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Week 4 - Tuesday - Your Health!

Spaghetti with garlic and sugar snap peasWhen I was at the store last time, I did some price checking. I was a little dismayed to see that my homemade muelsi (oatmeal, wheat flakes, dried cranberries, dried pears), at $3.85 a pound, is slightly more expensive than the least expensive ("unsweetened") bulk muesli (baby cut oatmeal, wheat flakes, dates, walnuts) at the Rainbow, which is only $3.77 a pound. I have some this morning, and I can say with some pride that mine tastes better. The walnuts are a very nice touch in the store-bought, but I can easily add those to mine. It's not always about price—it can be about flavor.

I also check on the price of a loaf of bread. The King Arthur recipe, last week came to $3.43. The cheapest loaf of organic whole wheat bread I can find at the store is $3.19. Now, obviously there are cheaper loaves you can make—this one included 4 TB (.50) worth of butter. The organic whole wheat flour cost me $2.03, and so a less luxurious loaf might save you .50 to .75. Unless you really enjoy making bread (I do) or you're really struggling, the tradeoff in your time for a pre-made loaf probably isn't worth it—as long as you buy the cheapest loaf.

This is the lesson Amy Dacyczyn pounds on over and over again in The Complete Tightwad Gazette: never assume, always measure. And then make a decision based on your own circumstances and values. It's perfectly valid to rent a studio apartment and eat as cheaply as you can in order to travel for a month later in the year. And—in my opinion—if money is tight and your family is hungry, buying the cheapest food you can find, even if that means non-local and non-organic, is not just valid, it's probably the most responsible thing you can do. When times are better, you can make a different choice.

(Don't get me started on the people who would lecture me that "I couldn't afford not to eat organic" at a time when I could afford only lentils, rice, and potatoes—and no vegetables at all. It's easy to judge other people's food choices. Sometimes it's hard just to buy enough food.)

One of the thriftiest snacks I've found is peanuts. I get mine from the bulk bins at $1.75 a pound. A quarter of a cup (1 ounce) is usually enough to quell my hunger pains, even when I'm famished (sometimes to the point that I'm not hungry for dinner!) at a cost of 11 cents. Peanuts are good for you, too. According to Walter C. Willett, Chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health:

Contrary to popular opinion, nuts aren't junk food. They're actually a great source of protein and other nutritional goodies. An ounce of almonds, walnuts, peanuts, or pistachios gives you about 8 grams of protein, the same as a glass of milk. True, nuts have quite a bit of fat, but those are mostly unsaturated fats that reduce LDL cholesterol and keep HDL cholesterol high.
One of the more surprising findings from nutritional research over the past decade is that people who regularly eat nuts are less likely to have heart attacks or die from heart disease than those who rarely eat them. That's not just an interesting but oddball result. Several of the largest cohort studies, including the Adventist Study, the Iowa Women's Health Study, and the Nurse's Health Study, have shown a consistent 30 to 50 percent lower risk of heart attacks or heart disease associated with eating nuts several times a week. Regularly including nuts in the diet also seems to help prevent type 2 diabetes and gallstones.

If you haven't read it, I can't recommend his book Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy enough. Dr. Willett is famous for recognizing that the USDA Food Pyramid is influenced by the economic concerns of agricultural interests, sometimes to the detriment of good science. It is, after all, constructed by an agency whose mission is to promote US agriculture, not to steer people away from their less healthful products. In response to this conflict of interest, Dr. Willett constructed his own Food Pyramid based on the results and recommendations that come out of decades of nutritional studies.

The book is clear, non-hysterical, easy to read, and filled with information you can start to use the day you read it. It's not guilt-inducing by any means: I found that I was eating a much healthier diet than I had imagined—and that fat is good for you! I initially checked a copy out of the library, and was so impressed that I bought one of my own.

Breakfast today is coffee, muesli, and the last of the yogurt. I'll make some more today. I send Peas and Rice, some peanuts, a cup of summer tea, and a grapefruit with Jesse for lunch. I finish the Fried Rice. have a little Split Pea Soup, and eat a grapefruit of my own.

