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Jul 19, 2007 10:11 PM

Eating like a Chowhound on $3 a day – Week 2 menu and recipes

Here’s the reason why …

Eating like a Chowhound on $3 a day – overview

Eating like a Chowhound on $3 a day – Week 1 menu and recipes


Total shopping time: 47 minutes.
Total expenditure $6.34.
Markets visited: Rincon Latino, Giovanni’s, El Cerrito Farmers Market
Menu planning / recipe research: 1 hour

Last week was the big shopping. This week was just picking up some fresh produce which let me be EXTREMELY picky.

On the drive to the El Cerrito Farmers Market I kept an eye out at the little Mexican markets on the way. One had a sign ... corn ... 10 for $1 ... hit the brakes.

Unfortunately the corn was in poor exterior condition. It looked like some had been near a fire. The Asian lady diving into the bin just was removing the husks and plopping what looked like perfectly good corn into plastic bags. Still ... a little too squeamish about it, so I passed.

Decided to see what else they had. Got a great cucumber for 25 cents and a nice small avocado also for 25 cents.

Next stop on the way was Giovanni’s. The most perfect Santa Rosa plums were .49 cents a pound ... 5 plums were 39 cents. AMAZING Dapple Dandy plucots with blushes of gold and green and pink with a deep rose pink flesh ... 59 cents a pound ... 4 plucots 69 cents.

Now to the El Cerrito Farmers Market. HUGE, perfect bunch of Swiss chard for $1 … which turned into 3 main dishes and 2 sides … HUGE bunch. Even larger head of lettuce $1. Ear of delicious yellow corn ... 35 cents. What seems like a positive splurge ... a pretty yellow peach with fresh leaves attached that was everything good about peaches and summer ... 40 cents.

The big splurge was the $2 Ambrosia melon. This vendor has the most exquisite melons ... even sells at Ferry Plaza. This is Chez Panisse-worthy melon ... sweet, juicy with background honey and spice.

I glanced at the Raley’s ad and they had corn for 25 cents and organic romaine lettuce for $1. Didn’t shop there though.

I don’t need to shop at all for week 3 and most of the dinners are already made and in the freezer just waiting to be heated.


Breakfast – Oatmeal with fresh nectarine and cinnamon Coffee with milk

Lunch: Tea sandwiches Cream cheese stuffed celery Glass of white wine. Bowl of exquisite Ambrosia melon

Dinner: Chipotle meat balls, 1/2 ear of Mexican corn (mayo & chili), green salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, radish, cilantro croutons) Vinaigrette 4 tortillas. Bowl of Ambrosia melon.

Snack: popcorn


Breakfast – Oatmeal with hot Dapple Dan plucot, brown sugar and cinnamon topping. Coffee with milk

Lunch: Oscar Meyer smoked ham on rye sandwich with lettuce, tomato and mustard, hot honey mustard dipping sauce with green and gold cauliflower crudities, honey cinnamon apple gelatin Coffee with milk

Dinner: Chicken with Swiss chard and rice, green salad (lettuce, tomato, radish), Vinaigrette, fresh peach, white wine.

Snack: Square of Seeds of Change organic Santa Catarina 60 % Dark Chocolate with mango, toasted coconut and cashews


Breakfast – Oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon. Coffee with milk

Lunch: Chicken soup, baguette, green salad (lettuce, tomato, radish), Vinaigrette strawberry and ‘failed orange marmalade’ gelatin. Coffee with milk

Dinner: Steak tacos with cilantro and salsa fresca, Mexican corn on the cob (mayo & chili), fresh Ambrosia melon with lime and chile.


Breakfast – Cream cheese stuffed French toast with home-made orange marmalade. Coffee with milk

Lunch: Sardine salad lettuce, tomatoes, parley and sliced radish with vinaigrette. Apple cinnamon gelatin. Coffee with milk

Dinner: Sautéed Swiss Chard Stems with “Cream”, Ham and Shell Pasta, white wine, Santa Rosa Plum crisp.

Snack: popcorn


Breakfast – Oatmeal with raisin and cinnamon Coffee with milk

Lunch: Green salad with tuna, avocado, guacamole-style deviled eggs and tortilla chips, vinaigrette, spicy Dapple Dan plucot. Coffee with milk

Dinner: Steak with onions & green pepper, shell macaroni salad, baguette, red wine, Strawberry orange marmalade gelatin.

