Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Things are going well

The project is going well, other than my slip-up at lunch on Monday. I have to stay mindful at times and not visit the vending machine upstairs just because I've hit a lull and need a distraction.

Today, so far, I've had cereal with milk for breakfast and a couple of tuna salad sandwiches for lunch. That's about a quarter for breakfast and a dollar for lunch (I woke up hungry so had the two sandwiches to hold me until supper.)

I anticipate eating an orange shortly. And should I be absolutely starving, there's an apple on my shelf, too (I won't be.)

Tonight, if I don't fall asleep early, I'll be doing some cooking. Sauce for lasagna; small meatloafs; an interesting looking stew with dried apricots, almond slivers and assorted spices. These are all items to cook ahead and split into individual servings. Most will go in the freezer while a couple of each go in the fridge for this week's meals. Then I'll stop until I rotate everything out of the freezer.

I'm a week into this, and for the most part I've not suffered or been unable to survive on $4 a day for food.

One nice thing -- years ago I bought a boatload of Pampered Chef stoneware -- for the most part it goes unused. However, I do have a pan that makes four small loafs. That's what I'll make the meatloaf in tonight. Consistency in size will make it easier to have individual servings. And I guess I really should use the pan if I'm going to keep it. I also have a very nice size pan for making lasagna. Hmm. There's a message here or something.

That's it for today's update. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 06, 2014

An admission

I've been doing really well at spending no more than $4 a day for food -- until today. I even brought my lunch today, but I had to run an errand.

And while I was out, I was lured into Sonic for a cheeseburger.

I am embarrassed and chagrined that I was so easily swayed. But I will get back on track tonight when I get home.

My plan for tonight is to make a lasagna and a meat loaf from the ground beef I bought yesterday at Aldi's. Last night I made tacos from the odd quarter pound in the package, leaving two pounds to split between these two recipes. Both are favorites and last a long time. I also have a honkin' huge onion that I'll use in both.

One of the nice side benefits of the SNAP challenge is that I haven't added any new food to the garbage pan. I've used up what I've had, which is so important.

This morning's breakfast was a bowl of cereal with milk. It's kept me filled. The cheater burger really let me know that it wasn't THAT good and I won't have to repeat that misstep.

Over the weekend I was mostly sick and in bed asleep, but I did get up a couple of times and nuked some hot dogs with chili. Tasty sick food (for me) and I didn't have to think about it. I was well under budget.

Oh, also, my blood sugar was 70 this morning when I tested. I suspect it probably was affected by the drugs I've been taking for my neck pain. I'll have to be careful not to go any lower, although we all know it is so much easier to bring blood sugar UP than it is to get it down. I'll check it again tonight before supper. I opted not to use any insulin this morning because I didn't want to risk going lower. I'll re-assess that tonight, too.

Here's to the jingle in your pockets!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

October 1: The SNAP experiment begins

Good morning, all.

Here's a quick reminder of what's going on here for at least the next month. I'm doing an experiment to see if I can live with a food budget that falls within the SNAP guidelines. That budget is about $4 a day per person. Some numbers say $4.50 -- I'm aiming low just to see what is possible.

I'm starting this experiment with several advantages. The most important are that I've already got a very well-stocked pantry, refrigerator and freezer. My personal goal is to use those resources first before spending more money at the store. I'll have to make educated guesses about the cost of the items I have on hand, but I will do that as honestly as I can and will note when those are best guesses.

I've started the day running late, so I didn't have time to make breakfast from scratch. Instead, I had about two ounces of deli-sliced ham left in a package and I nommed on that as I drove to work. Best estimate: 69 cents.

Lunch today will be a chicken salad sandwich with Aldi's Little Chef chicken salad with cranberries and pecans. One container at $3.79 has five servings; today's cost is 85 cents. Two slices of bread, 10 cents. I'll have an orange, estimated at 69 cents since I bought several pounds at one time. Total estimated cost, $1.54 for lunch. Total cost for breakfast and lunch, $2.92.

Tonight I will be cooking a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The package was $4.85 (I believe. I will confirm at home.) I'll cook all the breasts and put half in freezer bags for another purpose, then will make chicken and noodles; planning to have six servings from this. I previously purchased noodles on sale for $1 a package. So my estimated costs for this pot will be $2.50 for the chicken (estimating high) and $1 for noodles. I'll mix in a can of cream of chicken soup (Aldi's) which I think was 89 cents. So that will be a total cost of $4.39 for six servings, or 73 cents per serving.

