Okay, moving right along to the last two days of the first week, I was able to get under budget, because we’re finally getting into some of the stuff that I’ve already costed out but haven’t used all of. We’re also eating leftovers some too, which helps with the budget. For example, one night, we all dug into the fridge and just pulled out everything in leftover containers and heated it up and just mixed and matched an ate up all the leftovers for dinner. A good friend of mine calls this ‘fend night’, where everyone ‘fends for themselves’, and you just eat up whatever is stored. It’s actually a lot of fun, in that you get to eat a lot of different things, you’re not wasting anything, and everyone has to sort of talk about stuff with each other in order to eat dinner together! Fend nights are definitely a tradition you should start in your family–just one night a month at least, go through your fridge, pull out all your leftovers, heat up the leftovers and throw them on the table with plates and everyone just dig in!
Okay, so let’s look at where I stand:
I’m eating a lot of fruit. This is probably a good thing, since fresh fruit seems to be what most people say isn’t possible on a food stamp budget. Well, it IS possible, but you have to go about it the right way. For it to fit into the budget, you can’t buy the expensive single piece fruit that you buy per pound. You have to look for the less expensive bags of fruit. Bananas are super cheap here, at .38 cents for a pound and the organics were on sale for .49 cents per pound. So I bought a couple of pounds of bananas, then got three pounds of them in the Bountiful Baskets. So yeah, I have a ton of bananas! If anyone knows banana recipes, let me know. They are all ripe now. I froze some of them, because they make great smoothies and for that, bananas freeze well. But I want to cook with them some too.
I also bought a 3 pound bag of apples for $1.79 and then got 2 pounds of apples from Bountiful Baskets. Now, oranges are different. That bag of seeded small navel oranges was $3.99, but I had to have it, because I love oranges, and that was cheaper than buying the big oranges. I also love orange juice, and I’ve really missed it this week (it was too expensive to buy on my budget), so I took some of the oranges and juiced them myself. While I did use my juicer, I should point out, you don’t have to use a juicer to make homemade orange juice from oranges. I also bought grapes at 1.49 per pound. They can be used to just grab a handful and snack or to use in cooking or juicing. We’ve eaten about half of them.
Here’s the problem I’m having with the fresh fruits and veggies: They are cheap enough to buy when you get the family packs, but they don’t keep well! If you’re not using them for cooking, they wilt or start to go bad in about a week. Storing them is tough for long-term, so folks on food stamps who can’t go to the store every week are going to have issues with storing the less expensive bulk fruits and veggies. While some of that can be fixed by buying frozen, it’s not the same, and we all know that. I’ve mentioned before, also, that I refuse to buy canned, no matter how cheap it might be. That said, I can’t begrudge someone who is on food stamps buying canned fruits in their own juices if that’s all they can afford–even that’s better than more processed foods. So don’t feel bad if that’s all you can afford. Just know that there are ways to buy some fresh fruits if you have ways to store it or can eat enough of it fast enough.
I’ve been doing easy breakfasts, because mornings have been tough on me the past week. I don’t know what this current health flare thing is all about, but my legs and back are also killing me, so I’ve been taking it easy. Breakfast, then, has been fruit and milk. Though I did use the last of the eggs and bacon for a lunch the other day. So since I’d already taken the cost of all the fruits except for the oranges (which I have now added into the mix), breakfasts are cheap. Adding in the oranges, we get a total for breakfast for the two days of: .66 cents per person per each day.
I’ll probably be adding smoothies in the near future, as I move from fresh fruit to frozen bananas and such.
I“ve gotten lazy with lunches too. Not only am I really bored with the food choices I have right now, lunch isn’t my favorite meal, most days anyway. It’s just, it’s tough to cook a lunch. It’s in the middle of the day, the heat is up, I don’t want something huge and filling but I want something substantial, so I’ve mostly been doing leftovers for lunch. If there was something leftover from the night before (because I rarely finish my entire meal at dinner–I don’t eat a lot these days), then I’ll have that for lunch the next day. I’ll throw in some veggies, raw, or fruit. For example, on Saturday, I had an avocado filled with the leftovers from the lettuce wraps I made for dinner the night before. I heated the meat back up and mixed with the salsa and then filled the avocado halves with it and had that for lunch. I threw in a carrot and squeezed some lime over the top of it all. The only cost was the avocado, because everything else had been costed out.
Then the other day’s lunch was leftover spaghetti from the night before. It was 100% free, because I had already costed out the spaghetti the night before. Whether I’m doing the food stamp challenge or not, I always make big batches of spaghetti. It’s cheap. It tastes better the second day! It keeps well in the fridge or freezer for reheating. Yup, a big batch of sauce and a big bath of noodles and we can often eat on that for three days.
And then again, lots of fruit. Saturday, I had something like four apples from Bountiful Baskets (they are small, but oh, man,, are they good!) and two bananas and an orange. I also have a tendency to grab a carrot stick whenever I want to ‘munch’. I’ve already costed out the carrots, so I haven’t totally been paying attention to how many I’ve eaten. That means my nutritional stuff will be a little bit off, but I don’t think a few carrots here or there is going to kill the data.
