Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back on a Regular budget with new awareness

The day after the event I was so tired. I had a little bit of some of the leftovers but no proper meal. I thought I would have duck and red wine and a feast and I just wasn't into it.

I ate less food for so long the idea of a large meal right now is sickening.

Yesterday I had bits of things but no real meal at all until dinner.

I craved broccoli. I took an entire head of broccoli, a yellow pepper and some onion and did a quick stir fry in the wok, adding in fermented black beans and hot chili garlic sauce. I had a huge bowl of spicy vegetables with no rice. It was just what I needed.

Thus far this morning I have had two nectarines and coffee. As we go forward and I can stand to proof them as recipes I will post some of the items I came up with at a low serving cost that can be shared with families struggling with this issue.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The 12 hour cookathon

Pictured Laurie R. King, Author...with me, on the left one of our wonderful volunteers from the Chef's program Ricky King (no relation)

I am so tired and so satisfied with yesterday that if asked, I would do it all over again, here or in any city that needed the help.

The biggest highlight was the generosity of the people attending. Some brought entire bags filled with food, others gave generously  with funds.

I have to give thanks to our great guests. Lucy Jane Bledsoe did reading from her new book The Big Bang Symphony, a riveting novel and one with a major character is a chef...in Antarctica. She was tremendous fun and brought dulce de leche, the caramel made in Argentina. We melted some chocolate into it and dipped berries. Later when I got a challenge of mincemeat and tomatilas I used the rest of the caramel and the above two challenge ingredients into a rice pudding, that was surprisingly tasty. Not a spoonful was left in the hall.

Alan May, a friend of mine for almost 3 decades and a brilliant artist was the one with the tomatillas. He stayed a good long time and we were able to make some nice vegetarian dishes including his favorite Penne with Pesto.

Earlier in the morning Amy Mac was there from Trader Joe's and we did a spaghetti carbonara using Trader Joe's seaweed. It was really good.

When Laurie R. King came by she did a short reading from her first Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russel novel The Beekeepers Apprentice and challenged with with Stilton, nectarines and honey. Did I make the obvious choice? No. I made a creamy stilton and nectarine sauce with honey and paired it with tortellini and pistachios. It was so good I would make it again.

I had great fun with Danny Bowein from Mission Chinese, he brought an easy challenge and a more difficult one. He makes a chili sauce at his restaurant that is unlike any I have ever had before, it contains (among other ingredients) fermented black beans, so it's spicy and savory and with the Sechaun peppercorns makes the tongue tingle. What could I do but braised pork belly with the bitter melon(the more difficult challenge)flavored with ginger, 5 spice and that amazing sauce.

He was so much fun. The Rev Dana stepped in and played interviewer for a few minutes drawing out some of his remarkable history.

Oh, my friends it was not over. We had audience challenges, David Lynch holding a wine tasting while the Rev. took over and got him talking, I stayed for part of that and took a short break. I sat down for a few minutes, heaven.

Melanie Vigh joined us, she is a chef with a fascinating history, half of her childhood in Hungary, a stint as a chef in Mexico and currently at Guerra Meats handling the deli and catering department.

She took over and I was happy to hand her the floor. She prepared the most delicious moist, sinful salmon, she gave it a short marinade, seared it, served it on a bed of cashew and grape rice with curry and topped it with mango salsa. I would say it was the best dish of the day. I just ate little bites throughout the day but if I could have kept the salmon from the crowd I would have made one of those filets mine.

Afterwards I made a mushroom risotto, the way I learned way back when in Venice and many other dishes throughout the day. A Food bank challenge to use rice and beans differently resulted in a beautiful congee, a sunflower seed lasagna..and more.

When the crowd thinned out later in the evening we had a few items still to share with the food bank from our generous donors. I got the Rev. River some opened items to use in his street ministry/food program and dropped others off and a local church that feeds a small crowd on Sunday.

A lot of people are going to be fed. When you share food, you share love. That my friends is what the world needs now.

I promised to finish up my food stamp budget log and I ask forgivness. I spend 14 hours shopping for the donated pantry items on Friday and Saturday was pretty busy as well, and I don't really remember what I ate on Friday, except a bagel at the church maybe 10 hours after breakfast.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

It's 9:25 and I have not eaten

I may be off to bed soon after having a bite.

Saturday the 27th from 10 a.m to 10 p.m. I will be at St. Luke's cooking for anyone and everyone who walks through the door with a donation for the food bank. Guests and members of the public will be surprising me all day with challenge ingredients. St. Luke's is located at Clay and Van Ness in the City of San Francisco.

I challenge all my readers (and they have increased dramatically since this project began)to twitter, facebook, call and e mail anyone you know in the Bay area. If you are here yourself come down and say hi. I want the coffers to overflow with donated food.

I promise to faithfully write of my last two days on this project but I just finished the pantry shopping which began 11 hours ago and I am beat.

Thanks again to Trader Joe's (Amy Mac we love you!)Grocery Outlet (West 4th on Berkeley, go there trust me your $$ will go very far)Guerro's Meats on Taravel (Come watch Chef Vigh when she joins me at 7:00)Safeway and Le Beau market in Nob Hill. Your generosity was overwhelming.

I hope to meet many of those of you who have followed me on this journey and I thank you for your e mail and comments. It takes a village and I feel very much a part of one right now.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Month 2 Day 21

The Huffington Post article about one week of my life on this budget has hit. Read it here.

Praise and condemnation in fairly equal measure. As is typical on the net, many of the comments skimmed, rather than read and know not of what they speak. I answer a few and clarify a couple of assumptions. Despite the choice to live on this budget I am who I am. I don't apologize for that.

