Tuesday, February 10, 2009

$3.33 a day: Starting to feel the pinch

Pumpkin Chia Breakfast Pudding

First, this pudding is delicious. I used 8 oz silken tofu, 1 c canned pumpkin, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, stevia, lemon juice and chia seeds. Topped with a bit of high fiber cereal, it is a healthy alternative to the oatmeal I've been eating. This made two large servings and my son enjoyed it too. I will probably use the rest of the tofu and pumpkin in a pasta sauce for dinner.

OK.. I will admit that this challenge is starting to get hard. I still have quite a bit of food to work with and I only spent my $10.00 last week. I haven't spent anything yet this week and again, am only giving myself $10.00 to work with.

I'm very low on coffee and silk creamer. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about this situation. I really enjoy 2 big cups of coffee everyday with french vanilla silk. My oldest son also drinks a cup in the mornings when he's here. I usually buy fair trade, organic coffee not only for the environmental implications, but I am a coffee snob and it tastes better. I think I spend around 8 bucks a week just on this alone, so obviously it is NOT in my budget. I could cut down to small cup a day or I could drink black tea with vanilla soymilk instead.

I'm also having a bit of an emotional hard time with this for several reasons. As anyone who has read me for a while knows, my relationship with food is quite complicated. I know I use it for comfort and have tried many ways to break this cycle. I also use cooking and creating new recipes as a way to relax. I REALLY enjoy thinking up new recipes and finding fun ingredients to work with. I have come up with so many awesome recipe ideas in my head, but I don't have the ingredients and it is frustrating. I know I can push myself to create fun foods with what I have in the house, but I have run out of some of my GOTO ingredients like braggs, miso, fresh herbs, veggies, umeboshi vinegar and some spices. I would need at least $25.00 to replace what I am missing.

Another thing, my boys are 15 and 17. They eat a lot and I'm trying to feed them as healthy of a diet as possible, so that is a challenge. It's a stretch to be creative and provide a large amount of food with limited ingredients. They are not vegan and I usually keep some cheese and milk on hand for them.

The last thing that is frustrating me is that I had to cut my cable and internet connection. I only had basic, but obviously I can't afford anything at all extra right now. I have been able to pick up neighborhood wireless at least, so that is a huge relief. I can't get any stations at all on TV. I hate to admit, but I really enjoyed TV. I know I'll get used to all of this (and so will the kids) but right now it kind of sucks. That being said, on a larger scale, I see that all of this is a HUGE growth opportunity for me. I am VERY fortunate and I have a roof over my house, I am safe. I live in a country where I feel safe.

OK.. enough kvetching and onto the food!

Arugula, 3 sprout and pumpkin seed salad with ranch

My alfalfa sprouts are finally done! They aren't GREEN yet. They are sitting in the window as I type this. The final process in sprouting is to rinse the hulls away and drying. I do this in my salad spinner. Rinse several time and spin as dry as possible. Next, spread on plates or platter lined with a clean dishtowel or paper towels and set in a sunny place for at least 24 hours. Change the towels when they are and turn the sprouts over. You want them to be 100% dry before you put them in the fridge. The drying process will allow your sprouts to keep for 5-6 days in the fridge. I like to put mine in a Tupperware wrapped in a paper towel (you can re dry the paper towels from the draining process and use it) or better yet a cloth dish towel. (I need to do laundry or I would be using the cloth)

Still drinking the green smoothies. I am out of spinach and only have a tiny bit of kale left. Arugula is pretty good in the smoothies, but I wouldn't give it to a novice green drinker! hehe

We've almost killed off the white bean/sweet potato chowder from last post. I have a 2 cup portion in the freezer for later and 2 cups of the white beans in the freezer. That pound of beans went VERY far and isn't done giving!

I made a quart and a half of salsa using canned tomato, jalapenos, onions, garlic, spices, lime juice and cilantro. It really spicy and delicious and best of all only cost around $2.00 for the 6 cup batch!
White Bean, Bulgar and Kale Chili

I should just give up and re-name this blog SOUP and BURGERS. I am boring myself with the food (this is what I was talking about earlier).. While this was delicious, I am sick of the flavors and ingredients. I used leftover white beans, kale and salsa to create this soup. I topped it with tofu ranch. It was extremely flavorful, but as I said, I'm sick of these flavors.

