Thursday, May 17, 2012

Upping the Ante- a New Challenge

Every once in a while, I like to up the ante a little bit and take on a little challenge, to push myself to the limits to see just what I'm able to do, if push came to shove. I've heard of people doing a "no spend month" challenge, and while that's a little impossible in my situation, because we can't usually go a whole month without buying food, I decided to do a "$1.50 challenge", see how long I could go with only spending $1.50 on groceries.
 I've done a "no shopping challenge" in the past, and this is similar, but the difference is, when I did the no shopping challenge, it was winter/early spring, when foraging was at its peak here, and now, most of the plants around have shriveled up and dried out/died; I'll have to be extra creative to figure out how to get enough veggies when the foraging pickin's are slim. On top of that, when I did my "no shopping challenge", I started out with a relatively well stocked pantry/fridge, but this time around, I started my $1.50 shopping challenge this past Tuesday, when I hadn't been grocery shopping in 3 weeks already. By Tuesday, my grocery shopping list of things we were out of (or almost out of) was already 27 things long, and that wasn't counting produce...
Speaking of produce, there wasn't much in the house either...
But that only makes this challenge even more of a challenge, even more fun for me. Because it'll push me to really kick it up a gear, to forage more, to make sure to not waste anything, and to be even more creative with my cooking.

You might wonder why I am attempting such a challenge. A few reasons.
1) Because though I know how to forage and all, I have been lazy about it and haven't been doing much foraging at all.
2) Because I've been a little too wasteful in the kitchen, a little too careless with the food I buy, so that some ends up going in the trash, unfortunately, because it spoils before I discover it in the back of my fridge. With fewer veggies in the house in general, I'll be making sure to get the most out of everything and not letting anything spoil and go to waste.
3) Because I'd like to save some money if I can. 

And no, in case you were wondering, its not because we are destitute and can't afford to spend more than $1.50 on groceries. I actually have a wad of cash in my wallet at the moment, that any time I want to, I can go to the grocery and buy what I'd like, I just am choosing not to at the moment.

So, at first I was going to do a no shopping challenge... But then I rounded up every last produce in my house that I could find...

Doesn't look like a whole awful lot, does it?

1 large bowl of cauliflower greens. (I used up half of them on Tuesday before I took this picture.) I got these for free at the market- they were throwing them away and I knew I could put them to use.
4 onions.
3 large beets.
2 carrots.
3 jars of homemade pickles.
6 store bought lemons.
9 organic lemons I foraged myself.
One mason jar full of organic preserved lemons (which I picked and prepared myself.)
One mason jar full of purple sauerkraut (homemade)
3 bags of frozen whole tomatoes (remember those 50 pounds of tomatoes?)
6 potatoes.

That't it.

How long do you think I could make it last?

That was the challenge.
Well, almost. 
I decided I needed more carrots to be able to do this challenge, so I gave myself $1.50 to go to the store and pick up as much as I want with that money... and found carrots on sale, so I supplemented what we had in the house with 2 bags of carrots.

The challenge: 
See how long I can make that $1.50 last us. 

Terms of the challenge:
Serve 3 meals a day, plus snacks and drinks, made with only what is in the house, what I can forage, or what I get free. (Breakfast is allowed to be a little bit skimpy.)
Meals have to be yummy, nutritious, varied, and that my family (including my kids) will eat.
There need to be a decent amount of protein, vegetable/fruit, and starch served every day, though there doesn't need to be all three at every meal.

How I plan on doing it:
Well, I have a decent amount of carbs and legumes, and some animal protein in the house. The biggest issue really is to get enough veggies into our diet. (I have some tomato paste as well, but I consider that to be more a condiment than a vegetable, so I didn't include it in the produce above.)
Legumes can be considered a vegetable, especially if sprouted, as they have the fiber, and vitamins and minerals that you find in veggies, on top of all the protein contained. I plan on serving legumes, ideally sprouted, every day.
I plan on going foraging for whatever I can, and being very creative in using them.
For those who told me I'm welcome to pick whatever is growing on their trees (because they don't get to them) and in their patches of herbs, I plan on taking them up on their offer.
I'll also pick some of the herbs I have growing in my window boxes.