Snack: popcorn


Breakfast – Oatmeal with hot Santa Rosa plum topping Coffee with milk

Lunch: Tuna salad with raisins and celery on honey wheat bread sandwich, spiced apple gelatin Coffee with milk

Dinner: Fast food condiment packets chicken leg, rice, summer squash Nectarine crisp


Breakfast – Oatmeal with raisin and cinnamon Coffee with milk

Lunch: Ham and egg sandwich Strawberry orange marmalade gelatin Coffee with milk

Dinner: Chicken soup, baguette, green salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber) Vinaigrette Spicy Santa Rosa plum


I’ve given up regularly using salt long, long ago. Anyone who likes salt could add to taste where appropriate.


I was looking at this recipe for tangy chicken legs. I didn’t have ketchup except for packets I squirrel away in a kitchen drawer from fast food meals.

Then it occurred to me that a lot of what was in this recipe I had little packets from fast food joints … ta da … a recipe was born. It was VERY tasty.

I might go for a Chinese version next week … soy sauce packets, Chinese hot mustard and some dried chilies I saved and want to use up anyway. I wonder if coffee will work with that combo or if I need another liquid … ketchup or no ketchup?

BTW, to convert to regular ingredients 1 packet usually equals 1 teaspoon

1 cup brewed black coffee (leftover coffee from breakfast)
4 packets ketchup from McDonald’s
1 packet sugar from McDonald’s
1 packet malt vinegar from H.R. Salt (or any vinegar)
1 packet hot Chinese mustard from forgotten Chinese take-out
1 packet red pepper flakes from pizza delivery
2 packets black pepper from some take out or another
1 tablespoon brown sugar (no packets of that … though I could have used pancake syrup … just didn’t have any)
1 chicken leg

1. As you open packets take a small taste to make sure they haven’t gone bad … some of those packets have been in the drawer a loooong time.

2. Combine first eight ingredients. Bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat, add chicken leg and simmer covered about 45 minutes to an hour. .

4. Serve over rice.


This was amazingly good. When I read the recipe this was based on, it said …serves 2. I thought ‘no way’ … way.

I had two large plastic storage containers of this … two meals … one chicken breast … who would a guessed… will definitely repeat this.

1 teaspoon of olive oil or nonstick spray
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
Chicken breast, cubed
1 cup cooked (brown) rice
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1. Wash chard. Cut stems off chard leaves and dice reserving for another recipe. Pull leaves off of thick center ribs. Tear into spinach leaf size. Chop ribs.

2. Spray skillet with cooking spray.

3. Cook chard ribs, onion, garlic, and chicken over med-high heat for 10 minutes. Heat should not be too high so that mixture sizzles or browns but ingredients are tender.

4. Add chard leaves, and 2 tablespoons water. Cook 3 more minutes, until chard is

6. Add soy sauce and cooked rice and cook 2 more minutes.


The food angels were with me on this.

This could have easily turned to a disaster. I used parts of three separate recipes for guidance. I have never made a white sauce in my life and I was doing it with low fat milk … which started with powdered milk.

So this took A LOT of my attention. However, it was really excellent and pretty.

3/4 cup uncooked small pasta shells
2 cups of chopped Swiss chard stems
2 slices Oscar Meyer smoked ham cut into small squares
1 1/2 tbl Butter
1 1/2 tbl Flour
1 1/4 cups Milk
Pepper and salt to taste

Cook pasta shells and drain.

Blanch Swiss chard stems in boiling water for 3 minutes.

Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in a saucepan. Add the drained, blanched stems and sauté for 4 minutes.

In another pan, melt remaining butter. Stir in flour slowly to make a paste. Slowly add a 1/4 milk, stirring until smooth and flour/butter mixture is incorporated. Slowly add remaining milk

Continue stirring over medium-high heat until sauce has thickened … maybe 15-20 minutes. It seemed like that anyway.

Remove from heat and add ham, pasta and Swiss chard.

Return to low heat until warm. Season with salt and pepper

Because of the dairy-based sauce, I wasn't sure if this could be reheated or frozen. So I put 1/2 cup in the fridge and 1/2 cup in the freezer Microwaving both versions worked well. Actually this tastes good cold too and would make a nice side salad. So this can be made ahead for use as a future meal.


I used this Chow recipe as an inspiration. VERY good.

