Tuesday, September 13, 2011



We are going to try the San Francisco Food Bank Hunger Challenge, which is to eat on only $4.72/person/day for one week. Since we are a family of four, that’s $18.88/day for the family, or $132.16 for us for the week. That didn’t sound too difficult: plan ahead, shop once for the week, and no eating out at all (one of the more difficult parts for us). Buying in bulk helps us save money; we usually spend about $300 at Costco, every 2-4 weeks. What was going to be harder was to shop for only one week; Costco would blow our budget but the food would last for more than one week. Should we extend the Challenge longer so that we could shop at Costco? Hmm, should we ask for more torture to take advantage of bulk savings? 

Following some of the rules will be hard and we will be lax about certain things, like calculating how much we spent on the staple foods we already have. I’m supposed to pro-rate the amount of, say cereal, we already have and add that to the food budget, which I won’t likely do, but I will try to keep track of that food, knowing that it goes over budget. Fortunately, we don’t have a lot of leftover food on hand right now: we just finished living in a hotel for 3 weeks while some work was done on our house, which means we took all our perishables and most of our staple foods with us to the hotel and didn’t want to bring a lot of food back home, so we ate it and didn’t shop for more. In essence, we just finished eating out more than usual because we were in a hotel, despite having a full kitchen there, and now we are happy to be back in our house and able to fully use our kitchen again! The Challenge says you can’t go to Costco because people who use the Food Bank can’t afford the membership. However, we have the membership because it more than pays for itself in how much we save on everything we buy there.

Our first challenge is just getting started: the Challenge started Sunday, but I didn’t get it together until Monday afternoon, so we’ll be starting Tuesday, 9/13/11. We’ll try to eat the food I just bought today, rather than what we already have on hand. I spent $164 at Costco, $32 over budget, so we will try to make it last 9 days instead of 7 days. Budget killer: we get a veggie box every 2 weeks from Dan’s Produce and this is the week. It costs $32, so we’ll have to try to make our food last 11 days instead of 7. 

Another challenge will be events: I’m going to a potluck in St. Helena this week; Maya is bringing snacks for her soccer team to this week’s game; Nick goes out for dinner and beers with his softball team after the games. Nick seemed supportive of the idea until that came up; I’m not sure if he’ll follow through with the Challenge and either (1) not go out this week after softball or (2) go out but not buy anything. He’s also hesitant about not going out for lunch with his co-workers all week long. Anyway, we’ll see what happens with him. If he doesn’t follow through, it will throw off the budget because I already bought food for the family. If he goes out, he won’t be eating the food I bought within the budget, so our food will last longer, but he’ll totally blow our food budget.

Nick mentioned that exercising will blow our budget because it will make us hungrier. It’s an interesting thought: do people on food stamps not go running because it will make them too hungry? It’s a terrible thought: you’re too poor to exercise. I know that it’s a common problem, but I would like to believe that everyone CAN eat healthy and stay active no matter what their income. Is that whack? 

I really don’t think it should be hard to eat on that budget, so I might end up being shocked at how hard it is. However, my personal challenge is to eat on that budget but still eat how we typically do; I don’t want to eat potatoes and pasta for a week! I believe it mostly means to eat out less often and plan out how to make the most of our food. . .


  1. As a woman living off of foodstamps for over a year now, I can tell you that exercise is essential for a healthy lifestyle. You will find that sitting in front of a television will spark hunger before going out for a run- those endorphin's are important to keep you going during hard times- The human body is a machine in motion, taking it out of motion slows it down and forces it to require more fuel to start up.

    If you really want to see what its like, skip the Costco. Memberships like that aren't really affordable to many families, and it will allow you to see that buying in bulk doesn't always save as much as you might think. Support your local community while you're feeding your family, find your farmer's markets, cheap produce, stay away from anything 'convenient' because the price to your wallet and your health isn't. You need to eat healthy or you'll never make it. Empty calories leave you hungry.

  2. Hey Suzanne, how is the Challenge going? Did your husband stick to the budget? Hope all is well!