About this Blog

Welcome! Thanks for checking out On Food Stamps.

I created this blog in 2009 when I began working at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. My work at this organization opened my eyes to food justice issues in America, and I had a strong desire to better understand the difficulties many people face when trying to access healthy food on a limited budget. So, I embarked on my own Food Stamp Challenge, living on $31/week as a vegan. I used this blog to chronicle my experience.

While my Food Stamp Challenge project has come to an end, you can see what I learned from it by reading the Greatest Hits posts linked to the right side of the page. Please excuse any out-of-date links, as I am no longer updating this blog on a regular basis.

Stay Hungry,


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chill out guys, its just food

This is weird. I would say that for 3 out of the last 5 meals I have been over eating.

The other day at lunch I brought too much of my left over lentil dish with me to work. I should have saved part of that container of lentils for dinner - maybe 1/3 of it. But instead I ate the whole thing. For the first time in weeks I was uncomfortably full. It was really unpleasant.

I did it again this morning. I made too much oatmeal by mistake (added too much water and had to compensate by adding more oats), and I knew I shouldn't eat it all but I ate about 5/6 of it anyway. I even added a banana. I saved a small amount and brought that to work for a mid morning snack, but I barely even needed that because I'd really over done it at breakfast.

Why is this?

I have a few ideas. First of all, I am finally starting to enjoy my food this week since I've had time to cook. (See "Kitchen Goddess" post.) The fact that my food has gotten better probably has something to do with it.

But, I think the major reason I am eating too much at meals is because I have become slightly obsessed with rationing my food. I think about portions constantly, calculating every cup of rice and bowl of veggies to insure that I have enough to last me through the entire week. This week I have too much food in my fridge but am still applying the same rules. I know what quantity of food I have to "get through" by my next shopping trip, so I am reverse rationing. I am eating too much to insure that I clean out that fridge before the produce spoils. If I don't eat everything by the weekend I will be forced to replenish my food supply during the week, and that is very inconvenient. I don't have time to shop during the week. So, eating the entire contents of my fridge by Saturday has become some sort of sick to-do list. When I realized an hour ago that the eggplant I bought last weekend was starting to spoil I got pretty stressed out. I had to cook it all tonight, and now I probably have enough left over eggplant alone to make it to Saturday. Yet, two large heads of broccili and a generous bunch of asparagus are still there waiting for me, threatening to go bad before I am ready to eat them.

It seems that in weeks past I have been in famine mode, and now I am in feast mode. On $31/week I am experiecing what is called food insecurity. Food insecurity is different from hunger or starvation. It is defined as the limited or uncertain availibitliy of nutritionally adequate and safe foods. I'm not experiencing physical pangs from hunger, or the distended belly of outright starvation. I am just experiencing a lot of uncertainty and chaos around my food source. I never know if I am going to have enough or too much, and this has caused me to obsess a little bit.

After a bit of research, I found that this situation is actually a pretty common experience for food stamp recipients. Food insecurity often results in disordered and obsessive eating. It makes sense when you think about it: if you aren't sure where you next meal is coming from, you are going to really gorge when you have food in front of you. Who knows, your belly could be empty tomorrow.

Gorging and starving, gorging and starving, and gorging and starving is no way to eat. This pattern messes with your metabolism and can even contribute to obesity. I have seen many studies that suggest the correlation I am feeling here for myself; here is one from Colorado State Univeristy titled Food Isecurity is Associated with Increased Risk of Obesity in California Women.

Ok, this California woman is going to stop over eating despite her temporary food insecurity.


  1. The freezer is your friend, use it to extend the life of your prepared recipes and don't let the food spoil, then when you need a quick dinner and don't have time to cook, there is food in the freezer ready to be eaten.

