Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Day 12

We're so close to the finish line! I'm getting excited to get back to my regular cooking schedule! This has definitely been a very eye opening project. It is a lot more difficult to eat healthy than I previously thought. I was really one of those people who was dismissive of a lot of the excuses that were given for not eating healthy. I tended to look down on a lot of the choices people who were living in poverty made. While I still disagree with some of the choices made I can be more understanding of the challenges that go into making healthy choices. The average food stamp allotment provides $3.00 per person per DAY! That is not a lot of money to make healthy food choices. Many of our meals were over 3.00 per serving-that would be impossible to make on our food stamp budget. I will say I'm thankful that DH and I have the resources to do a project like this and that it isn't our reality-it was way harder than I expected.

Breakfast today was cereal and scrambled eggs with salsa. We essentially combined the meals from the past few days to make one meal.
Getting ready to cook up the eggs! 
Finished breakfasts! I've already talked about the values of cold cereal so I don't have much to add. The eggs and salsa were delicious-I liked them better in burrito format rather than just scrambled but they were still pretty good.

Total cost: 1.86 per serving (3.72 for both of us)

Lunch was the leftover white chili from the night before.
The leftover chili was accompanied by a side salad-carrots, lettuce and vinegarette dressing.
Finished lunches! The toast and milk were the usual accompaniments. The chili kept well for the next day and was pretty easy to reheat in the microwave. The salad was yummy. The toast was actually a good accompaniment to the chili-it was pretty tasty to dunk the buttered toast in the chili.

Total cost: 3.78 per serving (7.56 for both of us)

Dinner was quick and easy but strange-it was misickquatash also known as Indian succotash. We had a side of mashed potatoes to go along with it.
Ingredients for our dinner. Luckily it was WAY less ingredients than yesterday's dinner!
First step was to brown the ground beef.
Once the ground beef was browned the tomatoes, Lima beans and corn were added. Once they were added simmer for 5 minutes covered and dinner is finished! This was a less than 15 minute dinner which was nice! 
Finished suppers! This wasn't a bad supper-it was definitely full of veggies, colorful, healthy and easy to make. It tasted pretty good as well-right before serving it was topped with nutmeg which was an interesting choice. If I was making this on my own I probably would have added more seasonings to it to give it some more flavor. This meal could work with lots of different types of veggies and still be good! However, it was kind of expensive which worked against it. I do think this is something simple to make and something that we could make again.

Total cost: 3.10 per serving (6.20 for both of us)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Day 11

Holy moly! Thank goodness it was Spring Break! Day 11 was a complicated and time consuming day! Dinner took almost 3 hours to prepare-and most of that was hands on cooking time!!

Breakfast was scrambled eggs and salsa wrapped up in a burrito!
Breakfast! The eggs were made in a very interesting way-you baked them in the oven in a Pyrex pan! They actually turned out really good and it reduced the cooking time by a lot! I liked that the burritos were portable-I had a ton of stuff to do and I could take my breakfast in the car with me! We will definitely be making these again! You could add veggies, sausage, cheese and all sorts of stuff to the burritos to make them more filling! 

Total Cost: .80 per serving (1.60 for both of us) This was our cheapest meal yet!

Lunch was a roast beef sandwich, carrot sticks and an apple with peanut butter. 
Ingredients for lunch! I like all the fun ideas they have for sandwiches on this plan. It's easy to add some tomato and lettuce to a sandwich to amp up the health factor!
Finished sandwiches. The lunches also included carrot sticks and apple slices with peanut butter. DH ended up putting the peanut butter on his carrot sticks and he said it was really good! I find the carrot sticks to be kind of boring even with some ranch dressing. I'll have to try peanut butter next time!

Total cost: 2.48 per serving (4.96 for both of us)

Dinner was white chili, herbed vegetables and baked sweet potatoes! The chili took FOREVER!

All these ingredients for the chili. Thank goodness we had some leftover cooked chicken or we would have had to cook chicken too!
 First step was to cook the beans. It took an hour and a half to cook the beans! I didn't realize it took that long to cook beans! All the water cooked away and I ended up having to add more half way through.
While the beans were cooking it was time to chop up the veggies! We had some tomatoes that needed to be used up so I went ahead and added them to the chili. The chili used 3 cloves of garlic!
I made the sweet potatoes in the oven. It's very easy-stab them with a fork, sprinkle with salt, garlic powder and pepper, wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes! They turned out so good!! They were really soft and tender and delicious!
I was running like crazy-three pots on the stove and the oven going!
The canned vegetables were mixed with onions and Rosemary. 
Finished chili! It looks like a lot of food, but it was only 4 servings!
Finished dinners! The chili was topped with shredded corn tortillas. It was a lot of food! Dinner was good-the chili was certainly interesting. I liked it but because of the preparation time I probably won't make it again. I usually make delicious chili in the slow cooker-it takes only 15 minutes of hands on time and it tastes just as good! It's also cheaper than this recipe-the chili was EXPENSIVE! The herbed veggies were good, but we used a little too much Rosemary. I always forget that since our Rosemary is from the garden it's more powerful than the dried stuff. These were simple to make-I'll definitely make them again! I LOVE sweet potatoes and we already eat them quite a bit-these will be made again for sure!

