Monday, April 20, 2009
Today began Hunger Action Week, bringing awareness to hunger issues in Washington (sponsored by United Way).
Initially, I thought my family of 5 would receive only $110 for the week, but I was informed that it was actually $132...which is very good. That $22 means some snacks for my kids!
My goal during this week is to show that healthy and delicious meals can be cooked on a small food budget. In fact, my own grocery bill only varies slightly from the above amount. And I generally purchase organic ingredients. So, I carefully planned the weeks meals to best use certain ingredients (like a whole chicken) over a period of days. This included having company scheduled to come over tonight.
But, wouldn't you know it, their plans changed and now Wednesday is a better night. Not a big deal in the unscheduled dinner world, but I was counting on a specific order of food to make it through the week.
I adjusted, switching a couple of days around so that we were going to have Adobo Chicken tonight.
But, then my lovely next-door neighbor invited us over for a BBQ to take advantage of the great weather. It sounded like fun, so I again adjusted my menu. I suppose you can mark your skills as a cook by how well you can adapt a meal to changing circumstances.
Let's back up the train, however, and start with breakfast.
Breakfast at Casa Julie Jams was supposed to be toast and bananas this morning. I had planned to eat my homemade bread, neglecting to take into account actually making that bread. It's my whole grain bread from a previous post and it takes an overnight fermenting of the starter dough. I'd done that step, but forgot about the whole rising and baking thing. I guess we'll eat it tomorrow!
Breakfast ended up being Vans frozen waffles (2.69) and syrup with berries (3.29). The kids drank milk (2.60) and us old folks sipped our coffee (5.00). These prices might seem a little strange, so let me explain. We only used about 1/2 cup of the berries, so there is still most of a bag left to be used later this week. Also, I've decided to include the full price of my half-gallon of organic milk. Later in the week, milk will be listed as "paid" and not included in the cost. Half a pound of organic fare-trade coffee is about $5.00. It will also last the whole week and be listed as "paid".
Lunch was also a mixed up affair. I planned one thing and of course that didn't happen. It ended up being a jam (2.99) sandwich and apple slices (1.00). My friend wanted to meet me at the park with our kids which happens to be across the street from Kidd Valley...the "milkshake place", as my 4-year-old son calls it. I spent 2.89 on a chocolate shake for him.
Let me say one more thing about lunch. My kindergartner usually takes a lunch to school, but in the interest of saving money she is "buying" all week. Normally, this is not cheaper or more healthy! But it just so happens that we are poor enough to qualify for free lunch at school. I figured that anyone with a child on food stamps would likely be using the school districts free lunch program. Therefore, I didn't think this was cheating!
Snacks included an organic kiwi (.79), a banana (.50), and some pretzel sticks (1.99).
Now to dinner. The whole chicken intended for company and then for adobo was easily transformed into BBQ pieces. I cut the chicken (5.00) into its respective pieces...legs, thighs, breasts (which I further chopped into "strips"). I drizzled it with olive oil (5.99 for the bottle) and seasoned it with salt and pepper (freebies). We grilled it with the neighbor's meat.
I also went ahead and cooked the 2 cups of organic brown rice (2.00) along with some organic bok choy (3.89) using a recipe for Yunnan Greens.
To cook the greens, boil a large pot of salted water. Put in the squeaky clean greens, bring to a boil and cook for under one minute. Remove the greens from the pot. Heat a skillet or a wok on high. Add oil (paid). Then add 1/2 tsp minced ginger (.20) and some red chilies (I omitted these this time). Saute briefly, then add the greens. Press them into the skillet with a wooden spoon and cook for about a minute. Add 1/2 cup chicken stock (homemade); cook 30 seconds. Add 1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 TB of water; cook 30 seconds. Turn out onto a platter and serve.
It was fun to share a meal with the nieghbors...like summer is almost here! The kids ended the night with a rousing game of Red Rover.
Also, I made bread today which will last us the whole week. Pricing out the ingredients...organic whole wheat flour (1.30), organic white flour (1.13), yeast (2.29), olive oil (paid) and honey (.25). This recipe makes two loaves for about $5! Good deal.
Hopefully tomorrow will go according to plan!