For dinner, I make a simple garlic pasta with the sugar snap peas. We like this pasta—it really is a "cupboard is bare" meal: spaghetti, olive oil, garlic, red chili flakes, and toasted bread crumbs. The bread crumbs are important—the texture really adds to the dish. The sugar snow peas add a nice texture to the dish, but not much flavor.

We have my dilled carrot pickles on the side, and they are delicious. Really wonderful, I'll be pickling carrots again. We do not eat the blue garlic. For dessert, I pull out some of the leftover cake and put it in the microwave. We have some ice cream left, and we have that, too.

Pickles and cake in one meal! What more could any American family ask for? (Today's total includes $2.08 for a new batch of yogurt.)

Tuesday total: $7.27. Remaining weekly allowance: $48.81.

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Yay - Inspiring!

These are some really great recipes for people on a kids too since the recipes seem to be easy to make and take on the go. I have a concern (which doesnt mean you should stop this challenge) but, it would be fantastic if the people who needed the help (ie those people using food stamps) could actually get access to this site. How many actually have access to computers? How many of those people who do have computer access have the time to look up this information?

I think this is a great start in showing those who can afford food what its like for someone on a severely strict budget, but I am just not certain what others are getting out of it. Are the 'powers that be' making this available to them?

I'm getting visitors who are searching for "menu plans for families on a budget", "eating cheap", and "feeding a family of 5 on a budget", so the information is getting to at least *some* of the people who want and need the information.

This is a stupid question, but how do you make the spaghetti? You listed all the ingredients, but I don't know what to do with them. Are you just boiling the pasta and tossing them in the other stuff? How much oil? As you can see I don't really know how to cook my own food :)


See if your library has a copy of Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which is what I based this recipe on. It's the cookbook I used most for about 3 years. The recipes are solid, mostly uncomplicated, and they taste good.

For my version, I used 2 oz of dried pasta each - I've found that 3 oz each of dried pasta is ample for us, but we were having cake for dessert, so I used less.

I warmed 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and then added the chopped garlic and chili flakes. After a minute, I added the sugar snap peas. When they had turned bright green, I took the pan off the heat.

When the pasta was done, I drained it and put it in the pan, and then tossed everything together. I divided the pasta onto two plates, sort of arranged the peas so that they would look good in the photo, and sprinkled the toasted bread crumbs (toasted in the oven earlier in the day) over each serving. Then I sprinkled about 1 oz of mixed Pecorino and Parmesan cheese over the top (about 1/2 ounce for each plate).

Thanks for the link to that food pyramid. I'm going to get that book from the library tonight.

We make a really simple pasta which is good if all you have is pasta, garlic and broccoli. First put pasta on to boil. While the water is heating up, chop the broccoli into small chunks. Add the broccoli to the boiling pasta during last 3 minutes of cooking. Slice the garlic super thin and place one clove (that's one clove, not one head!) in each bowl (raw) with a splash or two of olive oil. When the pasta and broccoli are done, strain and add to bowls with garlic and mix. Obviously it is super garlic-y but tastes delicious. The key is getting the garlic super thin. I am interested in seeing if adding some toasted breadcrumbs would make a difference.

Just a note about the blue garlic - Harold McGee wrote an article about the chemical reaction in a New York Times article. Here's the URL to his website:
I thought it was an interesting read and might make you less uneasy about eating it.

Erin - that sounds delicious, and just the kind of thing I'm going to need when we start getting broccoli week after week. :) Thanks!

I put 1-2 whole cloves of garlic in with the pasta to cook. I also do this with potatoes or macaroni. The garlic can be strained out or better yet, mash and add to the recipe.

Remember, if you cook garlic whole, the taste is much different than sliced or grated. I always mash the cooked garlic into what I am cooking.

When you have lots of herbs later this summer, make ice cubes with them. Freeze 1 Tablespoon of minced herbs with water in muffin tins. Freeze, take out of tins, and put in ziplock bags. Keep each kind separate. To use, just drop your ice cube in cooking items.

I do dill and basil mostly since I have the rest fresh year 'round in my garden here in ATL.

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» Week 1: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Photos | Summary: Under budget - $3.20
» Week 2: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Photos | Summary: Under budget - $13.34
» Week 3: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Photos | Summary: Under budget - $7.15
» Week 4: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Photos | Summary: Under budget - $6.41
» Week 5: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Photos

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