Sunday, July 31, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Day 31

I begin my day with 6.71.

I had no coffee in the house. I started my day at half mast and stayed there. Throughout the day I did consume 5 glasses of iced tea.

Breakfast was a dim sum ie leftover dumplings along with leftover sliced chicken. (Penny sent me home with far to much leftover chicken).

Lunch was dumplings in some of the duck stock I made from the duck bones. Again cost...

I am eating this way for two reasons.

1. I have all these wonderful leftovers and I don't want them to spoil.

2. Many families on assistance programs are out of $$ by the end of the month and get something from a food pantry or whatever they can scrounge.

However prior to heading to St. Luke's Church to meet Roam and spend some time in the audience at their free concert Check out Sunday Night Mic. And it's free! The sound in the room is very warm and mellow, the new sound system is just right. You don't have to be of any particular religion to go and enjoy the music.

On the way there I stopped at Big Apple Market on Polk at Clay and they had some really good deals on vegetables and I was craving veg. I counted my pocket change and made a deal with myself I could spent only the change.

For 2.06 I got a nice broccoli, a huge onion, a carrot, and a large container of mushrooms.

I stir fried them, adding the rest of the head of cabbage I had in the house. .25 and had them with a large portion of rice .22 and some of the leftover chicken. I ate half.

Dinner Total 1.27
Day Total 1.42

Hopefully this chart will reproduce so that you can see exactly what nutrition I got out of my 1,373 calories

5.29 to carry over.

There is a reason I will share next week as to why I am being so restrictive with the $$. They will be spent.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Day 30

I begin today with 4.85 which seems like a fortune to me at this point.

I begin my day with fruit and coffee.
Nectarine .54
Coffee .25
Total .79

I know that I will be having dinner with friends and they eat early so I am trying to stave off hunger until I do an early lunch.

For me the best lunch to stave off hunger is pasta, so I made a sauce, a real puttanesca.
Can tomatoes .97
Can anchovies .89
Olives .39
Capers .40
Garlic .25
2.90 divided by 4 is 72 cents a serving.
Sauce .72
Pasta .19
Total .91

Off to take care of my day until Dumpling time.

My friend Penny makes legendary dumplings. When spoken about people use reverent tones. She agreed to give me a lesson.

Rule 1. never use a food processor, it makes a paste. Chop every tiny morsel by hand then stir with chopsticks.

Rule 2. Spoons are no good for filling dumplings they pack the ingredients too tight and they they expand and can break in the water. Use chopsticks and keep filling loose.

Rule 3. After filling dumplings seal twice, once with water and finger an a second time by giving dumpling a two handed hug that crimps it.

Delicious, loaded with Chinese leek, ginger, and pork.

But there were only a portion of what we were to dine upon.

Penny made a dish of fermented tofu and long beans with garlic, shrimp with cabbage (I ate the shrimp heads)and a roast chicken. I made Sezchaun braised pork belly, (Cathy bought the belly) and a green salad from my garden (.10) Cathy also bought a roast duck that I deboned(Those bones go in the soup pot)

It was such a feast of abundance and everything was so delicious I went from dish to dish and ate far too much.Plus wine...we had wine. 

This was followed by some sugar free ice cream. Despite feeling stuffed my calories for the day were only 1,718.
My cost was nothing for the day 1.80. My vitamin D went way over 100% as a result of those shrimp heads.

I am fortunate to be eating often with friends but this is the point for many families where they would be out of the month's budget and at the local food pantry for whatever they can hobble together to fill them for the weekend.

I carry over 3.05

Friday, July 29, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Day 29

I woke up SORE. The kind of stiffness that makes you hobble. So hobble I did into the kitchen where I wondered where my 4.09 would go today.

My nectarine was not ripe and I had no other fruit in the house so I made myself content with coffee and turkey fried rice with scallion.

Coffee .25
Rice Leftover
Turkey 1.00
Scallion (half the bunch).17
Total 1.42

For lunch I had only the leftover strawberry rhubarb pie.

I had a lot of running around to do. I am trying to get chefs to commit for the Cookathon on the 27th, so I was running around all afternoon doing my best to catch them when they were not overly busy. I got a lot of maybe and a few yes but no specific time commitment yet. Via e mail I hope to pin them all to a time before the press release goes out.

I won't say who, but one very well respected and rather brilliant chef had just opened a bag of Nacho Doritos and poured them into a bowl on his desk. We talked about our junk food moments and he invited me to have some and of course I did. What is the rule? I don't say no to free food. My health was not improved.

Pie and Doritos. Hmmm...the nutritionist in me is cringing.

Home and still mad sore from yesterday's class and workout I opened a bottle of the birthday wine. I am now sipping a glass of liquid painkiller; all the while thinking pie, Doritos and wine. What a day.

My widely publicized comments about McDonalds on the Huffington post got me a phone call from a local franchise owner. I now have an invitation to come to his McDonalds and taste as many things as I like. He wants me to see that the food is filling and delicious. I don't know if I can do it. I will think about it.I know that I say I never turn down free food, but the idea of eating this stuff makes me feel a little sick.

As to my dinner I blame the Gilroy Garlic Festival. I often have the radio on and all week the hosts have been talking about the Gilroy Garlic Festival. It is not in my budget to go there and gorge on garlic treats so I've no choice but to make them.

I made a pasta with garlic and oil and threw everything I had into it. The rest of the pea shoots, chard, parsley and basil from the garden along with the two small ripe tomatoes. Oh...and I used half a head of was good.
Pasta .19
Garden Veg .10
Pea Shoots .50
Garlic .25 (.25 is the cost of a whole head but I used the rest a couple of hours later so have to pay the whole cost)
Iced Tea .03
Wine Birthday gift.
Total 1.07

But my eating was not done for the night. Popcorn with butter and it was GARLIC butter. (The cats dont' mind)
Popcorn .11
Butter .30

Total .41

Day total 2.90
Calories 1,900

I did okay...plenty of Iron, protein, Vitamin A, good E.

I carry over 1.19.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Day 28

I was up at the crack of dawn; alright half past crack but early.

One of the trainers at my gym was teaching his first class and he asked me to take it. He promised that it was going to be BOOT CAMP, a lot of repetitive exercise and no choreography.

I can dance. I learn it the moves slowly and painfully and once I have them, I'm good.

Classes at gyms however are another matter. I can't understand the silly sing song voice so many instructors use, especially with the overloud music, and I don't want to step right, step left, up down in a room full of strangers.

Beginning my day with 4.56 I ate. 

Anyway...I got up and had coffee, turkey and a potato that had been pre-boiled. I threw the potato in the skillet with the turkey and it was something like hash, but was fast and I needed fuel.

Coffee .25
Potato .11
Turkey 1.00
Total 1.36

The class was not bad, but there were some silly exercises that involved too much movement; Crawling push ups...Walking lunges?

Sorry...I will do them in one place thanks.

But it got me up and moving early in the day and that is not a bad thing.

I was also ravenous when I got home. 8 dumplings (I've kept them in the freezer) at .15 each

I wanted iced tea but was out of ice. I went out and had a couple of meetings and got home ravenous yet again. (Now I know why those aerobics junkies always get so fat)I ate the leftover pizza so my cost was 0.

I went out...I had a lot going on today and got some vegetables and a nectarine. I KNOW I have not been eating enough veg but I had to shop and price carefully.

I came home and started to feel a bit down. I wished I had the stuff to make chicken soup but decided to put some extra garlic into my pork belly to kill any bug I might have been exposed to.

I did a braise of the pork belly with a lot of garlic, chard and sugar snaps from the garden, and Pea shoots. Excellent and very filling.

4 ounces pork belly.70 (2.79 a pound this time)
Garden Veg .10
Pea Shoots .50
1/2 head garlic .12
Rice .15 (I made a lot of rice)
Total 1.57

I posted a photo of pea shoots at the top of the page. If you have never tasted them, head to an Asian market. They are in season and a wonderful taste treat. 

1,974 calories with better nutrition than I would have guessed on a day without fruit. 
Day Total 4.13

I carry over .43

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp budget Day 27

I begin with 3.49

I had a plan today and had to have a good breakfast. I took the leftover rice from the other night's curry and fried it with Turkey, soy sauce and capers. This along with 3 plums and coffee started my day.
Coffee .25
Capers .20
Rice (leftover)
Turkey 1.00
Plums .66
Total 2.11...not good but very filling.

