One of the things I learned from last year's challenge was the importance of variety. I made two bean and grain dishes and then ate the same thing every day for a week, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This year I want to repeat the bean and grain strategy but try to have more variety if I can. Also my grocery store circular is telling me I can get a five pound bag of potatoes for two dollars, so the proposed menu is four Indian dishes:
Chana Aloo Masala (chick pea-potato stew with tomato)
Chana Saag (chick pea-spinach curry, which I will make with collards)
Dal Tarka (spiced red lentils)
Chorchori (mixed vegetables, in this case potato and collards, maybe with some carrots)
This adds up to 17.01, leaving $15.99 for breakfast and snacks.
So how about breakfast? Last year I was really happy to have some eggs. The cheapest way I can buy them this year is $1.49 for 8. Last year I made my own muesli out of oats, corn flakes, raisins, and milk, but that cost more than $10. Oatmeal, maybe, but oats are more expensive than last year. Grits are cheaper and could pair well with the eggs. Frozen peaches are on sale for $3/lb. Tea is a necessity for me and the cheapest one I can find is $2.69. So breakfast looks like:
This adds up to $9.07, leaving me with $6.92 for snacks.
The healthiest thing is probably fruit, since I should target my five fruits and vegetables a day. The cheapest fruit is likely to be bananas, on sale this week at $0.49/lb, about $2.00 for the week. Apples are in season and filling so I would like to invest in some. The best deal I can find is a 3 pound bag for $4.88. And that adds up to $6.88, leaving me 4 cents to spare.
But what about that $3.63 I mentioned yesterday.... We know the actual benefit in Virginia is less than $33 per person per week. What if I had to do this on $29.37, the average for June 2014? What would I have to put back? Probably the tea and the cilantro.
Notice there is absolutely no dairy in my plan. I already prioritized the tea and cilantro over milk for the week. If I could find the money for some cheese I could put it on my grits or on a baked potato one night or something. But is it worth giving up tea? Stay tuned for nutritional analysis....
Last year I tried a couple of savings strategies by going to the bulk food store and the farmer's market that offered double dollars for food stamps. However, I moved from DC to Arlington and neither of my two closest farmers' markets offer this double dollar deal, so I would have to drive quite far out of my way to find one that doubles SNAP dollars. Bulk foods are available in my community, but all in expensive organic markets. Based on last year's bulk pricing it is unlikely my rice or beans would be cheaper; I might find bulk tea, but that would be about it. I don't think there is much to gain by driving out of my way for this, but maybe I will try.