- The less people in your family the harder it is to stay within the budget
- Food in this budget range is utilitarian and not a pleasure
- It will take a lot for me to sign up to do this again next year!
- I was protective of my food not really wanting to share incase it did not last me the whole week and I had nothing for the last meals.
- Going without coffee is miserable! Last year we could afford it with four people but on my own it was not possible.
- Eating more processed carbs makes for more naps and early nights! I had so little energy I thought I was sick at one point.
- Lots of tomato soup/sauce gave me canker saws by the end of the week!
- Sometimes it is not the main ingredient (take oatmeal for instance) that is costly, it’s the things we use with it (real maple syrup and berries) that make it cost prohibitive.
- Lack of fiber (fruits, vegetables and whole grain) gave me intestinal unhappiness… Lets just leave it at that!
- I couldn’t afford parmesan for my pasta; at the food bank we give out lots of pasta but rarely have sauce or cheese to go on it.
- The frozen strawberries I bought turned out to be from China… I was afraid to eat them but afraid to waste them!
- When buying food you usually get what you pay for… $1 poundcake tasted much like a $1 bill
- Why are bananas less expensive than any other fruit? They’re flown/shipped in from tropical destinations… why is a local apple more than five times as much?
- I will no longer take my usual daily snacks of a kind bar, nuts and fruit for granted.
- Seriously! My dog ate better than me this week…
Just an update now that we are more than half way through the week.
So far so good.
I am baking more bread today so that dear daughter can have her toast topped by a fried egg when she gets home from school. The manager’s special whole chicken that cost $5 is thawing prior to being cooked on the out door grill. That will go along with a carrot/apple salad and a cup of rice from the steamer for an evening meal. The chicken, as well as left over lasagna, will form the backbone of nutrition probably through Saturday which leaves one day to wheel on the program. We won’t run out of food that we purchsed on the original allotment.
A side benefit is that you lose weight.
What did I buy?! Remember I am not allowed to use anything in my pantry; this is based on the assumption that there would be nothing left in my pantry!! Every single item must be purchased from my $42 budget if I am to be allowed to consume it this week.
I visited two stores; First I visited Dollar Tree spending $7. This is not somewhere I would normally buy food, but I was curious what they had there and certainly the price was right! I picked up Potato gnocchi from Italy (How bad could that be?), some drink mix for my water, baked beans, crushed tomatoes to make tomato sauce, pound cake, frozen strawberries and dessert topping aka fake canned cream.
Next I visited Grocery Outlet spending $32.57 purchasing a large (10lb) bag of potatoes that may come in handy, some frozen items and basics such as bread, bagels, instant oatmeal, salad kits, cheese and canned soup. I purchased two boxes of Chobani yogurt tubes, one to be frozen and eaten as popsicles and one to be eaten in the regular manner. I could not afford both butter and oil so I went for butter figuring it would be better on my toast and the inevitable baked potato.
Normally I would make my own soup, in fact I would be hard pressed to remember a time other than when I was a child that I ate canned soup… but for $1.32 a can the price was right. This is probably a blessing since a pot of soup would be an investment given my budget and I would surely grow tired of it long before it was gone. My budget allows for no waste due to becoming bored… every calorie counts! I now see why canned soup is an elderly persons friend; it’s small batch, tasty, expensive and filling.
This week by diet will be high in carbohydrates, low in fruits and (especially) vegetables, higher in sodium and repetitive. To be honest, there is nothing I am thrilled and eager to eat. This food will (I hope) prevent me from going to bed hungry but I am expecting little more from it.
Breakfast: Instant Oatmeal
Lunch: Yakisoba microwave noodles, Banana
Dinner: Grilled ham and cheese sandwich, Pound cake, strawberries and “cream”
Breakfast: Bagel with butter
Lunch: Canned soup, Banana
Dinner: Marie Callender Frozen chicken potpie
Breakfast: toast, banana
Lunch: Grilled ham and cheese sandwich
Snack: frozen Greek yogurt tube
Dinner: Gnocchi with tomato sauce, Pound cake, strawberries and “cream”
Breakfast: Bagel with butter
Lunch: Cesar Salad, banana, yogurt
Dinner: Pot pie
Breakfast: Bagel and butter, banana
Lunch: Canned tomato soup, grilled cheese
Dinner: Leftover Gnocchi, frozen yogurt
Lunch: Canned tomato soup, grilled cheese
Dinner: Pierogies with butter and cheese, Greek yogurt tube
Breakfast: Bagel with butter, banana
Lunch: Yakisoba instant noodle
Dinner: Pierogies with butter and cheese. Cesar Salad kit
Or should I say “Here I go again” because my family has declined my generous offer to participate in the food stamp challenge again this year…
I thought that at Least Liam would be standing cheek to jowl with me over the prospect of eating some nasty fast food, but even he has decided not to dip his toe in the deprivation pond this year! Call me an over achiever but last year I signed up to do the challenge for a whole month; this year I will commit to only one week which is the regular length of the challenge.
