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It’s the immemorial feelings
I like the best: hunger, thirst,
their satisfaction; work-weariness,
earned rest; the falling again
from loneliness to love;
the green growth the mind takes
from the pastures in March;
the gayety in the stride
of a good team of Belgian mares
that seems to shudder from me
through all my ancestry.

Wendell Berry, from Collected Poems


I’m actually leaving for out of town today for work, so yesterday was a little crazy getting things all ready for the crew while I’m gone.

I did a little pasta sauce in the crock pot yesterday, so we had that with some pasta for dinner. This morning, I put a pork roast in the crock pot, so the boys should be able to enjoy that with the pasta sauce leftovers until I get back. I tried to calculate the costs for all of the meals, just to finish up with this week of more mindful eating.


Organic quinoa, cinnamon, fair trade banana (I make this at the beginning of the week to last us all week) + splash of organic milk
$0.60 x 3 servings = $1.80

Leftover gumbo from the night before – freebie
Hard-boiled (local, free-range) egg, organic grapes, nuts, cheese (we packed Jasper’s lunch) –  $2

Leftover gumbo from the night before – freebie
Organic salad with homemade dressing – $1

Organic apples x3 –  $1.95
Dark chocolate x2 – $0.60

Total for the day = $7.35


Organic yogurt and homemade granola – $2 (Jasper and I)
Organic quinoa “bake” from previous few days – $0.60 (Grant)

Leftover gumbo from the night before – freebie (finally gone!)
Scrambled eggs with veggies for Jasper – $1.50

Homemade pasta sauce (canned from this year’s garden) – freebie
Local, happy ground beef – $4.75
Red wine – $0.50
Whole wheat pasta – $1
Parmesan cheese – $0.40
Organic salad with homemade dressing – $1.50

Total for the day = $12.25


Organic yogurt and homemade granola – $2 (Jasper and I)
Organic quinoa “bake” from previous few days – $0.60 (Grant)

PB&J sandwiches, organic grapes, organic carrots (packed lunches for Jasper and Grant) – $3.75
Leftover pasta for me – freebie

Local, happy pork roast with onions, potatoes, and carrots (recipe to come) – $12 but enough for at least three meals

Total for the day = $18.35

More thoughts on this week’s “hunger challenge” to come…

I have honestly been a bit surprised at the cost of our total meals this week – I thought it would have been more. We do buy quite a bit in bulk, which I always knew helped, but it has become even more apparent this week. (We buy in bulk via a few local co-ops – let me know in the comments if you’re local and want more information).


Organic quinoa, cinnamon, fair trade banana (I make this at the beginning of the week to last us all week) + splash of organic milk
$0.60 x 3 servings = $1.80

Leftover enchiladas from the night before – freebie
Organic romaine salad with balsamic vinegar and oil – $1

Sausage gumbo (recipe below) with rice $9.65 total
Romaine salad with apples $3.65

Organic grapes $2

Total for the day: $18.10

Sausage Gumbo
A Sara Original

I’ll give the prices below for the sake of this week’s project. All ingredients are grown organically unless otherwise noted. And I’m going to count spices as freebies, which I know they aren’t, but I think spices are a great way to make real food taste even better and most kitchens would have them on hand.

2 TBSP oil – $0.50
2 TBSP flour – $0.15
2 green peppers, diced (we had these already diced in the freezer from our CSA peppers over the summer) – $0.50
2 onions, diced – $0.30
2 celery stalks with leaves, diced – $0.40
4 cloves local garlic, minced – $0.50
1 tsp paprika, oregano, and thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 cups chicken broth – freecycled from chicken carcass and veggie scraps
Local, happily raised sausage (four links in casing) – $4
2 cups chickpeas – $1
2 cups diced tomatoes – freebies from our garden*
Salt and pepper

4 cups of cooked rice – $2

If you haven’t already, cook two cups of rice (equal to four cups cooked).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lay the sausage on a cookie sheet, poke a few holes in the links with a fork, and place it in the oven until cooked throughout and a bit crispy on the outside (about 20 minutes).

In a large pot, preheat the oil until shimmering, and then add the flour. Cook the flour and oil until a golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Then add the green peppers, onions, and celery. Cook until the onion is softened. Then add the spices and garlic, cooking just until fragrant. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, and then lower heat to a simmer. By this time, the sausage should be done cooking. Slice it down the middle and then in one-inch pieces. Add to the pot. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas to the pot. Simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes. Serve over the rice.

Excuse the crummy phone picture – we were too hungry!

*I realize that there are still costs to things that we grow in the garden, but I’m terrible at math and there is no way I can figure out the value of our time + how much watering we did + the cost of the compost that we used to fertilize the plants…and the list goes on.

