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Michelle – FAQ’s about the week

So, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about A Week in Their Kitchen, which is great. I’m really glad people are so interested in the week and have been following closely.

A few of the questions I’ve been asked frequently (and my answers):

1. So, how’s the challenge going?

This is the questions I’ve been asked the most – a general question, but a good one. The week is going really well. It’s been quite busy. The biggest challenge has been trying to find time to prepare meals. Although we received quite a bit of food in our hampers it’s been challenging to find meals within it all. My eyes have been opened to the importance of cash donations in addition to food donations. Food donations are always needed, but cash donations help the food bank to round out the contents of the hamper, allowing for more balanced hampers to be distributed.

2. Are you hungry?

No, I haven’t found myself going hungry. There’s plenty of food, and it’s guaranteed I won’t run out. That being said, I’m so much more aware of how indulgent my regular eating habits are. Outside of the challenge I’m free to eat exactly what I want, when I want. If I don’t feel like eating something I bring to work for lunch I can save it until the next day and eat from the cafeteria. If I am tired and want to order a pizza, I will. My kitchen is always stocked with food that I like to eat – not food that I have to eat out of necessity. Yes, I got treats in my hamper – cookies, chocolate, candy – and although I appreciate them I would rather have foods that I like and know are good for me.

3. If someone invites you for dinner or offers to buy you lunch can you take their offer?

If I were an actual client of the food bank and someone offered me food, I’m sure I wouldn’t turn it down. I’m sure clients of the food bank are invited to barbecues or invited out for dinner by someone who will be picking up the tab. But for the purpose of the challenge, I’m not taking these offers. I plan to attend a barbecue tonight, but I will not be having a burger or beers. I won’t munch on my friend’s popcorn tomorrow night when we go to the movies. I want to honour the rules of the challenge. It’s impossible for people who do not actually need the food bank services to replicate the experience of those who do, but we can follow the rules and make sure we’re all on an even playing field. In the name of full disclosure – I did have my boyfriend over for dinner the other night to help me eat up some of the hot dogs, salad and cookies from my basket.

4. What have you been eating?

I’ve been pretty well fed all week. Although it’s not all food I would eat outside the challenge, it’s been fine. I eat simply to begin with and have kept the challenge as such. A quick list of a few of the things I’ve eaten this week:

  • Breakfast has been a meal replacement drink and either piece of fruit or granola bar
  • I made spaghetti sauce and pasta at the beginning of the week and it has served me well for a few lunches so far
  • Hot dogs and caesar salad
  • Spinach and mushroom omelette
  • Bean and weiners with toast
  • Canned tomato soup and buttered bread
  • Lettuce, carrot and mushroom salad with oil and vinegar dressing
  • Snacks of cookies, apples, toast, candy, oatmeal

5. How can I donate to the food bank and Husky Help the Hungry week?

– There’s lots of ways to donate, all of which can be found on the food bank’s homepage. If you’re out and about on Saturday you can drop by participating Husky and Mohawk gas stations (listed on the food bank website) and leave a food or cash donation with them.


June 4, 2010 at 12:03 pm 1 comment

Michelle – Day 2 and 3

So, I haven’t blogged in a while and I apologize. Yesterday I was preparing my article for the Herald and getting my life back in order after being on vacation. I was also doing some meal planning a prep for the next few days of what looks like a busy work/life week.

One of the things I made yesterday was a pasta sauce that I could take to work with me for the next three lunches and heat up over pasta.

Ingredients for my pasta - Tomato sauce, canned tomatos, dried basil leaves (one of my chosen spices for the week,) package of tomatoes and olive oil. (Not pictured - salt, pepper and sugar.)

I started by slicing the mushrooms (I had both oyster and white in my hamper,) laying them on a baking sheet and drizzling them with olive oil and salt and pepper. I then tossed them into the oven to roast for about 20 minutes.

Voila! Roasted mushrooms

I then heated up the sauce, added the canned tomatoes and the spices to taste (I used about 1 1/2 tbsp. of basil leaves and a generous amount sugar to kill the acidity of the tomatoes.)

All-in-all it turned out pretty tasty. The mushrooms added texture to the sauce and I was able to spice the tomato sauce so it almost didn’t taste like it had come directly from a can.

