Why participate in Speak Out Against Hunger week? Well, I know I don’t only speak for myself when I say I am a wasteful and somewhat expensive eater. While I prepare most dinners for myself, I go out to lunch way too often. I’m participating because I want to force myself to experience a strict food budget. When I finally went grocery shopping for the week, I was shocked by how little I was able to purchase. I think have the advantage of having a lot of kitchen experience and that I can bake. That allows me to keep some of my costs slightly lower.
I am lucky that my normal food budget is augmented by awesome food from Illini Hillel. This week, I will not be enjoying free food from Illini Hillel. I know, as a Hillel professional that statement seems blasphemous. Not everyone on food stamps have access to 4 free meals a week, so neither should I. (This week we have Bagel Brunch, Chili at DA BEARS Watch Party, aPancake bar, and a small dinner for a meeting that I am a part of.)
Before going to the grocery store, I made a few plans for meals that would not only be delicious while fresh, but also provide good and diverse leftovers. I decided on two major dishes to prepare. First, I will be roasting a whole chicken. I estimate this should provide 3-4 meals and can be turned into a variety of leftover items. Second, I will be making a black bean chili. This will last me several meals, hopefully 4-5 meals.
While shopping I was mostly adding up cost in my head. I had a feeling I was going to go over, and I was correct. While eating on a budget, sacrifices have to be made. The chili that I plan on making will now lack the 1 pound of beef I purchased, because that three dollars brings me under my target grocery total of $17. That goes in my freezer for another time. This is what I bought:
Frozen Mixed Vegetables: $1.98
Cheddar Cheese Slices: $2.68
5 Bananas: $1.03
Tomato Paste: $.86
Diced Tomato: $1.68
Black Beans: $1.50
Whole Frozen Chicken: $3.78
Total with tax: $16.91
I set my target grocery total at $17 in order to accommodate the items I already have in my kitchen and wouldn’t be buying on a weekly basis. These include:
Bagels* (3): $0.36 (It costs me roughly $1.90 to make 16 bagels)
Loaf of Sourdough*: $1.70 (cost for me to make)
Rice: $.70/ cup. I anticipate making 1.5 cups so $1.05
Spices and condiments: $1.00
Kitchen Total: $5.68
Week Total: $21.89 (87 cents under budget!)
This is going to be a tough week. Volume wise, my consumption will be far less than I am accustomed to. While this is certainly good for my health, I know my stomach will be growling. Despite the fact that I will be hungry (and thus the intent of the week, I believe), I am extremely excited to be fully responsible for all of my own meals for 5 days. It will make me be creative in providing myself with adequate nutrition and good food. As I go through the week, I will be posting pictures and describing my processes in the kitchen. Get ready!
If you are reading this and want to do something special this week and don’t want to do the food challenge with me, try to do something different with your eating habits this week. Be conscious of what you are eating and where it comes from. Pay attention to how much you are spending on food. Even if you are in the dining halls, each meal has a cost. Perhaps most importantly this week, pay attention to your food waste. The amount of food that we all waste per year is astonishing. While perhaps it is over-said, there really are people starving not just around the world, but even in our figurative backyard.
If you have any questions or want more information on what I am making, send me an email!
* = I calculated the cost of the bread items by calculating the cost per cup of flour from the 10lb bag I purchased a few weeks ago and an estimate of the other ingredients used in the recipe
Program Director at UIUC Hillel