Saturday, October 23, 2010

Food Stamp Meals for a Month

The budget was very tight we were in graduate school. We lived on an austerity program.  I didn’t know how to cook very well then, although I thought I was doing well.  The concept of using only ingredients my grandmother would have recognized and few ingredients per dish were not anywhere in my consciousness.  That was more than 30 years ago.  Conservation of resources, making healthy food choices, and as much as possible, making and baking foods from scratch are the way we prefer to live.  The food budget didn’t exist.  I purchased everything I needed to make the meals we loved to eat.    We ate well!  We are healthy, are a healthy weight, exercise almost daily.   So this is not an attempt to morph to a healthier life style.

Why eat on a Food Stamp budget for a month? I catered a wedding dinner for a friend last week. Now, I normally cook for two or occasionally for four or six.  Planning a dinner for 30 is way beyond my comfort zone.  I didn’t want to not have enough food, so I over planned. This week we have been eating up some of the left over fresh food.  We had left over roasted vegetables for breakfast this morning in an egg blanket with left over biscuits.  I was so pleased with myself that all breakfast “cost” was two eggs and a half-ounce of cheese. Then I got to wondering could we eat on well on a very small budget?   It seems to fit the way we eat: all fresh ingredients, foods made from scratch, moderate portions, use everything (I need to work on this more!).  I like a challenge, can I do it?  I love the incentive to create new ways of eating foods and new recipes. 

Although we can afford to buy premium ingredients, I want to see if it is not necessary to spend so much on food.  My husband would like to retire soon. Saving a few hundred dollars a month on food will not determine when he may retire. I am retired, and do not contribute financially. So if I can save some money on food, I feel as if I am earning a little, helping so to speak. I bake and occasionally make meals for friends’ that also earn a little spending money. I am not at all certain these hobbies are profitable, but I earn enough to pay for some of the baked goods we eat.  

I’m getting off track here! November is my experiment month. A challenge because of Thanksgiving.  I expect it will be a humbling, learning experience. The food will be on a budget; how it is processed will not. Last year we built a new kitchen. Induction cooktop, double ovens, tools and utensils, small appliances (toaster oven, mixers, breadmaker, blender, rice cooker, food processor, microwave). I enjoy spending time in the kitchen. Finally there are no frustrations about layout, efficiency, storage, and appliances. I’ve learned a lot about how to cook and plan to use that knowledge to make this experiment work.  We’ll see . .   

Thanksgiving is a great time for this experiment.  One thing I’ve been wondering recently:  food plays an essential role in society, friendships, entertaining, and traditions. What effect does the food budget have on how these human needs are met?  If one does not have enough money for basic food needs, is how human interaction occurs, the frequency and what form it takes different? This may not answer such complex questions. Perhaps that has already been studied. If not, it would be interesting. Do cultural norms arise from one’s financial status? Country club dinners vs. backyard picnics? Okay, side tracked again! 

I plan to prepare these last two weeks of October.  Budgeting will be backwards, because that is just how I do things.  Decide what I need/want, find the least expensive way to get it, adjust or vary ingredients, and take advantage of sales.  Coupons sound good, but rarely do I come across coupons for fresh ingredients.  They are mostly for expensive, processed foods.  Last week the market had a sale on many of the ingredients I use: 10 for $10 and the 11th free.  Bags of fresh spinach; red, yellow and orange peppers, mushrooms.  Buy inexpensive and freeze or use it before it spoils.  So the menus will not be ridged. A good bargain will change my plans. 

I will try to post along the way, every day if possible. How planning is going, menus, recipes, and photos.  It may be pretty basic! I am not a writer or a photographer.  Good luck to me! I think I’ll need it. :-D

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