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!    

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