|Food Stamps Diet - Attempt Number One. The above cost $22.61 (factoring out unused quinoa and beans). P.S. There is another banana that got cut off ;)|
The DietSo, given all the above, what will be our main meal? My friend, also interested in nutrition, invented a stew which has displaced about a third of my calories over the last few months. I’ve gotten over my inborn desire for different food and have been eat this recipe for several months, and only growing in my enjoyment of it. It wasn’t designed to minimize cost, but it does a darned good job by accident. The recipe can be found here. The potential big expense which I didn’t list was the spices. DO NOT BUY THEM FROM THE GROCERY STORE. Buy in bulk online and count it as a capital expense (like a pot; try this website). It will take a long time to use up a pound of spice which can be purchased for less than one of the little ornate jars in the grocery store.
Vegetables are hard to justify by calories, but because Mom said, “Eat your vegetables,” I cannot do without them. For vegetables, DPC is a poor measure; I tried to maximize plant matter in my diet. I thought about it in terms of weight, so it’s already easy to compare dollars per pound. Tomatoes and onions are pretty good on that front.
For breakfast, I have very little time. On surgery, I started eating peanut butter with a spoon out of a jar, and washing it down with milk. Because it was high-fat and high-protein, it lasted a long time and takes zero preparation (and if you’re lazy and a bachelor like me, you can use a plastic spoon and drink from the milk jug and also have zero cleanup. Did I just write that?). Milk EC is highly dependent on jug size and fat content. Milk is pretty much one of the most fattening things in the world (i.e. lots of saturated fats, which as I said above are bad). The best value I saw at Safeway today was 2% milk at 2.0 DPC. But that was for the 2 gallons. I only need a half gallon and I don’t want to get fat arteries, so I recommend going with the 1% at the worse (but not so bad) 2.9 DPC. I was a fool and stuck to my way-too-expensive-but-oh-so-tasty coconut milk at 5.5 DPC.
The peanut butter I’m particular about. This part doesn’t come into the formal analysis, but I don’t trust hydrogenated vegetable oils (they may or may not cause cancer, which means they may cause cancer :). So I buy the expensive “natural” peanut butter. But peanut butter is so good a value, even the fancy stuff I get has an EC of 1.62 DPC.
The ExperienceRequires|Stove, large pot, spoon, knife, frying pan, Gladware, microwave, spices.
It took me about an hour to drive to Safeway and shop, and 2 hours of stew cooking (3 if you include bean soaking, which didn’t require a lot of my attention). It was also very convenient to not have to worry about dinner for a week. I could just come home, throw something in the microwave, and eat. I estimate that I saved 10-20 minutes in drive time per fast-food meal (my habit during surgery). So for me, that’s 1.5-3 saved hours. From a week time-balance perspective, even with the cook time, I may have broken even. So I don’t think I buy the “Poor people have to eat at McDonalds because they don’t have time to cook” argument.
In addition to the calories, there are a few things I enjoy and think that poor people should enjoy too. Firstly, there’s coffee. And I’m talking about good coffee. I heard about one person who took the Food Stamp challenge and was driven to use bad instant coffee. I wish that fate on no man. For this analysis, I factored in a cup of coffee a morning of Starbucks-brand Italian Roast ground coffee. If you’re fancy, you can use a French press or other gourmet option. If you’re not (i.e. me), a paper towel and/or tea infuser will give you a gritty cowboy-style cup. The cost of this? $1.47 for 5 cups.
The other thing that I have a problem with is drinking water. I just don’t enjoy it. And I usually buy Gatorade. But that’s way expensive. So I decided to substitute a couple tablespoons of lemon juice into a Gatorade bottle. I would drink about 8 cups of lemon water a day and not miss the Gatorade. It seems to nearly satisfy the craving for sweets with negligible actual sugar. This cost me $1.90 for the five days.
One more quick trick. If the stew wasn’t enough, or if you’re feeling extra hungry, add a few tablespoons of olive oil to a bowl of stew. It has an EC of 1.7 DPC, so you can replace any number of calories with this super-duper-good -for-you oil. It gives it a fruity flavor that I rather like (you can get the low-flavor olive oil if you want the good calories but don’t want the taste). Remember to stir!