Sunday, May 20, 2012

Oh yeah, meal plan 5/20

I really have been slacking on meal plan blogging and actually doing it for my family... What is that about? I have been trying to do to much and I'm experiencing some burnout.

So today I decided to go through my pinterest board and make meals I have been wanting to try but I kept forgetting about.  Click through to my board if you would like the recipes.

Mon May 21 
soft shell crab sandwiches with a salad
Tue May 22 
Sausage, egg and asparagus pizza
Wed May 23 
Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Thu May 24 
Korean-Style Chicken or Pork Noodle Bowls
Fri May 25 
sloppy joes, broccoli
Sat May 26 
breakfast burritos with sausage
Sun May 27 
pesto pasta with chicken sausage and roasted brussels sprouts.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The final day of eating below the line

I feel like it's the the night before Christmas, knowing that today is the last day of our family is living below the line. I know it's awful to feel this way, when there are so many people who live like this everyday and have been for much longer than 5 measly days. Yet, it's how I feel. I am looking forward to drinking unlimited amounts of coffee with no hesitation,  adding an extra egg to my omelet with sausage and cheese because I can, and being able to order Chinese food for my birthday celebration because I don't want to cook.

Man, I am lucky. I've always felt lucky to have the life I have, but after these five days, I feel differently. I feel blessed. I have been able to spend the last 5 years at home with my amazingly thoughtful compassionate daughter. I have been able to make improvements to our home. I have food in my fridge and I am able to heat and cool my house.

I was ignorant before to the life 1.4 billion people are living and in reality I'm still ignorant. I have seen a glimpse of what the extreme poor experience, but I have health care, a stock pile of food in my basement, and I'm taking 2 vacations this year.

This challenge has made me more aware of the cost of things. I realized this week that spending $150.00 a week at the grocery store is RIDICULOUS! I could spend half of that and feed my family adequately and donate the rest to the food bank or give it to a friend who is struggling. I shouldn't be living my life in excess while others are barely making it. It seems selfish to me. 

According to my US census, 13.8% of the USA is living in poverty which is around 43 million people. 9.1% of New Jersey's population is living below the poverty line.  That is an astonishing 802,725 people and 500 of which live in my town.  Most individuals who are living this life are single mothers. How have I not noticed this issue? Where I have been?

What more can I do? How do I help 43 million people? Talk about an uphill battle.

Today I wasn't as hungry. I think my body has made some adjustments and is learning to live on less.  We even had a friend and her kids over for dinner and spent about $.50 per person on dinner. Her kids weren't thrilled about not being able to use the grated cheese on their sausage and rice dinner, but when I explained they could be eating macaroni and peas (they HATE peas) instead,  they bucked up and ate without complaints. Rob and I thought the sausage rice dish tasted like sausage stuffing and I think we would make it again. I used 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 clove of garlic and 2 packages of sausage that were $1.49 and 2 cups of rice. I cooked everything in the same pot like I would jambalaya. It was delicious. 

I'm glad my family participated in living below the line. We have a greater spot in our hearts for those who are living this life everyday. Maddie has been praying for everyone to have the money to have blueberries and strawberries, since she had to live without this week. Rob and I are praying we can find a way to change these grim statistics in our local community.

Day 4 (Wedneday) of eating below the line.

Today I decided to eat more oatmeal for breakfast since it sustained me longer into the day. I couldn't bring myself to be grumpy if I could simply eat something more filling to keep me going. I went to church after I dropped Maddie off at school, which helped me avoid some of the hunger pangs I experienced on Tuesday.

For lunch I ate leftovers from Monday's dinner of vegetables with couscous while Maddie had another ham and cheese sandwich with grapes. The couscous kept me full and happy until dinnertime. We also went over a friends' house so Maddie could have some playtime. This was a life-saver. During these past few days, my energy level has been almost non-existent so playtime isn't all that fun. In fact I've been falling asleep on the couch in between lunch and dinner so I don't feel hungry and because I really don't have the energy to do anything else.

Dinner was Macaroni and Peas. Normally this is NOT something I would make for us, but I was pleasantly surprised. I cut up 1 onion and grated 1 garlic clove and cooked the onion until they were soft. I then added the peas and butter. Mixed the pea mixture with the noodles and it was delicious and SUPER CHEAP. The total meal was 1.05.  That's $.34 a person!