And I was off.

Yesterday I got into a heated discussion with GOPMommy on Huffington post. Read Here

She claims that her father died and she and her siblings lived with her mother in a car and the ONLY food choices were McDonald's or a Candy bar from a gas station; therefore McDonald's is a savior for the poor.

I do support the use of food benefit cards at restaurants because there are seniors who can't fend for themselves and others on food assistance who have no facility to cook. A hot meal, even one that is calorie dense and nutritionally void is better than going hungry.

I do not buy the idea that having no kitchen restricts you to candy or McDonalds.

Today I set off for St. Anthony's to talk to some of the people who know first hand what this experience is like.

I chatted up a few folks as they exited. One thing I can say for certain is that this food program is a lifesaver in a very literal sense for a lot of people living on the margins. The food, the staff, the whole sense of community was praised.

So what do people who have no kitchens eat when they are on food assistance. A few mentioned dried fruit. One said he always keeps nuts around. One woman said she keeps bananas in her pocket and 'those bars, you know the bars.'

Finally I met a man whom we will call Max. He is a Vietnam vet on disability; he has both physical and mental issues. He offered to show me his pantry.

He lived in a very small apartment. An SRO with a twin bed, small closet, and at the foot of the bed housed what looked quite similar to a military foot locker.

He said he used his Snap card once for a Subway sandwich but it gave him indigestion. I asked if he ever used it for McDonalds or other fast food.

"Are you kidding, that stuff will kill you."

He unlocked his metal box and lined up along one side were his medications. In the middle a few memento and on the far right a small food store.

In it was Trader Joe's peanut butter, some cheese, re-wrapped in wax paper ("It molds in the plastic.")along with a bag of apples, Ak Mak Crackers and a few cherry tomatoes in a plastic container, along with a container of instant coffee. He had an electric tea kettle sitting on a shelf. No hot plates are allowed in the rooms.

"Not much left, my benefits come on the 10th but I still have money on the card. When the apples are gone I'll take the walk to Joe's."

He walks to the South of Market location of Trader Joe's twice weekly. It is a decent walk and there is only so much he can carry but he likes their food and they always have a good deal on a bag of fruit.In the mornings he has instant coffee and fruit with some peanut butter and crackers. Then he makes the trip to line up for lunch. He likes to be early because if they run short they serve hot dogs and the meals are a high point of his day.

He tries to keep enough money on hand to eat Chinese lunch at 5.00 a plate a couple times a month when Doctor's appointments interfere with lunch. In the evenings he usually has some cheese and on shopping days has pre-packaged sliced meat. He won't keep it around otherwise because he won't risk food spoiling.

He said several times that he feels better off than most. When the clementine oranges are in season he buys a case with his benefit card and puts them in his pockets to share.

Despite his problems he is organized and neat and capable of budgeting his benefits as long as he stays on his medication. We chatted for a little while but then he started to get tired and to repeat himself. It was time for a nap.

I didn't ask his age and it was hard to tell by looking. His hard live was etched on his face.

Having a kitchen makes a difference. No matter how organized and efficient one is the ability to heat food (for anyone who is not a raw vegan)is a big plus.

I felt very grateful to come home to my kitchen and heat some soup. I had new appreciation for my cup of potato leek with cabbage.
1 cup .48

And on with my day I went. I went to the gym appreciating that I could and then met my dear Arthur who was taking me out for pizza. My friends in San Francisco make a birthday a month long celebration and who am I to say no to pizza.

After a gorgeous glass of wine and several slices of Delfina's incredible pizza I was sated, the remainder was packed into a to go box.

Not content to merely have me full he wanted to stop for pie. Offer me a cupcake and even on this budget I will turn my back, but a piece of pie from Chile Pie and I get very happy. I managed to eat half of my slice of strawberry rhubarb. The filling was tart and fruity and the crusty totally melt in your mouth.

If we are going to allow food benefit cards to be used for food why is the program restricted to fast food chains. Why not open it up so Max can get his Chinese or even a piece of pie for his birthday?

At 2,227 I had no calorie deficit today. It lagged in the nutrition department but I got my B6 and B12 in spades.

Day total (thanks to dinner out) 2.59 giving me .90 to carry into the morrow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Day 26

Remember that Turkey I started a while back? I said I could get 16 meals out of it at 1.00 a portion.

Last night I pulled a carton of it out of the freezer. To freeze cooked turkey it is best to cover it with broth and put a layer of fat on the top. This creates a seal and eliminates freezer burn.

I begin my day with 3.64.

I had my breakfast early.
Cherries (free)
Coffee .25
Turkey Sandwich 1.04

I had baked a loaf of European style black bread which brings my bread cost down to .02 a slice. It is much better than the commercial Rye I began the month with at .10 a slice.

None of you should be intimidated by bread. You don't need a bread machine. If you have flour, water and yeast there is nothing to prevent it from becoming bread. Inexperienced bakers can look for the no knead recipes that are really easy and tasty.

For lunch I had the remainder of the tomato cheese bread thing I made yesterday. With an iced tea.

I got a great deal on some cheddar and had half a grilled cheese sandwich as a pre-gym snack, I got to the gym late, too early for dinner but too hungry not to have something.
1 oz cheese .24
1 slice bread .02

Dinner was opulent. I knew that I needed vegetables but at the same time I was seriously hungry. On went the water for pasta as I ran to the garden.

I used half the remaining cabbage sauteed with a bit of garlic. 1 slice of bacon, several anchovies, capers, and two egg yolks. A carbonara on steroids or sodium as was the the real case. AWESOME.
Pasta .19
Garden veg .10
Capers .20
Eggs .40
Anchovies .46
Cabbage .25
1 slice bacon .19
Total 1.60
Day Total 3.81

I now have a deficit of .17 to make up.

With only 1,427 calories to show for it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Day 25

I begin the day with a negative .26 taking my 3.66 to 3.40.

For breakfast I had my coffee, free cherries, and the last of the Mac and Cheese frozen entree along with 3 slices of bacon.

Coffee. 25
Mac and Cheese .50
Bacon .57
Total 1.32

No savings here.

I did lunch on the cheap. I am baking bread today so I pulled some of the dough and made a flat bread. I rubbed it with garlic and tomato and put a little cheese on it along with an envelope of 'Mock Duck' a free sample from a Chinese Grocer. This mushroom based concoction tasted nothing like duck at all, however it did taste like mushrooms so it worked.

Bread base .06
Tomato .20
2 oz cheese .62
Fake meat .00

Total for dish .88

I only ate half with an iced tea so lunch total

For dinner I had the second portion of the brilliant curry with rice and I added some sugar snaps from the garden to the dish. With rice and snap peas 1.63.

My day total 3.42 leaving me with only a .02 deficit and unlike all the President's horses and all the President's men I can make up my deficit.

1,902 calories but I am grateful to my multi vitamin. I almost never get enough C or E.

Thanksgiving in August...Why I am doing it.

To Donate to Thanksgiving in August follow the link to St. Luke's

I have had more readers and more e mail since I have begun this food stamp budget pledge than in all my years of having a web site.

I apologize that so many of your e mail have not been answered but I will use this forum to answer the most common question...why?

When I was a young teen my mother finally divorced her husband. He was an incredibly abusive man. She was left with 5 kids and a mountain of debt.

She worked harder than I have ever seen any woman work. She took a second and then a third job and my Lioness of a mother did this to make sure than none of her children ever went to bed hungry.

I got it then, and I get it more now, how much it means to a mother to be able to care for her children.

What about Mothers today? Even two parent families might not be able to work three jobs, or even find one. If they do find one the wages are likely to be too low to pay rent, utilities and keep them going. Some get food assistance from the Snap program and some rely on food banks. Some do a combination of both.

NO parent in our country of abundance should have to see their kids hungry. Nor should any senior or unemployed or disabled person fall through the cracks and not be able to make it.

If we do not care for and love our brothers and sisters on this planet then why are we here?

I have heard opinion after opinion on why the poor need birth control, why they need nutrition education, why they need to plan better and why they need to plant gardens. I say to the people who send me these missives...why don't you give to Planned Parenthood? Why don't you volunteer to teach nutrition? Why don't you organize a class on budgets and planning? Why don't you teach gardening and donate some seeds?

