Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Final Tally, Final Notes

$365.01.  That's $4.10 per day, $2.05 per person per day.  Translating lunches we give to those who do work for us into per diems, it would bring the average to about $1.75.

If we started again (which I am not going to do) I am confident that $50 per person per month is possible.  I learned a lot, made a few mistake purchases (why did I spend $1 on frozen spinach when there is a can of spinach here!  Why did I pay $1.99 for a 2-liter, ever?  The list goes on...)

I realize this blog has not been very interesting to follow during this challenge.  It was not a romantic challenge like the previous two.  It did not harken back to a time long forgotten when we used sticks to hunt game. This challenge was about being poor, but being smart about being poor.

Restaurants, particularly fast food, offer food that is cheap and convenient.  It is really bad for you.  You don't know until you spend the time eating quality food for a few months that you come to realize this.  For less money you can create a higher quality of food in that room next to the dining room, the kitchen.  The dining room, by the way, is the one with the big table and all the bills stacked on it.  You can pay those bills by saving money on food!

Here is my very practical advice to you, if you are trying to save money on food.

1) Find websites for the stores around you.  You're obviously capable of getting on the internet, or else you wouldn't be reading this blog.   In our area we have a local chain called Apples, a regional chain called Marc's, a Save-A-Lot, several Dollar General and Family Dollar stores, and a GFS.  There are other stores nearby as well, I don't shop there are their food carries premiums.  All of these stores publish their circulars on line.  I bookmarked them on my phone, so I just check them all once I made my list.

2) Pay attention to who stocks your needs, cheapest.  I don't super coupon, I don't even regular coupon.  I still managed a $60 person/month budget.  We drink a lot of soda, for example.  We decided per fluid ounce 2-liters would be far more economical.  At $1.99 for a 2-liter (a fairly common price point here) you would basically get four and a half free cans over buying $6 12-packs.  I wish, in retrospect, that I had bought all of the Sunkist the Dollar General had at $.88/2-liter a few weeks ago!

3) Never buy boneless skinless anything.  Chicken is an excellent meat source.  One local store often carries it for $.49/lb, another $.59/lb, and another $.69/lb.  They usually come in 5lb o 10lb bags, sometimes frozen, sometimes fresh.  Get over the idea that white meat tastes better, it doesn't if you prepare it correctly.  And all that bone and skin? The bones make the best soup stock you ever had, and the skin fries up delicious.  I will in the future post my recipe for soup.

4) Stock up on things when they are cheap, but only if you will use them or they store well.  Milk always spoils in our refrigerator.  Always.  Cheese holds up for a lot longer, and so does sour cream.  Cheese has the added bonus of being freezable.  Once you're at this a bit you will be better able to anticipate your needs and how long supplies will last you. Potatoes, for example, are used in heavy rotation here.  I was looking at the sales flyers for my shopping trip tomorrow (as I am in the habit now) and I am struggling because I cannot find what I consider a good enough deal on potatoes!  Buy small amounts of the very perishables as you need them, and wait to purchase more rugged goods until they are on sale.

5) Keep track of your money.  Budgeting is a practical skill that not enough people employ.  Whatever your allowance is, just write it down and then map out how to use it most effectively.  If you do the math there in the store (bring a calculator if it doesn't happen in your head) you can figure out by the pound or by the ounce what is cheapest (or, if you've looked at the circulars like I suggested in #1, you'll already know going in.)

6) STOP GOING OUT.  As mentioned we went out to visit with a friend last week, and went to a local tavern.  We had dinner beforehand to reduce our expense.  It still cost $17, for 4 drinks!  Even the most premium of delicious beers, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel, is only $12.99 for 4 drinks at the store.  Using my extreme price comparing skills, I could buy 4-16oz 6-packs of Molson Ice and a 24oz Honey Brown (yes, I even price shopped the most cost-effective beers, and that comes out to 2-1/8 gallons.)  Even not on the subject of beer, dining out is expensive, and the food is usually of a middling quality.  Cooking is labor intensive, without a doubt. You'll find a sharp increase in quality and an equally sharp decrease in expense.

As a closing note, on February 5th I had a doctor's appointment.  Just a routine appointment, nothing of interest.  I weighed 217-3/4lbs when I went in there.  After 3 months, never being hungry, simply shopping thrifty and cooking our meals, I am 8lbs lighter today.  Jessica has lost over 20lbs, and had to go buy new pants because she can take her old ones off without unbuttoning them. Though we aren't going to keep to such a shoestring budget, we are going to continue to eat like this.  This challenge took a long enough time to change our fundamental habits and not just feel like a crash diet.

