Category Archives: food stamp challenge

Lemon Pepper Salmon

That’s my dinner and it was mighty tasty!

Lemon pepper salmon with steamed spinach and black eyed peas with brown rice…you can’t say it’s NOT healthy! The wild salmon which had a deeper color, richer taste, and retained more of its juices than farmed salmon.

Why don’t people just buy wild? I know, we over-fish our seas, but if I eat one package of salmon every couple of months, it can’t be too much. If I made sure the fishermen I purchased from were practicing sustainable fishing methods, I wouldn’t be ruining the environment right?

Plus, it’s not as harmful to the environment as buying beef. I’m seriously thinking of eating beef only when I eat out…but not for home-cooked meals. It’s easier to find grass-fed well-raised beef in a restaurant than questioning my supermarket.

But anyways, it’s good to have salmon every once in a while because it would be special whenever I eat it.

As for the challenge, I’m doing well, I made pound cake for breakfast and it fills me up right away. Since it’s all rainy and dreary, I baked some cranberry walnut cookies with cinnamon and nutmeg to spice it up. They were so comforting! Now, I’m out of butter, so no more baked goods for the rest of the month.

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Salmon Week

Over the weekend, I made pound cake that turned out quite nice. I set aside 1/3 for a friend, 1/3 in the freezer, and 1/3 in the fridge…so nothing will be wasted. I went grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s and bought enough food for 2 weeks. So far, the challenge is manageable, but I have to keep reminding myself that it’s easier to feed one person than an entire family of 4 on this type of budget. Still, at least I know that I fare well on my own.

Groceries for the Third and Fourth Weeks

Here’s the list:

  • 3 lb bag of Russet potatoes -6 potatoes ($1.69)
  • 2 shallots ($1.49)
  • 2 lb bag of Gala apples – 8 apples ($2.49)
  • 1 dozen large eggs ($1.49)
  • 2 large organic red bell peppers (2.99)
  • Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon – .97 lb at $10.99/lb ($10.66)

Total Amount Spent: $20.81
Amount Remaining: $5.20

The plan is to use up my remaining ingredients from last week and combine it with this week’s supply so I can have a variety of meals and still be healthy. The salmon was the most expensive purchase because I wanted it wild, which tastes a million times better than farmed salmon and it has a deeper color to it as well. I separated it into 3 pieces (2 in freezer, 1 in fridge) to make sure I don’t waste it.

With the remaining  money, I’m thinking of getting yogurt, milk, and ginger. I’m not quite sure I want to use up everything in case I need something later…but we’ll see how things go.

Hitting the Halfway Point

It’s the end of the second week and we’re coming into the third week.

To be honest, I fell off the wagon a bit because I had the first week without meat, except eggs and I was craving meat like mad! So I went to my freezer and pulled out potstickers, pizza, and orange chicken from Trader Joe’s and survived the second week. I’m not fit to be a complete vegetarian, so I need to switch up my menu plan a bit to make sure I add meat into my diet.

I have some food left but not much. I have oatmeal, 1 can of corn, coconut milk, half a bag of spinach (I froze it), some leftover roasted vegetables (eggplant, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, and barley) and a couple of eggs. Since I ate frozen food last week, I’m taking $10 off my current budget to account for the pulled reserves. That leaves me with $26.01 to last me two weeks. I’m pretty sure I can pull it off and eat some wild salmon! I’ll put up the list of what I purchased soon.

The  Dinner Menu Plan

  • Thai Green Curry – vegetarian style with coconut rice
  • Lemon Pepper Salmon with coconut milk infused roasted potatoes and black eyed peas
  • Salmon Teriyaki with sauteed spinach and rice

I only got to eat out once and it was at Mozza Pizzeria…you can read my review on Yelp.

Fried potatoes from Mozza Pizzeria

Btw, I finally got around to watching Food, Inc. and it’s very similar to Future of Food. It definitely makes me evaluate how I purchase my food and where it comes from. Also, I’ve been watching all the episodes from Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie and the rest of the world seems to have the right idea.

I gotta start buying less processed junk and better organic foods. It may not be the most efficient way to buy groceries or the cheapest, but it’s better for me and for the environment overall. When I talk to the farmers at the farmer’s market, at least I’ll know where the food comes from and how long it takes for them to harvest it and have it fully matured.

I never knew why tomatoes didn’t taste like how I remembered when I was young. But now I know that they’re picked when they’re green and artificially ripened with ethylene gas. So obviously, it doesn’t have that full-bodied tomato taste that you’d get from a naturally ripened tomato.

Just something to ponder.

It’s Still Eggplant Week!

One week in and it’s off to a good start. The eggplant parmesan and the veggie stew has been satisfying  my hunger in the most pleasant manner. A balanced meal does taste quite delicious!

What’s in my veggie stew?