It is almost noon and I have only had coffee. My e-mail box overflows. Some critical, some lovely, but that is to be expected.

I finally fried the rest of the chicken I had purchased the other day. I knew it would be okay to overspend because I have an event tonight and dinner will be served.
Chicken 2.66
Garden Salad .10
This mornings coffee .30
Total 3.06

I spent the day in a meeting and the evening at the Chef's program at ECS. It was graduation night.

I talked to a lot of the students. One of the most inspirational is a woman who spent 30 years on the streets as a heroin addict. With the help of ECS she stayed clean and learned a trade. After 6 months she is ready for the job market. How can you not love people who have come from all kinds of hardship and still manage to work hard, learn a trade and do so without being bitter?

The article I referenced in the first paragraph has taken on a life of it's own. Right now I can't even begin to address all the comments and e-mails it has generated.

In two days I have to cook for 12 hours, so it is time for sleep. I will factor in the rest of my food and nutrition tomorrow.

Y'all take care now.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Month 2 Day 20

For those who are still coming here to offer help on Saturday read here.

An apple a day, it won't hurt.

Since I have begun this project I have lost 5 lbs,and despite regular workout some of it is muscle. My chest is one inch smaller.

I got my blood work back.

My sodium and potassium are out of balance causing water retention.

Despite not eating any significant sugar, my blood sugar and triglycerides are both higher than they should be.

My cholesterol, while still very low,is higher than it was and the ratio is off.

My blood count (Iron in the blood) is far too high.

While I am not fat my percentage of fat vs. muscle has increased. My body fat was at 11% and is now at 14%.

I have a lot of advantages compared to many who have no choice but to live on this budget. I am a chef, I have a garden, I had a birthday last month and meals out so my diet has had more nutrition and variance than many who have no choice but to eat the cheapest, day in and day out.

I admit to being bored by it. I am sick of many of the foods that work in this budget. I am ready for it to be over.

For many who live this way it may never be over. We have few jobs in the U.S. and the jobs we have often pay so little food is a luxury.

When I say I've walked a mile in my brother's shoes I know that my shoes have custom insoles and by comparison are more comfortable.

I begin my day with 6.78.

I still have leftover ham so I fry it with two eggs and make some Rye Toast.

Coffee .30
Ham leftover
Rye from Gail
Butter .15
2 eggs .40
Total .85

I wasn't hungry when I decided I needed a snack. I just got it into my head that I had not had any fruit yet and not much in the vegetable arena so I had two apples and peanut butter.

Apples (more fruit from Gail)
Peanut butter .21
Second pot of coffee .30
Total .51

I had no appetite for lunch but after the gym was seriously hungry. I stopped at the store on the way home and they had a polish sausage sample station. I ate several slices, pretty much enough to qualify as one link. It was good and the lady kept telling me to have more.

For dinner I added bacon, green beans, and mushrooms and the second half of yesterday's onion to some of the sauce from the other day. I barely needed pasta. That was a great meal.
Tomato Sauce (free tomatoes)
Pasta .19
Green beans .44
Mushrooms .50
Onion .10
Iced Tea .03
Total 1.26

Day Total 2.62, yet I feel as if I ate well. 1.692 calories and okay on the nutrition scale.

I carry over 4.16

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Month 2 Day 19

I can't wait for this to be over. I am tired of cabbage, and beans, and rice and even pasta. I want smoked salmon and fresh fish and a Caesar Salad with extra anchovies. Instead I begin my day with 5.85.

I have the last of the nectarines from Cathy and a cup of coffee.
coffee .30

I am hungry, but not hungry and tired of so many things. I finally settle on a ham sandwich with ham leftover from the party. I add half an onion.

Rye From Gail
Mayo (The rest of what I made the other day)
Ham from party
Onion Half .10
3 glasses of iced tea .09

Total .19

And out I head. I have a lot of stops before the gym and eventually I am hungry. No desire to ride home so I have some pork rinds. Not a health food, but a filling one and no sugar.
Rinds .99
I do admit to liking them. Puffy fat and skin, what could be wrong?

At home I am fussy yet again not wanting what I have and I have an abundance. I finally re-heat some of the lamb with extra garlic and green beans and have it with rice and some of the red beans. I feel stuffed.
Lamb leftover
Rice .15
1/2 serving of Red Beans 1.10
Total 1.25

Day Total 2.73
Calories 1,541

Nutrition is pretty horrible for the day. 3.12 to carry over. I need to find a way to enjoy it.

I have blood work coming in that will update me on my health while walking a mile in uncomfortable shoes. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Month 2 Day 18

I begin the day with 9.13 and feel like a millionaire.

I make a fruit salad with the fruit Cathy brought from the farm, two nectarines, a big peach, and some strawberries. I eat the whole thing with a cup of coffe, my only cost being...
Coffee .30

Then breakfast is more leftovers. I take some of the lamb left from the party and warm it stuff it in a tortilla and top with yogurt, Really good.
Lamb leftover
Yogurt .40
Tortillas .48

Total .88

I could not make it home for lunch and finally broke down and had a substandard San Francisco bagel with cream cheese.

At home I really spent my largess. I made fried chicken. I bought an organic chicken at 7.99 which will make at least 3 meals. 2.66 per.

I heavily seasoned and fried a few pieces. I am so tired of skinny bitches who roll chicken and bran cereal and pop it in the oven and say 'it is just like fried.' Those skinny bitches have not had fried chicken in decades and have forgotten what that crisp succulent taste is really like. I had it with rice and a half portion of red beans, along with the first of the zucchini from the garden. 
Rice .15
Chicken 2.66
Beans 1.10
Zucchini .10

Total 4.01

6.94 see how easy it is to double the budget when you have a few extra dollars. Would you say I had an extreme or indulgent eating day?

