Day 2: My appetite is not satisfied…

•April 21, 2009 • 2 Comments

Today was a little more difficult than yesterday to adhere to the $7/day challenge because I felt like I was constantly hungry. Maybe it was because I had a little jog this morning, but 30 minutes after breakfast, I was already thinking about lunch. After lunch, I was looking for snacks… I’m beginning to realize how much unnecessary food I eat during the day while I’m at work. Candy, chocolate, anything… and now that I’m refraining from snacking, I’m really noticing it.

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Luckily, for dinner I still had the leftovers of the hearty soup Lav made for me yesterday. We added some pasta shells today to add a bit more substance… even tastier than yesterday. Soup is a fantastic option for a cost effective, nutritious meal.  But I have to admit:  as I type this, I’m already hungry again! Maybe I’ll down a tall glass of water…

Breakfast
Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds – $0.50
Milk – $0.50

Lunch
Grilled Cajun Chicken Sandwich – $3.40

Dinner
Yesterday’s swiss chard and zucchini soup with beans and pasta shells – $1.90
Marzipan snack treat – $0.50

eating healthy for less than $7, Day 1

•April 20, 2009 • 1 Comment

Eating for less than $7 a day is a challenge for sure.  Most of the time, we have the luxury of buying our groceries from our favorite stores or farmers markets without a serious concern about cost, strolling through the rows of bountiful west coast products and picking out the most appealing items… appealing in terms of both health and a flavor. We pay that extra bit for the “organic,” the “free range,” and the “local.” But how often do we really stop to think about the privilege of even having those kinds of choices to make?

When trying to live on a limited budget, the first thing to go out the window is choice. For some, instead of choosing between Safeway and the Ballard Farmers’ Market, its a much tougher choice of spending one’s limited resources on either meals or medicine, bread or baby formula, nourishing food or rent.

Today’s meals had to be extremely simple, since we just got back into town and haven’t had a chance to plan any of this out. My main hope is to try and meet the $7/day challenge with food choices that are both economical and healthy… but I’ll admit that today was a bit of a cop out, since I ended up having cereal for two meals. Chalk it up to jet lag and not being able to wake up early enough to pack myself a lunch.

Breakfast
Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds – $0.50
Milk – $0.50

Lunch
Chex – $0.50
Milk – $0.50

Dinner
Swiss chard and zucchini soup, with corn, onions, and just a bit of italian sausage – $1.60 (kindly prepared by my wife while I was on my way home from work… I’m calculating it cost $4.00 for the ingredients, and I ate about 40% of the pot).

All in all, not too bad for the first day–coming in at $3.60. Most of that, however, comes from the fact that I ate cereal for lunch. And I was grateful for every single bite, because my stomach was growling all day long. But it’s good to be reminded of hunger, and to realize how much more I usually eat than I actually need.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings… hopefully a picture or two! In the meantime, check out what others have been doing for this challenge on the United Way’s Hunger Challenge Blog.

United Way’s Hunger Action Week: April 20-24

•April 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment

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A couple of weeks ago, I received an email invitation from the United Way of King County, inviting me to participate in their Hunger Action Week, which starts today and runs through Friday, April 24th.

The idea behind the action week is to raise awareness for hunger issues in our local community, and the challenge is to see if you can feed yourself for only $7 a day, the maximum food stamp benefit for an individual in Washington.

I really like how they explain it on their website:

“This challenge is really an exercise of empathy—to live in someone else’s shoes for one week and learn how you can help fight hunger in our community.”

Here are the rules for the Hunger Challenge:

  • Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner spending only $7 per day.
  • Salt and pepper don’t count but all other seasonings, cooking oils, condiments, snacks, drinks, and everything else do.
  • Don’t use food you already own.
  • Don’t accept food from family, friends, coworkers and others. Not even the free samples from Costco!
  • Try to include fresh produce and healthy protein each day.
  • Keep track of expenses, food choices, etc. and share your experiences (which you can do on United Way of King County’s blog).

So please join up yourself, if you can, and consider the following:

  • Can you feed yourself for only $7 a day?
  • If you had to make a choice between buying groceries and paying your rent, how would you choose?
  • What compromises will you need to make?
  • Will you be able to provide much variety or will you need to eat the same thing all week?
  • If you don’t know how to cook, does this make the challenge more difficult?

I’ll be blogging about our meals at the end of each day this week.  For more information on the Hunger Action Week itself, check out their blog.

another dinner, this time by joe+dave

•February 8, 2009 • 3 Comments

menu
A few weeks ago, I received an email from my friend Joe, who attended the second fishes+loaves dinner back in November. He told me something I’d been hoping to hear… that he had shared the blog with his friend Dave, and they both wanted to throw their own version of a fishes+loaves meal.

