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May 09, 2007

Food Stamp Diet: Post # 1

I'm fascinated by projects, especially those of the culinary variety. I loved it when Julie cooked her way through Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and when various folks started restricting their diets to foods grown within X miles of their homes.

Today, I've begun my first such undertaking, albeit a brief one. This week, I'm living on a "food stamp diet." I had $66.05 to shop for enough food to last two people for one week. Just to make things more complicated, I aimed to purchase local, organic or all-natural products. Check out my article in this week's edition for the details.

Each evening, I'll post about what I ate throughout the day, how much work I put into cooking, and how I feel (hungry, sated, lethargic, exhilarated, etc.).

Here's what I'm allowed to eat today.

Day 1
Breakfast: 1 c. yogurt with one half banana, honey, cinnamon and nutmeg
Lunch: Two peanut-butter-and-apple sandwiches on oatmeal bread
Dinner: Roasted chicken thigh, whole-wheat couscous* with pan drippings, steamed fiddlehead ferns; roast tomorrow's beets with the chicken to save energy.
Snacks: Homemade kettle corn, carrots


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Part of the "food stamp diet" asks folks to clear out their cupboards before they begin, including staples like flour, sugar, etc. I bet nutmeg and honey would be included. Without the basics on hand, one can get a clearer picture of what it truly means to feed yourself and family off of food stamps.


Hi anonymous! I appreciate your comment.

If I were doing this for a month (folks on food stamps are allotted funds on a monthly basis), I would have done so. Then I'd have used $2 or $3 dollars of my monthly allowance to buy spices in bulk at my local grocery store. Each baggie costs just a few cents. To offset the extra cost, I would have gotten a 5# bag of carrots (instead of a 2#), a 10# bag of potatoes (instead of a 5#), etc. The longer one has to budget for, the "smarter" one's purchases can be.

They also sell local honey, peanut butter, olive oil and maple syrup in bulk (that's how I managed to acquire .50 cents worth of molasses).

I tried to be really honest about how much I use of each staple. I decided to buy flour, eggs, butter and molasses for the project, even though I had all of them already. I felt I was using too much of them to not do so.

However, I usually only go through one jar of mayo (or less) a month, so I thought it was o.k. to use 3/4 c without buying another jar. The honey I'm using is from a jar I've had for over a year.

Additionally, I'm going to have leftover staples -- cornmeal, potatoes, a couple of eggs, butter, flour, all purchased for the project, at the end of this week. Thus, those would be in my "pantry" if I were to continue next week.

Because I make a living as a food writer and eating at various places is part of my job, I didn't feel I could sustain the project for more than one week without eating several meals outside of my home. Otherwise, I would have opted to do a full month.

Lisa Crean

It IS amazingly cheap to buy herbs and spices in bulk. I grow fresh herbs in the summer, and don't have the time and space to dry my own supplies for the winter (I do try to dry some of my favorite purple basil, which you can't buy). Buying from the bulk section allows me to purchase just enough to tide me over to fresh herb season, the quality is better (usually organic) than grocery-store brands, and the price is usually just pennies per bag. For spices, it's the only way to go.

So, Suzanne, I think this is a perfectly valid supplement from your own pantry. I wish I'd realized long ago how much I could save buying bulk herbs and spices. This would actually be a handy tip for those really living on tight food budgets! I shudder to think how many overpriced tiny bottles of McCormick's ground cloves I bought over the years!


Thanks Lisa! I was also amazed when I started shopping at the co-op and learned just how cheaply I could buy spices (and in the quantities I actually needed). In some respects, the bulk sections at "health-food" type stores can really even out some of the potential pricing discrepancies from the produce, dairy and meat sections.

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