I shall see you all in perhaps a week, when I will share some of my cooking knowledge with you.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

March On

In March, I started with a plan to find an inexpensive staple and incorporate it into as many meals as possible. Having really enjoyed the sweet potato and kale hash in February, I decided to load up on sweet potatoes and find various recipes. I think I started with about 6 lbs of sweet potatoes. By the time those were gone, I was starting to get sick of sweet potatoes so I scrapped that plan. March On!

Friday, April 25, 2014

No Celebration for an Early Victory

We had family dinner last night.  As i suspected, everyone confirmed that they have already given up on the challenge, declaring me the victor.  Sharon said she was spending $115 per week in February and knew she wouldn't compete.  Everyone else gave a concurrent view, that they didn't think they would win so they stopped keeping track.

I myself have gone over my original intended budget.  My goal was roughly $303 for the 89 days of this challenge.  As of last Tuesday we were at $299.67, and I had work to do off-site.  I can't cook if I'm not at the building, so I bought enough for lunch and to rejuvenate some of our depleted supplies.  I spent about $17.  I went shopping this Tuesday again as I was going to be out for the evening and once again we were running low on several things.  I spent another $24.  So we are in the ballpark of $340 now.

Despite the surrender of all opponents I will press on for these last 5 days of the challenge.  It seems silly to come so far and give up.  I plan to continue to spend as little as possible, though we will likely go out this evening to visit with a close friend who is going through a hard time.

If we started this challenge over, I do believe I could make 3 months on $300.  there were a few mistake purchases and a few stumbles along the way.  We have had a lot of actual work so I was not able to make my 'earn the money' goal either, though I also believe if pressed into hardship I could make enough money to feed us.

As for this blog, I will update it on May 1st to let you all know what our final tally was.  As it stands, and counting all the meals we shared with others, our cost per person per day looks like it will average to about $1.75 over the 3 months.

Beyond that, I plan to put up a series of posts (or if I get really ambitious, videos!) of the most economical meals I prepared over the course of this, our third and final food challenge.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

End of March Notes

2 more weeks have passed since posting about our expenses, and my overbuy has paid off pretty well so far.  I didn't go shopping at all the week after my last post, but the wife and I shared a gyro from the restaurant next door - $4.35, though I found a dime on the ground just outside so it only cost $4.25.  I went shopping this week and spent $5.90 on a few essentials, including the first jug of milk I've bought since the challenge started.  It expires on may 6th, it seems almost wasteful to even buy something with such a short shelf life.  I did buy whole milk so that it would keep a little longer.  There is still a bit of sour cream and a whole lot of cheese I bought week 1, and it is all still fine. This brings our total spent to $274.03 out of $302.78, with 4 more shopping Thursdays to go.  I might spend $9.53 for the next 3 weeks and then try to 'power through' that final week on what we have left instead of $7.18 each week.

Why $302.78?  Well, let me mention that when I set my $300 for 3 months goal, I had a second part to that goal.  In addition to spending only $300, I wanted to earn that amount through atypical means.  I had a few ideas to start with - one was selling pierogies I made with challenge funds.  Another was gathering discarded things left at auctions or thrown in their dumpsters.  The third was patrolling the streets for scrap metal.

On the way to pick up one of our workers a few weeks ago I saw a stove on the curb. When he got in the car I told him if it was there when we went past again we'd go get the van and grab it.  It was there, so we swapped vehicles.  By the time we got back it was gone.  A dishwasher was in its place.  I had a parlay with the guys cleaning the house out, which had suffered from a fire recently.  I asked if they had any more appliances and they said they had 2 fridges and a freezer.  I told a friend of ours who scraps a lot and knows a place that takes refrigerators and recovers the freon from them.  Long story short, I found 97 pennies on the front porch, and earned $20 from scrap.  I still have the dishwasher to take to the scrap yard along with a few auction gatherings.

While hanging drywall at my mom's house this week, I spotted a large pile of trash on her street.  The people were still carting stuff out there.  I spied a great looking globe with stand I plan to sell, though I do have to make a small repair part.  It is missing a pin that holds one of the axis in place.I hope to make a big chunk towards the $300 earnings goal.

The 97 pennies combined with the $1.81 my sister gave me on my birthday, which was part of her 'change I found' stash, brings to total to $2.78, the overage I plan to spend per the challenge rules.

