Thursday, March 5, 2015

Day 1

Breakfast was cooked oatmeal with peanut butter and raisins mixed in along with a glass of juice. It was pretty easy and simple to make-it took about 25 minutes to cook.
My first bowl of oatmeal EVER!!
I've never eaten oatmeal-it just wasn't something that ever appealed to me (I'm just not a big breakfast eater). This wasn't bad-if we had been able to add some sugar it probably would have been tastier. The texture of the oats was a little chewy, but the combination of the raisins and the peanut butter was tasty. The dog especially liked it :). Overall, this was a decent meal but not something we will make again-it's just not our taste.

Total meal cost: .95 per serving (1.90 for two servings)


Lunch was tuna and cucumber wraps-a bit of an odd combination. We prepared these the night before and they were simple to make. It required measuring cups and spoons, peeler, cutting board and a knife. This meal didn't come with a formal recipe, just the ingredients. It wasn't very clear how it was supposed to be assembled. 
Ingredients for the wraps: whole wheat tortillas, cucumber, mayonnaise and tuna fish.

First step was to peel and slice the cucumbers into strips. I went ahead and peeled the whole cucumber since we will be using it for other meals this week. 

I used half a can of tuna for each wrap. This was 2.5 oz instead of the 3 the recipe called for-2.5 oz was already a lot of tuna!
Finished wraps! Prep time for 2 wraps was about 15 minutes.
Lunch also included 1/4 of a cup of vanilla yogurt. This was half of a single serving container-we had to package the yogurt in Tupperware containers.
It wasn't very much yogurt compared to what we're used to.
The beverage for the day was milk. The question became how do you take milk to work? We used empty Nesquik bottles-this was a special purchase for this project not something we normally buy. 
1 cup of milk each. Compared to my usual 12 oz. can of LaCroix water this wasn't very much. I also don't really like plain milk so I had a hard time drinking all of it.
Finished lunches! It took about 25 minutes total to prepare the lunches. This was longer than I spend when I'm packing lunches made of leftovers. 

Total meal cost: .85 per person (2 servings=1.70)

I also realized how much packing your lunch costs. If you work or go to school you need containers for the food (either Ziplocks or Tupperware), a lunch bag (plastic or paper sack or an insulated lunch box with ice pack if food needs to be kept cold) and a drink container. We already had all these things since we already pack our lunches, but many people might not have access to these items. That would add to the cost. Honestly fast food or a prepackaged meal would be easier and not require these supplies. I can see why some families might struggle with packing their lunches-this really isn't something that I had thought about before starting this project. It's easy to say to pack your lunch to save money but a lot goes into making a healthy lunch. 

The wraps were delicious! We will be making these again in the future! They kept well in the fridge and we're still tasty at lunch. DH and I both agreed that we will be keeping these in our lunch rotation. The yogurt was terrible! It had no flavor and tasted sour-I barely ate mine! I really noticed a slump in the afternoon without my afternoon dose of caffeine. It was replaced with milk which was odd. I also felt that the lunch didn't keep us as full as our usual lunches-it seemed to be pretty low in calories.

Dinner tonight was honey lemon chicken great, almond rice pilaf, peas and corn and chocolate chip yogurt cookies. The leftover chicken was used to make salads for lunch the next day. The cookies were also used to take for lunch.
The rice cooking-the last time I made rice that wasn't microwave rice I was in high school. I didn't put enough water in the pan and almost burned my parent's house down! I'm happy to report that the rice turned out and our house is still intact. You can't really see the slivered almonds but they were in there! It was a strange combination.
Lemon and honey chicken ready to go in the oven. The shopping list had us buy fresh lemons to juice-if we were doing it again we would buy the frozen Minute Maid Lemon Juice. It's cheaper and still just as healthy-plus it keeps longer (and saves time when cooking).
After the chicken baked at 375 for 45 minutes we added the glaze (a half and half mix of honey and lemon juice) and baked for another 15 minutes. The overall cooking time was 1 hour! That was a long time when you're making an after work meal-after I've been on my feet all day I'm not really enthusiastic about long, complicated dinners!

