Have you ever wondered why some people seem to be more fortunate than others? I’m talking here about more than just financially. That does play a role of course, but I am thinking about this in a more wholistic way I guess.

I am pondering this today as I enjoy an afternoon off from work. This is a milestone year for me, having been with the company I work for, for 10 years. Today all of us who have reached significant milestones were treated to a delicious meal and then sent home to enjoy the rest of the day. It gave me an opportunity to go for a long walk with my dog. It was mild, light snow was falling, and it was incredibly peaceful. How lucky I am to work for a company that granted me this serenity at a time when my life in general is pretty busy.

But as I look back, I have always been fortunate, even as far back as my birth. It appeared I needed a blood transfusion and was rushed to hospital in the big city. Though an error, the doctors forgot to get a sample of my father’s blood. This could have proved fatal. But somehow things turned around and I was fine after all.image

Since that day, fortune has followed me. I grew up on a farm where I learned the value of hard work and an appreciation for the gifts nature has given us. I’ve had a varied and interesting career. I’ve had amazing people in my life all the way along who have challenged and taught me. And I’ve had the chance to pursue my dreams.

What I don’t know is why life has been so easy for me. Yes of course I’ve had struggles, but they seem minor compared to the hardships and pain of so many others. In a tiny corner of my mind there is a fear that fate is just biding its time, waiting to hit me with the zowie. Who knows. All I know is that I’m feeling pretty darned grateful right now. xxx.

There was so much I had planned to write about today…about what I was going to do with the additional $10 that I discovered I had, about how I was going to prepare the wonderful wild meat that I was given last night, and about the fact that most of us do get by through the kindness of others, and we should remember to reciprocate whenever we can. But life has a way of throwing a curve ball from time to time, and our family was recently thrown a rather big one.

Without betraying confidences, I’ll just say that a couple of my family members really need me right now. It doesn’t make sense for me to be devoting a fair chunk of my day to a rather artificial social science project when there is a very real situation that needs to be attended to.

Do I think I could have finished this 30 day challenge had this not come up? Yes I do. I can be pretty stubborn, and I was determined to see this through. But I do think I’ve made the right decision. And even though I’ve only completed one-third of the month, I certainly feel I’ve had my eyes opened about certain things. I will never take for granted the food I am lucky enough to have, and I will do my best to never waste it.

I thank all of you who have followed me for the last ten days and who have offered suggestions and support. I hope I haven’t disappointed you by not finishing the challenge.

Oh, and as for what’s for dinner tonight? Those amazing moose sausage that Dave gave me last night!

Sorry for the delayed post. It’s been rather crazy around our house of late and I simply didn’t have an opportunity to post this yesterday.

Here is the day’s summary:

Breakfast: 1 piece of whole wheat toast with peanut putter. Cost: 12 cents

Lunch: chicken rice soup. Cost: $2.71

And NOW….DINNER!!!

jocelyn_dinner

My friends Jocelyn and Dave served up what, as you can see, was a wonderful feast: a moose stew with a biscuit topping, mashed potatoes, peas, carrots, and three different salads (including one that Joe brought with us when we came to dinner). There were spring rolls as an appetizer, and for dessert, apple pie and ice-cream. It really did seem like Christmas had arrived early. Everything was so delicious! Total cost to me: zero dollars!

Not only that, but Dave sent me home with a bad of wild meat for future meals!

I am a very lucky girl.

Now, the other bit of amazing news. As we were chatting about my monthly food allowance, it dawned on me that I have given myself $5 a day for 30 days. I have no idea then why I have been going on the preface that I had a total of $140 to spent. I actually have $150 to spend!! Math was never my strong subject :-)  I have gone back and fixed all my totals. The correct numbers are:

Total spent today: $2.83

Total ‘credits’ for carry-over: $7.20

Total spent so far:  $80.35

Total left to spend: $69.75

I have wonderful friends. A few of them have approached me expressing concern about my health and asking how I am doing. I appreciate this so much, but want you all to know that I’m fine. I know I’ve been a bit whiny on this blog, but really, I am OK. I have promised friends and family that if it seems this challenge is making me ill, I will stop.

One of my friends has invited me to dinner tomorrow night! It’s in my rules that I can accept dinner at someone’s house once in the month, so I was quick to say yes. Thank you Jocelyn! You have no idea how excited I am!

I am getting low on certain provisions. I used the last of my chicken fat tonight and am trying to figure out a substitute. Also only have a bit of yogurt and one apple left. Apples have been a godsend for me as they’ve been the only fruit I could afford. I will go poking about the grocery store tomorrow to see what I can find to replace them.

I noticed in the Shopper’s Drug Mart flyer that tinned tuna is on sale for 99 cents each, and pasta sauce for $1.49, so I may pick those up. I also noticed Mr. Noodles are on sale for 4/$1.00 if anyone is interested. :-) Based on the title of this challenge, I won’t be buying any of those unless I get really down on my luck.

Today’s summary:

Breakfast: 1 slice whole wheat toast with peanut butter: 12 cents

Morning snack: 1 apple: 61 cents

day 9

Lunch: dahl (25 cents) and brown rice (no cost for the rice as it was left over from last night’s dinner), carrot sticks and broccoli stem sticks (2 cents for the carrot; zero cents for the broccoli stems as I calculated them as part of other broccoli servings). Total: 27 cents. The photo doesn’t look like much, but this was actually a tasty and satisfying meal.

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Dinner: organic sweet potato ($1.00), organic chicken ($2.42), and a serving of steamed broccoli (44 cents). Bit of salt and pepper (4 cents). Butter would have been lovely for my veggies, but not essential. Total: $3.86. I couldn’t finish this whole plate so saved the rest to fortify my lunch time soup tomorrow.