2,306 calories, the chicken drove me over the top.

I carry over 2.19

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Month 2 Day 17

I begin my day with 8:71 and a house full of leftovers from yesterday's party.

For breakfast I dined on a ham salad sandwich and more of the strawberries. My only cost was
Coffee .30
Mayo (Yes, I made it myself) .20

Total .50

For lunch I had some of the cabbage soup for the nutrition hit it gives me. I had to throw out the last of the soba with cabbage and peanut sauce. The cabbage had begun to ferment. It did not smell well.
Soup .24
Iced tea .03
Noodles (food waste) .29
Total .56

I used some of my largess for a couple of treats today. Andoulle sausage to go with my red beans and a bar of amazing Belgian chocolate. Since I don't want to calculate square by square I am going to take the hit for the chocolate all at once.
Chocolate 1.99

Dinner was a great meal of sauce from the gift tomatoes, leftover turkey meatballs and pasta. My only cost was the pasta at
Plus more birthday wine.

1,623 calories

Total 3.24

I carry over 5.47...but you should know.

I made red beans today.
Onion .20
Green pepper .44
Celery .26
Red beans .50
Pinto beans .50
Andouille sausage 6.99
Rich succulent ham stock from leftover bone, both free and priceless. 

To a total of 8.89 for the pot. 

I think it is 4 nice servings and it will come to 2.22 a serving. This will kill my overage but make me very happy. Expensive but worth it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Month 2 Day 16

Come Saturday morning I have an extra 3.11 giving me a day total of 6.77.

I begin to wonder just how many people are going to write me before this is over to tell me that poor people should not drink soda or buy a birthday cake for their child.

You see, you can get a generic mix for under a dollar making the cost of the cake under 2.00 and because the poor are clearly lazy they buy cakes at Costco which is a waste of public funds.


Is that really such a big deal?

Our government gives billions to private contractors to set up our wars. We give billions to the oil companies the most profitable in the word and there are those among you who really worry about whether a poor person bakes or buys a cake?

Okay...so I had breakfast. More delicious strawberries from Gail. Then more of the rice and beans from last night with extra cheese and more fresh tortillas.
Rice and Beans Leftover
Strawberries gift
Cheese .31
Coffee. 30
Chips .40
Total 1.01

For lunch I had cabbage soup.
Soup .24
Iced tea .03
Total .27

And off to the party. I catered the party and at 5:00 took off my jacket and transitioned to guest. Except for carving the meat I was pretty much done.

I ate very little. The stuffed potatoes with the cheese and bacon were good and I had a few. Some ham right off the bone, a little leg of lamb, one glass of wine and one of champagne. I did not even taste the rest of the food. It wasn't until the party was over that I began to get hungry. I went back for more ham. A really good ham is addictive.

When I got home and made popcorn with butter as a before bed snack.

Butter .30
Popcorn .11
Iced Tea .03
Total .44

1,944 calories. Total 1.72.
I have an extra 5.05 for tomorrow.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Month 2, Day 15

I begin with 5.76. I love free food.

Today a bit thanks goes to Amy Mac at Trader Joe's in Stonestown who arranged for Trader Joe's to be a very generous sponsor of the event on the 27th. 

Breakfast is a few of Gail's strawberries, coffee, a few bites of chorizo and cabbage soup.

Coffee .30
Chorizo 0.00
Strawberries 0.00
Cabbage soup .24
Total .54
I made the cabbage soup ahead of time and her is the cost breakdown.

Small cabbage .92
Onion .20
2 tomatoes .40
Bulk Lentils .46
Chicken stock .40

Total for pot 2.38 and I have at least 10 servings. So I gave it .24 a serving.

I ran home for an rich and delicious lunch. Spaghetti carbonara with two eggs and 3 slices of bacon. With 1/2 cup frozen peas.

2 eggs .40
Spaghetti .19
3 slices bacon .66
Parm .37 for one ounce
Peas .25

Apple from Gail 0.00.

My calories may end up through the roof. Thanks to Virgin Mobile's LACK of customer service department I spent much of last night on hold. First I fried fresh corn tortillas and turned them into chips that I ate with Rick's Salsa. I ate a lot of chips. Finally once customer service disconnected me with no resolution I made a Mexican thing with a Chinese cooking technique.

Wok fried rice and beans. WOW...this was good eats.

Chips (10 tortillas) .40
Rice leftover
Beans .50
Cheese .31
Salsa gift
Total 1.21

2,027 calories. Total 2.65

A pretty strong showing in the nutrition department. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Living on A Food Stamp Budget Month 2 Day 14

See that cute puppet. It is from the Grocery Depot,one of our sponsors for the event on the 27th. They will all be featured in this space as we move forward.
I begin may day with 3.20 and a cup of coffee.

In addition I toast some of the pide from yesterday and have it with butter.

Breakfast total .45

And I was off. I had to get to Sausilito to head to the Farm Market to get supplies for a party I am catering Saturday.

I am doing a party for Gail's mother and I did the prep at her house, she bought extra food so I made BLT's for lunch. Rye, amazing tomatoes, Great bacon, crisp lettuce and Cilantro pesto. Wow! Great lunch and my cost.

All day long as I did the prep I had a bite of this, a taste of that. I just spend 45 minutes detailing the ingredients and amounts on fitday. I spent more time tracking the food, than eating it.

