Sharing our Strength Spirit

Hunger Challenge: After the challenge & our hunger challenge menu

Beck and I participated in the San Francisco Food Bank hunger challenge last week living off $4.72 per person per day, based on the food stamp allotment in California. Last week I shared my ramblings of living on a restricted food budget.

So it’s me again.

Just when I thought I’d said my piece about the hunger challenge, I found a few more morsels to share.

I’m not used to cooking every single night. There, I’ve said it. Living in a city, it’s easy to call up for take-out, walk down the street and grab a bite or my personal favorite, pop by the store after work and consider the evening as it takes shape in my mind. None of these were available last week to our benefit and detriment. I really loved how having a map of how the ingredients might take shape helped me piece together a meal at the end of the workday. Beck and I appreciated the boundaries of the plan. On the other hand, there were nights where neither of us wanted to cook at all, where we got home pretty tired from the day’s events and not really anticipating tackling the project of cooking. The evening of the roasted chicken, dinner was served at 10 p.m. We were tired, hungry and devoured that evening’s portion within minutes. This made me think of people who live on food stamps and how much work goes in after work. It also was a good reminder of cooking ahead, making Sunday a day set aside to rest and roast.

Today, a day after the hunger challenge, in the airport I ordered an iced specialty coffee drink for around $5. A day after the hunger challenge, I drank an entire day’s budget in one Phoenix airport sitting. It left me unsettled. Truthfully, you’ll see in our menu recap below that at the end of the week, for Sunday supper we went rogue. After a week of living on a restricted budget, and after a personally eventful weekend, we wanted a break. Something easy. And dinner came to about $25 bucks, almost an entire week’s worth of the food stamp budget in one meal. And it tasted good, I’m not going to lie, but today, in the afterglow, I’m left wondering, so “what’s next?”

Thanksgiving. Christmas.

And here’s where you come in. You may not have a lot of money and as the holidays begin descending on us, may feel a bit pinched. But perhaps you, like me, might be willing to part with $33.04, a single person’s food stamp budget for a week. I would encourage you to consider giving that amount to your local food bank and perhaps even have someone in mind for whom you are giving the amount. If you live in the Bay Area, think of giving that amount to the SF food bank or Share our Strength.

Maybe you’re financially squeezed right now and you would like to give but can’t. Consider preparing and serving a Thanksgiving meal or Christmas meal at a shelter. There are ways you and I can still remain challenged.

So let it be.






  • D: Brown Rice, Pinto Beans and Massaged Kale for $1.49
    *TIP- Saute quarter of an onion in 1 tablespoon of oil until translucent and then add your drained beans to the pan and heat until bubbling. Serve with 1/2 cup of brown rice. For massaged kale, squeeze 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and and 1 tablespoon olive oil onto 1 cup of kale. Add a dash of salt and pepper and “massage” the leaves until well coated. Let sit for 10 minutes or longer and enjoy. The brightness of the lemon and kale blend so well with the brown rice and beans! Humble and delicious at the same time.



  • B: Green Smoothie for $1.04
  • L: Pinto Beans, Brown Rice & Massaged Kale for 1.49
  • Mama’s Enchiladas (4) $2.90…. recipe coming soon


  • B: Green Smoothie for $1.04
  • L: Brown rice, massaged kale, Fuji apple and 1 tablespoon peanut butter for $1.43

Hummus Veggie Tostadas


  • B: Green Smoothie for $1.04
  • L: Pinto Beans, Brown Rice & Massaged Kale for $1.49
  • D: Roast Chicken & Vegetables for $1.95


  • B: Overnight Oats with Peanut Butter and 1/2 Banana for $1.20
    *TIP: Combine 1/4 cup oats with 1/4 cup plain yogurt and 1/4 cup almond milk. Mix and cover. Let sit over night. The next morning, chop 1/2 a banana on top of your Swiss oats and add a tablespoon of peanut butter. Easy.
  • L: Brown Rice, Hummus & Massaged Kale for $1.49

