Saturday, February 18, 2012

First Fridays for Food Security and a Link up

In the most recent edition of the newspaper for our archdiocese, among the suggested actions for this year’s Lenten season, I found information about the U.S. Bishops First Fridays for Food Security program.  This fasting program has actually been going on for ten months already.  Here are some details:

“On every first Friday for a year, eat meals that cost only as much as is allotted for a family of your size by the USDA Modified Thrifty Food Plan. This plan is used as the basis for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps). The ‘cutting back’ that will likely be required in order to stay ‘in budget’ can be considered a form of fasting.”   

I have been thinking about ways to teach my children to be grateful for the food they eat, and to have compassion for those people who do not always have enough food.  For children who never go without a meal or a snack and whom are often surrounded by an abundance of food, this is not an easy concept to grasp.  I was intrigued by the idea of voluntary fasting on a regular basis.

Courtesy of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

You can find the Food plan here.  If you want to participate, or are curious about how much money is allotted per day, divide the amount for your family size (you may need to make adjustments, as the chart assumes a family of four, but the footnotes explain how to calculate for larger or smaller families) by seven from the weekly cost or by thirty from the monthly cost.  Be sure to use the numbers from the “Thrifty Plan” columns.

I wondered if we could stay within budget, so I’ve been doing the math.  For our family size and ages (two adults and two children), we are allotted $132.10 per week, or $18.87 per day.  I have looked at our grocery receipt from this past week to determine prices for various foods as I consider what we could eat.  Since the next two First Fridays fall during Lent, I have developed a sample meal plan that is vegetarian to illustrate how to do this.  We will not be able to participate on March 2nd because my husband and I will be in Chicago for my conference presentation, but we are going to definitely participate on other Fridays and for April 6th.

This plan is actually very similar to how we eat on a regular basis, with the exception that my husband usually eats lunch at a restaurant near his office on Fridays, and my older daughter usually buys lunch at school (she likes the mini cheeseburgers, but won’t be buying those during lent).  While we do eat all of these meals, we don’t usually eat all of these reduced portions on the same day (more about this below).  I also factored in two snacks to account for the smaller meals.

Breakfast: three eggs scrambled with corn (either fresh or canned), four tortillas, four bananas, and sixteen ounces of orange juice diluted with water.

Morning snack: three large apples, sliced, spread with natural peanut butter.

Lunch: grilled cheddar cheese sandwiches, fruit salad made with three oranges, two kiwis, and two ounces of raisins.

Afternoon snack: four ounces of vanilla yogurt each.

Dinner: dried pinto beans soaked all day then cooked and served with one chopped tomato, one chopped avocado, Mexican crema, shredded cheddar cheese, and eight ounces of apple juice diluted with water for the children.

What I did not list above or include in the calculations below, but are needed for flavor are salt and salsa, because we did not buy either last week and I do not have the prices.  Butter is included for scrambling and grilling.  Notice that the plan includes fresh fruit, but is lean on vegetables.  For families that have to eat on a low budget, usually one or both of these are lacking, which can lead to serious nutritional deficiencies in the long run.

The total equals $13.99, leaving nearly five dollars in the thrifty budget plan for our family size.  We plan to donate this to Operation Rice Bowl, as part of our almsgiving this season.  As a family, we make a donation to our local food bank before lent every year, so this is one way we can continue to donate, and to help families around the world.

While we do regularly eat each of the meals or snacks above, we tend to eat larger meals during the day to compensate for a reduced portion.  Also, these meals are streamlined in order to cut costs so we can make the donation described above.  For example, I have cut added cheese from the breakfast tacos, grilled mushrooms and soup from the cheese sandwich meal, tortillas or bread with the bean meal, coffee, milk, and desserts.  The adults drink water all day after breakfast, and the children drink water with their snacks and lunch.

We are going to try out this meal plan and fasting lesson soon, so look for a later post about my attempts to get both husband and daughter to take cheese sandwiches for lunch on the same day.  My husband has already switched to drinking water at lunch as part of his Lenten sacrifice, so a cheese sandwich should be easy, right?

I am also planning to try out other dishes that might fit into this thrifty budget for other Fridays during lent.  I’m hoping I can fit some fish in at least once, or a salad loaded with veggies, so check back.  I definitely plan to try some of the recipes posted at Operation Rice Bowl, such as this rice and greens dish.

I have attached this post to the What are you doing for Lent? Link up hosted by Monica at Equipping Catholic Families.  Go visit to see what other bloggers are sharing about Lent, or to attach your own post.  This link up is part of the Liturgical Calendar Link up Party organized by Xhonané at Familia Católica.

I have also added this post to the Catholic Bloggers Round Up at the new Catholic Bloggers Network.  Go see this month’s posts, conveniently divided by category.  You will also find pages linking to Catholic Blogs, Events, a Store, and much more.

And, I am connecting with the Lenten Link up hosted by Lacy at Catholic Icing.  You will find even more ideas for celebrating the Lenten season at this link up.

Finally, I will connect this post to the inaugural Catholic Blog Day Link up.  Here are the details: “The theme for February 22 is: penance. Possible points of departure for writing your blog post include the three traditional methods of penance (prayer, fasting, and almsgiving); a memorable experience in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation; or how accepting the call to repentance has made a difference in your life.”  Go see what other bloggers are posting about penance or link your post; the link up opens on February 21st.


  1. ¡Excelente material Elisa! Gracias por compartirlo y por el enlace!!

  2. This is a wonderful idea! Thank you for inspiring me to action! Blessings and prayers to you this Lenten season.

  3. Gracias Xhonané.

    I'm glad you like the idea too, Leanne. Please tell me how your voluntary fasting goes.

  4. Wow! I can't believe I didn't know about First Fridays for Food Security. Interesting that the government's Thrifty Plan is about as much as my husband and I (currently a family of two in our 30's) spend on all groceries for a week, including cleaning products, personal care products, and pet food for a cat and four rabbits. My parents buy meat for us, but we do buy chicken and fish about once a month each. So, we couldn't save any money for those less fortunate than we are by eating according to the Thrifty Plan. It is a good idea for other families, though.
    This is my first visit to your blog and I found it very good. I'm your newest follower.

  5. Jeanne, I was surprised I did not know about First Fridays either! It seems that you and your husband are below the Thrifty Plan for food, since your costs also include other items; that's not easy to do in these times of rising prices. Thanks for following!


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