I'll also make a pan of cornbread for about a dollar and divide it into six portions. So add another 17 cents for tonight's dinner total of 90 cents.

I'll leave a couple of servings in the refrigerator and three in the freezer to put in rotation so I don't get tired of it before I use it all.

Total for all this day's food will be $3.82. Just under the $4 budget. In review, I think I will add a portion of mixed veggies to the dinner menu. One-sixth of a $1 bag (another 17 cents.) puts me at $3.99.

I'll let you know if that's sufficient.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Greetings, everyone!

I'm reviving my blog after an absence of 3.5 years. Oh my, how is that possible! I guess we can thank Facebook.

Why am I back, then? Well, I'm starting a project tomorrow (Oct. 1, 2014) and Facebook just isn't the right place to write about it. I need a forum that will allow longer-form writing, so here I am, home again.

The project I am undertaking is a challenge to myself to live within the food budget allowed to SNAP participants. I know the amount per-person varies (I've worked for DHS in the past and did a lot of food stamp cases in the dark ages, so I know the variables.) For the purpose of this experiment, the budget I will be using is $4 per day for food. Wow. Will it be tough? You bet. But I have a lot of reasons for wanting to test myself this way.

As I posted on Facebook, I read a newspaper story by a reporter who had decided, with spouse, to attempt to live a week within the SNAP guidelines. The story wrote about how hard it was to stay in that budget and how painful hunger is.

Here is my personal challenge: I want to try this for the month of October, not just a week.

Here are the things I have to work out: I have a lot of food in my home. The more I have thought about this project, the more I realize I could survive a month -- maybe longer -- on my pantry and freezer. But I can't then turn around and say I spent zero dollars and did just fine.

To try to do an honest test, I have decided this will be a two-part experiment. First, I will live on these resources and try to give a honest price to what I use, for however long they last. After that I will report when I start spending again on food and see how I do with $4 a day.

I welcome anyone who feels led to walk this road with me. I'll post on my blog as we go along.

There are several reasons I feel called to this. First, if we expect the least among us to survive on this amount, I want to know I can, too. Second, if there is information I have or knowledge I gain that could help someone else, I want to share it. Third, this is the harvest season. I am grateful for all I have --in abundance --and I want to be mindful of these gifts and not wasteful. This is one of my biggest sins.

Hope you come back tomorrow and join me on this journey!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hi guys

It has been a long and at times difficult six months. I'll give you the nutshell version of events and going forward I'll try to make more frequent updates.

I'm still living a frugal life, but in October I had to take out a home equity line of credit to have central heating and air conditioning installed. I had no heat as a result of Bernie's biting of the water line last year about this time, which flooded my house, including the floor furnace.

The heating system was a real blessing during this winter -- you know the winter, the one with -25 degrees one day, with 21 inches of snow. And a week later, it was 75 degrees.

Well, Mother Nature apparently takes her calendar seriously. Spring sprung this weekend and with it came HEAT. So I decided Saturday to turn on the A/C, and it in turn decided to do ... nothing. No cooling. So on my "to do" list this week is calling the company to have them come do what they need to do to make their system work. Thank ye Jesus for warranties.

I'm still nursing my 16-year-old Honda along. I had new tires put on today, but while they were doing that they discovered the bushings on the lower control arms of the rear need to be replaced. I told them to keep the car -- they will get the parts tomorrow to replace those bushings and then go ahead and fix those. I also asked them to make me a running list of the repairs that are yet to come so I can start planning for them. I don't mind keeping my old car as long as I have some confidence in its safety and performance.

Now, as to other things going on:

During the week of Thanksgiving 2010, my good friend Rita needed to make a trip to Stillwater to have an MRI done to try to determine why she was having pain in her right shoulder and lower back. I went with her to keep her company, and to get an escape from town for the afternoon.

Rita had been hurting for a few weeks, and things really deteriorated on this Monday that we made the trip. I had seen in her face how much pain she was trying to cover up during our recent visits, which is why I invited myself along this time. And it is a good thing I did.

Things changed dramatically while I was in the waiting room. When she came out, she had to rest before we could go out to the car. I wound up driving us home. She wasn't the same person after she came out of the inner office of the imaging center.