Part of the original idea for this blog was the hope that the information we provide about our meals would help spur others to try hosting their own meals for charity. So I was absolutely psyched that we’d be able to take part in the first off-shoot of a fishes+loaves meal, this time as a diner!

On the evening of January 28th, Joe played the role of host and sous-chef while Dave (a law student by day, cooking enthusiast in his free time) took care of most of the cooking duties. Here was their terrific four-course menu and some pictures of the food that evening:

beef tartare crostini
organic basil, heirloom tomato, garlic, parma prosciutto, asiago, parmesan reggiano and pecorino cheese

arugula and blanched endive salad with white wine vinaigrette
arugula, endive, walnuts, pear, miyatake mushrooms, white wine vinaigrette

seared salmon and scallop roulade with roasted garlic mash
wild alaskan sockeye, fresh sea scallops, garlic, potatoes

pomegranate cranberry granita
cranberry, grey goose vodka, mint

white citrus sangria
blood orange, pomegranate, lemon zest

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dinner2
Dave’s family used to own a restaurant, so he’s no stranger to cooking and food preparation. The food was delicious, accompanied by terrific company and conversation of the other diners, many of whom were meeting for the first time. Most importantly, the dinner generated a collective contribution of $330 for Northwest Harvest.

Cheers to a wonderful dinner for an important cause! I hope to have an opportunity to follow up with these guys and get some of their thoughts about creating the meal.

Our next fishes+loaves meal will be this Saturday… Valentine’s Day. There won’t be any heart-themed dishes, but we do have a full group for the meal, the proceeds of which will go to benefit the Central Asia Institute, a nonprofit organization providing community-based education and literacy programs. Check back for the full write up!

things are in the works

•January 13, 2009 • Leave a Comment

It feels like 2009 jumped out of nowhere, emerging from the deep snows of the end of 2008. January is the “month of frugality” in our household—sort of a way to purge from the decadence of the holidays—during which we try to eschew the tenacious grip of consumerism and retreat to the pleasures of simplicity and necessity. Oh, and I give up alcohol for a month too… in keeping with the theme of purging. So far, so good, although I was craving a cold beer at the end of last week…

With the new year well underway, I’ve been experimenting with some things that are outside of my comfort zone—namely, baking. I’m not a patient man by nature, making me a pretty poor candidate for a baker, but I’ve been getting some nice results with some recent efforts on bread and cookies… some of which may be incorporated into our next dinner.

bread

cookie1
Speaking of which, it’s time for another fishes+loaves dinner. We’re aiming for the end of this month: Saturday, January 31. More details to come.

In related news, a friend who attended our last dinner in November is planning to host a fishes+loaves dinner with a friend at the end of January as well. I’ve had some great conversations with friends who’ve been interested in throwing similar meals, and I’m absolutely thrilled that one will be happening so soon. We’ll be sharing about that meal as well on this blog, so check back soon. It looks like January’s going to be an interesting month…

when kauffman speaks (writes), i listen

•December 17, 2008 • Leave a Comment

sw

Hey, we got our first press for fishes+loaves this week!  More on that in a minute.

Back during our days of living in sunny Oakland, CA, my regular commute routine on Wednesday mornings invovled walking 3 blocks to the BART station, picking up a copy of the East Bay Express from a stand by the entrance, and enjoying Jonathan Kauffman’s weekly restaurant review.

In the food-obsessed media buzz of the Bay Area, Kauffman’s writing rose above the white noise. He always seemed to find the great, lesser known neighborhood restaurants, was a master of taco trucks and good holes-in-the-wall, and helped me imagine what iguana really tastes like:

Then there was consomme de garrobo, identified as iguana soup by a tiny photo of a lizard floating over the bowl. Did you know that iguana really does taste just like chicken? No joke: I kept trying to come up with descriptive words for the chunks of pale-pink meat at the bottom of my bowl. And though the long-stewed garrobo was slightly richer than thigh meat and slightly tougher, too, I couldn’t identify a strong scent or taste.

Thanks to his articles, Lav and I tried a bunch of places that ended up becoming favorites—like Dopo, Tamarindo, and Luka’s—places that made living in the East Bay so fantastic.

Then suddenly, in 2006, he disappeared. My interest in the East Bay Express waned. I might have even started reading glossy magazines on the BART instead…

About a year later, I moved up to Seattle. I picked up a copy of the Seattle Weekly (I think the free weekly is one of the best ways to get to know a new city), turned immediately to the food section, and there he was, giving Qube a gigantic body slam… like an old friend welcoming me to my new home.

I respect Jonathan a lot—his writing is honest and informative, and heck, he’s a James Beard Award winner.  So it was a real treat when I had a brief opportunity to tell him a bit about what we’re trying to do with fishes+loaves… which he kindly turned into a post on Voracious, the Seattle Weekly’s food blog.  Check it out (“Fishes+Loaves Wants You to Eat for the Greater Good“)… I never realized how much I speak in run-on sentences(!!).  And subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed… there’s always something interesting going on.