Total cost: 4.25 per serving (8.50 for both of us). All the veggies that went into this really raised the cost quite a bit!

Day 10

We've had a crazy schedule lately due to DH's work schedule so we have been eating out more and more and cooking less and less. We've finally been able to get on track-we're so close to being finished!

Breakfast was cold cereal with fruit and milk. It was a morning I was in pain and I was happy it was something I could eat on the couch while using my massager! It was a cheap and easy breakfast! Cold cereal is such an easy meal and it's pretty healthy! We've made so many complicated breakfasts and this one was so cheap and easy! There really isn't a lot you can say about cereal. We had peanut butter toast to go with it! I love the fact that peanut butter toast has healthy fat, protein and whole grains! It's so easy and makes a great snack! I've actually added peanut butter toast to my regular repertoire! 

Total cost: 1.10 per serving (2.20 for both of us)

Lunch was salmon salad with milk and crackers. It was disgusting!! 
Ingredients for the lunches!
The salads were made with a whole can of salmon! It kind of overpowered everything else! Even with a ton of dressing you couldn't hide the fish smell.
The salads were accompanied by crackers. There wasn't a lot of food with this meal-no fruit or side dishes :(. The salads didn't keep well in the fridge! When I took it out to eat it I practically threw up-it smelled like the salmon had turned. I texted DH (since we all know my aversion to fish) and he agreed. I tried to pick off the cucumbers and tomatoes to eat but they had absorbed the fish juice!
I ended up cheating and going to Burger King. This was the first meal that was truly inedible! I texted DH this picture with the caption "yup I cheated". Slightly awkward situation since his friend was looking at his phone and didn't see the picture! Oh well! I did drink my milk and eat my crackers!

Total cost: 3.46 per serving (6.92 for both of us) This was a very expensive and terrible meal-not even factoring in the cost of eating out when it was inedible.

After the disappointment of lunch I was looking forward to a yummy dinner. DH ended up cooking and I didn't have to be involved at all! 
Simple and easy supper-honey mustard pork chops and baked potatoes. The soy sauce and mustard were mixed together and the chops were soaked for a few minutes before being fried in oil!
Dessert was applesauce cookies (and cake since it made so much!) DH said these were really easy and quick to make!
Finished dinners-it didn't look like much. They were yummy! The pork chops had a lot of flavor-we did over cook them a little bit. Next time I would like to bake them instead of frying them! The potatoes were topped with salsa-I was unsure about that combination at first but it's actually really good and saves a ton of calories! Surprisingly we didn't have any frozen veggies with this meal-I thought that was strange! It would have added some much needed color.

The applesauce cake! We had so much batter that we turned it into a cake! It was awesome! I've been really impressed with the desserts on this plan! They are healthy and taste delicious! It's nice to have desserts to munch on during the week, even if we don't eat all of it! 

I really liked today's dinner! It was easy and very delicious!
Total cost: 3.45 per serving (6.90 for both of us) It was a little pricey for sure, but the dessert was a large part of it!

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Place At The Table

As part of our project DH and I are trying to learn all we can about food insecurity and the reasons behind it. My mom recommended the excellent documentary "A Place At The Table" which is available for streaming on Netflix or can be purchased at the affiliate link below.

DH and I decided to watch it this weekend and we were pleasantly surprised by the film-but concerned by some of the choices people made. The film looks at food insecurity mostly through the stories of various families and their struggles. The most moving story was of Barbie and her children from Philadelphia. When the film starts she is receiving aid due to a job loss, but by the end of the film she has found a job and been cut off. She is still struggling to feed her children even though she is working. Her story was probably my favorite since she was really trying her hardest and still struggling. I appreciated that they made the point that without living wages we can't expect lower income workers to feed their families.

However, I was frustrated by some of the choices people were making and their lack of priority on food. My grandmother lived through World War II in Germany and passed on her feelings of food insecurity to my mother and then onto myself. Food is something that should ALWAYS be the first priority. It was frustrating to see well fed dogs running around while the family was complaining about having nothing to eat.

