Published on the Doomstead Diner on December 27, 2015
Discuss this article at the Diner Pantry inside the Diner
Since I began the SNAP Card Gourmet, I have put up quite a few individual recipes that come in under the SNAP Card Budget of average $5/day eating. However, I haven't yet put up a Weekly Meal Plan that meets the budget and provides good Variety so you don't get bored eating the same stuff every day. Rice & Beans every day or Spaghetti & Meatballs every day gets OLD very fast. You can do this for a 3-day stretch if you really have to, but if you plan carefully in what you will buy in any given week and then also have a Fridge of some kind to store the fresh food and the leftovers, there is no reason to be eating this way as long as Da Goobermint is dropping $150/mo on your SNAP Card.
Before going through the Weekly Menu, a few things to note.
First off, I dropped in a different meal for each day and time, breakfast lunch and dinner. In a normal week, I wouldn't have different meals every day and every time period. If I make a big batch of Seafood Gumbo for instance, I'll probably have that 3 times during the week, not just once. Same with stuff like chili or chicken soup. In the week I make stuff like this, I have it in 2 or 3 meals. The rest goes in the Freezer to be eaten the following week.
The next important thing to note are the Prices I dropped in, which were all in Whole Numbers of $1, $2 or $3 for a given meal. I generally overestimated to the Upside on this. In fact, something like a Ramen Noodle and Peanut Butter Sandwich comes in at more like 70¢, and most of the breakfast meals I list come in under the $1 they are listed at.
The next reality is that I in fact hardly ever eat 3 meals of this size in a day, I usually only have 2 of them, depending when it is that I actually drag myself out of bed. LOL. I also don't usually have everything listed as part of the meal either, I'll just have a cup of oatmeal and no banana, or a banana and no oatmeal, etc.
Another reality is that I just about ALWAYS have leftovers, because my appetite is very depressed as a result of my neck injury and lack of mobility. My Eyes are almost ALWAYS bigger than my Stomach these days, particularly when cruising the meat freezers at 3 Bears. It's almost impossible for me to resist buying a nicely marbled Rib Eye Steak that is ON SALE, despite the fact i have plenty of steaks vaccuum sealed in the freezer already. So if I make a mega-Burger meal, if I can eat half of it that is doing good, and I have the other half for breakfast the next day. My biggest issue is eating leftovers before they go bad, or finding space in the freezer to keep the leftovers more than a week.
Then I dropped in also some Premium food, like Avocados. One nice Avocado by itself around here comes in at $2.50 usually, and this is not necessary to use half of for a burger or half for breakfast either. Dispense with the Avocado, you save $2.50 for that week.
So my weekly menu generally costs less than this, although periodically I buy what I call Super-Premium foods, like Alaska King Crab or Filet Mignon or Rack of Lamb or Camembert Cheese etc, so that brings the weekly cost up some. Not much though, because even the Super Premium doesnt all get eaten in one week. If I buy a Rack of Lamb for $15, I'll have it in 3 parts over 3 weeks for 3 meals widely space apart.
All in all, I just about never spend more than $40/week on Food even though I am not on a SNAP Card budget of necessity. Most weeks it is around $30, and I never have a problem with good variety and tasty meals to eat in a week. As I mentioned above, the biggest problem is the Leftovers. I hate throwing away food, it feels sinful to me to do that. At the same time, I don't always feel like eating the other half of last night's dinner for breakfast the next day, and after 3 days in the fridge I REALLY don't feel like eating it! lol. So I am trying to adjust how much I cook up on any given day to just what I will eat that day. Not so EZ to do, because some things like Gumbos only cook up well in quantity, plus usually the ingredients come packaged in quantities bigger than I will eat in a week. If you are feeding more people, it becomes a bit easier not to run into the leftovers problem.
With all those caveats in mind, here is a Sample SNAP Card Gourmet meal plan for a week:
|Mon||Bacon Egg Cheese on a Roll||1||Peanut Butter Sandwich & Banana||1||Spaghetti w/ Meatballs & Sausage & Salad||2|
|Tue||Oatmeal & Banana||1||BLT Sandwich & Cup of Chili||1||Chili w/ Rice & Steamed Veggies||2|
|Wed||Western Omellete & Home Fries||1||Chicken Salad Sandwich & Cup of Chicken Soup||1||Sausage w/ Peppers & Onions on a French Roll||2|
|Thu||French Bread w/ Cheese & Orange||1||Grilled Cheese Sandwich & Ramen Noodles||1||Chili-Cheese Dog & Steamed Veggies||2|
|Fri||Smoked Salmon Omellete||2||Tuna Sandwich & Cup of Fish Chowder||2||Seafood Gumbo||3|
|Sat||Egg-Potato-Bacon-Cheese Scramble||1||Meatball Marinara Sub||2||Chicken w/ Rice & Beans & Salad||3|
|Sun||Avocado Half & Boiled Egg||2||Broccol-Cheese Soup and Loaded Baked Potato||2||Cheeseburger w/ Bacon, Avocado, Lettuce, Tomato||4|
Now, to make these meals in a week, what do you need to buy or have in the fridge or freezer already? This is where it gets difficult to figure the precise cost of any single meal.
