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Mindful Shopping, Cooking Frugally, and Helping Others #HungerActionMonth

September is Hunger Action Month. – a time to bring attention to food insecurity. According to the US Department of Agriculture, 1 in 8 Americans were food insecure in 2017. That’s 40 million people – more than 12 million of which are children – with a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. And Kate of Kate's Recipe Box levied a challenge to some blogging friends. The Challenge: "Create a meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) to feed 4 people while spending $5.50 or less (total, not per person). (A family of 4 receives roughly $16.60/day - which split evenly comes out to $5.53 per meal.)"

This event is meant to acknowledge the difficulty of feeding a family on a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) budget and highlight organizations that help reduce hunger in our own communities. Kate suggested shopping discount stores, utilizing bulk bins for just the amount you need, and using coupons are all great techniques for this challenge.

Budget Meals from the Bloggers
The meals below were made with a budget of $5.50 – the average amount a family of four would have for a meal on a SNAP budget. We’re sharing these recipes today to show you how far these dollars go – or don’t go – and to encourage you to donate to organizations addressing hunger issues.

Feeding America and local food banks are the boots on the group helping feed your neighbors daily. As a group, we’re supporting Feeding America’s efforts to end hunger. We are collecting donations for Feeding America here:

Will you forgo your morning coffee stop and donate $5 to help feed the needy instead? There are also many great local organizations fighting hunger too; I've mentioned a few below this section. But, first, here are the posts for the day...

Again, many thanks to Kate of Kate's Recipe Box for organizing this event!

Lend a Hand
Local to me, there are a few organizations you can support to lend a hand to those who are hungry and in need.

Nancy's Project: Community volunteers are now carrying on the work that Nancy Costello started by collecting, loading, driving and delivering donations to farm labor families. From their website -"In 2018 Nancy’s Project celebrated five years of pickup and delivery for Nancy’s Project as a volunteer organization. It takes many people to perform the tasks Nancy Costello performed all those years. By the fifth anniversary date, our 50-plus volunteers had fed about 2,000 people per week for 250 weeks. That means people went home with sacks of groceries 500,000 times!" Read how you can help Nancy's Project: donate.

One of my best friends shared a memory from her childhood: "I remember going to a labor camp in Greenfield when I was about 8 (?) with my dad and volunteers from our church. Nancy either went to church with us or was very involved. I remember her and her compassion."

Caroline's Pantry: This is an organization in North Monterey County that communicates from its Facebook page. Their stated mission: "Feeding people, animals and the earth by reusing, recycling and repurposing food and resources that would otherwise go unclaimed." Announcements on the social media page tell people what is available and open hours; also there are volunteer opportunities listed there as well.

Meals on Wheels of the Monterey Peninsula: "Since 1972, Meals on Wheels of the Monterey Peninsula has been delivering freshly prepared, nutritious meals to hundreds of homebound seniors who can no longer shop and cook for themselves." Here are volunteer opportunities.

And one that my boys have personally been involved with is I-HELP, an interfaith not-for-profit that offers homeless men and women short-term lodging and evening meals.

When R was assigned a homework assignment in fifth grade to "give of yourself," he accompanied my dad to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Monterey to help feed the homeless. I remember him telling me that he "made tacos and conversation." Here's a link to donate to the organization.

My Ideas
For two breakfasts, we had plain yogurt ($2.00 for 4 individual containers), granola (used half of a $1.99 bag), and sliced bananas (2 bananas, only half per person, for $0.38). So, those two breakfasts were $3.38 each. And I could move the excess to a lunch or dinner budget.

For four school lunches, I found a loaf of whole wheat bread for $1.99, jars of peanut butter and jam also for $1.99 each, and 8 organic bagged apples for $2.99. So, my boys were able to make sandwiches and take a fruit for themselves for $1.12 apiece. My husband and I didn't take that, but if we had, four servings would be $4.48...still under the $5.53. And I could move the excess to a dinner budget.

Here are two recipes I shared earlier as I experimented with how to answer this challenge.

click on title to go to the original recipe post
click on title to go to the original recipe post

But the dinner and recipe I am sharing for this post is one that cost less than $3.00 for 4 servings. So, we were able to pick up a $1.99 pint of ice cream as a splurge dessert. The boys were thrilled!

