornbread
$2.51 total for dinner, bringing us to $5.98

Milk ($0.44 for 1/2c each) and cookies ($0.36 for 2 each) for dessert brings us today's grand total to $6.78!

I have to say, after only a day and half, it's starting to get pretty exhausting. I assume that you would start to get to know what and how much each person can have after doing this for a while, but it seems like all we've talked about all day is food. I can see how this would be really tough to deal with day after day - having to plan so carefully while already dealing with so few resources. Definitely makes you think.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

San Francisco Food Bank Hunger Challenge - Day 1

A couple of days ago, a coworker of mine posted the Hunger Challenge on Facebook. The idea is to live on a food stamp budget for a week, to put yourself into the shoes of someone who truly faces hunger on a daily basis. The average daily food stamp budget in the state of California is $4.72 a day. That's $33.04 a week (there was actually a temporary increase to $4.72 from $4.00, so that leaves us with $28 a week - we'll try to stick to that, but we're not sure how it will work combined with our athletic endeavors). I don't know about you, but I regularly spend more than that on a meal if I'm going out with friends. It really made me think about the kind of money I spend on food and the difficulty that many people must face when it comes to feeding themselves and their families.

So I talked Stephen into participating with me (actually, he was in as soon as I mentioned it), and we started planning for our week. Now, I'm going to admit that we're cheating just a little bit. We're both training for big endurance events, and we both have to do really long runs next Saturday morning (20 miles for me, 30 for Stephen), so we decided to start this Saturday night so that we could have a good recovery meal after our long run next week.

We went shopping this evening, taking special care to price everything out, from the price of a single serving to the price per ounce. Now I know it's not really the idea of the challenge, and I'm sure it would be different after a while, but it was kind of fun figuring everything out and trying to get the best deals on everything.

Stephen had already made some pinto beans (yay for bulk foods!), so we planned to eat those tonight. Thankfully we didn't have to do a lot of preparation because somebody was cranky by the time we got home from the grocery store (okay, I was too!). :) We put together quite the nice little meal, given our limits. The costs for the two of us were as follows:

Not too shabby, right?

$0.66 = Pinto beans (1/2c dry) 
$0.31 = Cheese (1/2 oz ea.)
$0.33 = Corn (1/2 ear ea.)
$0.44 = Canned tomatoes (1/4c ea.)
$0.05 = Serrano pepper (1/4 ea.)
$0.24 = Corn tortillas (2 each) 
$2.03 Total for dinner 

I was looking for ways to keep things interesting, so I also made some chocolate chip cookies. Most of the ingredients are the of staples that people would have around the house - at least sugar and flour, and I think they'd still be reasonable purchases on a food stamp budget (since you probably wouldn't be buying all of them at the same time). My half recipe of chocolate chip cookies works out to $1.77, which is $0.09 per cookie. Add a half cup of milk for $0.10, and you've got a decent bedtime snack for just $0.38 per person!

Our grand total for today was $2.79, leaving us $6.65 for next Saturday (or $5.21, if we stick to the $4.00 a day plan). Not a bad start, but it'll be interesting to see where the week takes us!

Friday, September 02, 2011

IM Canada Training with M2

Last August when I signed up for Ironman Canada, I was excited about the prospect of training with a big group of athletes (and I wouldn’t be the only girl!). I knew that most of the group would be training with Michael McCormack (AKA M2), whose spin class I had been taking for about a year, and I knew that his workouts were supposedly epic. Man, was I in for a surprise!
Over the course of the season, our M2 crew of 25+ did insane workouts – spin classes that left us all wobbly-legged, hill climbs that would make even hardcore athletes cringe, and trail runs and century rides that are definitely not for the faint of heart. The best (and worst) part of all these adventures was that you never knew what you were going to get. The workouts were almost always worse than they sounded (and they sounded BAD), but just as I’d been told, they always ended up being epic.

Besides participating in the Silicon Valley Int'l Triathlon, the Double Dipsea, and Vineman 70.3 races, training adventures included:
  • Off-roading on the road bike (this would be the same ride where M2 told me to “stop being a chickenshit”, something that I have striven to remedy ever since!)
  • Riding the Solvang Century route with the new boyfriend in July in 100+ degree temps and ridiculous headwinds (and we still like each other – thank God he’s as crazy as I am!), followed by a substantial (and also hot) trail run in Montaña del Oro along the Rattlesnake and Badger trails
Honey Badger don't care...
  • A double BoFax/Seven Sisters loop. 5000 feet of climbing in about 50 miles - ‘nuff said.

  • A swim-bike-run Tahoe weekend, which included taking a conference call on a 20-miler to Tiburon on Friday, swimming in the Trans Tahoe Relay ACROSS Lake Tahoe with five of my teammates on Saturday and a cycling trip around Lake Tahoe on Sunday.
Enjoying a cold one after my second swim leg
  • An epic 19-mile trail run near Mount Tam. You don't need a map…it’ll be obvious. Flow along the lake, cross the dam and go down the hill with the river on your left. Turn up a trail on the right (think it has the word “Oat” in it). Gnarly climb, you’ll know it. Dumps out at the golf course then flow toward meadow Bon Tempe area and back toward 5 Corners. Yeeeaaaahhhhhh…If I hadn’t brought my trail map, I’d probably still be wandering around somewhere near Alpine Lake, begging Cokes off of poor, unsuspecting picnickers…

Just before getting dumped out at the golf course
  • The Shasta Summit Century – 10,000 feet of climbing over 100 miles, and probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life (even after IM Canada!)
Gorgeous view of Shasta from the top of the third, and hardest climb
  • Hill repeats at Limantour. The saddle sores from Shasta hadn’t healed by the time we did this lovely ride!
There are hills, we will go over them. Well, up them. Twice.
  • A swim from Alcatraz in ridiculous chop. Picture swimming in a washing machine.
That's the city in the background. I swallowed a lot of sea water that day.
  • A time trial from Stinson Beach to the top of Mount Tam ONE week before Ironman
The M2 crew at the top of Tam, looking sharp in our matching kits!
  • And for good measure, a trail run to Alamere Falls (where I damn near killed myself climbing down the scree to get to the beach), followed by a swim in Bass Lake, which was amazing apart from the “SWIMMING LIZARD!!!”
Scrambling down to the falls, and this was the nice part!
Every workout was hard. Every workout left me feeling like a total badass. Every workout was 100% worth it. And come race day, I felt more than ready to tackle Ironman Canada!