I get $120 a month in SNAP food assistance – that is my grocery budget for the month. I really don’t have enough extra money to do much extra shopping over that. I sometimes mess my budget up by eating at the fast food places on campus when I didn’t have time (didn’t take the time) to pack myself a lunch or dinner but that is $5-$7 that I just don’t need to spend when if I take that time to plan ahead I can bring my food. It helps when I have a day like today with no commitments that I can actually take the time to do food prep for the week (or two) so that is what I am doing.
Right now I have a number of projects completed, going or planned for the day that hopefully will make my next week more successful than last week (my tummy and budget won’t allow me to eat convenience mart tater tots for breakfast anymore!)
- Instant Oatmeal – rather than spend way too much on the instant oatmeal packets loaded up with weird chemical crap, I bought a tub of quick oats and a bag of tropical dried fruit mix ($1.20 for the oats and $1.50 for the fruit) and mixed it all together in a big bowl with a dash of salt, some brown sugar and cinnamon and then portioned it out into ziplock baggies. For about $0.25 a serving I got 12 individual oatmeal packets that taste better and are a lot better for you. I just take it to work in the morning, dump it in a mug, fill it with boiling water from the tea pot, and instant breakfast!
- Bagel sandwiches – Bread just doesn’t hold up if you make sandwiches in advance, but toasted whole wheat bagels do! Premade an entire bag of bagels into turkey/pepper jack cheese sanwiches, wrapped them in saran wrap, and tucked them right back in the bag for quick lunch grabbing.
- Chicken – I scored a MAJOR deal with a 10 lb. bag of chicken leg quarters for $4.50. I put them all in the crockpot with an onion and some water and I am just letting it cook all afternoon. Once it’s done I will strip the meat, put some in the fridge and freeze the rest and have precooked chicken for whatever quick recipe I want it for in the next 2 weeks. Then the bones are going right back in the pot with some celery that is too limp for snacking, the last handful of baby carrots, and some herbs to cook on low overnight and turn into stock for chicken soup.
- Brown Rice – So simple, but I put a pot on to cook an entire bag of brown rice so it is already ready. Again, some for the freezer, some for the fridge. Handful of shredded chicken, scoop or brown rice, some roasted veggies, topped with salsa makes a quick and easy dinner bowl!
- Greens – Another score at the grocery store was 2 big bags of kale and mustard greens for $1.50 each. But they need to be cooked today, so they will be stewed with some turkey sausage, onions, garlic, tomatoes and lemon juice to make a fabulously healthy meal with enough for 3-4 meals packed with the great green veggies I so often miss out on.
- Muffins – I made KILLER blueberry muffins yesterday for my awesome cast to snack on during rehearsal. But since I gave all those away I am making myself another batch, but with some tweaks to make them a bit more hearty. Namely using 1/2 peanut flour to add some protein heft and tummy staying power! I am also tossing in some orange cranberries since I am low on frozen blueberries. But I know they will still be yummy.
- Cookies – Because if I don’t have some sort of treat I end up caving to overpriced icecream on campus. But homemade peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies with whole wheat flour will hit the spot for a post-rehearsal nosh!
- Bread – I haven’t had a batch of bread dough in my fridge in awhile but I am almost out of my massive stash of store bought bread I somehow ended up with so it is time to mix up another batch for the fridge. Especially if I am making chicken soup, gotta have some homemade bread to go along with that!
- Cornbread – I have gotten addicted to making homemade jalepano cheddar cornbread. It is so easy and so yummy! I am thinking of cooking up a batch of ground turkey with some taco seasonings to add into the muffins to make them almost full meal or hearty snack items.
- Pasta salad – $1.50 dried tortellini is my lifesaver…when I have nothing else in the house boiling up with with a quick homemade cream or tomato sauce. A can of salmon an a can of chickpeas hiding in the back of my cabinet along with a bag of frozen veggies will make this a pasta salad dish I can pack up and rely on for another couple of easy lunches.
Whew! I am tired just looking at that list! But here is where the choices come in – I did my grocery shopping yesterday and spent the last of my food budget until I get reloaded in 2 weeks. So the food I have in my fridge and cabinets HAS to last me for 2 full weeks. Things like the muffins and cookies I can make and keep in the fridge or freezer and they will be good for 2 weeks. Even brown rice and chicken I can freeze and pull out when I want to use it. The turkey sandwiches won’t stay good forever, so I figure those will be lunch this week and I will make the pasta salad next weekend for week 2 lunches. But I only have enough cornmeal left for 1 batch of cornbread – so do I make it this week because it would go great with the greens, or do I make it next week as more of a stand alone item? Do I use all my fresh veggies this week and then be more lacking in veggies next week, or do I try to stretch them and risk them going bad? Basically my choices are, do I cook everything today because I know I have time but risk it going bad, or make it all today and risk eating all the “good stuff” this week and then be eating nothing but eggs and chicken soup and ramen next week.
And of course my biggest paranoia is that I will just run out of food and money before I can afford to go shopping again! But realistically I know this won’t happen because even if I do run low on food (which considering how much I have to work with for 2 weeks is unlikely) I have proven to myself that I am capable of searching in the depths of my cabinets and freezer and making something from nothing when called upon. So maybe this is one of those learning experiences where I just need to trust myself, go with my gut instinct (which is to cook as much as possible today while I have the time and then freeze what I won’t eat in the next 3-4 days) and believe that I am competent and confident enough to make it work. And avoid Panda Express at all costs – because the Panda and me don’t get along. It sounds like it will be a good idea, and then that part of my body that used to hold a gallbladder says WRONG!! THAT WAS A TERRIBLE DECISION!! Sorry Panda, we gotta break up, this is just a dysfunctional relationship I can’t continue. Bring on the greens and cornbread instead!