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The $21 Challenge

Sunday, May 26, 2013

No, this isn't another challenge here on SP. It's a book I got at the library yesterday. I wrote about it a bit in my last post, but I hadn't looked at the recipes yet. I couldn't believe it when I did look at them! I mark the ones that look promising, and ended up marking most of them. A lot of them aren't recipes (though they are mostly written that way) as much as they are templates for using up whatever you happen to have on hand. Take a look at it if you get a chance, for both the budget advice and the recipes.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NOWYOUDIDIT 5/26/2013 5:42PM

    LOVE this!! Thanks for sharing! emoticon

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The Destitute Gourmet

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Here are a couple more links to eating well on the cheap. Not specifically low carb, but most of the basic ideas can be adapted.

The Destitute Gourment - www.destitutegourmet.com/spend-less/
money-saving-tips/


Simple Saving - www.simplesavings.net/

The $21 Challenge - www.simplesavings.net/21dollarchalle
nge/


I checked out the book The $21 Challenge at the library yesterday, and it has some good stuff in it. It's pretty much what I already do for purposes of this blog. I do my menus for the first three weeks, based on what's on sale that week and what's not on sale but reasonably cheap. My menu sheet includes the cost of everything I eat. My excel workbook includes a price list of everything I buy, including things on sale and not on sale, and also a sheet of pared down recipe info with prices. So I know how much a serving of whatever is when I put it on the menu sheet. I try to keep the cost of each day's food below $3.50, and as you've read in the weekly menu posts, they usually average around $3.20 - $3.40. This keeps my costs fairly reasonable. What it doesn't address, though, is what I actually spend. It's the staples that make this Challenge so challenging.

The way I set up this Challenge for myself, I start over each month with absolutely zilch. My purpose was to see whether I could plan a month's menus that cost no more than the average food stamp benefit received in Indiana per person in 2011. That comes out to $125 for 28 days. (It's easier to do 28 days than to fiddle with those extra days each month, so I scaled back the actual benefit accordingly.) This means that each month I have to buy the staples like a bottle of oil, and spices, and a jar of mustard and things like that that would really last for months or, in the case of a bottle of vanilla extract or worchestershire sauce, years. And these things usually run $15 - $25 per month or so, which I'd much rather be spending on more meat and veggies. But the "rules" are the rules, and so it goes. If I were following these menus in real life I would take the money that I didn't spend the second and third, etc. months on the staples and stock up on great bargains and use the rest to add more salads and other veggies. $10 a month would really help in that department.

So back to how I do this and how that relates to the $21 Challenge. I've just "bought" food for the first three weeks, keeping the cost of my meals to around $3.30 or so per day, but not keeping track of what I "spend." Once I've posted them here on the blog, they're done. I can't go back and change them. Before doing the Week 4 menus, I make up my shopping list for the month, recording everything I purchased, how much of it I used, and how much I have leftover to use on the Week 4 menus. So I might have a few servings of something I made for an earlier week, or half a head of celery, or a few chicken legs, or whatever. And I know what herbs and spices and seasonings I have on hand, how much butter and eggs and cheese and mayo, etc. And how much money I have left to spend for the week. This is the part that is similar to the $21 Challenge. Then I make up menus for Week 4, using up what I can of what I have left, and limiting my spending to whatever money I have left. Week 4 gets to be very challenging! It seems like I have quite a bit of food leftover to use, but it doesn't necessarily make a week's worth of meals. That's where I have to get creative. It's challenging, but fun.

Anyway, that's how I do my menus for this Challenge. For Weeks 1, 2 and 3, I make out my menus one week at a time, making sure that the cost of the meals is within my limit. Then I enter them into the Food Tracker here at SP and make sure that they fit within my nutritional limits, adding or moving around as needed, and still keeping my costs where I want them. Then the real work of the challenge is in Week 4, when I really work hard to use up what's on hand.

Just thought I'd tell you how I do it, in case you're interested. Or even if you're not!

  


First week at May 22 - 29 prices

Saturday, May 25, 2013

My menus for the first week of the month at May 23 – 29 prices. They are in my food tracker as the month of May 2010.

To add more variety to my salads, I made a Basic Salad Mix. This is whatever combination of veggies is reasonably priced and you feel like cutting up. Make up enough to last for a few days. It’s a lot easier than cutting up 2 tablespoons of pepper and a fourth of a carrot and so on each time you want a salad. Save the lettuce, though, to add right before you eat.

Basic Salad Mix –

1/2 cucumber
1/2 green pepper
2 carrots
100 g cauliflower

6 servings, about 1/2 cup each. Enough to add to one to two cups of lettuce.