mung bean noodles and cabbage saute

  • D: Mung Bean Noodle Cabbage Saute for $1.73
    *TIP: Have you ever tried mung beans? They’re delicious, cheap ($.69 for a bag that serves 4) and easy to make. Fill a pot with warm water and soak noodles for 5 minutes until soft and pliable. While they’re soaking, set a pot of water to boil. Add noodles to boiling water for 30 seconds and then drain in a colander. Cut the noodles into four sections (for ease of eating- they’re long!) and then set aside. In a large pan, add 1 tablespoon oil and once the bottom of pan is slick with oil, add in a thumb length of fresh ginger, skinned and sliced thin as well as two garlic cloves, thinly sliced. Add to the pan a quarter head of cabbage, sliced. Also add two washed carrots, cut into matchsticks. Saute until browned, then add in 1/2 cup shredded chicken (from your roast chicken) and half of your noodles. Saute for a few minutes to let the flavors meld. Serve with 1 stalk of green onion sliced thin and a quarter of a red bell pepper, chopped thin along with several sprigs of cilantro. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar on top along with a dash of salt and pepper and serve.


  • B: Overnight Oats with Peanut Butter and 1/2 Banana for $1.20

migas and cabbage saute

  • L: Migas and Cabbage Saute for $1.61
    (Cabbage saute from Friday night without chicken or noodles)
  • D: Chicken Enchiladas (2) and 1 cup Shredded Lettuce for $1.62


  • B: Peanut Butter Tortilla Roll-ups (2) for $.49
    *TIP: Toast 2 corn tortillas in toaster oven for crispy texture (or in between damp paper towels for 30 seconds in the microwave for steamed texture). Remove and use 1 tablespoon to smear on both tortillas.  Then roll each one up and munch away.


  • L: Huevos Rancheros with 1/2 cup Brown Rice and Simple Green Salad for $1.56
    *TIP: Make these easy, nutritious black “refried/retried” beans and smear on tostada. Then make an over easy egg. Serve atop the beans and dribble salsa on top. Eat with salad. (P.S. for the price listed, that includes a second tostada with beans only.)
  • D: Rogue … $25

Hunger Challenge Day 7: Black Refried Beans recipe

Black Refried Beans

Nathan and I are living off of $4.72 per day per person this week as part of the SF Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge. This includes  preparation, time and support… With a restricted budget, there are foods that don’t make it in, there are cravings and fatigue. I’m blogging my ramblings of the challenge this week.

It’s the end of the challenge. Before me, I have a new week and menu to consider. There are groceries to be bought, dregs of this week to be engrafted into a new set of rules. Or are they?

Crossing this line isn’t the kind of whoop-whoop celebration that many challenges bring about. True, I will appreciate sinking my teeth into the crisped edges of an everything bagel and lick the toasted garlic and cream cheese from my lips with recognition of spending half a day’s allowance on a breakfast treat with two meals to go. I will continue to seek out ways to make the most of the food I do have, like making chicken stock after shucking the bones of all the meat. I’m young still. There is hopefully time yet for me to continue learning.

Poverty is nothing new to me.

I’m friends with people who could fall into the category of the working poor. I’m friends with people who used to live under the Bay Bridge and also play a wicked game of chess. I’m friends with women in India who live in a slum and sing as they hang out their laundry. I’m friends with people who never have to worry where their next meal is going to come from or the one after that. And I like them all without question.

So perhaps as we begin entering this holiday season, it’s good to ask the question, “who is my neighbor and how can I love them as I love myself?”

My friend Stacey worked and scrimped, making extreme choices for a year, all to pay off a credit card. She set a very real and very hard timeline for herself. We, her friends, respected and supported her as she lived on little and kept chipping away at her debt that she might find freedom. This act of perseverance was fraught with struggle along the way, but Stacey also learned some valuable life lessons that would see her through richer times as well as the lean times and eventually after she was married, allowed her the opportunity to stay home with their baby and live off of her husband’s small salary.  I’m sure this is the case for many living on small means, but she had become a budgeting queen.

Among the various lessons learned during her payback period, she taught me the art of finding free or very cheap ways to be with a person. The goal she showed me isn’t the “doing”, it’s the “being”. During this period, she would call and ask to meet up for a cup of coffee. For $1.50 we would catch up and at the end feel satisfied with the time spent. I’ve called up my friend Kenny to go for a walk instead of going to the cinema.

Time spent with someone who loves you is what counts, not what you can do or give to them.