After dinner I did some research about poverty levels, but I couldn't focus on what I was reading. So I'll look into that more tomorrow. From what I did understand, I was upset and appalled at the numbers of families who are living below the line. How are they managing? I'm having trouble on day 4, I can imagine day 378. Talking to others about this challenge, they believe your body adapts. I don't know what to believe.

Sorry there is no pictures for the 4th day of eating below the line. I forgot. To be honest I'm not clear headed at all. I feel like the talking dog Doug from the movie UP, at any moment a squirrel may walk by and I will loose my train of thought. SQUIRREL!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Day 3 of eating below the line

Yesterday started out okay, Maddie and I ate veggie omelets for breakfast around 7:30am. Sounds great right? It did taste good, it just was not enough food to keep me sated until lunch.

To make the omelets, I cut up ONE mushroom, 3 strips of frozen green peppers, and 1 sliver of onion; I sauteed them together with a pinch of salt and pepper. Total it equaled 2 tablespoons of vegetables to split between the two, two egg omelets. I also split one slice of American cheese.

I just wish there was more, more veggies maybe some tomatoes or even some spinach; hey another egg would be amazing. Again, this is something I would normally make for breakfast, just there would be more to it. I'm figuring that breakfast cost roughly $.75 total.

The time in between breakfast and lunch, Maddie and I crafted making teacher appreciation gifts and mother's day gifts. I was easily agitated during this time. Maddie wasn't "listening" enough or was I just hungry? I eventually left the table because of my frustration and cleaned the walls in the kitchen to get my mind off my hunger and my frustration at Maddie, who in reality was being an angel and was doing a great job crafting.

For lunch at noon, Maddie and I had a ham and cheese sandwich with a few grapes on the side. Rob took the leftover lentils from Sunday to work with him. I was still hungry after lunch today. I drank two glasses of water trying to make my hunger subside, but no such luck. Which made for even grumpier mom.  I was dreaming of the Cheetos in my snack cabinet or a nice side salad most of the afternoon. This also made me grumpy.

For dinner I made split pea soup. I used a ham bone in the freezer from my free Easter ham. I'm not sure if this is cheating. We figure it was a free ham from ShopRite, so it shouldn't count. I cooked the soup for two hours and removed the ham bone, which Maddie and I gnawed on like two ravenous beasts. It is amazing how hunger can diminish manners. 

The soup was AMAZING and I don't even like split pea soup! That should tell you something about my level of hunger. I ate two bowls in under 5 minutes. It was the best meal I ever have eaten. I can't wait to have some for lunch today.

Along with my mood, my mental capabilities also lowered throughout the day, having a conversation was difficult, enjoying crafting with my angel was next to impossible,and  reading a book was out of the question; all I could think about was food and keeping Maddie filled with enough food to keep her going and happy. In fact, I attempted to write this post last night and to be honest it made no sense. I was missing words, I couldn't spell simple words, and overall it was illegible.

I don't know how families in extreme poverty do this. Three days in and I'm a hot mess. I don't have the energy to much of anything. Let alone work, gather food or water, or deal with extreme heat or cold that some families around the world have to deal with along with hunger. This challenge is helping me be more grateful and appreciative of the life I do have.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Eating below the line day 2

Yesterday was day 2 of me feeding my family below the line. There were no parties or eating at a friends' house. We were strictly eating what I purchased for the challenge.

On that note, I really hate using the word challenge. Granted it is a challenge for my family, but this is a way of life for 1.4 million people. I feel the word challenge is demeaning. I just wish there was a word that describes these 5 days more accurately without seeming like it's achievable. Challenges are something that requires more effort to achieve. This is a way of life that is beyond difficult. It must take a toll on your body, mind and soul. It did on mine while I was food shopping.

For breakfast, we ate oatmeal cooked in water with a tablespoon of sugar and raisins then added some milk afterwards. It was good and filling.  This is a breakfast not to far from something I would make usually.

Maddie did ask for more oatmeal, but that would have blown the budget.

For snack at school, Maddie took some grapes and a water bottle. I wish I was able to have a snack, but nope I have to ration the fruit I have in the house to last until Thursday. It's more important for Maddie and Holden to have access to the fruits.