Bacon shows up often in the breakfasts and lunches, but usually I get around 2 weeks out of a 1 lb slab of bacon, which I can usually pick up ON SALE for $4. So the Bacon cost for a week is $2. The Chicken which I usually buy pre cooked as a Rotisserie Chicken for $6 also gets me 2 weeks usually, half of it I eat the first week with a Breast/Wing and Leg/Thigh/Wing on 2 days, and the rest of the good meat from the other half goes into making a chicken salad, then the Carcass goes into the slow cooker to make a Chicken Soup base, which also lasts 2 weeks. A package of Hot Italian Sausage to use in Spaghetti Sauce and for Sausage Pepper & Onion Subs also goes 2 weeks at least.. Ground beef for chili, meatballs and hamburrgers only lasts a week, while a package of Hot Dogs for chili-cheese dogs will last a month.
Then there are Staples like Spaghetti and Rice, which I buy in Bulk and last a couple of MONTHS. The per meal cost of these is pretty negligible, 25¢ or so maybe. Cooking Oil, Mayonaise, Butter etc also bought rarely, but part of many of these meals. A gallon bottle of cooking oil will last me 6 months EZ though, so per meal that i use it for cooking it does not amount to more than 10¢ either.
So on my weekly shopping trip, I go in with a $35 Budget, but I don't buy all the items necessary for the Meal Plan in any given week. A typical basket full of industrial ag food goodies when I get to the checkout counter might look like this:
In another week, I might leave out the bacon and sausage and buy a rotisserie chicken. Other weeks I might load up on staples like spaghetti or rice. I always come in under my $35 budget for a given week by $2-3, because I keep a running tally in my head, always rounding up on the prices. So by the end of the month there is always extra money to pick up stuff like chili powder or a gallon of cooking oil or pound of butter etc.
Now, lets go through some of the key meals in detail!
Bacon-Egg-Cheese on a Kaiser Roll
This is the true NY Deli Breakfast Meal, picked up on the way to school or work before getting on the subway. The Egg McMuffin is a poor imitation of this delicious morning meal, which in the old days was all cooked on a griddle behind the counter rather than microwaved up. I usually don't load it up so big as the one at left, I find that one egg, one strip of bacon and a hunk of sharp cheddar cheese sliced off the bar of cheese is plenty for me for breakfast.
The Classic "BLT"
Shown here on typical Toast, but I modified this to have it on half of a Fench Roll instead of the sliced bread loaf toast. Although they are more expensive, I like the artisan baked breads you find nowadays in the big food superstores that have their own bakeries and kitchens. Some weeks I may buy a loaf of bread for making peanut butter sandwiches and so forth, but these loves last a while and I only use them for BLTs if I have used up my French Rolls and Kaiser Rolls for other meals.
The BLT forms the base for many other sandwiches and burgers. Add a hamburger & some cheese to a BLT, and you have a Bacon Cheeseburger. Add some Smoked Turkey slices and you have a club sandwich. However, I am partial to just the straight BLT, although again I don't load mine up with quite as much bacon as is on this one.
Chili with Rice
Usually I will make up my own batch of Chili from scratch and keep a bunch of it frozen, but I admit to being lazy on this also and just buying Canned Chili, which also comes in quite cheap. A Can of Napa chile comes in around $1 a can, which you can then spruce up by adding some slices of an Italian Sausage, some green pepper and onions, etc.
The Rice really fills out the meal, and in fact I usually only use the equivalent of half a can of chile with the rice for a meal, so 1 can will make 2 meals. I rarely will eat it by itself as a bowl f chile. I'll use the other half of the can for a Chili Dog or Open Face Chili Burger. This is another change of pace from the Bacon Cheeseburger which adds variety to your menu.
Around here because everybody fishes, I always have some halibut or salmon in the freezer, I never have to buy these even though I don't fish myself anymore. Friends are always giving me some fillets or steaks during the fishing season and I vacuum seal them and throw them in the freezer. So to make a gumbo, I will take one out and cut it up into chunks, and then buy some scallops or shrimp or crab to add as well to the gumbo, and then whatever else I have available gets thrown in the slow cooker.
Like the Chili, Gumbos are best when served with rice to fill them out with some carbs. Also like the Chili, a batch will last for several meals, so you usually will want to freeze a portion of it, unless there is more than one person in your household in which case you might all consume a batch in one meal. This is the advantage of cooking for a larger number of people for anything you do in a slow cooker.
There are of course numerous other meals listed in the Weekly Snap Card Plan above, and many others possible also. Each week you can evaluate what you still have in the fridge as fresh food, what leftovers you have and what you might want to buy in the next week. Sometimes I have so many leftovers that I need to skip a week of buying new food just to work through the leftovers before they go bad. Same with fresh produce, lettuce, tomatoes etc. These weeks off from buying new food also provides the money to buy things like fresh produce, mayonaise and spices you want in the pantry to flavor up the food.
Careful planning and watching your weekly budget makes having a healthy and diverse diet quite possible on a SNAP Card allotment. Dont waste your money on junk foods like Potato Chips or cans of Soda, and you'll have plenty of good food to eat each month, at least until the supermarket shelves go empty or they stop issuing SNAP Cards out, in which case we will have even bigger problems to concern ourselves with.
Eat Well, Eat Cheap with the SNAP Card Gourmet!