DH and I discovered that seeds are actually covered under food stamps this weekend! Many of the families had ample space to grow a garden. DH and I are able to grow all the fruits and vegetables we need for the summer for about 4.00 worth of seeds. We are also able to get plenty of meat from his family farm. Those options weren't explored for either of the farming families that we profiled.

The one part I didn't like the was the insistence on the film of attacking agribusiness and touting the oft repeated line about corporate farms taking over the world. 87% of farms in the United States are family owned farms ( and some of those farms are very large. DH works with a family farm that encompasses over 60,000 acres and runs several different crops-in fact they are one of the largest suppliers of wheat to Anheuser-Busch! They are incorporated as an LLC but it is one family that does all of the work. It frustrates me to see misconceptions spread about the farming industry and especially about ag subsidies. That is an issue that the film didn't handle correctly and actually spread misinformation. All farm subsidies are public knowledge and most farmers receive very little. Combined with the fact that the majority of farms are family owned (and farming itself is a tough business) I don't see how cutting farm subsidies is going to help the problem of food insecurity.

Overall, I would highly recommend this film-it does a wonderful job exploring all the different facets of food insecurity and the governmental response to it. It's a nice overview of a complex problem and the personal stories make the issue hit home better. I would recommend the film to anyone interested in the issue as long as you take some of the political issues with a grain of salt (since all film makers have an agenda).

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Day 9

I was thankful that day 9 was an easy day. In between the craziness of my birthday (most of the night was spent cleaning up dog vomit and pee after an accident) and work craziness I wasn't at all looking forward to a long day of cooking.

Breakfast this morning was a sausage omelette and hash browns. It was pretty yummy and the omelette was very cheesy!! If we were making this on our own it would have been made with egg whites. It was a nice treat to have a real egg omelette! The hash browns were good (except that they cost me one scorched stainless steel pan since DH isn't very good and cooking in anything other than a non stick skillet). It took about 25 minutes for the eggs to firm up-is that normal? I feel that cooking eggs should take less time than that.

Total cost: 2.31 per serving (4.62 for both of us)

Lunch was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and carrot sticks! I was happy it was a quick meal to make the night before.
We used Damson plum jelly on our sandwiches! It was so yummy! Sand plum jelly is very sweet and it mixed well with the peanut butter. I just can't say much about carrot sticks with ranch dressing or PB&J. This was a pretty basic and simple meal that anyone could make. Even my students could make this meal on their own without any danger!

Total cost: 1.78 per serving (3.56 for both)


Dinner was tuna casserole with frozen green beans and a roll.

Ingredients for quick tuna casserole.

The milk, tuna, peas and cream of mushroom soup were all mixed together in the pan. The recipe indicated that you should mix them in a bowl and then put it in the baking dish but I just used the dish as the mixing bowl.

You cooked the egg noodles for two minutes and then added them to the mixture before topping with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes and dinner is done!

Finished dinners! The casserole really tasted like tuna! When you cook tuna it gets really smelly (or maybe I'm just crazy). DH really enjoyed it and I wasn't a big fan. The roll and the green beans were standard fare-the usual stuff we eat every day. This was a good meal to make after work-I think the casserole would work well with any type of pre cooked meat (chicken, ground beef etc.). I'll probably modify the recipe and use chicken next time-then it will be a keeper! 

Total cost: 2.48 per serving (4.96 for both of us)

I liked that today was very simpler  and fitted to a working schedule. While none of the meals today were exciting or fancy they were filling, healthy, cheap and easy to make! This is what I wanted from this meal plan since we started! I didn't have to spend hours in the kitchen and I still had time to get stuff done even after cooking! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Day 8

Day 8 was a very interesting day. I wasn't a fan of breakfast and lunch-but dinner was a huge hit.


Breakfast was raisin oatmeal (no peanut butter this time) along with milk and a banana. I'm honestly getting pretty tired of the obsession with oatmeal! There are so many other breakfast options out there and adding raisins to it just doesn't make it any better!!
Raisin oatmeal-it definitely is a healthy and filling meal but not exactly the most appetizing way to start my day. I know lots of people enjoy oatmeal, but I don't. I will say that this is an easy and practical breakfast that is pretty cheap. This would be practical for many families.

1.63 per serving (3.26 for both of us)


Lunch was a tuna sandwich with tomatoes, mayo and lettuce along with a side of sliced cucumbers and ranch dressing. I enjoyed the sandwich but it didn't keep very well in the fridge-the tomatoes made the bread all soggy by lunch time which was gross. I definitely enjoyed my side of cucumbers-I actually didn't even dunk them in the ranch. They were just as tasty on their own! It was a fine lunch, but nothing that was very exciting!
Lunch ingredients
Sliced cucumbers-it wasn't a lot!

