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Hunger Challenge: Day One

I don’t eat very much when I’m asleep. I also crave caffeine significantly less.

This is the reason that I decided to sleep as late as I possibly could on the first day of the Hunger Challenge. I had a 12:30 p.m. ticket to the Frida Kahlo exhibit at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art (which, I should note, cost me almost as much as my entire food budget for the week, so I guess there are not many people on food stamps getting the chance to see Ms. Kahlo’s masterpieces…), so I slept until almost 11, figuring that would give me just enough time for a quick egg and a packed peanut butter sandwich for later.

I ended up making an egg-in-a-basket for breakfast, using just a touch of the butter, a slice of bread and one egg. It was satisfying, fairly filling, and I made sure to soak up as much yolk as I could with the toast, getting every bit of nutritional value out of that plate of food as possible.

Post-exhibit, I wandered out to Yerba Buena Gardens to sit in the shade and eat my sandwich, pondering the fact that, when one is particularly hungry, one’s dislike for plain peanut butter sandwiches seems to disappear out some window. I did notice, though, that even though the bread purported to be 100 percent whole wheat, it had the most vanilla-processed flavor and creepy smoothness of any bread I’ve eaten in years.

Sandwich gone, I sat and people-watched for a bit, trying to ignore the headache that was creeping up on me. I knew the caffeine withdrawal would be (literally) a pain, but it was already beginning and settling in with full force.

I drank some more water and willed the headache to go away.

I had put some black beans in water to soak when I left the house, so my plan was to return home and start cooking them. Instead, I ended up coming home and taking a nap (see above, where I discuss not eating or needing caffeine while asleep).

Post-nap, it was time to cook. On the docket was a pot of split-pea soup (where I particularly expected to miss that unpurchased ham hock), and a pot of black beans.

The soup turned out well, and became dinner, with a side of two slices of the Very Smooth Bread with a little bit of butter on each. I had, however, cooked the black beans with a little too much water, and since I had also used some cumin and taco seasoning and garlic to flavor the broth, I decided I’d go ahead and convert them into black bean soup so I could keep the broth and not pour it off.

A note, here, about the rules of my own personal challenge. I decided, going in, that spices and condiments, and my bottle of Canola oil and my cooking spray were all within bounds of the experiment. That doesn’t mean I can go wild: soy sauce, for example, is fine. Mango chutney? Not so much. Now, if I run out of soy sauce over the course of the week, I’m not allowed to go buy more…unless it costs less than the $1.08 I have left after my shopping trip.

I also decided I can’t use the free coffee and tea at the office, no matter how much I would like to do so. If I were actually on food stamps, after all, with this maximum benefit (if $21/week can actually be called much of a benefit), I would probably not be working in an office, or at least not one that serves decent tea and coffee. Hence, the abstention. The miserable, miserable abstention.

I did mean to get a workout in on Sunday, but between the caffeine headache and a general uncaffeinated wooziness, decided not to push it.

I packaged up my leftover soups, and packed myself some of the black bean soup and a peanut butter sandwich to take to work. The plan in the morning was to kick the Oatmeal Machine into high gear. Thanks to the bulk bins, I had brown sugar and raisins—two items I would never have been able to incorporate if I had bought full-sized containers of either—ready to mix in, and I was excited about the breakfast prospects.

10 Comments on “Hunger Challenge: Day One”

  1. #1 Ree
    on Sep 22nd, 2008 at 6:40 am

    I’ll tell you again Genie – I’m fascinated by this. I would have caved on the coffee. Can you go pick some chicory? ;-)

  2. #2 Karen
    on Sep 22nd, 2008 at 7:05 am

    I’m always so sad at the supermarket to see that eating well is more expensive than eating poorly. I grew up very poor and I remember that a big treat was canned plums for dessert. One can divided by 3. Now I have the luxury of buying plums at the Farmers Market and eating as many as I like and it seems so decadent. I admire what you’re doing Genie and the perspective it offers your readers. I hope Tylenol for the headache doesn’t count against the food budget.

  3. #3 inadvertentgardener
    on Sep 22nd, 2008 at 7:13 am

    Ree, by the end of the week, if I could have found chicory, I would have picked it. Believe me!

    Kären, I definitely didn’t count Tylenol against the budget…figured medicine was a necessity I couldn’t cut! I agree with you — the fact that really healthy food is, relatively, so much more expensive is really tough to swallow.

  4. #4 Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy
    on Sep 22nd, 2008 at 10:09 am

    I’m looking forward to following your adventure…I think you’re doing a great thing….especially giving up the coffee!!!

  5. #5 Eva
    on Sep 22nd, 2008 at 11:03 am

    I wonder what I would do about bread? I can’t eat most store-bought and/or inexpensive breads because they contain corn syrup, and I’m allergic to corn. I guess I would just stop eating bread. No PB sandwiches for me.

    Which brings me to the bigger question: Why can’t we have a society where healthy things are less expensive?

  6. #6 inadvertentgardener
    on Sep 22nd, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Sara, I found it was less hard to give up the coffee versus just giving up EVERYthing that wasn’t water. It made for a boring week…

    Eva, yeah…I think if I were in your situation, I would have bought corn tortillas instead and skip the peanut butter…maybe use the PB money for some cheese?

  7. #7 Andrea
    on Sep 22nd, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    This is a great experiment you are doing. For a long time I’ve been asking the same question as Eva: why do healthy foods cost so much more? I think it has to do with risk of spoilage/loss. For example, highly processed fruit rollups travel more easily than fresh fruit and don’t require refrigerated trucks. The cost of making mac & cheese from scratch (even with inexpensive cheeses) vs the highly processed stuff in the blue box is another example. I keep hoping that eventually the tide will turn on this issue and once again healthy foods will become more affordable. One would think that buying local would help reduce the cost of foods because less shipping is required, but speaking from experience in Northern Virginia, I can safely say the local produce is often significantly more expensive than the stuff shipped in.

  8. #8 inadvertentgardener
    on Sep 22nd, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    Andrea, everything you say is true…and discouraging. I think you’re right — it’s the issue of cost of storage/transport/etc., and the fact that there are spoilage issues and all that. I’m interested to see how I spend during the Eat Local Challenge month in October — there’s definitely going to be a difference…and yet, it’s a different focus, too. I don’t know…it’s frustrating to me. I want the producers of healthy food to get a fair price for what they provide, but really wish there was more health equity…and am not sure how to solve that problem.

  9. #9 Hunger Challenge: Day Three – The Inadvertent Gardener
    on Sep 26th, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    [...] too closely. Hence, my day became one long series of mini-meals. I started off with a redo of Sunday morning’s egg-in-a-basket; then took leftover oatmeal to eat mid-morning; then ate a peanut butter sandwich one half at a [...]

  10. #10 End to the month…not the thinking – The Inadvertent Gardener
    on Oct 1st, 2008 at 12:07 am

    [...] I would behave if I was in a real-life poverty situation. If that was the case? I’d have not only drunk the coffee and tea at work, I’d have probably been lining my purse with teabags for the nights and mornings and home. I [...]

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