Friday, March 26, 2010

But is it the end? > Mom

We have come to the end of our Gambian diet. Exact amount saved to be calculated yet, but it is roughly $200 as predicted. We have eaten mostly rice and bread we baked from the wheat we bought in bulk this year. We had a few very good meals that we will most certainly make again. We have learned some valuable lessons as a family;

>We can live on less
>We eat way more than we actually need to
>We have amazing kids
>Our lifestyle isn't as socially conscious as we thought
>Instant gratification isn't nearly as satisfying as endurance
>Flavor is less important to nourishment than family
>ANYBODY can adjust a little bit to make room in their life for generosity.

Levi was frustrated on Tues night when we went to a potluck and there were very few things on the menu that fit our criteria. It seems flavor is directly related to our enjoyment of social events. We talked it out and he came to realize that we were so close to the end that he would be very disappointed if he gave up now. He really wanted some dessert, and fried perogies with sour cream and bacon bits, but he wanted to finish our commitment more. I think it was an awesome lesson about the downside to instant gratification. In our culture we so often sacrifice end goals for pleasure right now. It was awesome to have an opportunity to so clearly learn that together.

It's not just that the kids learned these things. I have always known I am an emotional eater, but these last two weeks have really been a revelation to me. I run instantly to food to ease discomfort and hurt. I had to deliberately choose other ways to handle stress and hurt. I have prayed more and read more and shared with my husband more than normal these last two weeks. Not surprisingly, I have found that the effects of these comforts far outlast double fudge ice cream. I have probably lost a couple pounds too! :)

All in all, I am grateful for husband's ridiculous, hair-brained ideas. At their worst, they force me to grow in character and patience. At their best, they take our whole family on adventures that stretch us, teach us and unite us in new ways.

We will post some recipes as well as the official math soon. It's been a very busy week so it may not be until next week.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day 23

I have to admit, we are eating better than I thought we would be. There are some incredible recipes on this website Steven sent us. We adjust some of them for cost or food availability, but at least one meal a day is very delicious.

However, rice is getting really old. Really, really old. As is rice flour fou fou and tapa lapa bread. I am really looking forward to the Turkey dinner we are planning on having next week.

The kids are getting tired too. They are looking forward to ice cream and a even having a glass of milk. Although it was pretty cool to watch them get excited over an avacado like it's candy. They have also been eating all their food and not complaining about what's in it. My children have eaten onions without complaint this week. This is a big deal. The older ones are even sharing things they've learned about Africa with the younger ones. It's a beautiful thing.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

night 3 of hunger - Dad

We are 3 days into our Gambian diet. Sarah and I have been giving ourselves similar food portions as we give our kids. I figure we should take the brunt of the sacrifice, they are having a hard enough time stomaching some of the food as it is.
So it's Saturday night right now, the kids are all asleep, and Sarah is at work. I'm at home alone finishing up the last of the details for my message tomorrow and all I can think about is the icecream in the fridge freezer 8 feet from my couch. Most of the time it's not a problem. I've been snacking on my lunches at work over the course of the day, as long as I'm active and nibbling on something the hunger isn't so bad.
I think the only thing to do is move the icecream to the big freezer downstairs and go to bed. Maybe if it's less convenient it'll be less tempting.....maybe....

Day 17

Today is the third day of our Gambian diet. We have been eating mostly rice. For breakfast, Alex has made a rice flour porridge that is better cold than hot. We have been snacking on carrots and a heavy whole wheat bread that I have been making. The one very tastey meal we have had is the domada (recipe below). With a small amount of beef (probably half of what we would normally have) it is very, very yummy. If we can hold out and really stretch the food we have already bought, I am pretty sure that by the end of two weeks we will have saved $200 in comparison to the two weeks before including when we had eaten out. That's $200 that one family was able to come up with to help out another country in just two weeks! Imagine if we did this more often or made smaller changes, but made them all year. What a difference we could make!

One more thing I just have to mention because I am so ridiculously proud of my kids. Yesterday, Selah, who is four and much too young to really understand what we are doing, woke up and, with a teary little face, asked for normal food. After our rice porridge breakfast, we gave her an apple. We also told the other kids that they could choose for themselves if they wanted an apple without fear of any judgment from the rest. All three of them (6, 9, and 10 years old) said they were sticking to our new diet because they really want to know what it like. They have gulped down more rice porridge than I would have thought they could manage and haven't complained. No one has asked for juice or treats or even fruit. They have been talking about Africa when I am not in the room and the big kids have even been reading to the younger ones about it. I am so grateful to have such a cool little pile of kids.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Day 15 > so it begins

This morning we had a french-like bread with peanut butter and tea. The kids were excited to begin this adventure until they started asking "what's for lunch?" "rice" "what's for dinner?" "rice" "what's for breakfast tomorrow?" "probably the same as we had today."