So the total for the two lunches for the two days was: .50 cents per person per day.
So the two big dinners for days six and seven were: Lettuce Wraps with Mango Salsa & Leftovers/Fend Night
I’ll put the recipe for the Lettuce Wraps w/Mango Salsa up later (this link will go to it when I finally get it up). They were really good. I used the leaf lettuce from Bountiful Baskets for the wraps, and then the meat was part ground turkey and part ground beef. Now, anyone who has ever cooked with ground turkey knows it’s dry and has very little fat to it. It’s one of the reasons it’s so hard for some people to cook with, because it will stick to your pan and is generally dry. But what I do, even when I’m not doing the challenge, is mix the ground turkey with a small part of regular ground beef, and then I put in a little bit of a healthy health (like coconut oil or olive oil). This will give the meat some of the ‘real’ ground beef flavor and add some fat to keep it from being dry. It’s still healthier and if you buy the ground turkey frozen, it’s cheaper too. I take the meat home and freeze it anyway, so I really don’t care if it’s frozen. Just be sure when you buy it that it’s 100% ground turkey and not full of fillers.
So the difference in price between ground turkey and ground beef in price? Well, one roll of ground ‘meat’ (it didn’t say beef) for one pound was 2.19 and the ground turkey was 1.79 per pound. When you’re only getting one pound, it’s not that bad, but when you’re having to buy a lot of it, it adds up to a whole pound of extra meat for free. The ground beef and the ground chuck were more expensive. So I used the ground turkey, one pound, and about 1/4 of a pound of a ground beef, with a tablespoon of olive oil.
Now, typically, I would have seasoned the meat with some hoison sauce–I absolutely love hoison sauce! But on the challenge, I couldn’t afford it, so I skipped that and went with some packages of soy sauce I had leftover in the my fridge from some time when we ate Asian and had leftover packets. It’s sort of cheating, but I think we all have had that ‘draw’ of condiments packages in our lives. I did when I was on food stamps and broke… ketchup, mustard, mayo, soy sauce, malt vinegar from LJS, etc. You all know the drawer, right? I’m not the only one, am I?
Anyway, it was a great dinner. We spooned the meat and salsa into the lettuce wraps and ate ’em with our hands! The next day for lunch, I had leftovers, so I made the avocados. I have to be honest: the avocados were a treat. They were too expensive for the budget, but I wanted them so badly. I made the choice to put back some of the cucumbers to be able to ‘afford’ the avocado, because I wanted it that badly. These are ‘luxury’ produce.
So the totals for the two days for dinner will amaze you, because most everything was free because it was already costed out. So dinner for the two days was: $3.66 per person, per day–and that’s costing out the entire cost of the box of food from Bountiful Baskets too.
Day six and seven averaged out to $4.16 per day. Nutritionally, we’ve still low on calories, but nutrition itself is very good. Adding some fat into the diet helped with calories and for me, who needs to lose some weight and isn’t super active during the day, I’m right where I should be. For my son or a grown man or someone who is active or doesn’t need to lose any weight, it’s still running about 600-800 calories too low per day. For a young kid, the diet is perfect. For a teenager, particularly a teenaged boy, the calories are too low. However, the AMOUNT of food has actually be surprisingly a lot!
So my average per day for the week on cost for week one is: $5.13 per person per day.
I’m quite impressed with myself. The coming week, there will be some more freebies, which will help keep costs low. But I also have to do a weekly shopping trip too, because I’m out of milk, eggs, bacon, spinach and a few other things. So I’ll share the shopping trip when I go, probably today or tomorrow. I haven’t been up to going yet.
But I came in on average under budget and we’ve had plenty to eat. But again, this is the first week of the challenge. We just ended the first week and that’s how this always goes. It’s EASY to do it for a week. It’s not so easy to do that for a full month’s worth, and then another, and another. And that’s part of what I want to show with my challenge.
A lot of people have come forward to talk to me about their own struggles with budgeting for a family, whether on food stamps or not. Dotchi shared her challenge on her blog. My friends on Facebook have been amazingly helpful with feedback and support. Heather shared her views on feeding a family on food stamps here. Check this out and be sure to ‘like’ this article she wrote, because that’s a simple thing you can do to give someone a hand up and not a hand out–read it and click, the two seconds it takes you makes a big differencce for the writer. Chef Perry offered his insight on his blog about food stamp challenges in general (and I agree with him, even though he’s against folks doing these challenges–you’ll have to click the link and go read why! Leave him a comment!) So it’s been amazing to get people’s stories, to see the REAL faces behind food insecurity and the screwed up food system in America. THIS is what I hoped would happen by doing this challenge, that people would talk about this, open a dialogue and share experiences. I wanted to put faces and real people onto the names.
I will post the start of the second week of the challenge later today!
But I wrapped up week one under budget and eating decently. Let’s see if we can keep up that trend! I still need to write out my grocery shopping reciept for you all too. So much to get posted…. sorry it’s taking me so long. I’ve been busy planning and cooking!
Happy (and health) eating!