2 more notes - Todd came over last weekend with 6 roosters.  He had won 10 chicks at a fair last year and ended up with mostly males.  We spent the afternoon slaughtering and preparing them.  If you want details just ask, I don't mind sharing.  Suffice to say, it was far less gruesome than you'd imagine.  If you've ever gone fishing and actually ate the fish, those creatures probably go through a lot more suffering than Todd's poultry did.  he gave me one for helping him out.

Finally, I sugared another batch of sap from the boxelder.  There was 3 gallons of sap and I yielded 11oz of sugar.  This was a little lower yield than the previous batch but still better than the sugar maples by better than an ounce per gallon.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Boxelder Sugaring

Last winter, our building was plagued by bugs.  They look a bit like lightning bugs, oblong and red and black, only they don't glow.  They were EVERYWHERE. Internet research told me they were boxelder bugs, an insect that winters over in buildings (non-destructively, I might add,) and then eat and breed on the female boxelder.
My Internet research also told me that it was related to the maple tree, and that you could sugar it.  But why would you? Sugar maples give the most sugar, everyone knows.  Well I am a curious creature, so I set about to sugaring one of the boxelder trees behind our building.
The insects only breed on the female tree, and last fall Todd and I cut down most of the females behind the building,  There is a male not far from our back door that I decided to tap.
Here is my operation, a bit less elaborate than the Lohman's farm.  I tapped the tree low enough that it was just a little over a 5 gallon bucket.  I tapped it March 15 (as this winter has been brutally cold up until now, for those reading in the future.)  Today is the 21st, and with light snow falling I collected the 2 gallons of sap that accumulated over the last week.  I didn't take any pictures of the boil, it went pretty much the same as previous ones.  You can click on the 'maple sugar' label at the bottom of the post if you want to see those previous posts.

Here is the yield, after about 3 hours of boiling on the stove and finish work in the oven.  The color is lighter, though I cannot say if that is because a smaller volume was boiled down.  The flavor is at least very similar to maple sugar, though I haven't done a side by side comparison yet.  The yield was...drum roll please...8oz of dry sugar!  From 2 gallons of sap!  Sugar maples have produced around 2oz of sugar per gallon in our previous trials, and Karen noted that they had just yielded 29 fl oz from 10 gallons this year.  The bucket is out there collecting sap again. I hope to get another batch done to confirm these early - and promising - results.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Challenge notes, 3/14

Well, I kind of spent a lot this week, the opportunity to get some cheap common goods (soda and chicken) was here.  I hope this will make future store trips smaller, which they need to be, now that I've spent a lot of my budget.  To date we've spent $263.88.  This leaves 6 shopping dates and $36.12 to spend.  That's only $6.02 per week!  As I've said though I stocked up, we have 10 more pounds of chicken and enough soda to last, hopefully, 4 of those 6 weeks.  I still have $1.81 in 'found change' to spend along the way too.

When we did our first challenge it only lasted a week.  It was constant tedious work, but it was only a week so I posted to the blog as much as possible.  The second challenge ran a little over a month.  Work was slow at the time (as it generally is for me in January.)  This challenge runs the length of 3 months.  I find it impossible to post daily, and apparently even weekly, on the current goings on.

What has happened during this challenge is a general lifestyle change.  Instead of going out in the field and grabbing whatever the nearest fast food restaurant or food trailer has to offer, I spend an hour or two the night before cooking in preparation.  I'll make a few pizzas, some cookies, chips, whatever is easy and comes to mind at the time.  Whatever won't be completely disgusting cold, as I am rarely within reach of a microwave.  I leave food and heating instructions behind so that everyone back here is fed too.

Our mechanic has a sign up in his lobby, it goes something like; 'Choose 2: Cheap, Fast, Good.  If it is cheap and fast, it won't be good.  If it is cheap and good, it won't be fast.  If it is fast and good, it won't be cheap.'  I am finding food to fit that analogy.  Everything I am making is cheap.  If it is fast its probably not very good, and if it is good its probably not very fast.  Ramen noodles=fast, not good.  Pierogies=good, not fast.  Tearing chicken legs apart takes FOR-EVER, but the end result is well worth the time invested (way better than eating drumsticks all the time.)