Beyond the sauce, however, my meals so far have been pretty basic. Some fruit, tea and a meal replacement drink for breakfast (I’m not a big breaky eater to begin with.) Yesterday I had a mushroom, lettuce and carrot salad for lunch with some iced tea to drink, for dinner it was hotdogs and caesar salad. Today I had the pasta for lunch, and an orange and granola bar for an afternoon snack (I also tried one of the bubblegum puddings, but after a co-worker remarked that it looked like a dental treatment, I had to stop.) This evening it was beans and weiners for dinner. And cookies – well, I’ve been eating cookies because there’s just so many of them. I need to stop. I’m going to start growing blue fur and  get all googley-eyed.

I’m a little concerned about the days ahead, however, because I’m starting to get sick. It came on really quickly last night and today I’ve been sneezing and hacking and generally feeling lousy. I really wish I could take some Tylenol or cold and flu meds, but it’s off limits, so I’ve been downing water to help flush it out. Hopefully it’s a mild cold and will pass quickly. To be clear, though, I’m not saying it is the food I’m eating that is causing my health to deteriorate. I’ve been anticipating a spring cold for a couple months now and am surprised I didn’t get it sooner, although I am concerened that the next few days won’t exactly help me get over this. Usually I would take something to help me sleep really well and pound back o.j. and lots of vegetables.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to re-evaluate what’s in my cupboard and see how I can pack the most vitamins into my meals. I’ve got a big jug of cranberry juice, which is high in vitamin C and it would also appear plantains are chock full of good stuff. I still have carrots and lettuce and apples, all which are great. Some soup might help to clear congestion and soothe my throat. Maybe I’ll lay off the cookies and hot dogs and other foods laden with preservatives – even for a day.

Fear not, I will prevail. I’m really enjoying the challenge – it’s given me so much to think about and feel grateful for already. I will elaborate tomorrow…

June 2, 2010 at 10:14 pm 1 comment

Michelle’s initial impressions

This afternoon I headed to the Food Bank to pick up my emergency hamper and get started on my culinary adventure.

Oh boy, what an adventure it’s going to be. As I  arrived I ran into Darren wheeling out his hamper giant grocery cart full of food. Shocked at the amount of food he had been provided with, I quickly scanned his cart, my eyes coming to rest on a box of cookies sticking out of one of the bags. I thought to myself ‘Self, not only do we get SO MUCH FOOD but we also get cookies! This is going to be fantastic!”

I said farewell to Darren and was led over to Joan, one of the ladies checking in clients, and we talked a little bit about why I needed the Food Bank’s services. She asked for a couple pieces of I.D. and explained the rules of eating from the Food Bank and how to access referral services through the Food Bank. From there I was shown to my cart of food that was already waiting for me (because I am writing an article for the Calgary Herald and had a photographer present I had to come outside client hours and the volunteers had already taken care of putting everything together for me.)

From there Brooke, myself and the photographer disassembled the entire grocery cart, laying the food out on the table so we could grab a few photos. Excited at the sheer amount of food, I dug into each bag, excited to see what I could find. I quickly realized that I will never be able to eat that much food in the course of seven days and will certainly have some left over, but finding balanced meals within the contents is going to be more than challenging. Before I elaborate, let me do a thorough breakdown of what my hamper contained:

2 boxes of bran cereal, 1 stir fry kit (noodles and sauce), 1 box of macaroni and cheese, 6 eggs, 1 container of oyster mushrooms, 4 containers of regular mushrooms, 1 bag of spinach, 3 oranges, 5 apples, 1 bag of baby carrots, 1 caesar salad kit, 4 small packages of slivered almonds, 1 cup of margarine, 2 packages of hotdogs, 2 cans of tomato soup, 1 large bag of fusili pasta, 2 heads of iceberg lettuce, 1 large can of tomato sauce, 2 litres of 2 per cent milk, 1 large jar of sweet pickles, 1 individual bottle of iced tea, 1 can of curry soup, 1 can of beans in tomato sauce, 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 can of tuna, 1 can of chicken, 6 meal replacement drinks, 1 roll of toilet paper, 1 package of wet wipes, 2 cans of diet soda, 4 boxes of assorted cookies, 1 box of pancake mix, 1 bag of loose orange pekoe tea, 24 hot dog buns, 1 loaf of whole wheat bread, 8 pudding snacks, 1 bottle bbq sauce, 1 large bottle of cranberry juice, 1 chocolate cake mix (no icing), 1 package of microwave popcorn, 3 individual packages of instant oatmeal, 2 chocolate bars, A bag of assorted hard candy and chocolates, 12 plantains, 1 large bag of potatoes, 2 granola bars, 4 dried fruit snacks.