I don't have solutions for all of the problems. I don't have answers for all of the questions.

I do have the ability to raise awareness and bring in some food during a time when donations typically fall way down.

With the help of The Rev Dana Corsello and Bill Rowe at St. Luke's I have the opportunity to plan a day for those of us who have abundance to be thankful and share with our brothers and sisters who have need.

No matter where you are in the world you can help. Donate Now if you have the means. Give something to your local food bank if you can.

I don't believe any of our politicians care about anything other then their own well being.

Remember the story of stone soup; Every villager brought what little he had to the pot until the pot was brimming and everyone was fed. Every little bit helps.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Living on A Food Stamp Budget Day 24

I begin my day .-12 in the hole, giving me 3.54 to begin my day.

Last night I got a lovely invitation. My friend Katherine was going to be driving down from Sacramento and hosting a breakfast at her Father's house. I was only too happy to accept the invitation.

I made a loaf of European Style black bread to take at a cost of

The brunch was not until 9:30 so when I woke up I had coffee with some crackers and peanut butter.

Coffee .25
Peanut butter and crackers .46
Morning Total 1.31

She made an awesome brunch with bacon, ham, fruit salad, Egg omelet with cheese and sausage and doughnuts which I skipped because of the sugar.

I needed little lunch and got by with two cups of the potato/leek/cabbage soup.

I finally made an amazing curry. All it takes is no recipe.

I spend time in India trying to learn the cuisine as I traveled. I collected recipes and wrote down methods. I was always astonished at how quickly some of the women would take spices, mash them into oil, add vegetables and meat and make an awesome dish.

I finally got it right. I grabbed every seasoning I own that is used in Indian cuisine. I crushed everything from cardamom to mustard seed in the oil, I added the meat, and masses of turmeric and hot peppers and somehow made the best curry of my life.

The vegetables I used were what was on sale cheap. With one pound of lamb(4.50) and sale vegetables The dish came to 1.43 per serving with rice

While it is over the individual meal budget it can work and I will make it work. I put two servings in the freezer and have another on for tomorrow night.

It is without question the best meal I have made since this project began. While I could still use a little more Vitamin E, the day came in decently, the increased fruit and veg account for that.

I am now .26 in the hole. While it does not sound like a lot it means something will have to be given up.

My calories today were 1,976.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Day 23

On the Huffington Post website I was asked where I could possibly get yogurt that only cost .20.

Just to clear that up I am not eating a whole container of yogurt each time I mention it. I bought a large container of full fat, plain Greek style yogurt on sale for 1.99. 1/10th of that container is assigned a value of .20;While it is not a lot of yogurt and not a 'serving' the little bit tastes great on fruit.

...and I had more this morning. I begin my day with 4.25.

Coffee .25
Nectarine .50
Yogurt .20
Breakfast Total .95

A reader asked me to try some of the cheap frozen meals because she used them and they 'filled her kids up'. I can't review them all but there is a site that does Michelina's and Banquet are among those reviewed and commonly available for 1.00.

I did purchase a couple and they sat in my full freezer for a couple of weeks while I got up the courage to try one. I don't have a microwave so the Banquet Mac and Cheese took a long time to cook in the oven, but eventually it thawed and was done.

I ate half of it. I didn't feel so much full as bloated. The ingredient list reads like a science experiment and it has a lot of ingredients my body is not used to. It was salty and cheesy and did not have an unpleasant taste.  My advice would be to make your own and freeze it in blocks. If you make 6 servings or more at once you can beat their price and you need not include a science experiment in the dish.
Cost .50

Last night I made a Farm Market Potato Leek Cabbage soup. Leeks, 2.00, 1 large potato .38, 1/2 of a small cabbage .50, Turkey stock 1.00. I got 8 large cups out of this making it cost .48 a cup.

Though not hungry I began a lamb curry for either tonight or tomorrow and had an asthma attack so hot soup was in order. 2 cups

I had a reader who asked me to use more cabbage and share how. Cabbage is cheap and very nutritious and one of my favorite vegetables. Get away from the idea it can only be boiled and served with corned beef and treat it like any other vegetable.

I came home to more soup. Salt water really, bouillon cubes and a few noodles. It reminded me of Campbell's but the price was right.

For dinner I tried another one of those frozen meals a reader requested I try. This one was a Celeste Pepperoni Pizza for one. It did have a list of chemical ingredients, but with a lot of hot red pepper was tasty and did not leave me bloated.
3 glasses of iced tea .09

...and two hours later I was hungry so popcorn with butter was in order.

Considering that I had two frozen items the nutrition was not bad. C and E were low but nutrition powerhouses like cabbage kicked it all up a notch.

I end my day with -.12
12 cents in the hole, and not a lot of food. I think that frozen foods while cheap are not a good value either calorie or nutrition wise. They can make you full(or bloated) but the lesson is clear that planning ahead is really the only way to work this out. I have two more frozen meals to try and we will see how those days go.
Total Calories 1,662

Friday, July 22, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp budget Day 22

I keep being asked why? Why do this? Why be so strict? Why not have some wine and not take it out of my budget. I appreciate all the e mail and I will devote some space over the weekend to the why?

I begin my day with 4.14

For the moment we are back coping with day 22.

ODD morning. I had a meeting at St. Lukes' to discuss plans for the 27th today and was surprised by a delicious lunch.

Before I left the house I had my coffee and some cherries from a neighbor (next door apples are ripening on the trees and I can't wait)

Coffee .25
Cherries free.

I followed this with the rest of the lasagna like thing from the other day.

I was surprised with lunch at the meeting. Bill had made a wonderful Arugula salad with a lemon dressing and sliced strawberries. This along with bread and goat cheese. Though I had just eaten I had some anyway. On this program I never say no to free food, especially when it is delicious.

I had a little running around to do and folks to see and got to the gym late. My workout took the last of my blood sugar and I crashed.

I got a quessadilla from a taco Truck, loaded with hot salsa.

For dinner I took the time to go to the garden and cut down a bunch of chard which I sauteed in oil and garlic. It was a LOT of chard, but when cooked a small starter, but very delicious.

Then once again pasta with keilbasa.
Pasta combo 1.39
Chard .10

While my eating was random in a sense I did okay in the vitamin department. At 2,105 calories I am not wasting away any time soon.

I am left with .59 to carry over into the morrow if I can manage NOT to run out and buy chocolate. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Day 21

I begin my day with 4.39

I have been getting some e-mail accusing me of starving myself. There are readers who think I am getting far too few calories. My daily average since I began is 1,814 per day. While I have lost a bit of weight I am not at an unhealthy weight and after yesterday's pizza binge feel as if I could take on the world.

I began my day with coffee, nectarine and a little yogurt.
Coffee .25
Yogurt .20
1/2 Nectarine .25
Total .70

For lunch I had the rest of the meat/rice mix with some chard and snowpeas from the garden stirred in along with two poached eggs.

One of my neighbors saw me when I went out and rushed over to bring me some rice Idli batter she had made. She knew I had gotten a shot in my knee because of some pretty serious joint pain and she made some Idli with hot chilis, turmeric, and garlic to help heal me.

I know that Idli is typically steamed but I don't have a steamer for it. I have had the leftover fried so I prepared it like a pancake. Wow was it good. I made two cakes and had them with a couple of pats of butter, so now feel stuffed.

Idli is essentially a batter made from ground lentil, rice and baking soda. Water and seasonings are added and the resulting 'bread' is delicious. I feel like I need a nap.
Butter .15
Second Coffee .25

The above is a link to a recipe for those of you who want to make it. It is a very inexpensive dish made in the south of India. I remember feasting on them when I was at an Indian wedding.

One thing I have noticed in eating less is that when I get hungry, it is real hunger, not appetite. 

When hungry I tend to make poorer food choices. I have lettuce in the garden that I can go out, harvest, wash, dry and dress and I could begin my meal with a nice salad. Since I did not plan ahead to prepare my ravenous appetite has me making a pasta and skipping the salad entirely.

People often ask why those on food assistance don't eat more fruits and vegetables. Cost is one factor, but the need for quick gratification might be another. When HUNGRY it is difficult to take the time to prepare what might be a more healthful meal.