So my take-aways are simple:

  • we ate better than we have in a long while because of the planning and preparing that went into making our meals.
  • we found ourselves hungry and frustrated at times.
  • I felt left out of social situations.
  • I found my eyes opened to see all the work and time necessary to eat well on a hunger challenge.
  • I felt exposed, knowing I do not live on food stamps, so this challenge is a rudimentary way to try and understand.
  • I heard you say you learned something new:

And that made me smile-  that made this worth it.


Black “Refried” Beans

Why go refried when you can go less fat? The caramelized onions and garlic give a deep, complex flavor and the tomato contributes to these silky beans. Serve on tostadas or alongside with brown rice. Heck, refried beans are fantastic on nachos or in burritos as well as for the base of a bean dip. 

TIME: 5-7 minutes
COST: $2.62

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves, halved

¼ yellow onion, sliced

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 roma tomato, diced

2 cans black beans, drained

3 tablespoons water


Saute the garlic and onion in a medium saucepan over medium heat until browned around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and tomatoes, stirring frequently and cooking until the tomatoes loosen and slump, about 4 minutes. Add the beans to the pan and stir for a few minutes until slightly bubbling. Add the tomato-laced beans into a blender with 3 tablespoons water. Puree until smooth.

Sharing our Strength Spirit

Hunger Challenge Day 6: “Getting by”

Beck and I are living off of $4.72 per day per person this week as part of the SF Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge. This includes  preparation and time… With a restricted budget, there are foods that don’t make it in, there are cravings and there is fatigue. I’m blogging my ramblings of the challenge this week.


Getting By

Doing a hunger challenge on a Saturday is hard. Being involved in this during the weekdays somehow seemed far easier than the weekend. On any typical weekend I might be:

  • canoodling with a bagel and cream cheese, reading a book
  • stopping in for a weekend cafe au lait, reading a book
  • heading to the farmer’s market, book in my bag
  • perhaps planning a night out at a restaurant with the boy

Clearly today involved reading, as all good days do, in my book. But it also included moments of radio silence which usually would be filled with the flavors and noise of food jaunts. I might say today I am just eking by… and my routine I usually take for granted is missed, my small extravagances.

And this gets me thinking about the middle class.

The middle class that is according to articles I’ve been reading lately, shopping for cheaper foods and dwindling. (Look up P&G in last week’s Wall Street Journal for “A Tale of 2 Shoppers” and a second article on P&G changing their focus from middle class to appealing to lower…also WSJ).  What seems to be happening is a rise of affluence and a steady rise of working poverty. I am not a child of the great depression but have the great privilege of sometimes hearing stories from older consumers who have lived through it, who developed thick skin and tight pocketbooks, letting the leanest of times inform the best. Then in 2008, the recession happened and I began watching the bottoms fall out in people’s lives around me. I listened as my dad shared that a client who owed him $25,000 for a job finished could not pay and pled bankruptcy. I knitted my brow for him.

Those things keep you up at night.

And while I don’t think my Dad despaired or had difficulties putting food on the table, it is a good indication of the temperature of the people landscape around us.  So, while you may be wondering, “Annelies, why are you talking about the middle class at the tail end of your week-long hunger challenge?”,  it’s pretty simple. More people from the middle class are transitioning into the working poor than I think may let on. This means to me, that the possibility of  people living on food stamps is increasing behind closed doors.

Which makes the hunger challenge even more important.

Take my friend we’ll call Sam. He had a steady job a few years ago and got bitten by the bug to move to New York and more deeply pursue his career in his field. At the time, my job afforded me quarterly trips to the big apple and I went from seeing Sam giddy and high on the bright lights and big city opportunities to foundering. He lived in that city for over a year and worked an odd job or two to help pay bills. I remember him telling me he had to skip meals. I remember the thought of my per diem chafing me as I listened. He told me that Chinese fast food was cheap and kept him full for hours. He’d learned survival tips for a tough, unbreakable city. He moved back to San Francisco and sought out his old job, but was only able to re-enter it part time. After many months of looking, he joined a retailer and has learned how to live off of meager means.

If that example doesn’t suit, then perhaps take my friend we will call Oliver. His job only paid a portion of his salary per paycheck and for about a year because the company was slowly going under. He began looking for other opportunities in San Francisco and when none presented themselves, he ended up moving out-of-state for a job where he would make an amount that technically qualified him for food stamps, but involved an industry he was passionate about. He has truly learned to skimp and save and do it healthfully.

