Off the keyboard & camera of RE
Published on the Doomstead Diner on November 9, 2014
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In this week where the Japanese have gone FULL RETARD in their Monetary Policy and Vlad the Impaler gave a Speech which actually made some political sense, making our local Politicians look like the hacks they are, it’s tempting to use my Sunday Brunch space once again to look at the Big Picture, but I also want to follow up on my first SNAP Card Gourmet episode and get rolling on the great experiment of eating on a SNAP Card budget. So for a while here, the Sunday Brunch offering on the Diner will be all Food Related, and I’ll save ranting and analyzing the ongoing Geopolitical and Economic Clusterfuck for other dishes served up during the week.
Getting rolling on the SNAP Card Budget isn’t easy, particularly for the individual. It’s a bit easier for a family, because you can buy more Bulk purchases, which drive down the cost quite a bit.
Eggs are an EZ example here. If I buy eggs by the Dozen (about as much as I will usually eat of eggs in a week), around here they come in around $3/Dozen right now. However, if I buy 5 Dozen, I get them for $2/Dozen, a HUGE 50% savings! The same is true for a 5lb bag of Potatoes vs a 20lb bag, etc. So you want to buy in bulk as much as possible, especially for Staples that have a long Shelf Life.
In order to get started on this as an Individual, my first week I am going to focus on buying Staples in medium bulk, which will insure I won’t go the least bit hungry the first couple of weeks, but it will be a mighty limited Diet overall, eating pretty close to the same damn things every day which gets very boring. Boring is not the only problem though, you don’t want to eat the same stuff every day because to capture all the vitamins you need, variety is important. However, for 2 weeks you can eat the same stuff over and over again and not die from Scurvy or some other vitamin deficiency. The important Criteria for Week 1-2 is to have plenty of food for the period, keep the price down below $25 to save for better foods and more variety, and begin some storage of longer lasting foods to improve variety as time goes by.
DAY 1: JP Morgan Chase just dropped $140 on my Newly Issued SNAP Card! I recently lost my job as a NASA Engineer after they shut down our SETI program. I have applied for a job with Richard Branson at Virgin Galactic to develop Space Tourism for the 1%, but haven’t heard anything yet on my Resume. At least I can EAT this month though! Thank you Jamie Dimon!
My Future Job with Virgin Galactic
Until Richard gets back to me, my Food Purchases for the next 2 weeks are…
5 Dozen Eggs- $10
5 lbs Alaska Potatoes- $6
2 Green Peppers- $2
2 lbs Onions- $2
4 Heads Garlic- $2
2 lbs Spaghetti- $4
2 lbs Rice- $3
1 pckg Breakfast Sausages (14)- $2.25
2 Jars Spaghetti Sauce: $2.50
1 pckg Hot Sausage: $6
1 lb Ground Beef $5
1 Container Italian breadcrumbs- $2
2 Pkgs Bear Creek Chili- $6
For the next 2 weeks, I will be eating 2 meals a day, a Breakfast with Eggs, Meat, Potatoes & Onions, and Dinner of Spaghetti with Meatballs and Sausage or Chili with Rice. The only real variety will be in how I prepare the Breakfasts, it is going to be very boring 2 weeks of eating. However, it is only costing me $52 out of a $70 Budget, and I should have plenty of Potatoes and Eggs left at least, and possibly other leftovers as well. So $18 will be conserved in this initial period.
If hungry between the Breakfast and Dinner, I will simply eat a couple more eggs or some leftover Spaghetti.
So now, let’s have some COOKING FUN with this simple set of ingredients! I’ll start with the eggs, since there are a lot of ways to prepare them and even if you don’t have a lot of variety here in ingredients, at least you can make things different from day to day with some different preparations.
My personal favorite for the Morning Breakfast is very traditional, 2 Eggs Over Easy, Breakfast Meat of some type and Hash Browns. If you can’t get hold of breakfast sausage, you could always substitute Squirrel or Earthworms for Breakfast Meat of course. For the Hash Browns, you use leftover Baked or Boiled potatoes usually, but you can also just Nuke a Potato in the microwave and then throw it on the skillet with some onions, garlic and peppers. Usually to have some potatoes available for hash browns, I let the potatoes and garlic slow cook for 3 hours along with a couple of soy sauce packages and a ketchup package all scarfed up for free and in the larder here. I’m not using any of my preps I BOUGHT, but I will use freebies I have collected at the beginning to add some flavor to this stuff until I can afford some decent spices.
I like Over Easy because you can thicken up the Yolk to make it like a nice Sauce if you don’t break the yolk in the cooking, which of course is something of a challenge depending on your cooking utensils. When I first started cooking Over Easy Eggs, I would drop both in the pan, cook over medium flame until the egg white firmed up, then split them with the spatula and flip each half individually. Here is a demonstration of this basic method, which is very Low Class overall as cooking technique goes. lol.
After a few months of making my own breakfasts though when I was a kid, I decided I should get COOL and flip both eggs in the pan without a Spatula like I saw the Pros doing on TV. Needless to say, I messed up numerous times doing this, and even now it is still a bit of a challenge to catch the eggs just right so the yolks don’t break on you when you do it. However, if you really want to impress your girlfriend with how good a cook you are, if you pull this off flawlessly its just about as good for getting laid as playing the Electric Guitar. LOL. Thank God I am Left Handed, because with my now Semi-Paralyzed Right Arm, I couldn’t flip an egg with that one to save my life, and impressing Babes with cooking technique is the least of my concerns these days. LOL.