That smoked Kielbasa  I bought at the beginning of the month for the split pea soup made it's return as I used a serrated knife to slice through a link. I ground two tomatoes in the food processor, sauteed the sausage threw in the tomato and some seasoning and in 20 minutes I was eating spaghetti with sausage. While the chef in me knows this is not a traditional Italian sauce, the eater in me knows how good it is.
Sausage .99
Pasta .19
Tomatoes .40

I must admit that some of my eating is surprising to me. I am craving meat like never before. Prior to this I ate many more fruits and vegetables and often went without meat for some pretty long periods of time. Now I crave it like never before. Eating less has turned on something primal in me.

...And the eating continued as I had a big bowl of popcorn with salt and butter. I got the organic popcorn and it is more expensive per serving.

Popcorn .11
Butter .30

Calories 1,638
Cost 3.91

I did great with B12 but everything else from A to Calcium was lacking.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Day 20

I begin my day with 7.31.

On this budget I feel as if I have a fortune. I don't know if I am adapting to less food or fighting something off. Today is the second day I've had no appetite.

I began with 1/2 a nectarine and coffee.

Then I had half of the meat and rice mixture from last night (yes half of half) with a poached egg.

I knew I'd not had enough to eat to effectively work out so I got creative with the leftover meat sauce. I made a crepe/lasagna noodle thing and rolled it with cheese and the leftover sauce.
Total cost 1.61, I ate half

On the way home from the gym I stopped and bought half and half. I normally get raw cream, I prefer dairy to be unpasteurized, however for cost reasons I settled on no BST hormones non organic.

I am taking the entire cost of the container out of today's budget because I want to add it to my coffee with impunity and without measuring.

Then I crashed. That total low blood sugar thing that made me feel as if I would pass out. M&M's came to my rescue (with peanuts)

Suddenly today had become expensive. I rode home on my sugar high and quickly re-heated some of the split pea from the beginning of the month that had been frozen.
I had one cup.

And quickly my appetite returned, not in that 'I could eat' way but in that ravenous 'me need food' way.

I got out the yeast, sugar, vinegar, flour and proceeded to make a batch of quick pizza dough. I ran out for a small pepperoni, came back grated cheese made sauce from two tomatoes, pre-baked the crust slightly dressed the pizza, got it in the hottest oven possible and topped it with garden basil. I intended to eat half, it was not small.

I ate the entire pie. I loved the book French Women don't get fat. One of the things she says is that you rarely enjoy more than 3 bites of any food. The first one is the taste, the second one satisfies, the third one is the last and the last is always the best. She is right about this when it comes to many food, but dead wrong when it comes to pizza. Every single bite is the absolute best and the last one is just sad. I could have easily eaten a second one. It satisfied something very primal in me. Total cost. 2.75

It was a lot of my budget and I feel so much better for having done it.
Day total 6.80
Calories 2,409
I carry over .73

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Day 19

My energy is down today. I feel like one of the walking dead. Still I begin the day with 6.92.

Nonetheless I rouse myself and make a pot of coffee.
A nectarine

I do phone work and some editing and can barely rouse myself. I consider a second pot of coffee but decide lunch is in order.
More pasta and sauce.
Pasta .19
Sauce .77

And the gym. Despite my low energy I put myself through a full workout with somewhat lighter weights than usual and drop by a friend's place on the way home.

He had some fully loaded Chili Cheese Ruffles potato chips. I ate some. They tasted neither of Chili nor cheese, but they were leaden with salt and I love salt.

At home I had a proper snack of more of the turkey broth with the rice and chickpea etc.

It is now time for dinner and I am hungry and unmotivated to do much about it. But into the kitchen I will go nonetheless.

I had purchased some ground beef and it was in the freezer. The great thing about knowing a butcher is that you can buy small quantities. I like grass fed/finished beef and the Marin County grass fed ground meat is 5.99 a pound; However two ounces is .74. When you use beef that has almost no fat two ounces is the same as 4 of fatty waterlogged meat.

I browned the frozen meat and broke it apart and made a basil beef.

Beef .74
Basil .10
Chard .10
Sugar Snaps .10
Broccoli .25
Onion .10
Rice .10
The basil came from pinching a plant back and I count it as a seasoning and it is included in the .33 a day for seasoning and oil. All of the veg I have assigned a value of .10 to came from the garden. I am grateful for that garden.

I ate all the vegetables and half of the beef and rice, plus an iced tea .03 so dinner;

1,721 calories
And I carry over 3.65, almost a day's worth of food. I find myself plotting how to spend my largess; cream for coffee?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Day 18

Both via e mail and in the comments section I have been challenged to continue this pledge until the 27th of August when I do the Cookathon for the San Francisco Food Bank.

I have decided to do so. Since I have begun this project my website has record readership so I am clearly hitting a note with people.

There is one person I need hear no more about however. I have been getting e mail from all over the US about one individual. According to my e mail she wears a fur coat and drives either a Mercedes or a BMW. She has 5 to 7 kids and when using her food assistance buys crab legs, lobster and steak. Food far beyond the means of those who witness her. She clearly travels very quickly as she seems to manage to go from city to city on a daily basis. Possibly Santa lends her his sleigh on his 364 days off.

Of course she does not exist but people write of this fictional character as if she were real and either they or a friend SAW her.

Here is the reality.

Most people on food assistance work at low paid jobs. The 'entitlements' are really an employer supplement which allows the rich to pay ever lower wages. They live on the edge and are well meaning honest people who need a hand. Others are seniors whose SS payments can't cover all the expenses of living. They are frugal and careful.

Rant over.

Today I begin with 5.53.

Coffee .25
Nectarine .50

And then I went for the pasta. I've an event in Oakland to drive to today so I wanted a full breakfast.
Pasta .19
Sauce .77

I am a big fan of pasta in the morning. Pizza as well if the truth be told.

Baking bread is cheap. I am not suggesting that every mother on food assistance has the time or energy to do it, however for the ones who do it costs much less to make bread at home.

In San Francisco a good loaf of Rye costs over 5.00. I got a cheaper one but it was not great.

Today I baked a loaf of Rye. Cost .56 cents in ingredients.

So I drive to Oakland to the home of my friend Iris. What a spread she made.

We began with the Rye Bread, Parmesan crackers, blueberry crusted goat cheese and vegetarian chopped liver. The veg chopped liver was amazingly delicious, it tasted nothing like liver to me, but it was a dish I would make in a heartbeat. Wonderful, and healthy.

Then we grilled asparagus and onions along with a major piece of salmon. This was served with both a carrot salad and a wild rice salad.

Dessert was blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and watermelon yogurt along with a few chocolate.

This was a feast with so many foods I love. Healthy and delicious.

When I accept social invitations it takes me off the budget (when food is provided) but if you were on food stamps and eating limited food would you not accept every invite that came along?

I would, therefore I do.

My nutrition needs were covered. That vitamin A I was lacking is being more than made up. 

Thus I carry over 3.26; If I keep going this way I may be able to afford cream for my coffee. I am tired of drinking it black.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Day 17

I begin my day with 6.31.

I ate so much yesterday that this morning I had only coffee.
.25 and the rest of the fruit salad.

I made 8 quesadillas from leftover turkey (much of which I froze)
8 tortillas .80
4 ounces of cheese 1.24
Two servings of turkey 2.00
Small zucchini grated .34
1 tomato chopped .20
1 can chickpeas .57
.65 each

I put several in the freezer to join most of the leftover turkey and happily consumed two of them. They were absolutely delicious.

Lunch 1.30

Before hitting the gym I dropped by the Famer's Market at the Marina. They often having end of day sales. I picked up some nectarines and apricots and some incredible picholine olives. They are delicious. The container was 3.00 and I downed 1/3 of them already. I love olives.

Post gym snack two more cups of soup.

I put some of this soup in the freezer so that on the day I wish I had more...I will.

I made a sauce. Last night I saw a Wild Boar Ragu on the menu at Delfina and it got me thinking. Today I made a sauce that was somewhere between a Ragu and a Bolognese and pure unctious deliciousness.

5 Ounces of that Halal beef I stuck in the freezer. (hand minced, the food processor died on me)
5 ounces of house cured pancetta (the 2.49 lb. pork belly)
15 carrots
1 onion
1 Head of garlic (yea a whole head)

.77 cents a serving (I am assuming 5 but might get 6 out of the pot.)
It cooked for about 3 hours and blew me away, it was so good.

