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: 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.
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?