Saturday, November 29, 2008

Back to local feasting!

Now this is what is good and right about eating locally in the Black Hills. Lamb from the Butcher's Shop and butternut squash from Gage's Garden right here in Spearfish. I got the squash this summer and it's been down in the basement along with other squash buddies that will all be eaten this winter.

The lamb was prepared simply -- salt and pepper and broiled. So fantastic. Mike is not a butternut squash man but it's my favorite. Just 20 minutes in the microwave with a bit of water and you scoop it out and enjoy. I added salt, pepper and some Irish butter -- HEAVEN. You'll also notice the leftover spinach (with orange zest) and cooked carrots from my Eat on $25 a day Challenge. Nice.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What's left over from the $25 a week challenge?

After seven days of eating on $25, this is what I had left over:

- 4 baked potatoes
- 1 pork ramin
- 1 very ripe banana
- about 1 cup of cooked carrots
- 4 hard boiled eggs
- 1/2 bag dry black beans
- handful chicken bullion cubes
- 1/3 bag white rice
- 1/3 bag dry lentils
- handful fresh spinach
- about a cup of cooked lentils
- about 1/2 cup cooked pasta with red sauce
- about one serving dry pasta
- 1/2 can coffee
- about a cup of cooked mixed beans and pasta
That seems like a lot, doesn't it?
So I went ahead and froze the carrots, banana, cooked beans, pasta and rice. So I am thinking I should start with this stuff for a January challenge. Hmmmm...
I just read "If you feel comfortable with where you are at (in anything -- life, job, fitness etc) you are not learning and growing." Learning and growing. It's what it's all about!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Front page of the Rapid City Journal!

Here was the article "$25 food challenge humbling, appreciated" in the Rapid City Journal on Thanksgiving day. I think there is so much we can learn when get out of our routine and challenge ourselves in interesting ways. I learned that while you can eat healthy on $25 a week, it's not fun. What I did take from it was the multiple uses of oranges including candied orange peels and the joys of orange zest. Don't underestimate orange zest when you are spice free!

There is something else that needs to come out of this but I am not sure what it is yet. I'll be thinking about this for January. New year, new challenge.

Day 7 -- Wednesday -- Last Day

Holy Buckets! I lost 3.5 pounds this week!

Let me back up. Each Wednesday is 'weigh in' day at the Kane household. Sort of like Weight Watchers, except it's just Mike and I and no group meeting afterwards. We've been doing this for a year or so to encourage each other in our work out and weight management efforts. As most women know, your weight can really fluctuate and it doesn't always mean anything. BUT 3.5 pounds is significant.

I think the challenge was part of this loss. I did not eat mindlessly. There is more to this and a big eye opener for me which I will continue to think about. I didn't go out to eat except for the $.30 patty at McDonald's which was oh-so delicious. We love eating out and I usually make good choices but sometimes I just want Guadalajara's Super Nachos with all the fixin's. Lastly, I didn't drink anything except water. No wine, no delicious Pile of Dirt Porter at Crow Peak Brewery. All things to consider.

In reflection, this has been a worthwhile adventure and one I would recommend to anyone looking to work on their food budget, food waste, creativity, weight loss (!) and self knowledge. Each experience will be different but I take away a whole new set of ideas and eating habits from just this week:

Candied orange peels!
Zesting orange peels into yogurt, spinach and rice
Finely chopped oranges in non fat plain yogurt
Having hard boiled eggs around
Bullion is very handy
As well as,
No mindless eating
Better planning of menu and shopping
Staying on a budget
Making it work during everyday life of work, meetings and family events
Not wasting food
Being thankful for every bite!
I may consider doing this next year with a different twist. Stay tuned!
On the final menu:

Breakfast: GV black coffee. No oatmeal this morning. Got too busy with work, it was lunch time when I got hungry.
Lunch: Made some lentils with bullion (thank you bullion for flavor!) and steamed rice. Also had a spinach salad with grated carrots, orange zest (so fab) and a hard boiled egg. Finished with yogurt and half an orange chopped up. Lots of food and I am full.
Dinner: While definitely the most attractive meal of the week, taste was okay, satisfaction high. This was the evening of leftovers. Rice, lentils, black beans, spinach with zested orange peel!, sliced oranges, pasta and a hard boiled egg. And yogurt with a whole banana. I could not finish it all!
What I learned today: Finishing a task or project is very rewarding. Learning something and taking it with you is even more so. I will look at the Thanksgiving table tomorrow in a new way.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day 6 - Tuesday

Six days of of taking the "Eating on $25 a week" challenge and it's almost over. I set out to discover if I could really stick to it and to learn something along the way. Success for both! I haven't cheated, although was given many opportunities for 'volunteer' food which included a lunch brought in for a meeting and coffee and tea at work, while I was making 'other' food for the family, having a meeting in a restaurant where everyone else is eating (and having some offer to buy me lunch) and just the general, mindless eating that occurs through the day. I learned that I am so blessed that this challenge ends for me tomorrow, unlike for so many others.