Total for the day: $4.98

Total credits to carry over: $5.03

Several weeks ago, I purchased tickets for Joe and I to attend one of the Met’s high definition offerings of Carmen, showing at the Arts Centre. A lunch of soup and bread was included in the ticket. When I was drawing up the rules for my Beyond Mr. Noodles Challenge I forgot about this event. Now what?

After pondering this for some time, I have decided to take advantage of this lunch. Yes, it’s against the rules. But it seems silly to pass it up given that it’s been paid for. To make up for this I will tack an extra half day on to the end of my challenge. There is so much about this challenge that is artificial compared to what life must be like for those living on a limited budget over the longer term. This is one more example of that.

I can say though that instances like this make me more acutely aware that not having money for eating out or entertaining in tends to be isolating. There have been a couple of times already that I have had to say no to going out for lunch with colleagues or friends. 

Today’s summary:

imageBreakfast: a blast of protein with peanut butter/granola balls (24 cents) served with half an apple (30 cents) and some yogurt for dipping (free). Total cost: 54 cents

Lunch: organic soup and bread from Alpine Bakery. Free.

Dinner: two-egg ($1.24) omelette with caramelized onions (9 cents) and some salt, pepper and cilantro (3 cents), a serving of steamed broccoli (44 cents) and a small portion of brown rice (12 cents). Total:  $1.92

Snack: other half of the apple. Cost: 31 cents.

Total cost for the day: $2.77

I am not going to give myself any credits for the day, given that I had lunch outside of this project cost. So total credits that can be carried over remain at $5.01.

Today was a bit of a tough day. I woke up hungry, and breakfast wasn’t enough to totally satisfy me. At 11 a.m. I started doing some housework. Nothing out of the ordinary…vacuuming, dusting, laundry. By 11:30 I had to stop. I was feeling weak and light-headed. Clearly I wasn’t getting the calories I needed, and based on how pale I looked I could probably do with more iron in my system. My admiration and sympathy grows by the day for people who struggle to put food on the table.

Time for a change in strategy. I had some cow’s liver in the freezer from a local ranch, at a cost of $4.00 a pound. Trouble was it was frozen in a large block…there was probably at least three pounds there. My budget couldn’t handle a $12.00 hit right now. There was a cow’s tongue from the same ranch, 2 pounds in weight. I considered it, but decided to head downtown to see if I could find a one serving piece of liver instead.

Sadly I struck out. None at either the butchers or the grocery store. The guy in the meat department said it’s snapped up as soon as it’s put out. Who knew liver was so popular these days? I thought it had gone out of favour.

Next I looked at the kale. It was almost $3.00. Sigh. I did see heads of broccoli for $1.77 though, so picked up one of those.

Then back to the meat department I went, not ready to give up on my craving for red meat. I spied a small piece of sirloin steak for $1.80. I could get two meals out of it. So into my basket it went.  I would live to fight another day!

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Today’s summary:

imageBreakfast: one scrambled egg on one piece of whole wheat toast. Salt, pepper and puréed cilantro stems on the egg. Cost: 45 cents

Lunch: bowl of chicken rice soup. Cost: $2.71

Dinner: Dahl and rice, with onion, garlic, cilantro, tumeric, cumin seeds, salt, and a dried chili pepper in the dahl. Half the piece of steak. Total cost: $1.14

Snack: Apple. Cost: 61 cents.

Total cost for the day: $4.91

Total credits for carry-over: $5.01

Total spent so far:  $80.35

Total left to spend: $69.75

I mentioned at the beginning of my Beyond Mr. Noodles Challenge that a number of other people have tried similar things. In particular I came across a few people in the United States who have done this. I thought you might be interested in checking out their blogs.

One Dollar Diet Project

Hungry for a Month

Less Is Enough

Today’s summary:

It was leftovers day. And while usually I enjoy leftovers, today’s left me feeling uninspired and dreaming about a big salad and a family size bar of dark chocolate. I also noticed I didn’t have my usual level of energy. I suspect I am not getting enough calories, or perhaps my body hasn’t yet adjusted to the lower number of calories it’s receiving.

sproutsOr maybe it’s neither of those things but instead I am tired after a busy work week.

Today I went on the hunt to find something to address my craving for fresh and crunchy. I have carrots and cabbage of course, but have discovered that eating too much cabbage upsets my stomach, so something else was in order.

Enter sprouting seeds! These babies pack a nutritional punch and are tasty and affordable. Buying organic sprouting seeds through the Potluck Food Co-op (the cheapest place in town I could find them) cost me $3.10 for 125 grams of a mix of lentil, radish, alfalfa, red clover, and mustard seeds. I actually had a package of these in my cupboard, so I shopped from there, counting the money against my total. The cost works out to be about 39 cents a tablespoon, and I figure a couple of tablespoons should produce enough sprouts to keep me going for at least two days and maybe more. I started some in a jar tonight; they’ll be ready to eat next Tuesday or Wednesday. Photo taken from the Mumm’s website.

By the way, if you want to know more about sprouts you can contact Philippe Mouchet in Whitehorse (he has a Facebook page). He is a great promoter of sprouting, offers classes from time to time, lives on little else, and believes sprouting is the solution to world hunger. There’s also some information on this website.

