food stamps challenge – week 4 (final week)!

food stampsThree weeks ago, I challenged myself to live on the same budget as a disabled friend of mine whose food stamps budget is $150/month.  I doubled this to $300/month (or $75/week) for my little family of two (assuming benefits would be doubled for two).  I budgeted about $50 for dinners each week, leaving $25 for breakfasts and incidentals (such as ice cream!).  I thought a single person could still follow this plan by freezing half of the recipes for use later in the month.

This is the final week of my month-long challenge, and I think it has been a success, at least for me personally.  The budget constraints forced me to change my usual show-up-at-the-store-with-a-debit-card shopping method.  Instead, I sat down at the beginning of every week and started by noting what was on sale that week, factoring in what I had in my pantry and building a menu from there.

I have found that we ate a LOT more ground meat and cheese  and a LOT less produce than we typically do, and my blood vessels and digestive system have been crying out for some relief!  I felt totally bloated this past week and just couldn’t take any more.  So this week, I decided to focus more on vegetables and lentils to keep the fiber high and the fat low.

While I still stayed under budget, a single person would have more trouble making this work, because the leftovers will not be freezable.   However, I believe it would be fairly easy to cut the recipes in half, so the ingredients could be purchased in smaller batches to be made twice (?).   In case the leftovers didn’t last until the next day (salads aren’t very filling, so we often eat seconds), we bought some deli meats for lunches this week.

All in, we spent $73.71 this week (which includes cereal and milk for breakfasts, turkey, yogurt and bananas for lunch and snacks and a few other miscellaneous items).  Still under budget, but twice as much as last week.

Here is your shopping list and this week’s menu:

  1. Southwestern Chopped Salad (I’ve posted this before, so I won’t post again – going to use bbq-ranch dressing (roughly 50% ranch dressing / 50% bbq sauce).  Before bed tonight, I’ll get the bread dough for tomorrow together to start rising for about 18hrs.)
  2. Greek Lentil Soup (Fakes or Faki) with No-Knead Crusty Artisan Bread
  3. Bacon, Apple, “Raspberry Vinaigrette” Salad
  4. Middle Eastern Chicken and Rice-with-Lentils Feast *
  5. Baked Potato Bar (baked potatoes with toppings to choose from)

* Recipes taken from this cookbook (which I actually own).  I’ve made this meal before, and it is fairly labor-intensive with some make-aheads, so plan accordingly.

I’ve learned a lot from this challenge and was pleased to discover that bargain eating doesn’t necessarily have to mean poor eating.  I was so sick of meats and high starch meals that I planned this week’s menu without even consulting the sales flyers this week (figuring I’d put back the wine or poppy seeds if I had to)… I was pleasantly surprised to come in under budget anyway.

I call this month a success!

I am considering participating in a challenge to eat unprocessed food in October called, not surprisingly, October Unprocessed 2013.  Most of the recipes I’ve chosen for this week would qualify, but I have bacon in one salad and in the baked potato bar… and I’m not giving that up! october-unprocessed-2013

So perhaps next week, I will start the new challenge…

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