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Hunger Challenge Day 4: Basic Baked Pasta

Posted Sep 21 2011 8:45pm

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Almost day 5! Wow, I can’t believe the Hunger Challenge is over halfway done. It’s going well so far, but I see our dwindling piles of food and worry about days 6 and 7, which I’m sure is a common feeling for those on food stamps.

One thing I’ve noticed is how many people at work offer me food after I explain the Challenge to them. I’m not even sure they’re doing it consciously, but I’ve had more food offered to me this week than ever before! Cookies, pie (on which I relented Day 3), BBQ sandwich, chips, soda, you name it, I’ve been offered. It makes it difficult to turn it down but I feel fortunate that I have these food options, whereas plenty of people have zero free food options, or aren’t willing to take any.

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It was yesterday afternoon that I really started to hit my wall with the Hunger Challenge . Last night was my fourth night of cooking in a row and while I cook often, I normally mix in leftovers, take out, or something so easy it doesn’t qualify as cooking (poor man’s nachos, anyone?). I didn’t have that luxury this week. I sat at work just dreading cooking tonight, wanting so badly to order Chinese food or make a box of Annie’s Mac & Cheese. But sesame chicken doesn’t fit into a $60/week budget, so I cooked. Again.

When you’re on such a limited food budget, every piece of food matters and you often have no choice in the matter. I’ve eaten goopy cottage cheese, cereal with nuts in it (I hate them in my cereal), and more popcorn than I care to think about because that was all I had. I couldn’t throw the cottage cheese away because it was goopy. I couldn’t buy a new box of cereal. I ate it. I survived. I moved on.

I’m hoping this will translate into post-challenge menu planning. Basically, I’m hoping to get over myself and eat what I have in the house instead of ordering Chinese because something in my fridge is too “goopy” to eat.

Anyway, here’s our dinner from two nights ago – baked pasta! It was delicious and made excellent leftovers.

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I was planning to use cottage cheese but at the last minute found a half-filled container of ricotta in the back of my fridge. Half the container would have cost about the same as the cottage cheese and in the name of not wasting, I used that instead. If that’s cheating, so be it.

I kind of…winged it.

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One box of $1 pasta (100% whole wheat, all natural).

One box of $1.39 sauce (100% all natural tomato puree)

Chopped onion, garlic, leftover poblano, and the other 1/4 lb of beef.

Dollops of ricotta or cottage cheese.

Shredded pepperjack.

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Boil the pasta. Brown the meat. Mix about 3/4 of the pasta with all the ingredients in a casserole dish. Bake until bubble (15-20 minutes).

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It was honestly really tasty and just your basic, hearty, Italian dinner. It filled our bellies, gave us some fiber, protein, and veggies, and made a delicious lunch the next day.

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We’re getting low on food. Breakfast for dinner is planned again for tonight, with only one more work lunch to pack tomorrow (thank goodness). I’ll keep you posted – likely making black bean soup for Saturday!

Question: Do the store-brand items at your grocery store stack up to their name brand counterparts?

I was shocked that many Schnuck’s brand items were 100% all natural!

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