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a lucky girl in many ways

NaBloWriMo day 17.

Eat on $30 day 7.

Saturday was the final day of Eat on $30 and my mind is filled with so many thoughts that have tumbled about in my head for the past week. This weekend is short on time (didn’t I tweet earlier that October had too many parties?) but I promise to sit down this coming week to give you some cohesive parting thoughts on the issue of hunger and the hungry. For now, I’ll just toss out the thought that struck me in the morning while I was feeding Kaweah… The dog gets dry kibble and she acts like I’m feeding her chocolate mousse every day (she’s a lab, what can I say). Kaweah can live healthily on her large chunk Iams lamb and rice formula for large breed dogs day in, day out. It contains everything she needs in these crazy kibbles.

When Jeremy has been short on time, he’ll often bemoan the fact that there is no “bachelor chow” to dip a measuring cup into and serve himself an instant meal complete with all the nutrients he needs. Made me wonder why there isn’t a provision for people chow. Could you eat the same thing every day? I know most Americans balk at the idea. There are plenty of people who *hate* leftovers and throw leftover food away. That makes me cringe. It makes me sick, actually. Such waste. Just because you can afford it, doesn’t mean you should do it. A good many people in this world eat the same thing EVERY DAY. We’re so spoiled. The disparity between the haves and have nots is staggering. I’m just thinking there has got to be a better way to meet the needs of the hungry.

Our day involved a big brekkie from the remaining three potatoes, the remaining kielbasa sausage, two eggs, and our last bagel (split in half).


i love me some hash browns

kind of a last hurrah



This may sound odd, but even though we couldn’t eat any of the fabulous food we bought for our coming party, I felt so content just preparing the food. I think a large part of my joy in food is not the eating, but the preparation. Shortly before our post office closed, Jeremy went to pick up our mail and came home with a huge box from Todd and Diane. It was a box of my dangerous items from the after party schwag bag in San Francisco and fruit from their amazing garden.

dragon fruits, calamansi limes, passion fruits



I ran around in circles raving over the incredible fruits and singing the praises of my beloved friends. How lucky am I? I am so damn lucky!

mixing apples with spices and sugar and butter

topping with the oatmeal crumble



In the afternoon, I threw together the apple crisp to take to our friends’ tamale party later in the day. Jeremy and I scarfed down some leftover fried rice for a quick lunch then set off to Boulder to run errands. I sometimes feel I have so many great friends that I really don’t need to make any more. Then I go to a party like the one Nichole and Luke threw and I meet incredible people and I scold myself for thinking that I don’t want to make any more friends. It’s a good feeling when you realize that the world is full of truly wonderful people.

mojitos anyone?

luke: world class athlete (and world class nice guy) cooking for his buds

pico de gallo

some of the gang hard at work making tamales

tamales fill the steamer

digging into the huge spread of food



I cannot tell you the giddiness I felt when I drank a lovely Aussie ginger beer that Luke handed to me. A week on only water and suddenly this ginger beer tasted like the nectar of the gods! We had some Malbec, some Pinot Grigio, fresh tortilla chips with Nichole’s phenomenal guacamole, salsas, and all manner of great food. Dinner was tamales with homemade mole sauce and more sides than I can recall. It felt like cheating, but the party was on long before I took on the Eat on $30 challenge.

I think… I know I’m very fortunate. Stay tuned for our blowout bash tomorrow night. Thanks for following along. The challenges came in places I didn’t foresee. We’ll discuss it more in the next couple of days. Special thanks to Tami and the Eat on $30 gang. Kudos to everyone for bringing it to the table. Will announce the Macy’s gift card winners on Monday.

37 nibbles at “a lucky girl in many ways”

  1. SallyBR says:

    When I was a child, I hated all kinds of food. A couple of years ago, while visiting my family, my Mom showed me an old notebook of mine. I was maybe 12 years old, and wrote: I wish there was no food, just pills, like for astronauts.

    Let’s say I changed quite a bit :-). It would be very hard for me to eat the same food everyday, but like you, I love leftovers and never discard food, it feels wrong. It IS wrong.

    I admire folks doing the $30 challenge, I almost went for it, but wimped out. (Shame on me)

  2. Steve Gallow says:

    That’s a incredible challenge. Thank you for sharing. I remember fasting a few times, and sitting at my desk thinking that the pencil looked pretty good. I wondered what it would taste like. Another time it was a pine cone along side a trail after a long run. It had pine pitch running out the side. I thought it looked very tasty.
    My sense of smell is also very acute during a fast.