Final thoughts, on Sharon's clean fridge.  I have noticed myself that our refridgerator is much more empty and organized.  It didn't used to matter if the milk went bad, you throw it out on trash day and go get some more.  Now wasting $3 like that seems like a cardinal sin!  I've decided that cheese and sour cream are much better, much more stable sources of dairy anyways.  We still have sour cream and cheese from week 1 that is as fine as the day we bought it.  Beyond that I pay much more attention to what is left over in the fridge and make sure it is added to the meal plan.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wrapping Up Month One - What's in Your Fridge? New Recipes; and Other Comments

This is what I have prepped/left over for the final day of month 1 - Top shelf: fruit salad (pineapple, mango, kiwi and blueberries), and sweet potato & kale hash (4 small plates which I will heat in the oven and top each with a fried egg). Bottom shelf: 2 pieces jerk cod (marinating to bake tomorrow) which will be served with pineapple mango salsa (middle container), chopped salad consisting of lettuce, carrots, green onion, kale and broccoli (right) and a bag of rainbow carrots (peaking out in the back).  There is nothing left in the drawers which my family calls "rotters" and just some condiments and beverages in the door.

New recipes for the month: fish baked with pineapple, coconut oil, salt and pepper (salmon & Mahi Mahi), jerk cod with pineapple mango salsa, and sweet potato & kale hash.

This was a short month but could possibly be the most costly. I'm on a fitness plan and trying to find the right balance of food so I'm not hungry. I splurged this month on prepared kale chips, protein powder, and other things. I have a new strategy/shopping list for month 2 so I expect that my budgeting will improve with a plan.  Do I at least get the clean fridge award??

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Turkey Marshmallows Part 2

For all of you who have been following along since season 2, I attempted previously to make marshmallows from gelatin stock from a turkey.  After cooking the worthless bits of a turkey carcass down I was rewarded with about 10 fl oz of turkey gelatin.  I decided to try again.

The first time I attempted this I failed to whisk enough to make marshmallows properly.  Someone, probably Sarah Lohman asked me, 'Why didn't you use an electric mixer?'  Uh, yeah.  So you can see where this is headed.

Once again I strained the gelatin to get all the meaty bits out.  Then I added twice the volume of gelatin in cups of sugar (2-1/4 cups of sugar to 1-1/8 cups gelatin.)

Stirring constantly I brought the temperature up to 138 degrees.  I went just a little over (the thermometer hit 140) and I could see the contents getting white and frothy.  I dumped the gela-sugar into my mixing bowl, which was resting in an ice bath.  I started mixing...

And kept mixing...

and kept mixing...

 Finally, it turned white and started to firm up.  When I thought it was about done I set a timer for 4 more minutes and kept mixing it.  The substance it created was a lot like marshmallow fluff, and probably is in fact marshmallow fluff.  I tasted some off the spatula and it taste like marshmallows and turkey.  Weird.  I put it in a greased and sugared pan I will post the final results in the comments section.

How Its Going

I have rethought my approach to the challenge.  I decided to not fret about how much I've spend, and instead focus on budgeting to the end to meet the goal.  We have a solid stock of food already prepared, so now money is just spent to fill in missing items for the week.  I've re-set my weeks so that Thursday is my new Monday - the challenge ends on a Wednesday so I've budgeted out weekly what we can spend.  We get $11.63 every week, and there are now 9 more weeks to go.

I over-spent by about 40 cents 2 weeks ago, this past week I was under by 3 cents.  I've always been very good at forcing myself into a budget, I had a lot of credit card debt at one time and managet to pay it, my house, and my car all off.  I suppose this is part of the reason I am successful at seelf-employment, my ability to really buckle down when I need to.

At family dinner on Thursday I realized that I may be a rarity in this ability.  Although I don't for a moment believe I should be the winner of this challenge, the possibility exists that I might actually win.  Everyone else at family dinner indicated that they had a pile of unsorted reciepts, and they were afraid to tally them all up.  

Hey, family!  Knowledge is empowerment!  Find out where you stand and make a plan moving forward!

We had a pot luck dinner.  I brought chicken soup.  I don't mind tooting my own horn, it was delicious.  I am amazed at how easy some things are to cook, once you get the hang of them.  To make the soup I used the stripped bones from a 5lb bag of drumsticks I dismantled.  I broke the bones, added an onion and covered them with water.  Into the crock pot for 8hrs on low, and the stock was ready.  It is so hearty that it will solifiy into gravy in the refridgerator.  I picked the bits of meat left on the bones and set them aside, then cooked and cut up a potato and some carrots in the microwave. The meat bits and vegetables were added to the stock. Every time I make pierogies there is some dough left over, and I roll this dough out on my Pasta Queen into noodles.  I added some home-made noodles and my dinner contribution cost literally pennies.

