It’s Day 2 of Bill’s and my experiment for this week: How to eat healthy on $5.00 a day. And I admit: I’m hungry. I couldn’t wait until tonight’s dinner, pictured above. This experience has been an interesting process so far in a number of ways:
- Calculating quantities and prices per ounce really creates awareness for the food we’re buying and eating. Who knew our local CSA lettuce would be so expensive and that cumin from India would be so cheap?
- It makes you think about how much you eat during the day just from habit. I’m not even talking about someone who has a bad day and binges on food, but just the idea that, oh, there’s a banana that’s ripe so I’d better eat it.
- Sometimes it really does cost more to eat healthy, but sometimes it doesn’t. For example, check out the juxtaposition between today’s lunch and yesterday’s lunch.
I have worked in both factory and office environments, both day shift and night shift. But mornings have always been the toughest for me. I am not a morning person. Never have been. Never will be. That’s why, when I need to be out the door for an early morning commitment like I did today, it’s a smoothie to the rescue. I posted this recipe for Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie on my blog awhile ago because it’s one of my favorite breakfast meals. If you have a small hand blender or food processor, it’s easy to throw the ingredients together, suck them down, and be on your way. The only variation I made from the recipe today was to use one cup of soy milk and no yogurt.
But look at the cost of the soy milk! Why, you might ask, am I not using the raw milk that I use in my coffee since it’s cheaper? Balance. I totally believe in balance. For a meat eater whose favorite food group is dairy, I have to be careful not to overdo it on the animal products. So I generally use soy milk for smoothies and on cold cereal. It’s horrible in coffee so I indulge in real milk as an accompaniment to my cup o’ java. Plus, it’s a good way to get my calcium.
Bill had the same breakfast as yesterday, so thankfully our budget wasn’t blown too early in the day. But we made up for it at lunchtime.
Remember last night’s Quinoa Kale Pilaf I made to create a bed for our Grassfed Beef Burgers? While the quinoa was cooking, I started our Red Lentil Soup for today’s lunch. I knew I wouldn’t have time today so I made it ahead (which is always better for soup, in my opinion). That’s one of the ways that I organize my cooking. It’s like dueling banjos. If I’m already in the kitchen making a mess and keeping an eye on something simmering on the stove, such as quinoa, it’s just as easy to throw together a pot of red lentil soup. Or pack a lunch for tomorrow if I’m planning to be away from home. Obviously, you have to choose your recipes, but anything with few ingredients and steps plus a long simmer time will work well. The lentil soup continued to cook while we ate dinner and then, voila, it was done.
I enjoyed millet & flax chips on the side for some crunch.
Bill had “cheese toast”—sort of like an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich. He toasts the bread in the toaster first, then melts the cheese on top in the microwave.
Since we only ate half the pot of soup I made, our total cost for the soup–for two– was only $1.12!
Another favorite of ours for lunch or dinner is the wheat-free, corn-free, cow-dairy-free lavash pizzas Bill and I have been creating over the past year or so. Again, an easy meal (although not one you’d likely bring to work for lunch), it has endless combinations for ingredients. We’ve made vegetarian, meat-lover’s, an appetizer version, and even one for dessert. The reason they’re so popular at our house is because they’re made with a millet & flax lavash (flatbread) that accommodates Bill’s allergies to wheat, cow dairy, and corn.
Tonight we opted for Lavash Pizza with Bratwurst and Kale to take advantage of the bratwursts Bill bought recently at the Fulton Street winter farmers market. Because they are expensive (from pastured local pork), we split one brat between the two pizzas. We also cut back on the cheese. Still, these put us over the $10 per day limit. But if you compare today’s pizzas to the ones from last fall, you’ll see that we used fewer ingredients to save money.
I know some people would argue that this may not be a healthy choice, but I believe it is. For one thing, Bill and I are both meat eaters. We feel better when we have animal protein. But I am concerned about eating meat from animals that are stressed, so I’ve made a choice to only eat pastured and grassfed meats. They also have less fat than factory farmed meats. And, we don’t eat huge portions of meat either. As you can see in the spreadsheet showing our dinner costs, we split one bratwurst for two pizzas.
- We sure are presented with a lot of choices throughout each day when it comes to food. While those bratwursts are expensive, I still believe it’s worth it to pay the price now–and get a product I trust from a farmer I know–than to pay it later in healthcare costs. And, even though we considered not having the brat on our lavash pizza, we had opened the package on the weekend and couldn’t refreeze them, so we felt compelled to incorporate them into our meals this week and not waste food.
- It really is a lot more expensive to eat if you have food allergies. Think about the cost of a flour tortilla (20 cents each), which Bill can eat, but shouldn’t (and suffers from it), versus a millet & flax lavash for $1.00.
- Mainly the bratwurst and the lavash contributed to putting us over our budget for today!