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Lenten Food Challenge 2016

Lenten Food Challenge 2016

This will be the fourth year for our household to take up the Lenten Food Challenge. As with my prior year’s posts, I feel a little weird sharing this challenge since I was raised to have a secret Lent challenge that only you and God know about. You don’t tell people, you secretly pray, fast and give but I’m going out on a limb, again, and sharing mine again. Forgive me if this is a bit of repeat from past years, but you may not pull up those challenges on your web search so here it goes.

The last time I ate really “poor” was in my early 20s. I had rebelled, left home, and went to live on my own in a pretty crummy apartment in San Angelo, TX. I worked as a nursing assistant and ward secretary and managed to get into nursing school. Yeah! I made $3.95/hour. Boo! At the time, I didn’t think I was eating “poor” by today’s standards. I was able to buy protein essentials – chicken legs and sweetbreads. Seriously, fried sweetbreads with gravy. They were cheap and yummy! I made a lot of ground beef chili and spaghetti. I didn’t really understand “healthy” food eating in the 1970s so I’m pretty sure everything I ate wasn’t healthy. I gained weight. But I never was in the purest sense of ever hungry. When I got paid, I celebrated with the new Pizza Hut pan pizza. I  remember scrimping and saving and watching my money closer than ever.

So, I don’t really know what being real, sincere, ravenous hunger is like. I do know what it looks from the many pictures of Biafran children I was exposed to in Catholic school. I am thankful we don’t have true starvation in this country.  I believe we are more the victims of inadequate food distribution processes creating food deserts and poor access to food. But that’s for another blog.

Lenten Food Challenge

One of the main sacrifices in Lent is about eating. You either fast on certain days or you don’t eat meat on others but the basic sacrifice is around eating. You may give up your favorite foods, don’t eat out and give the money you save to charity. Some people may take part in Operation Rice Bowl. ORB has recipes of third world country meals that are generally vegetarian, definitely, not a Western diet, and sometimes a little challenging to eat. It is a great opportunity to experience what families in poorer countries eat on a daily basis. And for 2016, it is hard not to think about the Middle East, particularly Syria.

I admit it I love to cook. I have over 100 cookbooks and enjoy perusing recipes.  I tend to overbuy but I am definitely better than when we started this challenge in 2013 I use a leftover list on the refrigerator and an inventory of the pantry and freezer.  An inventory list seems to help with feeling a sense of food security, so, perhaps there is some throwback to the years I was eating “poor.”  Some of my 12 Laws of Dynamic Domestic Administration are designed on the premises of practicing self-control, being good stewards and sharing and caring.

So, My husband and I decided to challenge ourselves again this year to use up everything in the freezer and pantry during Lent. The rules again are not to buy anything except perishables and paper goods. The goals are to reduce waste, decrease freezer clutter (actually see the back of the freezer), save money, being OK with less, and, at some point, have some idea of what it may be like not to have food in the pantry or in the freezer. In addition, we put a certain number of dollars per meal towards a non-profit organization we enjoy helping. After seeing the 2015 Indie film, Just Eat It, I am focusing efforts on using every drop and scrap of food. Below are a few Lenten Food Challenge examples:

  • Freeze the bean liquid from the bottom of a bean can. I freeze it in cubes and then use it for soup or stew thickener. Sounds gross, but it works. Ditto for leftover pasta water.
  • Leftover coffee works great in chili or stews.
  • Sad looking vegetables go into the pressure with chicken bones to make a broth. Who really cares if a carrot or onion, celery or a bunch of parsley, is not perfect for broth?
  • Save meat drippings and use for canola or olive oil. You don’t need a lot – just a tsp or so, especially in dishes you are using meat substitutes such as Quorn, to add just a little lift.
  • Save all savory crumbs in a bag and use for coatings. Ditto for sweet crumbs. Why use a brand new cracker when there are crumbs at the bottom of most bags?
  • Roast imperfect grape tomatoes with garlic and herbs and toss with pasta
  • Leftover chili paste and jam or jelly in the bottom of a jar makes a great Asian sauce.  Add tomatoes, some sugar, Worcestershire, red wine vinegar and make your own BBQ sauce.
  • Got less than perfect fruits? Heat over the stove with some sugar and make your own 3-4 servings fruit jam. 
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Hint: as you work on your own Lenten Food Challenge, try to look at everything from a saute, pan-sear, soup, stew, roll-up, or sauce perspective. Can it go over beans, pasta or rice? Can you make dumplings or a quick pie crust? How can you enhance the visual appeal of eating leftovers? Think all of your taste options – sweet, savory, sour, salty, bitter, spicy and the elusive umami.

For 2016, I don’t think we will starve, we will save money,  and we are probably eating healthier.

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