Last one, a couple we will call Jane and Derek. Jane lost her job and because of a chronic health issue found it difficult to look for others. Not that long after Jane lost her job, Derek lost his. Jane eventually found part time employment but that barely sufficed to pay the bills. Derek had been looking for over a year with no luck when they decided to move closer to their families.

So here’s what I might entreat or perhaps assuage you to consider: a lot of people around you are just getting by and maybe you fall into that category too. Maybe the point of the hunger challenge is only to show how difficult it is to live off of $4.72 per person per day for food. And I won’t lie, it is hard. But perhaps as I’m nearing the end, one of the things that will be my grand take-away is the idea of mindfulness.

To be mindful of what I have that can be given
To be mindful of who is around me and keeping my ears open
To be mindful of what I have and give thanks
To be mindful that life is not always fair or easy

but with support, love and for me, God, life is most sweet when shared


Hunger Challenge Day 5: Green Smoothie Recipe

Green Smoothie

Beck and I are living off of $4.72 per day per person this week as part of the SF Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge. This includes  preparation and time… With a restricted budget, there are foods that don’t make it in and there are cravings. I’m blogging my ramblings of the challenge this week.



The alarm blared against the edges of my sleep yesterday, and truth be told, the day before that, shaving off too many minutes. I can’t explain it well, but I’ve been tired and in need of pepping myself into energy, go-tackle mode. I blame it on our mattress and possibly the rumbling thing that is my stomach. Going into this, we knew we needed to balance our proteins and veggies with grains. Wednesday in particular had me running on low but quite energetic. Friday was one of those days of pulling myself to catch up with the clock.

Not good.

So I wonder what fatigue is like for people on food stamps. And beyond them, what is it like for the ultra poor in third world countries. Yes, it is difficult to live on $4.72 per day, but this challenge is showing me what it looks like. A taste only. As I write these words, I feel exposed. I do not live on food stamps. The best I can do to garner a semblance of understanding this is consider my meals and food budget for the week and tailor it to the amount proffered to Californians living on food stamps. To talk about my experience this week might be to actually offend someone living on food stamps but that is not my intent.

My eyes are wide open and I am learning.

I wonder about the mothers and fathers who take half of their portion and give it to their child. I wonder what bedtime and the growling thing that is their stomach looks like for them. And then I think back to a slum in East Delhi… my friends bestowing great acts of hospitality in the form of dusty but chilled bottles of cola and Limca. I can imagine the fatigue, that dull sense of being tired is something you have to push through. I think of our homeless friend Thomas, sleeping in the park and what dinner and bedtime look like for him. And I am inspired by their facial lines and edges, their tenacity to keep going in the midst of hardship I cannot appreciate.

When I interviewed Chris of Incanto earlier this year for my work with SOS, he said something that really stood out to me. He cited one reason that he chose to participate as part of Taste of the Nation involved being a dad and knowing that at his child’s school, he knew kids who counted on the food they’d get during school hours. He wanted other kids to have an opportunity to build childhood taste memories. I am reminded how that’s also true for the adults.

Hunger, to those of us especially in the food industry is something we want to address naturally. Feeding others and ourselves and doing it well is a gift that we enjoy bestowing on the people around us. It is disconcerting to encounter a problem so big that can threaten to dissolve possible action.

It can cause inertia. It can make a person awfully tired.

And I would reckon that this might be the best reason to take the hunger challenge. Even though the SF Food Bank’s hunger challenge officially ends on Sunday, there’s nothing to stop you from trying it for a week and sharing your perspective. Awareness happens one conversation at a time.

Awareness and change are borne through people with passion. Sounds like something worth getting tired over, right?

Green Smoothie

Green Smoothie recipe

On the mornings we had the most pep, you can bet this smoothie had something to do with it. You can’t taste the spinach but you reap all of its great nutrients. We added oats for extra heft and the peanut butter gives a dose of protein. Naturally sweet bananas round out this popular smoothie combination. Our ice cube tray makes small cubes, so I’d encourage focusing on texture of the smoothie rather than a specific amount. I like my smoothies thick but fluid enough to drink, but maybe you like yours thinner?

