The Hunger Challenge: How to Eat on $3 a Day

10 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

Have you had your grande latte today? Ka-ching, that's three bucks. Munch a small taco for lunch? There's another. Fed your sugar crash at the company vending machine? Another. If you were an average family living on food stamps, $3 is all you'd have to spend, per person, for an entire day's food. To raise awareness, money and recipes, this week the San Francisco Food Bank launched the Hunger Challenge.

In 2007, members of Congress accepted the food stamp challenge. In 2008, Bay Area food bloggers are stepping up. Armed with $21 per person for an entire week of food, they've shopped and found it much harder than expected. The process requires creativity, good math skills and hard choices.

The first decision is where to shop.

"I had a hard time deciding where to shop for a week of meals that were limited to $1 per person. I chose a big supermarket to try and buy a week's worth of food at one time. I don't know if someone on a budget would have the time and transportation resources to go from store to store for the best bargains." ~ read Shopping for the Hunger Challenge from Cooking with Amy

Staying within the budget is mandatory.

"When I took on the San Francisco Food Bank’s challenge to create meals and menus for $1 a meal a person I didn’t realize the tool I would use most when I was cooking would be my calculator. Since families on food stamps only get $21 a week per person, I couldn’t spend any more. Out went the beef for stew when it turned out to be twice as expensive as chicken. Figuring out portion sizes, costs per ounce, cup and even teaspoon kept me going back and punching in numbers, somehow hoping that I could work in a little more of this or that and still get the totals I needed. Frankly, having to plan and shop and cook so precisely (if I was wrong my mythical family of four would be left hungry) took a lot of work, compromise, time and ingenuity. It almost seemed like a full time job and figuring how to make it all work was mentally exhausting.
" ~ read San Francisco Food Bank Challenge from Blog Appetit

It's a zero-sum game. Any expense precludes another.

"Choosing economy over nutrition -- "The choices confounded me. Full fat peanut butter? Available for $2.99. Reduced-fat? $3.15. Ordinarily, that $.16 wouldn’t make a difference to me, but in these circumstances, it absolutely did. The full-fat version went in the basket.

The only option for jelly to go with that peanut butter was a huge jar of Welch’s grape for $2.98. It was way more than I would use in a week, so I couldn’t justify it. Everything smaller was some kind of gourmet, organic, whatever jelly or jam-nothing under $3.98. I found myself in front of the jelly no fewer than three times, raging against the prices, whining in my head about how much I hate plain peanut butter sandwiches.

I found single sticks of butter, which meant that was feasible, and a dozen eggs for $1.95. Celery, at $.59 for a bunch, surprised me as such a bargain. Carrots were available individually, and yellow onions were on sale, so I picked up the aromatics that would make pots of soup and/or beans tastier and a little more nutritious.

photo by The Inadvertent Gardener

When I first got to the bulk section, the rolled oats bin was empty. I thought about going for the steel-cut variety, but to be honest, I haven’t even tried cooking those, and could not see purchasing a bag of anything I didn’t think I could convert into something edible. I would have no margin for error in that case." ~ read The Shopping Trip from The Inadvertent Gardener

Be sure to return to these blogs during the week to see how they do, what they learn.

The San Francisco Food Bank has issued the challenge and there are several ways to participate. Some -- for all of us who are struggling to pay for groceries for our own families -- are free. We just might learn something, we just might find more frugal ways to feed our own families.

Participate - Try spending just $3 per day on food or $21 a week, per person. Try it for a week or for just a meal - then write about your experiences.
Create Post a recipe that costs $1 per person and share it with the Food Bank to benefit our local community. Take a look at the six ingredients that are plentiful.
Donate Contribute to the San Francisco Food Bank. Consider contributing the amount of cash you saved by spending only $21 on food for the week. For every $1 donated, the San Francisco Food Bank can provide $9 worth of food to the hungry. (I'm willing to be the SF Food Bank would be more than happy if donations were made to local food banks.)
Advocate Get your readers to take the challenge, too - and urge them to contact their elected officials about hunger issues.
Fill a Plate For those in the Bay Area, join other bloggers for a volunteer evening at the Food Bank, so you can help put more food on people's plates.

BlogHer food editor Alanna Kellogg collects easy egg recipes for the Incredible, Edible -- and Frugal -- Egg for budget- and health-conscious cooks.

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