As I started making my shopping list for the Bloggers’ Hunger Challenge, I was surprised at how many resources were available online for budget shopping. It helps that a number of Congresspeople took this challenge last year and blogged about it—many of them posted menus and other information on their sites.
Of course, as I was doing all my research, it occurred to me that the average food stamp recipient probably does not have a laptop and wireless access at home. If they are able to get to a public library to use a computer there, they’re going to bump up against time limits.
Regardless, it became obvious, quickly, that this week was going to be all vegetarian, and probably not all that healthy. Heavy on the carbs. Light on the protein. Very light on fruits and vegetables.
And, although I resigned myself to this quickly, absolutely free of coffee and tea and Diet Coke, my Holy Trinity of staying awake.
“Maybe you could buy a handful of bulk coffee beans and just chew on them,” suggested my helpful co-worker Adam.
Speaking of bulk, I determined that was going to be my saving grace. With just one of me to feed, spending the money on a full-sized container of rice, oatmeal or beans was just not going to let me stretch my purchasing power far enough. My plan? To start off at The Berkeley Bowl, home of possibly the best bulk section in the Bay Area.
The list I ended up with was 23 items long, which meant the only way to buy everything was if everything I put in my basket was $.91 or cheaper. The list itself included some things I knew I could get for less than a dollar (one jalapeño), but plenty of things (loaf of bread, one dozen eggs) that were going to make it challenging.
But determined not to fail, I put my cash in my pocket and headed for the Bowl.
“If you want to make it really challenging, you should do all your shopping in West Oakland,” another co-worker had said to me. Don’t think that wasn’t ringing in my ears as I drove from Oakland to Berkeley, where there are grocery stores a-plenty and there’s a whole lot more free-flowing money. But I had to go where the bulk bins resided, and, unfortunately, West Oakland was not the place.