From “The Idea of a Local Economy,”

…the first thought may be a recognition of one’s ignorance and vulnerability as a consumer in the total economy. As such a consumer, one does not know the history of the products that one uses. Where, exactly, did they come from? Who produced them? What toxins were used in their production? What were the human and ecological costs of producing them and then of disposing of them? One sees that such questions cannot be answered easily, and perhaps not at all. Though one is shopping amid an astonishing variety of products, one is denied certain significant choices. In such a state of economic ignorance it is not possible to choose products that were produced locally or with reasonable kindness toward people and toward nature. Nor is it possible for such consumers to influence production for the better. Consumers who feel a prompting toward land stewardship find that in this economy they can have no stewardly practice. To be a consumer in the total economy, one must agree to be totally ignorant, totally passive, and totally dependent on distant supplies and self-interested suppliers.

So this week of The Hunger Challenge is to live on a food stamp budget for the week. For a family of four, a food stamp budget is $120.68 for the week. We have trouble figuring out our monthly food budget because we buy all of our meat and poultry in bulk (from the farm!) and much of the rest of our foods in bulk too. So it’s difficult to come up with a number that we spend every month. We track our food dollars, but do so more on an annual basis than a monthly basis.

In the video at service this week, the family that was interviewed talked about buying a whole chicken for $4 at Aldi among other things. I cringed at that comment. I wonder what was done to that chicken in order to be able to sell it for FOUR dollars. While I commend this family and others for paying more attention to their food budgets in a move of solidarity and compassion with people that have to live on food stamp budgets all year long, I hope that people that participate don’t only come away with the knowledge that they can find cheap food if they seek it out. People in poverty, as I’ve mentioned, don’t have as many choices as the rest of us. I hope and pray that we come away as a community from this week in hopes of working to give people in poverty more and better choices when it comes to their food:

  • Just because you live in poverty, you shouldn’t only be able to afford government-subsidized junk food.
  • People on food stamps should be encouraged to vote with their food dollars too – many farmer’s markets accept SNAP benefits.
  • As a community of Christ followers, we should be lobbying for a program like this one in Michigan, which doubles food stamp dollars spent at local farmer’s markets because keeping our spending locally builds our communities in a myriad of ways, in addition to getting low income families eating better.
  • I’m praying that this week, Grace people get creative in how we can not only be more compassionate to people receiving food stamps, but how we can help make it easier for them to make more sustainable (both for their bodies and for our communities) food choices.
  • We should actually be spending MORE on our food. Food is our fuel. We are what we eat. And as a country, we’re sick and dying. If this project teaches us as a community anything, it should be that we should be more mindful of how we spend our food dollars.

So instead of living on a food stamp budget for the week, we’re going to only eat from our freezer and pantry and meticulously track how much our meals cost. I’m hoping to show that eating locally, seasonally, and making sustainability of our food choices a priority is not as expensive as many may think.

Meatless Monday at house, so no meat allowed

Organic quinoa, cinnamon, fair trade banana with milk
$0.60 x 3 servings = $1.80

Scrambled eggs (6 local, free range) eggs with cheese, organic peppers, onions, and kale (peppers and kale were from our garden, so I’m counting those as freebies)
$0.82 x 3 servings = $2.45

Tortillas, organic and local butternut squash, organic onion, organic black beans, Neufchâtel cheese, Colby jack cheese, homemade salsa verde (from the garden) – recipe to come
Organic romaine salad
$5.95 total (enough for leftovers for everyone’s lunch on Tuesday)

2 organic apples $1.30
Almonds $0.80
Dark organic chocolate $0.50
Organic grapes $1

Total for three eaters*: $15

*Jasper should really count as an adult eater. You should see that kid – he’s a machine!

Last week turned into a bit of a bust for our household: our little lady got sick, we spent a whole day at the doctor’s office, and Grant had to go out of town for work at the last minute. We did the rice and beans, but not as strictly as I had hoped. In between all of the craziness, I made a batch of navy bean soup and a huge pot of rice. It basically lasted me all week since Grant was gone so much and things were so crazy.

I knew already that I don’t love leftovers for more than about three days, but I was reminded again how people in poverty face many difficulties, but one that I would have the most trouble with is the poverty of choice. While we live on a budget and limit ourselves in certain areas, I still have thousands of choices every day. Poverty eliminates choice. And by eliminating choice, it impacts people’s dignity too because we then expect that people should just be happy with whatever they get when they are in a position of need…which is why places like the Grace Care Center are so important because they offer people choices. It may not seem like a big deal to be able to choose between canned corn or peas, but when your days are full of a lack of choices about your circumstances, those seemingly mundane choices become more significant.

Volunteer today!

I tend to get a little cynical when it comes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), but I came across this new site that they have developed geared toward connecting citizens with their local farmers. It also has information about grants/programs supported by the USDA and other resources for both local farmers and consumers. Kudos USDA!

