Friday, April 27, 2012

Food Stamp Budget

Have you heard about the Food Stamp Challenge?  It goes on around the country at various times of the year and sometimes just individuals give it a go independently.  Their objective is to raise awareness of the millions in America who are feeding their families on $35 a week per person.  That’s the average a person receives from SNAP, also known as food stamps.
I’ll start by saying I have a couple of issues with the Food Stamp Challenge.  Number one, I doubt it’s really influencing policy.  The policy makers who take the challenge already don’t want to cut funding.  People who want to reduce the program aren’t out trying to prove it needs more money.  Which leads me to my second problem, the challenge is designed to fail.  The entire point is to prove it can’t be done.  Those taking the challenge want to demonstrate that it is not possible to eat a healthy diet on a food stamp budget.  Well it is.  I regularly spend less than half of the $140 per month per person this challenge allows. I don’t think this challenge actually benefits anyone.  It makes its participants feel good about themselves for feeling bad for others.  People in poverty don’t need pity.  They need real employable solutions! I’ve discussed and debated this many times with many people and I’m not debating it here.  Without addressing the many other difficulties a person living in poverty faces when trying to put food on the table, I want to offer what help I can for people needing or simply wishing to eat healthy on a low budget.  I don’t have all the answers.  I’m just sharing what I’ve learned over the years from my mother and grandmothers as well as my own endeavors of trying to feed a family on a very low budget. 
So Fridays are now Food Stamp Fridays.  Stop by each week for my tips and to read the helpful comments of others as well as share your own ideas.
My first tip is not about shopping or eating.  It’s about thinking.  For many people the biggest change needs to come in the form of what they know to be true versus what is true. 
1.      Get a good handle on nutrition information.  Since you’re reading this I’ll assume you have some kind of internet access somewhere.  Use it to study nutrition information and become an informed eater.  There is lots of info out there.  Read about the different types of diets; organic, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, raw foods, ect.  Decide for yourself what you think and what works best for you, your family, and your budget.
      2.      Learn how to cook!  Probably the biggest money saver ever.  Cooking from scratch not only allows you to control what goes in and create a healthier meal, it allows you to stretch your ingredients.  Adding some more beans, veggies, or grain can expand a meal for very little additional money.  It’s easy to learn a few basic recipes and with proper planning doesn’t need to take hours.  I work a full time job and never cook a boxed.

      3.      Learn to live without meat.  I know for some of you that’s hard, for others not so much.  I’m not a vegetarian by any means.  If I can catch it, I’ll eat it.  Unfortunately right now the budget doesn’t allow for it.  I purchase very little meat because of price.  There are plenty of other sources of protein. 

      4.      Adopt the mentality of “mend and make do.”  You have what you have.  You may be able to eventually find additional resources, but immediate needs must be met.  There is always a way.  Human beings are remarkably capable and resourceful creatures when left with no other option. 

    What do you think are the big mental hurdles to making do with less grocery money?  Leave your ideas and struggles in the comments.   
    Visit the link for that quesadilla pictures for the super easy and really cheap recipe!  It's fantastic and one of my go-to recipes for a great meal when I'm short on time. 
Links for nutrition information

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thrifty Thursday-Whole Chicken

Thursday’s Thrifty Tip
This week’s money saving tip is saving money on dinner time.  The whole chicken!  If you’ve never cooked a whole chicken you’re missing out.  I too, was once intimidated by the whole chicken.  It seemed like a temperamental time consuming beast.  In reality it’s simple and cheaper than buying cuts and pieces.  A little seasoning and an hour or so in the oven and dinner is ready.
I regularly buy boneless skinless chicken breast, but at a minimum of $1.98/lb in my local grocery store it’s quite costly.  I regularly find a whole chicken for $0.89/lbs and just yesterday snagged several at the bargain price of $0.59/lbs because they were near their sell by date.
Preparing a whole chicken is really quite easy.  I loosen the skin and put whatever seasoning blend underneath it and rub it in.  Garlic and oil, your favorite BBQ seasoning blend, a curry powder, or whatever else you can think of work wonders to turn boring chicken into an exciting dinner adventure.  I rub a little olive oil on the skin, lay it on a foil covered baking sheet, and put it in a 350 degree oven for an hour to an hour and half.  The internal temperature needs to reach 180 degrees.  Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast without touching the bone.  When it hits 180 it’s done.  Let it rest for a few minutes and its ready to serve. 
It’s such a cheap alternative to my nearly $2/lb boneless skinless chicken breast.  For around $5 I have a roasted chicken for dinner, chicken for a buffalo chicken pizza (1 dinner), chicken for a casserole (3 dinners), chicken salad for a lunch, plus the carcass for stock.  I can usually get around five different dinners and a lunch or two out of one bird preparing enough for three adults. 
Menu Cost For A Whole Chicken
Prices are based on my local grocery store.  For obvious reasons your prices may vary. 
Meal 1
I have allowed $0.50 for seasoning on the chicken.  A couple of gloves for fresh garlic for the broccoli would be pennies extra and garlic powder even less.  The total cost of the chicken is included in the budget for Meal 1.  Subsequent meals will list the chicken at Free.
Garlic Seasoned Roasted Chicken- $6
Steamed Broccoli from frozen with Garlic- $1.50
Green Salad (Romaine lettuce and various in season produce)- $2
Fresh Whole Wheat Bread- $1
Meal 2
Chicken Casserole
The cost of the crushed tomatoes is based on the price of a 6lbs can from Sams Club.  If you’re using smaller cans from a grocery store estimate $1 for the tomatoes.
This yields about 9 servings.  I’m feeding three adults so it makes three meals for us.
1 c. Chicken- Free
½ lbs Dried Black Beans (reconstituted and cooked)- $0.75
1 small can Cream of Mushroom Soup- $0.80
2 c. Crushed Tomatoes- $0.25
½ c Diced mushrooms- $0.15
1 lbs Whole Wheat Pasta- $1.10
1 Bag Mixed Frozen Veggies- $1.20
1 c Shredded Cheese- $1.25
1 Sleeve Butter Rounds Crackers- $0.75
If you have a bigger family try adding a large salad for only a couple of dollars more, or bulk out the casserole with more beans and veggies to stretch your servings.