Since my family are not taking the challenge this adds another layer of complication for me; two meals to prepare. I should use the word prepare quite loosely because there will be little for me to prepare for myself. Fresh ingredients such as meat and vegetables cost more than their ready made counterparts. For example to make a chicken pot pie I would need pastry (flour & butter) filling (chicken carrots, peas, celery, mushrooms) and sauce (flour, butter, chicken stock, cream & wine). Bearing in mind I have a budget of $6 per day or $42 for the whole week this one meal if made from scratch would cost the lions share of my budget or around $25. If you are following along you will know that at with my $2 per meal allocation this pie would have to last me for TWELVE meals! Lucky for me I have Marie Callender to make pies for me for the bargain price of $2 each. For sure my pies are better, but for $2 Marie gives me over 1000 calories of fat and sodium laced yumminess… I can already feel my ankles swelling I think.
We have three people in our family who are giving this a try. We figured out what that will give us to work with dollar wise for the seven days.
Then we planned all the meals for all three people. Some of these meals are coming out of “stock” on hand. We priced all the ingredients and started wtih that as a sunk cost. Next we figured out the cost of the Rotary breakfasts as well as the school lunches, this too became a sunk cost taking away from what was available to spend for the week. Finally we shopped carefully buying manager’s specials and refusing to purchase items where there was any labor component we could do ourselves. We are baking the bread ourselves for example. We substituted a daily salad with a combination of apples and carrots. We also spent about ten dollars less that the allotment figuring that we would either need something else or that we had forgotten to include the cost of something we were going to use already in our pantry.
On Sunday, Mother’s day and the day before this started we loaded up on the last of the Starbuck’s latte’s we would have for the next seven days and we ate hearty meals to build up a bit much like a bear going into hibernation.
So, we are off an running on our adventure and glad we don’t really have to live like this for the long term.
I see it and frankly I am thrilled!! Today is officially the last day of my family’s month long food stamp challenge. You would think I was dying to go shopping and spend up a storm, but I am not really, except we are almost out of milk and I want desperately to buy organic milk. I am most excited about being able to access my regular pantry for peanut oil, olive oil etc.. and to see my regular weekly shipment of delicious organic fruits and vegetables appear on my doorstep tomorrow morning.
At the beginning of the month I weighed myself and I have gained just short of four pounds during the challenge. This is a very sobering thought because I realize that if I lived this way for a year I may gain 50 pounds!!! Why did this happen? I am not completely sure except that my regular diet which consists mostly of fruits and vegetables, fish and a little dairy was just about free of fruits and vegetables. Curiously I do not feel like I ate 14,000 excess calories this month but surely my slower than normal metabolism (that my doctor likes to refer to as “efficient”) protested the onslaught of all things white and not so wonderful. In another post I call out what we had for dinner each day and most days I had a sandwich for lunch with maybe a banana or apple and some days a little yogurt. Honestly if I have to see another sandwich I am going to cry! Breakfast was usually a coffee that I made at home (4 shots of espresso and half a cup of steamed 1% milk) and a few times I had oatmeal too. I don’t feel like I ate with sheer abandonment, although I know that on the whole my diet was not very healthy. I have felt tired and cranky and I know that I have not fuelled my body well (sorry body) over the last month.
The food I had available was not appealing to me since I had to eat what my children would eat (remember Liam dislikes vegetables) because I could not afford to make two separate meals. I will NEVER complain about making two separate meals again…
..Not the book! That’s the color of our diet now!!
Something is wrong with the system that the foods that are the least expensive are all white… bread, rice, pasta, potaotes, flour, baked goods, cereal etc… Foods with antioxidents, fiber, vitamins and taste are all significantly more expensive than their white counterparts. I already detest this boring white diet… I want fruits and vegetables…I want to eat the rainbow!!
There are things that so many of us take for granted in our food budget. Like so many of us, I do not have to worry about how much my groceries will ring up at when I am checking out. Of course that is not to say that I don’t like to take advantage of a sale or buy seasonal produce in order to stretch my food dollars. I typically don’t use coupons becasue those mostly apply to processed foods which I rarely buy…although I wish there were more coupons for organic produce, milk and cheese!
During the food stamp challenge there are several things that I usually buy that are suddenly not in my budget because they are expensive and not essential to basic meal preperation. Here are some of the things I have missed the most:
- All fruits except apples and bananas
- Organic meats (or meat that itself had a good life)
- Organic milk and lactose free milk for Olivia
- Speciality cheeses
- Good quality eggs (from happy chickens)
- Salad greens (unless on sale for $1 per bag)
- Butter (I can afford to use it sparingly but baking with it is not always possible)
- Ice cream and frozen treats
- Greek yogurt
- Honey to drizzle on my Greek yogurt
- Real maple syrup (the fake high fructose imposter frightens me)
- Organic frozen entrees like Amy’s, Kashi and Cedar lane (I often have these for lunch)
- Good bread like Dave’s Killer bread
- Healthy cereal
- Chicken stock to make soup (1 qt costs $2:00-$3:00)
- Vegetables to accompany dinner: passing on them saves $2:00-$3:00 per meal
- Olive oil
- Peanut oil for Asian cooking
- Pistachios, almonds and macademia nuts for snacking
- Yummy things to drink like Issy or dry soda