Warning: This is a long post about a week of limited food choices. I did this as a sponsored challenge to help raise funds to support the humanitarian works of Act for Peace who, among other things, provide food rations for refugees from places torn apart by things like war and famine. In no way do I recommend this as a day-to-day diet for anyone who has access to fresh healthy food.
Okay. The challenge starts tomorrow. I’ve raised enough through sponsorship to “earn” some salt, sugar, milk and garlic powder. I joined a team of other ration challengers and apparently we can share ingredients so I also have access to some other spices and an extra 100 mls of milk or 25 grams of sugar.
I’m going for the milk as we don’t usually even have white sugar in the Scrap House pantry, let alone cook with it.
I used some of my flour and oil rations to make some flatbread. That was easy enough but I had to then make some extras because Miss T will eat them all before I get any.
I actually remembered to soak some of my chickpea ration in water last night for a very basic hummus (just blended chickpeas with a little of their cooking water, some salt and garlic powder).
I’ll be at work through the week where there’s likely to be temptations (like the coffee machine and meeting cake, not to mention the smell of all my workmates reheating last night’s curry for lunch in the office kitchen) so I make some rice crackers with Rice flour, water and a little oil. To make the rice flour I ground up two cups of rice in the blender and finished it off with my mortar and pestle. I added some salt and garlic powder to half the batch so I could have them as desk snacks for work. They turned out quite well.
It’s a Sunday so I got up and made congee for breakfast (basically over-cooked rice). I added 50mls of my milk ration and a sprinkling of sugar. It was a bit like porridge and quite delicious so I made some more for the next few days (and yes the challenge orgamisers provided everyone with information on safe food handling for storing and reheating things like cooked rice).
Lunch was flatbread with some hummus and plain rice and for dinner I made Lentil Soup using half my lentil ration, some more rice, some garlic powder and 1/4 of a red capsicum which I traded with a team member for half my sugar ration. I made enough for four meals, so was set for a few work lunches during the week. The hardest thing was watching the rest of the Scraps eat roast dinner while I slurped on my soup.
I’m not going hungry. Yesterday was fine but today I’m suffering from serious Coffee withdrawal. Congee for breakfast, soup for lunch, hummus and rice crackers for snacks and fried rice made with a sardine, a few kidney beans and garlic powder and a pinch of chilli powder (shared spice from a team mate).
The coffee withdrawal headache set in big-time so when one of my team mates offered to give away one of her two teabags or two spoons of coffee I almost took the coffee, but (sensibly I think) I took a teabag. I didn’t actually have any teabags (we don’t buy them as many of the bags actually contain plastic) so I substituted a teaspoon of leaf tea.
The headache still isn’t going away. I’m not starving but I’m very over rice. I had the last of my soup for lunch. I finally raised enough through offline donations to earn 170grams of vegetables. I chose a large brown onion, 1/4 of which I shared with the team mate who had so generously given me some capsicum and a handful of spinach leaves. I made the mistake of going to the gym as usual after work yesterday and am paying for it today feeling very sore, drained and blah. Someone reheated a casserole for lunch at work. I’m really missing food that isn’t beige.
More rice. Sardine on flatbread for lunch. My rice crackers are all gone, so is almost all the hummus. Headache is gone but we’re going to the movies tonight. I made sure to put extra rice into my lentil soup for dinner before we left so I wouldn’t be tempted by popcorn. We usually take our water bottles and other snacks so I had roasted a handful of my remaining chickpeas but there weren’t many. I managed not to cave in to the delicious buttery, salty popcorn that Mr Scraps tried to tell me was disgusting and rubbery (as he shoved handfuls of it into his mouth).
This morning I made piklets (little pancakes) with the last of my flour ration and the water I cooked my chickpeas in. The Younger Teen and I had them for breakfast with the last scraps of my hummus. They were delicious.
I reused my tea leaves for about the hundredth time. They had no flavour anymore but the act of making tea is somehow satisfying. I had the last of my sardines and some lentils with onion and rice for the rest of the day. I made more rice flour for flatbread. Refugee food takes A LOT of preparation (soaking, grinding, portioning so you don’t run out). There’s definitely no room for waste.
Down to pretty much rice and a few kidneys beans, lentils, oil and precisely 9 chickpeas. I made it through the day. I made it through the week. My team members (all bar someone who had to stop a few days early for medical reasons) made it. We didn’t starve, but it wasn’t easy. Some people experienced stomach problems (bloating, constipation etc), some lost significant amounts of weight (not in a healthy way, I don’t recommend this as a weight loss diet). We all experienced tiredness and lethargy and most of us had headaches at one stage or another because of this (and in my case also due to caffeine withdrawals). I struggled days 3-5 at work because of it, and I was just sitting at the desk writing reports this past week, there’s no way I could have done it if I had to do any fieldwork.
Collectively my team raised over $13,000 AU, which is enough to provide rations for 55 refugees for a year.
It’s been a seriously humbling experience and has opened my eyes to just how little we need food wise to actually survive and just how much excess we buy. While the Scrap House is fairly low waste, there was definitely no room for waste this week.
With a few modifications, some of the recipes I improvised may even make it into our regular meal plan.
While the challenge is now over, our team page my personal sponsorship page will remain open for donations until September. You can donate here: https://my.rationchallenge.org.au/meaghana