Breakfast: sardines on toast, with the sardines left over from yesterday (50 cents for the fish, zero dollars for the toast). Water to drink. Total: 50 cents

Lunch: leftover beans and rice from last night (zero dollars as they were counted as part of last night’s meal), squash (27 cents) and water. Total cost: 27 cents

Snacks: blueberry yogurt (zero dollars) and an organic apple (61 cents)

Dinner: Chicken fried rice that included brown rice, onion, carrot, cilantro, garlic, and organic chicken, and about 5 cents worth of salt and pepper. Water. Cost: $1.00 per serving. I made enough for two meals and froze the second one. I had fully intended to take a photo of my dinner but I was so hungry I completely forgot until it was half gone :-/

Total for the day: $3.13

Total of ‘credits’ available to carry over: $4.92

Groceries purchased today: $3.85

Total cost of groceries purchased so far: $76.78

Total left for the month: $73.22

Edited to say: after I wrote this post I had a weak moment and ended up eating a bag of the potato chips we had left over from Halloween. Yes I know…empty calories. But they tasted sooo good! Based on what I would have paid if I bought them from our snack shop at work, I charged myself 75 cents.  As a result, I had to go back and recalculate all my numbers.

I am surrounded by food. My workplace for example…just about any day of the week there is free food for the taking. It might be leftovers from a meeting, or from a celebration for someone’s retirement, or simply because a staff member decided to bake something and bring it in to share. Today I was still trying to avoid the bowls of Halloween candy that were placed in my way to test my willpower.

Here in Whitehorse over the next two evenings, there are at least five free public events that will offer free food. These are only the ones I know about; there are probably a few more.

There are four art show openings. They are always good for fancy finger food. There is also one business ‘after hours’ event, another great score for anyone looking for free food and drink.

I probably won’t be going to any of these functions, since attending events at the end of the day when I am starving and can only ‘look but not touch’ makes for a grumpy Janet. Best to go home and cook my dinner. However this has given me an idea for another food project. I am curious to know just how much I could feed myself by eating only free food from community/work events and what that diet might look like. And I’d love to see people’s reactions if I came to these events dressed in worn clothing, no make-up, unwashed, etc. It would be interesting, don’t you think?

I remember not too long ago, watching a member of the public ‘load up’ on food that the company I work for had set out at a community meeting. His actions annoyed me, and in a low moment, I thought him a cheapskate stuffing his pockets with food. Some time later, I saw him collecting a bag from the local food bank, and I was ashamed of myself for my earlier thoughts.

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Today’s summary:

Breakfast: I enjoyed my eggs so much last night I decided to have another one for breakfast (42 cents), along with a half a tin of sardines (50 cents). Tiny bit of pureed cilantro stems on top for flavour and colour, along with some salt and pepper (let’s say three cents worth). Total cost: 95 cents. Sorry about the rather blurry photo.

Lunch: Two open faced toasted peanut butter sandwiches with 1/4 of an organic apple sliced on top. Bread was free, peanut butter was 24 cents for two tablespoons, and the apple slices were 15 cents. Total cost: 39 cents

Snacks: blueberry yogurt (free) and the rest of my apple (46 cents)

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Dinner: black beans and brown rice (48 cents), some cilantro on top (10 cents), and half a serving of organic chicken ($1.21). I meant to have some carrot sticks with this meal, but totally forgot. It was filling; I have leftovers for tomorrow. Total cost for dinner: $1.79

Total for the day: $3.59

Total of ‘credits’ available for carry-over: $3.05

I have been asked by a number of people if I am hungry as a result of this challenge. I have to admit that I am at times. I am a grazer by nature, eating a few snacks throughout the day on top of my meals. On my November food budget, I can’t afford much snacking.

Feeling hungry isn’t a bad thing, as long as it’s not a permanent state.

Here’s today’s summary:

IMG_2857

Breakfast: granola, blueberry yogurt, and a quarter of an organic apple left over from yesterday, along with a thermos full of rosehip tea. Cost: zero dollars (apple was accounted for yesterday and everything else was free). What am I going to do when I run out of yogurt and granola??

Lunch: A bowl of chicken rice soup. Cost: $2.71

Afternoon snack: carrot sticks. Cost: 2 cents

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Dinner: two-egg omelette with half a caramelized onion and a bit of chicken left over from last night’s dinner (93 cents), sweet potato fries roasted in chicken fat ($1.00), salt and pepper and the small bit of cilantro in the omelette (3 cents). Maybe I was extra hungry, but this tasted so good! Full cost of the meal: $1.96

Total cost for the day:  $4.69

Total ‘credits’ to carry over for another day: $1.64

Tangent: just for fun, I looked on YouTube for a video on how to make the perfect omelette. Found one here. But what had me laughing out loud were the comments posted by viewers. Here’s this guy just trying to show people how to make a simple omelette, and you’d think he’d committed some grievous crime! Chill people!!

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It was time for another grocery shop. I’d used up the last of my carrots, plus I was looking for a bit of variety. I took advantage of my rule that I could shop from my cupboards as long as I charged my ‘purchases’ against my monthly allowance, so I calculated the cost of a squash that has been sitting on our counter for the last week ($1.08) and three of my garden potatoes (48 cents for all three).

At the grocery store I picked up four Yukon grown carrots (8 cents! I suspect the scanner made a mistake?), a bag of organic sweet potatoes ($4.97), and a jar of peanut butter ($3.97).

But the purchase I got the most excited about was a carton of my friend’s locally raised eggs (Sunnyside Farm – no website yet as they are just starting out). They cost $5.00 for a dozen, more than the store bought eggs, but 100 times better in terms of flavour, plus I know her chickens get to be chickens and not sad caged creatures.

Total purchases today: $15.59
Total spent so far: $72.93
Total left for the month: $77.07

Yikes!! Only a few days in and I’ve spent over half my budget. Based on what I have now, I hope to make it to Day 14 before needing to do another major shop, but it remains to be seen if I can. There may be a few days of eating nothing but beans and rice.

Breakfast: granola and blueberry yogurt again, with a glass of water. Cost: zero dollars. Luckily I am not a coffee drinker. If I were, I think I would be going through major withdrawal right about now.