Gail is like my Jewish big sister. Otherwise she would be Jewish mother. All day long she kept putting things in a bag for me to take home. I get home and there is a bounty of riches, strawberries from the market this morning the rest of the Rye bread, apples and some of the turkey meatballs I had made for her dinner.

I feel like a fat pig.

I used those meatballs and made a little sauce with pasta. Big meal for 9:00 p.m. (It was a long day)

Sauce (from fresh tomatoes).45
Total .64
Day Total 1.10

This leaves me with 2.10 to carry over into the morrow and a lot of food given to me.

I only hope that at least some of the families struggling with a food stamp budget have friends who upon occasion load them up with turkey meatballs and strawberries.

My painstakingly calculated calories are 2,083.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Month 2 Day 13

I begin my day with 3.83. I am wakened by a phone, but I am hungry so I prepare breakfast quietly and wait for the call to be over before I start chomping down. Liver, bacon and onion Sandwich. AWESOME.

Coffee .30
Grapes .40
Toast .69
Liver .57
1/2 onion .20
2 slices bacon .44
Total 2.60

I run into a friend at the store and his wife bakes, she comes running in with a loaf of pide, which she is baking for Ramadan. Fresh warm bread. Yea!
Lunch Free Bread

I cooked some meat ahead and heavily spiced it, it turned into a sort of a taco. 

Meat .72
Tortillas .16
Cheese .31
Tomatoes .20
Yogurt .20
Onion .10
Total 1.69

4.29 Even at only two real meals I go over. I am now .46 over again.

I have gotten so bad with this budget I really should consider running for congress.

A confession must be made. Despite my heavy calorie consumption yesterday I forgot to include the wine in my calculations. I am adding it to today's calories. In addition there was one glass still in the bottle which I had tonight.

This gives me 1,981 calories, and fairly rotten nutrition except for my Iron.

Tomorrow I am in Marin prepping for a party so I've no idea what I will be eating. I've planned ahead with a soup for when I get home.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Month 2 Day 12

I have 3.49 to begin.

Strange morning, strange dreams. When I awake I have only coffee. I get lost in  email and Julia Child on u-tube and it is noon before I have breakfast.

I got more grapes at .99 a pound but eat only a few. I have toast eggs and bacon, more expensive bacon than before. I got lazy and bought it at Safeway.

Coffee .30
Toast .69
2 eggs .40
3 slices of bacon .66
Grapes .19
Total 2.24

I have almost blown my daily budget.

But good news comes SF Foodie has published one of the articles. Read it and link it anywhere you can think of.

For lunch I had only some of yesterday's mock congee.
2 cups .38

I raced home from the gym and made a quick pasta. I was hungry but I did take the time to cut some chard in the garden and wash it while the water boiled.

Garlic, oil, chard. Bliss.

Chard. 10
Pasta .19
Total .29

But the evening is not over a friend drops by with wine. I have to offer something and the usual things I might offer are not in the house. So I make popcorn with butter. It is great with Italian wine.

Popcorn .11
Butter .30
Total .41
Total 3.32

And I total my day. I have .17 in the positive column to take into tomorrow. YEA!

When I began I had no real idea how difficult this would be. By buying some thins in bulk and some things daily I am making it work, but I will be so happy when it is over. I cannot imagine trying to do this for a whole family and telling a child that we can only afford for him or her to have two cups of soup for lunch.

I had 2,289 calories. Quite a few for so little food. It was the butter ,oil, and white bread. And it's okay. This was my former normal, although obtained via healthier means.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Living on A Food Stamp Budget Day 11

Busy busy day. I will save some of the details for the Huffington Post. I began my diary this morning as a food informant.

I begin my day with 3.29.
I made dirty rice for breakfast, a whole lot of seasoning the chicken I had picked from the bones and rice. It cost .92 to make but I ate only half.
Dirty Rice .46
Coffee .30
Total .76

I ate a portion of the soba noodles with peanut sauce before leaving the house. Cheap lunch .29.

I came home from an interview with SF Foodie and a gym trip HUNGRY. I had a can of cream of chicken soup left on my doorstep with a note. This item is always in stock at the local food pantry, not surprising as it is the kind of thing people would donate. I am asked to work with it and come up with a recipe. For my Asian neighbor I knew Tuna noodle casserole would not do. It was soup so I made soup...a congee lite.

Leftover dirty rice .46
Stock from yesterday .40
Chard from the garden .10
Total for the pot .96.

Per cup that came to .19
I had 3 cups.
Total .57

And onto dinner I took 3 ounces of the Halal beef some broccoli, some pea shoots and rice.
Meat .72
Broccoli .88
Rice .15
Pea shoot .09
Total 1.84

The beef was some of the best I have had and the meal came together beautifully. I am afraid of what my day total will be.
Total 3.46

I reduced my deficit down to .17. I will make it. I have to say that this meal made me feel really good.

My calories came in at 1,573 with about half of them from the rice. I had a lot of rice today. But so what, it is calories that make you fat not carbohydrates. Trust me when I tell you at this calorie level I am not carrying extra weight around.

I am happy that I have a muti-vitamin to take every day along with extra C. Without that I am not sure my energy would be as high as it is.

To be a Food Challenger

Send me an e mail at WilderKJ@gmail.com and I will send you the details about what you need to do to be a challenger

Thanks to Leah Garchick for running the item this morning
If you want to help and are not able to be a food challenger read This It takes a village or a town like San Francisco to make this happen

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Month 2 Day 10

I have 1.39 to make up today but I have a few leftovers that have been accounted for so those are free eats.

I begin my day with 2.27.

Grapes .50
Coffee .30
Small portion of fried rice with a touch of last night's beef and veg .FREE
Total .80

It is a big deficit and unlike the Federal Reserve I can't just go and print more money.

