Thursday, October 27, 2011

Challenge Report for Day 1

Grandma's breakfast was the most expensive, at $1.35.

Yesterday went well, but it took a lot of time to figure out the cost of things I bought in bulk. Calculating meal costs will go faster as the days go by and I get to know the portion costs for more things.

Breakfast: $2.71
SO: Banana (.20)
DD15: Nothing
Grandma: Eggs, fried potatoes, toasted roll, applesauce, tea (1.35)
Me and a guest: oatmeal (.95) and tea (.21)
I drive my SO to the bus station downtown each morning at 5:30. About 2-3 days a week, I also pack him a lunch and make breakfast to-go. This morning, there was only time to grab a banana. We go through 4-6 bananas every day. Happily, they are cheap.

I get back by 6am to supervise DD15 getting ready to go to school. Sometimes she eats something, but often not. I would have at least made her toast, but she needed me to print out the homework she left to the last minute. She gets on the bus at 6:50.

Hmm, I can see that this Challenge is going to reveal all of my little failures as a parent. Two people left without food, so far.

A friend came for breakfast at 7:30, so I had a chance to redeem myself. I made us oatmeal. Hot cereal with seasonal fruit is a staple here, and I keep jars of oatmeal, raisins, whole grain cream of wheat. One serving of oatmeal, all dressed up, still costs less than 50 cents.
Oatmeal - 1 cup dry (2 servings) (.12)
raisins 1/4 cup (.14)
salt, sprinkle of cinnamon sugar
1/2 cup homemade chunky applesauce (.25)
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt (.34)
drizzle of honey (.10)
My mother showers and dresses very slowly, so she did not appear until almost 10am. She usually has oatmeal, but today she asked for eggs and potatoes. It is unusual for her to be able tell me what she wants to eat these days, so I usually try to give her what she wants if she does ask. She does not have diabetes or heart disease, so her dietary limits are only the ones imposed by her dementia - she forgets what she likes to eat, asks for the same things, and fears eating too much. I give her a protein supplement like Boost or Ensure, with increasing frequency. I get them at the grocery liquidator for .25-.50 instead of several dollars at the store.

I am working through a 20-lb sack of Kennebeck potatoes I got from a farmer in Lancaster county for $7 (.35/lb), when I had to drive in that direction for a dentist. I also have 3lb bags of onions I got for .99 each. I buy day-old bread and rolls from the local grocery to make crusty toast. I buy eggs for .88-.99/dozen at Bottom Dollar or Aldi. Potatoes, onions, and eggs are big staples for us, and can appear at breakfast, lunch or dinner in various forms.
a half-pound potato (.18)
bit of caramelized onion from the fridge (.02)
house seasoning (salt, peppper, granulated garlic)
tbl canola oil (.01)
2 eggs (.15)
tbl butter (.18)
day-old roll (.25)
2 tbl homemade white peach and lime jam (.25)
2 tbl ketchup (.02)
1/2 cup warm homemade applesauce (.25)
decaf tea (.04)
A word about tea. All of us are decaffeinated. We favor Giant-brand decaf tea, which costs $2.99 for 72 bags - I buy 10 boxes if it is on sale. So, that's about 4 cents a cup. I also like fancier herbal teas, which average 2.19 on sale for 20 bags - but I also get those deeply discounted at the liquidators. And, I brew pitchers of iced tea with family-size bags that cost about $2.50 for 24 - about 10 cents per pitcher.

Lunch: $2.30
SO: On his own - brewed him a pitcher of tea for later (.10)
DD15: School lunch
Grandma: PB crackers (.19), tea (.04), raisin bagel (.37) butter (.18) banana (.20)
Me: tuna (.49), Miracle Whip (.03), 12 Triscuits (.40) banana (.20) tea (.10)
My mother and I eat at different times, because she comes down late and naps off and on in front of the TV all day. I get things done when she is asleep. The stove has the knobs taken off, so she will be puzzled about how to turn it on if she wakes up and comes into the kitchen when I am elsewhere in the house. She is no longer safe with hot or sharp things.

Time to start thinking about dinner. Let's look in the fridge! I am always patrolling the fridge to make sure we use leftover bits of food. Food waste is your enemy. You want to use every bit. You keep an eye on what is going to get old soon, and use it.

On the door of the fridge are eggs, butter, milk. More important are the condiments. I don't quite know how I will cost out the use of these, but I will give it a shot as I go along. The "rules" of the Challenge say you don't have to count spice and condiments. But, gee, people on actual food stamps do!