Lunch: toasted sardine sandwiches and coleslaw without the dressing. I am loving the naked veggies. In university I hardly ever dressed my salads. Eating them again au naturale has made me realize I prefer them this way. Cost: 95 cents (45 cents for the salad and 50 cents for the half tin of sardines, which was the half left over from last night’s pasta dish). The bread was free, since it came from my $10 credit from Shoppers. Water again – free.

Snacks: an organic apple (61 cents) and more yogurt (free from the Shoppers credit).

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Dinner: Organic chicken with puréed cilantro stems on top ($2.42), organic potatoes roasted in chicken fat (48 cents), and 1/4 of a squash, again roasted in chicken fat (27 cents). Water – free. Add in a few cents for the cilantro stems and salt and pepper and the total for dinner: $3.20.

Total for the day: $4.76

Surprise of the day: how appreciative I am of my meals. I am enjoying them far more than I expected and am feeling more thankful than usual for my food.

Now to the question of carry over. Everyone who has commented on this blog or my Facebook page thinks I should be able to carry over from day to day anything I don’t spend up to my $5 a day limit. So I’ll take your advice and adopt this as one of my rules. What that means is that as of today, I have a ‘credit’ of $1.33 cents. A weekly treat would be nice, but the sensible part of me feels I may need it for something more basic.

This is the 10th year that I have worked for the same company, and later this month the corporation has a long service awards luncheon planned for us. I took that into account when drawing up the rules for the Beyond Mr. Noodles challenge. What I didn’t know is that in addition to the lunch and half a day off, I receive a $30 gift certificate from one of several businesses in town. One of the options is for the grocery store.

Wow! Just think what I could do with $30 worth of groceries this month. But it doesn’t seem fair. If I were struggling to get by on a low income I wouldn’t have the job that I do, and so I would never have the opportunity to receive such a gift certificate. It’s another example of how the people who receive perks are often the ones who need those perks the least. I have decided to take the certificate for the grocery store but pass it along to the local food bank.

Here’s a rundown of the day:

Breakfast: I had some leftover beans and rice from last night’s dinner. Normally I would put it in a wrap with some avocado or salsa. Since I had none of those things, I ate it on whole wheat toast, with just a glass of water on the side. Not an award winning breakfast, but filling nonetheless. Cost: zero, since the bread was free and the beans and rice were accounted for as part of last night’s meal.

lunch_day2Lunch: I almost always pack my lunch on workdays. A normal lunch for me includes either soup, leftovers, or a salad; a piece of cheese; a handful of almonds or other nuts; a couple pieces of fruit; and if I don’t bring a salad I pack a container of raw veggies – whatever I happen to have on hand. Today’s lunch was chicken rice soup, an apple, some carrot sticks, blueberry yogurt and a small container of high bush cranberry juice (from the berries I picked yesterday; not shown in the photo) to be added to hot water for a Vitamin C drink. It’s what I could afford and really all I needed. Cost: $3.58.

Snacks: it being the first work day after Halloween, there were candy treats everywhere at the office. I also attended a meeting where cookies and juice were offered. Sometimes it can be a minefield around here. I was strong and stuck to my apple for my afternoon snack, although several times I found myself yearning for a piece of dark chocolate!

Dinner: I realized I had boxed myself in by giving equal weight to all my chicken dishes, whether they be soup or legs. Because I had chicken soup for lunch I couldn’t afford to have chicken again for dinner (I had planned to have it with roasted potatoes and squash). Instead I went with Pasta Con Sarde (Sicilian-style sardine pasta with breadcrumbs). Cost: $1.24. The jalapeño peppers you see in the photo below were in the can of sardines, giving them a nice bite.

Tangent: I have a theory that if you take a simple dish, give it a posh or ‘international-sounding’ name, it somehow tastes better.

Of course this doesn’t always hold true. My mother used to make a recipe that she called ‘flam gee’. Don’t bother googling it, since you won’t find it…thank God. It was a wretched soup of flour-thickened milk with a few onions thrown in, and sometimes a potato. I knew that when Mom served this, the cupboard was bare. 

How I hated that soup. Even the name made me gag. Made me think of phlegm, which it was just about the consistency of.  I am 100 percent certain that giving it a highfalutin title would not have helped in the slightest. 

Back to the challenge: I needed something green to go with the pasta. I had cilantro, but that wasn’t the right flavour for this Italian dish. Since my rules allow me to forage, I thought about the oregano still looking vibrant and alive in my greenhouse. I figure anything growing in the Yukon in November is fair game for foraging, whether it’s in the forest or my backyard. So I ran out and grabbed a handful.

While I was outside, I looked over at our compost pile. A few weeks back I had pulled the last of the kale from the garden and placed it on top of the pile. There it was, still looking the same as when I put it there. “What the hell,” I thought, and I grabbed several leaves. Joe’s reaction: “I put buffalo poop in the compost!” Jamie’s reaction: “Mom, you CAN’T eat compost!” But it wasn’t compost and it was far away from the buffalo poop. In fact it was quite fine.

Total cost of all my food today: $4.82.

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Joe thinks if I come in under $5.00 a day, I should be allowed to carry over the remainder to the following day. Again, I feel this is cheating, since I am trying to prove to myself that I can eat for less than $5.00 every day for this month. What do you think?

imageSo far so good. Did some foraging when I took Chanel out for a walk, collecting high bush cranberries, rose hips, and Labrador tea. All will be brewed to make Vitamin C-rich hot drinks. No fear of getting scurvy this week!

Breakfast – granola and blueberry yoghurt, with a cup of hot water. No cost for any of this because of my Shopper’s credit I told you about yesterday.