Lunch was a portion of the soba with peanut sauce and cabbage. Really delicious lunch.
Total .29

I am not hungry but my energy is a bit low today. Nonetheless I am heading for the gym. I may skip cardio so as not to provoke my appetite.

Yesterday I bought 3 organic chicken carcasses complete with feet. I want to thank all of you who like your chicken boneless. You allow me to make great soups. I spent 1.77 on chicken bones. I salted and roasted the bones and then picked off of the bones two cups of meat, then made enough stock for as least two soups. I will give the chicken .77 and each measure of stock .50 to account for the entire cost.

When you have a good stock you can put most anything into it and make a great meal. Vegetables, beans, noodles, tomatoes, rice, and lentils. I've learned that cabbage is a great source of C and carrots a great source of A and are two of the cheapest vegetables you can eat. They may well make an appearance in one of the soups. 

I went to the gym and despite skipping cardio I came home with a ravenous appetite. I had one hard boiled egg. I could have eaten much more but I stopped at one.
Egg .20

I was saved by a neighbor who came by with a chicken drumstick. She had taught me Japanese cooking and was trying out Southern fried chicken for guests. She made a few pieces ahead 'to see if they were good'.

It was very crisp, lightly spiced (I tend to use more red pepper) moist and not greasy. I offered my congratulations as I devoured it.

I feel much better.

I proceeded with my planned dinner. I is easier to eat well when you are not feeling the need to eat NOW!

I picked a huge salad from the garden and had the last of the pork sauce with pasta. Now I feel almost stuffed, but in a good way.

Salad .10
Sauce 1.06
Pasta .19
Total 1.35

Day total 2.64
This brings my deficit down to .37

1,798 calories (it was the chicken)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Month 2 Day 9

Yesterday I had 2,400 readers from the Netherlands. I always wonder if someone is linking me in these countries where readership suddenly bumps up.

I begin with 3.24

For breakfast I had some more of those black grapes and some coffee.
Coffee .30
Grapes .50
Total .80

...and for lunch
Meat 1.21
4 tortillas .16
2 scallion .10
Garden lettuce .10
Yogurt .20
Total 1.77

I am worried about this budget and how to maintain it for another two weeks without skipping meals.

I made a dish I have not yet eaten. Soba noodles in spicy peanut sauce. If you have peanut butter, water and some hot sauce and soy it is easy to make a peanut sauce. If you have garlic it is even better. Saute the garlic, add peanut butter a lot of hot sauce, a little water to get to the right consistency and cook with a whisk. Finish with Soy.  Taste great every time.

Soba noodle .40
Peanut butter (2 servings).42
Shredded cabbage .25
The last of the scallions .40
Total 1.47
I can get at least 5 servings out of it making the per serving cost .29 cents.

That works for me.

I thawed some more of the Halal Beef I bought at the beginning of last month. At .24 an ounce I will be weighing my meat carefully at dinner time.

You see, I had a 4 dumpling snack. I took out some of the frozen ones. At .15 each my snack...

Dinner was an exceptionally good beef stir fry. The meat was still partially frozen allowing me to very thinly slice it. I stir fried it with the last of the cabbage and an onion, with a touch of soy and a few fermented black beans it was really good.

Meat (3 oz) .72
Cabbage . 25
Onion .20
Peanut noodles .29
Dinner 1.46

While I know I am over again today I have some of the dinner fry left over and some of the rice from the other night which will give me a free meal since the cost has been accounted for. Hopefully I can make it all up tomorrow.
Today's dollar total 4.63

I carry a deficit of 1.39 into tomorrow. I am behaving like George Bush, spending and then adding it up. Unfortunately I will not have Barak Obama to take the blame. I am on my own here.

Here I am overspending and only managed to get 1,417 calories out of it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Living on A Food Stamp Budget Month 2, Day 8

I begin my day with 3.94.

I had an early meeting in San Rafael and had never driven there so I was up early for coffee. I had no appetite but made myself eat hash browns and bacon. I'd intended an egg but forgot to cook it and when the potatoes were crisp it was time to eat. I had a touch of yogurt with the potatoes.

Coffee .30
Yogurt .20
Potatoes .30
Bacon .60
Total 1.40

I came home for lunch despite a busy day and had more of the pasta with pork.
Sauce 1.06
Pasta .19
Iced Tea .03
Total 1.28

The garden has had a chance to recover from my grazing so I was able to harvest a large dinner salad which was followed by some of the lamb curry which I had frozen and rice.

Salad .10
Lamb Curry 1.43
Rice .15
Total 1.68

1.472 calories and I spent 4.36. Tomorrow I have a deficit of .42 to make up.

It did not seem like I ate that much, but it is very easy to go over. I can see how families get caught short at the end of the month and rely on the food pantries stocked by the Food Bank.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Month 2 Day 7

I begin my day with 3.72.

I've not lost any more weight than the two pounds. I think my body is used to fewer calories and my metabolic rate is a bit lower than it was. I also do less cardio because at the reduced calorie consumption I have found it tires me rather than energizes me.

Coffee went up in price. I had to purchase a different bean than what I was using and it cost more. My tiny pot is now .30 a serving.

Coffee .30
Grapes .50
2 Turkey Quessadillas rescued from the freezer 1.30
Total 2.10

I had to check back to month 1 day 17 to reference the cost of these delicious beauties.

And I was off...I had a meeting at St. Luke's (You didn't think I was putting this whole event on the 27th together by myself did you) and we went over all that needs to be done and confirmed and checked and listed.