So yesterday, I stopped at Staples and Spice on my way home since our son was out of bread. Since he can't eat wheat, dairy or soy, he eats bread made of rice which is only carried in health food stores. It would be very difficult for him to eat on $25 and I feel for those families requiring special diets. After picking up a loaf of brown rice bread and another package of potato starch (use in much of his baked items), sitting up at the counter was a few bottles of Starling Gewurztraminer which we had just tried for the first time last week (obviously before the challenge). I commented how good it was and, look! the gal at the register happen to have an open bottle chilling and offered a little taste. Oh, the inhumanity! I ruefully declined.

You might be saying, whatever, why is this important? It is important because in my life, wine is part of my fantastic 'food joy' and reminded me of what I was missing. More importantly, it reminded me (or really just hit me on the head... again) that many people do not have the pleasures such as wine or other luxuries and again, I felt rather small.

For today:

Breakfast: Of course, oatmeal with 1/3 banana (the last 1/3 that was in the fridge -- very ripe and brown but tasted good) and GV coffee. This time I made sure to drink all my coffee while it was hot so I wouldn't waste any.

Lunch: Each month, I get together with other marketing professionals and business owners in town and we talk about a specific topic and help each other with ways to better market our businesses. Today's meeting was at the coffee shop Perkins where I was fairly certain the menu would not have anything for $.01 which is what I had left from my original $25. I am thinking, is there a re-buy option (like in Texas Hold 'em) here? Dang, no. So I sat with my ice water and participated. Then I rushed back to my office so I could eat my cold black beans, lentils and rice and spinach. I had eaten my carrots earlier in the morning and saved the orange for my ride home. The best part was the orange; everything else was pretty average.

Dinner: It was time for pasta again, so I threw in about 1/3 pound of thin spaghetti and took out some of my 'pasta sauce ice cubes' I froze earlier in the week. Since I had added water to my Huntz four cheese sauce (which really did not appear to actually contain cheese or anything else chunky), the sauce was pretty tasteless; more like red water. I steamed about a cup of chopped carrots and threw in some spinach which wilted nicely. It looked pretty but had little taste. The saving grace of the meal was that I sliced up a full, very ripe, banana into yogurt. I mean this was a RIPE banana - ready for banana bread. Usually I would have frozen it or tossed it but not today.

What I learned today: In the business world, food plays an important role too when having meetings over lunch or over coffee. People who can't afford to do this may have missed opportunities. Our society is so rich that going out to lunch is an expected necessity and not treated as the gift it really is. If you can afford to eat out, be thankful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 5 --Monday

Today is a new day. This is my fifth day of the "Eat on $25 a week" challenge and I think I am hitting my stride. For one thing, I am not nearly as focused on the food. Maybe it's because my food choices are just not that exciting? Or maybe I am getting used to the same thing? Or maybe it's because I feel like I am really getting something out of this process? I don't know.

What I do know is that I will look at my food choices, food budget, food waste and general thoughts about food in a new way. What stands out is that I will be more thankful for my food as each bite is really a gift.

On the menu today:

Breakfast: Do I even need to write it down? Oatmeal with 1/3 banana and GV coffee. Today I brought my coffee in to work but got busy so the coffee got cold. Since we don't have a microwave at work, I couldn't reheat it. Bummer.

Lunch: I brought along some leftover black beans, lentils and rice and spinach. Again, without heating it up, it was very average. I also finished off a half of an orange and a handful of chopped carrots. Every single carrot in fact. Yesterday, I got the idea of trying candied orange peels as I was thinking of ways to use the peel aside from zesting. Although sugar was not on my challenge list, I made it anyway for "later". Doing the challenge inspired me.

Dinner: As you can see, I had the left over ramen. Do be sure to throw some greens in there, it really makes it. More spinach, a steamed baked potato with some of leftover pasta sauce and more plain yogurt with finely chopped oranges. The yogurt really feels like dessert.

