Posted by: Hil | November 14, 2008

Thanksgiving Challenge Update


Yesterday was a long day and I stumbled in the house without much energy to cook.  But as the husband was coming home even later and more tired than I was, I decided to cook something for us.  I cooked some whole wheat orzo in broth (which, in this case, was just water and bullion), drained it, and added a bunch of chopped arugula.  The arugula immediately wilted down from the heat of the pasta.  I added a sprinkle of goat cheese and pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and served.  Whole grain pasta with veggies is one of my absolute favorite fast dinners:  easy, fast, nutritious and infinitely variable.   Dinner was delicious, but I was still craving protein at the end of it, so I made myself a side of shrimp as a chaser.


We are over halfway through the Great Thanksgiving Challenge.  So far, we’ve spent $60.56 on groceries…right on target.  ($3.89 of that was a lunch that I had to buy myself at school after a professor promised to bring food to class but then backed out at the last minute.)  Already this has been a challenging and enlightening experience.  I’ve gained a lot of insight into the way that I eat and relate to food.  Here are a few of my assorted musings on the challenge.

  • On vegetables: I have always loved vegetables, but this challenge has really renewed my love of them.  Vegetables can be so much cheaper and more fun than I remembered!  This is definitely the most delightful discovery of the challenge.  I have become expert at working the farmers market for the best deals.  Farmers market greens are incredibly delicious and cheap.  Arugula, spinach and chard are among my very favorite foods, so I have been happy to eat lots of them.  In a quick salad or sauteed with olive oil and garlic, they are my staples.  I supplement with whatever roasting veggies look fresh and cheap that week–things like cauliflower, leeks, carrots, and potatoes.  It’s very hard to feel very deprived eating roasted chicken and assorted farmers market vegetables.
  • On variety:  Too often, I take for granted the astonishing variety of food that is available to me.  The challenge has been a blessing and a curse in this regard.  One the one hand, I have learned to appreciate and take advantage of the abundance of ingredients that I routinely stock in my pantry and kitchen.  I’ve learned and relearned ways to prepare delicious food with the “basics.”  On the other hand, being able to splurge on the occasional “fun” grocery purchase has always been such a source of cooking inspiration to me.  Sticking to the basics sometimes does lead to cooking and eating in a rut.  I have really missed the variety of fruit and proteins that I typically buy.  Over the last week, I’ve been really struggling against boredom.
  • On mindfulness:  As I have frequently discussed on this blog, mindful eating is very important to me.  The challenge has been both a boon and a hindrance to my mindful eating efforts.  Mostly, it has been a boon because it has forced me to make conscious decisions about when, what, and how much I eat.  I’ve definitely cut back on eating food just because it is there, which is a great thing.  On the other hand, I’ve often made late-week dinner decisions based on what was left in the fridge rather than what my body was craving.
  • On convenience:  I’ve been eating a lot fewer healthy convenience foods.  (Protein bars, dehydrated soups, etc.)  When I have my act together, this means that I eat fresh, flavorful, home-cooked food all the time.  I know that before the challenge, I sometimes relied on convenience items too much when I was busy.  Nutrition aside, fresh food tastes so much better!  I’m much happier and more satisfied when I save bars and such for emergencies rather than eating them every day.  The only catch is that I have to actually cook or I won’t have anything to eat at all.  There have been a few times when I have really missed my backup options!
  • On protein:  I miss protein.  I miss protein a lot.  Yogurt, cheese and lean meat are not the cheapest of foods, and I’ve definitely been eating less of them.  My body is not pleased with this.  On the plus side, I’ve rediscovered my love of fresh eggs.  They are so delicious and versatile.  Poached, scrambled, in sweet or savory omelets…I love them any way you can think of.  I also rediscovered why so many people hate eggs when the husband came home with some non-local, less than fresh eggs.  Blech.  The rest of those are being relegated to baking use and I’m going to buy some good, fresh eggs for eating.
  • On thankfulness:  I am lucky.  I have a bounty of nutritious food available to me even when I’m cutting back.  I also have a new table to sit at and a husband to eat with every night.  I also have a mother who is an amazing cook and who will make an absolutely fabulous Thanksgiving dinner for us to enjoy at the end of this!

On the whole, the challenge has been amazing and I’m so glad I’ve participated.  There are lots of things I am really looking forward to bringing back into my diet when this is over.  (Ezekiel bread, storebought yogurt, different types of fruit, fish, and farmers market cheese come to mind.)  But taking the time and effort to step back and really think about what and how I am eating has been a really valuable and instructive experience.  And I know that Thanksgiving dinner is going to taste so incredibly good after this!



  1. Wow, thanks for sharing your insights on the challenge. It sounds like you’re doing amazingly well! And delicious eats for the day!

  2. I made a pasta JUST LIKE THAT tonight! So bizarre! I’m eating it right now actually 🙂

  3. You’re doing soooo fantastically with the challenge!!

  4. Great post! I feel a lot of the same emotions you are, esp. about meat + protein. While the challenge in our house has been easier than expected due to lots of bread/food gifts, it’s still be very eye-opening to me the amount of groceries we just buy for the sake of buying groceries.

  5. i loved reading your update! you are so thoughtful in your views. 🙂

  6. I think you’re doing a great job! It’s interesting that you can feel yourself missing protein. I am sure you know this, but try getting some cheap beans. It’s my favorite protein source. 😀

  7. I really liked that you reflected on what you’ve been thinking about so far in relation to the challenge- I hope that after it’s over you do a wrap up post where you revisit the ideas. It really made me thankful that I’m able to have a job and buy the foods that make me feel healthy, but also just the little bits that make me smile. (selfish? Maybe a little. Lucky? You bet!)

  8. I’m really glad I’m participating too. I totally agree on the variety part – I take so many things for granted!

    Have a great weekend 🙂

  9. i loved reading your reflections on the challenge – you are truly inspirational 🙂

  10. simple and delicious dinner–love it 🙂 great musings on the challenge, too. love it when people make me think and realize how lucky we are!

  11. Love your thoughts- super insightful. We can learn so much from those kinds of challenges.

    Also shrimp is tasty:)

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