Alex's lunch is breakfast over again, since we didn't think far enough ahead to make something different. I think that will be the first challenge. Rice takes awhile to cook and I am going to have to think ahead. The other challenge will be trying to keep the budget down. We have big eaters here. I will have to get imaginative about stretching what we have.

Here is another blog we found of a woman who chose to live in Gambia for a year.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Day 14 > The last day

Today is our last day for regular food. It has been interesting to be super aware of what we eat. To be honest, I am certain we have missed a lot of snacks, because my fridge has less celery and carrots in it than it should. Our friends who do missions to Gambia sent us this email:

Hmmm, Gambian menu (from what I observed at work anyhow)
wake up and drink tea
eat either porridge ("cous" or pounded rice) or tapa lapa with some sort of meat on it at about 9:30 am
more tapa lapa with meat at around 2pm or fou-fou or rice with meat
more rice and meat at about 7 or 8 pm

snack on random nuts and things in bags all day long if hungry.


  • 6 T Peanut Butter
  • tiny pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 C water
  • 3 T tomato paste
  • 1 cube soup broth (knorr, oxo or maggi, chicken or veggie)
  • 1 squirt lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  1. Boil water. Mix-in broth.
  2. Mix-in Peanut Butter until smooth.
  3. Mix in tomato paste.
  4. Add garlic, cayenne.
  5. cook until oil is rising to the top
  6. Add lime juice in last 5 minutes of cooking.
  7. add cooked chicken or beef at last minute and stir in

tapa lapa is like a dense white flour french bread (hand made, always has bits of dirt and whatnot baked into it, taste is awesome yummy)
foufou is rice flour made into a glue like ball
meat options are goat, sheep, fish, horse
and like I said, not a lot of veggies, sorry bout that.
there is a significant gap between poor and rich there, so just adjust meat and total food intake to match the income level you want to try.

There are a few things we will need to adjust. For instance, I am fairly certain I have never seen horse at the grocery store. Our friends have also told us that in the poorer population of Gambia there is such a level of malnutrition that their hair turns red. As this is meant to teach and not harm our children we will be supplementing some veggies. However, in keeping with the incredible sameness of the meals everyday, those veggies will be carrots and broccoli. The veggies are going to replace the nuts which are expensive here. The only other adjustment is that we will only have one meal with meat per day and that meat may also be beef since it is often less expensive than sheep or fish. Bargain hunting will be the thing. Today is shopping day!

day 14 > food consumption

Breakfast- 4 bowls granola, 2 bowls rice crispies

Lunch- turkey with cranberry, 4 cheeseburger kids meals and big mac meal from McD's, 1 lrg choco milkshake (we were having one last food hurrah before our two weeks started.

Snack- 5 chocolate peanut chews, 2 apples

Dinner- mashed potatoes, yummy buns, apple juice, milk, chicken paprikash, mixed beans and carrots, ice cream, tarts, tea

Day 13 > food consumption still

Breakfast- 2 egos, 3 bowls cereal, 4 pieces of toast with jam, 4 rice cakes, banana, 2 eggs

Snack- 4 granola bars, 2 apples, bag of baby carrots

lunch- 3 avocados, corn dog, 5 pieces of bread, cream cheese

Snack- 2 apples, 6 granola bars

Dinner- 12 eggs, 5 slices cheese, 5 pieces bread, small bag of miss vickies chips

snack- 6 scoops ice cream, strawberry rhubarb crumble

Day 12 > food consumption

Breakfast- 7 bowls of cereal, 2 eggs, 1 liter milk 3 slices cheese, 1 cup cranberry juice

Snack- 4 granola bars, 2 apple, 4 oranges

lunch- 5 PB&J sandwiches

dinner- 3 rolls of sushi, 7 pieces of veggie tempura, 5 pieces of salmon, scrambled eggs

Snacks- timbits, 2 chocolate homemade granola bar, tea, popcorn


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Day 11 > food consumption still +2 kids

breakfast- many bowls of Rice Krispies with corresponding volume of milk.

Snack - some timbits and coffees @ church

lunch- picnic in the park: 6 granola bars, 6 rice cakes, about 2l choco milk, 2-3 juice boxes, some chicken, a handful of potato wedges, a few slices of sub sandwich, some grape tomatoes

supper- big pot O chili, 2 oranges sliced

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Day 11 > mom

We got an interesting phone call yesterday from an old friend. He, with his lovely wife and two daughters, have been involved in missions to Gambia. He is coming here to Cranbrook for two weeks and wondered if I could get him connected to some fund raising opportunities. I let him know what we have been up to and he is going to have a meal plan ready for us before it is time to switch diets. He warned me that it would probably be very boring and I told him that was kind of the point. So it looks like we have picked our country and our destination for donations! The timing of his phone call couldn't have been better. Coincidence? I think not!

