Breakfast: It’s what’s for dinner

A Well Balanced Dinner

Sometimes you have to go against tradition in order to make things work. In some of our Challenger's cases, this meant making an AM meal in the PM. It's a creative use of limited resources and a healthy one at that!

When I agreed to attempt to live on a food stamp budget for a week, I knew it would be tough. But, I didn’t realize that one of the toughest challenges would be time. In order to maximize my $34.31 budget for the week, I had grand ideas of going to a farmers market and two or three different stores to capitalize on weekly specials. In my first lesson of the working poor, I was reminded that the Saturday Farmers Market would be impossible to get to if I was scheduled to work, which I was. So, I woke up this morning on a budget with no food. My kids had breakfast at the hotel I had to speak at this morning. The total bill was more than my allowance for the week, so I just watched. However, when I went to speak at the Teamsters Union political meeting, there was a full buffet of breakfast. I declined to eat, joking with the server that I only eat bacon and there was only sausage out.  When the server, who is also one of our union members, went and brought me a small plate of four pieces of bacon, I was embarrassed and shocked. In order to not be rude and because I was incredibly hungry, I ate the bacon. So, I started the challenge on a bad note: eating stolen bacon. Oops.

I finally did make it to the grocery store around noon, armed with coupons and a throbbing headache thanks to my lack of caffeine. I am not a patient person and hate grocery shopping on the natural.  But, I never imagined how demoralizing it would be to walk through the produce section searching for some type of fruit and vegetables that wouldn’t break the bank. I quickly walked past the berries and peaches, my favorite fruits, because of the price.  I had flashbacks of myself as a child asking my mom “Whhhhhhyyyyyyy?” couldn’t I have one of those pretty white peaches. Now I know why she would rush through the produce section. I settled in on a few oranges, a couple of ears of corn and a pound of broccoli – combined, that would be $3.50.

I spent a lot of time in the coffee aisle, but I just couldn’t justify the cost. So, I decided I would buy some green tea in order to deal with the caffeine withdrawal. $2.79 for 20 tea bags and I knew I could steal some splenda from 7-eleven if I just bought a single cup of coffee on Monday.

I realized quickly that noodles, soup and pasta would be the most cost effective staples of my diet this week. So much for my low-card diet. I also bought cheap white bread and peanut butter. I found a great deal in the frozen section, individually wrapped pieces of chicken, salmon & scallops - $1.00 per serving. Finally, I decided I needed something kind of healthy, so I bought yogurt for more than I would have liked to spend.

In all, I spent $24.76 – leaving myself almost $10.00 for the week. I’ve never thought so much about food as when I have to think about how much everything cost. I took my kids to pizza tonight, hopeful that I could grab a slice for $2.00.  But, the cheese slice was $2.50, so I decided I would make dinner at home. I won’t starve this week, but I certainly will lack in creative meals and vitamins.

Breakfast: Stolen bacon

Lunch: Cup O’ Noodles soup ($.25), cup of Green Tea

Dinner: one orange ($.50), one egg ($.25), two pieces of bread ($.25), a cup of Green Tea (reusing the tea bag from lunch)

-Submitted by: CalFresh Challenger

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So, I hit the store and did some shopping for the challenge.  Wal-Mart is a good place to get groceries at a good price and shopping sales is always good.  I also went to Sprouts for my produce.  Produce that is in season is also often on sale, so I picked up some things on sale and that was a good plan.  I will have to shop again later in the week, as I have not spent my full stipend.  But here is what is in the cupboard right now to work with:

Bagels    2.50

Peanut Butter    3.28

grapes (3.5 lbs)    2.46

bananas     1.39

broccoli (2.11 lbs)    1.86

tortillas    3.39

Cheese    2.99

Bread    1.99

salsa    2.25

beans    2.25

eggs    1.99

Total so far: 26.35        Left to spend: 8:55

From my stock this was what I ate today-

Breakfast: Bagel with Peanut Butter

Snack:    Banana

Lunch: Broccoli wrap with salsa and grapes

Dinner: Eggs and toast and a banana

What did I not have that I might usually?  My morning tea.  It is the one expensive habit that I decided to forgo for the challenge, otherwise this is a pretty average day for me.  I looked at my grocery receipts from previous weeks to see if I thought I could do this.  I shop and cook for a family of five and we are usually within the dollar range of the challenge.  I am just doing this myself, the rest of the family is not involved. So, since the rest of my family is not doing it I am losing the "economies of scale" advantage in my shopping.  I still think it is doable and will report throughout the week.

-Submitted by: CalFresh Challenger