The Hunger Challenge has taught me a lot about the value I place on eating, dining out, and the luxurious nature of food for much of America. It has also, quite unfortunately, made me reconsider that $10 jar of almond butter. I’ve tried to avoid feeling as though this week’s $84 budget is in any way a ‘great way to save money!’ because that, to me, seems to trivialize the empathy I’m fostering for those who aren’t just saving money, being frugal, or even supermarket savvy. There are millions who are living on means less than me, and just barely breaking even at the end of the week. Leftovers are a luxury, and I understand that better now.
And though I won’t call this challenge ‘fun,’ I will say that I appreciate how creative I’ve felt in the kitchen. It’s terribly easy to just go to the market and fill a basket with the ingredients to prepare any meal your palate fancies. It’s more impressive to pull together supper from the staples in your pantry. So, for the past few days, I’ve really focused on eating practical, simple, meals with whole, real ingredients.
The best news is that I’ve found it is possible to still eat well, to still incorporate many (stress: many) fruits and vegetables, despite a shrunken wallet. And that’s saying a lot, considering how veggie-centric I am. Each day has been satisfying and right on target with my $7 budget. Breakfast is the same most mornings: the peanut butter banana oatmeal that I’ve always adored and addicted myself to. Here is a recap of the cheap, but oh so tasty, meals I’ve made:
Tuna burgers made with canned solid white tuna fish, brown rice, scallions, parsley, garlic, and lemon juice. Recipe coming soon! $1.50 per burger
Mexican beans and rice plate with brown rice, black beans, canned corn, sauteed peppers and onions, chopped romaine, chopped tomatoes, and sour cream. $2.00 per plate
I turned leftovers from my rice and beans dinner into a salad bowl with olive oil and fresh lime juice, for lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday. $2.00 per salad bowl
For dinner, I cooked a box of elbow macaroni, which was on sale for $0.99 and paired it with homemade marinara sauce and leftover roasted chicken from the bird I prepared on Sunday.
I doubled my traditional recipe for marinara sauce (the best in the world, by the way), and sadly omitted the oregano since it wasn’t in my budget this week. I also substituted brown sugar for white since that is all I had on hand. I poured half of the fresh sauce into an old glass jar and froze it for future use. Marinara sauce comes out to be $1.75 per 16 ounce jar
I served the chicken pasta alongside roasted broccoli. Altogether: $2.25 per serving
Even though I didn’t have soy sauce on hand, I still managed to make a tasty tofu dinner by stir frying lots of garlic and a mountain of fresh vegetables in sesame oil and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
Daniel and I each ate the stir fry with a cup of brown rice and wooden chopsticks that I snagged from the sushi section of my local grocery store. $2.15 per serving
Snacks include lots of fresh fruit- apples, grapefruit, and oranges.
…And lots of fresh cookies. Chocolate chips are absolutely a pantry staple.
Overall, a very balanced and satisfying week of meals. I’m happy to have never felt hungry, but at times I’ve felt a bit constrained by my budget. There were moments where the only thing that seemed to stand between me and happiness was an iced coffee and a Top Pot doughnut, but alas, the budget cannot bend quite as easily as my notion of a ‘complete’ breakfast :)
What have you been eating this week?