In times of tragedy, we can feel removed if we we aren't directly affected. But there is always a way to help, and we always should. We are connected as humans, and through that connectedness, we have an obligation to serve and help our fellow humans in need.
If you don't know me well yet, something I love doing is bringing people together through community challenges each month. Whether it's clean eating, personal development or a fitness challenge, social media has the power to bring those near and far together over a common goal. This month (and my first challenge on the blog!) that goal is to contribute to relieving the humanitarian crisis that is currently happening in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands after hurricanes ripped through this year.
WHY DO I NEED A PANTRY CLEAN OUT?
My actual pantry... clearly needing help.
So, you're probably asking yourself, "what is a pantry challenge and how is it going to help raise money?" Have you ever experienced that moment where a bag of chips falls out of your pantry, hits you on the head, and you recover only to notice 2 more opened bags of chips behind it? Or you have to shove cans together to get them to fit into their designated space, after going to the grocery store yet again? Well, this has been my life the past few months and I'm a BIT over it.
I'm not sure why many of us have the tendency to stuff our cupboards to the brim – for me it was seeing my mom and grandparents's overly stocked pantry. And I 100% believe that was passed down from when my grandparents were children during the Depression. We are not in a depression anymore, but we do live in a time where convenience and pre-packaged goods are the norm. Sometimes we overbuy, simply because we can, only to have that food go to waste. I'm not saying for this challenge we need to deprive ourselves of good things, but shifting our focus to being grateful for the food we have, and buying less so that we can give more to others is the goal for this 3 week pantry challenge.
There are many different ways to do a pantry challenge. The main goal is to use up the items you have (in freezer, cupboards and fridge), instead of buying more. Think about your grocery bill now. Are there places where you can cut back? And what would you do with that extra money you save? For the next 3 weeks, the goal will be to use up what you have, only purchasing some fresh fruit and veggies and milk or eggs, in order to give back to those affected by Hurricane Irma and Maria.
Of course, office outings, meetings, etc, you can't control, but the goal isn't to be perfect. It's to find value in the food you have, and to sacrifice a little inconvenience to help others in much greater need.
HOW THE CHALLENGE WORKS
PLAN. Mark off a designated 3 weeks time span (it can be more or less), in which you go to the store for the necessities ONLY. Now, every situation will vary, but I plan to stick to an only fruits and veggies + almond milk + eggs kind of budget. I'll also be abstaining from my almost daily trip to the Whole Foods hot bar (and I wonder where my money goes...) and eating out for lunch and dinner during the week.
BUDGET. If you have no idea what you spend on food in a month, come up with a rough estimate and write that number down. If you have an idea already, keep track for the next 3 weeks of what you spend and subtract it from that. The point is, the money you save can be donated towards hurricane relief efforts. See the bottom of this post for the organization I will be contributing to. GET CREATIVE. It is going to take some thought and creativity to make dinners out of things like cans of tuna and dried lentils, but it's possible! For the next few weeks, be sure to check back as I will be sharing creative recipes that I got out of my own pantry overflow. Supercook or the Epicurious app are great resources, where you can find recipes by ingredient. Get your family in on this to make this a fun and not "stressful" challenge.
DONATE. The organization I connected with, All Hands Volunteers, has been working in the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Florida to identify the greatest needs and most vulnerable populations. Donations from this challenge will go towards their USVI Response Program, which is looking to rebuild schools in the region over the next 2 years. Their efforts also focus on the most immediate needs of the people and communities devastated by the hurricanes. Use this page to donate immediately or after our challenge is completed. (Via GoFundMe, you can be assured, all the funds will get directly into the hands of All Hands). --> DONATE
Take assessment of what you have, and come up with a few recipe ideas based around 1 or 2 ingredients. Take note of what you may need and go shopping for produce. If you absolutely have nothing in your cupboards, try and purchase only bulk items (the unpackaged kind) and shopping for only what your tightened budget allows. And make a verbal and visual commitment. Announce to family and friends and get them in on the challenge to make this fun. See who can raise the most, who can get the most creative with what they already have. Get connected to what you're donating towards by researching and learning about the current situation and crisis. Connection is key to committing.
Be sure to use the tag #FNFLPantryChallenge in any posts or recipes during this challenge! Comment below your commitment (whether it's taking the challenge and donating or simply donating). Let's get started!