So yesterday the food stamp challenge concluded. It was made easier by the access to free food from volunteering over lunch. It was more difficult because I've been eating apples. I've had 2 (big) apples (I did get them for a dollar a pound though) and an orange, for a total of about $1.40. I had a quarter cup of brown rice with just a few spices (chili powder, cumin, oregano, thyme, I believe), for 30 cents, with about 1/3 of a cup black beans for 20 cents plus a sprinkle of cheese, which made the meal about 55 cents.
Finally breakfast was oatmeal with brown sugar and cinnamon, but I accidently added way too much cinnamon, so to cover it up I sprinkled a few dried cranberries (which I bought by one get on free, so the cost for a bag was about $1.10) and some cocoa powder. Seeing as i only had 20 cents left for this meal, I probably went over by about 5 cents. I don't see this as too big of a problem though.
The big problem of the challenge is my fully stocked spice cabinet, and nearly unlimited supply of beans and oatmeal. I didn't have to buy these things from scratch. Then again, $21 is what you receive if you have a given amount of income and hence an expected amount you are already spending on food.
But, as I said before, I don't think this was worthwhile. Can I do it? Yes, and minus a few corners I cut (like free food and eating a little extra after I ran that I didn't count). But I felt terrible for a few of those days, and I think a big part of it was from lack of fresh fruits and vegetables.
I did however learn some things that I may translate to lifestyle changes. For instances, I've recently prided myself on cutting back almost entirely on processed foods. True, I occasionally eat a Kashi frozen dinner, and I keep pasta on hand like it is going out of style. But the big thing, the thing I eat every day, and which actually consumes a large part of my food budget, despite the fact that I only buy it when it is half off, is dry cereal. A box of dry cereal when half off, is about $2-$2.50. And this is 6-10 (of my) servings. This is 25-40 cents a serving plus milk. Oatmeal is a third of the cost (plus toppings). This adds up quite a bit over the course of a year, or even a month (I really don't want to compute it, but it's a lot). It also means I can quit buying soymilk (yay!) unless I make cornbread. So, I'm going to rely a little more on oatmeal. Also, savory oatmeal is something I've been hearing about for about a while and was apparently on NPR recently. It definitely sounds worthwhile trying, throwing eggs and cheese or even veggies on oatmeal. However, I try to limit my carbs with dinner (because they are the staple of my diet all day). I feel like cottage cheese holds the same duality, but it's a little less portable and more expensive.
So this week I'm really going to try to focus on eating fruits and veggies. In fact (and one of my readers might laugh at this), I'm giving myself a new challenge, but a fun one. I've been keeping up with my google reader a little better lately (this might be a result of giving up facebook and twitter for Lent, after all I still need to do something to relax while I eat my dinner or if i have 5 minutes to kill before class), and the majority of what i read is about: surprise, food! I also read the Psychology Today pretty frequently. They seem to do little series, there was a good one about girls in math, one themed around the Olympics (the one about short track speed skating helped me fully appreciate the sport), and there was an interesting theme of "eating smarter." First they discussed why French people eat loads more fat than we do (cheese, butter, croissants). When you are measuring fat pound for pound you can't say "portion size." However, they don't snack between meals (as opposed to me, who eats what you could call up to 6 small meals a day), but the main point was that they actually ENJOY their food. They don't rush around willy-nilly and grab a quick bite on the way. The actually sit down and savor every bite. The eat slower (which in general means less) and it means more. And the food is better, none of the processed junk we eat.
Anyway, not the point (though maybe it should be). One of my favorite articles was this one http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200805/natures-bounty-the-smartest-food. This week (and other weeks, also) have helped me realize how much influence food has on the way we feel and as a result, the way we think. Wouldn't it be awesome to eat to optimize our ability to learn, problem solve or concentrate? How can we do this? Eat blueberries! (or other berries, but especially blueberries). And eat them with walnuts or avocados. So this week's challenge? Eat a half cup of blueberries every day (thank you Trader Joe's and your cheap frozen fruit!) prepared in 7 different ways. I will therefore chronicle 7 blueberry recipes. Today is easy because I don't have much on hand: toasted steel cut oats (yeah, that's right super cool oatmeal), with a little maple syrup, frozen blueberries and walnuts (because this is definitely cheaper than frozen cereal).