Archive for March, 2011

So really, the Hunger Challenge wasn’t a huge challenge. $110 for the week for 4 people, 3 teenagers and me. A lot of people spend less. So we may be a Hunger Challenge family, but we are certainly not hunger challenged. But then, the exercise isn’t really about starving, or being so difficult you are guaranteed to fail (because you have a choice). It is about thinking differently, making different choices, and maybe learning a little bit about other people’s lives, or even your own.

We learned quite a bit this last week, and a few observations follow:

  • First of all, the US has an incredible amount of food. It isn’t the top, but it is certainly one of them. There is plenty of food for everyone to eat, yet an appalling percentage of our people go hungry. Some states, like Mississippi, Arkansas, etc., are at 17% percent hungry, several percentage points above the average for the rest of the world. There is no excuse for that. Hunger is not about food availability, it is about inequality.
  • If we pay attention, we actually eat healthier. That would break down significantly if the dollar amount was any less however. And that $2.00 Hungry Man meal, with “over 1 lb of food!”? Sounds like a great deal until you realize 52% of the calories come from fat, and it has something like 3 days of your sodium allowance.
  • It can be embarrassing or awkward to have to say no to going out to lunch with coworkers, or to coffee with friends. I can explain I am taking part in a hunger challenge for UWKC. Not everyone has that luxury.
  • I personally talked to at least 100 individuals this week about hunger. At work, at the grocery store, and yes, even in line at Panda Express. My ex-wife called on Thursday, and said she had read a column on Komo online about the Hunger Challenge the kids and I were doing. She mentioned something about Panda Express. We laughed when I replied “I think I am that Panda Express guy”. Thanks Martha Kang J
  • It was good for the kids to have to think about tradeoffs. “You mean we can’t have orange juice in the morning?”. They were very involved in the shopping, looking for coupons, cooking (because I am absolutely terrible), and making decisions.
  • I initially thought that some people seem to be more content with negativity about some people’s efforts rather than doing something about it themselves. I thought, “they don’t know me, or what I do to try to change the world, they just see one tiny bit of something”. I also realized that applies to me, and I don’t know what is going on with them either. And that they are probably just as passionate and involved, or even more so.
  • All the time shopping, cooking, talking, made us feel stronger as a family. It was a good week.
  • We got creative with recipes, and figured out we can eat well at home for a couple dollars per person instead of going out. Even if I tend to even burn carrots, my family is filled with good cooks. And we’ll continue to do that, it has resulted in an increased awareness and a change for us to be sure.

It was only for a week, and while we had to make some tradeoffs and decisions, it was not particularly difficult. My caffeine addiction has passed, maybe I will stay on that path. Or maybe not. But certainly it has raised awareness around hunger, we spent quite a bit of time watching webcasts, looking at Feed America, OxFam, FAO, etc. It is a serious problem, and in much of the world is actually getting a little bit better over the years. But not here, not in the US. The problem is worse than it has ever been, the need is greater, all of us can do something about it regardless of economic status, and I think United Way KC has done a good job highlighting the issue this week. We can all take action, whether it is through a donation, volunteering, writing a letter to a senator, or trying to raise and influence the next generation of caring people. I would love to see the conversation continued, and I have learned a lot from everyone involved.

We’re going to FareStart next week as kind of a recognition dinner, and also to start exploring additional volunteer opportunities for our aspiring cooks. If anyone wants to join, let me know!



The Hunger Challenge has inspired my family a bit.  Two budding teenage chefs, one is looking at schools right now for post-graduation, so any comments are definitely appreciated.  CIA?  Somewhere else?  2 year?  4 year degree?  I know there are lots of cooks and chefs in the mix taking the hunger challenge.

But really thinking about our celeratory dinner to cap off the experience.  Or maybe it is more of a recognition dinner.  To recognize that many people in our community aren’t as fortunate as we are.  I am a big fan of FareStart, and our aspiring chefs want to have dinner there, and we’ll also ask about volunteer opportunities during the summer.