Mid-morning – a cup of high bush cranberry tea.image

Lunch – a bowl of soup that included organic chicken meat and broth, cabbage, onion, garlic, carrots, cilantro, brown rice, salt and pepper. Cost: $2.71. A note about the chicken: I had no idea how to calculate the cost of the various parts of the chicken. Besides, who am I to decide a creature’s bones, feet, or skin are of any less worth than their muscle meat? So I just gave all the chicken pieces the same value ($34.00 divided by 14 meals = $2.42 a serving. As you can see, the rest of the soup ingredients cost just pennies.

Afternoon snack – organic apple. Cost: 61 cents.

Dinner – a huge plate of Cuban black beans with brown rice. Ingredients in the beans included dried chilies, cilantro, salt and pepper. Cost: a whopping 48 cents!  This was a real eye-opener for me. I had no idea such a good-for-you meal could be so cheap! I would have liked some queso fresco on top of the beans, but the dish was actually pretty tasty without it. Also had a shredded cabbage and carrot salad (I didn’t miss the dressing) for 29 cents. Total cost of the meal: 77 cents!!

Total for the day: $4.09.

Nutrition-wise, I think I did pretty good.  I am happy with Day 1. We had friends come over for tea and dessert early this afternoon, and I just had a cup of hot water with them. I served them baked apples and Joe’s birthday cake (my rules allow me to use Joe and Jamie’s food for feeding visitors) and I only felt a teeny bit deprived.

Spent part of today doing another grocery shop and prepping for some future meals for my Beyond Mr. Noodles project.

Realized I had a $10 credit at Shopper’s, so I bought a bag of granola ($2.99), a tub of yoghurt ($2.99), a loaf of whole grain bread ($2.99), and a can of tomatoes ($1.49) for a total, after the credit, of 46 cents.

Also went to a store that sells spices in bulk and purchased 10 grams of each of the following:

Tumeric – 65 cents

Whole cumin seeds – 70 cents

Red whole chilies – 75 cents

Total spent so far: $57.34

Amount left: $92.66

I then came home and roasted my chicken, removed the meat from the carcass and froze it in seven separate packets, drained off the fat from the roasting pan and stored it for later use, added water to the roasting pan and brought it to a boil to make a quick stock that I then used as the cooking liquid for a pot of brown rice. I divided the cooked rice into three serving sizes and froze it. Next I added the bones, skin, and feet of the chicken to my crock pot along with an onion and a carrot, and will let it cook away until tomorrow morning, at which time I will use that stock to make a big pot of chicken rice soup. I also have a pot of black turtle beans soaking.

I am still trying to figure out what I will do for fruit. Joe bought a box of Ambrosia apples from a local hockey team (a fundraiser). The apples worked out to almost $1.50 each; too much for my budget. I can buy organic apples at the grocery store for 61 cents each and from the Potluck Food Co-op for slightly more. I’ll make a decision on that tomorrow.

sotre isleI did a grocery shop today to get ready for my “Beyond Mr. Noodles” project. Knowing I only have $140 for the entire month of November resulted in an entirely different shopping experience from my usual. Everything seemed SO EXPENSIVE to me.

One of the first things that struck me is that you need money to save money. For instance, I wanted a package of frozen peas. If I bought two packages of them, I could get them for $2.00 a piece. But if I wanted to buy only one package, it would set me back about $2.29. I ran into a friend in the store who suggested I go shopping with someone else…they could take one bag of peas and I could take the other and we would pay $2.00 each. I’m trying to decide if that’s cheating. I think it kind of is.

The second thing that hit me was how expensive spices are. I ended up only buying iodized salt (the sea salt was more expensive) and ground pepper (as opposed to peppercorns, that again were more costly). I also purchased a can of sardines in spicy sauce, thinking I could use that sauce as a seasoning in other dishes I make. Other items I bought include:

1 bag brown rice – $2.27
1 bag black beans – $2.99
1 bag red lentils – $2.99
1 bag onions – $1.77
1 bulb of garlic – $0.72
5 carrots – Yukon grown – $1.29
1 box whole wheat spaghetti – $1.48
2 cans of sardines – $2.00 for both
1 green cabbage – $1.21
1 bunch cilantro – $0.97
Package of salt and pepper – $3.29

AND
1 5-pound organic chicken raised locally from Aurora Mountain Farm – $34

Yes I know. This last item is scary and it may totally backfire on me and stop me from completing the month. But I feel good about eating these lovely birds, and I did set out to learn if I can, by shopping strategically, have at least some organic foods in my diet. I figure I am going to have to get at least 14 meals out of this one chicken to make it affordable. Let’s see how I do.

Total spent so far: $54.98

Total left for the month: $95.02

I am trying to figure out if I can afford to buy flour and baking powder so I can make tortillas. Other things on my wish list include salsa, apples, local free range eggs, and seeds for sprouting.

What craziness have I taken on here?

mr_noodlesCould you live on a food budget of $5 a day? Could I? That’s the challenge I am setting for myself for the month of November. Why? There are a myriad of reasons. But it all started with a package of Mr. Noodles. Actually, many MANY packages of Mr. Noodles. I was helping out at the Whitehorse Food Bank recently, sorting through mounds and mounds of donated food. There was Kraft Dinner, instant rice and pasta packets, canned fruit and veggies…and hundreds of packets of Mr. Noodles. I remarked to a colleague that while this food might fill bellies, it certainly wasn’t what I would consider nutritionally sound, and it was likely pretty low on the enjoyment scale. At the same time, I was hearing comments both in the media and in my own community about the high cost of organic food. I belong to the Potluck Food Co-op, and as much as I can, I try to choose food that has been raised or grown in a way that is earth friendly. On the surface it might appear more expensive than groceries in the big box stores, but it’s really not when you add in all the hidden costs of industrially produced food. That being said, if I am a single mom struggling to make ends meet each month, I’m probably not even thinking organic is remotely possible. Could I convince them otherwise? My brain started working. Could I feed myself in a way that is good for both body and planet, and do it on a very limited budget? Some research showed that a number of people in the U.S. have done this sort of thing. Some ate on $1 a day, but that was non-organic, only eating two meals a day, or using their skills as an extreme coupon clipper. When I looked at their diets, I wasn’t convinced that they were getting all the nutrients they needed. I considered $2 a day. But not even that was realistic here in the North, given our higher food costs. So I hit upon $5 a day. It’s a pretty arbitrary number and I am not at all sure that I can manage on $5 a day. But I’m willing to take the plunge to find out. Here are the rules:

  • I have $150 to spend for the month. I can spend it all at once, $5 a day, or anything in between.
  • I can use coupons if I find any that are useful to me (often but not always, coupons are for pre-packaged foods that leave a lot to be desired in the nutrition department)
  • I can use food I already have in my cupboard or fridge/freezer, but I have to calculate how much it cost and subtract it from my $150.
  • Within the month, I can accept one evening out at a friend’s house to enjoy a meal, I can partake in one work-related event that involves food, and once during the month I can accept a gift of food from someone. Apart from that, all my other meals must come from my grocery budget.
  • I can forage for food, although this is likely a moot point since I doubt I’ll find much in November in the Yukon.
  • All my spices and condiments that I use must also come out of my $150 budget.
  • I won’t ask my family to participate with me. Joe and Jamie will continue to cook and eat as they normally do. I may even help cook some of their meals, depending on what else is going on in the household at the time.

Have I forgotten anything? I’m open to any suggestions you have for inexpensive but healthy ingredients and recipes. I’m expecting to learn lots, and I hope you will follow along with me on this journey.  I will start on Nov. 2nd (Nov. 1st has already been scheduled as Joe’s birthday dinner and I am not willing to forego that) and will continue until I run out of money or until I make it to Dec. 1st. Wish me luck!

My oh my it’s been a while! Life has a way of taking over sometimes, with little to no time left to blog. Since I last posted:

1. Had a wonderful long week-end in Vancouver in September, enjoying the early fall there.

2. Booked a trip next spring to Istanbul!! So excited!

3. My grandson started walking :-)

4. Spent tonnes of time in my garden, harvesting and getting it ready for next year.

5. Been doing research for a new project in November, which I will tell you about very shortly. So do check back…I promise I won’t be absent so long next time.

marmoleumRenovations. How I dislike the chaos they require!

For the past few weeks we have been working around no washer and dryer, no toilet in the main bathroom, and all the contents from our family room and tiny spare bedroom smooshed into our larger spare and master bedrooms.

However the end is in sight. We now have an almost finished laundry room (still need to install shelving and baseboards), new flooring has been laid in the main bathroom, as well as in the family room and the tiny spare bedroom (out with the old carpet and in with some marmoleum that is the colour of the Caribbean Sea). Over the week-end I managed to get two coats of paint applied to the family room and one to the bedroom (a very pale blue in both rooms), and we are almost at the stage where we can start putting everything back together again.

Hopefully getting rid of the carpet will ease Joe’s dog allergies, which have been getting steadily worse over the summer. Some nights he can hardly breathe, so if this doesn’t work I will sadly need to start looking for a new home for Chanel. It will break my heart to see her go, so I am going to try everything possible to flush out the house. I also just bought an air purifier, hoping that might help.  Note: photo taken from this website.

Just returned from a holiday in Newfoundland, where I hiked parts of the East Coast Trail on the Avalon Peninsula. What a gift this trip was! I have been to the Rock a few times before, but mostly stayed within St. John’s. Having seen this part of the province was added proof of what a special place it is, and just how beautiful.

I arrived too late in the season to see the icebergs, although my friend Ted and I shared a scotch with 10,000 year old iceberg ice that he had collected a few weeks previous.  What I did see were dozens of whales! One day, sitting at the edge of a cliff looking over the ocean, whales were continuously breaching all around me. It was incredible, and it made my heart glad that these beautiful creatures seem to be doing OK in spite of all the garbage we humans are dumping into the oceans.

There are lots of photos on my Facebook page, which I have opened to the general public to view, but here are a few of them:

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This photo, of the old lighthouse at Cape Spear, was taken by my friend Ted Blades, who joined me for the last day and a half of the hiking.

This photo, of the old lighthouse at Cape Spear, was taken by my friend Ted Blades, who joined me for the last day and a half of the hiking.

By the way, I want to give a shout out to the East Coast Trail Association and the volunteers who do a fabulous job of maintaining this trail. Many thanks for all your hard work.

Joe and I just returned from a week in Juneau on the Alaska Panhandle. We went there in large part to witness a large Tlingit cultural gathering that takes place every two years. But apart from that, we enjoyed the stunning beauty of the place and the ferry rides there and back (complete with whales, seals, a rainbow as we headed into Juneau and a bald eagle sitting on the dock waiting for us as we arrived in port). Here are just a few shots…lots more on my Facebook page.

Our ferry was much smaller than these big cruise ships docked in Skagway.

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Party onboard…drumming and singing in one corner, traditional weaving in another, and lots of laughter and teasing.

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Merndenhall Glacier

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Tlingit travellers arrive in canoes for the big cultural celebration.

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One of the singing/dancing/drumming performances

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Southeast Alaska is definitely bear country!

My new ‘traffic cone orange’ shoes. I got them for my summer travels, since they pack down very small in the suitcase. But I have to admit…I love how over the top bright they are!