Ingredients for dessert (the two jars of jelly and the bag of pecans in the back aren't part of the cookies)! It felt wierd to be baking on a Wednesday night. DH and I don't usually eat desserts and if we do they are prepackaged. If I'm going to bake I do it on a weekend or on a day off from school. We're usually too busy during the week to bake.

The cookies were pretty simple to make. The best kitchen tool ever is my Kitchen Aid! My parents got it for my birthday a few years ago and it's one of the best presents I ever received! It makes mixing up cookies a breeze! My assumption was that most people living on a budget wouldn't have such an expensive kitchen gadget so I attempted to mix the dough in the bowl with a spoon. I don't have the arm muscles for that! How do people manage to get their dough completely mixed and totally smooth? I gave up and broke out the Kitchen Aid and five minutes later I had perfect dough!
Finished cookies! I really think that this was an unnecessary part of the meal. Do most people really make a complete dessert from scratch every evening? If I didn't work and stayed home I might have the time, but to me it was just a waste of time.
Finished dinners! The peas and corn are simply frozen veggies heated up and mixed with a tablespoon of butter. The recipe called for margarine but DH and I both whole heartedly refuse to consume ANYA margarine so we substituted butter. It's only a few more calories and not that unhealthy! The beverage was once again milk! We're only on day 1 and I'm already sick of it! We usually drink half a gallon a week-by the end of day 2 we were already through a half gallon! 

Overall we were pretty pleased with the taste of the dinner, but not the time it took to cook it. It took us over 2 hours to cook the dinner and another 45 minutes to prepare lunches for the following day using the leftovers and clean up! We didn't sit down for dinner until after 8! This was just too complicated to be a feasible weeknight meal-however it would work for a weekend meal where we could start earlier. I couldn't imagine attempting to prepare this meal and clean up if I was also trying to take care of children or if we worked a shift job where we didn't get off work until 7 or 8. 

The chicken was AMAZING! I was nervous about the honey lemon combination-it just sounded a little strange to me. We will totally be making this chicken again-it wasn't too difficult to prepare (just took a long time to cook) and it was perfectly moist and really flavorful (even though it wasn't marinated). I think I'm going to try making it in the slow cooker next time and see how that works!

The rice was pretty good-our rice was a little crunchy but that was more due to my inexperience than a fault in the recipe. The almonds added a little hint of sweetness that went well with the taste of the brown rice. On its own it wasn't very flavorful but when we mixed it with the sauce from the chicken it was heavenly!! 

The vegetables had NO flavor-even with using salted butter. They were okay but nothing special. When we usually make frozen veggies we jazz them up with spices and they are awesome-theses were just plain and boring. The sweetness of the corn didn't pair well with the chicken sauce either so we couldn't even use that to jazz them up. 

The cookies were probably the best part of the meal! They were super smooth and creamy! They tasted really rich and were bursting with flavor! You only got a slight hint of yogurt taste-it mostly tasted like vanilla and chocolate chips! It was hard to limit ourselves to only one-I totally could have eaten the whole batch! They were worth the crazy long time it took to cook them! We will be making these again pretty soon-I have a potluck coming up next month and this will be my contribution. I'm excited to find a reasonably healthy cooking recipe that doesn't taste like cardboard! 

This meal was on the expensive side. The total cost was 3.94 per serving  (7.89 for two servings). The priciest ingredient was the chicken at 4.00. We will use the cooked chicken and the cookies for other meals (which is figured into the cost). This meal also made a ridiculous number of dishes-we used several bowls, measuring cups, 2 pans etc. I feel that many families would not have access to enough dishes to prepare this meal. 

Overall, the meal was our favorite so far but the most expensive and the most time consuming! I don't think this meal would be a practical choice for many families-even if the baking and some of the prep work was done ahead of time.

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