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I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

#SNAPChallenge - Week 2



I think it's fair to declare week one of the #SNAPChallenge a failure and since I had initially meal-planned and shopped for two weeks, there was not much to do this week except reflect on what I did wrong and what I could do to improve the per day budget costs and still maintain a real food lifestyle.

It was painfully obvious that the cost of the farm-raised meats I had purchased prior to the challenge jacked the daily costs out of control. The only time I stayed within budget was the days I skipped a meal. My solution to that problem is to plan more vegetarian meals and meals where meat is not the main focus. I typically eat less meat during the summer but with the winter months closing in, all I can think about is hearty, meaty meals. Cutting out most of the meat definitely put the daily costs more in line this week.

I depleted some of my staples last week – butter, fruit and my beloved daily chocolate squares (which made this week REALLY hard), so I’ll have to replenish with the next round of shopping. I also had food leftover both weeks and I was able to put a couple of things in the freezer for later, so there is a bit of a rollover effect happening.  I ended up not even making the Lemony Chicken Soup this week because I had too many leftovers so I'll look forward to that next week.

What I prepared:

 
Breakfast for this week was overnight oatmeal flavored with peanut butter and chocolate chips and I still had plenty of egg cupcakes in the freezer from last week.   I didn’t use any of my CSA meat and used very few of my staples this week (I found a head of cauliflower languishing in my fridge so I roasted it instead of making the carrots as planned), and the recipes for the potato soup, slow cooker chicken, and broccoli casserole are from the new 100 Days of Real Food cookbook. I had intended to use the broccoli casserole as a side to the chicken, but then decided to just add the chicken and make it a one-dish meal. I also made stock with the chicken bones.

What I ate:

Broccoli, Rice and Chicken Casserole
Roasted Cauliflower
Ham and Cheese Rollups

Tossed Salad


Slow Cooker Chicken


Day 1:
Tea sweetened with sugar $0.05
(from last week) soup with chicken cacciatore leftovers $1.75
Potato soup with grated cheddar cheese $0.50
Blueberry yogurt bar $0.50

Total cost: $2.80




Day 2:
Tea sweetened with sugar $0.05
(from last week) Egg cupcake with 1 tablespoon salsa $0.81
Potato soup with grated cheddar cheese $0.50
(from last week) ½ bacon, apple and cheese sandwich $1.07
½ cup mixed nuts $0.40
(from last week) 3 ham/cheese roll-ups with ½ apple, pickle slices and 1 tablespoon mustard $1.60

Total cost: $4.43




Day 3:
Tea sweetened with sugar $0.05
(from last week) Egg cupcake with 1 tablespoon salsa $0.81
Potato soup with grated cheddar cheese $0.50
Salad – lettuce, carrot, cuke, bell pepper, tomatoes (from my garden) dressed with oil and vinegar $0.48
Granola bar $0.50
Slow cooker chicken $1.19
Roasted cauliflower $0.38
(from last week) Rice $0.10

Total cost: $4.01




Day 4:
Tea sweetened with sugar $0.05
Overnight oatmeal with peanut butter and chocolate chips $0.93
Salad topped with chicken $1.48
Broccoli/chicken/rice casserole $1.64
Salad $0.48
½ cup mixed nuts $0.40

Total cost: $4.98




Day 5:
Tea sweetened with sugar $0.05
Overnight oatmeal with peanut butter and chocolate chips $0.93
Broccoli/chicken/rice casserole $1.64
Potato soup $0.45
Tossed salad $0.48
2 no-bake cookies $0.50

Total cost: $4.05

I broke down and tried a recipe for chocolate no-bake cookies tonight because I hated not having my daily chocolate fix.  I kept a few of them for the rest of the week and sent some home with Boy Toy.  I wondered if his kids would eat them and not realize they were weren't sweetened with sugar.  He said nobody noticed a thing!  I want to tweak the recipe a bit more before I share it.




Day 6:
Tea sweetened with sugar $0.05
Overnight oatmeal with peanut butter and chocolate chips $0.93
Broccoli/chicken/rice casserole $1.64
2 no-bake cookies $0.50
Slow cooker chicken $1.19
Roasted cauliflower $0.38
(from last week) Rice $0.10

Total cost: $4.79




Day 7:
Tea sweetened with sugar $0.05
Broccoli/chicken/rice casserole $1.64
1 no-bake cookie $0.25

Total cost: $1.94

I spent Saturday with Boy Toy, so it was "free food" once again.  We had pasta with meat sauce, salad and wine (probably too much!) for dinner.




Thoughts and revelations:

• I had to pass on an office lunch this week, which really wasn’t out of the norm for me because in “real life” there are times that I don’t have the money to splurge on eating out. But what if you never had the funds to eat out socially or as a treat? A great deal of socializing centers around eating and drinking, so how would it feel to never be able to join in and constantly have to make excuses?
• The Boy Toy visited a couple of times during lunch this week. There is no way I’d not offer him food and thankfully I had enough to share with him as well as get myself through the week, but what if there wasn’t enough? How would it feel to turn away a visiting friend or family because there wasn’t enough food?
• Over the past two weeks I’ve become somewhat obsessed with the food, shopping and planning. I can’t imagine how worrisome it would be to have this be reality.
• The meatless meals were not very filling and I was hungry between meals. I found myself digging in the pantry for any kind of snack I could find. What if that granola bar and bag of mixed nuts hadn’t been hiding on the shelf?
• After this week, I am still of the assumption that a real food lifestyle can be achieved on SNAP benefits but you have to have a meticulous plan and organic/farm-raised meats can only play a very small part in the budget.
• I’ve decided that I will continue with a $120/month food budget even after the challenge because I know now that I can do it but I will make the exception of continuing to purchase meats from the CSA.

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