We had a bit of trade after dinner  I took maybe 10 or 12 dozen pierogies with me, and shared them with Therese and the Jacksons.  Kathy brought me 6 cans of peeled tomatoes and some frozen herbs in olive oil, and Therese gave me the turkey carcass, less the breast meat.   The turkey borke down into; 22oz cooked meat, 5oz skin, 16oz bone for soup (made roughly a quart of soup stock), and a pile of scraps.  The scraps consisted of everything that wasn't meat or large bones. I covered them in water and put on a back burner of the stove and let them simmer while I made pierogies on Saturday. I expected to cook a lot of fat off of them.  After some hours of simmering I drained the liquid and discarded the rest.  I was surprised that there was maybe a tablespoon of fat and the rest was gelatin (about 10 fl oz.)  I'll post the story of the gelatin stock shortly.  Back to family dinner, I took some unwanted leftovers home as well  There were some mixed fresh vegetables and a small container of parmesan cheese.  Therese had gotten some free produce and shared with me some white sweet potatoes and apples.

Saturday I ended up cooking all day, though I did not set out to do so at the beginning of the day.  I stripped the turkey carcass apart and made soup stock out of the turkey bones.  As mentioned above the erroneous bits were cooked down into gelatin and fat.  I also made pierogies to replenish my stores.  I only made a half-batch of filling (2-1/2lbs of potatoes to 1/2lb cheese).  I was in an...experimental mood.  I made some alternate fillings for pierogies.  First I came up with the 'turkey dinner' pierogi, filled with potatoes and cheese, turkey, and a small slice of bagel to simulate stuffing.  They are fantastic topped with gravy.  The second I made using the white sweet potatoes.  I don't like sweet potatoes.  Jessica does so I thought I'd make a trial batch.  I tasted one and it was, well, like eating a sweet potato.  Jessica was indifferent to them, they were in need of something.  After I made the rest of the potato and cheese pierogies I had a lot of dough left, so I made a second trial.  I added cinnamon to the sweet potato, and added some sugar to the sour cream.  As I've said, I don't like sweet potatoes, but these were delicious.  Our friend Jeff would disagree, but that is because Jeff hates freedom and everything else delicious.  Jessica siad they should be fried.  I have plans for the future to do just that.  I also baked a few to see how they would come out.  I think this dough might make acceptable pizza rolls, we'll see.

The Baking Will Continue Until Morale Improves

I just thought that was a funny title.  I've been making cookies lately.  They are way simple.  Sugar and margarine, plus an egg, mixed together.  When that's done, force a bunch of flour into it.  Add, whatever, bake at 375 for 7-9mins.  I've made peanut butter, chocolate chip, and the ultimate combo, 'You got peanut butter in my chocolate chip' cookies.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Stretching Out Meals for the Week

As part of my meal preparation yesterday, I was able to stretch out 1 serving into 3-4 by adding ingredients that I had in the fridge/pantry (these have been weighed and will be added into my total expenses).

The first meal was baked oatmeal. I started with just under 2/3 cup of oatmeal, about 1 serving, and stretched it out to 3 - 1 1/4 cup servings. I remembered a recipe that I previously made from the Eat for Health book by Dr. Fuhrman. I started by putting the oatmeal in an 8x8 baking dish with a cup of water and 3 dates. I sprinkled a little coriander on top and baked at 350 degrees until the water was absorbed (approximately 30 min.). I chopped up 1 1/2 bananas and grated 3 apples in the blender and sprinkled them with cinnamon. I added the fruit with a little more water and baked until the fruit was soft. Once done, I sprinkled the top with  1 1/2 TBS ground flax.  This recipe is very versatile and will work well with many other combinations of dried, frozen or fresh fruit as well as nuts, seeds and nut butters.

The second meal was pumpkin curry with lentils. I started with one serving of frozen pumpkin curry (prepared by Kathy) and turned it into 4 - 1 cup servings each served over 1/2 cup rice. I cooked 1 cup of lentils until they were soft. When the lentils were finished, I drained the excess water and added 2 chopped roma tomatoes, raisins and curry powder and cooked it until the tomatoes were soft. I added the thawed pumpkin curry and cooked it for a few more minutes and then topped it with chopped green onions. This is another recipe that can have many variations by adding other vegetables or beans, although its not very common to have a extra package of pumpkin curry in the freezer (except if you're the Jacksons with 20+).

Day 10, we still won't win.

Despite individual meal cost being low, our food bills continue to rise.  Unexpected Birthday expenses this week totalled $50, bringing our running total to $174.30, nearly 2 months of our initial budget in just 10 days.