2.12 per serving (4.24 for both of us)


Dinner was red hot fusilli pasta. We ended up using bow ties since they didn't have fusilli pasta at our grocery store. The side dishes were peas and a dinner roll. For week 2 we bought pretzel rolls instead of white dinner rolls. They were the same price and have less calories (and ours are whole grain!). It made all the difference! It was so much better than just a plain dinner roll.

The pasta was pretty simple to make and delicious! I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure we cooked it right since our sauce wasn't very saucy. It was more like chunks of tomato and chicken-it was good though!
Finished dinners. I was able to mix the peas in with the pasta which added some flavor to the frozen veggies. I'm actually growing more fond of the frozen veggies at each meal! They are so quick to make and are such an easy way to add some health to a meal. It doesn't add much to the preparation time and can be added to any meal. This is something I could easily encourage my 8th graders to do-they could even prepare some frozen veggies for a family dinner! Some progress is better than none!

I think more topping would have maybe made them set up into bar form. 
More of an apple crumble

Dessert was apple cinnamon bars. They were actually pretty simple to make and they were tasty-however they didn't quite turn out like a bar. I was expecting something portable, but it was just a crumbly mess. There wasn't quite enough sugar mix to cover the apples and they never set up into a bar format. It was really delicious and tasted a lot like apple crisp! We will be making these again but I might try to find a way to modify the recipe in order to make them turn into more of a bar. These would be a great thing to have for breakfast as well. Dinner tonight was definitely a hit!

Total Cost: 3.71 per serving (7.42 for both of us)

Week 2 Shopping

We went shopping for week 2 with a heavy heart! Last week was SO expensive and I wasn't looking forward to another marathon shopping trip. The list was once again massive!
We tried to halve everything we could, but somethings you just couldn't halve (like a bag of chocolate chips). While we were shopping for this trip we made note of the things we had leftover and didn't buy additional foods that we already had ton of.  I was hoping that this would save us some money and lower the grocery bill. The grand total for week 2 was $108.71!! We did save a little money over week 1, but not a lot, We're still over our SNAP allotment. We purchased only the cheapest products available and skipped purchasing many of the things that we already had.

It did take less time this time since we were more familiar with the store and both of us went shopping. So far I've been pretty disappointed in the project since we are spending way more than we usually do and the recipes aren't that great. I'm wearing myself out cooking every day and not getting any monetary savings from it. We saved less with our store savings card this time than we did last time (only 3.58) and we didn't use any coupons again. 

All the bags! It does seem like less than last time for some reason! 

Day 7

Day 7 fell on a weekend for us and it was SO much less stressful when we had the whole day to cook.

Breakfast today was fantastic French toast! I had actually mentioned to DH that I was craving French toast and I was so surprised when I woke up! I actually thought he had forgot about our challenge and made me a surprise. The breakfast was paired with juice and a banana! The French toast was delicious! I just wish we could have had more than one slice. I have no complaints about this breakfast!
French toast cooking on the Griddler. For a cooking implement I totally recommend the Cuisinart Griddler! It takes on the job of a griddle, panini press and you can buy plates to turn it into a waffle maker! We use it all the time-for breakfasts, lunches and dinners! It cooks awesome hamburgers :) Plus it's super easy to clean-I used to have a George Foreman and it was a pain to clean. The plates on the Griddler are removable so it's awesome.

We forgot to take a picture of the rest of the meal-we were way too busy chowing down! It was an awesome breakfast.

Total Cost: 1.18 per serving (2.36 per meal)

Lunch was leftover lentil stew with toast and milk. Since I already covered the lentil stew in Day 6 I won't cover it again. It was just as delicious the second day (and it was even good cold).
Total Cost: 1.32 per serving (2.64 for both of us)

Lentil stew again-it was just as delicious the second time around!

Dinner was a pan fried pork chop with a baked potato and cabbage slaw. DH commented that we were frying more things on this plan then we usually do-which is true. The pork chop was awesome-DH jazzed it up a bit with some breadcrumbs and seasonings. The baked potatoes were okay-the salsa was an interesting topping and something I hadn't thought to add to my baked potatoes. I would have liked to add some sour cream or cheese as well.
The pork chops were pretty simple-I've made these before out of my Loveless Cafe cookbook-typical Southern food! 

We made lettuce slaw instead of cabbage slaw since our cabbage went bad before we were able to use it. It was actually pretty interesting and kind of tasty. DH wasn't a big fan but I really liked it. We apparently did a terrible job of taking pictures today. I guess the meals were so delicious that we were too busy eating to photograph the meals!

Total cost: 3.41 per serving (6.81 per meal)

I really liked today! Every meal was pretty simple to make and nothing took a lot of time! Also the meals were inexpensive and delicious. This was probably the perfect day so far out of the challenge.