TIME: 5 minutes
SERVES: 2 portions
COST: $1.04 per person


1/2 cup almond milk

1 cup spinach leaves, washed and dried

2 bananas, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon peanut butter

2 tablespoons rolled oats

1 cup ice


Add the milk, spinach, banana, peanut butter, and oats into the blender. Start the blender on slow speed, working up to a high speed until pureed.  I like to add the ice after the blender has begun working, starting with three ice cubes at a time, continuing to add ice, a cube at a time until it’s frosty and thick, about 1 cup of ice.

Sharing our Strength Spirit

Hunger Challenge Day 1: Time & Shopping List

Beck and I are living off of $4.72 per day per person this week as part of the SF Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge. This includes  preparation and time…


Preparing to nourish yourself and your loved ones on a restricted budget takes time. Trolling the SF Food Bank FAQs brought me to their suggestion of doing all the shopping in one place and at one time.

Instead, my inner scavenger is coming out.

Like a barracuda circling the waters looking for its next kill, I approached grocery shopping for the week. It became a game. I kept a meticulous record of expenses so as not to get off course. From Safeway, I purchased broccoli slaw at an incredible deal. From the local bodega in West Portal, an eggplant and salsa. After flying in earlier than anticipated on Sunday, we hit up Trader Joe’s for dairy, proteins and some produce. Later in the evening, I wended my way over to Chinese grocery stores squeezing produce at one store and evaluating the red bell peppers at another, all the while sniffing out the best deals. Tucked into these aisles with calculator and notebook in hand, I sought to leave no detail unattended. I can safely say I have not put this much time into trying to get it right. And by “it”, I mean feeding, food, the act of nourishing.

Canvas bags packed with our excursions’ findings, we now had the semblance of the black lettering of a menu laid out in ingredients on our counter top. Up an hour before usual, I whisked together the quiche cups for our breakfast, then chopped and assembled the Lemon Pepper Tuna with Apple Slaw.


Going back to another question, the one of access, a person on food stamps probably does not have the time to make it to three, four or five stores to scour for deals. More likely, they are working hard to keep a roof over their head and easy is the name of the game when it comes to food. For some reason, I have a single mother in my mind working two or three jobs to make ends meet. We’ll call her Valerie. I see her rise in the dark and I see her wearily work her way home after the sun has set. Can nutrition be easy and affordable for her?

I still have so much to learn.


  • Eggplant (1)——————- $1.39
  • Ginger (1 piece)————– $.12
  • Corn Tortillas (80)———– $3.80
  • Eggs (1 dozen)—————–$1.69
  • Plain Goat’s Milk Yogurt (1 tub)—- $5.49
  • Salsa (2 cans)—————- $2.18
  • Garbanzos (1 can)———– $.89
  • Garlic (1 bulb)————— $.72
  • Olive oil (1 bottle)———– $4.99


  • Lemons (4)——————- $1
  • Spinach (1 bag)————– $1.99
  • Kale (1 bag)—————— $1.99
  • Bananas (5)—————— $1

drygoods_oats n fujis

  • Fuji Apples (12)———— $1.69
  • GF Oats (1 bag)————- $3.99
  • Almond Milk (1 carton)– $2.99
  • Natural Whole Chicken (1)— $8.24
  • Potatoes (2)—————- $.53
  • Organic Carrots (5)——- $.79
  • Celery Hearts (1 bag)—– $1.69
  • Onions (2)—————— $.61
  • Peanut Butter (1 jar)—– $1.79
  • Mung Bean Noodles (1 bag)– $.69


  • Cucumber (1)————– $.69
  • Red Bell Pepper (1)——- $.37
  • Canned Tuna (2)———- $3
  • Brown Rice (2 lb)——— $2.99
  • Organic Black Beans (1 can)— $1.19
  • Organic Pinto Beans (1 can)— $1.19
  • Tomatoes (2)——————– $.40
  • Broccoli Slaw (1 bag)———– $1
  • Cilantro (1 bunch)————– $.39
  • Rice Vinegar (1 bottle)——– $1.99
  • Green Onions (1 bunch)——- $.35
  • Cabbage (1 head)————— $.64
  • Lettuce (1 head)—————- $.69
    Total: $65.15  for 2 people for 1 week ($32.57 per person)

Tomorrow, catch the shopping list make its way into recipes and meals.