Root Veggie Frittata and Green Salad

Frittata is something that we make all the time. See my Roasted Carrot and Beet Frittata, Roasted Pumpkin Frittata with Black Truffle Oil, and Everything But the Kitchen Sink Frittata. It's an easy catch-all dish that uses up any vegetables you have on hand. And, it turns out, if I skip the cheeses, truffle oil, and fresh herbs, it's very economical.

With my one 8" frittata, I fed all four of us for dinner and had two servings left for lunches the following day. So, this is a 6 serving recipe for less than $4. It was nutritious and filling. When I only used partial amounts, I split the costs accordingly and used the remaining ingredients in other dishes.

1 dozen eggs, used half, cost $1.29 = $0.65
sweet potatoes, used 1 out of 6, cost $2.99 = $0.50
potatoes, used 3 out of 10, cost $1.99 = $0.67
chopped kale, used 1/8 of the bag, cost $2.99 = $0.38
mixed salad greens, used one-third, cost $2.99 = $1.00
olive oil for salad dressing, cost negligible = $0.25
vinegar for salad dressing, cost negligible = $0.25
salt and pepper, cost negligible = $0.10

Total = $3.80 for 6 servings
or $2.53 for 4 servings

Ingredients makes one 8" frittata
  • 1 sweet potato, thinly sliced (I use my mandolin slicer set on the thinnest setting)
  • 3 potatoes, thinly sliced (these were smaller new potatoes)
  • 1/2 C chopped kale
  • olive oil
  • 6 eggs
  • salt and pepper

Parboil the sliced sweet potatoes and potatoes. Once fork tender, drain and set aside. Blanch the kale and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease your baking dish and layer in your root veggies. Top them with the blanched kale. Beat salt and pepper into the eggs. And pour the eggs over the veggies. Move them around to make sure that the egg mixture penetrates to the bottom of the pan.

Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes. Uncover and return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Once finished, let cool slightly before serving. This is just as good cold the next day.

I think the first key to staying within a budget is figuring out how to use a single ingredient across multiple meals. For example, if I buy a pound of ground beef for $5, but only use half of it for one meal, that drops its per meal cost to $2.50. And the other key, for me, was to stay very basic with few ingredients. Everything we made was filling enough; it was just less than we were used to serving and eating. 

So it was a great jumping off point to talk to my kids about not wasting food. This isn't a new conversation. Also, I always try to find ways to help them understand that there are kids lots less fortunate than they are and that they have a responsibility to help those in need, if they can.

Several years ago my boys were excited to put together care packages for kids at a home in southern Sudan. We bought sundries, snacks, and a few fun things, then put them together with a letter.

For this project, we were also more mindful as we shopped. For one, we completely avoided Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and Safeway for the week; we opted to shop, instead, at our local Grocery Outlet. The boys very quickly realized that buying an entire 32 ounce block of cheese for $6.99 made more sense than the $2.99 for 6 or 8 ounces of sliced cheese.

And I began to pay attention to number of servings. The pasta was a great case in point. Typically I cook an entire package of pasta, completely unaware that I'm making 8 servings instead of 4. So, this also helped with portion control and kept us from overeating.

Overall, I am glad to have taken this challenge. I learned a lot about what is actually do-able with a shopping budget. And I think that I'll be able to keep better tabs on my grocery spending. Win-win.


  1. This will be a great recipe to include in our pantry boxes. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great recipes ideas for eating on a budget!

  3. Frittatas are always a great frugal option and I like the idea of adding sweet potato and kale. Yummy and filling!

  4. That's great that you were able to do breakfast, lunch, and dinner! I'd like to try doing that for an entire week.

  5. These are some great recipe ideas! I love that you gave us the breakdown of a whole day as an example. My mom makes potato frittata all the time - what a great idea to add more veggies to make it more filling.

  6. I love how seriously you approached this challenge!!! A great way to get through to people!!!

  7. I like that you included ideas for breakfasts and lunches too. You have a nice collection of low budget recipes for dinner.

  8. I love that you added sweet potatoes, so good!

  9. It is good to plan ingredients across meals for the best result.

  10. This looks so good! And I love all of the suggestions in this post.

  11. Eggs area always so versatile, hearty, and budget friendly.


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