On Thanksgiving Day, we went to her mother's house to have dinner with her big family. After we ate, she went off to a bedroom to rest and slept through the rest of the day while the rest of us played cards, visited and watched football. After most of the family left, she broke down and asked her mother and brother if she could have them bring her one of the beds from her mother's house because she was having too much trouble getting into and out of her waterbed. Of course they brought it to her the next day, but this was a defining moment.

By Sunday she had had a mammogram and another MRI, and her brother called me Sunday night to tell me they had taken her to the hospital.

She was diagnosed with breast and bone cancer. Another friend and I served as witnesses as she signed her power of attorney and medical directive.

Before Christmas there was a trip to the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Tulsa for eight days -- various tests; a round of chemo and a trip home just before Christmas.

The chemo was brutal. Rita lost her mobility and it was clear she couldn't stay in her house -- the doorways were too narrow and her walker wouldn't fit through the doors. She couldn't safely get up and care for herself.

Just after Christmas she returned to the local hospital. It was a horrible, emotional, devastating time for everyone, but the end result was a painful decision not to continue treatment. This was made harder when Rita was unable to remember how that decision was made.

Ultimately, she entered hospice care on Jan. 4 and moved from the hospital to a hospice suite in one of the local nursing homes. She has two rooms joined by a tiny, tiny bathroom -- one is a living room with a sofa and a couple of chairs; the other room is her bedroom, what I call her dorm room.

Rita and I have been friends since the first day of first grade -- 50 years. I'm about to turn 56 and she's six months younger than I am. Her body is filled with cancer -- the PET scans showed lesions on a large number of her bones and her liver, as well as the tumor in her breast.

Generally speaking, patients in Hospice care have a prognosis of six months or less. Of course we have no idea whether Rita will live that long or if she will live considerably longer. At this point, with her pain managed, it is often hard to remember that she is "terminally ill."

And besides that, we are having the time of our lives. Stay tuned -- I will bring you more of Rita's story as I can bear to write it. She amazes me. And I can't let her go as long as she has things to teach me.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I'd call this progress

This morning on the way to work I stopped at the ATM to get $20, because on Friday mornings my office has breakfast together. And I figured it was time to get some more cash, since I hadn't been to the machine in over a week.

Well. Imagine my delight when I was putting my card and cash back in my wallet and I still had LAST PAYDAY'S $20 in there -- that's from TWO WEEKS ago, folks!

That's right. I had money left over because I've been taking my lunch every day, cooking from scratch and mostly ignoring the vending machines at work.

It is a lovely feeling!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Home-made pizza success!

After a disasterous recipe for biscuits failed miserably, I needed to get back up on that oven again and come up with some sort of baking success.

I was hungry for pizza. And having just read The Tightwad Gazette's recipe for pizza crust, I made it. Here's the recipe in all its perfect, wonderful goodness. MAKE THIS. IT IS GOOD. And besides, you can make the whole pizza for about $2.50 and not have to wait for delivery.


Thick and Chewy pizza dough
1/2 to 3/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
1 package (1 Tablespoon) dry yeast (I use the bulk yeast in the jar -- make sure it's new)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups flour (I used unbleached all purpose)
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil (I used olive)
1/2 teaspoon salt.

Combine 1/4 cup of the water with the yeast and sugar. Stir to dissolve the yeast and let stand until bubbly, about five minutes (Note- I had this in an 8-oz. cup. Use something bigger!)

Put the flour, oil and salt into a food processor using the steel blade. and process about 5 seconds.

Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and process about 10 seconds, or until blended.

Turn on the processor (on high) and drizzle just enough of the remaining water through the feed tube so that the dough forms a ball that cleans the side of the bowl. Process so that the ball turns around about 25 times. (Ironically, my processor quit running just at that time...)

Put the dough ball on a 14-inch greased pizza pan or large cookie sheet (I used my Pampered Chef cooking stone.) Cover with plastic wrap or a bowl (I just turned the food processor bowl upside down on top of it.) Let it stand 10 minutes.

Pat the dough out so that it covers the pan, making a ridge on the edges.

Spread with pizza sauce (it doesn't take much) Add cheese and toppings. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes or until the crust is golden and the cheese bubbly.


I will never order pizza again after making this.

As a matter of fact, I'm going to make a hamburger, pepperoni and sauteed onion pizza for tonight's supper.