Monday, January 28, 2013
Cream of ... Soup is one of my easiest lunches, and usually fairly inexpensive, too. It's cream of spinach or cream of broccoli or cream of mushroom or cream of whatever you want to cream.
I start with a couple of cups of broth. You can use a can, or I usually just take a pint of homemade broth out of the freezer. (I haven't bought canned broth in years. There's a blog post or two somewhere here about making broth, which is basically free. And good for you since it has lots of natural gelatin in it after you've boiled the bones for 12 to 24 hours.) Put it in a sauce pan and start heating it. While it's heating, add some veggies. I usually use 8 to 10 ounces of frozen veggies - either half of a one pound bag or a whole 10 oz box. I only had about 5 ounces of frozen spinach left so that's what I used today. You can add whatever seasonings you want. I usually don't add any, though today I addes some garlic powder, onion powder and curry powder. When the veggies are completely done and very soft, blend them using either a regular blender or a stick/immersion blender. If you use a regular blender, be sure to hold the lid down with a towel, and don't fill it more than half full. It can splash all over the place if you're not careful. Add some grated cheese and/or cream and/or coconut milk, reheat if necessary, and enjoy.
There's not a lot of protein in this type of soup, and there may not be many calories or much fat if you use coconut milk. So I added a couple of hardboiled eggs. You can add a tablespoon of gelatin to the soup if you like (I forgot today) which increases the protein a bit and makes the soup feel richer when you eat it.
TODAY'S CURRIED CREAM OF SPINACH SOUP
1-1/2 c turkey broth (which is what I happened to have handy)
5 oz frozen chopped spinach
1/2 c coconut milk
Total cost of soup without the eggs or gelatin - 92 cents, assuming homemade broth
Monday, January 28, 2013
I thought that the recipes would be accessible, but apparently they aren't. So I'll post some of them. This is one that I came up with based on a couple of recipes from the Frugal Gourmet books, plus some ideas from other places. I like it, though my mother's response to just hearing the name of it was "Ugh." Don't worry about following the recipe. There just happened to be 2.15 pounds of chicken in the package, one ham hock happened to be about 4 oz, and so forth. The next time I make it, I'll probably either increase the pumpkin or the cabbage to make it thicker. Don't leave out the ham hock - it really adds to the stew. If you don't have a ham hock handy, you could use some bacon for the smoky flavor and add a couple of tablespoons of plain, unflavored gelatin (like Knox gelatin) to give it rich texture and mouthfeel of the gelatin that cooks out of the ham hock. My original recipe calls for chicken thighs or drumsticks, with bone, and you can certainly use them instead. Or you could use chicken breast, but don't cook it so long. And if you don't have any fresh pumpkin on hand (I got some extras at the Farmers Market in the summer), just add a can of plain pumpkin. Not pumpkin pie filling, just plain pumpkin.
PUMPKIN, CABBAGE AND CHICKEN STEW
1 pound peeled, cleaned and cubed pumpkin (4 cups)
2.15 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 smoked ham hock (4 oz)
3/4 cup chopped onion (100 grams)
1 clove garlic, minced
4 c chicken stock (ham broth is better)
1/2 t red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste (it takes quite a bit, but don't forget that the ham hock and the ham broth are both salty, too)
1 pound shredded cabbage (6 cups)
Put everything but the cabbage in a pot or slow cooker. Cook on the stove for about 2 hours, in a crockpot for about 6 hours. Add the cabbage in the last 15 minutes on the stove or the last hour in the crockpot.
Serving Size: 6 servings of about 2 cups each.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
You'll see a lot of gelatin in my menus, and DietFriend asked why. Dana Carpender says that it has an amino acid or protein or something that isn't found in most modern meats, because we mostly don't eat the bones and gristle and such. Not only does adding gelatin (I use the plain beef stuff, not jello) add that missing protein or whatever to our diets, but it's also supposed to help us sleep better and help with joint pain. Kind of like glucosomine (sp?) for the joint pain. She's a firm believer in it, and it does seem to help me a bit, too. And I figure it's not going to hurt me, so why not. I buy it in a 5 pound box from the health food store. I'm not positive about the price - it's been a while since I bought it - but I do know that it is way cheaper in the huge box than in the individual little packages. I'm tempted to leave it off of my food budget as an OTC medication, but I'm leaving it in for now.