On Tuesday, I went foraging and picked these stuff:

Some loquats, some lemon geranium, some mint, some amaranth, and some sow thistle, with which to supplement our veggies. (Lemon geranium will be to make tea.) Yesterday I picked a bunch of grape leaves.

Here's what I plan on making (or have made already, in the case of Tuesday, Wednesday, and today. There's no guarantees I'll stick exactly to that, but its good to know that even with the food I have in the house, I have enough stuff to make 3 decent meals a day for the next week and a half...

Tuesday 5-15
B- Corn bread, loquats
L- Corn bread and stretched tuna fish sandwiches, loquats
D- Cauliflower leaf pakoras, pickles

Wednesday 5-16
B- pancakes, loquats
L- Rice with grape leaves, sprouted green lentils
D- Rice with grape leaves, sprouted green lentils, chickpea flour cookies

Thursday 5-17
B- loquats, Indian vegan lentil pancakes (cheela), pickles
L- Indian vegan lentil pancakes
D- Gluten free (GF) dairy free tuna pizza

Friday 5-18
B- polenta hot cereal
L- rice, eggs, sauerkraut
D- Salmon carrot scallion and egg sushi, grilled chicken breast, GF lasagna with dehydrated eggplants and greens, preserved lemons, GF biscotti

Saturday 5-19
B- popcorn, loquats
L- Salmon carrot scallion and egg sushi, Grilled chicken breast, lentil lasagna with dehydrated eggplants and greens, preserved lemons, GF biscotti
D- Baked potatoes, tuna salad, carrot sticks

Sunday 5-20
B- Cereal with sunflower seed milk
L- Split pea soup with rice
D- mung bean and cabbage pancakes

Monday 5-21
B- Rice pudding
L- Mung bean and cabbage pancakes
D- Cauliflower leaf and wild green patties

Tuesday 5-22
B- Polenta porridge
L- Baked lentils with rice, carrot sticks
D- Vietnamese style sardines with rice

Wednesday 5-23
B- Rice pudding
L- Vietnamese style sardines with rice
D- Chicken gizzards with southern style dressing and gravy

Thursday 5-24
B- Pancakes
L- Chicken gizzards with southern style dressing and gravy
D- Black bean Chili, corn bread

Friday 5-25
B- Pancakes
L- Black bean Chili, corn bread
D- Thai coconut soup, garlic greens risotto, grilled chicken wings, roasted carrots, popcorn

Saturday 5-26
B- Cereal
L- Thai coconut soup, Garlic greens Risotto, grilled chicken wings, roasted carrots,  popcorn
D- Liver with beets and tomatoes, grilled polenta

Sunday 5-27
B- Cereal
L- Stuffed grape leaves, wild greens quiche, grilled polenta, homemade "lox"
D- GF Crackers and tuna fish

So, if I "fall off the bandwagon" and stop before the week and a half are up, will I "lose the challenge"? No. 
I already am pushing myself, and no matter how far I get, I've already changed my mindset and my attitude and how I approach food and what is really, truly necessary...
On Monday, I said "I absolutely need to go grocery shopping tomorrow." Well, I didn't shop Tuesday, Wednesday, or today, Thursday, and today, I see that I can definitely manage just with what we have in the house for at least another week and a half. If I make it till Tuesday, the 29th, it'll be 5 weeks without grocery shopping, yet still eating healthy, varied, nutritious foods.
Definitely working with what I have is helping me really appreciate my typically full to bursting refrigerator.

So, what do you think of my challenge? 
Would you ever do such a thing, or similar?
Whats the longest you've gone without grocery shopping?
How do you think you'd fare with only spending a dollar fifty plus the food you have in your house?

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