Michy’s Food Stamp (SNAP) 30-Day Challenge: Days Four & Five

I’m doing these two days together, because there wasn’t much in the way or ‘recipes’ on these days, so I can sort of merge them and just report what we ate, mostly. I did get the Bountiful Basket in, so I ate several apples and some bananas, just as a snack. I went crazy on the apples and ate three of them in one day and two the next day! That’s how very wonderful, crisp and juicy these apples from Bountiful Baskets were!

So,  okay, on nutrition. I’m doing okay on nutrition as far as the vitamins and nutrients in the food. The problem is still that the calories are low while the carbs are high. I’m not feeling hungry–in fact, I have leftovers a lot of the time.  However, I’m not a growing teenager who needs more food than the average hibernating bear, but believe me, my son can pack away food (19 year old boy) so that sort of balances out, I think. I do know if I had two or three teenaged boys, this would be a lot harder than what I’m doing now for grown adults. But still, for a full-grown working man, I’m not serving enough calories in a day to sustain without a weight loss potential. For me, I just can’t get up to enough calories without eating too much food. I’m learning tricks, like when I cook with the ground turkey (’cause it’s a buck per pound cheaper and healthier then ground beef), I add a couple of tablespoons of a healthy oil to it. This helps keep it from being dry, gives it a better, more beefy flavor, and keeps it from sticking to the pan. The other good aspect is that increases the calories. Adding some cheese onto things helps increase calories too–there’s a lot of calories in cheese!

But it just goes to show that if you follow a strict vegetarian non-processed foods diet, there’s no way you’re not going to lose weight. All the bad calories in food are in two places: red meat & processed carbs. I’ve lost nearly six pounds since the diet started and we’re one week into it. Now, to be fair, I had a flare up of my CHF and my legs were swollen, so losing some of that was just losing what the fluid retention had made me gain, but still. I need to lose some weight, so this isn’t a big deal to me, but Ryan is super skinny and doesn’t need to lose an ounce so eating like this for him would, long term, not be a good thing. My son and daughter both could stand to lose some weight, so this won’t kill them. My mother, she watches what she eats for cholesterol, but she could probably eat on this diet plan and be stuffed. She’s one of those people who will go days just picking at things here or there and then pig out one day and you wonder where she puts it out. She’s also this tiny little thing too. I tower over her and it’s hard to believe she’s my mom!

CHALLENGE DIFFICULTIES

One of the things that’s been hardest for me is forcing myself to eat  on this challenge. Knowing the calories are low, I know I have to eat. The challenge is to eat healthy during this time, not skipping meals to make the budget stretch, etc. But I’m not always hungry when it’s time to eat. And worse, when I go without eating, I get even less hungry and have less desire to eat. This makes getting enough calories and nutrition in hard–’cause it doesn’t matter if you cook it if you don’t actually eat it (something that’s tough with feeding kids on a budget too).

Another difficult thing to do is to cook three meals per day and cook snacks too. Because of the budget, everything is either raw or whole, which means you have to cook things to eat. Sometimes, I just want to grab something to eat really quick. I don’t want to have to cook or make a big production out of it. I’ve been doing a lot fo one-pot meal type things, just chop stuff up and toss it in, that type of thing, because I just seem to be spending the entire day cooking, cleaning up from cooking and cooking again. That’s not accurate, but it feels like it, and quite frankly, someone who is working full-time and taking care of kids might not have the time to put into this like I do right now. It’s tough to plan, cook, and budget for three meals per day plus snacks.

CHEATING ON THE CHALLENGE

I haven’t exactly cheated on the challenge, but I find myself wanting to. You see, I have a pantry with stuff in it that I set aside until after the challenge. There’s coconut milk in there. I want to use it. Unfortunately, I can’t go shopping until today, so I’ve forced myself to ignore that coconut milk, and then today, after I go ‘shopping’, I can use that coconut milk. So that’s how I’ve been handling using items in the house already. I won’t waste them, but I can’t use them until I would have normally gone shopping again. I did, however, break down and eat two jalapeno stuffed olive the other day from the jar in the fridge. I figure, knowing how things used to be, even on a food stamp budget, I’d have a little bit of jarred stuff like condiments and all in the fridge door. It seemed to be the only thing I had left at the end of the month. You can make some interesting concoctions with sweet pickle relish, crackers and mustard and ketchup, let me tell you.

Short of that, I really haven’t cheated. But when I had the mango pico de gallo this afternoon, I so stared longingly at the quinoa and red bean chips sealed in a bag on my counter. I kept trying to bargain that I could ‘afford’ $3.99 on my budget for a bag of organic chips, but even if I could, I couldn’t ‘shop’ for them, so they had to sit there.

MY TEETH HATE THIS DIET

Everything I’m eating is mostly soft and mushy. I find myself craving the carrots and apples, just because they are crunchy. When you cook veggies, they are soft. Without a lot of meat to ‘chew’, everything is mushy. I am brushing my teeth multiple times during the day, when I used to only brush them in the morning and at night. My mouth wants something to chew. I’ll be making the neck bone roast today, so maybe that will hep some. The corn on the cob was good too, so maybe when I shop today or tomorrow, I’ll pick up some more of that. But we are all in agreement, we want to chew our food, not just drink or swallow mush.

NUMBERS UPDATE & MENUS

So I cracked out the boxes of cereal the other day, and here in our area, you don’t leave those open and unused for long, ’cause they go soggy. We’re high humidity. All my whole grains and stuff from my normal diet are stored in my big containers, so we had to go through the cereal fast. Because of that, cereal with fruit and milk has been breakfast for days four and five.

I didn’t figure it individually, but for both days, breakfast per person was less than a buck one day and free the next, since the fruit had already been counted in the budget.