What I learned today: Everyday we choose what goes onto our plate and into our mouth. Some people don't have that choice. If you DO have the choice, be thankful.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 4 -- Sunday

So, I finally had some ramen noodles today. Ramen is what everyone thought I'd be eating each day. Ramen is really total junk food. The 'block' contains 14 grams of fat and 1900 mg sodium. I think a big Butter Burger over at Culver's will give you more fat but not sure on the sodium. AND I have to say, it was good. I had pork 'flavor' which according to the package, the pork is really dehydrated pork broth, milk and yeast extract. The pork flavor powder is actually the fourth ingredient in the flavor packet after salt, MSG, hydrolyzed corn, wheat and soy protein. Is this even real food?

A neighbor brought over some venison loin and roasts today and I gave her some herbal tea I made from my summer garden (that's what people do here in South Dakota!) and we were talking about my doing the challenge. At first she said, "I could do that!" But that changed as we talked more about it. It 'seems' simple but it's not.

I also candied some orange peels and soooo wanted to try one but didn't because sugar wasn't on my challenge list. Mike said they were as good as Swedish Fish which is a HUGE compliment. I had to catch myself too! I almost scooped one in my mouth without even thinking. That's the mindless nibbling that I know I do a lot but have not this week. Just think of the calories I am saving! Another friend described this as a "weight loss and social experiment". That would be cool.

I have now gotten two comments that said, "You must not be eating anything healthy." I think this part is a misconception. You CAN eat healthy. The trick is to make it taste good. To do that, a few spices, sugar and salt would help immensely.

Here's the candied orange peel recipe:

Peel an orange and cut the peels in small squares until you have about a cup (about two oranges). Put the peels in a saucepan and cover with just enough cold water. Bring to boil and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Then drain and rinse peels and do the same process two more times. This gets much of the bitterness out of the peels. After the last drain and rinse, put the peels, 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup white sugar in the pan and bring to a slow boil and reduce heat to medium. Really watch so it doesn't burn. Let it cook for a few minutes while stirring to make the peels are coated. When all the liquid is gone, pour the peels out to cool / dry. I use wax paper with a bit of canola oil rubbed on it. In fact, I had some blood orange infused olive oil I used instead. Try to have the peels not touching each other but be careful because they are burning hot.

Store them in a jar in the fridge. You can chop them up for stuffing, baked goods, salads or (like Mike) just eat them as is!


Breakfast: Guess! Yes, oatmeal with 1/3 banana (need to ration these guys) and black GV coffee. Still liking the coffee. Coffee with cream seems so luxurious.

Lunch: One cup of cooked black beans and a quarter of an orange chopped up in yogurt. It really is amazing how filling beans are!

Dinner: At least it looked different. Pork (flavored) Ramen made with a few carrot slivers and spinach thrown in. Since I added extra water, I added a bullion cube. Good thing I got the low sodium bullion cubes! I also, steamed a baked potato with some black beans (this is a good combo) and ate the other half of a hard boiled egg.

What I learned today: I do a lot of mindless snacking and during this challenge I am learning to pay more attention to what I am eating and why.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 3 -- Saturday

Each weekend I look forward to doing some cooking. Something fabulous. Maybe it's a new recipe or something I want to pair with a certain wine I've been eyeing. NOT today. This is the third day of my "Can you eat on $25 a week" quest and my meals are starting to look very similar.

There is a shelf in the refrigerator that I have allotted to my challenge as well as a special spot in our pantry. It's the same stuff that was there yesterday. Duh, of course it is because I only have $.01 to spend until Thursday!

I didn't realize how much of my waking life revolves around food. I think, plan, dream, talk about, garden and tend, eat and enjoy it ... a lot. But when you see the same thing each day, the joy wanes and it's just not as fun. That thought alone makes me feel incredibly small. Of course, this isn't fun. The crazy thing is is that I THOUGHT it would be fun and well it's really not.

But I have already learned so much about myself and budgeting that I know the result will be positive so while the enjoyment levels wanes the learning and growing level increases. Isn't that the way so many important things in our life progress anyway?

To clarify, it's $25 per person for the week and only I am doing the challenge in our household. It's extra difficult because you can't use anything you already had in your house. No spices to zip up those beans, no salt and pepper to enhance rice or no vinegar to liven up that spinach salad.

So here's what was on the menu today:

Breakfast: I lingered over my GV black coffee and skipped breakfast. Not typical but we headed out to run errands. I am liking this black coffee! I am surely saving calories as I usually add half and half and Torani.