Pasta .19

Followed by the rest of last night's chocolate cake.

1, 255 calories. I don't feel hungry but that is not a lot of food. I got decent nutrition with plenty of Vitamin A today.

I carry over 1.87 to tomorrow. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp budget Day 16

I made a fruit salad. I have 5.50 to play with and that is a lot of food.

I used half of yesterday's banana .10
An apricot .34
A huge Nectarine .50
With coffee I ate half of it.
Coffee .25
Fruit .47
Breakfast total .73

And like a log I sat. I finally realized I needed to eat more and get some salt. Two cups of yesterday's soup followed. .46

And for lunch a turkey sandwich.
Turkey 1.00
Half tomato .10
Pita bread .10

Lunch total 1.20

My energy is not great today but I got a workout in. After the gym I had a snack of peanut butter and crackers. .46

I am being taken out to dinner for my birthday which was now a week ago. I don't celebrate birthdays but it is hard to keep others from marking it.

I had too much to eat for this second celebration. The bread was my downfall. Delfina serves this most wonderful country loaf and I had 6 slices, some with butter and some with my fresh, marinated anchovies, served with a few greens and a radish.

This was followed by an onglet, my favorite cut of beef, wonderfully red in the center with a demi glace' and yes fries.

And wine, did I mention I had a glass of wine?

While I really need to permanently end my relationship to sugar I also had a small scoop of sour cherry ice cream and half of a small flourless chocolate cake.

For anyone who thinks I have had too few calories I had 2,874 today. Even though we ate early there is no way I will have a snack tonight. I had enough protein and Iron for 3 days today.

I carry over 2.65

Friday, July 15, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Day 15

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. In my case it seems to often be the most expensive. I begin the day with 5.02 but may use it all.

Most days I wake up HUNGRY and start with fruit right away that requires no prep and move onto something more serious. Today I made quesadillas with leftover veg from last night, cheese, and turkey. Delicious.

Coffee .25
1/2 banana .09
3 tortillas .30
Turkey 1.00
Cheese .31
Leftover veg .00

Total 1.95

I skipped lunch. I wasn't really hungry when it came time to leave the house. My scooter was being repaired and I had to pick it up, rather than drive into town and back out to the Sunset I decided to go directly to the gym. I carried a few of the Tortilla chips .15 along with some extra salt and had that as a quick snack.

My workout was subpar. I noticed that I was taking long rests between sets. I didn't feel hungry specifically but just low energy.

Dinner was EARLY. I made a soup with some of the turkey stock, broccoli, chickpeas and the last of the leftover rice.

Turkey stock 1.00
Broccoli .99
Chickpeas (the remainder of the can) .28
Total for the pot 2.27. The pot has a good 10 to 12 cups. I had two cups.


Then I took the rest of last night's pork chop, half a tomato, a tortilla and some cheese and made a quesadilla.

Tomato 1/2 .10
Cheese .31
Pork (leftover)
Tortilla .10
Iced tea .03

Dinner total 1.00

It is not even 8:00 as I write the above so let's see if my eating is finished for the night or if snacking rears it's ugly head.

And rear it's head it did. I try not to eat late because it always leads to snacking. I quelled my appetite with popcorn and salt.

1,526 calories
Day total 3.18

I carry over 1.84

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Day 14

I begin the day with 5.43 and the day is Bastille Day.

When it comes to food I have always gone to the French classics and today I always make a special dish.

I had decided that the most economical would be to make a Provencal tart with olives, onions and anchovies. But I had no anchovies so I did without. Last night while I had the turkey bones simmering I made a pastry crust.

I made more crust than I needed so this morning I pinched off a bit, rolled it out and stuffed it with cheese calzone style. It truly tasted like and resembled an empanada when baked. That and the last quarter of a pomegranate comprised my breakfast.

Coffee .25
Last 1/4 of the pomegranate .50
Cheese empanada .40

Total 1.15

At lunch I had the last of the too expensive but very delicious baguettes with Turkey.

Baguette .60
Turkey 1.00
Iced Tea .03
Total 1.63

For dinner I contributed the olive and onion tart, big green salad from the garden and snow peas from the garden.
Tart 1.19
Salad and peas .10
Total 1.29

Now my friend also had pork, corn,(organic, I won't eat GMO corn) Brussels sprouts, and some wine so we feasted. He then drug out chocolate ice cream with sauce. This is the second time this month I have had ice cream and it had been YEARS prior to this.

Calories 1,832 and a reasonably nutritious day. I have had several e mails of concern telling me that my carb and protein balance is way off. I just did a two week summary and I am getting more than enough protein and only 38% of my calories have come from carbohydrate sources.

Carry over 1.36

Living on a Food Stamp budget Day 13

6.39 to begin the day.

I made a favorite breakfast. Rice and peas with bacon, egg and mushrooms. I also had coffee and 1/2 a pomegranate.

Coffee .25
Pomegranate .99
Rice (still more leftovers from Friday)
Chickpeas .28 (half a can from Costco)
1 egg .20
2 Slices Bacon .32
Mushrooms .25

Total 2.29

This VERY filling breakfast gave me over 700 calories and a nice nutrition base to begin the day.

I had a lot going on today and had a late lunch. 6 of those wonderful pork dumplings and some chard from the garden.

Dumplings .90
Chard .10

Total 1.00

I roasted the turkey for tonight. I paid 16.00 so will give it a value of 1.00 per serving until it is either gone or I am eating soup.

While waiting for the rice to cook (yes more rice)I had a couple of carrots from the Farmer's Market. It was a real job today to discover what organic goodies I could afford and what needed to be left behind. I actually counted the carrots in my 2.00 bunch and when I realized it was 20 (small)I grabbed it. .10 a carrot, happy days.


Turkey 1.00
Rice .10
Carrots .20
Iced tea .03
Total 1.33

Vegetarians and Vegans do not read this.

My calorie count may be off today because I spatchcocked the turkey so that it would lay flat and did a different roast. I found a method where you leave it in a 500 degree oven for one hour, turn the oven off and do not open the door for two hours. They claimed it would be perfect. The skin was perfect, the meat a touch dry.

The reason the calories might be wrong is that the skin was so crisp and wonderful I ate the skin of the entire bird with maybe an ounce of meat. I wrapped rice in patches of crisp skin and had a feast. I suspect that I had close to 3,000 calories based on skin consumption but fitday does not have a Turkey, skin only option.

My fitday calories are 1,600. Looking at my nutrition totals I should have had more veg and less skin today.

Day Total 4.62

Carry over 1.77.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp budget Day 12

7.24 to begin

I think I am getting too used to being stingy with myself.

My energy is pretty stable and I have no problems with it flagging at the gym, though I do suspect a little weight loss. Nothing feels tight.

I began my day with coffee .25
Baguette .60
Peanut butter and fig jam .33

Total 1.18

At lunch I dove right into the pasta with the sausage sauce and added black olives.
Sauce .66
Pasta .16
Olives .59
Iced Tea .03
Total 1.44

I've been dropping by to talk to restaurants about chef participation for the event on August 27th and today had a small plate of calamari ceviche shoved in my face with a command 'taste this'. It was really good, and free.

After the gym I did a tiny shopping and bought corn chips. What can I say I had a coupon. I tend to avoid any and all products that contain corn because most corn is genetically modified and in my humble opinion dangerous to eat. However these chips are the Non GMO organic white corn and it was 1.00 off and due to expire on the 15th. Not only that but the normal price is 2.49 for one pound so that with the coupon they become .15 a serving. I don't eat many at once. With corn chips, toilet paper and tortillas I drove home.

Once corn chips are in the house they demand to be opened and eaten. So I had a snack.
Corn Chips .15
1 oz cheese .39
The rest of yesterday's tomato and feta .35
Iced Tea .03
Total .92

For dinner I had the rest of the pork belly. This time I cooked it in garlic and salt with enough water to braise and then crisped it. Along with this I had some broccoli. I had made rice and peas, which is a favorite of mine but did not eat it. Pork and veg were enough.
Pork Belly .63
Broccoli .33 (1/3 of a large head)
Iced tea .03
Total .97

Total 4.51

Carry over 2.73
1,800 calories and my E and C are up there from food sources.

Day 11 Living on a Food Stamp Budget

I begin my day with 7.07.