Total Amount spent this week: $0

Total Left: $10.00


  1. I can't imagine trying to do $25/week and feed two kids, so kudos to you.

    I ended up giving up my beloved Diet Coke (I don't drink coffee) to keep costs down, so now I'm only drinking filtered tap water (too gross here without the filter) and the occasional cup of tea. It took me a week to get through the caffeine withdrawal, but I sure sleep better now! (I had a SERIOUS diet coke habit like you wouldn't believe).

    Parsley grows like you wouldn't believe in windowsill containers, as do basil and chives!

    Do you have an antenna for your tv? Try checking out antennaweb.org (sp?) and dtv.gov if you need a digital converter box to make an antenna work. I'm using an antenna with a digital TV, and can get almost all of my local broadcast networks (inc. NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, PBS and CW).

    Good luck!

  2. thank you for stopping by my blog! I don't think there's anything wrong with cooking as a way to unwind—i find chopping veggies to be especially helpful on that front :-) Is there someplace that you can shop for bulk veggies/beans/grains? That would definitely help . . .

  3. Jody, I am seriously considering giving up caffeine completely.. oy.. I've done it before and I know it can be done.. (just dreading the headache)

    Also, while I have two kids, they aren't here all of the time, so I'm not feeding 3 of us full time on this amount. I'd say I'm feeling 1 3/4 person lol.. If they both lived with me full time I don't think I could only spend 25/week. (I could if I HAD to I guess but it wouldn't be pretty)

  4. Melody, I hear ya. My grocery budget is no where NEAR as tight as yours is, but I get bummed that I can't afford to make some of the things that I used to be able to make!

    Would you qualify for food assistance, since you have kids?

    P.S. I gave up TV (not movies) a long time ago, and it was an adjustment, but I have so much more "free" time now! I don't miss it at all.

  5. I think you're doing an amazingly creative job with what you have. I understand COMPLETELY what you're saying about having an emotionally hard time about having to cut back - I could eat oatmeal, soup and rice-and-beans variations every day, but how does that excite me? How does that give me something to look forward to in the evening or when I'd had a bad day? I was raised with food as a reward, a comfort and a pleasure so trying to break that association is hard. The coffee quandary is a difficult one.. I drink black tea with milk and two sugars, but if I'm trying to give up sugar, I just switch to something else completely like green tea with lemon, or oolong or herbal tea. So maybe a beverage-shift is in order?

  6. I am not getting bored at all!! I love all the wonderful ideas you have! I usually post similar things on my blog as well and I always worry that it's not exciting enough.. your food definitely is!

    Sorry that your challenge has become so challenging! I understand how hard it is. My hubby and I are trying to cut back everywhere we can, it's really tough! I am sending positive vibes your way!

  7. I think you're doing an AMAZING job of this--your creativity is endless! I love the look of virtually everything on this page--even if you're sick of the flavors, we're not!

    RE: coffee, I gave it up 10 years ago and really, honestly, don't miss it. But if you keep saving the way you are (still have the full $10.00 left now), you could probably end up with the extra money for the coffee in 2-3 weeks.

    I also just love your approach to all of this--you are so positive and such a motivator to the rest of us who are kvetching about smaller things!!

  8. You are doing great! I know it is hard, but really, it looks like you are creating delicious things. I am sorry you are bored with your food, though! That is really hard. It certainly isn't boring to read about! In fact, I am craving your dishes right now...

    If you have internet access you can watch TV on line! Really--all of the major networks now put the full versions of shows on-line for you to watch. It is really nice!

    I wonder if you could slowly replace the ingredients you are missing? Sure, if you bought them all at once you would be over your weekly limit. But if you get one every other week or so, it might be possible to fit those things in your budget?


  9. I can understand your boredom, but if it's any consolation at all, Melody, I am anything but bored reading this series of $3.33/day posts.

    You are so incredibly inventive and creative, a gifted and talented chef and photographer — start sending out query letters to magazines and book (yes!) publishers. I know I encouraged you to put a portfolio together and shop it to Alissa/Grezo. Consider online food/culinary mags as well.

    Use this time/opportunity to create a new career direction for yourself. You are so very talented. Believe it!


  10. I think everything looks great, no matter how much it cost you.

    I would have a hard time giving up coffee completely, but I have cut down a whole whole lot.

