7 Day Trade Market Challenge

“One of the harshest realities about becoming an adult is just how expensive everything is. I am a grad student who works part-time in a retirement community and also interns at Grace Klein Community. In short: this is the most overworked and underpaid I have ever been in my entire life, and I have to ensure every financial decision I make is wise. But just like most everyone else in America, I have been bitten by the Holiday Bug, and all I want to do is shop and bake! Neither of which are conducive to my goal of being frugal and efficient.

Then, my GKC supervisors asked that I do a little social challenge where I only eat food from Grace Klein’s weekly donations. Though this was an idea the women brought up to me months ago, fate decided to wait until now to re-introduce the idea. The past week of the challenge, my boss was out on jury duty (which means way more hands-on work for me) and it was finals weeks; the blessing of the donated food really saved my bacon.

Day 1: Sunday
No breakfast
Finger foods at work party
Cranberry and turkey sandwich and a cup of yogurt

I went into Trade Market to help set up, and as I was lugging the produce and pre-made meals up the stairs, I was thinking about what I was going to take for the week. Market is always one of the selfish highlights of my week. The food donated by Trader Joe’s is often 1) still in great quality, and 2) stuff that I normally buy from there anyway! Being able to still get my preferred brands of bread, frozen goodies and dairy makes me feel like the groceries and I are star-crossed soulmates, finally allowed to reunite in my tummy.

One thing that was different about this Market for me was the fact I was trying to plan ahead for an entire week, as opposed to just snagging things I knew I liked. Now, I have a few good qualities, but planning has never been one of them; I like to think it just adds to my spunky charm. But! I persevered and tried to imagine what Future Cassidy may want–I got a couple of meats, a pre-made meal, a small container of cooking oil, a half gallon of milk, raisin bran, frozen produce (peas, strawberries, and edamame), fresh produce (tomatoes, apples, limes, bananas, bells peppers, butter lettuce, and broccoli), five cups of yogurt, sliced bread, a box of cookies, and a cheesecake. Now, as an addendum, I will say that I have been getting supplemental food items from GKC for a few months, so during this challenge, I did allow myself to include previously rescued GKC ingredients, such as dry pasta, cheeses, and potatoes that were nearing the end of life. I also used my own spices…I could not go a whole week without my chili flakes and salt.

Day 2: Monday
Raisin bran with milk
Cranberry, lettuce, and turkey sandwich with cookies
Curried salmon with cheesy potatoes

This was my first real shot at the GKC menu, and it was not that bad. I will say, however, I am not normally a breakfast eater. I typically wake up early, do about ninety minutes of homework, and allow myself only ten minutes to get ready for work. I feel ridiculous saying that my time is precious but virtually every moment of my days is accounted for by some responsibility. My time belongs to my job, Grace Klein, and Samford. Even my poor, perfect, little Tabby must fit in snuggle-time while I am on my laptop.

All of that to say, adding things like breakfast or cooking, is not an easy feat. While I was eating breakfast and making lunch, I was just thinking about the other things I could be doing with my morning. In case it is not obvious yet, I have about as much charm as a hissing snake first thing in the morning. When lunchtime rolled around, I was very grateful for my thanksgiving-themed sandwich and Christmas cookies.

Thank the Lord for loved ones! I typically arrive home a few minutes after my partner, and when I walked through the door, I could smell curry cooking! Joshua knows I need a few minutes to unwind after coming home before I am ready to do anything productive again. So being the sweet, kind, considerate person he is, he had already started making dinner. Though he did not adhere to the GKC menu all week with me, he honored my decision, and made sure all the ingredients he used were from Grace Klein. With the help of Joshua directly and my community transitively, I had a guilt-free and stress-free, tasty meal.

Day 3: Tuesday
Raisin bran with milk
Cranberry, lettuce, and turkey sandwich with cookies
Thanksgiving dinner with cranberry goat cheese

As mentioned, my mornings are tight, but I felt like I could streamline the process of eating and preparing my first two meals. So after working on a paper for about an hour, I handled food for breakfast and lunch, and hustled out the door!

Don’t misunderstand, I love food–a lot. I love to cook, try new recipes and flavor combinations; aside from cleaning the kitchen, I love everything about food. But, this is just not a season of my life in which I can devote too much energy or time into things like nutrition or taste. I have been sustaining on foods that are convenient for months now, and it has notably taken its toll on my energy levels. That seems like a really rotten catch-22, doesn’t it? However, thanks to some sweet soul at GKC, Josh and I were able to enjoy someone’s homemade turkey dinner, complete with dressing! This was SO easy! All I had to do was warm it up in the oven while I, once again, worked on a paper. And there was enough turkey to supplement my lunches as well as both of our dinners tonight.

