Hunger Challenge: Day 1

January 25, 2010

The United Way Hunger Challenge kicks off today in King County, and I'm excited to participate. As a budget-conscious student, I usually start the morning with a bowl of organic oatmeal ($0.19) from the bulk bin at the grocery store; it's cheap and filling, and I actually love the taste. Sometimes I mix in a tablespoon of peanut butter ($0.04), but today I went with blackstrap molasses ($0.18) for calcium and iron. Because no morning is complete without caffeine, I drank a cup of Tetley's black tea ($0.06) with a teaspoon of organic sugar ($0.04). My midmorning snack: a handful of bulk bin almonds ($0.34).

I was originally going to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich ($0.83) or a bowl of vegan ramen ($0.89) for lunch, two foods I regularly consume anyhow, but I figured I had better up the ante since the contents of my stomach are being highlighted in a food blog.

Having some nori ($.34/sheet) and big bag of short-grain brown rice ($0.19/serving) in my cupboard, I thought about rolling kappa maki, but the price of cucumber ($1.19 for one) stopped me in my tracks. Instead, I made onigiri. While the recipe recommends pickled plum as a filling, it mentions that some people like peanut butter. Peanut butter and seaweed sounded like an odd combination, but I gave it a shot because peanut butter is cheap and, frankly, I'd eat just about anything with peanut butter. I added a packet of miso soup ($1.60) and 1/2 cup of shelled edamame ($0.75). My midafternoon snack: a conventionally-raised apple ($0.50).

My onigiri was certainly not pretty or authentic, but the peanut butter paired surprisingly well with the other ingredients. The meal's combination of protein, fat, carbohydrates and liquid was quite satisfying.

For dinner tonight, I am planning to make black bean soup, served with kale. The soup is simple: 3 cans black beans (on sale for $0.79/can), 1 cup salsa ($1.50), 1 chopped onion ($0.75) and bouillon-based broth ($0.50). Beans are a great source of protein and fiber, and the leftovers will feed me for days. Organic kale ($1.25 for half a bunch) sautéed in olive oil ($1.78) is a splurge, but it's so delicious and healthy.

All in all, I cut it very close to the limit at $6.96. If I could do the day over, I would pass on the soup at lunch and instead drink a glass of fortified soy milk for calcium and vitamin B12. Nutrition is certainly a concern; I need to factor a cheap multivitamin into my daily food budget, if possible, and there are definitely ways I could reduce spending to compensate. As little as tea and sugar cost, they are an extra $0.10 of luxury. Plus, while I believe strongly in organic food, I doubt I would splurge if permanently constrained to $7 a day.

So far, it's been an eye-opening experience.

A few posts from other participants:



Kare's picture

Great write-up!

I'm doing it too... and my tummy is growling right now, bigtime.

Olga's picture

Thanks for posting. It is a lot easier to manage on limited budget ($7 a day per person or $22 for a family of 4) if you shop for a whole week at once and plan your menus. Obviously over time you will build your pantry and you will not have to buy spices and other basic ingredients every day or even every week. Buying in bulk is key. We are posting our Challenge week experience at

United Way of King County Blog » Blog Archive » 's picture

[...] Foodista started her day with an organic oatmeal from the bulk bin at the grocery store, saying, “it’s cheap and filling, and I actually love the taste.”  I’m sure it beat my Quaker Instant Oatmeal that I had [...]

chelley's picture

Oh! I loved this post! I actually have a personal project which is similar and I named it - "Live frugal to enjoy more later". I should really write about that and share with the rest because as a foodie too, I spend most of my bucks on yummies! I love oatmeal and I have bene having it for Breakfast everyday now! I cook it with milk and water, sprinkle of salt, top it with walnuts and muscovado sugar. Divine and comforting.

Veggie Valentine’s Day | Recipes for Everyone's picture

[...] Hunger Challenge: Day 1 [...]