  11. Melody, I wanted to get back with you about the cookies. I've used amaranth and spelt to make the cookies, and I've used almond butter instead of pb. When you form them into balls, they seem like they won't hold together, but they always do. I hope you try them.

  12. Hey! I've been popping onto your blog for awhile now but never commented (I think).

    I think what you are doing is fantastic as well as necessary. I'm sure you are just in the average slump that comes when someone starts a new diet (even though this isn't a diet per se, it is a restriction of sorts), which is usually at the 3 week mark if my experience is anything to go by. So hang in there, I'm sure it will get easier.

    As for all of those special ingredients, can you not work it into the budget by spreading it over a few weeks? Maybe one item this week, then next week another. Not sure, maybe they are too expensive for that even.

    As for the coffee, I'm all for weening yourself off of it. I did at the start of the year, and it definitely is a hard comfort to let go of. Its the thought of it more than the drink itself. Anyway, I'm also mad about tea and drink it by the bucketload (herbal kinds) so that has replaced my warm cuppa for good I think.

    I'm sure it must get tedious keeping track so tightly of your budget, but hang in there! I love reading your posts, and because of you I have just sprouted my first sprouts! So thank you!

    I am also on a 20 euro a week budget due to unemployment, but I don't have a family to feed, and I'm not as strict as I could be. You're definitely an inspiration!

  13. Anonymous9:02 AM

    That arugula salad looks very tasty. And you grow your own sprouts? I love sprouts!! You seem to be doing very well with your 3.33 a day challenge.

    Traci Lynn

  14. That pumpkin thing looks great! And I can't do $25/week to feed me and 1 toddler, so wtg!

    Also - don't suppose you've done a CSA in the area? I'm looking @ some now (wishful summer thinking) and having a tough time deciding.

  15. Hi Melody- Regarding your concerns about coffee (I am also a caffeine addict)you can get some really good fair trade coffees at trader joes for 4.99. Also, the TV thing. You may not be picking up any signals with rabbit ears due to the digital switchover (I also live in New England also, and the switchover happened already on many area stations). If you still want to get TV you can go to https://www.dtv2009.gov/ for a government coupon for $40 off. And some of the converters cost $40, so they would be free. Its worth a try.

    I have really been enjoying reading your blog. I think you're being really creative with food in spite of your budget issues. I don't think many people could handle it, so please don't let it get you down!!

  16. this is completely admirable. obviously it's going to be stressful on you, especially if you have other people to provide for! it sounds really rough and i wish i could do something to help. if i find any inexpensive recipes i will definitely pass them on to you! best of luck this week & i'll keep reading!

  17. I'm new here and plan on hanging out often. I'm not vegan or even vegetarian but the food you describe and show looks so yummy that I'm going to try it.

    I have subscribed in the past to a menu planner sheet that came with a grocery list for the unique items that weren't on their "pantry staples" list. I paid maybe $5 every month or two and got the menu plan, with short recipe references, and a shopping list. I would pay the same if you packaged what you're working with, plus recipe references. I bet others would, too. You could "sell" your organization and planning.

  18. I know you say you're sick of the same flavors, but you're doing way better than I used to do when I worked that kind of budget (I lived on an intern salary for the first couple year's I lived Memphis and ate Ramen noodles, $1 microwave cheese pizzas, and mac & cheese all the time...I wasn't vegan then).

    Hang in there! You're so creative and totally inspiring. We all need to be cutting back right now (I just got a salary cut at work), and seeing you get through this give us all inspiration!

  19. I am so inspired by your project! I really need to cut costs in my meal budget and this inspires me to. I wanted to post to tell you about hulu.com-we are giving up our directv subscription next month and I will be keeping up with my fave shows there. Just FYI! Good luck!

  20. Wow, you are an amazing inspiration! Your foods look fantastic for any budget.

    I'm thinking about giving up coffee. Maybe we should become a team of coffee-quitters! Though mine is decaf because regular coffee was giving me heartburn.

    Not having cable sucks! You can watch quite a few shows online, some networks have full episodes available.

  21. Anonymous5:22 PM

    I just found your blog and am really learning a lot! Thanks for sharing all your wealth of information & recipes.

    As for TV - since you can get onto the neighborhood wireless, try hulu.com. They have a lot of shows - also some station websites (nbc.com, abc.com, etc) have whole episodes. I use hulu when I miss an episode - I love that it's free!