And then I dropped by the Chef's program at Episcopal Community Services. This is an amazing program. Led by Chef Bill Taylor they cram two years of instruction into three months. The chefs then go into a 3 month internship and are thus prepared for a job. I was incredibly impressed with the skill level of the chefs in the program. From knife skills to beautiful plating it was clear that these students were there to excel.

Today was the cookoff between the students who had finished the three month program and the interns who had finished their various internships.

Each was given a basked of the same foods and invited to use dried fruits, nuts, cheeses and pantry items to create a meal.

Both teams played it a little safe with salad and stuffed pork loin but there were some standout tastes, and platings.

Our Intern graduate team produced one of the best dinner rolls I have ever eaten. It had a great slightly chewy texture, a good crumb, a beautiful developed flavor and they were served warm. I had 3.

The Intern team also had an exceptional side dish with their pork a Quinoa with nuts and feta cheese. I ate every bite of that.

However out student team had beautiful plates and some really great ideas and execution. They wrote out the menu on brown bags and filled the bags with delicious bread sticks. They sugared cashews and used them atop rice with a mustard sauce. Their dessert won them the competition (it was close)Figs, poached in a citrus sauce and the sauce had been flavored with citrus rind and honey and a bay leaf. None of us could identify the flavor, it was almost like Campari. I was stuffed from all the bread plus the two meals yet I still managed half of the dessert and I scooped up all the sauce with my spoon. The figs had been posed atop a slice of poached apple. The plating was beautiful.

I walked away with enormous respect for the instructors and the students. The students in this program have come from homelessness, drug rehab, prison and other disadvantaged circumstances. The one thing they have in common is that they have all decided that they want a better life and were willing to work HARD to get it.

It is hard to imagine that I got hungry later, but in fact I did. At 9:30 I found myself wanting food, quickly. I took the other half of yesterday's pork and cabbage, ground it a second time in the processor to give it a fine texture 2.22 and to that a can of tomatoes .97 to a total of 3.19. I used 1/3 of it with my standard two ounces of pasta and had a delicious, if heavy late meal.
Sauce 1.06
Pasta .19
Iced Tea .03
Total 1.28

Day total 3.38

Though I did not eat two complete meals at lunch, some of it was just a few bites when I added up all those bites plus my meals I consumed 2,733 calories. WOW.

I have an extra .28 for tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp budget Month 2 Day 6

Today I am grateful to be eating on 3.66 per day. Last night on Anderson Cooper he reported on the East African drought. People are starving to death, millions. Due to political reason little aid reaches these areas and nothing of substance has been done to change the patterns and assist in making the people self sufficient.

Despite the malnutrition of the mothers babies are born every day, many of whom never make it to adulthood or even childhood. With every shipment of food we need to send birth control. In addition to teaching people how to grow sustainable food (when not in drought)we need to teach them the importance of not overpopulating a land that cannot support the population.

I begin my day with 3.94 and I feel rich and fortunate.

I finally caught up with my e mail for the last weekend. I have gotten a lot of criticism and one reader took me to task for not eating more oatmeal, bananas and lentils as they are cheap and nutritious.

While she is not wrong, except for the occasional lentil soup I tend to forget them. I've never been a big oatmeal or banana eater. So Kathy I am sorry to disappoint but I am who I am.

For breakfast I had....
Coffee .25
1/2 pound of black grapes .50
Total .75

At lunch spaghetti carbonara
2 oz pasta .19
3 slices bacon .60
One egg .20
1 ounce Parmesan cheese .37
Total 1.36

...and more chefs to see. I've a lot of 'confirmations' from chefs to participate on the 27th but when it comes to choosing a time they melt into the woodwork. I am in the process of chasing people down to finalize the schedule.

As a result I was introduced to another chef's guilty pleasure; Pork rinds and salsa. While I hate to admit it, this is a good snack.

I looked in my refrigerator before I went back out to the gym. I had corn tortillas, in my basket a really ripe tomato, garden lettuce that had been washed and not much else.

At Guerra's meats I picked up a pound of ground pork for 3.99. (Their wonderful prepared foods and catering chef will be joining us on the 27th, and they have promised to provide us with the Thanksgiving turkey for that date.)I then dropped by the farm market for some cabbage and onions and then...

I made tacos. Really good tacos. I cooked the pork with some cabbage and onion and removed half; to the rest I added a tomato and some seasoning. I stuffed this into the corn tortillas with yogurt, green onion and garden lettuce. I ate well, now let's total it up.

Pork 3.99
Cabbage (1/4 head) .25
Onion .20
Total 4.44

Half of that or 2.22 stayed in the pan and I added....
1 tomato .20 giving us 2.42. I ate half of the 2.42 tonight.

Meat 1.21
4 tortillas .16
2 scallion .10
Garden lettuce .10
Yogurt .20
Total 1.77

An expensive meal. My day total was 3.88 giving me a walloping .06 to carry into tomorrow.

As you can see I did well with certain categories and not so well in others. 1,817.00 calories.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Month 2 Day 5

If you read the birthday post you will understand about the 'lost weekend'.

I begin the day with my 3.66.

I have a new fear of fat. All of my brothers are carrying around too many pounds and one is borderline obese. Seeing two of them for the first time in decades frightened me a bit. While it is possible fat is not in my genetic makeup I am not taking any chances.

For breakfast I had the last of the strawberries, which I admit were a little tired so I sliced them and sauteed them a bit topping them with a touch of yogurt. That and coffee were it.

Coffee .25
Berries .50
Yogurt .20
Total .95

By lunch I was hungry and despite a little travel bloat I opted for pasta with garlic and oil. I went to the garden for vegetables and added masses of chard and some snow peas along with a little parmesan.

