What you see above is a pile of bills and receipts, and my dinner: a bowl of green beans, oatmeal, and 2 Vegetable Thai Gyoza from Trader Joe's all steamed in miso broth.
What do these two things have in common?
They have a cause and effect relationship. This is a tough financial week for me, for real.
Rent is due, and I just got a parking ticket (I was literally 2 minutes late. I screamed really loud on the street when it happened.) and a bill from the DMV to renew my registration ($242.00). My trip home and to New York was great, but it wasn't free. Honestly, I'm fucking broke. I already had to transfer money from my savings account into my checking to cover this week's expenses, and spending money on groceries just isn't an option. I have Friday off for 4th of July, which is a good thing. But I hope to god that it doesn't mess with pay day. I hope I get my paycheck early or something. Will that happen? I doubt it. More likely I'm going to have to get through to Monday on essentially NO money.
Luckily, I am already quite skilled at eating cheap. The stakes are higher this time though, and the actual budget is about 1/3 of what I spent on my Food Stamp budget before.
In my pantry I had a reserve stash of 2 cans of soup from Trader Joe's and a bunch of quinoa I bought in bulk at $2.99/lb a week ago. There were also two jars of peanut butter. This week I'm using the Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Peanut Butter I bought at the Peanut Butter & Co. shop in New York. In my freezer I had 6 frozen vegetarian dumplings, frozen peas, frozen spinach, and 1 pack of those green beans I froze weeks ago. In the fridge I had a bag of limes and that miso paste.
I had to go shopping Monday morning before work to avoid eating out. I had no other option but to hit Save-a-Lot in Echo Park at 7:30AM. This is what I bought:
- 1 head of broccoli at $0.99/lb = $0.44
- 1 bag baby carrots = $0.99
- 1 block of cheddar cheese = $1.79
- Goya brand lentils, 1 pack = $1.19
- 2 grapefruits at $1/2lb = $0.87
- A loaf of whole wheat bread, the best I could find in that store = $4.29 (OUCH. I almost put it back when it rang up...)
- 1 sweet potato at $0.79/lb =$0.40
- another huge thing of Quick Oats = $1.89 (Fuck yea. This baby is worth at least 30 breakfasts, as I learned last time.)
That is it. I am trying to get through the entire week on what I have already and what I spent on Monday. This is not a test. This is for real this time.
Tonight I wound up eating a weird food combination, but I actually discovered that oatmeal can indeed be a savory food. I cooked the green beans, dumplings and oatmeal in miso broth and found that oatmeal for dinner is actually quite ok if not downright good.
I made a huge batch of lentils and quinoa last night and had that for lunch today and will again tomorrow and the next day. The bread will go with that awesome peanut butter for breakfast. I think I'll make it through the week alright but this is certainly an interesting twist no?
As I mentioned early in this blog, the Food Stamp challenge arose primarily from my interest in exploring issues of food access. However, it was also an important way for me to save money while trying to set up my apartment and get settled in a new city. While I will not pretend that I know what it is like to actually be on Food Stamps and try to feed a family on that money, I do know what it is like to make my food choices based on my bank account. I do it every week. And this week is especially tight. It just goes to show that if you don't have much of a financial cushion unexpected things like vehicle renewal notices or parking tickets can really put you over the edge.