Here is part one of my basic menu for the week for my mythical family of four spending an average of a $1 a meal per person (which I figured out as $84 a week total).
I tried to use San Francisco Food Bank basics such as rice, cabbage, onions and carrots. If my family was able to get them in its food bag, the total would go down by almost $6, a significant amount of money that would add more fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and variety to the family’s diet.
The cost of staples (such as butter, canola oil, sugar, flour, etc.) made my tab higher than $84, but since I would only be using a fraction of those ingredients in my weekly menu I only counted the amount used for each meal. Because I tried to buy the smallest packages available, that did mean my per ounce price was less economical. In addition other ingredients would also probably last beyond the one week period such as peanut butter, but I included them entirely in the weekly total, although in my price per meal I figured out how much the ingredient cost for the ounces used. I did just count half of the cost of my eggs in the weekly total, since they were on sale -- two 18-egg packs for the price of one. (I included the other half in my staples accounting.) Since many households may have one or more of these ingredients in the house already, that would bring the shopping total down even further.
My week’s shopping cost $96.55. I spent $15.92 of it on “staples.” My purchases directly for the week were $80.63. I used $3.35 worth of my staples, which made my total for the week $83.98.
I assumed salt and pepper were available in the house. All other seasonings were made optional.
I tried to pack in as much nutrition as I could. I tried to keep the meals fairly easy (well except for maybe the Weekend Pancakes with Caramelized Apples) and anything involved could be made the night ahead and reheated. School age children could make the yogurt parfaits themselves and older children could make themselves the waffle sandwiches.
Total of 28 servings
Waffle “sandwich” – two whole grain frozen waffles toasted or heated in the microwave, on one spread 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 tablespoon blackberry or other jam, ¼ of a sliced banana, topped with the second. (note there are 10 waffles in the pack, so that will provide five servings of this option, but the waffles were on sale two packs for the price of one, but I only figured on eight servings for breakfast, so that leaves four waffles for snack or two servings of breakfast next week.) Serve with milk. (Note: if the waffles were not on sale for two packs for $3.15, I probably would not have been able to afford the whole grain option and would have spent $2 a pack for regular waffles.)
Breakfast parfait – ½ cup of cereal layered with jam or sliced banana with ½ cup of yogurt. Serve with orange juice. (Eight servings)
Popeye’s breakfast – Cook ½ pound of frozen spinach in a fry pan until heated through. Drain and squeeze out excess liquid. Dry fry pan, add butter or oil. Optional – when the butter or oil is heated, add ¼ cup chopped onion, 1 clove garlic minced and fry until lightly brown. Add eight beaten eggs, and salt and pepper to taste and scramble until the eggs are almost set. Add eight ounces of chopped, grated or cut up chunks of cheddar, and the spinach. Cook until eggs are done and cheese is beginning to melt. Serve one eighth of each mixture as a filling for a sandwich with two pieces of toasted, buttered bread. (Eight servings, reserve half for another breakfast.) Serve with orange juice or milk. (Note: egg mixture can be made the night before and reheated in the microwave.)
Weekend Special – Homemade pancakes with caramelized apple slices (four servings, 2-3 pancakes each depending on size). Serve with orange juice or milk.
First, mix the pancake batter and let it sit.
Pancake batter – 1 cup flour mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir in 1 cup of milk, 1 egg and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Mix well. Set aside.
Next peel, core and thinly slice two apples. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a fry pan or larger sauce pan. When the butter is melted, scatter apple slices in pan and sprinkle sugar to taste on top (optional – add ½ teaspoon cinnamon). Add more butter if needed. Cook on a low heat until the apple slices are soft. Keep warm.
While the apples are cooking, heat oil a skillet or large fry pan. Heat over a medium heat, when oil is hot, cook pancakes, turning over when bottom side is brown and top side is bubbling. Use about ¼ cup of the batter for each pancake. Serve with the warm, buttery apple slices on top or jam and butter. (Or warm about a ¼ cup of the jam in a small pot. When it becomes loose and a bit liquid, spoon one fourth on top of each serving.)
Still to come are menus for lunches and dinners, snack suggestions, my overall shopping list, and recipes for savory chicken stew, vegetable soup and Asian stir fry. I also plan on including some shopping lessons learned and some suggestions for using San Francisco Food Bank frequent “best sellers” such as cabbage and cottage cheese (although probably not in the same dish, but you never know). Plus, more ways you can help the San Francisco and other food banks combat hunger in our communities.
Read more about the Hunger Challenge .
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Note: FYI the totals were revised on Thursday, Sept. 25. Turned out I had made some math errors (that's what happens when you post at 1 a.m.!) and had not completed all the shopping I planned on, so I was able to take advantage of some sales and values I had not known about when I first figured out my totals and was able to buy some more fresh fruit and vegetables as a result.
Those are good and interesting breakfast suggestions -- I like 'em!
Faith, my mouth is watering! I'm eating a lot of oatmeal for breakfast during the Challenge. This points up how much more flexibility there is when you're shopping for more than one person - and how important having the money to purchase in bulk and buy staples necessary to many recipes can be.
Oatmeal would make a good budget breakfast. Some raisins, maybe a few almonds, and it's pretty healthy and yummy.
Thanks for the comments.
I was surprised how hard it was to buy things like raisins and almonds. they really eat into the budget!
For those of you doing this solo -- shop were there are bulk foods -- you can buy just a tablespoon or cup of most ingredients like flour, sugar, etc. as well as spices. More on that in an upcoming post.
More breakfast variety from the bulk food bin -- coucous, polenta (cornmeal mush), white beans with onions and ginger
Or go ethnic -- rice congee for example
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
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