2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 tablespoon orange marmalade for filling
1 tablespoon orange marmalade for topping
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
2 slices white bread
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon butter

Melt butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat.

In a small bowl, mix together cream cheese vanilla and orange marmalade. Spread the mixture on a slice of bread and top with a plain slice; press firmly.

Beat egg and milk together. Dip both sides of each sandwich into milk mixture

Cook in a frying pan until golden brown, turning once, about 3 minutes per side.

Heat orange marmalade in a microwave for 15 seconds until warm. Top French toast with orange marmalade.


1 hard boiled egg
1/2 small avocado, peeled, pitted, and mashed
1 teaspoon fresh cilantro, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
splash of lime juice, to taste
splash of hot pepper sauce to taste
salt and pepper to taste
fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Slice egg in half and remove yolks and mash. Mix together egg yolks, mashed avocado, cilantro, garlic, jalapenos, lime juice, red pepper sauce, salt, and pepper. Mash well until mixture is smooth and well combined.

Fill egg whites and garnish with fresh cilantro

Note: You will be left with extra filling with this recipe. Top crisp tortillas.

I learned this tip from my SO for crisping or heating tortillas. On an electric range burtner that is set to low, place tortilla and warm until crisp turning once. Keep an eye on it or it will burn.


Remove crusts from three slices of white bread. Use crusts as croutons for another meal.

Spread cream cheese or butter on slices of bread. Top with various veggies, meat, jams. Garnish with herbs. Bread could also be topped with egg, chicken or tuna salads. Cut into quarters and arrange attractively on a plate.

I spread one slice of white with cream cheese mixed with fennel leaves and the other slice of white with butter. A piece of honey whole wheat was spread with plain cream cheese.

The fennel cream cheese mixture: 1 thin sliced cucumber, 1 radish, 2 topped with Oscar Meyer sliced ham.

The butter mixture: 2 sprinkled with salt and topped with sliced radishes, 1 topped with ham, 1 spread with marmalade

The plain cream cheese mixture: 2 spread with orange marmalade, 1 plain ham, 1 ham & orange marmalade.

I garnished with parsley and fennel leaves.


1 tsp honey
1 tsp Heinz spicy brown mustard
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Mix together. Microwave one minute. Use as dipping sauce for raw veggies … in this case, green & gold cauliflower.


Bring one cup of juice with fruit, if any, to a boil. If using fruit simmer 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the other cup of juice in a heat-proof bowl and sprinkle with one packet of gelatin for 1 – 2 minutes.

Add hot juice/fruit mixture to juke/gelatin mixture and stir. Put in individual serving cups and chill

Strawberry and ‘failed marmalade’ : 2 cup Juicy Juice 100% strawberry kiwi juice. I tried to make marmalade out of an orange. I had a cooked orange … what to do … what to do … threw the orange in the strawberry jello … it was fabulous. Stew one thinly chopped orange with 4 teaspoons of sugar until soft. Proceed as above to make jello.

Honey apple cinnamon gelatin: Two cups Tree Top apple juice, 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 tablespoon honey.

ORANGE MARMALADE – the sort of successful version

Really marmalade is harder than it looks. The first didn’t turn out so I used it for an orange-strawberry gelatin which actually was excellent. I was annoyed and tried again.

1 orange sliced as thinly as possible
3 cups of water
1/2 cup sugar

Place chopped orange in a saucepan and add water. Put in the fridge for 24 hours.

Bring to a boil then simmer oranges and water about 2 hours or rinds are VERY tender.

Cool and cut rinds into small pieces. Place in refrigerator and allow standing another 24 hours.

Measure out fruit. Add an equal amount of sugar. I actually had 3/4 cups of fruit but cut the sugar to 1/2 cup. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until marmalade thickens, about two hours.

OK, I cooked this down too much, so it was on the thick side, more like fruit butter. Still I got a small jelly jar of ‘marmalade’. This probably takes practice.

Also at first I tried using 1/4 cup of sugar which wasn’t enough. It seems the idea is to have the sugar as a sort of base for a simple syrup which the pectin in the orange peels jells.