I've made some pretty successful dishes this week.  I've gotten used to pulling chicken legs apart to remove

all the tendons, and have made chicken parm (pictured), pretzel crusted chicken, chicken and dumplings, bbq ribs, pizza, and lots of pierogies.  I saved all the bones and leftover bits from the chicken legs I used, 6 of them made a very good quart of chicken noodle soup.  All of the meals have been satisfying, nay, downright normal.  It is nice to enjoy meals made of ingredients you can recognize, no trisodium megaphosphate or whatever else you see on the side of boxes.

I can't say I really miss any foods.  Cooking does take up a good deal of time but the crockpot and items prepared last sunday do help to keep cooking times minimal.

The sandwich to the left shows the return of an old challenge favorite - Apocalyps Bacon.  I call this sandiwch the ABLT.  This incarnation is chicken skin, stripped from the legs I prepared earler in the week, fried crisp in a pan.  The tomatoes on the ABLT (and the chick parm for that matter) are runted leftovers from my mom's garden.  I gathered them the last day before she went on vacation, which was 3 days before the first killer frost.  I've kept them in the garage and then the back hall when the garage got too cold, letting them slowly ripen.  I'm amazed that I still have a few good ones left!

There has only been one real failure so far (aside from our balooned expenses.)  I tried to make beef barley soup from what was left in the crockpot when I made ribs last week, and I added too much barley.  The barley doesn't have a great consistency either.  It is just sitting in the refrigerator now, thouch I can't quite bring myself to throw it out.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

An exercise in mindfullness and organization

Lets be clear. My reason for agreeing to participate in this challenge is not to experience the past but to live mindfully in the present. I believe that I have already been doing this for the past several months, mainly starting when I decided to move to a new apartment. My goal was to use most of the excess stores that I had including beans (all kinds - split peas, lentils, black eyed peas, chickpeas, etc.), rice, nuts, frozen foods, etc before I moved... I also wanted to be less wasteful because I found myself discarding pounds of produce simply because I was not very organized. 

Since moving, I have had very little waste - just the occasional bad recipe that even a dog won't eat. I generally buy what I need and use it up. If I have a couple ingredients that I think would work well together, I do an Internet search for a recipe. For example, I had left over carrots and garlic so I found a recipe for roasted carrot and garlic soup which turned out great! 

I enjoy being creative in the kitchen and experimenting with unique recipes. Remember the sprouted wheat berry flat bread and the zupa orgokowa (sour pickle soup)? These challenges have really expanded my culinary horizons.

Will I win by saving the most money? No way! Will I personally win by continuing to be mindful and embarking on culinary adventures? Absolutely!!

Monday, February 3, 2014

super cook sunday

saturday we hosed our monthly gaming group, so i invited everyone in the group to come eat on us.  there is one thing we are ahead on in this challenge, and that is hosting credits. we had 8 people show up at 2pm, and 4 more later in the evening.

though are per meal cost has been low since the challenge start, actual expenses continue to rack up. a trip to the store cost another 31.27, though many of the items were beverages for hosting.  i cant remember if i made 4 or 5 pizzas, but i can tell you we used nearly a full 5lb bag of flour and 25oz of cheese in the process, along with toppings.

sunday came and i cooked, all day. i made 1.5lbs of potatoes into chis, fried in some bacon fat i had saved. i then made 24 dozen pierogis, and bbq beef ribs for dinner. the leftover dough from the pierogies was rolled out into noodles. welcome back pasta queen.

i put the ribs in the slow cooker with half an onion and some leftover mushrooms from pizza day, along with a cup of water. 6 hours later i put them on the foreman grill with some barbeque sauce. they literally fell off the bone. i saved what was left in the c
rock pot to make soup out of later.

tonights dinner was chicken and dumplings. when you make pierogies there are casualties whose filling pokets break in the water. i took about a dozen of those and chopped them up for the dumplings. i tore 2 chicken legs apart to remove the bone, skin, and all the tendons. i found it came apart easiest when pulled apart by hand. i floured and pan fried them, added the dumplings and a bit of water. i let them simmer for a few minutes and then added a country gravy packet i found in the cupboard. it turned out pretty good. ill substitute flour and pepper next time i make it.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Market Day Proposal

I would like to propose a "Market Day" for our next family dinner which will be held on Thursday, Febuary 20.  My inventory is listed in the previous blog.  I am happy to trade or share.  (I have 26 containers of applesauce.)  LOL    Our dinner on that day will be a pot luck.  I will be roasting one of the turkeys as my contribution.

