I have been reading food blogs for several years. The blogs with really pretty pictures, the blogs with true and tested recipes, the blogs that care about the origins of food, environment, and sustainability, and the blogs that deal with food policies, trying to make a statement. My blogroll is as immense as my interests. I learned a lot from the veterans and I still keep on learning. This is my first year of active participation in the blog-world and I am perfecting my style of writing, my voice, and my agenda.
I have always been frugal, especially with food, and feeding my family on a strict budget, without sacrificing quality or taste has been my credo for years. Both of my parents lived through a period of scarcity in childhood, and they instilled in us a very specific view of food. To this day I cannot stand to see a morsel wasted. I recycle the leftovers, buy in bulk, and freeze. I roam the stores looking for a sale, shop at ethnic markets knowing I can get a deal on various items, and bask in glory when I manage to replicate a nice restaurant meal at home.
I remember reading in 2007 on Kate’s extremely educational and thought-provoking blog Accidental Hedonist the official USDA report on US food spending on four different levels. The amount listed for “low” astounded me, because I fed my family of five, with frequent long-staying visitors for about that amount. This included the toiletries, cleaning supplies, and alcohol. And we were not hurting for money.
In September of 2008, the San Francisco Food Bank initiated The Hunger Challenge for the first time. I heard about it on one of my favorite blogs, Cooking with Amy. The participants had a budget of $3.00 a day per family member (the approximate value of food stamps in California) and a week to try to envision the life of the poor. At the time I chuckled because the idea hit too close to home, after we got completely destroyed by the mortgage industry crash. We fought every day just to survive until another sunrise, too proud to apply for any assistance.
But this year I have decided to participate. We are not living the life of plenty, but the Beasties need constant reminding that nothing should be taken for granted, especially not food. They have given up toys, games, and clothes to take to an orphanage. A tenth of their weekly allowance goes into a can for charity. And this holiday season I plan on taking them to a soup kitchen, just to face the reality and imagine the life of the indigent.
The food stamps amount has risen in the last year to allow the “luxury” of $4.00 per family member a day. For the purposes of this exercise, that includes all the food and drinks during the day. I have a college-ruled notebook and a calculator nearby. I collect all the receipts from the stores and apply my superb mathematical skills in adding, multiplying, and dividing. I had a stocked pantry, pretty full box freezer, and all necessities safely stored in the fridge. We did not have to start from zero this time, like we did back in 2008. And even though it has been only two years since then, this little adventure is definitely going to teach us not to get lax, not to get self-indulgent, and not to forget how it feels to be hungry.
Roasted red peppers sautÃ©ed with cream cheese
Whole wheat ciabatta rolls
$1.33 per person
- milk â€“ .15c (cup)
- peppers – .37c each (we had two each)
- cream cheese – $1.99 for 8oz, .50c for 2oz, divided by four (.12c)
- lard â€“ rendered by my friend at .39c a pound for pork fat
- ciabatta rolls – $2.49 for four (we had two, a half each, .32c pre half)
ROASTED RED PEPPERS WITH SOUR CREAM (PAPRIKE NA KAJMAKU)
- 2 Tbsp lard or sunflower oil
- 8 red, orange or yellow bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and destemmed
- 2-3oz cream cheese
- salt and pepper
Heat the pan on medium-low heat. Melt the lard or add the oil. Season the peppers on one side and put them in the skillet seasoned side down. Season the other side and let the peppers warm up. Scoop up several little piles of cream cheese and put into the skillet. Turn the peppers and lay them on top of the cream cheese. Allow the cheese to melt a bit. Take off the heat and serve with a lot of freshly baked bread to soak up all the juices.
Grilled cheese sandwiches
.59c per person (I did not eat lunch, too stuffed from breakfast)
- Sarah Lee Buttermilk Bread, 2 for $4.00 (1 slice=.10c)
- Havarti cheese (Costco, $6.00 a pound, .18c a slice)
- Butter, $2.00 per pound
- Peaches, .49c per pound at our local Persian store (1/2 large peach=.5c)
- Fritos, $2.00 a bag (kids got about .10c worth each)
- Milk, .15c per cup
Cream of celery soup
Hunter pork schnitzels with gravy
$1.89 per person
- Soup, .70c
- Pork loin, $1.99, Costco ($2.70, it was a bit more then a pound)
- Flour, garlic, white wine, homemade stock, vinegar, salt, pepper, parsley, .50c
- Potatoes, .89c per 10 pound bag at our local Persian store (2lbs=.18c)
- Beets, roasted, dressed with vinaigrette and garlic, .69c
- Soda for the kids, .20c each
- Wine for the adults, $2.49 a bottle (1 glass each=.62c)
CREAM OF CELERY SOUP
- 1 Tbsp sunflower oil
- ½ large onion, diced
- 5 celery stalks, diced
- 1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
- 1 quart chicken (or vegetable) stock, or water
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
Heat the oil on medium heat and sautee the onions until translucent, 6-7 minutes. Add the celery and the potato, and cover with stock or water. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat up to high until it boils, and then turn back to medium to medium-low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Puree with the immersion blender and pass through a mash to get rid of the celery strings. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Keep on low heat until ready to serve. Serves 4.
TOTAL: $3.81 per person
With .50c for the morning coffee for the adults, and .60c for the bed-time ice cream for the beasties, I had to add another .27c per person.
GRAND TOTAL FOR THE DAY: $4.08 per person.