Obviously, there are many other ways to prepare your eggs, scrambled, omelletes, soft or hard boiled etc, but right now I’m limited on both type and amount of ingredients inside the SNAP budget, so you can’t do too much here. I’m looking forward to buying some Cheese, but I want to buy in bulk for this so I am saving up for it. In next week’s episode, I will have some more interesting egg breakfast preparations than just Eggs Over EZ.
The two main Lunch/Dinner meals are equally simple and basic, though with the Spaghetti and Meatballs/Sausage there are a couple of tricks to extend out your limited meat supply. I’m taking 2/3 of the 1 lb of ground beef to make Meatballs, and the other 1/3 I will brown with onions and garlic to go in the Chili.
To extend the number of Meatballs I can make from 2/3rds of a pound, I smush in 2 raw eggs and some seasoned breadcrumbs, about 1/2 a cup. This also makes the meatballs more flavorful and they have a nicer texture. The first order of bizness is to brown all the meat in a skillet, and then drain off and conserve the fat. Here’s that proceedure:
After you have browned and drained the fat off the meat, set it aside and then saute up whatever veggies you have to put in to the Sauce and Chili. Veggies up here are fairly pricey, although I often get them free from friends who do gardening. However, since many SNAP card recipients don’t have access to fresh veggies friends grow, I am not going to use those in the accounting here and just stick to what I can afford on the SNAP card budget.
Once the meat and veggies have been initially prepared, all that is left to do is throw everything into the slow cooker and let simmer around 3-4 hours. If you do have some spices in the larder, add your favorites here! Oregano, or Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme!
Just one Word here…PLASTICS!
Once you have your Spaghetti Sauce and Chili cooked up, you transfer it to a container and drop it in the fridge. Each day all you cook up the rest of the week is some Rice or Spaghetti, ladle out a helping into a small pot to heat it up and then pour it over the carbs. Alternatively, you can cook all the spaghetti and rice at once also, and then make portions for each day in Microwaveable containers.
This gets us through Week 1 & 2, and there should be leftovers of some things at the end of the 2 weeks, we’ll see how much. In Week 3, I’ll buy some more bulk goods and try to stay under $30. With the $52 spent in weeks 1&2, that is total $82, leaving me around $58 to finish out the month with. I should be able to put together some nicer meals in Week 4 with the savings. What they might be depends very much on what I see On Sale in my visits to the Food Emporiums, so I can’t predict at this point.
One final note as far as Doom is concerned. Obviously, this paradigm assumes a kind of Bizness as Usual, with food available at markets and money that functions to buy it. I am NOT here developing cuisine and recipes to live on if you cannot get hold of any food at all this way. The objective here is to simply see how little you can spend each week on food in the BAU paradigm currently operating to help keep your overall expenses down. it is also applicable only in 1st World countries, much of the stuff you might currently still buy simply is not available in 3rd World countries.
There are many other things you want to do to reduce total expenses also, such as moving into smaller living spaces, carpooling with friends and neighbors and limiting and consolidating trips you take that require Gasoline to accomplish.
Probably the most important way to reduce expenses is to get together with others and pool resources, such as moving in with friends or relatives, or creating buying cooperatives amongst people who live separately.
My current goal with this project is to see if I can reduce my total monthly expenses to what a Minimum Wage worker earns each month, around $1200, for a yearly income gross around $14,400. Hopefully I can get under that so I can have Savings besides. I will be including my monthly communications bill in this total, for my phone and internet connection, because really it is not possible to live in this economy without these things and have a semi-normal existence. Without good communications connections, if you are a laid off IT worker for instance from NASA SETI, you can’t post your Resume on the net or have a cell phone for Richard Branson to call you at. These are basics in the society we live in now, if you fall so far off the cliff you lose access to this, your downhill spin to homelessness will be very rapid.
As you can see from the Videos & Pics, my package of ground beef made 9 Meatballs, and I divided the sausages into 3 parts each, for a total of 15 sausage sections. Total of 24 Meat servings, which I divided into 3 pieces each serving. Each meal comes in around 1000 calories, and the breakfasts similarly at 1000 calories for 2000 calories/day. Both meals are very filling, and more than I really need, so actually I end up with some leftovers.
The other main Dinner meal for the 2 week initial period is very EZ, and is good for storage too, the Bear Creek Chili is dried food requiring no refrigeration. I ended up just using one of the packages, so the other package will be used next week and reduce my expenses for week 3. All you do to prepare this is add water to the mix and throw it in the slow cooker, brown the remaining ground beef in a skillet with onions and garlic and add that to the mixture with a can of tomato paste, then ladle it over rice to serve. Hopefully you know how to make rice. You boil it or steam it. Duh. Make as much as you need to fill out your calorie requirement for the day.
With my leftovers, all I am going to buy for next week is some stew meat $6, a large block of cheddar cheese $7 so I can make cheese omelletes, baked potatoes with cheese etc, butter $4 sour cream $2.50, flour $2.50 and cooking oil $2. $24 total. Together with the $52 from the first 2 weeks, that is $76, leaving me $64 to finish out the month. I will make my first “gourmet” meal during this week, and buy more staples to fill out the larder and make more variety possible in month 2.
It is worthwhile to note this is much harder to get going for a single person than for 2 people living together. You can get to more variety quicker with 2 people. Also worth noting is that you can supplement a lot from Food Pantries if you qualify, but in the first month I am not considering that part of it. Since I do not qualify for food pantry assistance in reality, I can’t get one of these boxes of food, but I know what goes in them since I volunteer at a Food Pantry. So next month I will also buy what goes in a Pantry Box but not include what I spend on it in the food budget.
In SNAP Card Gourmet 003 next week, we will make a simple Stew and Cheese Omelettes, and maybe a Surprise Meal as well. See you then!