We thought it was time that I popped in and gave some opinions on how the week is progressing and about some of the controversy surrounding this week.
We should start with the good stuff. First, based on the recipes we have planned, the food we’ve bought, and what the rest of our week is like, I’m happy to see that we’d be within what would be our allotted budget. Also, and more importantly (to us), we seem to be coming into what our goals were. Making healthy recipes (ok, that’s kind of a requirement) out of mostly local ingredients, recipes that can be made quickly and easily.
It is what we set out to do and, apart from the fact that our workout schedule, something that would drastically change were we to be on food assistance, doesn’t like the reduced calorie count, it seems to be going well.
There is a lot of hate flowing at the whole program this year, almost too much to point to individuals. Some of it I can agree with, some of it I don’t. I’m so fed up, I’m just gonna bullet-point it out and then let it lie there.
- You’re just playing at being poor.
Well, yeah. We are. And when I played Dungeons and Dragons, I played at being a Thief, and when I play Battleship, I play at being Fleet Admiral Horatio Hoffenblauer, of Her Royal Majesty’s Naval Forces. I’ve spent probably half of the last five years unemployed, but, for the grace of my wonderful wife, I remained financially solvent. I didn’t have to go on food stamps, although in retrospect I may have been able to. Yes, we have the safety-net of being able to fall off the wagon and spend money, and this Saturday we fall back into our normal habits. But to suggest that the people doing this aren’t going to learn anything is asinine and unproductive. I learned things from last year’s event. I’m learning things from this year’s event. I’m learning that yes, it can be difficult to live on $12/day for food, and, at the same time, I’m learning how to plan for the possibility of ending up there ourselves. We’re learning that being self-productive is the most important thing. That even if we are working two jobs each, there are things we can do in our garden that will take little work on our part to produce food for us to eat.
We’ve also learned that the rules that envelope the contest are a little arbitrary. Don’t take things from work? Most jobs we might have will have coffee for its workers. If we have a job, we will likely have coffee. It might be bad coffee, but we’ll have coffee. A quick sugar fix is a necessity for a diabetic. I’m not talking a sweet tooth here, either. I mean ‘Oh my god, I’m about to pass out, I need sugar.’ Semi-related: Don’t get me started on people who jokingly say ‘Oh, my blood sugar must be getting low’ as an excuse for something.
- If you’re poor, you don’t have time to make this food.
We.. ok, I regularly get into this argument with people who say that people who say they don’t have time to cook just don’t get how easy it is to cook. I argue that easy or not, people working 2-3 jobs don’t have time to do the things that go with cooking. The prep work, the shopping, the cleaning. I think anyone who presumes to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and say that they do have time to cook isn’t being honest. If someone says that they don’t have the time to cook, I go into it assuming that they are being honest and then I’ll work with them to figure out how we can get them cooking.
But, forgetting all that, we went into this with something in mind: we wanted this years recipes to be easy and fast. Short prep and as short cook time as possible. We are not professional cooks. Or even trained, for that matter, unless you count Home Ec back in Junior High some 35 years ago. We strive to make sure that anyone could make these dishes skill wise, but we often fail time wise. We have mixed blessings in this house. I work an odd shift that gives me three days off during the week, while Patricia is lucky enough to be able to work from home regularly. We have time to do what others might not. But, that’s why we write instructions as plainly as we can. Heck, last Valentine’s Day, I tried to write a whole dinner for the Guys who weren’t quite up to snuff in the kitchen to impress their significant others.
We don’t know if we’re succeeding or failing. We can only tell you what we’re doing and welcome you to join us on our ride.
- If you’re poor, you don’t have the ability to get to where you need to shop.
We shopped at two locations for our food: The U-District Farmer’s Market and Whole Foods. Each of these locations are within 1.5 miles from our house. Yes, one of them is only open once a week, but, we attempted to make sure things were as convenient as possible. ‘But,’ I hear you say, ‘how can you afford to shop at these places?’
That’s the goal of this week. To prove that you can. This is what we do. We cook local. We wouldn’t not do it if we were on food stamps. We would, however, utilize our garden a lot more. We wouldn’t work out as much, or in quite the same way (thus removing one of the reasons we need extra calories.) We’d eat a lot less meat, we’d sell a lot more of our belongings.
- You food bloggers have super mega kitchens.
Well. No, not really. You might think we do, and I’m sure some of us actually do, but, us two? No. But even if we did, if we should happen to end up on food assistance next week, we’ll still have what we have now. I’m not even sure any of it would be worth reselling, but, despite all that, not everyone has a KitchenAid. Not everyone has an immersion blender. So, we decided not to use them. Going even further, I spent today at Goodwill pricing out what kitchen items we were using could be purchased for:
|Large Pot (In this case, a stock pot was found)||$7 including lid|
|Small Pot||$3 including lid|
A couple other things I glanced at, just for curiosities… Rice maker for $7, a bread maker for $13, a sun-tea jar for $3 (great for growing sprouts) and $15 for a crock pot. Why those items? Because, if we were working so many jobs, we’d want those items to cook overnight. Whole meals, some lasting for 2+ meals, would be a staple.
- You guys are whining about missing your latte. That’s shameful and not very realistic. 5 days isn’t going to teach you what it is like.
I’m going to agree with you on the one hand and disagree with you on the other. Yes, it comes across as crass and silly and stupid.
At the same time, that is exactly what I wager 75% of you would say if you ended up on food assistance. “How am I going to not get my $4 latte?” “I am not going to not appease my sweet tooth!” “How am I never going to be able to give my child a treat? I need this money for real food!” I argue that the people who say this, and then stick with it for the whole week, are the ones who are going to learn the most. Many who are calling them on this, those who know what it is like to be on food stamps, have been (or were) on them long enough to be able to work out how to make things happen. And five days is enough time to understand some of the issues. It isn’t enough time to learn the tricks, the ins and outs of how to extend the budget so that treats are possible. It also isn’t enough time to build a pantry. We’d go hungrier for a week to be able to afford a few extra pounds of beans.
I’d also argue that people on food stamps aren’t as limited as the people in the hunger challenge are, such as those free samples we can’t take from the grocery store that the Mrs. and I would be taking advantage of whenever we could. We would be drinking that coffee at work, borrowing from friends and family whenever possible, whatever it took. We know our lifestyle would change. That’s part of what this taught us.
See, it did teach us.
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