Lunch was a ham and cheese sandwich with grapes. I was hungry at 11am, but I waited to eat with Maddie.

By dinnertime, I was very hungry.  Dinner was also something I would typically make, Vegetables with couscous. The box of couscous cost $.99 cents and fed the three of us with leftovers. The vegetables I used were 1 zucchini, 1 onion, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 hand full of frozen green beans, and 10 strips of frozen peppers.

This meal was delicious. Rob had commented that living below the line has tasted okay, he just wished I could have factored pretzels and more meat into our meals. I am thankful I can cook. I think if I was inexperienced, our meals would be bland and mushy.

I do feel healthier. I think it has more to do with the lack of fats and meat in our meals, but I am looking forward to being able to eating a chicken breast.

Food Shopping below the line

Yesterday was day 2 for us of living below the line. I also went food shopping for the ingredients that were not in my house. I was able to spend less than I expected by 2 dollars. My total spending has been 30.22. Here is what I was able to pick up at the grocery store for $15.51. 


As I was the walking the aisles of the grocery store I became upset at the cost of items. I do pay attention to cost normally, however when you are living on $1.50 a day and a bag of french fries costs 3.99 it's seems like an insurmountable task to feed a family on $30.00 dollars.   That bag of fries would be a whole meal for the 3 of us for 2 days!!! Imagine rationing a bag of fries amongst your family. In my family a bag of fries typically would last two meals, but that's with us having a protein and veggie on our plate as well, not just fries. That bag of fries would have to be 6 meals! Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Almost unimaginable for me.

I left the store depressed and upset for the families who are living below the line in a way I didn't grasp before heading out food shopping. My cart barely had anything in it and I was done my shopping in 20 minutes.  I didn't have any cleaning products or hygiene items. People living below the line have to make their $1.50 stretch even further to include those items. Walking the aisles made me feel defeated.

After  I went food shopping I headed to CVS for Mother's Day cards and birthdays cards for my family. As I was standing in line to purchase my cards I noticed that 1 Snickers candy bar costs 1.70 and a small container of M&M minis cost 1.60. REALLY?!?!? That is what I'm living on for the day! I never thought a candy bar could make me feel bad about myself.

After this challenge is over. I think my family is going to be doing more for families living in extreme poverty. Donating more food to the food pantry, giving grocery store gift cards away, and for me having more empathy for those struggling. I thought I understood, but really I was just ignorant to how little I really understood.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Day 1

Today didn't go as planned. I woke up with Vertigo. My sweet sweet husband came home from work to help me with EVERYTHING, since walking was challenging.

Breakfast on the challenge was pretty much the same as any other day, except we didn't have toast with our scrambled eggs.

After church Maddie snacked on 2 frozen gogurts and 1 banana. The yogurt was from a previous shopping trip. 

For lunch, we ate lentil veggie stew. It was similar to a dish I make often in the winter except there wasn't any sausage in the stew. We liked it. Of course wishing we could have added grated pecorino romano and some sausage.Maddie ate a huge bowl. Thank goodness I have an eater, because the dish doesn't look appetizing.

Dinner, was at my friends' house who had a birthday party for her daughter. I felt like I was cheating as I was eating fresh cut veggies, chips and dip, pizza, cake, and ice cream cake.

I think people living below the line in the USA go to parties sans gifts and are able to eat a meal at the party. I don't know for sure, though. I do have friends who are struggling financially and they seem to think tonight was okay. I don't feel that tonight was charity and that they were giving us food. They did offer us the leftover pizza, but I declined.

One day down, it was easy granted we ate a full dinner at my friends. Tomorrow will be the menu as planned. I did find myself hungrier than usual, but I think that is because I just couldn't eat anything I wanted.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Meal Planning - below the line

Creating this weeks meal plan and grocery list was challenging, to say the least. Our total weekly budget is 30 dollars, which is a quarter of what I usually spend. The Live Below the line challenge has resources to help individuals participate in this campaign.