    I realize that fasting wasn’t the purpose of this exercise, but it helped me to think about hunger and others in the world. Thank you for reminding me again.

  3. Eileen Leite says:

    Thank you, Jen, for increasing awareness of hunger and what it means to feed a family with limited resources. I think our budget is tight, but we eat rather well. Jeremy’s concept of ‘human chow’, complete nutrition ready to eat, is a reality, but I agree it would be boring. But I doubt it matters to the truly starving! Last month I spent a morning working with friends at Feed My Starving Children, a non-profit that uses volunteers to pack meals for desperately poor children around the world. The meals consist of a fortified dry mix of rice, soy, and dried vegetables, and cost but 17 cents per serving. The children get one meal of this bland porridge a day, every day, and thrive both physically and mentally. Contrasting their website with yours makes me so grateful for food that is accessible, affordable, and varied in its abundance.

  4. Eileen Leite says:

    Re-reading my first comment, I had better clarify: the food has to be cooked with water, but nothing else has to be done, so it is in that sense ready to eat.

  5. Fiona says:

    I love tamale parties! But I confess I’ve never been able to stay as clean as your friends. Usually I spew masa everywhere, especially on my trousers.

    Thank you for a great week, Jen. It was eye-opening and thought-provoking.

  6. Kim says:

    Thank you for sharing. I looked forward to seeing a new post every morning for the past week because, as Fiona said, “It was eye-opening and thought-provoking.” I’d never considered what $30/week might mean, and you did it with flair!

  7. TheKitchenWitch says:

    MMMMMMM, homemade tamales and pico! Awesome! And those fruits are amazing!

  8. anna says:

    Buh. I can only dream of having a garden that produces dragonfruit and passion fruit. Or friends with a garden like that, considering I’m no gardener.

  9. dawn says:

    love that shot of the gang hard at work preparing to chow down baby!

  10. Whitney says:

    Those tamales look amazing. We used to make 60 dozen every holiday season to pass out to friends and neighbors instead of cookies.

  11. Michelle says:

    Although it’s great that you will walk away from this challenge with an understanding of what it’s like to eat on a tight budget, and even better that you want to help, it’s more important that you (and everyone) understand the root cause of American poverty and resulting hunger.

    Most Americans are poor because of poor choices they have made. Perhaps they were never taught any better, or perhaps they didn’t think it all that important at the time, or maybe they just didn’t care, but either way they are now suffering the consequences. The school of hard knocks will eventually teach most, but by then it’s often too late.

    The solution to most poverty starts with the family, by arming our young people with an understanding of life so they can succeed: priorities, hard work, honesty, getting an education, AVOIDING PITFALLS… Parents, teach your children about life! Don’t bring them into this world unless you can provide them with the tools they’ll need to face this world. That right there is the MAIN reason we have poverty in the US. More money or government programs are not the answer. You can’t throw spinach and corn together and expect a chocolate cake. I don’t care how fancy your oven is, it won’t work.

  12. jenyu says:

    Michelle – that is the most ignorant, self-righteous, ridiculous, and telling comment I have seen on this topic to date. You have NO IDEA what you are talking about.

  13. Heather Marie Philipp says:

    Jen, it was such a pleasure to enjoy that glorious feast with you, Jeremy and so many others last night and to read this post this morning. We are so fortunate and your $30 challenge makes it all the more poignant. I am struck by the idea that last night in many ways is the answer to poverty: community. If we all spent $30 a week but did it together, in cooperation, in love and generosity, and shared each others’ tables we would be feasting a lot more with not only our mouths and stomachs, but also our hearts and souls, don’t you think? Sharing our tables with each other, whether at potlucks, through social change initiatives, by packing up meals for children as in Eileen’s comment, giving financially to important initiatives, etc. makes a difference.

    Michelle, your comment is inspiring me to get more involved to counter ignorance. I think your comment may prove insightful if it were not for the blatant assumption that all people and their parents and their parents before them are given the same opportunity to make the “right” choices as you describe. This sort of shameful social blindness inherent in much of the American middle and upper classes perpetuates the oppression that drives hunger and poverty. Sitting back and judging people who are going through something you could not possibly imagine instead of just reaching out your hand is hard to stay quiet about – and as a well-endowed nation, we should do better! So should you. And frankly, so should I.

    Nichole and Luke, thank you for bringing us together last night. It’s a nod to how I wish we all ate more often… together.