He is going to email me with some more details and the food plan and I will be posting them here. If anyone would like to participate in our little adventure by finding a way to donate, please let me know! Ideas some have come up with are going without Starbucks for two weeks and donating the difference, walking to work and donating the gas money, ect. Think about it! (If anyone wants to go all out with the meal plan, we will be posting recipes too!)

Day 10 > food consumption +2 kids

breakfast- 2 cups dry oatmeal, brown sugar, 1/3 cup strawberries, 1/2 cup huckleberries, syrup, 1 banana

lunch- 6 kids burgers with fries and arctic rushes (DQ slurpyish things) or pops, 2 reg poutine, 2 coffees, birthday cake

supper- 700g whole wheat pasta with 700ml tomato sauce

Day 9 > food consumption (2 extra kids)

Breakfast- 14 egos, 4 mini oranges, 5 bananas, 6 tbls peanut butter, 3 apples

snack-2 apples, 2 granola bars

lunch- left overs of rice dish, A&W- 3 baby burgers, 1 mozza burger, lrg fry, onion rings, 4 cups milk, 2 oranges

snack- 4 lemonades

dinner- 3 cups lentils, honey, garlic, 4 cups stir fry veggies, 8 potatoes, 6 cups milk

Day 8 > food consumption

Breakfast- 4 eggs, 8 egos, 8 tbls peanut butter, 2 bananas, 2 apples, 2 cups coffee, 1 cup milk

snack- 4 apples

lunch- 4 granola bars, 2 cups soup, 2 oranges, 1 cup leftover hamburger soup, coffee

snack- 4 apples, 8 slices cheese

dinner- 5 chicken breasts, 4 cups stir fry veggies, 8 buns

snack- cheese and crackers

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Day 7 > food consumption

breakfast- 2 cups coffee with mint chip ice cream, 6 eggos, 3 bananas, 2 bowls cheereos 1 liter milk

snack- 2 apples, 16 crackers, 2 slices cheese

lunch - two eggs, three celery stalks, 4 lrg carrots, 4 apples, 2 bananas, four pieces of cheese, 4 pieces of bread, 1 cup soup, 2 cups of rice w/ lentils and veggies

dinner- tomato hamburger soup 10 cups

snack- cheese sauce and chips, cranberry juice/club soda

Day 6 > food consumption

Breakfast - 4 egos, 2 bananas, 3 bowls of cereal, .5 liters milk, 2 cups coffee

Snack- 4 granola bars, 2 apples

lunch- 4 breaded chicken breasts, 2 potatoes, 2 pb&j sandwiches, 6 mini oranges, 2 apples

dinner- 2 cups rice, 4 cups mixed veggies, 1.5 cups edemame

snack- 2 cups juice, 2 bowls mint chip ice cream

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Day 5 > food consumption

Breakfast- 2 egos, 2 raisin toast, 2 bowls cheerios, 1 bowl granola, ham& swiss sandwich, matcha smoothie

Snack- 1 cup coffee, 2 chocolate cookies, four bear paws

Lunch- 2 cheeseburgers, 3 granola bars, 3 oranges, 2 PB& J sandwiches, 1 Raisin bread& jam sandwich

Snack- 4 bear paws

Dinner- 20 chicken wings, 6 slices ham, 4 pieces garlic bread, 2 celery stalks, 4 carrots

snack- 3 bowls cereal, 4 slices cheese, 2 pieces cake, 2 cups coffee, 2 glasses wine, bowl of chips

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 4 > food consumption

Breakfast- two oranges, 5 bowls of honey almond granola, 2.5 cups milk, 2 cups coffee, 4 timbits

Lunch - 1 pizza pretzel, coleslaw salad, 1 cup shredded cheese, handful of cherry tomatoes

Dinner - giant shell pasta stuffed with chicken and ricotta cheese, french bread, wine

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 3 > food consumption

Breakfast- 4 eggs, 4 slices of cheese, 7 pieces of bread, jam, butter, 2 bowls of cheerios, 1 cup milk, 2 cups of coffee, 1/2 litre of chocolate milk

snack- 1 litre chocolate milk

lunch - 1/4 litre chocolate milk, 5 pizza pretzels, 4 cookies, 2 oranges

Dinner- Teryiaki chicken (2 chicken breasts) 450 grams brown rice pasta, 1 cucumber 3 tomatoes

Snack- 3 slices cheese, handful of cashews and chocolate covered nuts, 4 slices of peperoni, 1 cup salsa, 3 handfuls chips, 2 glasses of wine, 1.5 liters apple juice

Day 3> Mom

Last night, I spent some time with some of my favorite people, sharing in great music, and partaking of some delicious brie cheese and calamari. It wasn't until later when Alex and I were documenting the food we ate all day, that I realized how decadent my evening was. I almost didn't write it down. After all, a friend ended up picking up my tab, so, really, it was a free meal. Except that I ordered it with the knowledge that I would pay for it. The very fact that I was tempted to brush it under the rug stings a little. It speaks to my very tangible understanding that it was decadence.