It’s eggplant, mushrooms, spinach, shallots/onions, chicken stock, and marinara sauce. Since I just got my clay pot from the holidays, I wanted to test it out…and it works! The stew turned out perfectly with the slightly sweet tomato sauce paired with the slight bitterness from the spinach and eggplant, it was great combination. Pop in some crusty bread for a bit of crunch and it’s got everything I’d want in a dish.

As for the challenge, I need to beef up breakfast, but at least I have lots of fruits and veggies to keep me healthy. So far, the only meats I have are eggs and salami, which seems to curb my meaty cravings for now. Rice and pasta help add that extra boost of energy when veggies are not enough.

The week is almost over and I have half an eggplant left. I guess eggplant week will be extended to next week as well. I forsee ratatouille!

Hopefully I won’t have to buy much for next week.

Recipe: Eggplant Parmesan with Penne Pasta

For the past couple days, I’ve been eating the same thing for dinner and I’m still not tired of it. The challenge is going well so far, though I haven’t been having as big a breakfast as I’d like. However, dinner has become a time to bring out  my “chef” aspirations. Despite a bit of prep work and effort, just looking at my plate makes it all worthwhile.

That delicious plate of food is eggplant parmesan with penne pasta. The additional toppings are spinach, fried egg, provolone cheese and marinara sauce. It’s so delicious…I can’t believe it’s almost gone!

Now onto the recipe:

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Beginning the Challenge

A new year, a new challenge.

For January, I’m starting the Food Stamp Challenge again. I wrote about the conditions for this exercise already, so I won’t repeat, but I hopefully I’ll keep up the weekly updates.

Groceries for the First Week

For the first week, I hoped to spend $20 in groceries in preparation for the challenge. Luckily, I have most of my necessities on hand before heading to the store, so I didn’t need to pick up much. It’s going to be eggplant week to kick off this Food Stamp Challenge (FSC) and what better way than with a vitamin packed fruit.

Here’s the list of this week’s groceries from Trader Joe’s:

  • Sweet crisp canned corn ($ 0.89)
  • Light Coconut Milk -canned ($0.99)
  • 1 large eggplant ($1.39)
  • 1 dozen large white eggs ($1.49)
  • 8 bananas – $0.19 each ($1.52)
  • White mushrooms – 8 oz. carton ($1.69)
  • Baby Spinach – ($1.99)
  • Blood Oranges – 2 lb bag ($1.99)
  • Organic Multigrain Oatmeal ($2.29)

Total Amount Spent: $14.24
Amount Remaining: $35.76

Hopefully I planned this week well so I won’t have to waste any food and it will last me all week and perhaps next week as well. I’m starting this challenge officially on January 4th since I was visiting my family previously. Also, I will do my best to keep all my meals and snacks balanced and healthy. There will no MSG and no overly processed foods this month unless specified. I’m hoping that through this challenge, I will demonstrate that healthy eating is not expensive and it’s not complicated either.

I don’t clip coupons and I don’t read the weekly grocery ads. I just plan out the entire month, but I’m flexible with my menu based on the items at the store and what appeals to me. This isn’t the only way to be healthy and cheap, but this is my way of eating healthy for the new year.

What’s on this weeks’ dinner menu?

  • Eggplant Parmesan with Pasta
  • Modified Ratatouille or Confit Byaldi with Pasta
  • Eggplant Stew with Harvest Blend (Couscous, beans, barley, quinoa)

Starting Up Again

I’ve tried the Food Stamp Challenge about twice this year and starting January 2010, I’ll be kicking it off again. This time, it’s gonna be crazy intense! I’ll be setting aside a cash budget of $50 in an envelope so it will be easier to track. I can shop as many times during the month as I want as long as I keep under the budget.

There are some conditions that I’ve set aside:

  • No coupons unless it is already marked off with my rewards cards
  • No processed/frozen food (unless it’s sausage and tofu)
  • Must have balanced meals (no living off of ramen and mac&cheese)
  • Can eat out twice this month (leftovers not allowed and prices don’t count in budget)
  • Spices, oil, and 10 other things in the pantry does not count (it’s a bit cheating, but it’s already in the fridge and I don’t want them to go to waste)

A lot of people say that in order to be healthy, you have to spend a lot more money than to be unhealthy. But I want to prove them wrong, it can be done…to be healthy and to be cheap are not mutually exclusive. Sure, it might not be possible for me to buy organic, but it will be ok. This challenge would probably be pretty tough, but I’m sure I can do it.

In the 50’s people had victory gardens and even Mrs. Obama recently set up a White House vegetable garden! As for me, since I live in an apartment, I am only growing basil and parsley. I don’t really have time to take care of any more plants. So, I’m not really cheating with my basil and parsley.

I’ll try to keep a better record of everything…pictures and all! Wish me luck!