  14. Kim, Rambling Family Manager says:

    I’ve learned a lot from reading about your experiences with the $30.00 per day challenge; I don’t think I could do it with kids, but it is very thought provoking. You mentioned the disparity between the haves and have nots; one easy way to help is by decreasing our demand for meat, which is a highly inefficient way to eat. I’m NOT a vegetarian so I’m not saying stop eating meat entirely, but if we all reduce our consumption it will go a long way to improving the world. It’s also a health issue- high meat diets are tied to a whole host of health problems. Check out http://www.meatlessmonday.com/ for more info. My family, including my kids, made the Meatless Monday pledge and so far we’ve done a good job of sticking with it. I’m fascinated with vegan and vegetarian cuisine now; it opens up a whole new world of recipes! I’m combing through all sorts of new vegan/vegetarian cookbooks to find yummy things to eat. (I tend to lean more towards vegan recipes since I’m not a big cheese fan. I like cheese as a condiment, not a main source of protein. But that’s just me.) I’d love to see more meatless main dish recipes on all of the wonderful food blogs out there. (Desserts don’t count!!) :)

  15. Kim says:

    Amazing what not eating or drinking something for a while will do for you, in terms of gratitude and taste. I eschewed fruit and all forms of sugar/starch for a month, a few years back, existing only on leans and greens. One day at lunch, a friend offered me a slice of Fuji apple, about 3 weeks into my diet. I took it, and it was stunningly delicious. I think I had re-set my taste buds!

  16. Rebecca says:

    While your participation in the Eat on $30.00 challege is very inspiring, I must say that Michelle has some validity to her statements. Spinach and corn do not make chocolate cake any more than unrestricted subsidies thrown at the poor equals nutritiously satisfied bodies. Please don’t think I’m heartless or don’t understand. Having grown up as the in a rural household of twelve, I understand the value of food, community, and family. Later as a single mother with the value of hard work, knowledge of cooking, and the math skills to budget my hard earned money, my family has never been hungry. I have seen hunger, but more importantly and heartbreaking I have seen careless abuse and misconduct of food assistance programs by both the recipient and the government agencies that oversee these programs. Working in retail grocery, I see almost daily misuse of assistance (more than the average family food budget) used for poor nutritional convenient choices that will not carry them through until their next allotment. The food industry and government would chastise me for the thought of more regulatory requirements, but more needs to be done to reach the root of the problem of hunger. I recently heard someone make the statement that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) was in essence a stimulus package since the poor would immediately spend all that was given therefore stimulating the economy. Mandatory education for budget and cooking would be a start, as would the distribution of allocations changed to weekly instead of monthly. Also, programs such as Operation Frontline through Share our Strength should be embraced by more areas to teach and unite those in need with the community.

  17. Dani says:

    Isn’t it wonderful that you can appreciate how lucky you are?

    It almost physically hurt me to see Michelle’s ignorant comments. Let’s hope that she doesn’t have to deal with too many “hard knocks” and find herself homeless and hungry. There, but for the grace of God, go I….

  18. Silvia says:

    I am so amazed you guys made tamales! Right on! I have been living in Mexico for almost 9 years now and I know making tamales from scratch is a LOT of work (that’s why I usually buy them from a lady down the road ;)
    I also think Luke looks kind of hot in his appron…;)

    You and your blogger friends inspire a lot of people and show that getting into the kitchen and prepare your own food is that scary and that it’s healthy and fun. (Well, Tartelette’s blog is still a little scary for me, but only because everything looks so pretty…) Keep up the good work!!!

  19. Silvia says:

    Oooops, getting into the kitchen is of cours NOT scary. (My bad…)

  20. Ingrid says:

    Hi! I have been lurking for years. I am only de-lurking on this post because of Kaweah. I am an animal lover myself, and have a beautiful dog, Tea (like Leia, not like herbal tea). Obviously pets were not included in this challenge, and really, my comment is not about that. What I want to know is what you think about feeding our animals processed food with unknown ingredients; something we would never personally eat. I don’t live in the US and it would be cheaper for me to feed Tea “people food.” She eats a mix of “people food” and dog food only because I feel guilty giving her all people food; in the US we have been so trained that dogs should eat dog food and that people food is harmful for them. Honestly, even with the approval of the vets in my family, I cannot reconcile my ideas of what I will put in my own body with what I am willing to put in my dog’s body. What do you think?

  21. Memoria says:

    Those tamales look awesome!! (Did you know that the singular form of “tamales” is “tamal”, not “tamale”?) Many people in the States don’t know that. Anyway, I would love to make tamales one day. I just need to get a steamer. The apple crisp looks great, too!!

  22. Nichole says:

    Silvia, I couldn’t agree more. Luke does look hot in his apron, and as his adoring wife, let me tell you that he looks hot without it too!