Lunch: I was hungry when we got home especially since we picked up pies at Jack's school for a fundraiser. For lunch, I heated up lentils and rice and poured in some leftover pasta sauce / water combo as well as some sliced carrots. The sauce did the trick! It was delicious and very filling. I also had some yogurt with the left over 1/4 of a banana. There is no wasting food here! Really, who would save a 1/4 of a banana that, while I did have it in Saran Wrap in the fridge, was rather brown? Yours truly. Yes, it was brown but I just mushed it in the yogurt. I then remembered my Charlemagne (from the 3rd Indiana Jones) -- I had three pounds of potatoes which I had totally forgotten about! I was giddy. I micro'd one and with nothing to put on it, I really enjoyed it. Maybe because it was organic? Or just maybe because it was different.

Dinner: As you can see, dinners are starting to look the same. There's that leftover pasta from Thursday with a little scoop of lentils and rice and a few carrots slices. Again, I added a spinach salad and another half of an egg and another micro'd potato. Here's something that was cool! I zested an orange and mixed that with my spinach with some of the orange juice. It really made the salad. I also chopped up a half an orange and added it to my nonfat plain yogurt. Okay, you must try this. It was so delicious I could have this for dessert every night.

Because I am such a planner, I fixed up a cup of dried black beans for tomorrow and took two big spoonfuls. Delicious! Of course, Through my kitchen window, I see my amazing herbs that have made it through 15 degree nights and three feet of snow and longingly stare at my beautiful sage that would have been perfect with the black beans. ARGH.

What I learned today: Food adds joy to our lives and it's amazing to realize that when that joy is diminished, you really, really miss it. I can't be the only one here. The enjoyment of food is important to everyone.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 2 - Friday

Here I am on Day 2 of the "Eat on $25 a week challenge" and spent my last $.30 on a hamburger patty at McDonalds for Jack's birthday (!) but let's start with breakfast.

Breakfast: Oatmeal again with black coffee. This time I added half a banana to the oatmeal and ate when the oats were screaming hot. Remember no honey or salt or anything else in there. Good with bananas.

Lunch: Lentils and rice I made last night, spinach salad, a half hard bolied egg, a scoop of non fat yogurt and a half an orange. Very filling.

Dinner: For a special treat, we took our son to McDonald's for his birthday and I was drawn to purchase really the only thing I could afford with my last change -- a plain patty -- and it was delicious. Now I have $.01 left until Thanksgiving. Obviously there won't be any shopping going on! For dinner, I came home and made the above photo. Left over spaghetti (without the soup -- it was better today), more lentils and rice (which are actually very tasty), spinach salad, a few sliced carrots, the other half of the egg and yogurt with 1/4 sliced banana. Again, very filling.

What I learned today: More of a reminder that eating healthy food makes you feel more positive and energetic.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day 1 -- Thursday

It's true, I am excited to start today. So many thoughts are swirling around my brain as to what and why I am doing this. There is something important about it.

Breakfast: I usually eat oatmeal every morning so this wasn't too different. I made it the same way, 1/2 oats and one cup water in the microwave for 5 minutes. That's when it hit me, I didn't have anything to put in it. Usually, there is at least honey and on 'big days', I'll add raisins, cranberries, cereal and nuts. Not today. I also had the Wal-Mart GV coffee brewing but again, nothing to put in it so it was black. The coffee was not bitter at all and very enjoyable. This might be our new everyday coffee. The oatmeal definitely wasn't as good but since it was hot, it did the trick.

Lunch: I packed along my lunch (which I do most days) and brought along a hard boiled egg, a cup of chopped carrots, a banana and an orange and three chicken bouillon cubes. I knew this was not going to be enough but I didn't get anything else going the night before and I had just a bit of change left over from my original $25 so that would be it. Surprisingly, the bullion really satisfied me -- maybe because it was warm. It was also tasty.

Dinner: I was hungry for dinner. It was pasta (about 1/3 of pound) and the pasta sauce. When I poured the sauce into the sauce pan, it didn't look like much so I filled the can with water to make more. Not the best idea. So instead of spaghetti, I was moving toward spaghetti soup. The sauce was not very flavorful or chunky -- spices would have been perfect here. In addition, I had a small spinach salad with carrots and another hard boiled egg. The egg really made the meal. With all my 'sauce-water', I decided to fill up an ice cube tray and use it later this week. There was also one more serving of spaghetti left over which I'll have tomorrow.