Maybe one of these days, I’ll convince Jonathan to join us for a  fishes+loaves dinner… I know he’s a fan of slow-cooked pork…

Lastly, there won’t be a fishes+loaves meal this month; things are just too busy since we’ll be out of town for Christmas and New Year’s. But I’m coming up with plans for January… and I’ve gotten some more confirmation that a couple of fishes+loaves meals may be happening in the near future in California, hosted by some good friends.

So stay tuned… subscribe to the RSS feed if you want to stay up to date, and if you want to be notified of upcoming meals, send a quick email to us at fishesloaves@yahoo.com.

the nitty gritty on the second dinner

•December 3, 2008 • 2 Comments

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I’d been getting some feedback after the first meal we did for the University District Food Bank, and while most of it was positive, a few people were wondering if $50/person was a bit on the expensive side for what was supposed to be the cost of a “normal” meal at a favorite restaurant.

Totally fair question. Depending on what you’re used to, $50 for a meal (food+beverage+tax+tip) might seem like a lot, not that much, or just right. And it definitely has me thinking of the kinds of meals we can put on that might be a bit more affordable for more people. As I mentioned in an early post, the idea with this effort is to create an act of giving out of an expenditure that would have happened anyway so that it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. If the meal is too expensive, that defeats the purpose.

3-toast

On the other hand, I do want these meals to be special… something where the diners can look back and think “hey, that was a pretty good deal,” or, if I’m really lucky, something like “wow, I can’t believe what we got to eat for that price…” We’ll definitely be experimenting with different formats for some of the future meals (more people, more casual/communal food, different setting)… but in light of all this, we knocked the price of this meal down to $40/person (tax deductible, I might add, since the contributions were made directly to the charity by each person). For now though, the eight-person multi-course meal seems to be working pretty well.

How well? I’ve done the calculations, and we raised (insert drumroll…) $900 for Northwest Harvest!

How did we get to $900?

Out of the eight diners, we had five whose contributions were matched by employers. Three of those people ended up contributing $50/person instead of the requested $40/person (no protest here), and one diner didn’t have alcohol, so his share was only $30. That’s $440 right there. The other three contributed $40/person without employer matching, adding another $120 for a total of $560.

But wait, there’s more.

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4-romanesco

I submitted the idea for the dinner to Foodbuzz.com’s “24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs” event for November, and our idea was selected. As a part of the selection, they gave us a $300 stipend once the blog post was published on my other blog. I used that $300 to pay the cost of the ingredients for the meal, and the rest was donated to Northwest Harvest.

Our ingredients cost $130; the additional donation of $170 was matched by my employer… bringing us to a grand total of $900.

The Foodbuzz boost was definitely key because unlike the first dinner, we had a lower percentage of company matching and the cost per person was also lower. We were able to manage overall costs really well, even with the purchase of mostly local, organic and sustainably farmed ingredients. Here’s the breakdown of the shopping list:

First course ($10.00)
celery $0.50
fennel $2
apple $1
beets $2
quail eggs $1.50
shallot $1
gruyere $1
swiss chard $0.50
1 strip of bacon $0.50

Second course ($7.25)
romanesco cauliflower $6
anchovy $1
garlic $0.25

Third course ($13.50)
riccioli $5
mussels $4 (half of a 2 lb. bag)
parsley $1
garlic $0.50
pecorino romano $2
olive oil $1

Fourth course ($43)
4 lbs short ribs $31
onion $1
garlic $0.50
celery $0.50
carrots $0.50
1 bottle red wine (a gift from a dinner party several months ago)
broth $2.00
star anise $0.50
parsnip $1
jerusalem artichoke $2
chanterelles $3
sage $1

fifth course ($14)
molly moon ice cream $5
almond lace cookie ingredients $3
chocolate cake ingredients $6

beverages and misc ($41)
Dom. Ste. Michelle Sparkling Blanc de Blanc $10
2006 Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine Lirac $12
2006 Chono Syrah Elqui Valley $10
cocktails $5
Columbia City Bakery Pain de Campagne $4
misc. seasonings and oil $1-2

The biggest expenses definitely came from the pasture-raised, grass-fed short ribs (but so worth it). The best deal was the wine. Both the lirac and the syrah were amazing wines for the price… thank you Seattle Wine Outlet and North Berkeley Wine Imports!

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6-ice-cream

I’ll be putting up a final post on this meal sometime in the next few days that will have 1 or 2 recipies from the dishes we created that evening. In the meantime, if you know of any local stores who have great deals on things like produce, seasonings/spices, wine, etc., please share!