…it will make you happier!

If you’re participating in Grace’s Hunger Challenge this week, you’re probably thinking about food and hunger a little more frequently and differently than you usually might. Wendell extols us (sub)urban folks to “eat responsibly,” which he says looks a little like this:

1. Participate in food production to the extent that you can. If you have a yard or even just a porch box or a pot in a sunny window, grow something to eat in it. Make a little compost of your kitchen scraps and use it for fertilizer. Only by growing some food for yourself can you become acquainted with the beautiful energy cycle that revolves from soil to seed to flower to fruit to food to offal to decay, and around again. You will be fully responsible for any food that you grow for yourself, and you will know all about it. You will appreciate it fully, having known it all its life.

2. Prepare your own food. This means reviving in your own mind and life the arts of kitchen and household. This should enable you to eat more cheaply, and it will give you a measure of “quality control”: you will have some reliable knowledge of what has been added to the food you eat.

3. Learn the origins of the food you buy, and buy the food that is produced closest to your home. The idea that every locality should be, as much as possible, the source of its own food makes several kinds of sense. The locally produced food supply is the most secure, freshest, and the easiest for local consumers to know about and to influence.

4. Whenever possible, deal directly with a local farmer, gardener, or orchardist. All the reasons listed for the previous suggestion apply here. In addition, by such dealing you eliminate the whole pack of merchants, transporters, processors, packagers, and advertisers who thrive at the expense of both producers and consumers.

5. Learn, in self-defense, as much as you can of the economy and technology of industrial food production. What is added to the food that is not food, and what do you pay for those additions?

6. Learn what is involved in the best farming and gardening.

7. Learn as much as you can, by direct observation and experience if possible, of the life histories of the food species.

From “The Pleasures of Eating.” Read the whole thing.


California’s Proposition 37 will require genetically-modified foods to carry a label indicating that they are made with genetically-modified ingredients. This has the potential to impact all Americans because it will be less expensive for food manufactures to label all foods, rather than just those bound for California. In addition, Big Food will be more likely to seek out non-genetically-modified ingredients because the public is weary of GMOs (genetically-modified organisms). Says Michael Pollan,

Expect the industry to first try to stomp out the political brush fire by taking the new California law to court on the grounds that a state cannot pre-empt a federal regulation. One problem with that argument is that, thanks to the bio-tech industry’s own lobbying prowess, there is no federal regulation on labeling, only an informal ruling, and therefore nothing to pre-empt…To avoid having to slap the dread letters on their products, many food companies will presumably reformulate their products with non-G.M. ingredients, creating a new market for farmers and for companies selling non-G.M. seed. The solidarity of Monsanto and companies like Coca-Cola — which reaps no benefit from using G.M. corn in its corn syrup — might then quickly crumble. Rather than deal with different labeling laws in different states, food makers would probably prefer to negotiate a single national label on G.M. foods. Consumer groups like the Just Label It campaign, which has collected 1.2 million signatures on a petition to force the F.D.A. to label G.M. foods, thus far to no avail, would suddenly find themselves with a seat at the table and a strong political hand.

Pollan argues that the vote on Proposition 37 is an opportunity for the “Food Movement” to become an actual political movement – and for government and Big Food to take notice of it:

One of the more interesting things we will learn on Nov. 6 is whether or not there is a “food movement” in America worthy of the name — that is, an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system. People like me throw the term around loosely, partly because we sense the gathering of such a force, and partly (to be honest) to help wish it into being by sheer dint of repetition. Clearly there is growing sentiment in favor of reforming American agriculture and interest in questions about where our food comes from and how it was produced. And certainly we can see an alternative food economy rising around us: local and organic agriculture is growing far faster than the food market as a whole. But a market and a sentiment are not quite the same thing as a political movement — something capable of frightening politicians and propelling its concerns onto the national agenda.

I don’t live in California, obviously, so I can’t vote on Proposition 37 in November, but I can learn more about GMOs and spread the word. I signed the Just Label It! petition to tell the FDA to mandate labeling of GMOs. I can also vote with my dollars and support local farmers who don’t use GMOs, as well as support companies that voluntarily label their foods (check out the Non-GMO Project). Pollan argues convincingly that Proposition 37 is an important and necessary step in making our voices heard when it comes to food issues:

The fight over labeling G.M. food is not foremost about food safety or environmental harm, legitimate though these questions are. The fight is about the power of Big Food. Monsanto has become the symbol of everything people dislike about industrial agriculture: corporate control of the regulatory process; lack of transparency (for consumers) and lack of choice (for farmers); an intensifying rain of pesticides on ever-expanding monocultures; and the monopolization of seeds, which is to say, of the genetic resources on which all of humanity depends.

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October 2012
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