So, there you have it. Some obvious meals stand out to me – I’ll definitely make a large batch of tomato and mushroom sauce to eat over the pasta. Soup will be good for a couple lunch meals. I’ll relive my college years by snacking on some mac and cheese. I love beans on toast, and while I’m not crazy about hotdogs I’m just glad I’m not faced with eating canned ham for the week. I wasn’t expecting nearly the amount to fruits and veggies I received, even if they are a bit random and none of them go toward making whole meal. As for the plantains – well, I’ll figure out what to do with them. I’m sure they’re delicious if prepared well.

As for all the cookies and candy – it’s not something I’d usually buy for myself (ok, ok, I buy ingredients to make cookies on a weekly basis…now I’ll just have more time for blogging instead of baking) but I’m certain I can make room in my diet for them. It’s only for a week, right? 🙂

In no way does my hamper resemble my weekly food purchases, but I was expecting a lot worse as well as a lot less.

June 1, 2010 at 2:13 am Leave a comment


So here I sit on the eve of my “A Week in Their Kitchen” experience, and what I’m about to embark on is just starting to sink in. For the past week I’ve been vacationing in the Boston, eating everything I could get my hands on and catching up with my best childhood friend who is currently studying there. I agreed to participate in “A Week in Their Kitchen” only a few days before leaving for the U.S. and between getting ready to go and enjoying my time away I’ve had little time to consider the week ahead. But now it’s back to the reality of my life as well as trying out a new reality – the reality of having to rely on a not-for-profit organization for my food – one that thousands of Calgarians must face each day.

In addition to blogging here, I will be writing about my experience for the Calgary Herald. My day job is as a online journalist for the Calgary Herald, and I will hopefully bring awareness to Husky Help the Hungry week by writing both an article for the Life section (in print on Wednesday) as well as on the “Calgary Cooks” blog. The Herald already has amazing fundraising efforts in place for many not-for-profit organizations in the Calgary area through annual events like the Calgary Herald Christmas Fund and the Calgary Book Drive and Sale, and hopefully my experiences will add to  those efforts. If you are of the Twitter persuasion, you can also catch me tweeting about the experience. I’m looking forward to sharing my experience with as many Calgarians as I can reach, and hope that I can raise awareness of the work of the Food Bank as well as put into context some of the challenges those eating from the Food Bank might face.

Right now I’m feeling a little bit nervous. I’m nervous about tomorrow (Monday), the day when I go to the Calgary Food Bank to pick up my emergency hamper and find out what I’ll be eating for the next week. I expect there will be a lot of basic, non-perishable foods like pasta, rice and canned food, but beyond that I have no idea. I’m what you would consider a grazer – I like to eat little snacks throughout the day, much of it being fresh fruit and veggies. About once a week I will make a casserole, soup or stew so I can bring at least one hot meal to work everyday. I usually spend about $50-$60 a week on food from the grocery store, maybe a little more if I go out to eat with friends or order-in lunch on the weekend with co-workers. I don’t expect to have much fresh food in my hamper, but I consider myself to be a resourceful cook and am armed with the Internet and a bulk-food cookbook to help me come up with recipe ideas. My main concern, health-wise, is not having enough energy to keep me going through work, workouts and a post-vacation errands that need doing. I’m hypoglycemic, but nothing a little starchy food won’t fix, so I should be fine if my hamper contains the levels of carbs I’m expecting.

As far as other people’s reactions to my week ahead, most have been very supportive. Although I’m sure my boyfriend is disappointed he won’t be invited over for a home-cooked meal this week, and I’m sure I won’t be making batches of cookies for my roommates (yes, I’m the best roommate ever), they’ll be cheering me on and holding me to the contents of the hamper. I’ll also have to avoid the treats that are constantly moving throught the newsroom, not an easy feat considering a true journalist will NEVER EVER pass up on free newsroom food.

There have been a few people I’ve spoken with who have the idea that the Food Bank is only for homeless people. Although I have never had to eat from the Calgary Food Bank, nor has anyone I know (as far as I know), I realize that people from all walks of life could easily be put in a position where ends just don’t meet and might need a hand feeding themselves and their families, whether it be for a week or longer. When I was younger and living in Halifax my Mom and I used to lend our hands on Sunday afternoons to help feed those who needed a warm meal, and often they were students, young professionals or families – not just those without a place to live.

I’m sure the week will be challenging and I’m excited to share with with my fellow bloggers, the Food Bank and everyone reading.

May 31, 2010 at 5:44 am 2 comments

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