Not that long ago I probably spent close to 10.00 a day on food without much thought. The idea of 7.07 is very exciting to me. I could have a second coffee, a pomegranate, even some nice cheese. Or I can continue to eat modestly knowing that this small amount will diminish over time with tiny extras like popcorn with butter.

I had the strangest mini breakfast. I woke up hungry and while the coffee brewed I sauteed mushrooms .50 worth and boiled some noodles. I salted the noodles and had them with the mushrooms and coffee .25. It was a very odd thing to eat but I craved it. I find that a lot, I now have cravings.

I believe that cravings often have a link to poor nutrition. When eating well and across the spectrum I have things I prefer but no cravings.

And the strange eating continued. I steamed 8 pork dumplings (40 for 3.99) so .80.

And then in my grazing patter I had 1/4 of a pomegranate and some yogurt .70 for both.

I have eaten more meat than is typical for me. I became hyper aware of protein when I was told that it is the one thing people relying on food banks get little of.

The strange eating continued as I polished off the final 3 black bean taquitos from my coupon day. Cost 0.00.

I saw my upstairs neighbor Sylvia and she pushed some leftover baguette on me. I chopped a tomato and added 1 oz. of feta and had half of the tomato/feta on the toasted baguette. Total .20 for tomato and .31 for cheese but since only half was consumed.

Snack .35

My turkey is still part frozen so I picked up some more pork belly on sale today. The fatty goodness is braising now and the smell permeating the house.

And I dined. I really ate a nice meal.
Pork Belly .63
Ginger .10
Wonderful snow peas from the garden .10
Leftover rice .00
2 iced tea .06

This is the most satisfying economical meal I have come up with.

My day total was 3.49 and I felt like I really ate well if oddly. 

1,864 calories.

Thank you for the e mails of concern but I am taking a multi vitamin and extra C in liquid form. My vitamin E is not being met on a regular basis by my diet but otherwise I do okay with my averages over a couple of days.

I carry forward 3.58.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Living on a food stamp budget day 10

Thanks to leftovers and a birthday dinner I begin my day with 7.17.

This seems to me to be a wealth of riches. I've no doubt it will disappear quickly.

Coffee began my day. I had it while I made a 

I had two servings of cabbage soup
.48 and a small coffee at breakfast, .25.

I found extremely ripe figs on sale and made a fresh jam with them along with a little sliced ginger for punch and some lemon. It comes to .12 a two tablespoon serving. It is a little strange to track the cost of ingredients and measure the finished product to determine final price, but I am getting used to it.

I had a mini baquette .60 with jam .12 and two ounces of feta cheese crumbled on it .62. An expensive snack but a seriously delicious one.

This was followed by a big salad.

I splurged making a warm bacon dressing with two slices of bacon and topping it with a poached egg which I broke and tossed into the dressing.

Greens .10
Bacon .38

At the end of the day at the Farmers market I got tomatoes 5 for a dollar (some of the farmers sell dollar bags) and a very small but organic turkey for 15.00. Thanks to the fact that the rancher had run out of ice and was not driving back til morning. If you are on a budget it is a good idea to hit some farm markets at the end of the day. Bargains can often be had and in S.F. some of the markets do the dollar bags and you get amazing quality for very few $$.

I've already had dinner, and early which puts me at a risk for snacking but I had a second serving of the pasta with a sausage and tomato sauce. This time I garnished with chopped fresh tomato and mushrooms from my dollar bags.

Sauce .66
Pasta .19
Tomato .20
Mushrooms .20

Total 1.35

...and snack I did. I know better than to have dinner at 6:00 but around 9 I made popcorn. The cost of home popped corn is small but I used butter.

Popcorn .08
Butter .30

How many of you use butter be it on toast, or popcorn without considering the cost? For a person on food stamps even butter has a real cost and nothing can be eaten casually.

Day total 3.76 carry over 3.41.

1,579 calories and a pretty nutritious day. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp budget Day 9

After my gorge last night first thing this morning I only wanted coffee. .25

I took the time to look at the nutrition averages. Except for C we don't need a full allotment of every vitamin every day as it can average out.

My A, and E are too low and not averaging out. My calcium is also low, but on any diet I don't eat much calcium. I have great bone density so I don't worry about it. The idea of drinking milk makes me gag.

Eventually I got around to eating party leftovers with a glass of iced tea. .03

The pork and rice were very nice re-heated. I then took my self a nap and when I awoke I had a second spot of coffee .25 and the remainder of the banana cream pie.

Finally I roused myself for a little weightlifting at the gym, ending my workout with a nice bloody nose that came out of nowhere. With a nose stuffed with tissue I motored home and had a taste of a chicken soup recipe sent to me by a reader. It was essentially doctored up bouillon. To me it tasted like salty garlic water with some noodles but the cost .15 was more than right. It did satisfy my salt craving and the massive amounts of sodium I have to consume can only be helped by bouillon.

For dinner I made a sauce. I have learned that 3.99 a pound is pretty much the max I can pay for any meat so I bought a link of hot sausage at Whole Paycheck on Haight Street. I came home and made a great pasta sauce. 4 very abundant servings.

1 sausage 1.48
1 can tomatoes .97
Head of garlic .20

Total 2.65, since garlic was my primary seasoning I used a whole head of it. I love garlic and it was great.

Simple sauce. Brown the sausage with the chopped garlic, add the tomatoes and some water. Season with salt and pepper, simmer and as it reduces use a potato masher to break up tomato chunks and sausage. Toss with pasta. Great, simple, cheap.

Per Serving .66
Pasta .16

1.714 calories.
Nutrition excellent except A and E again.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Living on a food stamp budget day 8

I must confess it is my birthday. I tend to eschew acknowledging them as they might put a clue into my brain to begin to age and I am opposed to that. However too many people in San Francisco know so I can't hide the date.

The lovely part is having dinner cooked for me. Tonight I will likely have massive calories none of which will come out of my food stamp budget. To those of you who have e-mailed me worrying that I am not getting enough to eat. Worry not. I am not wasting away by any means.

Knowing that I had a noon meeting close to my gym I ate a big breakfast to tide me over until what may be a late lunch/snack.

2 eggs with rice (rice was leftover from the pork belly dinner and previously cooked and accounted for) .40
2 slices of bacon .32
1 small baguette .60
Coffee .25
2 figs .48

Total 2.05

This is a great example of how little it takes to blow a budget. While I can make it up in the budget; it is important to realize that ONE nice breakfast is not a possibility for many living on food stamps.

On CNN today was a list of the world's most expensive cities. They make some real comparisons in prices. As an example they say a loaf of bread 7.61 in Moscow and 6.06 in New York. WHAT bread are they buying?

In New York I can get fresh baked Rye for 2.99, a baguette for 1.29. I sent an e mail to a friend in Moscow who is a big fan of the black bread a sort of a sourdough Rye. When I did the math it turns out he is paying 3.99 for a loaf. CNN WHAT bread did you buy?

Bread rant over. After a meeting with St. Luke's Church and the San Francisco Food Bank I took a quick run home and had some of the beef stew from earlier in the week. 1.08

I went back to St. Luke's for another short meeting and then a big workout at the gym and onto a birthday dinner.

Turning older has no appeal but a meal like this, amazing.

There were healthy appetizers and I had a few of them, but it was the pretzels and blue cheese dip that captured me.

This was followed by an Asian chicken salad with a sesame dressing.

And then...the star of the evening. There is a Szechaun pork dish with green onions that blows me away and that was served with broccoli and white rice.

I feasted. I was blown away at how good it was. This along with 2 1/2 glasses of wine more than took care of my calories for the day.

And then dessert. A brilliant banana cream pie, not overly sweet and seriously delicious. If you are in San Francisco check out ChilePies

I consumed 2,523 calories with okay nutrition and more than twice the protein I need.

I spent (due to the birthday)3.13.

I will do the math for the past two days later to see where I am.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Day 7

Today is a strange day.

I had an early meeting so I quickly had some coffee and peanut butter crackers.

Coffee .25
Peanut butter and crackers .46

Total .71

When I got home around 11 a.m. I was HUNGRY. Yesterday was National Fried Chicken day (Who knew?)I picked up 6 chicken wings which came to almost a pound, and cut them into sections saving the wing tips for the soup pot. I heavily seasoned and fried the meaty parts for a total of 1.27.