I had forgotten how much more planning is required to keep my food costs down as well as my carbs, and still get in good nutrition! Not that it's hard, it just takes more planning and more thought. And less "I don't feel like eating that today so I'll have something else, instead." At the moment I'm using up the fresh broccoli, grape tomatoes and mushrooms that are a common part of my regular diet but that I wouldn't buy - or at least wouldn't buy as much of - on a Food Stamp budget. So between the expensive veggies and getting back into the swing of things, my costs are higher than I'd like so far and probably will continue so for the next week or so. I'm still shooting for an average of $3 per day, but definitely less than $3.50 per day, or $105 per month. That's still considerably less than the Indiana average Food Stamp benefit of just over $132 per person per month. (I'm counting the fresh broccoli and the mushrooms at their actual cost, but the tomatoes at a bit more than they would cost canned. Dunno why, I just am.)
Today's food -
Breakfast - egg drop soup (eggs and gelatin in turkey broth)
Lunch - tuna salad (tuna, mayo, grape tomatoes, celery)
Snack - hard-boiled eggs with mayo
Supper - Pumpkin Cabbage Chicken Stew, with gelatin
Total cost of today's food - $3.21
Saturday, January 26, 2013
I'm not really back into the habit of watching costs, and I'm at the tail end of a Juanuary challenge with no dairy, so it's a bit odd today.
Breakfast - eggs fried in grease; herbal tea with gelatin, cinnamon stick, and coconut milk
Lunch - leftover quiche; lettuce with dressing
Supper - curried turkey broccoli soup
Total cost of food eaten today - $3.20
There are some estimates, because I'm not sure what I paid for some things. But it's close. The grease and the turkey broth are both freebies, as they are by-products of other stuff (cooking meat for the grease (I guess drippings sounds better, doesn't it?) and the turkey broth comes from boiling up a turkey carcass after I'd taken all the meat off.
There was a segment on the news tonight about a bunch of chefs who are teaching low income families how to eat healthily and cheaply. Of course, they say you should be eating whole grains instead of meat.
Friday, January 25, 2013
I'm taking a class this semester on oral history, and we have to do an oral history project on a local "voluntary" organization - one that uses volunteers. My group decided to do Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, which is a food pantry that takes a very strong healthy food approach, including gardening and giving classes in everything healthy food from gardening to cooking. It's a great organization.
Anyway, as part of that project, I'm doing a bunch of reading about hunger in America and the effects of poverty and stuff like that. It has definitely brought me back to my budgetmaw personal and blog!
I'm going to do a modified Food Stamps Challenge for the next month or so. Instead of tracking everything I spend, and assuming that everything I use has to be purchased out of this month's food stamps, I'm going to track the cost of what I eat, and limit it to an average of a dollar a meal, or 3 dollars a day, or 90 dollars for a 30 day month. I'm not sure if it will be easier or not from a record keeping standpoint. I'm sure it will be easier from a cooking standpoint.
In Indiana, the average food stamp benefit per person was $132.46 per month. I figure that by keeping the cost of what I eat to $3 per day, I'm offsetting the fact that I'm not constrained by the monthly benefit when it comes to shopping. That means I can buy in larger quantities (I have 2 freezers in addition to the one in the fridge, and they're both full), and, let's be honest here, I can have more variety. I've done the "real" Food Stamp Challenge at least four times already, when I have assumed that absolutely everything I ate had to come out of the monthly benefit, so I know I can do it that way.
Anyway, I hope that you get some ideas of ways to cut your own food budget while still eating healthy, low carb meals, with absolutely no high carb fillers like bread, rice, noodles, pasta, dried beans, and so forth. Just lots and lots of meat and eggs, a bit of dairy, and oodles and scads of vegetables.
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