Day 5 really isn't any big deal, food wise. After a half day of thinking I was having an aneurysm from the caffeine withdrawl, my trusty sidekick Abby came to the house bearing some coffee beans in a plastic bag – I traded these for her paycheck so I think I'm still in the black. Outside of that, eating on this budget becomes pretty routine. The sweetie has been taking big turkey sandwiches and hearty soups. I made another gratin, which I ate half of for lunch and we split it for dinner with the leftover chicken thighs from earlier in the week. No big deal – we even still have cookies to bake for after dinner treats. Dare I say I'm probably gonna come in UNDER budget?
It's not so much the actual PHYSICAL part of the challenge that is the tough part for me. It's amazing how you adjust to a food level after just a few short days. For me, the rough patches have been the emotional ups and downs and the lifestyle and personal philosophy changes that are hard. All I've done for the past week is think about how I take food for granted. I think about the produce that goes to waste in our house because we get lazy and don't cook. It's even prompted us to set a food (and going-out-to-dinner) budget that is a dramatic departure from where we were before this challenge. There's a spreadsheet and everything, I tell ya.
You know what? This challenge is EASY for me – no doubt about it. I get to live this life for a week – or however long i CHOOSE to – and go back to whatever life I want after this. I have the tools to cook – times 10. I have the KitchenAid, the immersion blender, the good knives, the proper containers for food storage. I'm also armed with the knowledge of basic cooking and the art of improvisation with food. I can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, as they say. I also have the luxury of TIME. Hours to prepare sauces, soups, separate proteins into portion sizes, make chicken salad from leftover roasted chicken. I have easy access to the Internet so if I don't know how to do it, I can find out.
Not everyone's life is like this…and I know it. I am spoiled by all the things I have and all the things I know.
The average person who receives financial assistance in Georgia - which is 57% of working families in this state – doesn't have the luxury of time and skill. How do we encourage people, some of whom don't have stoves in their homes, to eat healthfully? How does someone working two jobs – or one full time job with one or more children – have the energy and resources to do this? As I said in an earlier post, the effort it takes to plan meals, shop in advance and know where every dime goes is so overwhelming, it's no surprise that many people resort to the Value Menu.
This campaign I've taken on here at RWT is just the tiniest little whisper in what should be a crowd of voices trying to help people get basic cooking utensils, extra produce leftover from CSAs and markets, and arm them with the basic knowledge that boxed food isn't better and that they CAN feed themselves and their families in a more nutritious way. How do I, just one frustrated and (feeling a bit) helpless person, make this happen? I'm not sure – this challenge for me doesn't end on Sunday morning. I continue on thinking about these issues and doing whatever I can – in however large a way is possible – to make improvements.
The photo from this post was taken by my dear friend Tony Clark and MacGuyvered up by yours truly for a magazine editorial a few years ago. I still love this photo.