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Just now getting around to catching up on my blog posts. Last month, my friend Lucca and I headed to a little place called Friday Harbour on the San Juan Islands, Washington State, for a week-end. Pretty little place with very friendly people. I was reminded again of how difficult it must sometimes be for introverts to live in the United States, given that it appears to be a country full of outgoing and vivacious folks.

We spent the week-end just walking around, visiting the local farmers’ market, watching a local production of Annie (it was great!), and of course eating some tasty food and drinking wine!

Here are just a few pics from the trip:

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View of Friday Harbour.

DSCN4198It didn’t take us long to find the cheese shop, with a wonderful cheesecake with lemon curd. Mmmmmm!

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We stayed on a boat the first night, but it was a bit too funky and rustic for our taste, so moved to a hotel for Night 2.

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Took a taxi to the southeastern part of the island where we walked among
the old trees. I always feel better after being washed with ‘tree energy’.

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Lucca ignores the sign and parks herself on the railing at the beginning of the hiking trail.

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And look who came out to meet us at the end of the hike!

 

Cleaning out my camera’s memory card, I found these photos.

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Alan, holding Caleb, while Jamie looks on.

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Grampa Joe and Caleb look out the train window. We were travelling on the White Pass train out of Skagway, Alaska.

A couple of weeks ago, Iris and I headed down to Vancouver to catch Lady Gaga in concert. Unfortunately, the morning we were to leave we found out the Lady was sick and her gig was postponed until August. What to do?

We decided to go down anyway, and enjoyed a few days just hanging about in the city. I didn’t take many photos, but here are a few:

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This is the backyard of the friend we stayed with, complete with his beautiful Japanese-style meditation house. So peaceful!

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We spent a few hours at Granville market, where I bought a handmade broom. They made the brooms right there, and the smell of fresh hay was lovely!

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Glorious cherries from the market!

 

I am chomping at the bit to head off on my next adventure, which takes place in a couple of days when I travel to Juneau, Alaska. In the meantime, here is a fun questionnaire that I came across.

A: age you went on your first international trip: I was 16 when I travelled to Finland with my high school concert band.

B: best foreign beer you have ever had, and where: I am not a beer drinker, but I have to say that Kingfisher beer went down pretty easily in the heat of the day in India.

C: cuisine (favourite): that’s a tough one, but I would put Chinese pretty high on my list. Indian comes a pretty close second.

D: destination – favourite, least favourite, and why: favourite is Spain, as I have a special place in my heart for the Spanish people and their approach to life. Least favourite is Mumbai, only because I found it overwhelming arriving there after three years of living on Baffin Island.

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E: event you experienced abroad that made you say ‘Wow': there have been many; one is the time I attended a performance of Schonberg’s Erwartung, by the Berlin Orchestra. I was in Granada, Spain during a music and dance festival. I don’t enjoy all modern classical music, but this piece had a long lasting effect on me.

F: favourite mode of transportation: my own two feet, followed closely by train

G: greatest feeling while travelling: the sense of adventure and surprise around every corner.

H:  hottest place you have travelled to:  Khajuraho, India., at something like 45+ degrees by 9 a.m.

I: incredible service you have experienced: on a houseboat in Kashmir, India. We were treated like royalty.

J:  journey that took the longest: walking the Camino de Santiago; it took me 5 weeks.

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K: keepsakes from your travels: some colourful glasses from Murano near Venice.

L: letdown site: where and why: the Guinness Tour in Dublin: overpriced, over crowded.

M:  moment when you fell in love with travel: I have loved going on trips for as long as I can remember. As a farming family we were never able to go far, but even short road trips were always a treat.

N: nicest hotel you have stayed in: probably one of the Paradors in Spain; either the one in Granada or in Leon.

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O: obsession: what are you obsessed with taking pictures of when you travel: FOOD!

P: passport stamps: how many and from where: my most recent passport has stamps from Italy, Ireland, and the U.S.  Older passports (I have kept almost all of them) include stamps from India, Nepal, Argentina, Cuba, France x 2, Spain, earlier trip to Italy, England, Scotland, Finland, Greenland and multiple ones for the U.S.

Q: quirkiest attraction you have visited: huge statue of a flower in Buenos Aires. The petals opened in the morning and closed at night.

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R: recommended site, event, or experience: walk one of the Camino de Santiago routes, and do it by yourself.

S: splurge: something you have no trouble forking over money for: one really nice meal in each country I visit.

T: touristy thing you have done: rode a camel in Rajasthan, India.

U: unforgettable travel memory: oh boy, there are many! I will say the views while hiking in Nepal. Stunning!

V: visas: how many and from where: I have actually only had one visa, for Nepal.

W: wine: best glass of wine while travelling: some of the wine I have enjoyed the most has been simple but delicious house wines in Italy and Spain. I did have a pretty tasty glass while eating at the French Laundry in San Francisco.

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X: eXellent view, and from where: from the Alhambra, Spain at sunset.

Y: years spent travelling: on and off for a lot of my adult life, although these were a number of years when our kids were little when we didn’t venture outside of Canada.

Z: zealous sports fans and where: watched a soccer game in Aberdeen, Scotland that was between The Rangers and Aberdeen.

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Caleb’s Easter tree. Several of the eggs were made by his mommy when she was little.

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Easter buddies

 

Photo credit: chroniquemusicale.com

Photo credit: chroniquemusicale.com

What a great evening last night at the Old Fire Hall in Whitehorse! First up, Sarah McDougall. She’s been in the Yukon and at the Atlin Music Festival before but I’ve never had a chance to see her. Her lyrics and tone took my breath away!

She was followed by the Scottish singer/songwriter Rachel Sermanni, who performed last summer at the Dawson City Music Festival but who, again, I have never seen before. It blows me away that she is only in her early 20s! To me she’s a bit Tim Berton-ish (something about her almost eerie melodies and lyrics; her movements; even her eyes) with a touch of Eva Cassidy thrown in. It was a very haunting and powerful performance.