Challenge Stores

Today, I took inventory of my challenge stores.  I have two small freezers full of food I have either grown in my garden or received via the local food distribution channels.  The two turkeys and fresh sweet potatoes were purchased with a gift card I received from work over the holidays.  Listed below are the preserved food, the food leftover from the previous challenge and a list of purchases I've made to begin the challenge along with my 5 pounds free supplies.  I've decided to use up what little I have in the refrigerator from pre-challenge and I am taking 1 pound of my free food to use various items such as a few slices of bread, 4 slices of turkey, and a few slices of cheese.  I know I will probably spend more than I have listed here.  However, if I don't spend any more money than I already have, I will be eating for 18 cents per day.  My goal is to eat for less than 50 cents per day.  Here is my beginning challenge list:

ITEM Quan State Location Cost
     Beans (Green) 3 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Beans (Green) 1 FROZEN Kitchen $0.00
     Beans (Loobie) 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Beans (Wax) 5 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Beets 7 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Beets 6 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Broccoli Stems 3 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Cabbage (Shredded) 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Cabbage (Whole) 1 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Carrots 10 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Carrots 4 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Carrots (Whole 5 lb) 1 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Chives (Chopped in Roll) 1 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Chives (Chopped in Roll) 2 FROZEN Kitchen $0.00
     Corn 4 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Eggplant 4 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Pickles 7 CANNED Basement $0.00
     Spaghetti Squash 4 FROZEN Kitchen $0.00
     Spaghetti Squash 4 FRESH Basement $0.00
     Sweet Potatoes 11 FRESH Kitchen $0.00
     Tomatoes (Canned) 9 CANNED Basement $0.00
     Tomatoes (Skinned Whole) 4 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Tomatoes (Skinned Whole) 4 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Turnip Cubes 2 FROZEN Kitchen $0.00
     Zucchini (Breaded Slices) 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Zucchini (Stuffed) 2 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Zucchini (Shredded) 5 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Grape Juice 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Grape Juice 1 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Grapes 5 FROZEN Basement $2.50
     Peach Pie 1 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Peaches 5 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Pear Jelly 3 CANNED Basement $0.00
     Pears 7 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Strawberries 5 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Pear Sauce 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
    Cinnamon Applesauce 6 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Blackberry Applesauce 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Apple/Pear Sauce 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Plain Applesauce 1 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Plain Applesauce 8 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Apple/Pear Sauce 5 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Carrot/Ginger Soup 2 FROZEN Kitchen $0.00
     Lrg Roasted Veg Soup 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Roasted Veg 3 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Roasted Veg Soup 4 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Turnip/leek Soup 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Turnip/leek Soup 4 FROZEN Kitchen $0.00
     Turnip/leek Soup 1 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Zucchini Soup 5 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Zucchini Soup 7 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Banana Bread (2 slice pckg) 3 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Bread & Butter Pickles 7 CANNED Basement $0.00
     Sage/Mint Tea  4 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Sunflower Heads 6 DRY Kitchen $0.00
     Sweet Potato Pancakes 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Sweet Potato Pancakes 3 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Turkey 2 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Whole Zucchini Bread 1 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Barley 4 DRY Basement $0.00
     Farina (20 oz) 2 DRY Kitchen $0.00
     Cornmeal (1 lb) 4 DRY Kitchen $0.00
     Bran (1 lb) 1 DRY Kitchen $0.00
     Chicory 1 DRY Kitchen $0.00
     Dry Garden Herbs 5 DRY Kitchen $0.00
     1 Pound Butter 1 FROZEN Kitchen $0.00
     1 Pound Coffee 1 DRY Kitchen $0.00
     1/2 Pound Veg Soup Paste 1 CANNED  Kitchen $0.00
     1 Pound Leftovers  1 Refrigerator Kitchen $0.00
     1 Pound Oil 1 CANNED  Kitchen $0.00
     1/4 Pound Salt & Spices 1 DRY Kitchen $0.00
     1/4 Pound Brown Sugar 1 DRY Kitchen $0.00
PURCHASES as of Feb. 1
     1 Doz Eggs 1 FRESH Kitchen $2.97
     1 Large Package Oatmeal 1 DRY Kitchen $2.49
     5 Pounds Potatoes 1 FRESH Kitchen $2.50
     1 Bag Bananas 1 FRESH Kitchen $0.99
     Coffee Creamer 1 FRESH Kitchen $2.99
     1/2 lb sugar @ 1.98 5 lbs 1 DRY Kitchen $0.20
     2 lb flour @ 2.49 5 lbs 1 DRY Kitchen $1.49

Friday, January 31, 2014

Rules Recap, Challenge 3

We discussed them last night, so here's a quick run-down;

Challenge lasts from Feb 1 2014 to Apr 30 2014.

Participants record how much they spend on food during that time period.  The participant who spends the least (or couple who spend the least per person) is/are declared victor(s).

