About this Blog

Welcome! Thanks for checking out On Food Stamps.

I created this blog in 2009 when I began working at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. My work at this organization opened my eyes to food justice issues in America, and I had a strong desire to better understand the difficulties many people face when trying to access healthy food on a limited budget. So, I embarked on my own Food Stamp Challenge, living on $31/week as a vegan. I used this blog to chronicle my experience.

While my Food Stamp Challenge project has come to an end, you can see what I learned from it by reading the Greatest Hits posts linked to the right side of the page. Please excuse any out-of-date links, as I am no longer updating this blog on a regular basis.

Stay Hungry,


Sunday, May 17, 2009

First Food Triumph

Today I found eating truly pleasurable for the first time in about a week. This marks my first Food Triumph of On Food Stamps.

Up until now, I have been enjoying eating pretty much only because it makes the sensation of hunger go away. While raw carrots, steamed brown rice, white pita, iceberg lettuce, grapefruits, steamed zucchini, and all the other foods I have been eating this week are fine, none of them left me wanting more. When my lunch of white bread pita pocket with iceberg lettuce and jicama was gone, for example, I wasn't all too upset about it. Because my schedule has not really allowed me to cook bulk portions of tasty food, I have been relying on very plain, raw foods. I often found it very frustrating this week that there was nothing for me to grab and eat quickly that wasn't a raw piece or fruit or vegetable, or a piece of pita. Temptation to grab something more satisfying on the go was huge, but I simply couldn't afford it. The only solution to this problem seems to be to set aside the time to produce a BIG meal that can be eaten as left overs for several days (I love you, Tupperware.), and I spent all night last night doing just that.

I made a really great dish with those pinto beans I bought at Save-a-Lot earlier this week. The beans then went into a fantastic vegan burrito just now, which I am calling my first Food Triumph. The benefits of cooking all those beans was really huge, but it also took a very long time. As you may remember, I bought dry beans in bulk because they were cheapest that way. That meant I had to soak them on Friday night through Saturday day. On Saturday evening I spent - no joke- about 2 hours over the stove intermittently stirring this deep, gigantic sauce pan of beans (probably 6-7 meals worth) and adding water as they cooked. I enjoyed the evening - listened to music, etc. - but it certainly took awhile for those beans to cook. Mind you, if they'd been canned pinto beans I would have gotten much less food for my money, but they would have been cooked in about 15 minutes. All in all, I devoted about 3 hours to the preparation and cooking of these beans. That is a lot of time for something that is only 1 component of a balanced meal - no one wants to eat a bowl of beans alone. Today I incorporated the beans into vegan burritos, and I was really glad to have them sitting in the fridge ready to warm up incorporate into a quick lunch. Making the burritos only took me about 15 minutes.

The rule seems to be that planning ahead, and preparing large quantities of food at once is key. I am fortunate that I only work 40 hours per week and have the weekends to prepare food in this manner. If I didn't, I would probably be hitting the fast food dollar menu on the way to work.

Here are directions for the beans and the burritos:

Pinto Beans with Paprika and Lemon Water

Wash and inspect beans. Pull out any that are very discolored or do not look good to eat. Once the beans are clean, put them in a bowl with water. When you put your hand in the bowl with your fingertips on the beans, that water should be up to you third knuckle. A good rule of thumb is 1/3 beans, 2/3 water in the bowl.
Cover and let soak overnight.
You can also make the lemon water ahead of time by simply cutting some lemon and putting them in water. If you do not want to do this step ahead of time, you can also just squeeze lemon juice into the pan while cooking and add water.

Dice an onion and saute in olive oil in a large saucepan until the onion is translucent.
Add the beans and about 1 cup of lemon water. Add several pinches of paprika to taste and several cranks of lemon pepper (you can buy this at Trader Joe's for around $2.) Also add several slices of washed lemon without the seeds.
The beans will take awhile to cook, depending on how much you are making. Add lemon water several cups at a time and stir occasionally. Each time the water evaporates, simply add more until the beans are very soft. If you run out of lemon water of course, you can always use normal water.
Add more paprika and lemon pepper to taste as you go.

Vegan Burritos

1 lime
whole wheat tortilla
cooked pinto beans (see above)
1 tomato
1 avocado
shredded iceberg lettuce

Start warming up the beans on the stove top. While they are cooking, slice or smash up 1/2 an avocado and spread it on the tortilla. Add cracked pepper and/or salt to taste (not too much salt!), and layer on some thinly sliced tomatoes and shredded iceberg lettuce. Once the beans are warm, put them on top and sprinkle juice from 1/2 a lime onto the pile of burrito fillings. Wrap it up and ENJOY.

Also, great shopping trip today:

I found a fantastic new market. It it a cross between a farmer's market and a discount grocery store - huge sprawling Asian/Latin Grocery store. Let me tell you, I am NEVER going back to Save-a-Lot now that I have found this place. More price comparisons are on the way, but the prices are still quite low at this market, and seemed lower than Save-a-Lot to me. MUCH better vibe, much better selection.

I bought:
  • 1 box of Organic firm tofu = $1.19 * exactly the same price at Trader Joe's
  • 2 tomatoes at $0.69/lb = $0.49 *would have been $0.50/lb at Save-a-Lot, but the Save-a-Lot tomatoes looked less delicious
  • 2 bananas at $0.73/lb = $0.36 * $0.01 cheaper per banana than Trader Joe's, and much more expensive than Save-A-Lot which had fine looking bananas for $0.33/lb
  • huge bunch of celery = $0.89
  • 1 bag of 4 Organic Trader Joe's Avocados (don't ask me how they got there - used one in today's burrito and had to throw one out b/c it was rotten) = $1 *would have cost $3.49 at Trader Joe's
  • 1 brown onion = $0.18
  • 5 lb. bag of Brown Rice = $3 (that is 80 ounces for $3 * would have been 32 ounces for $2.99 at Trader Joe's)
Then, I went to Trader Joe's:
  • another jar of Organic Crunch Peanut Butter (worth it) = $2.99
  • 4 Organic Fuji apples at $0.69/each = $2.76
  • 20 oz. bag of 10 Whole Wheat Organic Tortillas = $1.99 *A 17.5 ounce bag of Guerrero Whole Wheat (NON-Organic) Tortillas at Save-a-Lot was $2.19- less quantity AND quality for more $$$
  • 1 lime = $0.50
TOTAL: $15.35
Remaining money this week: $18.49

Note: I am slightly afraid that I have bought more produce that I can eat before it spoils. Buying a fruit or vegetable and then letting it rot and go to waste is clearly a MAJOR money waste, and I can't afford to do that. I will have to be very strategic in my eating to insure that I don't let anything spoil. This situation is frustrating, because I really only have time to do major shopping during the weekend. Time constraints force me to stock up, but stocking up means I run the risk of wasting food and money.

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