The Dao of Stew…

Dinner for 5, leftovers enough for tomorrow’s lunch, and a little wisdom from gramma…

First, the recipe…at a total cost of $9.92, or $1.10/serving.

Making Stew

Making Stew

  • 2 lbs stew meat, on sale at Albertson’s for $2.99/lb
  • 1 rutabega – $.50
  • 1 turnip – $.50
  • 6 carrots – $.75
  • 5 potatoes – $1.00
  • beef broth – $.70
  • half an onion – $.24
  • 2 stalks celery – $.25
  • salt & pepper to taste

Brown meat, cook in beef broth for two hours on low heat.  Chop vegetables, dice or cube.  Add the rest of the ingredients except potatoes, and cook 30 minutes in large stock pot.  Add potatoes and cook until tender.  Serve.




Leftovers were easy.  And here is where the wisdom from gramma comes into play…if you are planning to have leftovers, set them aside first, then serve the meal.  never would have thought about that myself…

I grew up, often with food stamps, sometimes reduced and free lunch, etc.  There have been times in my life when $100 in a month for groceries would have been a gift.  So I have been through it, not as bad as some, but worse than many.  Even so, the exercise has been valuable so far.  Here’s why, and I am sure I will add some more to this on Friday:

  • Paying attention to what we buy, we eat healthier and more responsibly.  But we certainly would struggle to eat organic…we are pretty much at the grocer’s mercy.  We almost never eat organic anyway, but at least if we read something about highest pesticide fruits for example, we have the choice to change what we do.
  • It isn’t easy, especially if you have to buy everything from scratch.  For example, to get a 30 cent sandwich, we had to spend $5.00 on peanut butter and jelly, as well as $4.00 on bread.  That is a big part of the budget.  We are not using anything from the house, nor accepting any food at work or from friends.
  • The kids have had some real tradeoffs to make.  Looking at prices, planning to a budget and making tradeoffs, even if just for a week, makes a difference.
  • They have learned to look at coupons.  Panda Express had a free coupon on Facebook, Albertsons had some amazing coupons this week, Target had some good ones, my mom even called with coupons she had found.  Of course, not everyone has the luxury of finding all those deals, or even driving to the separate stores if they do.  I know there were times growing up we didn’t have access even to a car.
  • I have had the chance to talk to more than 100 people about hunger in our community.
  • A lot of memories have re-surfaced of my childhood, that’s always fun…
  • Cooking together, shopping, budgeting, looking for deals, that in and of itself is a good way to do something together as a family.
  • It is an adjustment not to have enough money to go have a coffee with coworkers in the morning, or to join a lunch with friends, and a good reminder that many people do have to make those choices and tradeoffs…it can be embarrassing to be in that situation.
  • I found out my son couldn’t open a can 🙂  This has now been remedied…

So even if it is just for a week, and certainly doesn’t have the stress associated with it as if it were real life, I think this is a good exercise to take part in. Hopefully everyone is learning or appreciating even more than I am and thinking about what they can do personally to end hunger…real hunger.

So good job UnitedWayKC on the #HungerChallenge, and thanks for sponsoring and raising awareness.

Zeus loves Panda Express

Did we cheat?  Orange Chicken, Ginger Beef, Fried Rice.  Can’t share the recipe, just a couple of smart kids who figured out that Panda Express in Factoria was free food all day today with a Facebook coupon.  Wow!!  Thank you Panda Express!  I would love you even more if there weren’t 482 people in line in front of me!  We just might make it through Friday on budget.

Even naughty little Zeus got in on the action, not even 10 seconds after Sydney left her plate on the counter and walked away…

PBJ&B = Peanut Butter, Jelly and Banana Sandwhiches.  For me, too…



Here is the recipe for this fine feast…

Cost for 4, $6.30 (including a protein bar and a carrot for a snack)

  • 1 banana
  • 8 slices of bread (all whole grain)
  • Goober, PB&J mixed

Lay out 4 slices of bread.  Spread Goober on each slice.