I predict a heavy snack in my future, and I totally need some more vegetables.

I seem to be at the store daily as I am paranoid about buying too much ahead. Today I made a run for some soap to wash dishes and the sample...Macaroni and Cheese and not the nasty stuff from a box but the good frozen stuff baked, not microwaved. I tried both varieties the 'regular' and the Fontina. I said I could not decide which I liked better and took two more samples. It was a good snack.

I came home and went for the last of the chicken soup .75.

I did a hard and heavy workout and came home with a real appetite. I took last night's pork skin and put it in a hot skillet until it puffed. Pork rinds. A very good snack and 0.00 as the cost was accounted for in yesterdays pork purchase.

I then had a small baguette .60
and two ounces of cheese at .78

It is astonishing to me how quickly this all adds up. I am not eating record amounts of food.

So we had a salad from the garden .10.

Day total 4.21

With my carryover from yesterday I am not over budget. I have .14 cents to carry into today.

1,606 calories and it is a very good thing I am taking a multivitamin because today I did a lousy job getting it all covered.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp budget day 6

Eating on a food stamp budget is not easy. I began the day with a cup of cabbage soup. It has a lot of vitamin C, some protein and B vitamins. Who says you can't eat soup in the morning? This was followed by peanut butter,crackers and coffee.

Cabbage soup .24
Peanut butter .21
1 oz of whole wheat crackers .25
Coffee .25

Total .95

I made an absolute favorite for lunch. I admit to scaling down the recipe a bit but there was no loss of flavor.

Spaghetti Carbonara.

2 oz pasta .19
1 slice American bacon .16
One egg .20
1 ounce Parmesan cheese .37
Garden vegetables .10

Total 1.02

This is an easy preparation. Mix egg with cheese in bowl and season with black pepper.

Chop vegetables into a colander I used sugar snaps and green onions. Fry the bacon reserving the fat.

If you are worried about scrambled eggs you can put a touch of the pasta water in the egg to temper it. Pour the cooked pasta into the colander over the vegetables warming them. Toss in the bacon fat, turn the heat off of the skillet and gently toss the egg and cheese over the pasta.

It makes a very filling lunch.

After I went to the gym I was hungry but I decided to ignore it and headed out for cat food. At the grocery was one of those food demos and this lady had black bean taquitos. I tasted a small bite and she asked me how I liked it. I told the truth;"It was gummy and gross".

"I know they are awful this way. I was supposed to have an electric skillet but they sent over a microwave and they are really gross in the microwave. Here's a coupon, take some home and fry them and you will see how good they are."

I looked at the coupon before stuffing it into my pocket and it was not the typical cents off. It was one FREE package. No way I am turning down free food.

So I brought them home and fried them in a little oil turning them 'til all sides were crisp and she was right. They were not bad at all. I ate 3 and it was a nice post gym snack.

Taquitos 0.00

I am going to have to start looking at coupons more carefully.

Pork belly is often a good deal. It can be found at Spanish and Asian butchers. I prefer butchers because they cut to order and give you the amount you want. 2.49 a pound. Done.

I made an absolute favorite food last night. Braised pork belly with scallion and rice. Very calorie dense and very filling.

I prepared it with ginger, hot peppers, a little 5 spice and some backyard scallions.

The belly was .62 for 4 ounces
Ginger .22
Hot peppers .12
Rice .10
Iced tea .03

Total 1.09

2,068 calories for the day and fairly nutritious. 3.06 with .60 to carry over to tomorrow. I learned very quickly that it takes little to consume those extra pennies.

I got an e mail asking me what I would be eating if I had not taken this pledge. I would eat a lot more fruit. The fruits I like tend not to be cheap.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp budget Day 5

I had a rotten night's sleep. Again with the fireworks all night long. I love living by the beach, but it is a natural location for every amateur arsonist to practice exploding things; and they did, all night long.

After a restless night I was up at 6. Yesterday I had made a cabbage soup with a tiny bit of the beef, part of a cabbage and tomatoes. I had two cups of soup at 6:30 in the morning. When I feel cruddy for any reason I want soup.

Then I went back to bed and got a couple of hours of much needed sleep.

When I woke I made coffee and had an apple with peanut butter. Jessica at SF Food bank had told me that adequate protein was often difficult on food stamps so one of my purchases was a jar of natural peanut butter. The apple was free from a neighbor who grows them.

Cabbage Soup .48 (for two cups)
Coffee .25
Peanut butter .21 (for two tablespoons)

Total .94

Due to the apple and cabbage my nutrition is getting better coverage and I am at 510 calories.

And then lunch. I was hungry at lunch time and still had some of the quasi puttanesca sauce that made an appearance on pizza yesterday.

Pasta .16
Sauce .65

Lunch total .81

I did a hard work out but still was not feeling 100%, but I had planned for this and made a pot of chicken soup. Not much to it, chicken bones, water, a few garden vegetables,  salt and noodles. The pot cost 3.00.

After my workout I ate half the pot. It was just what I needed. I ate half the pot.

Snack 1.50

...and then dinner. I had leftover beef stew.

One portion 1.08
Egg Noodles  .10

Later in the evening a friend of mine whom I met back in Australia called and wanted to come over(he is divorcing and it ain't pretty). I said sure but don't bring booze. I was feeling too out of it imbibe.

Instead he brought soda, sweetened with sugar and not corn syrup so at the moment I am on a sugar a caffeine high. It will quickly fade and I am hoping for a deep restful night's sleep.

Today I went .04 over so there is no more balance to carry into the morrow.

I feel like I had plenty to eat and did way better with my balance of nutrition.1,578 calories which is not making me feel deprived in any way.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The 4th of July on a food stamp budget

I woke up several times last night and was both hungry and tired when I got up this morning. Firworks were being blasted all around me during the night which led to a very disturbed sleep.

I went right for the toasted cheese.
2 slice rye .20
1 oz. cheddar .39
1 small pot coffee .25
Two figs .48

It takes so little to reach 1.32

And while the coffee helped I see a nap in my future as tonight may be worst than last night with the noise.

Maybe it is because it is the 4th of July but I suddenly had a craving for potato chips. I eat them upon rare occasion with a sandwich; not often because of the calories.

I went trotting down to my local Safeway to see if it was an affordable addition to my diet. Ruffles were on sale 2 bags for 5.00, but the manager said I could get one at 2.50. I looked at the weight 5 ounces. That would be over 7.50 a pound.

I could not justify 7.50 a pound for a few potatoes. Nothing I cane eat right now can come in at 7.50 a pound. Wow those companies must make a fortune.

Tired makes me hungry so I had 1/2 oz of cheddar.

Snack .20

367 calories so far. 

I need a nap sooner rather than later.

I woke up hungry. Before hitting the gym (yes even on July 4th) I made a small batch of zucchini tempura .60 and an iced tea .03.

A 63 cent lunch is a good thing,and it satisfied my craving for fried salt.

I got an e mail this afternoon with a LONG conversation from the datalounge about how the members of this site would subsist on 3.66. There were some very good ideas and I was happy to see some of these gentlemen had decided to take the challenge themselves. He did not include a link to my site so this is being spread on it's own. That makes me very happy. 

While I am still tired (nothing to do with the diet, and everything to do with the fireworks) I am off to lift some heavy things.

I took a nap. Finally rest, and I woke up hungry. I made a pizza with some of the quasi puttanesca and a little jack cheese.

Pizza 1.25
Iced Tea .03

Later I went to a friend's to see the fireworks from his roof and had a little wine and a few peanuts.

I need to make more of an effort to get some C and E from my foods. I also think that I need some more calories.

1,291 for the day. 3.43 was my money total and since I was starting with 4.16 I can carry over 73 cents.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp budget day 3

Now that some of the shopping for month long staples and cost per serving has been calculated my task seemed somewhat easier.

Then a lovely change of plans knocked on my door. My upstairs neighbor was going to be out all day and had purchased some shrimp that would spoil if not eaten. So before breakfast 5 ounces of shrimp was gifted to me.

I know that she tends to keep food long after I would throw it out so I quickly rinsed them and smelled and tasted. Not spoiled. They were the very tiny pre-cooked ones but a very large amount. 5 ounces.

Pasta for breakfast became the plan. This is not an unusual menu item for my breakfast. I had planned a version of a Carbonara as my Sunday brunch so instead I grabbed a portion of last night's Puttanesca and warmed it with the shrimp. 2 ounces of pasta and I was set.