  23. Lori says:

    I thought of you last weekend when my husband and I went to Cornell for our weekend anniversary. We were at Bailey Hall for NPR’s Science Friday. It was fun, something different.

    What a fun party. I love how everyone is making tamales together.

  24. Silvia says:

    LOL!!! Good for you, Nicole!!! Lots of lucky girls around Boulder, huh? ;)

  25. Andrea says:

    Jen–Your pictures are beautiful! They reflect how delicious yesterday’s feast truly was. Thank you to our lovely hosts (I’m talking to you, Boulder Martha Stewart, and to World Class Athlete :) ). And Jen, you rock, it was wonderful meeting you and Jeremy last night. Heather–clearly we did not converse enough, I had no idea you’re a singing star!

    To Michelle: Is getting sick or getting in an accident, then losing damn near everything due to a labyrinthine, inefficient medical system considered a pitfall or a hard knock? Just askin,’ because that’s what drives a heckuva lot of (otherwise financially competent) Americans to bankruptcy. One of several points you missed in your effort to define a complex issue using anorexic parameters.

  26. Kristin says:

    Well Jen, you’ve got us thinking and talking, and that’s almost always a good thing.

    Am I the only one wanting to know what Luke’s sport is? Colorado…biking? Running? Skiing? Looks like a fun party with great food.

  27. Silvia says:

    LOL! Good for you, Nicole! There are lots of lucky girls around Boulder… ;)

  28. Amy says:

    De-lurking to say that I’ve been following your blog and gotten a lot of inspiration/ideas. Congratulations on completing the $30 challenge. Maybe one way to educate people is to teach short courses at the food bank, e.g. when people come in and get X, Y, and Z, they get a short lesson/recipes for preparing XYZ? Just a thought.

  29. Mrs Erg├╝l says:

    Congratulations on completing the Eat on $30 challenge! That definitely seems like a great party! I second your thoughts on making friends!!

  30. Mysticmeg says:

    Congrats!!! Well done. I must say cooking education either in the home or school helps us prepare for life. I hate to see people with 99 percent of the basket in the supermarket with pre-prepared frozen foods. What joy when as a child on a farm/ranch we learned how to make fun meals with very little except what we grew.
    The internet brings so much knowledge to so many children and the joy of cooking for the family is one of the many areas of knowledge. We are very fortunate and very lucky. God Bless America and God Bless the $30 challenge. We all need more peace in our lives. Feeling fulfilled feeding our families and friends is truly a lucky and peaceful life. Your site brings much joy in many peoples lives and Jen you are truly blessed with a generous spirit.

  31. jie says:

    make friends..make a lot good good friends..we learn different things from different people. share our stories with them and listen to their stories as well. life is wonderful with friends..yay

  32. Tawnia says:

    Michelle–Your “understanding” of the issue is one of the reasons hunger still exists–I find it very sad that you have chosen(yes, it is YOUR choice) to see the issue that way. It is very clear you really have no understanding of poverty or hunger.
    I would suggest you do some real research on the issue–and I mean that sincerely.

  33. Kirsa says:

    this challenge has been truly amazing. I even (even if we’re not into the poverty zone,we’re not rich either) considered a lot of this for myself…. great way to save a few bucks and try to squeeze everything together. not an easy task.

    I must say, I used to order a lot of food from deliveries around when we lived in an appartment. it was easy and usually fast. we don’t have that kind of money anymore. since I know you website (about a year, a year and a half ?) you have inspired me to cook, and to cook well. I tried so many new things, and I gained in passion AND we eat a lot better than before.

    thanks for the inspiration !

  34. marianne says:

    Michelle and Rebecca:

    I think it’s important to throw some facts into the blogosphere because I think a lot of comments are emotional responses based on prejudices (and to be fair, we all have them for one thing or another). For one, let’s take the correlation between income and education.

    1) There is an undeniable link between poverty and lack of education. The poor (“poor” as defined by the US Census Bureau) are generally far less educated than the rest of us. See here. Compare the “Total” column to any of the other columns in the “Educational Attainment” row.

    2) The amount of resources available to low-income public school districts is less than what is available to other school districts. Higher education costs money.

    3) Employers generally award people who have attained a higher education level with a higher salary or, to stick with the US Census.

    See the vicious circle?

    Yes, some people make poor choices, and some people milk the system. Some of these people happen to be poor and some of these people happen to be well-off (we can all name a few CEOs who have made the news in the past year or two, for example). The one thing that is certain is that the poor have a much smaller arsenal of choices to pick from –
    that is what “poor” means – having less resources, whether they are in the form of $$ or not.