Meal 3
Buffalo Chicken Pizza
Again the price is based on the tomatoes from Sams Club as well as the ranch powder in bulk from Sams.
1 c Chicken-Free
Homemade Pizza Crust-$0.50
Homemade Buffalo Sauce- $0.50
½ Medium Red Onion-$0.15
2 Stalks of Celery-$0.10
2 tbs. Ranch Powder- $1

Green Salad (Romaine lettuce and various in season produce)- $2
Total- $4.35
So the grand total for the entire menu from the chicken is $20.10
That comes out to $4.02/meal and an average of $1.34/serving. 
The per meal and per serving prices are based on serving three adults with the casserole yielding nine servings in a 9x13 baking dish.
Stretch that bird even further by throwing it in a pot with some water, herbs, garlic, celery, carrots, and onions to make a killer stock for soup and other delicious recipes.

That beautiful chicken up there is from pioneer woman.  Check her site out for the fabulous recipe.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Who Am I and Welcome

For those of you have followed me to this blog, thank you.  For those of you new to my ramblings, welcome and let me introduce myself.  I’m Britt.  I’m 29 years old and working hard to make things work.  I never thought I’d want to be a homemaker.  I’m a fierce, intelligent, educated, modern woman, dammit!  I don’t bake, clean, fold laundry, and stay at home!  The truth is after Michael and I got our first little apartment I realized I like being a homemaker and I’m not bad at it.  Turns out I’m an ok baker, pretty decent cook, and I enjoy cleaning, repairing, organizing, and managing a household. 

Right now, I’m trying really hard to get done in a day all the homemaking things I want to get done and still manage to work 40+ hours in a week at a paying job.  Michael and I are working at getting to a place where I can dedicate my time to our home and family without needing me as a second income.  For now, that seems like an eternity away.  Despite our college educations and work history, in our small city there simply aren’t jobs available and we’re making due with low paying work that requires us both to bring in paychecks.  So yeah, if you hear about a good IT specialist gig somewhere let me know ;)
I started writing about homemaking because of a trend I’ve (and others) noticed with young people today.  People my age and younger don’t seem to have the skills necessary to be grownups.  At my current job many young people (mainly 18-19 year old girls) have come and gone, but during their short stays with us they have demonstrated an incredible lack of basic knowledge.  Read: Bleach needs to be diluted before adding clothes!

Now, I’ll. Admit I’m no Donna Stone (if you know who that is, you probably aren’t the young girls I’ve worked with.)  However, I do feel I have at least a basic handle on general house duties.  I’m working hard to learn to be better, and sharing my triumphs and sometimes amusing tragedies here with you.  I’m no expert, but I’ve never set my kitchen on fire.  The occasional dish towel and the trash can once or twice, but the kitchen was always okay.

So, this blog is written primarily for the young newly independents out there.  I know so many my age and many younger (and many older) who have never really had to care for a house and home.  It’s a daunting task if you don’t know what you’re doing.  There was a time when girls were taught these things by their mothers so they too could marry and become good wives and mothers.  That is no longer the goal of many young women today, but that doesn’t change the fact that you gotta eat and you gotta clean and do laundry and all the things that must be done in life.  Whether you’re a man or a woman, young or older, whether you’re a career girl or homemaker, single, married, domestically partnered, or in a relationship with a goat, if you have a dozen kids or faithful hamster certain things in life must be accomplished.  That’s what this blog is about, making a home and all the adventurous things that happen every day.       

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