This is the simplest of Italian dishes and one of the most difficult to make. You have to get the garlic just right, that barely tan color without any serious browning. Garlic turns bitter when overcooked and can be sharp when undercooked. I got a perfect balance today and tossed with the chard and peas some of the much needed vegetable.

Pasta .19
Garden Vegetables .10
Parmesan cheese .37
Total .63
The oil and garlic fall into the .33 a day I set aside for seasonings and oil. I needed very little oil, it is best to coat all the strands but the pasta should not be swimming in olive oil.

My motorbike needed a small repair so while it was at the mechanic I walked down to the Mission to shop.

Certain communities are very fortunate to have entrepreneurs in their midst who open stores to cater to them. In both Spanish and Asian communities you can find locally owned stores with an abundance of inexpensive vegetables along with a whole host of native ingredients to play with.

I remember in New York, when I lived in Harlem had no locally owned businesses that provided fresh healthy food but Spanish Harlem had a whole host of them with the myriad of peppers and vegetables spilling out of the bins. I would take my bike to Spanish Harlem or the Subway to Chinatown for great food.

San Francisco has the Mission and I got lucky. Locally grown organic black grapes for .99 a pound. Green beans for .33 a pound. Gorgeous local bacon that came to .20 a slice.

So for dinner I had a feast. I cut 3 slices of bacon into tiny bits and browned them. I added in some of the Puttanesca I had pulled from the freezer and cooked a pound of green beans in the bacony sauce.

It was a salt fest, which for me is an ideal dinner. I ate the entire pound of green beans. With a little rice I was very happy.

Green beans .33
Puttanesca sauce .77
Rice .10
Bacon .60
Total 1.80

I made up some of the nutrition I had been lacking but probably under did it on the calories with only 1,406. Too few calories can be as bad as too many so tomorrow I will bump that up a bit. My day total 3.38 I carry over .28.

One of the things I have mentioned before is finding the balance between calories and nutrition. I did much better on nutrition today and as a result had too few calories.

Monday, August 8, 2011

My Mother's 80th birthday party

Dear Readers,

I reserved money from my budget to make the point that if a person or a family is on either food stamps or a very tight budget travel can be a difficult proposition.

Many of us take vacations and family visits for granted, but imagine wanting to have that and not having the means, or the ability to feed yourself if you leave home.

For some people this is a reality.

As I have said many times I am fortunate. My sister Elaine arranged a surprise 80th birthday for my mother this past weekend.

I squirreled all the funds I could from my food budget but ultimately it was not enough. I gave myself 10 dollars a day to eat on and did manage to do that.

On the way I had a (very bad) 3.95 sandwich in the Denver Airport that purported to be an egg, bacon and cheese. The egg was a round spongy thing that resembled egg only in color, the cheese, not cheese at all but an American slice of disgusting blandness the bacon barely there and with no discernible taste and the sourdough roll, not sour and with the texture of a hamburger bun. The culinary offender was schlotzskys. Should you be in their proximity be warned. Even with masses of a very bland mustard breakfast was tasteless.

Nonetheless my baby brother treated to a late dinner on Saturday and my Mother a lovely breakfast on Monday I was able to keep my 10.00 budget intact.

Via Priceline I managed a hotel for 19.00 per day and a rental car for 13.00.

It was a budgetary sound weekend and my mother was delighted and very surprised. She is 80 the way most people are 50, with energy and love to spare. Over 150 people attended her party.

She still works as a director of activities at a senior condominium. It was very touching to see how very loved and respected she is.

I would have told mentioned what was up except it would have ruined the surprise. As it turns out she reads this space and is highly supportive of my efforts. She is all about sharing food.

So readers beginning tomorrow morning I am back on a strict food stamp budget. I carry no money over and will be starting fresh with my 3.66 a day.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Month 2 Day 4

I begin my day with 10.33.

I am purposely trying to hold back some money for the weekend.

If you are a family trying to get by and someone is coming to visit you will need extra food. Many of us would not think too much about feeding a friend or relative for a few days but on a strict budget money has to be set aside to make this happen. It often means the mother of the household will eat less so that food can be held back for the guest.

So I am making do with less as I have something coming up.

I begin my day not with coffee but soup. I woke up with a headache (possible low salt) and a serious asthma attack and slowly sipping salty soup seriously soothes.

Two hours later I had coffee and breakfast.
Coffee .25
3 eggs .60
Hash Browns .32
Morning total 2.06

...and the phone rings. It is Mj my beautiful friend from Paris and she is in San Francisco and wants to see me. Of course I drop everything and run to Chinatown to meet her and show her around.

We have lunch at Capital, a great lunch spot and while I was in the bathroom she paid the check. I protested (I had surplus) and then promised to treat us to coffee later. The meal was delicious. A great bit of mixed crisp vegetable with shreds of beef in a spicy sauce.

It was a wonderful day. I played tourist when she could walk no more we got coffee. IF you stay out of Starbucks you can get two small and delicious cups of coffee for 3.00, she had hot, I had iced. A big chunk of my weekend surplus is gone. Ce la vie.

Remember Month 1 day 17 
I put some of that sauce in the freezer and had it tonight with pasta. Beef and tomatoes, so very American, so very good.
Sauce .77
Pasta .19
Strawberries .50 (1/3 pound)

It was not as good as it was the first time. My salt mill fell apart when I attempted to grind a bit more into the sauce. I spooned it out but it was still a little over salted. I love salt so it was okay for me but I would not have served it to guests.

I was quite worried about missing the gym but considering the caloric content of the day, 1,475 it might have been a good thing.
My total was 7.41.