Six years ago we were lucky if we had good 'ol yellow cheese in the fridge on a regular basis. There were very few Friday night adventures or meals out. We just couldn't afford them. Yet it seems that we were more aware of how much we had. We felt less entitled to comfort and had a much clearer understanding of the difference between what we want and what we need. How did we get to a place where buying cool couches became more important than avoiding debt so we could have money available to help where we saw need. I don't even sit on the red couches very often! They just look cool and store more stuff we don't need.

There isn't really a moral to this story or anything, but before we have even gotten to the part were we change our habits, just being more aware of our current ones has caused us to have some difficult revelations and conversations. ouch.

Day 3 > Shiloh

Mom: What do you think you will learn from our experiment?

Shiloh: I think I will learn to eat my supper and be thankful for it even if I don't have very much.

Mom: Do you think it will be fun?

Shiloh: No. But it will still be good.

Mom: Do you think it will change how we do things? how?

Shiloh: Yes because we we get to so about eating other things that we haven't before.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 2 > food consumption

Breakfast - Six bowls of cereal, 2 Coffees

Snack - 3 cheese sticks, handful of dried mango, coffee

Lunch - hummus, 2 apples, 4 PB&J sandwiches, celery sticks, 2 granola bars, 3 oranges, 2 apples, 2 bratwurst

Snack - orange, 4 apples, 2 candies, coffee

Diner - Pot of beef veggie and lentil soup, 9 slices of bread

Nighttime snack - 2 bowls of ice cream, baked brie, calamari

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day one > food consumed

Breakfast- four eggs, six pieces of toast, three bowls of cheerios, 1 liter of milk, two cups of very yummy coffee

Snack- 1/2 cucumber, 6 baby carrots, an orange, 4 pieces of cheese, 1/2 cup strawberry smoothie

Lunch- four bowls of chicken soup, individual pizza, fries, granola bar, apple, 6 baby carrots, 1/4 cup hummus, four buns, 2 bratwurst, two cups of coffee

Snack- four cookies, some candy, small matcha smoothie, 1 piece of birthday cake

Dinner- 500grams of whole wheat spaghetti, 700ml of sauce, 1/2 cup shredded cheese

Day one > Mom

It was not easy crawling out of bed this morning after animated late night pillow talk about several more of my dear sweet husband's super fun ideas. Don't get me wrong, I love being married to a guy who is actively trying to teach his children to become adults who are aware and compassionate, I just need a little time (and sleep!) to catch up with him in the enthusiasm department.

As far as day one goes, it has suddenly hit me that in two weeks I may not be drinking coffee for awhile. My children have also become painfully aware that they won't be having timbits at church.

Lack of variety will also be an interesting mental hurtle for everyone. Our conversations before breakfast this morning included some complaining about not having enough to choose from. We have several different kinds of cereal, toast and several spreads, eggs, and fruit. There is definite variety to our cupboards. It is interesting what you can discover about your own attitude when you are paying deliberate attention. We are just getting out of the gate and already realizing how pampered we are.

SO pampered that my dear, sweet husband made me the yummy breakfast you see here.

Day one > Levi

I think that this is a good way to raise money especially since we don't need as much money as we think we do. We might get a little bit bored with our food but I think we will learn it is better to be grateful for what we have instead of wining for more stuff.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Eve of M family social experiment

I am pretty sure Alex is nuts. Four kids ranging from 4 to 10 not getting candy, cake, or even a PB&J sandwich for two weeks is a recipe for disaster. They all agreed to this hair-brained idea in theory, but once we get to putting into practice, I have a feeling they will get grumpy quick. Regardless, we are going to go ahead anyway.

Starting tomorrow, we will be documenting everything any of us eat for two weeks. By the end of two weeks we will have a more tangible understanding of how incredibly well provided for we are. During that two weeks, we will research some less fortunate countries and choose a country whose diet we will then adopt for the next two weeks after that. We will then donate any money we saved on groceries to a charity that works in that country. All of this being documented, I hope that at the end of the month, each of us will have gained some valuable understanding and hopefully expanded our gratitude. Regardless of the trepidation I have about certain parts of this, I am genuinely excited to see how this experiment shapes us as a family and individually.

I have a feeling that there is a lot of rice and beans in our future......