2 figs .48
Pasta (2 ounces) .16
5 ounces of shrimp 0.0
Sauce .65
Iced Tea .03

Breakfast total 1.32; Clearly I am taking advantage of yesterday's savings. Even with that I could not do coffee with this breakfast. Tea sufficed yet I missed my coffee.

I have a nice protein bump and a lot of Vitamin D in my system. I feel pretty good and quite full.

I went to the beach, yes it was actually that warm in San Francisco. When I got back I had a late lunch of two cups of split pea soup.  .46
One iced tea. .03
And one Fig .24

Total .73

Earlier today I began slow cooking one pound of the beef along with onion, garlic, celery, a few tomatoes from the garden and a bottle of two buck chuck. (It works in a stew.)

I pureed the spent vegetables to thicken the gravy and added swiss chard and arugula also from the garden.

It made 6 generous portions (some of which I will likely freeze for later in the month)

1 serving beef stew  1.08
Rice .10
Fig .24

Total 1.42 an expensive dinner.

My day total 3.47

My calorie total 1,439.00

I got twice the protein I needed and scored fairly well across the chart for my nutrition needs and I feel satisfied. Plus I have .50 to carry into tomorrow.

I am being super cautious about costs right now as I have been warned that the end of the month is the hardest. Since I get bored eating the same thing I plan on freezing some items (like some of tonight's stew) to have at the end of the month.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp budget a different way of shopping

With little left in the house I did my first shopping with my budget in mind. I ran out before breakfast.

I learned something about bacon, it is not standard. Packages that appear to be the same size vary from 12 to 16 ounces, and that can make a big difference. I bought a pound and counted 16 nice slices in that pound making it affordable.

I refused to compromise on eggs. Because chickens do eat their own waste when they are in crowded conditions I wanted free range, organic from a farm I know gives them space. Fortunately I found them on sale for 2.39 a dozen so I bought two dozen.

Today's breakfast
1/4 pomegranate .50
Small pot of coffee .25
2 eggs .20
1 slice of bacon .19
1 slice dry rye toast .10

Total 1.24

I got an e mail from a reader informing me that food stamps are meant to be a supplement NOT the only source of food.

Agreed; that is what they are meant to be. Unfortunately for many they ARE the only source of food other than the food bank as their income does not allow additional purchases.

And while I have only consumed 420 calories I have had almost half the protein I need for the day and more than half of the B12.

I did a second shopping at Costco and bought much less than I had anticipated. I did not want to blow much of my months budget on large quantities and found myself standing in the aisle calculating amounts/servings/additional ingredients needed and bypassing much of what I had thought I would purchase.

My first find was a big jar of olives at a great price. The second was tea bags that would bring my iced tea cost to .03 for a big glass. 

I rejoiced when I found some grass fed Halal stew meat at a great price. The quantity was reasonable and I can easily use it all. I had someone ask me what Halal meant and she seemed offended at the explanation and called me a Muslim lover as she wheeled away.

Yes ma'am I am absolutely a Muslim lover. I've even been known to love a few Christians and Jews.

For lunch I am enjoying a split pea soup that I made using, onion, carrot, half a pound of split peas and water. I finished it with some seasoning and 2 smoked Keilbasa. 8 cups at .23 a serving.

I had two cups of this at lunch along with the other half of the can of tuna without all the extras like bread and tomatoes and it came to .65.

2 cups soup .46
Tuna Salad .65

Lunch total 1.11

Right now I am just over 800 calories and my B6 and B12 are covered as well as my protein.

I spent much of the day planning and shopping and as often happens when I focus too much on food. I lose my appetite. At dinner time I did not want anything I had planned so I ate 1/4 of a fennel bulb.

I suffer from low blood sugar and sodium so skipping meals is not an option so I finally went into the kitchen and make a quick pasta. It had similar flavor to a puttanesca but lacked the capers, to make up for it I doubled up on the garlic.

With one can of tomatoes and a can of anchovies some olives and garlic I made enough sauce for 4 servings bringing the sauce to .65.
Pasta (two ounces) .16
Fennel .25
Iced Tea .03

Total 114.

Day total 3.49 leaving me .40 to carry over into today.

I did not do a great job of covering my vitamins such as C and the day was 1,485 calories, about half what I need.

I am a chef with a nutrition background. Can you just imagine how difficult this is for a busy Mother to deal with?

Living on a Food Stamp budget Day 1

I began with breakfast.

I admit to eating first and calculating costs after.

1 very small pot of coffee .25
1/2 Pomegranate .99
2 slices rye bread .20
1 oz cheddar cheese .39

As you can see even this meager breakfast came to 1.83 and put me over budget. Since I am going out tonight I will have an extra 1.33 to play with so I can make my daily budget but already I have an idea of how hard this will be.

I must admit that this toasted cheese sandwich typically would include bacon, tomato and a poached egg to dip it into. This is not an option on a food stamp budget.

When lunchtime rolled around I was hungry. I learned just how expensive a tuna fish sandwich is.

I used tuna, onion, a few olives, lettuce and tomato from the garden, rye bread and 1/2 roast pepper.

The total cost of one sandwich...1.60 (Since even garden goods are not free I assigned a value of .10 for the lettuce and tomato).

It is a good thing I am not cooking at home tonight as I would have .23 cents to carry over into dinner.

Since I am eating with Lynda and her family I can carry over those funds into tomorrow giving myself 3.89.

What I have had prior to my free dinner contains less than 700 calories and except for vitamin C which is at 94%; it is not nutritionally complete.

Keeping in mind that I typically eat 2,200 calories per day, I am going to have to do some careful thinking and planning as I go on.

I have been using food stock that was in the house and calculating costs today. In a couple of days I will (except for oil and seasonings) be shopping for new food and keeping to this budget.

At Lynda and Tom's I cooked with the kids and we had an abundant dinner. Salad with radish and avocado, two portions of pasta with pistachio pesto, that was made with garlic, oil, parsley, arugula, basil and pistachios and ice cream with raspberries. This along with two glasses of excellent Cab. (Even just a passable glass of wine will end up being one dollar's worth of food so it will be a while until I see wine again)

I am stuffed.

2,026 calories for the day (most of them off budget)with a much better nutritional balance.

I wonder how many food stamp families are so fortunate as to be invited out for an abundant meal packed with nutrition?

Tomorrow I will be balancing calories, nutrition and costs, in essence the real challenge begins.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp budget

On August 27th I will be doing a chef challenge marathon at St. Luke's church on Van Ness at Clay. Yesterday I met with Jessica at the S.F. Food Bank to discuss some of what we will be doing.

I learned that a family on food stamps has on average 1.33 to spend per meal. I decided to spend a month taking the food stamp challenge.

I went over the costs and what I spend and decided that if I wanted to use oil and seasonings that I would have to bring that number down to 1.22 per meal for fresh ingredients.

I will not be subjecting anyone else in the household to this experiment so I will be cooking for one which is an additional challenge.

Anything bought in bulk would have to be used before the end of the month. I will have to cook individual meals or one large meal and eat leftovers no matter how tired I become of them.

This is not unique; Many seniors live alone and struggle with cooking for one every day. This is also true of young mothers whose child is  breastfeeding or on formula.

I currently weigh 155 lbs at just barely over 5 feet 4 inches. My chest is 42 inches and my waist just under 30. I do work out and will continue to all month.

I offer this information so that I can see if I lose or gain or if the muscle to fat proportion changes.

I am also getting a blood test today to measure my blood sugar and blood sodium levels.  

My goal is to keep my health stable.

I am fortunate in that I spent a few months working as a teacher for Raw Satisfaction. The food budget was very small. I had to create a 5 course meal for 6 people for $30.00. That is 1 dollar per course. As you can imagine this was a difficult task. I found the cheapest stores in the city and you can imagine how often I bought natural or organic on that budget.

My current task is even harder in that all of those courses or one course has to be 1.22 and I will try to be nutritionally complete.

I will monitor my nutrition and caloric intake via

I am also fortunate in that this month is my birthday and I have a lot of wonderful friends in San Francisco who will be inviting me over for dinner or taking me out. On those days I can spend my 3.66 on breakfast and lunch.

I will do my best to post daily or close to it. And I begin.