  2. I'm really enjoying your blog. A friend sent it to me and I have just spent far too much time reading the entire thing. You've brought up a few things that I don't spend much time thinking about and you have also neglected to mention a few things that I do spend a lot of time thinking about. You've talked about organic food, but haven't seemed overly concerned when the food you are eating is not organic. Is this because of your budget, have you tried finding organic food within your budget? Or is this because you are trying to stick to grocery stores in certain localities and that restricts your access to places like farmers markets and Whole Foods? Or is there a different reason. You've also only briefly mentioned local food and the impacts local food have on the local economy, ecological health and in turn human health. Food security is a huge issue, but I think it is greatly tied to the issue of our entire food system which includes a lack of support for local, sustainably produced food. Thanks for writing this, I'll be interested to see what happens next.

  3. cheeeers!

    the truth - i spend less the 30$ a week on food.... and I eat like a champ!

    only fresh veggies and chicken - no beef or pork. home-made bread and the occasional cheese, and occasional fish,etc. whatever is on sale.

    markets you should check out:
    Yucca market - cheapest meat and cheese I have found yet. corner of cahuenga/wilcox., also cheap veggies and fruit (only beat by grand-central market)

    food-for-less: the cheapest pasta/bread, canned veggies, etc in town - if you needed. due to the fact that food for less owns their own food brand - kroger - all canned/dry stuff will eventually be cheaper here.
    do not by veggies or meet here though, as they will rip you off.

    grand central market, downtown:
    cheapest low/medium quality veggies and fruit in town. about half the price of Yucca market. only annoying part - its in downtown and hard to get to sometimes. they also sell cheap meet and fish... annoying location keeps away from it.

    i save money in many different ways: steal food, rob banks.. no no, joke of the day.

    i mean: - rarely use dairy product: no milk, yougurt, cream,etc. dairy comes from cows and cows are not cheap.

    always by the bulk items. You have probably around 60 more years to live and you will get hungry - so always invest in the large bulk items. the price difference - per ounce/lb - is always significant: for ex. olive oil, pasta, spices, sauces, etc. bye big. it will last longer and save you the time of going to the store to get it again.

    dont eat beef. beef comes from cows, and they're still not cheap.

    dont eat fish - if its not on a crazy cheap sale - fish comes from the sea, and there is not much left of them. if you need fish, get it from the 'california market', the korean supermarket, on western and 5th. they get fresh fish every day, and it will cost you half the price of most other places.

    dont use pre-made sauces. they're always a rip-off - the only exception - pasta-sauce from food-for-less.

    eat rice. rice is cheap. by the 20lb bag and you'll never run out...

    make it yourself. what-ever it is. just make it home-made and you'll save money...

    by store brands. if a store has its own brand - like kroger - always get that one. it will be cheaper.

    check the price/LB or price/once tag - always! dont trust your eyes when measuring price versus the amount your getting. the cheap stuff is 96% of the time just as good as the expensive brand stuff.

    look at the bottom of store shelves. they items they make the least money off are always down there - and those are the ones we want.

    make slow-cooked food. with slow cooked food - chicken stew, veggie stew, etc. you can cook 1 time, and eat it for 3 days. it will also taste better then just eating fried and sauted stuff...

    talk to you later me julie


  4. Thank you all for the fantastic comments.

    Gabriel - Amazing tips!

    Coral - I really appreciate your bringing up the local/sustainable food, and I very much agree that food insecurity for individuals is tied to the overall brokenness of our food system.

    The reason I have not prioritized organic/local too much yet is that I have wanted to tackle one thing at a time. I have found that eating as a vegan for around $30/week alone was intimidating enough at first. It took me a few weeks to settle into those rules alone. Now that I see that I can eat well as a vegan for this dollar amount, I am really ready to focus in on eating local/pesticide free. I think in that regard, my priorities are pretty true to the experience of tight food budgeting: making sure I can eat enough and eat what my diet requires within my budget comes first. THEN I can worry about issues that seem less pressing to my survival such as sustainability and local buying.

    What I see as the real problem in the American food system though, is that I even find buying pesticide free/local food such a challenge. If I have to gear up like this, get ALL of my other challenges under control before I even think of "tackling" the "challenge" of purchasing local/sustainable food, something is wrong.

    It shouldn't be so hard to do something that is healthy for me and for my community, right?