Story: at our last Robbie Burns supper, a new friend of ours, Claire Rouleau, sang the song “Ae Fond Kiss”.  She learned the song with the help of Rachel Sermanni’s version found on YouTube. After the performance last night, I relayed this to Rachel and she appeared genuinely tickled.

Thanks Iris for a wonderful birthday gift!

xxx

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It’s official. I can now get the senior’s discount at both Shopper’s Drug Mart and the local Salvation Army thrift store!

Seriously, this is going to be a great year! Here’s what’s in my future:

-Tripping off to San Juan Island, Washington State in a few weeks with my dear friend Lucca

-Down to Vancouver in late May with my daughter to dance in the isles at a Lady Gaga concert

-Off to Juneau, Alaska in June to do some hiking, see my old yoga teacher, and enjoy some singing and drumming at a big Tlingit cultural gathering

-Nine days of hiking parts of the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland in July, and seeing another dear friend and hopefully another old friend I used to work with; a quick (24 hour) stop in N.S. along the way to check in with my family and friends there

-Hunting and gathering in August (well, it’s Joe who does the hunting; I’m more about the gardening and berry picking)

-Back down to Vancouver in September for a week-end with Joe, just because

And best of all, all the surprises that will come along the way!

Life at 55 is grand!!

The company I work for is involved in a potential project that does not have much apparent support from Yukoners. Over the last several months, there have been letters to the editor and impassioned speeches at public meetings. Last night was one such meeting.

It’s no fun having person after person stand up to bash a project that I know was conceived with nothing but good intentions and lots of sweat and hard work. It’s also difficult to listen to statements made based (in some cases) on incorrect information. But all that aside, I am so proud to live in a place where people really care about issues and aren’t afraid to share their views.

I have lived in other places where I have seen a fair amount of apathy. I don’t think Yukoners can be accused of that.

Of course I have no way of knowing whether this project will end up proceeding or not. But either way, I hope that Yukoners never stop being passionate about what matters to them, and I hope they never stop caring about our little blue planet. xxx.

Just got back from a lovely week in Vancouver…part work, part play. Whether work or play, I always found time to indulge in some great food. Here are a few of my recommendations if you are looking for relatively inexpensive but good food.

1. Sargam House Restaurant – 955 West Broadway.

This is the spot if you are craving Indian food. Note that it’s all vegetarian/vegan friendly, so if you want meat this is not the place to go. The menu is divided between dishes from South India and those from North India. We chose south, since it’s much more common to find restaurants that serve food from the northern part of the country; not so much the south. You can get a huge thali (tray with several small dishes) for under $10 for dinner, and there’s even a $5 lunch special! Joe had a masala dosa (a crepe with spicy potato and onion inside), something we haven’t eaten since our days in India 30 years ago! It was huge!!

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Joe with his dosa, Susan and I with our thali plates. Everything was delicious!

2. Kintaro – 788 Denman St.
This is just on the edge of Stanley Park, so a great location for a meal after a long walk (or to walk off a filling meal!). It serves several types of Japanese noodles, and not much else. The small menu is something I appreciate…my ideal place to eat is somewhere that has no menu; they just serve whatever they are cooking that day. Based on what we had at Kintaro, the things they do serve are very, very good! A huge bowl of noodles in broth, veggies, and meat can be had for under $10.

I loved the atmosphere. It’s a tiny place and was packed when we were there, so we shared a large table family style with several other people…something I enjoyed. I genuinely felt I had been transported to Asia, without the jet lag.

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3. Dinesty Chinese Restaurant – 1719 Robson Street

I am including this one on the list not because it was the cheapest (the cost to us was about $60 for two) but because it is really delicious food. In particular, I’d recommend the duck that is smoked on site using camphor tea. If we had not had the duck, the bill would have been substantially less. I also loved their homemade noodles, and the delicate dumplings that had broth inside them and exploded into a wonderful taste experience in our mouths.

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4. Bistro 101 – Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts – 1505 W. 2nd Ave.

I am hesitating just a bit to recommend this. The food and service is provided by the culinary students, and I have found it to be hit and miss. I’ve eaten there once before and it was quite good. This time, not so much.

Joe ordered foie gras macaroon as an appetizer, followed by beef tenderloin, and a lime cake for dessert. I had the veloute of smoked potato with dungeness crab and avocado mousse (fancy term for potato soup), rack of lamb for the main, and a caramel chocolate tart for dessert. I loved my soup, and both my lamb and Joe’s beef were cooked perfectly. But Joe said the foie gras was really odd, and the desserts, while good, weren’t great.

The price for the three courses was $26 a person. However once we added a bottle of wine (it was Wine Wednesday where you get half off any bottle), a coffee and tea, and the tip, it still came to $100, so not a cheap meal. However if you go at lunch you can have a three course meal for $20, and if you pass on the wine, it really is affordable.

So there you have it. My recommendations. Do you have any you’d like to share?

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I was standing in front of my open closet the other day looking for inspiration, and not getting much I am afraid. I haven’t bought any new clothes for a while, and truth be told I am bored with most of what I own.

Yesterday I did a big clean out, keeping only those things I still love and hauling off three bags to the local Salvation Army thrift shop. I bet if I did a further cull today I’d find another bag or two to donate.

While at the Sally Ann I did see one skirt that I liked and brought home with me…it reminded me of an old apron that my grandmother wore for years (I’m a sucker for anything reminiscent of the 50s) but it is a summer skirt so not going to help me out now. Time to get out the sewing machine I guess.  I’m not much for retail shopping (I find the quality leaves a lot to be desired even in the more expensive brands) and the pickings have been slim of late at the local consignment stores.

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