Day 1 –
Breakfast – homemade yogurt, sour cream, flax, sunflower seeds, strawberries
Lunch – lettuce of salad, tuna, egg, homemade dressing, sunflower seeds, Basic Salad Mix
Supper – chicken skins, Broccoli Casserole

Day 2 –
Breakfast – eggs cooked in butter
Lunch – salad of cabbage, carrot, mayo, mustard, splenda, eggs, sunflower seeds, onion
Supper –Dump Sticky Chicken, fried cauli-rice

Day 3 –
Breakfast – barley, butter, half and half (less than half the cost of heavy whipping cream), splenda, strawberries
Lunch – salad of Dump Sticky Chicken w/sauce, celery, mayo
Supper – roasted chicken leg, Broccoli Casserole, lettuce with homemade dressing

Day 4 –
Breakfast - homemade yogurt, sour cream, flax, sunflower seeds, strawberries
Lunch – salad of cauliflower, eggs, homemade Italian dressing, sour cream, sunflower seeds, mustard
Supper – Cherokee Pork Chili

Day 5 –
Breakfast – eggs cooked in butter
Lunch – cheese omelet; salad of lettuce, Basic Salad Mix, homemade dressing
Supper – Dump Sticky Chicken, fried cabbage

Day 6 –
Breakfast – eggs cooked in butter
Lunch – salad of lettuce, Basic Salad Mix, chicken, egg, sunflower seeds, homemade dressing
Supper – jumbo franks, green beans, onion, drippings

Day 7 –
Breakfast – homemade yogurt, sour cream, flaxmeal, sunflower seeds, strawberries
Lunch – Cabbage Mackerel Salad
Supper – Cherokee Pork Chili

The food actually eaten this week comes to about $22.52, or about $3.22 per day. For this, I got an average of 1738 calories per day, 123 grams of fat, 100 grams of protein, 56 grams of total carbs, 19 grams of fiber, and 37 net carbs per day.

Here are links to the recipes. Have I told you recently that I haven’t tried all of the recipes? Some of them I have, but not all. (I would probably have tried most of them as I'm putting them in menus here, but I have been on a very restricted diet lately, and so I can't have most of them. The most restrictive thing has been no dairy. I want my cheese!) Several come more or less directly from cookbooks or the internet, though I have mostly done some tweaking so that they are cheaper, lower carb, and/or so I’m not completely plagiarizing them. I’ve never been sure just how much you need to change a recipe to make it your own, which is why I don't make my recipes public. But I do try to give attribution whenever I can. Occasionally, though, I’ll have a recipe that I copied down, usually years and years ago, without saying where I got it from.

Cabbage and Mackerel Salad - recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detai
l.asp?recipe=2457505


Broccoli Casserole - recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detai
l.asp?recipe=2493780


Dump Sticky Chicken - recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detai
l.asp?recipe=2485044


Cherokee Pork Chili - recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detai
l.asp?recipe=2376817


Italian Salad Dressing - recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detai
l.asp?recipe=2492923


  


Salad to Go

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Salads are so convenient to take for lunch or any time you need to eat away from home and don't want to eat out. But lettuce gets so yucky if you put the dressing on before you leave home! Of course, you can carry the dressing with you, but that means another dish to wash and most of the dressing seems to stay in the container and anyway, other ingredients do the same thing to lettuce.

My solution is to make salads of veggies other than lettuce. Mostly celery and cauliflower, though, as Faith commented yesterday, you can make a great salad out of broccoli, too. Here are a few of my favorites. They carry well and are quick and easy to make, too.

Sliced celery, tuna, hardboiled egg, mayo. Cherry tomatoes cut in half are a nice addition, as are sunflower seeds. You can add some chopped cucumber and/or carrot, or a bit of sweetner if you like.

Ditto using chicken instead of tuna. Try it with sliced or slivered almonds instead of sunflower seeds, and I'd skip the cucumber.

Cauliflower, eggs, mayo, curry powder. Some sunflower seeds would be good in this, too. Or chopped nuts.

Ditto, using ranch dressing instead of the mayo and curry powder. Or any other dressing, I suppose.

Celery, chicken, mayo, lemon juice (optional), hoisin or terriyaki sauce. The hoisin and terriyaki are high in carbs, so use them sparingly. Or you can make your own sort of sauce from mayo, soy sauce, mustard, sweetner, and five spice powder and/or ginger.

Celery, cauliflower, diced pork, mayo, mustard.

Broccoli, onion, mayo, sweetner, and a meat such as cooked and crumbled bacon or sliced hot dogs or polish sausage or something like that. Watch the carbs on the processed meat. Add cheese, too, if you like. And/or sunflower seeds. (Thanks, Faith!)

Cabbage, onion, mayo, mustard, lemon juice (optional), sweetner (optional - use a bit if you use lemon juice), hardboiled egg and/or cheese and/or meat such as ham, bacon, diced hot dog or polish sausage. Again, sunflower seeds are good in this.

