Food, Community, and $35 For the Week: First Two Days. Beans & Greens. Veggie Soup.

Posted on November 7, 2011. Filed under: challenge, community, favorite, hodgepodge, vegetable | Tags: , , , , |

The first two days were easier than I thought they would be, though not without challenges.

My first meal for the project was a bowl of oatmeal. My breakfast every day, save one or two, will be oatmeal. (I tend to get on kicks where I eat the same food for breakfast every day.) I’m actually pretty happy about that– I love oatmeal. But…I didn’t really budget for sugar, so my oatmeal was really bland! Argh. Lesson one, budget for sugar.

Lunch was filling. I volunteered at the Chatham University booth at GoodTaste! Pittsburgh. GoodTaste! is a terribly-named food exhibition that takes place annually at the Monroeville Convention Center; small and large food purveyors, culinary entrepreneurs, and (yuck!) PA winemakers all gather to sample their goods. Last year was wonderful, but this year the exhibition was about half the size–and most of the food was processed. Happily, we were making delicious pumpkin spice pancakes–that was a good start. I also had quite a few pasta samples (including a surprisingly good gluten-free ravioli), and some marginally decent BBQ. I wish there had been a wider selection of wholesome food, but at least I left with a very full belly. I also left with homemade Maple Apple Butter courtesy of my classmate Barb! (And a loaf of commercial bread. It was free. I don’t want to turn my back on it, but it’s pretty…commercial.)

Dinner was Beans and Greens. I cooked pot of mixed beans (as well as half of my onion), then simmered them with some garlic and kale. Very satisfying. I also reserved about 1/3 the beans for another meal.

Day Two was a bit more challenging.

Things started off well: A bowl of oatmeal sweetened with Barb’s maple apple butter. It was delicious, especially considering how flat the oatmeal from the previous day had been. I had leftover Beans & Greens for lunch.

I started getting really hungry around four, but I wasn’t scheduled to go to a potluck until six. I’m a chronic nosher, and this was the moment the challenge really hit home for me. No noshing. Even my snacks have to be accounted for, so I couldn’t just grab a handful of this, that, and a bite of cheese. I had a small pack of pretzels. It didn’t really help the hunger, but at least I got a tiny bit of satisfaction. (I know. Poor me, right?)

By the time I got to the potluck with my Tasty Veggie Soup, I was ravenous–especially for protein. Someone brought a cheese plate. Normally I’d bag on someone for bringing a cheese plate to a potluck (unless they actually made the cheese–in that case I would praise them to the highest heavens), but since I could only afford a wee bit of cheese on my budget (note: rationing cheese sucks), I was happy to have some glorious Gruyere. The rest of the potluck was pretty good. It was all vegetarian, and I left full. Also, they gave me half a loaf of good bread. (Not homemade, but at least locally made.) Exchanging the soup (which didn’t cost too much to make) for the many dishes, good company, and free bread was totally worth it.

“You are having hunger anger…but you aren’t hungry,” I was told by a friend later in the evening after becoming (allegedly) snippy. I started to wonder if I was getting enough protein. I had a good swim and an epic walk with the dog earlier in the day, so perhaps I wasn’t getting all the nutrients I needed? I thought I was building complete proteins with the combination of foods I was eating, but I’m not totally sure. We’ll see.

This probably reads a bit like I’m complaining. Poor me, no snacks and cheese. I know my “problems” are tiny when compared with people who aren’t doing this by choice. I might have felt hungry, but it pales in comparison to people who are hungry. And I know when this project is going to end, something most people who have to live on a tight food budget don’t have the luxury of knowing.

Additional money spent: $0.00
Money left for the week: $12.88

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Food, Community, and $35 for the Week

Posted on November 5, 2011. Filed under: challenge, community, favorite, garden, grocery, hodgepodge | Tags: , , , , |

Last week, The Huffington Post reported that nine Democrats in Congress decided to challenge themselves to live on $4.50 per day (the rate food stamps would be reduced to under a Republican proposal). They did this for a week. However, their diets were comprised almost entirely of processed foods.

We can do better than that.

Challenge! A few friends and I are taking up the mantle to see if we can do this without cheap, processed foods. Or at least not any more processed foods than we normally would eat. (True Confession: I am, on occasion, partial to a bowl of Top Ramen.) We are giving ourselves a weekly budget of $35, but also the freedom to trade our time/skills for food: if we garden, anything still left from that garden (in the dirt, jar, or freezer) is good; if we can cook a meal for someone who supplies the ingredients, that’s good too. The theory: if you are connected to the food community, you can still eat Good Food on a tight budget.

¬†We are not trying to play-act like we are food stamp recipients. All of us are creative professionals, and we all have greater access to the food community than most people do (at least at the moment). There are plenty of valid critiques of this project; many emails were exchanged regarding these critiques, and we came to the conclusion that perfection isn’t the goal. Having said that, I will try to address some of these issues at the end of the week. For now, I just want to see if I can do this.

I’m up for the challenge. This is going to be tough. I can quite easily spend $35 a day on food. I like meat, but I try my best to only eat meat that’s been humanely raised. That kind of meat isn’t cheap. (And it shouldn’t be.) So I’m going to be mostly vegetarian this week. That’s a good challenge in itself, and I like it. Can I make $35 last for a week? We’ll see. At least I have a plan.

Each day for the week, I’ll engage in a food-related activity that will hopefully result in a free (and delicious) meal. But before I do that, I need provisions.

Task One: Provisioning.
Coupons are allowed, so I’m cashing in a Living Social deal. I have $20 to spend at Whole Foods for the cost of $10. Budget is now $45. Most excellent.

I shop for provisions.

Here’s how I spend my $20 at Whole Foods:
1Lb. Rolled Oats: $1.49
.5Lb. Cannelloni Beans: $1.50
.43Lb. Red Beans: $1.03
.45Lb. Pinto Beans: $0.90
.48Lb. Barley: $0.67
.45Lb. Quinoa: $2.11
.43Lb. Roasted Almonds: $4.60
.86Lb. Carrots: $0.85
.56Lb. Onion: $0.55
.55Lb. Mozzarella Cheese: $3.29
.92Lb. Bananas: $0.63
One (10z) Frozen Spinach: $1.99
With the bag refund, my total is $20.02

Other Provisions:
I also purchase 1 Bunch Celery ($2.00) and .67Lb. Kale ($0.60) from Giant Eagle.
I already have 6 eggs in the fridge ($2.50) and 5 apples from the farmers’ market ($3.50). One of those apples was given to me for free.
In the freezer I have an andouille sausage (given to me over the summer), pesto (garden), frozen tomatoes and sauce (garden).
In the pantry I have 2 squash (given to me by a friend who had too many squash), garlic (garden), and various oils, vinegars, and spices (let’s factor $3.50 for those).

Total spent so far: $32.12
I have $12.88 left to spend this week. I can do this.

Please check out Sentences and Food and Culinary Cory. They aren’t planning on posting until the end of the project. However, you should read their blogs anyway–they’re full of wonderful stories and recipes.

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