So on Thanksgiving I opined that it is not expensive to eat healthy foods. I've been issued a challenge. I have an $18/ week food budget for the middle two weeks in November. $18 being the rough midpoint from what you would receive from a food bank, and what Social Services factors in for your food budget if you were receiving welfare.
There are a few rules:
1. I have to stay away from wheat which makes it a bit tricky. Not only because I gain weight but because that's too much of a crutch.
2. I can't accept food from someone because they know I"m doing the challenge. I can eat food that is ordered for a work function, or birthday cake, for example - but not handouts.
3. I am not allowed to use anything in my fridge or pantry except olive oil, salt and pepper.
4. I am not allowed to travel any more than 30 minutes out of my way to shop for food but I can shop as often as I need to until I spend my $18. I am at Woodbine/Danforth and work downtown .
My initial thoughts were to:
- adopt a vegetarian diet for the two weeks
- buy dried beans, lentils and brown rice from the Bulk Barn (mostly because I don't have to buy a predetermined amount. )
- ditto for spices
- stay away from the large grocery stores (their produce markups are insane!)
- try one cuisine for a few days, then make a soup with the leftovers. ex. black bean, tomato, garlic, onion, cilantro, rice
Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can stretch my dollars? perhaps a suggestion on a high nutritional impact/inexpensive produce options?
any help would be appreciated!
When you say it would be vegetarian, would it be lacto-ovo, so that you can eat eggs? If so, I would include eggs because one carton can go along way in 2 weeks for one person. You can boil them and have one a day for a high protein snack in the afternoon.
If you can travel on the subway, you can get to Danforth and Pape within your allowed distance and got to The Fruit King and others in that area, where produce is generally cheaper. One head of leaf or romaine lettuce can go a long way. Small squashes are economical and can go along way in a soup. If you make a butternut squash soup with one apple, a small onion, a couple ribs of celery and a carrot to start, add a bay leaf and other spices to taste (depending on what you can get at the bulk barn). Use water instead of stock and blend it all together, you'd have a nice soup that could be lunch for a week.
My graduate student survival food-- 1 bag lentils, 1 bag rice, 1 can tomato sauce, 1 packet chili seasoning, and, if flush, a kielbas. Dump all into a wok, add lots of water, bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook. High protein, no wheat, and makes a ton.
I eat for about 20-25 dollars per week, eat pretty healthy, and am perfectly content. I shop around. A lot. I buy meat that is on sale, and limit my meat purchases to about 8-10 dollars. Then, I buy frozen veggies, whatever is on sale. If none of the frozens are on sale, then I buy canned. Or, if there is a really good deal on something fresh (for example, Kale is on sale for .99 a pound this week...I will be buying and making lots of kale!), I get that. A favorite cheap and nutritional dish of mine is beans and pork. I buy cheap pork shoulder steaks (I think they're less than 3 bucks for almost a pound of meat). I toss two cans of kidney beans and a half a can of water in a pot. Cook the pork in a pan with some adobo spice rubbed on it. Then, add a sprinkling of adobo and a couple big spoonfuls of sofrito to the beans. Let simmer. Add cooked meat, let simmer a little longer. Serve over rice, or eat plain out of the container. It's a delicious and easy meal, and with rice, I can usually get 3 or 4 meals out of it.
Soups are great options, especially if you use water and flavorful ingredients. You could make a lentil soup with vegetables and eat from that for a few days. If you can get fresh vegetables marked down or cheap, try making a variation of the weight watchers vegetable soup. It's basically a hearty vegetable soup that lends itself to many variations.
I wouldn't limit myself to vegetarian. A little meat or salt pork helps beans and rice a lot. I'm assuming your cooking for just you.
Make a big batch of beans and ham hocks, a batch of rice for stir frys, a big batch of Mac and cheese. If you want to really be cheap, you could make the box kind and add some vienna sausages or cut up wieners or whatever to it. You might make a batch or vegetable stock and throw in any veggie scraps or leftovers in there. The stock would be a good place to throw in any of those beans or rice you have. That ought to last you a week then repeat.
Don't forget the beans and rice together with spices....Cajun style.
Oh, you could pretend you are an Asian farmer and primarily have rice then go fishing. Anything you catch, throw it in.