Tuesday, April 29, 2014

LBTL 2014: Day 2

Picture of moldy tomato
Moldy tomato means less food.
Yesterday for breakfast, I cooked up one potato and the tomato that was kinda squashed and moldy. After cutting away the moldy part, I only had half a tomato left. And it's not like I could get a refund for the half I threw out. It cost me as if I'd eaten the whole thing. Spoilage is a lot more upsetting when you don't have the money to replace the food you've lost.

Breakfast today was the same as yesterday, but it was twice as much food. After ending day 1 with $0.27 to spare, I figured I could beef up my breakfast. I fried up two of my baked potatoes ($0.08) and one tomato ($0.13) in a tablespoon of canola oil ($0.05). Today's breakfast cost a total of $0.26.
Three portions of soup in a reusable container
Eating soup throughout the work day, 1/3 gone.

Dinner of fried beans and potatoes with tomatoes on top
I made it through work yesterday on two portions of that yummy navy bean and cabbage soup. But I also left work an hour earlier than planned (tech issues were interfering with the day), and I was pretty hungry when I got out of there. So today I brought three portions of soup, and I was glad that I did. I ate breakfast at 8:45am, the first portion of soup at 11:30am, the second at 1:30pm, and the last around 4:00pm. Eating small portions throughout the day keeps hunger at bay. Total cost for midday soup was $0.78.

I had to plan dinner carefully, as I had only $0.45 left. Sure, dinner last night came out to $0.45, but I just threw things together and added up the cost later, since I was certain I was well below my $1.50 limit. Tonight I took a baked potato ($0.04), a small scoop of garbanzo beans ($0.04), and a small scoop of navy beans ($0.04) and mashed them up together. I added some diced onion, salt, and oil ($0.09) and the seeds/juice from the tomato I diced for the top ($0.13 for the entire tomato). I mashed it all together and formed three oval patties, then sort of deep fried them in two tablespoons of oil ($0.10). You can't really tell from the picture, but there are three crumbly patties on that plate. I topped it with the rest of the tomato and a pinch of salt. The was a good meal below the line. Having something fried and crispy on the outside felt nourishing. The patties soaked up all the oil, and that extra fat will keep me very full no doubt. Dinner came to $0.44.

Total for the day: $1.49. One penny to spare.

Thanks to my dollar store grocery shopping win, I haven't had to face hunger on this year's challenge (I feel like a cheater!). But I have felt deprived and a little annoyed. Only two days in, and I'm bored. I want a cup of tea. I want a grapefruit. I want a piece of chocolate. I've been drinking warm water from my tea cup in a pathetic attempt to make up for the tea I drink throughout the day. It sort of helps. Even though I've been pretty creative with my ingredients, I'm already getting tired of the six staples I have to keep me going: potatoes, garbanzo beans, navy beans, cabbage, tomatoes, onions. Even though they are wholesome and I should be grateful to have them, the thought of eating them again tomorrow is starting to make me nauseous. 

Ever hear of the loaf?

Monday, April 28, 2014

LBTL 2014: Day 1

$0.26 breakfast, a small fried potato and tomato
$0.26 breakfast, a small fried potato and tomato
Today wasn't nearly as hard as day 1 last year. Perhaps it is because I knew what to expect. Or maybe I was just able to buy more food this year. Probably a combination of the two. But I didn't go hungry. Breakfast was a fried potato and a fried tomato. I had planned to skip breakfast, remembering that last year it helped a lot to delay my first meal until 11am. But I was really hungry. Breakfast came to $0.26.

$0.45 dinner, chickpea onion tomato and cabbage salad
$0.45 dinner, chickpea onion tomato and cabbage salad
During the day, I ate two portions (four cups) of the navy bean and cabbage soup I had made the night before. I had one portion around 11:15am, and I second portion around 1:30pm. Lunch and second lunch cost $0.52. I remember from last year that letting myself get too hungry was a big down fall. I'm used to snacking throughout the day, so frequent munching is key.

By the time I got home for dinner, I was hungry. I cooked up the chickpeas and tossed 1/6 of them with chopped tomato, half an onion, some salt and oil. The tomato was so juicy, it made a nice dressing when mixed with the salt and oil. I poured the whole thing on top of some shredded cabbage (1/8th of the head of cabbage I started with). It was delicious. Dinner came to $0.45.

I'm at $1.23 for the day. I could have squeezed in a cup of tea!

Though I haven't had to face hunger like I did last year (yet), I am keenly aware of the stress. There is a deep, almost primal fear of scarcity that the challenge brings out in me. All day, I worry that I will not have enough.

If you would like to help those who actually do not have enough, please give and support my Live Below the Line challenge. https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/claire

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Prepping for Live Below the Line, 2014

Image of lentils, peas, tofu, cabbage, onion, and carrot to be eaten over 5 days.
5 days of food, 2013
I decided to take on the Live Below the Line challenge again this year. Since going through the challenge last year, I've been paying much closer attention to what I eat and how much it costs. In fact, I've dedicated one credit card to only food purchases, so I can more easily track how much I spend on dining in and dining out. Dining out has become far less frequent for me. My food bill averages $6.00 or $7.00 per day.

I'm feeling optimistic about this year's challenge. I've discovered that I can get good deals on food from the dollar store, and I've been watching food prices and availability there closely over the last few months. The available produce can be hit or miss, and the quantity you get for $1.00 fluctuates greatly from week to week. Even on off days, the dollar store prices beat any traditional grocery store in my area. When I headed to the dollar store to shop for my meals for the next five days, I was hoping to get lucky. Thankfully, they had a 5lb bag of potatoes for only $1.00. That isn't always the case, and I could have found myself with less than 2lbs for that price. The extra potatoes will help significantly with my challenge. Perhaps I won't be hungry. I was hoping to get 2lbs of tomatoes for $1.00, like I saw a few weeks ago. They only had 1lb packages, but I decided to get them anyway. They did have 2lb bags of onions for $1.00, which is was very pleased about. This exercise in watching food prices fluctuate has made me think about how a small change in the price of rice or wheat or corn can have a huge impact on the food security of those living in extreme poverty.
Image of potatoes, cabbage, beans, tomatoes, and onions that will be eaten over 5 days.
5 days of food, 2014

My grocery list this year consists of all dollar store buys totaling $6.00:

5lbs small russet baker potatoes (B size)
2lbs small white onions
1lb tomatoes
1 head of cabbage
1lb dried chickpeas
3/4lb navy beans

I was sad to realize when I got home that the package of navy beans I'd grabbed wasn't a full pound, like the chickpeas. I'll be alright with all those potatoes though! I was also sad to find that one of the eight tomatoes in my packages was smashed and moldy. I sliced off the bad part and threw it away.

So with $6.00 spent, I have $1.50 left for seasoning: canola oil ($0.05 per tablespoon) and salt ($0.03 per tablespoon). Maybe I can even manage a little vinegar to make a salad with my tomatoes and cabbage.

I baked some of my potatoes today so I can easily fry them up as hash browns. I soaked the navy beans and cooked them up. Half of them went into a soup I prepared with 1/4 of the cabbage, two onions, and five potatoes. The navy bean and cabbage soup will give me five 2-cup portions during the challenge. The ingredients for the soup came to $1.28, or $0.26 per portion. I will have some of the soup for lunch at work tomorrow... probably two portions.