Participants are allowed 5lbs of goods that are exempt from their spending total to reflect the dwindling stores they may have in their home.

Participants can 'use up' old commodities in their posession at the estimated cost of the original goods (for example, half a $1 bag of broccoli left over in the freezer costs the participant 50¢ instead of going out and buying a new bag.)

Change found on the ground does not count towards your total.

I Won't Win This Challenge

I have, in fact, probably already spent more than some of the participants will for the entire challenge.  So Why would I participate, doomed from the start?

To those of you just tuning in, I'll very briefly recap.  The first challenge I proposed was to live for a week solely on what participants could grow, forage, or hunt for.  I saw a bear on a PBS special who knew what he could eat outdoors by instinct, yet I could not craft a meal without a grocery store.  It was at first just a personal trial but I suggested it to some friends and family members and they wanted to try too.  Another friend suggested I write a blog about the experience, hence this blog. 

The second challenge was inspired once again by a PBS special.  That challenge was about homesteading in Montana.  People had a bit of money but for the most part were on their own to survive 5 years to 'earn' their land. The proposal for the second challenge was to see who could survive the longest, given roughly $10 per person (plus what you could grow, forage, hunt, or fish for.)  I was the victor in that challenge.  The runner-up in the second challenge was my mom, Therese.  

After that challenge ended I did some number crunching and realized that Therese had spent nearly 2¢ per day less than I had.  This sparked the idea for our third and final challenge.  The spirit of this challenge is the Great Depression, and participants are trying to see how little per diem they can spend on food.

Part of the reason I am participating in this challenge is to connect with a generation of ancestor not too far removed.  Our family came to America during WW1 and settled in the coal mining country of Pennsylvania.  My grandparents were all children during the depression, though truthfully the burdon of this time probably weighed heavier on their parents.  

A greater part of the reason, and it was not anticipated, is that participation helps others.  I imagine there may be some people who read this blog looking for help or inspiration while going through trying times, but that is not what I mean.  Our project has had positive reprecussions outside of our circle.  We've been able to help friends going through tough times to find available food.  We've arranged free food for a non-profit organization from a local bakery that would otherwise throw the food away.  And we, through our grandmother, tapped into a network of donated food that would literally be thrown away if she, and we, didn't particiapte in its distribution and consumption.

For myself and my wife who has agreed to join in this time, I've set a personal goal for this challenge outside of victory.  My goal is to survive on $1.50 per person per day during our 3 month voyage.  We have a few people who do work for us at our building.  They're not well off, and we provide lunch for them.  I'd like to absorb the cost of their meals in that $3 per day (6-7 more meals per week.)  I'd also like to host 4 or more people for dinner each month, with a cost of no more than $20 per gala.  Finally, I'd like to, through atypical means, generate $300 in income by the end  of the challenge tto pay for the value of the food we consume.

Expenses so far...

Tomorrow begins our third (and final) food challenge.  Here is a quick recap of what I spent and have ready in stores for this challenge;

10lbs Chicken Leg Quarters @.49¢/lb $4.90
4-1/2lbs Beef Ribs @99¢/lb $4.46
5lb Sour Cream $5.09
5lb Pasta Salad $4.79
10lb Cheddar Cheese $21.58
5lb Mozz-Provalone Cheese $12.59
20lbs All-Purpose Flour $6.76
10lbs Self Rising Flour $3.78
10lbs Potatoes $3.49
4lbs Sauerkraut $4.38
4lbs Margarine @ 75¢/lb $1.50
2lbs Margarine @ 36¢/lb 72¢
30ct Eggs $3.15
2lbs Barley $1.98
3 Jars Tomato Sauce @ 99¢ ea $2.97
9 2-Liters of Soda @ 79¢ ea $7.11
7 Dozen Prepared Pierogies @ 33¢/Doz $2.31
4-1/2 Dozen Prepared Pierogies @ 33¢/doz, gifted to Sharon $1.49
8lb Wild Turkey $0
7 Pint Bags Frozen Tomatoes $0
1 Loaf Banana Bran Bread $0
4 Pint Bags Carrots $0
3 Quarts Frozen Soup $0
1 Box of Wheat Cereal $0
3 Cans Applesauce $0
Total $93.05

That seems pretty rough, not having started and already having spent nearly a hundred bucks.  Over a third of that is in cheese costs, It was cheaper to buy it in a big bulk and have it all at once.  I hope my pierogi factory will produce enough trade goods to diversify our stores. 1lb of cheese will make about 16 dozen pierogies.