Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What's Cooking 4.6-4.12

Sustainable Food Budget Challenge - April 2009

As I wrote last week I am participating in the Crunchy Chicken's challenge to buy "sustainable" food on a budget. This is from her post:

I'd like to challenge us all to see if we can eat sustainably using the Food Stamp Allotment Program guidelines. It will take a lot of careful planning, but the end result is that we can save a lot of money on our food budget by trying to spend within this framework for a month.

Challenge Guidelines
So, here's the skinny. Based on the following allotment chart, you are to stick to the corresponding amount for food for the month of April. The challenge is that you must buy according to the following guidelines (from Locavores). Do not include non-food items or home grown items into your budget, but do include seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat. Make sure you include all the food costs from eating out, trips to coffee shops, etc.

These are fairly loose rules, but the goal is to buy sustainably grown food:

1. If not LOCALLY PRODUCED, then Organic.
2. If not ORGANIC, then Family farm.
3. If not FAMILY FARM, then Local business.
4. If not a LOCAL BUSINESS, then Terroir: purchase foods famous for the region they are grown in.
5. Hit the farmers market before the supermarket.

Household Maximum Monthly Allotment Chart:
1 person - $176
2 people - $323
3 people - $463
4 people - $588
5 people - $698
6 people - $838
7 people - $926
8 people - $1,058
Each additional person - $132

The allotment allows for us to spend about $116 a week, since we are a family of 3. I asked my husband if he thought we should count our household as 2 1/2 since our child is only (almost) 4 and he said, "Are you kidding? This is the child who has created the meal between breakfast and lunch and dinner and bedtime."

If you follow this blog you know I'd like to keep our food budget to a weekly $80-100 *and* buy sustainable, preferably local and organic. Our CSA share doesn't start until mid-May but the farmers will start bringing whatever they have to market on April 18th. Until then I have to rely on Green Life, one of our whole foods markets, and yesterday all they had that was local and organic were sweet potatoes. Everything else I bought was organic.

Here's a picture of what I brought back:

I spent $65.09 with the bulk of the cost going toward milk from happy, pastured and hormone-free cows - $6.79 for a half-gallon of skim milk (when I used to pay $2.49 for a *gallon* at Aldi!) and $4.79 for a quart of buttermilk and $7.27 for a little less than a pound of cheese (which was on sale!).

So even though I was able to keep costs very low this week, this challenge will definitely require a lot more planning and creativity to keep us happily within our budget. To this end I will be making my first meal with a recipe for vegan "cheez" - the reviews were very favorable, so I am hopeful. We will also be making the vegan dad's recipe for sandwich "meat" because I will not be able to bring myself to buy organic deli meat at $12.99 a pound and my husband and child, who love sandwiches, are willing to make it the best of it.

Here's what we're eating this week.

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Stew (from freezer)
Green Salad

Macaroni and Cheez
Green Salad

Monastery Style Lentils (recipe below)
Corn Scones

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes
Homemade Whole Wheat Rolls
Sweet Potato Oven "Fries"

Pizza (with homemade crust and sauce)
Pepperoni and Roasted Peppers and Onions
Spinach Salad

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos
Tortilla Chips

Whole Wheat Pancakes

If you go to my copy of Diet for a Small Planet by the wonderful Frances Moore Lappe (first published in 1971 and I got my copy used in the early 90's), it will automatically open to the page with this recipe. I have been able to make it for a long time now without even pulling the book off the shelf. I love that the recipe is so forgiving - you can add anything to it and it will be great. But if you want an unbelievably rich French Onion Soup-like taste, be sure to include the sherry and Swiss cheese.

Monastery Style Lentils
Serves 4-6
Take about 10 minutes to prep, 45-60 minutes on stove - until lentils are perfectly tender.

In a large pot saute 3-5 minutes:
1/4 cup olive oil (I use a lot less)
2 large onions, chopped
1 carrot, chopped

Add and saute 1 minute more:
1/2 tsp each dried thyme and marjoram leaves

3 cups stock or seasoned water
1 cup dry lentils, washed
salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (I almost never add this, but add other dark, leafy greens instead)
1 lb. canned tomatoes

Cook in a covered pot until lentils are tender (45-60 minutes)
and add:
1/4 cup sherry

Have ready:
2/3 cup grated Swiss cheese

Top soup with 2 tbsp. of grated cheese in each serving bowl. Enjoy!

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