Open Arms of Minnesota

SNAP Challenge: 1003 Tasty Calories

By Susan Pagani

Like Jeanne, I opted to shop co-op style for my challenge. Seward Co-op is within walking distance of my house and offers a pretty good selection of bulk items — spices, tea, legumes, flours, oils, sweetners, eggs etc. — which, taken in tiny increments, helped me stock up for the seven day challenge. They also, I was surprised to find, offer small amounts of meat, so that I was able to buy a meal’s worth of free-range, local pork! In the end, my bill was 40% local. Here it is:

Pork stir fry $2.38
4 eggs $1.00
Whole wheat flour $1.39
Rainbow chard $2.49
Spinach bulk $1.14
White flour $3.15
Safflower oil $1.00
Carrots $2.49
Lemon $ .75
2 Apples $2.15
Sea salt $.15
Raisins $.93
Chili pepper $.21
Pepper $.16
1 potato $.74
Garlic $.24
Honey $1.34
Split peas $.74
Onion $.81
Short brown rice $1.74
Bakers yeast $.34
Hot cereal $1.99
Garbanzo beans $1.06
Irish breakfast tea $1.47

Total: $29.86

I am fortunate to have worked as a cook, a baker and a food writer, and this strong interest in food has given me a good knowledge of how to buy food and prepare it. In addition, my family received food stamp benefits when I was a kid, and my folks did their best to put healthy food on the table by cooking from scratch. Back then we ate a lot of beans — and this week I budgeted for lots of beans.

Thinking back on my mom’s wheat bread, I also spent quite a bit of my budget on flour. From the five pounds of flour, I plan to make at least two loaves of bread. The first loaf of bread is for me — I love toast! — and the second is to take to a potluck brunch this weekend. I had to sacrifice peanut butter and tomatoes for this flour, but it will be worth it to share a warm meal with friends — or so I tell myself now! I will also use the flour to make four generous servings of homemade pasta.

Yesterday, I ate Linda Watson’s Ready Up Rice & Lentils for breakfast and lunch. I had to use considerably less rice and lentils, less salt and none of the syrup or tahini, so it was not as tasty or filling as she intended, but it did the trick. I made it to the next meal without eating my coworkers. I did, however, note that a single bowl of lentils goes down in a flash. I found myself looking about for more food. There wasn’t anything.

At dinner time, I was hungry and tired. Cook? Meh. However, beyond the oatmeal I needed for breakfast, I had nothing that was ready to eat. If I had to sustain this budget for weeks, months, a year, would I continue to roll out noodles after work? Not sure.

But last night I bucked up and made myself some homemade noodles in safflower oil, garlic, onion and red pepper flakes, with a side of carrrots. I wished for a little Parmesan cheese, but the delicate noodles were still delicious. Red pepper makes everything better.

All in all, I enjoyed every meal. I was, however, a wee bit hungry at bed time and even more so this morning. I put all the food I had eaten in a food diary database — 1003 calories. In consideration of my height and weight, and a run earlier in the day, that’s not enough. The database told me I’d lose 1.8 pounds a week if I continue to eat a 1003-calorie-a-day diet, and admonished me with this message: Too few calories. Consuming too few calories can decrease your metabolism.

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