The rules for the challenge are as follows:

  • You can spend no more than $1.50 a day on food and drink.
  • This means you have a total of $7.50 with which to buy all ingredients for your meals per person
  • The full cost of all the items you consume must be included in your budget. This means budgeting for whole packages of food such as rice, pasta, noodles and eggs etc.
  • For items such as salt, pepper, herbs and spices, simply work out the cost of each item per ounce and budget your shopping proportionally.
  • You can’t grab a snack from the pantry unless you include the cost of buying the item new in your budget.
  • You can use food sourced from your garden as long as you can account for the price of production!
  • No combination of meals on any given day can exceed the $1.50 spending limit. Remember this is a challenge to eat creatively – don’t at any point deprive yourself of three meals a day.
  • You cannot accept ‘donated’ food from family or friends, but monetary donations towards your fundraising goals are acceptable, and encouraged!
  • You are allowed to drink tap water – remember you should try and drink at least 6-8 glasses of water each day.

I have had to make some modifications to the challenge for my 4 year old daughter and 13 year old stepson. The campaign recommends that they not participate at all, but I feel if I spend slightly more at the grocery store (10 dollars) that they will be able to participate without suffering any health concerns or lose any weight.  I am including items already in my pantry to sustain them during the day such as peanut butter and jelly.

Since I am already a couponer the price for these items are relatively low under 2.00 for the entire containers of both items. Since a jar of peanut butter can last for at least two weeks here and jar of jelly for at least 2 months, the cost per serving is negligible. 

In reality if I was living below the line, our government has programs to help me sustain my family.  One of which being WIC since Maddie is under 5 and the other being the free or reduced school lunch program.My church also has a food pantry available to those who are struggling in our community.  However, that is not apart of the challenge I've excepted.

In budgeting I have $30 spend on our meals, and the extra $10 to fill the nutritional gaps for the kids.

My husband went to the produce market this afternoon and picked up the following for $8.37.
  • 1 zucchini
  • a package of celery
  • a package of mushrooms 
  • a bag of carrots
  • bananas
  • grapes
  • 1 potato
In my pantry I have garlic and onions from last weeks produce run and I am calculated those ingredients to roughly cost $ 1.00

At the grocery store I am picking up the following for the week.
  • 1/2 pound of American cheese @ $3.99 a pound
  • 1 pound of lunch meat ham @ $4.99 a pound
  • Eggsland's Best eggs, they are on sale and I have a coupon so they will cost $1.24 for the dozen
  • Milk @ $2.99
  • 1 loaf of bread @ $1.69
  • Butter @ $1.88 each stick costs $.47 so I will use 1 stick for the 5 days
  • 1 bag of frozen peas @$ .99
  • elbow noodles @ $.99
  • 1 box of couscous @ $.99
The items in my pantry for meals are Italian sweet sausage I picked up last week for $1.49, a large container of oatmeal purchased 2 months ago for $1.99, 1 bag of lentils for $.77 and 1 bag of split peas for $.77. I have a HUGE bag of rice that I purchased at BJ'S for 12.99. According to my calculations 1 cup of rice costs 35 cents.

The total for the week will be $32.24. I am a slightly over budget for the four of us if we were following the challenge to the letter however with extra money I've allotted I'm under budget.  I may have to run out to get more fruits for Maddie, since that is her weakness.

Here is the meal plan:

  1. Sunday
    1. Scrambled Eggs
    2. Lunch - Hearty Lentil Stew with steamed Rice
    3.  Dinner- We have a birthday party we are heading too, so I'll be eating there
  2. Monday
    1. Oatmeal with bananas
      1. Maddie's snack at school grapes
    2.  Peanut Butter and Jelly
    3. Couscous with vegetables
  3. Tuesday
    1. Veggie Omelet
    2. Ham and Cheese Sandwiches
    3. Split pea and vegetable soup
  4. Wednesday
    1. Oatmeal with jelly mixed in
      1. Maddie's snack at school grapes
    2. Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
    3.  Rice, Vegetables and Sausage
  5. Thursday
    1. Fried Eggs
    2. Ham and Cheese Sandwiches
    3. Macaroni with hot buttered peas 

The point of living below the line isn't about playing poor. We have a choice at any moment to eat the snacks in the cabinet, add some chicken to a dish, or head out for ice cream. The point for me is to help me understand. In my head I feel I can wrap my head around the idea of living without, but my stomach isn't growling, I'm still thinking straight, and my kids aren't suffering because I'm out of work. Will this challenge be easy? No! But, I am committed. Let's see how it goes!