I chose to participate in the Wood Buffalo Food Bank’s hamper challenge because I want to change the way people donate and help create awareness about the work the food bank does in the region.

I have volunteered with 97.9 Rock for the annual Syncrude food drive for the past three years. We host the corporate challenge and then go out and collect food at grocery stores or sort the donations at the warehouse. I have seen the type of food that gets collected and I want to encourage others to be more mindful when donating.

I am also a yoga instructor here in town with a passion for health and wellness. Having nutritional meals that are both delicious to eat and help fuel you is so important.

To start the challenge the food bank provided me with a grocery list of items that they would include in a hamper for one month for one person.

On Sunday, March 1, I set out to the store to pick up my items.

Right off the bat I had some tough decisions to make.

I had to choose between coffee or tea. Usually I have both. A cup of coffee, sometimes two, in the morning, and then a tea later on in the day for a pick me up or at night before bed to help wind down. I went with 30 K cups. With 31 days in March this should be okay for me, unless I run into those early mornings at the radio station when I didn’t get enough sleep the night before and need an extra cup.

When it came to the two baking items and the choice between a cake or muffin mix I chosen breakfast/snack items. For me, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I prefer something sweeter rather than savoury. The extra sugar helps wake me up. I use a lot of brain power between 5 a.m. and noon when I’m being super creative at the radio station and I need to eat a lot to keep myself stimulated and really fuel myself for the day. After work I’m usually so on the go that I don’t always have time for a sit-down lunch. I chose a blueberry muffin mix for muffins in the morning and then some pitted dates and dark chocolate chips to curb my sweet tooth.

For my two snacks I chose some classic tortilla chips, maybe I will use them to make nachos and a pack of popcorn. I love popcorn and it’s a healthier treat. Plus, I share with my dog and she does some sweet tricks which always makes me smile and boosts my mental health!

Pop is my guilty treat. I hardly ever drink alcohol, I usually just have a rum and Pepsi – hold the rum! I also think ginger ale is a true gift from God. I find a glass with lunch or dinner helps my food digest more with the carbonation. Only being allowed two cans kind of scared me. I will be craving it for sure.

I usually don’t buy cookies for myself. Sometimes it’s the occasional box of peak creams that I can have as a bedtime snack/dessert with a cup of tea at night but since I opted out of the tea for coffee I chose to go with the classic, Oreos. Mainly because I always dip them in peanut butter (don’t knock it until you try it – and yes, I got this from the movie The Parent Trap) and a scoop of peanut butter is a great quick added source of protein.

That being said, the absolute most difficult choice I had to make was choosing between peanut butter OR Jelly. If you ask anyone at the radio station, especially my cohost James, they’ll tell you that a PB and J is my staple. It’s my comfort food. A quick snack I can enjoy in-between my news casts in the morning where I can et some protein and get that sweetness form the jelly that I enjoy in the mornings. After much deliberation I chose to go with the peanut butter, again because of the protein. I can add a scoop here or there and combine it with other items in the hamper for some added flavour or more calories, sugars and protein.

The rest of the items were fairly easy to get through. Unlike people who do need to rely on the hamper that the food bank provides for them I had the luxury of choosing my monthly items.

We were allowed to have two spices. I went with salt and pepper.

I originally thought of ranch dip as my one condiment but since we weren’t going to be having any fresh veggies my mind turned to ketchup. On a third thought I settled with a sweet and spicy Thai sauce as I thought it would compliment my proteins and dinners more.

If I’m not eating a PB and J at the radio station, I’m having oatmeal for breakfast. I picked up a box of eight. I work at the station 5 days a week and usually go through 10 packs, so I will really have to watch that and see how it pans out.

I wasn’t too excited to pick out the assorted cans of meat and fish. This does not sound appetizing to me so I have a feeling these will get utilized near the end of the month.

Bananas are another snack I usually have every single day. They are the perfect grab and go snack for me that I can have either at the radio station or on my way to yoga. I’m assuming since this fresh fruit has such a short self life that is why they don’t typically make into the hampers. I grabbed a bag of apples, I know they keep the doctor away, but I hate raw apples. I will definitely have to be cutting them up and dipping the slices into my peanut butter.

The only things I didn’t get yet, which I am aiming to top up around the half way mark on March 15 is another pack of carrots, 1 whole chicken and 8 chicken breasts.

Hopefully I don’t run out of my beloved peanut butter by then.

After checking out at the grocery store I had purchase 69 items for $282.52 and filled up five of my reusable grocery bags.

My first night I had Kraft Dinner, only because I couldn’t find my can opener!

Oh, and my dog, Maple, tore open my pack of pork chops and took a small nibble out of one. I was devastated. Note to self, for the remainder of month don’t leave any of my food where she could get it!

I also had four Oreos and a glass of milk for dessert.

This morning I portioned out some milk and sugar and brought it to work along with my k cups for my morning coffee and took one slice of bread from my allotted two loafs and spread some – you guessed it peanut butter on it for my breakfast.

Now its 7:51 on a Monday morning, and I’m already ready for a snack.

I think my biggest challenge with my active lifestyle will be to make sure I am planning and really preparing my meals.  I will admit, if I sleep in a little extra in the mornings I would visit Tim Hortons on the way to work for a coffee and bagel. If I’m teaching a lot of yoga classes I grab a meal or two at Dedicated Kitchen or a smoothie at Oranj Fitness’s smoothie bar. I am a snacker and I am going to miss my fresh veggies that I am used to having to keep my body and mind fueled.

What I already learned in the first day of this challenge was the lack of fresh vegetables and fruits that are giving in the hampers that I already miss. Those are usually big staples in my diet.

For the average person I do think the list is fair and might sustain my appetite, however I’m not exactly sure If I will flourish and have the energy to also work out or practice yoga outside of my regular teaching schedule.

I think the big takeaways from this first day was that people should consider donating less items that they themselves wouldn’t even eat and to consider donating more breakfast and snack/lunch items. To me most of the items on the list are what I would have for dinner which tends to be my smallest meal at the end of the day when I don’t need a lot more energy to get me through.

You can follow my journey along with the others who are participating using the hashtag #feedymm

Filed under: feedymm, food blog, hamper challenge, middayswithmelanie, rmwb, wood buffalo food bank, ymm