Greek Salad (for the summer when the veggies are cheap at the Farmers Market) - cucumber, bell pepper, tomatoes, a bit of onion (optional), olives (optional - ugh!, but good for you), olive oil, wine vinegar, feta cheese

Any kind of leftover meat, ground or chopped or diced (little pieces anyway, smaller than bite-size), with mayo and probably mustard. Maybe some dill pickle and a bit of sweetner. Possibly a tiny bit of onion. Think Chicken Salad Sandwich, or Tuna Salad Sandwich, or Egg Salad Sandwich. Just leave off the bread. You can put any of these in a celery salad, or just eat the meat salad without the extra veggies. Or take some celery sticks to use as scoops, or cucumber slices (but be sure to take some extra napkins) or maybe some lettuce leaves to use as wraps, though I always find these are really messy.

Or you can make up your own combination. Cauliflower, broccoli, cheese. Chicken, cauliflower, bacon. Whatever. Just use a "hard" veggie like cauliflower, celery or broccoli instead of something that wilts, like lettuce.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KIM--POSSIBLE 5/26/2013 4:00PM

    I don't use dressing (have never liked it!), but my girls found a squeeze-type container to put it in for lettuce-based salads. Then they just use a carrot or celery stick to swipe out what is left!

Good ideas for alternatives!

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LIVINMYDREAMS 5/25/2013 2:15PM

    What I love to use especially for tuna or chicken salad is pork rinds as my "cracker" or scoop and it gives me the crunch that I love!


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PICKIE98 5/25/2013 8:23AM

    I have never put my salad dressing in another cup. I use a ziploc sandwich bag!

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LATTELEE 5/25/2013 7:49AM

  Nice!

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HANDYV 5/25/2013 7:38AM

    Wow, some great salad ideas. Gonna have to try a couple. Great combinations.

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May 23 - 29 Prices

Friday, May 24, 2013

Another week without any great bargains in either protein or veggies. Sigh. Lots of chicken and eggs again this month. Here's the best of what's out there this week.

Kroger -
boneless pork loin hald - $1.77/lb
pork spareribs - $1.47/lb
whole pork shoulder - $1.59/lb
assorted cheeses - $1.99/ pack, 6 - 8 oz each
cream cheese - $1.00/8 oz
sour cream - $1.00/8 oz
green beans - 99 cents/lb
tomatoes-on-the-vine - $1.99/lb
whole seedless watermelon - $3.97/lb (about 10-12 lbs each)
salad dressings - $1.50 each, 12 -16 oz each

March -
country style pork ribs (from the loin) - $1.99/lb
pork shoulder steaks - $1.99/lb
pork spareribs - $1.79/lb
western style pork ribs (from the shoulder) - $1.79/lb
assorted cheeses (6-8 oz each) - $2.00
ricotta - $3.50/30 oz
mushrooms - $1.67/8 oz
"ripe" tomatoes - $1.69/lb
watermelon, half or quarter - 59 cents/lb
whole seedless watermelon (10-12 lbs) - $3.99 each
salad dressings (12-16 oz) - $1.88 each

Aldi -
frozen broccoli spears - 85 cents/lb
strawberries - 99 cents per lb
sweet onions - 99 cents/2lbs (cheaper than the yellow onions!)
dill pickle chips - $1.69/32 oz
dill pickle spears - $1.69/24 oz
steak sauce (A-1 knock-off) - 99 cents/10 oz
vlasic dills - $1.98/24 oz

My plan for the "month" is focus on sides. I've been in a real rut with them, though as I recall our veggies when I was growing up tended to be peas, corn, green beans, baked beans, and mixed veggies. And salads were usually coleslaw, carrot and raison salad, or tossed salad. Not a lot of variety, there, either. Maybe it's the fact that I'm putting together 28 days' worth of menus every week that makes it seem like there's not much variety there.

The other thing that I'm going to try to do is to have at least 8 meals (either lunch or supper) each of pork, beef, fish, and chicken. Mostly chicken, since the leg quarters are always fairly cheap. Again, I'm aiming for variety. The beef is going to be the trickiest.

So, that's the plan for the month. I'd better get to it! It's Friday already.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BUDGETMAW 5/24/2013 4:52PM

  I make a salad like that, Faith, in my real life. Unfortunately, it's too expensive for this challenge. At least, it would be for a main dish salad, where that's all I have for the meal, which is how I usually have it. Hadn't thought about it as a side dish. Hmmmmm...

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NAYPOOIE 5/24/2013 3:16PM

    According to AB, you can make slaw out of most anything.

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LIVINMYDREAMS 5/24/2013 12:57PM

    Hey Maw, I saw a recipe recently for broccoli salad that had broccoli, bacon, mayo and artificial sweetener and maybe vinegar. You could also add red onion, sunflower seeds etc, I thought of that when reading your blog.

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