Day 4: Wednesday
Raisin bran with milk
Cranberry, lettuce, and turkey sandwich with cookies
Homemade veggie pizza

Mornings and lunches are the same song-and-dance. But dinner was a blast! I had finished my take-home final for one of my classes (praise the LORD!), so Joshua and I had a little more time to fool around in the kitchen. With some Trader Joe’s dough, we made a veggie pizza from scratch! This is one of my absolute favorite things to do with him. To me, cooking with somebody is the best judge of compatibility. As we tango around one another in our small kitchen, yielding different chopped peppers and cheeses, we create a masterpiece of a pie. Joshua and I have made a dozen pizza (or pizza-like things) in the last couple of years, and this Mona Cheesa pizza did not feel any different.

Back on Sunday, when I got my ingredients at Trade Market, I was not sure what I would want to eat four or five days into the week, and I was worried that I would feel pigeon-held into having food I didn’t really want to eat, and I would therefore get bummed or annoyed. All of these worries were dissolved as Joshua and I sang Dean Martin songs to one another as the pizza cooked in the oven.

Day 5: Thursday
No breakfast
Banana, yogurt, and milk smoothie
Squid ink pasta with thai-spices flank steak

We all have that one day of the week that is always worse. Maybe for some of us those are the days the babysitter has to leave early, or extra errands need to be fit into an already taxing schedule; for me, my stinky days are Thursdays, because I (try) to do some homework, then work my day job from 8:30-12:30, do more homework from 1:00-2:30, and then have class from 3:00-7:30. Hence why breakfast had to take a backseat on this morning. However, my afternoon smoothie was as dense as cement, so I feel like I more than compensated for any calories that were missed before work. As for dinner, once again, Joshua saved the day by cooking steak for me, so all I had to do was cook the noodles when I was ready to eat!

Day 6: Friday
Banana, yogurt, and milk smoothie
No lunch
Compromised caprese salad
Crema, hot sauce, and cheese quesadilla

Friday was a weird day–there were a lot of moving parts at work and with an event I was helping with for GKC, so I spent several chunks of my day preparing and executing certain activities, and I simply forgot to eat lunch. If you would like to read about the GKC and St. Martin’s in the Pine’s collaborative project that took place, please CLICK HERE.

Joshua and I had planned on having a sweet, romantic date night, where we would eat dinner at home, but then go out and see what the city had to offer. Sounds great! After finishing my cheesy tapas at 7:00 PM, I laid down to rest for a few minutes in our living room before our date; I did not wake up until 6:45 AM. I guess my body decided it was done moving, for awhile, and promptly fell into a food-coma.

Day 7: Saturday
Raisin bran and milk
No lunch
Holiday potluck with friends! (contribution: cheesecake with strawberry sauce)

Final day! And honestly, adhering to the rules of the GKC menu was not difficult! The part that was the most tedious was generating the gumption to make my lunches everyday and cleaning up the kitchen (which was something that certainly did not happen daily). I know I am in the majority among Grace Klein’s community members, in that, many of us are overworked and underpaid. Personally, some days it seems like everybody needs something from me, and since I care about my commitments, I want to be able to provide…but sometimes I become so mentally, emotionally, or physically exhausted, I am running on fumes to simply provide the basics. Based on the exchanges I have had with the incredibly strong, steadfast women at GKC, I think this bout of burden is not uncommon, but we learn to use one another as pillars during our times of weakness.

We all recharge in different ways, for me, since I had my mini, half-day hibernation the day before, I was ready to give love and get love. After breakfast, I helped GKC with another wrap party at Galleria Woods Retirement Community. The event was great, despite the weather; and, I was feeling so good from the socializing, I was ready to keep being productive!

Later that night, Joshua and I were having a huge gathering of friends as a belated Thanksgiving/early Christmas dinner. With some of the frozen strawberries I got from GKC, I made a sauce for the pre-baked cheesecake. Aside from the delicious food everyone brought, this evening really was the perfect way to culminate the week-long challenge. These friends have been a part of my life since I was baby freshman in college. It seems like I have grown up with these fools, doing everything from the absurd to mundane–they are my tribe and my source of support during times of stress or dilemmas. At this dinner, we laughed, reminisced, and ate until our bellies were about to pop! Yes, the food was great, but it was the company that really made the meal special.

Want to know one of the most important life lessons I have learned over the past few months with GKC?! Yes, the actions of Grace Klein Community are to help meet various needs of the community, via food, clothes, toys, etc… But! charity is not at the crux of the community–it is compassion and friendship. Without the bonds that bring us together, we would all be weaker for their absence. I suppose that is why this time of the year always turns me into such as sap; it’s because the holidays help remind us to put our focus back on love and community. I know this challenge has certainly had such an effect on me.

Happy holidays, everyone.

If you would like to give the GKC Trade Market challenge a shot, please come our community office any Sunday (except the Sunday of Food Delivery) between 12:00 PM and 2:00 PM, and get your groceries!
Or, for midweek food assistance, come by the office between 1:00 PM and 6:00 PM, Monday – Thursday, or on Friday’s until 3:30 PM, and see what the daily shipment may be.”

– Cassidy Clevenger, Samford Social Work Intern

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