For lunch, one day, we just ate a bunch of raw veggies in a salad with some vinegar and oil dressing. I love a fresh salad during the heat of the day during the summer. Don’t underestimate fruit in your salads, either. Chopped up apples, grapes, and berries go great with a tangy vinegar dressing!

For dinner on night four, we used half a bag of egg noodles, one 26 ounce can of cream of mushroom soup, 1/2 the bag of prepared meatballs that came with the full-meal deal from HEB (cut them in half), a 1/2 cup of milk, and some spices to make a bit of a meatball stroganoff. We didn’t have any sour cream or mayo, so we used some lemon juice and vinegar to ‘sour’ the milk and give it that signature tangy taste. To add some ‘green’ to it, we tossed in about 1/4 cup of green peas from the frozen bag of peas. They were 98 cents, but there was a lot of peas in that bag, and now it’s free to use in other dishes at no cost to me.

Lunch the next day was two pieces of bacon and two eggs. This brought out egg count down to zero, so I have to add eggs to the list. In the future, knowing how many eggs we’ll use, I would likely opt to buy the larger 18 plus count boxes of eggs, or even the big crate of eggs, to get them cheaper. I just didn’t know how much we would use this month on the challenge. A real family would be able to know that and could probably budget to buy eggs more in bulk and save a little bit of money that way (a lot of money at HEB, in fact).

Dinner on night five was spaghetti. I used the free noodles I got from the coupon with the full meal deal at HEB, so that was a nice freebie. Then we used the rest of the meatballs from the full meal deal that I used in the stroganoff mix the night before, so that was free. Then we used two cans of sauce. The sauce was .88 cents per can, and I made sure it contained no HFCS. It does, however, contain high amounts of sodium. Still, there’s no way I could make a homemade sauce in that amount for .88 cents per can. So I poured both cans in a pot, added some garlic and black pepper, threw some shredded spinach into the mix, chopped up some onions and in a pan sauteed the onion and the meatballs together, then chopped the meatballs in quarters and slide them all into the sauce and simmered it. Did the noodles, little oil, took them out, tossed them with some oil and Italian seasoning, touch of butter (like not even a pat of butter, just a little for flavor) and then poured the sauce over the top. We got some ‘free’ parmesan cheese shreds with the meatball full meal deal, so I sprinkled some of that on top.

The thing was, this meal made a ton of spaghetti, so we ate huge plates of it then had plenty left over, so I had spaghetti for breakfast on Day Six… yeah–but it’s what I wanted. We also had spaghetti for lunch too. But I’ll do days six and seven in another blog.

Today is day eight, and so far, it’s looking good on the challenge. My budget at this point is right on target at (drum roll): $6.13 per person, per day.

MORE TO COME

Which is going to drop even lower after the next two days, because most everything I’ve used for days Six & Seven were already costed out, so they are ‘free’ for me right now.

However, I am out of eggs and mostly out of milk. Cereal uses up milk fast. Just FYI on the nutrition, I bought vitamin E enriched milk that was made with no hormones. Getting vitamin E is hard to do in a diet, so I bought the vitamin E enriched milk, and of course, it has the vitamin D and all. So with that, I’ll have to go shopping. I’m out of spinach too. A lot of you have asked me about why I throw spinach into everything and it’s a great observation. First, spinach is good for you. Second, it has such a mild flavor that if you chop it up, you don’t even know it’s in the dish and it adds to your nutrition.  But the reason I do it is this: I’m on warfarin/coumadin, a blood thinner that works by preventing blood clotting–a vitamin K reactor or something… and it works by acting on the vitamin K. I have a narrow range of ‘therapuetic’ that my PT/INRs can be at, and if it’s not in that range, they change the amount of medication I have to take. In the beginning, this happened a lot, like every week I was having to change my meds. I learned that what you eat affects your PT/INR dosages, and I love to eat leafy greens, green salads and such, but if I didn’t eat them every day, my PT/INR was affected by them, too high on days I didn’t, too low on days I did.

I don’t always want to have to force down a salad with leafy greens when I’m not in the mood for one, so we started doing vitamin K ‘exchanges’ in my diet. For example, a diabetic does ‘exchanges’ for carbs and sugars in their diet, each serving being XX amount, and you try to keep that steady. For me, it’s vitamin K–I try to keep my vitamin K intake every day pretty consistent. So on a day I don’t eat a leafy kale salad or eat kale chips or make a green smoothie for myself, I’ll throw some spinach in a bowl and snack or toss some torn up spinach into a sauce or something, or I will make some broccoli or other things with about the same amount of vitamin K consistently every day. That way, my levels stay normal, but I don’t have to choke down leafy greens every day if I don’t want to. It’s super easy to ‘hide’ vegetables in smoothies, soups and sauces. If you have kids who are picky eaters, my book about this challenge has an entire section on just that.

In fact, it has some awesome information, because, when my son was two 1/2 years old, he was anorexic (not the behavioral condition, but the condition in which the body is starving itself and using it’s own tissue as fuel to survive). When you get to that point of burning your own body for fuel, the hunger reflex turns off, because the body sees ‘eating’ as ‘eating itself’ and turns off hungry to try to survive. It gets all screwed up. So we had to really work hard to come up with ways to force my son to eat nutrition. He was prescribed Pediasure three times per day, and fortunately, insurance paid for it! Then I got creative with how I ‘hid’ nutrition from him to try to force him to eat healthier. To this day, I ‘hide’ vegetables in his sauces, ’cause it’s the only green he’ll eat. He’s knows they’re there now, and he doesn’t mind, as long as he doesn’t have to ‘feel’ them in his mouth–he doesn’t like the way vegetables ‘feel’ to eat.

So anyway, that’s my long two-day update. More to come on days Six & Seven next!

Love and stuff,

Michy

 

 

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