I thought it would a good idea to prep some other food tonight since I'll be working tomorrow so I put 1 cup of lentils with 8 cups of water and 1 bullion cube to simmer. After about 30 minutes, I added a cup of rice. If I had any other veggies, I would have sauteed them and toss them in. An onion would have been really handy here. This made a lot of food and really tasty. I'm looking forward to eating it tomorrow!

WHAT I LEARNED TODAY: Without spices and variety, the flavor and thus enjoyment of food is diminished.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

$25 at Wal-mart

So Mike and I head to Wal-mart (anxious to see where the ceiling caved in) with 25 bucks so that I can start my quest to see if I can, indeed, eat on $25 for the week. These types of 'tests' always draw me in. It's as if I am continually seeking structure. I'm sure there is some therapist out there just waiting to tell me why.

Mike declined to participate but did consider for a moment. His answer was the best: "If I did it, I should do it whole-heartedly. If I just sniveled about it all week, that wouldn't help you. I am not going to join in but let's go shopping!" Yes, he's a keeper.

Looking at this quest through my Black Hills Locavore colored glasses, I knew I needed to get the best nutrition I could with my $25 but could I do any of it with local or organic food? Immediately I knew this was not to be the week to go on Atkins.

My purchase total was $24.69 before tax (remember food stamps are not taxed -- see above photo). When Kristi, rang up my oranges at 5 at $.50 each, Mike stopped her right then and there. Hey Kristi, these oranges were $.44 each! It turned into an ordeal requiring supervisory assistance. Anyway, usually we don't watch that close but Mike caught a $.30 mistake. That's almost two more chicken ramen, my friend.

Here's what I bought: - dozen medium eggs - Hunts four cheese pasta sauce (26 oz) - GV French Roast coffee (ground - 12 oz) - 9 oz Ready Pac Spinach - GV Oatmeal - GV Dried Black Beans (1 lb) - GV Dried Lentils (1 lb) - GV Long Grain Rice (1 lb) - 2 Pork Ramen - GV Thin Spaghetti (1 lb) - Wyler's Chicken bouillon cubes (25 cubes) - GV Non Fat Yogurt (32 oz) - Genesis ORGANIC potatoes from Washington (3 lbs) - Earthbound Farms ORGANIC carrots (2 lbs) - 5 navel oranges from California (yes, they were $.44 each) - 6 bananas from Guatemala

The GV is the Wal-mart brand Great Value. I think it was too. Could I have gotten the same value if I shopped at Safeway, Leuders or the Good Earth? I am not sure. I do know that oranges at Safeway run $2.49 a pound. It would be interesting to compare.

I did pay a bit more for the organic carrots and potatoes. Regular carrots were $.64 lb and the organic carrots were $.88 lb. What was interesting is that I was going to choose two large regular baking potatoes but the bag of Organic potatoes was a better deal. When we were figuring things out (we brought the calculator!) we figured were over a bit so I took back two oranges, two ramen and one banana. I totally could have kept one of the Ramen. DANG! Oh and no wine, no cream for my coffee, butter for those taters and carrots either.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Can you eat on $25 per week?

It's rather shocking to look at your financial statement. Over 40% in the last two months, simply gone. At 41, I don't plan on retiring anyone soon but it sure is an eye opener.

But there are so many things to feel thankful for -- our family, friends, neighbors and health. So I am reading an article in the Rapid City Journal yesterday that donations at food banks are down while requests are climbing. In the state of South Dakota, eligible families receive $25 worth of food stamps per person per week. Now the $25 does not include sales tax since food stamps are not taxed and there are certain things that can not be purchased:


You CAN Buy:
Foods for you and your household to eat:
breads and cereals
fruits and vegetables
meats, fish, poultry
dairy products
Seeds and plants which produce food for you and your household.
Group dining or home-delivered Senior Meals (if you are elderly).

Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco
Any nonfood items:
pet foods,
soaps and paper products,
household supplies.
Vitamins and medicines.
Food that will be eaten in the store.
Hot foods prepared to eat immediately.

So you can buy seeds and plants that produce food? That is very cool but for those on food stamps, do they have a place they could plant those seeds? This is a great push for community gardens. Could this work in Spearfish? Yes.

So starting Thursday through next Wednesday, I will be eating on $25 for one week and writing about my progress.

Join me!

The rules are you can not eat anything that is already in your house or accept a gift of food. For example, don't go to a friends house and expect to gorge.

The idea here is to learn and appreciate all of our blessings. What will I learn? Could I do it locally? I don't know. I do know this idea has caught me so I need to find out.