Slice banana thinly, spread banana slices evenly on each slice of bread, embedding slightly into Goober mixture.

Put one slice of dry bread on top of each of your creations, and insert into plastic bag.

That’s about it.  Add a carrot and a protein bar, and you have lunch.  To add a little bit of creative energy, add a napkin with a custom picture on each.

We’re hoping to make baked bears for dessert one night this week, so we’re packing lunches to save up.



Day 1, Baked Potato Soup

Went shopping again.  Almost the end of day 1 only, and we have almost spent our limit 🙂  Also found out just now that Aidan doesn’t actually know how to open a can.  Where have I gone wrong?  Learning all kinds of things in this hunger challenge.

  • 2 lbs beef for stew – 8.10 (but couldn’t buy the super lean beef)
  • 2 turnips – 1.22 (I had to ask what they looked like)
  • 5 lbs potatoes – 2.99
  • 1 onion – .58
  • 1 pint half n half – 1.69

    Making Baked Potato Soup

    Making Baked Potato Soup

  • 2 cans chicken broth – 1.98
  • small portion of bacon – 1.99
  • flour – 2.49

Total is $21.04.  Kids also are packing lunches, peanut butter and banana sandwhiches, so we can save enough money to make baked pears when gramma comes over on Wednesday!  Yum, and will share the recipe of course!

2.09 lbs bosc pears – 3.11

Baked Potato Soup (total cost $5.30, serving 4 people)

recipe coming later, once we verify it was good!

Gramma, master of stretching the dollar, coming over Wednesday to make stew…


Consider this shocking national statistic: one out of every six adults and nearly one out of four children struggle with hunger. Here in King County, record numbers of people—ourneighbors, co-workers and friends—don’t have enough to eat. People have tochoose between paying rent and buying groceries, and children are going to bedhungry.

So Day 1 started out, already have a little caffeine headache.  I think the kids each ate a lean pocket, will have to find out later.  One quote from the morning – “you mean we can’t have orange juice?”

Starbucks, I miss you terribly…life is not the same without you.

Funny how doing something like this brings up lots of memories.  We used to be on food stamps when I was growing up, and I remember my mom making things like bean soup, and then eating that for 5 days straight.  Then pea soup, maybe with a ham hock in it.  Stew, etc. were always good.  But I also remember my parents in the grocery store debating on whether they could buy a can of folger’s that week.  Or making just a half pot in the morning to make it go farther.  In fact, when I started helping make coffee for them in the mornings, I remember having to be very careful with how much I put in.


First trip to the store today to get ready for tomorrow.  Family of four, we get $110 for 5 days, including any spices, etc. and can’t use any pre-purchased food or gifts.  Sales and coupons at Albertsons, and the first tradeoff discussion with my son…do they get lunch at school, or do I get my latte? 🙂

  • 3 Cans Albacore Tuna in water – $1.00 each
  • 1 package tortillas – $1.99
  • Elbow Macaroni – $2.39
  • 1 Box of Cheerios – $1.88
  • 1 gallon 2% milk – $2.59
  • Tilamook Cheddar block – $5.99
  • 12 high protein bars – $1.00 each
  • Pkg frozen veggies – $1.23
  • 4 Hungry Man Frozen dinners – $2.50 each
  • 3 Pkgs Lean Pockets – $2.39 each
  • 1 lb carrots – $.79
  • Dozen Eggs – $1.99
  • 2 Loaves of bread, wheat and white – $1.99 each

Grand total so far – $55, exactly half.  We have some of the staples, now I’ll have Giulia and Sydney start to think about what we cook this week.  Going to Taco Bell every day is NOT an option 🙂


Hunger Action Week begins tomorrow.  You can support by reading, learning, or joining and taking the challenge…

United Way of King County talks about the rules at and has a ton of great information about how hunger affects our communities and what you personally can do about it.

Lots of people are taking the challenge, including the KZOK morning show cast, Andy and Lee.

I am also taking the challenge, and will be talking about how the family is doing starting Sunday!