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  1. Wow, I am in awe. Reading through your menus and recipes makes me realize how wasteful I am and that it is truly time to improve. When I bought beets the other day I thought I'd do something with the greens but they are just sitting there, unused. I let 3 bananas go bad to the point of no return and I'm pretty sure there are shrivelling carrots in the veg drawer, too. It's shameful waste, I know. When I think of what you could have done with a nice bunch greens, handful of carrots and 3 bananas it makes me shudder with regret.
    You are very creative and I'm going to print this off for inspiration.

    Many thanks.

    5 Replies
    1. re: xena

      very creative - totally made me smile about the packets as i have tons in the fridge that once a year i throw out. now maybe i know why i keep them!

      2 points:
      to xena - as your bananas start to go bad bag them and throw them in the freezer. they'll blacken but be fine and 3 is usually the perfect amount for banana bread later.
      to rworange - i still can't get over your produce prices. i mean i know you're "working" for deals and i commend you but there is still no way i could find that here - the farmer's markets or anywhere. but still well done.

      1. re: AMFM


        Giovanni's was a real find. However, it is supermarket quality produce. Even with my ode to the plucot, the taste wasn't all that. It was more visual. However with a sprinkle of cinnamon and brown sugar and heated in the microwave, something delicious happens.

        The point is, that on my regular budget, I don't often shop at Giovanni's ... I'm more into that 'pricy' $2 lb farmers market produce.

        I don't shop at Rincon Latino that often and even I was shocked to get a 25 cent avocado.

        IMO, in most of our lives we are fortunate enough to buy top of the line and scrutinizing stores for bargains doesn't happen. We pass by the bargains. I shopped at Raley's for weekly for two years without noticing the bargains.

        And even markets have the bargain like Raley's 25 cent corn.

        So the bargains might be out there undiscovered ... knowing the stores with the super prices is a big help.

        I wanted to do fresh produce, but nothing is wrong with canned or frozen and there can be some deals there and a little spice can turn an ordinary can of veggies into something a little better.

        1. re: AMFM

          Thanks AMFM, that's a great idea. Next time!

        2. re: xena


          One of the big things when on this type of budget is storing things correctly so they don't go bad. A big help is storing produce in glass jars ...

          The summer squash, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, parsley and radishes I bought on week 1 are still looking prime.

          With things like greens. blanch and freeze immediately. Ditto with the carrots. Once they start to get close to not great. cook and freeze.

          Celery wrapped in aluminum foil will keep for weeks.

          I'm using supermarket quality fruit for the most part, so storing them in the fridge isn't going to hurt the flavor. However, if they look like they might start to go, I'll make some of the fruit desserts immediately and freeze. Actually could have done that all at once and save myself a little cooking time.

          One other thing is that shopping at Farmers Markets gets fresher produce often at lower prices. The first bunch of lettuce lasted a week and a half. It was picked that day. Unlike the supermarket lettuce that takes a few days to go from farm to truck to warehouse to market to shelves. So buying store produce rarely lasts as long.

          Dang, looking for that glass jar post, I came across this Chowhound Digest post about making microwave marmelade. I could have saved myself all sort of work. Love the digest

          1. re: rworange

            Thanks for the great info and links. I usually only save small jars to use for viniagrette but will now hang onto some large ones, too. I am determined to pay closer attention to all of this, thank you for your help!

            Wow, love the easy microwave marmalade recipe!

        3. Excellent post, I ditto the comments posted! I am a wasteful chowhound and therefore don't think I am truly a legit cook because I lack the ability to recycle! I loved your creativity and meal choices!!!

          1. mucho applaudissements

            1. Thank you for raising our collective consciousness about this issue and leading with your example!

              In flow with you, I made a simple lunch for me and the folks on thursday. A sliced heirloom tomato (62¢ from Farm Fresh Produce stand) interleaved with some discount creamy havarti cheese ($2.99/lb @ Grocery Outlet) with a slug of EVOO (also from Grocery outlet), four deviled eggs ($1.10/dozen and now two weeks old) made with cutrate Best Foods mayo and dry mustard from Grocery Outlet, a dash of tabasco, and minced scallion (25¢ bunch special at Fiesta Foods). Ten slices of dry salami (from Costco), and a half pound of Bing cherries ($1.99/lb weekly special at SaveMart). Can't calculate the condiments exactly, but at most this cost $2.25 for the three of us.

              1. Awesome post. You have certainly proved you can eat well on a limited budget-don't have to have ramen noodles or mac n' cheese! Am going to bookmark this post- the recipes look great, and the idea is inspirational.