The bottom of the fridge has a chunk of cabbage, a few Brussels sprouts, some carrots and celery. The drawer on the right isn't "mine" - I am storing condiments for someone that is moving. The meat drawer has a bag of shredded cheddar, a few links of chiorizo, and some sliced Swiss. The messy-looking shelf has a bag of pizza dough, a bag of pulled pork from last week's roast, some cooked hot Italian sausage, and the pickle jars. There is normally more produce in there, but I didn't get to the store yet.

The top left shelf is homemade jelly, chutney, pesto, a jar of cooking wine, containers of things like yeast and wheat germ. Below it is the "use me now" shelf with a container of cooked macaroni, homemade pizza sauce, jars of stock and sauces. On the top right are several large chunks of cheese, some soy milk, mayo, yogurt, and leftover pasta Florentine. Below it is a chunk of Government Cheese, a container of roasted squash, and some sour cream.

Need to keep using that pork or freeze it. I got a great deal on a 9-lb boston butt, and it was almost all meat, with little bone or fat. I think I got 7 lbs of cooked meat for $10.21. We have gotten at least 4 meals and have a lot left. The hot sausage, I sliced and froze for future pizza.

So, I think Pork Fried Rice for dinner. I made a 6-cup batch of Basmati cooked in chicken stock. The leftover rice will be used later in the week. Cooking a big batch for now-n-later is a time-saver when you do a lot of scratch cooking.

Dinner: $6.67
SO, Grandma, Me: Pork Fried Rice (3.75)
DD15: Coke Slushie, bag of popcorn, bag of Cheetos (2.92)

Whaaa? Did you just read that DD15 had popcorn and a Slushie for dinner?? Yes, with her own money. But I am counting the cost for the Challenge. She came home from school and said she had eaten enough lunch. Food is not a battle I fight with her, most days. I buy her ingredients, she makes food, or not. She has a weekend job at a fast food restaurant, and decides how to spend her earnings.

I stopped at Aldi when I picked up SO from the bus station at 6:30. (Yes, he had a 13 hour day. Most days.) I spent $8.92 on broccoli, yogurt, black pepper, hot cocoa mix, bananas, and eggs. I will include their cost as I use them.

This is how the Pork Fried Rice broke down:
2 cups basmati (.80)
4 cups chicken stock (leftover from other cooking)
1 lb cooked pork (1.35)
1/2 lb cabbage (.30)
6 brussels sprouts (.45)
med. onion (.15)
2 eggs (.15)
assorted seasonings and condiments.
Total for the Day: $12.22 (surplus: $4.28)
Breakfast: 2.71
Lunch 2.30
Dinner 6.67
Misc tea and snacks (.44)
The average daily budget is $16.50. (You might remember that we have $115.50 for the week.) I am happy with this day. I would have liked to come in under $10, but Cheetos happen.


  1. Oh, I love that your daughter chooses that stuff--only because it makes me feel better about what my daughter prefers...hah! You are not a bad mom; you give her a great example of what real food and cooking is and that's more than a lot of kids get these days. And I bet a lot of days she chooses better, right? Right? I have to cling to those thoughts with my own sweet-addicted DD12. :)

    I love that you're taking the time to price out everything. I do hope it gets easier, soon. Your pork-fried rice looks amazing.

    Do you read Hillbilly Housewife at all? I love her meal plans for certain budgets, though when we can afford more (which is usually, these days) I would eat a little more nutritiously than she plans for. Making your own tea and depending on that for a regular "treat" beverage is a big one for her, and we use that stuff daily too. I'm so glad I got my kids used to drinking brewed tea at a very early age.

  2. She does eat better, some days. Hopefully, one of these days I am documenting! In the summer when fruit is cheap and plentiful, she does a lot better. She has been a strange eater since she was 5.

    I still crave commercial Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey, but the caffeine makes me sleep poorly. Or coffee shop Chai Latte. I love frozen Green Tea Frappuccino from Starbucks, and they sell them in our Target, damn them!

    I have read Hillbilly Housewife, and she has good tips. I find her website hard to navigate, and she uses more canned food than I would like.

    Really, the stuff she ( and you and I) do is not rocket science. It is just that many families have come to rely on convenience food, and their kitchen setup and habits are not focused on the rhythm of scratch cooking.

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  4. Exactly, about the lost art of cooking from scratch. I love that you called it "grandma food", because that's exactly what I think of it. My grandma cooked very simply, but it was real food and it was tasty. We need to go back to Grandma's ways!