Food Stamp-o-Rama (Or, What we ate for lunch today)

Tracking what we’re eating this week to keep on the Food Stamp Challenge:

Breakfast: Oatmeal (bulk-buy, from pantry), small amount of cinnamon-sugar* (pantry) and milk; coffee**
Snack: 2 apricots, slice of cheese
Lunch: Leftovers: cold chicken, half a red bell pepper, coffee

Snack: 2 plums, handful of unsalted peanuts*** (pantry); hot tea****

Dinner:  Baked eggplant Parmesan and Italian sausage: 1 eggplant (leftover from last week’s farmers’ market trip), half a bunch of chard, 1 chopped tomato, 1 chopped clove garlic (pantry), 1 frozen pint of tomato sauce from last summer’s harvest, 1 cup of red wine left from guest visit. Baked with 1 cup shredded cheese on top. Italian sausage (bought 6/1 on sale), garlic toast (from bread site day-old bread, free, with garlic and small amount of butter).
Cost of dinner: $2 for casserole, $3 for sausage, $0 for bread. Feeding 5 = $1 per person, plus or minus a few cents.

* Cinnamon and Sugar
I buy cinnamon and other spices in the large restaurant-size container — 1+ lbs per container. Not too pricey in the bulk-food aisle at Costco or Lucky. About $4-6 each, and we use it all the time. We also buy brown gravy, taco seasoning, black pepper and dried onions in the same size and save a lot of money over buying small containers. This strategy is not as effective for 1 or 2 people, but for a larger family, it makes sense.
I also buy sugar in a 25-lb sack for about $13. For a 5-lb sack, I would have to pay $4; I see a significant savings, and we go through perhaps 3 25-lb bags a year, with all our home baking and jam-making. If this is too much sugar for you, visit C&H sugar’s Web site and sign up for coupons. You could save on smaller bags and other varieties instead.
** Coffee
I did the math. I could buy a lesser quality coffee with a larger carbon footprint. I could buy Starbucks every day, or twice a day, even, at $3.65 per cup. But I buy fair trade coffee in a 2-pound bag, whole bean, from a local purveyor: San Francisco Bay Coffee, owned by the Rogers family, an Alameda family who have invested heavily in coffee-growing regions for sports for the youth, educational and health facilities. I get their coffee at Costco or in the Max-Pak aisle at Lucky. Sometimes I get it at Grocery Outlet, if I’m shopping there. I pay about $11-12 for the bag.
We make a fresh pot of coffee every morning, and I use the recommended amount of ground coffee (I grind it each day, too.) By my math, I am getting a delicious, fresh, ethical cup of coffee for 10 cents a cup when I make it at home. We use the leftovers to make iced coffees in summer, to use as a color rinse for brown hair (a couple members of the family are brownies, not blondies), or on the compost. The grounds go onto the compost pile as well. About three years ago I invested in a copper coffee filter and have never purchased another coffee filter since then. No paper waste, no carbon footprint after the initial purchase. I have also heard that hemp coffee filters are reusable and work even better/longer than copper.

*** Peanuts
We buy peanuts in bulk — in the largest bag we can find. Good prices at Costco for a large bag of peanuts. We prefer unsalted, because no one needs more salt than we already get. I sometimes shell a bunch and use them in Thai cooking or baking. Otherwise, this is a high-protein, heart-healthy snack that Mr. Husband and the kids love, and so do our squirrel friends and blue jays. Great in lunch boxes, packed in the car for on-the-go snack, and in a pinch, you canmake your own chunky peanut butter, all natural, without added sugar or salt.
Our best purchase of peanuts, barring Costco, was Orchard Supply Hardware, where we got a 10-lb bag of unsalted peanuts in the shell for about $6. Will double check on this and correct it if I’m off.

**** Tea
I also did the math on this one. Our Boy loves to drink sodas, juices, energy drinks, Gatorade and sweet iced tea. Most of those are full of sugar or high fructose corn syrup. I make sun tea at home. We have a batch brewing twice a week or more. Mr. Husband prefers it unsweetened, so his is left alone, on the counter. The Boy and the girlies prefer it sweet. A 1/2 gallon pitcher with 2/3 cup of sugar stirred in tastes sweet enough and has far less sugar than any canned or bottled drink. Since the water and teabags are not expensive, this home-brew works out to pennies per glass. Actually, about 1 penny, if you want the nitty-gritty.
We use a no-name tea bag for sun tea. A 100-tea-bag box of black tea is available at Lucky for about $2. I use 3 tea bags per gallon of sun tea. I have tried using loose tea but no one likes little leaves in the iced tea, so we went back to tea bags. These do not have an extra outside wrapping, and the entire tea bag goes onto the compost pile.
For hot tea, I buy loose tea. I prefer the quality and flavor. At Lucky, Lipton loose tea is a pound for $6 — way cheaper than bagged tea, higher quality, and no bags to throw away. I also buy loose tea from other sources — Peets has loose tea, as does our Alameda cafe, Julie’s Coffee and Tea (organic and locally grown blends). Those are pricier, so depending on the budget, I get loose tea when I can and drink bagged teas when we can’t.

Which reminds me of a saying from my late grandmother, Ruth Bailey:

“We eat what we can, and what we can’t, we can.” 

Amen, Grandma.

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