Wednesday, February 18, 2009

$25 Grocery Challenge--some advice from others

I have a great job. For the last nine years, it's included helping manage a fairly significant hunger relief effort by Tyson Foods. You can see a bit of what we're doing at our hunger relief blog, and I'll be cross-linking as we all go through the effort.

Part of what I do is work with hunger relief organizations and food banks from around the country, so I'm familiar with this challenge, having seen it carried out by other groups. For some time now, I've promised I would undertake it myself, so I'm grateful for the opportunity to be part of such an effort in my own community.

Last fall, we worked with a group of food bloggers from the Bay Area, who took the Hunger Challenge. Each blogged about it on her own blog, in addition to contributing to the Hunger Challenge Blog. There's some excellent writing, plus, they also offered up some tasty recipes to cook on a budget. Those of you who are going through this process might check them out.

When I decided I would do this myself, I emailed the Hunger Challenge bloggers for their advice.
Gayle Keck, who is also media relations manager for the San Francisco Food Bank, offered up the following:
  • Seasonings make a huge difference

  • Bacon grease/bacon - goes a long way to add meaty flavor

  • Oatmeal is a cheap, good breakfast and snack-type belly filler

  • Don't buy anything that isn't on sale - the grocery ad pages are your best ally

  • Some people planned all their menus/purchases out in advance; I had some general ideas, but let sale items guide me (not everything was listed in the store circulars)

  • The more people you're feeding, the easier it is - buying bulk definitely makes things cheaper (and so does shopping at stores where you can buy small amounts from bulk bins)

  • If there's something you can't live without (for me it was cafe lattes), be creative about how you get it - for example, I got a small jar of instant espresso and made my own lattes from that and milk. I also quickly spread my (bargain) pear slices throughout the day so I could have a little sweet snack in the afternoon or evening, rather than eating a whole pear for breakfast, as I would normally have done.

  • You will get cranky. Tell everyone what you're doing, so they don't think it's just how you are ;-)

Amy Sherman, author of the marvelous food site, Cooking with Amy, had this advice:

  • My best suggestion is to plan, plan, plan. The more you can price out ahead of time, the easier it will be. Try to build in some variety; eating oatmeal everyday can get awfully boring. Look for low cost food items but don't forget to read the labels. Some cheap food is not very nutritious.
  • Sometimes frozen vegetables are a better deal than fresh. Pasta is a good buy too.

Thanks to Gayle and Amy, and a big tip of the hat to those of you out there on the front lines of the fight against hunger every day

If you're a Twitterer, you can follow the Tyson Foods account here.

photo by Mr. Kris--Creative Commons

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am so insensed about Mayor Bob McCaslins comments in the paper DemGaz this morning. It's a "Fun thing"? He's going to eat cookies for a week and he's going to Beg?

Very soon he is going to understand why some people who are on food stamps can't eat right or stay healthy. He can eat those cookies for a week...but try to buy some healthy foods on 25 dollars without having to go through a dumpster at Harps. Let's see how the Mayor feels when he goes to a food shelf only to be lectured about the bible and God..made to cry for being poor when your stomach is growling and you have to get back to work because those food shelves are only open from 1 to 3 in the afternoons.

And then there are those...who are just one toe over that line to qualify for food stamps. They are hungry too. Thank goodness for the school lunch programs and breakfast programs to feed the children.

Shame shame on Mayor Bob McCaslin and his Admin asst who will sneak him food so he can cheat.

Am I the only one who feels this anger for his comments?