    Harder to document is the effect of the attitudes held by people like you, whether they be teachers in their public schools who lower their standards or bankers who refuse them a loan, and who write the poor off as being responsible for their condition and assume they are making “poor choices”. That attitude, in my opinion, is a “poor choice”.

  35. Jeremy says:

    Well said, Marianne.

    It is important to marshal facts, no matter your passion. And anecdotes are not arguments.

    I would only add regarding education that public school funding is sadly tied to local property taxes in the US. So the deck is stacked against kids in poor neighborhoods, even if they make impeccable choices. Let’s also not ignore the fact that you don’t get to choose the circumstances of your birth or upbringing.

  36. jenyu says:

    Eileen – there are many countries in the world where people eat the same food every day and it is… normal. I find that amazing. It also makes me look at what we have in the US and I marvel at the disparity (even within this country).

    Heather – great meeting you, sweetie. I had a lot of fun. And yes, choosing your charities wisely makes a difference.

    Kim – yup, that happens whenever we go backpacking :)

    Rebecca – I have to disagree. There is no validity to Michelle’s comment other than needing to hit the root of the problem. Unfortunately, she seems to believe that the problem stems from people’s bad decisions and that it’s their fault they are poor. Nevermind accidents that leave families without the salary-earner, nevermind cancer or other horrendous medical expenditures that can throw families into poverty… Sure, people make bad decisions. I’m sure you’ve made plenty in your life. I know I have. But what you call careless abuse and misconduct could very well be the result of lack of education. I agree that charitable orgs who try to target the source of the problem do very good work and I think it’s important to support the most effective ones, but how do you fault people who don’t know better and have never been taught better?

    Silvia – Luke is a total hottie (and sweetheart). One of the nicest fellows I know.

    Ingrid – Believe it or not, pet food in the US has to be safe for human consumption because… people do eat pet food :( So, I’m fine with feeding my girl her kibbles. They are packed full of everything she needs. And on the subject of people food… Chocolate, grapes, onions, macadamia nuts, and a host of other foods are poisonous for dogs. People food (especially the processed crap) is not good for them.

    Andrea – great meeting you and Seth. So much fun, you guys are great!

    Kristin – ah ha ha! Luke is kind of a jock at a lot of sports (biking, climbing, hiking, running) but his *thing* is telemark skiing, and let me tell you – he is BEAUTIFUL. Learned to tele when he was 7. He’s been telemark skiing for 30 years. And instead of being a cocky asshole, he’s the nicest guy on the planet and married to one of the sweetest girls on the planet.

    Amy – such a great idea. I do believe education is seriously lacking.

    Tawnia – wow, thank you.

    Marianne – I really appreciate that you have pulled facts into this discussion. I know I can always count on your for truly thoughtful and compassionate discussion (one of the reasons I love you so).

    Jeremy – yes, this issue of hunger is linked to so many complex structures in our society that when you trace back to the roots of every aspect, it looks more like an infestation. Thank you for pointing out that not everyone starts on a level playing field.

  37. JoAnn says:

    Hi Jen,

    Just wanted to say thanks for publishing this challenge and how it went for you. I am currently unemployed and am finding all kinds of ways to limit my budget, one of them my food budget. I am a through and through foodie and love to cook, however, certain sacrifices have been made. There are three of us in the house right now, me, my daughter and 2-year-old granddaughter who are staying with while my son-in-law is at Ft. Knox, KY training.

    As a result, we have limiting ourselves to only purchasing fresh ingredients, milk, eggs, butter and veggies. Otherwise we are eating strictly from food we have on hand. It’s has the side benefit of cleaning out my pantry and freezer while forcing us to be very creative in finding wonderful recipes. So far we have gone almost three weeks spending only about $25-$30/week for the three of us. I wouldn’t have said that I had a particularly well stocked pantry or freezer either.

    Once my stores have been cleared out, I will make a goal of keeping food on the table for the three of us on $75/week (the 2-year-old gets a half budget) while still maintaining the standard we currently enjoy. (Fortunately, all three of us really like beans!)

    Also, your tamale party brings to mind a birthday party I threw for a friend many years ago. At the time I was a very broke single mother with a very limited budget. I managed to host about 15 people and feed them a baked potato bar with about 10 different toppings, salad and birthday cake on a budget of $17.00. I think I need to go back to those kinds of parties so I can continue to enjoy socializing with my friends without breaking my bank.

    You have also inspired me to update my own blog with this challenge.

    Thanks again for giving me food for thought – definitely made my afternoon!

    JoAnn

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