For many of you lunch out and a cup of coffee are no big deal. Think about the people who have to save money from a food budget to enjoy such a luxury. Wherever you are open up your heart a little bit.

I now only have 2.92 to carry over so my weekend experiment may be a bust. I will report whatever happens.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Month 2 day 3

For those who are still asking me how they can help read this.

I begin my day with 9.80.

Coffee. 25

Hours go by as I respond to e mail make phone calls and realize I have missed a proper breakfast. I made pasta with some of the puttanesca sauce from the other day.
Sauce .72
Pasta .19
Iced tea .03
Total .94

And back to work I went. I am back and forth between chefs, authors, grocery stores, and volunteers and it is good I devote my day to this as it is a full time job.

Before heading out for a very late workout I had 4 more of the enchiladas with extra cheese.

4 enchiladas 1.08
Iced tea .03
Extra cheese .31
Total 1.42

And then the gym and the store. When I stopped for some fresh vegetables there was an amazing sale on potatoes. So I got some really nice new potatoes for very little.

I came home and instead of eating broccoli or something I made hash browns and had them with yogurt.
The potatoes .32
Yogurt .20
Total .52

Not a highly nutritious day, carb heavy and it felt like a milllion calories because of the filling choices but it came to 1, 672 calories.

Total 3.13
I carry over 6.67.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Month 2 Day 2

I begin my day with 9.88

Since I have begun this project I have noticed an increase in readers from outside the United States. By 10 a.m. this morning I had had over 1,000 views from other countries. Among the highest were Spain, The Phillipines, Panama and Jordon.

I had an almost free breakfast; Strawberries and  the last of the dumplings from Saturday in the stock made from the duck bones. Plus coffee.

Coffee .25
Strawberries .50

I was out running around today, and at one point I could not take it anymore. I stopped into a coffee shop and got a toasted buttered bagel .99. They put some cream cheese on the plate but since I did not order it they did not charge me for it.

I was really hungry and happy to be eating but there is no such thing as a GOOD bagel made in San Francisco. They are all soft like a hamburger bun. Even worse, in Minnesota there is a place that makes them with glazes like doughnuts and they are almost as light a donut. Bagels need to be dense and chewy. Why does most of this country not get how to make them?

Remember the vegetables from the other night? I heated the rest of them and tossed in some noodles and garlic. I had this with the remainder of the birthday wine.
Vegetables 1.26
Chinese noodles .25
total 1.51
Day Total 3.74
1,719 calories

I carry over 6.14

Monday, August 1, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Month 2 Day 1

I begin with 8.95.

I quickly start to diminish that amount by  having two coffee this morning.

I had no appetite so I delayed eating until I could manage it. More leftovers were on the menu. I had 8 of the dumplings with the rest of the leftover green bean tofu mix. (tofu was fermented and non GMO).

I was full for a long time. As a late lunch I had a can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup.

Canned soup is not a common food in my house. On month one I dropped two pounds and am having trouble keeping my sodium at normal levels. This soup at one can a day for a few days is enough to restore sodium. I don't know why it works better than extra salt on food, but it does. I take it like medicine in that sense.

At dinner time I wanted to get rid of the leftover chicken, and in the process created more leftovers.

I made enchiladas out of the leftover chicken. The corn tortillas were cheap .33. The sauce was a can of tomatoes with a lot of seasoning .97. I used a lot of cheese 1.86 (6 oz.)and two fresh tomatoes .40.

This made 13 enchiladas. I created a new leftover!!

My cost came to .27 per enchilada. I had 3 for dinner with iced tea.
3 enchilada .81
Iced tea .03

I also had some of the birthday wine I had opened the other night. No cost but calories.

After dinner I had a third of a pound of strawberries.
1,558 calories and I feel stuffed. My body is getting used to less food.

2.73 day cost.

I carry over 6.22

How you can help

Dear Reader,

I have been getting e mail from folks all over asking how they can help. While it certainly helps if you live in San Francisco or have contacts here; read the following and if something applies to you then do it. 

To benefit the SF Food bank; on August 27, 2011 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. I will be  hosting a Cookathon, Iron Chef style. I will be cooking for 12 hours in front of a live audience and there will be constant tastings. Admission to this event is a donation of food for the SF Food Bank.  We are inviting Local Chefs, Actors, Artists, Athletes, Writers and others to drop by with a mystery ingredient to challenge me. Let me explain where I can use help.

1. I would love to have you there, you and all your friends.  If you are on Facebook you can confirm attendance on this page I'll be there We have 12 hours to fill with watchers so do bring friends, as many as you can. The event is at St. Luke's Church on Van Ness and Clay  10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

2. I am trying to get 24 'celebrities' of various types to surprise me with mystery ingredients. Who do you know in the Bay Area? Actor? Athlete? Musician? Writer? Chef? and if you don't know anyone directly who are you six degrees of separation from? I am new in this town and need those contacts. I can be reached at WilderKJ@gmail.com and I would love to have all my confirmations by Friday in time for the press release.

3. You can always send a donation. This links to a donate now button for a paypal donation or a cheque can be sent to St. Luke's, 1755 Clay Street, SF CA 94109, just mark Thanksgiving in November on the memo line. After we take care of any unexpected expenses to produce the event any remaining funds go directly to the Food Bank. The entire amount is tax deductible.

4. If you have some time on the day of the event and want to volunteer that would be great too. You can hand out food samples or greet our guests or....about a hundred different things. Just e-mail me and we will schedule the time.

It takes a village....and a global village linked by computers can do a lot.

Feel free to share or link anywhere you like.

Karl Wilder