09 March 2016

Eating On $4 A Day SNAP Challenge | What I Ate

If you read Monday's post, then you'll know that I did the Eating on $4 a Day SNAP Challenge during February. If not, then you might want to check it out first - click here. Today's post is all about what I ate during the month, along with a few tangents along the way.


Breakfast…the most boring meal of the day & a tangent on super heroes.

I ate oatmeal every single day for breakfast. I usually eat oatmeal for breakfast, so no real change during February. Normally, I make it with milk and put raisins, walnuts, cinnamon and brown sugar in it. If I’m feeling really decadent, I might put peanut butter and some chocolate chips in it instead. Kind of like having a cookie in a bowl for breakfast.

There are many good things about oatmeal – it’s cheap, it’s filling and it’s a super food. I like to imagine my oatmeal as Captain Porridge, wearing a little super hero costume with a lightening bolt on its cape off doing battle somewhere down in my intestines with his arch enemy – Evil Bacon Fat. Captain Porridge wields his lightening bolt, slashing through Evil Bacon Fat’s clone army of cholesterol soldiers and bringing them to their knees. Good always triumphs over evil, even in one’s digestive tract.

Lunch…the second most boring meal of the day & a tangent on the joys of Goober peanut butter.

Most days, I had a good old-fashioned peanut butter and jam sandwich and some fruit. Yes, the PB&J – an American staple for children of all ages. Let’s face it, peanut butter is cheap. Fortunately, it’s also delicious (at least for Americans, some folks from other places think it's kind of weird, especially in Reese's Cups). I do eat a lot of PB&J, but not as much as I did during February. The days I didn’t have PB&Js, I had turkey, cream cheese and cabbage wraps, cheese quesadillas or soup. Normally, I’d probably have a few more deli meat sandwiches for lunch, but when you’re living on $4.44 a day for food, meat is one of those things that gets cut from the budget.

Now, who remembers Goober peanut butter? This is probably an American thing. It’s without a doubt the most efficient way to make a PB&J. It’s a brilliant combination of peanut butter and grape jelly all in the same jar. Stick your knife in, smear it on some bread and, presto, you’ve got lunch.

We never had Goober peanut butter at my house. I had to get my fix elsewhere. My mom was more of the natural peanut butter kind of mom. The kind of peanut butter without any added sugar that you had to turn upside down because the oil separated. I’m not really sure what the point of peanut butter without any added sugar is. By the time you get to lunch, you need a little sugary boost in your meal. Personally, I buy Jiff. Yeah, I know, it’s an awful food choice. Let’s just chalk it up to teenage rebellion well into my middle age years as a result of my mom’s natural peanut butter.

Dinner…or how to do semi-interesting things with ham hocks and a crock pot. Sorry, no tangents.

Dinner is where variety in my diet comes in. Well, not really. When you’re cooking for one person, you end up eating a lot of leftovers, which meant what I cooked for one night for dinner is what I also ate for the next two or three nights.

Some nights, I just cooked some eggs, heated up a can of soup or had a package of ready-made beans and rice, along with some cabbage salad. On other nights, I used my crock pot to whip up these magical meals:

KIELBASA, SAUERKRAUT & POTATOES – This one always reminds me of my mom. When she wasn’t serving us PB&J sandwiches made with natural peanut butter, she would make us kielbasa, sauerkraut and potatoes. She also made us other things, but this was one of my favorite meals and it still is. Her attempts to make us eat liver and onions, not so much. I had some kielbasa in the fridge that needed to be eaten, rummaged in the food storage and dug out canned sauerkraut and potatoes and chucked it all in the crock pot with some onions. Comfort food at its best.

BLACK BEAN CHILI  – This is a riff on Scott’s chili recipe (potatoes are the key), except without any meat. Another simple, chuck it all in a crock pot and wait for it to cook. All it takes are some black beans, a can of tomatoes, a can of corn, diced potato, onion, green bell pepper and a ton of chili powder. Once it’s cooked, add some hot sauce, grated cheese and sour cream and you won’t even know it’s meat free. I made this twice during the month.

CORN CHOWDER – This is one of our favorite things to make when we’re out cruising. If all goes well, Scott will catch some fish which we add to the chowder to make it fish chowder, otherwise, we eat it as is or put in some diced ham. I had neither fish nor ham, so stuck with the basic recipe of a can of creamed corn, diced potato, onion, chicken broth, thyme, a bay leaf and some milk at the end.

CUBAN BLACK BEAN SOUP – This is where the ham hock comes in. Ham hocks are a budget friendly way to add flavor to a dish. I adapted this recipe. It was okay, not great, just okay. If I wasn’t doing the SNAP challenge, I might have thrown the leftovers out and eaten something else, but people on SNAP don’t have those kind of choices, so I sucked it up and ate it for a few days in a row.

Snacks…or the importance of sugary treats.

Life is not complete without sugary treats. At least, my life isn’t. You might be one of those people who are content to nibble on alfalfa sprouts when you get a hunger pang between meals. That’s so not me. Fortunately, I got gifted some chocolate which helped me get through February, plus I found these amazing snicker doodle cookies at Walmart. I’m sure they’re not amazing for you, but they’re amazingly tasty and you get ten cookies for only $2!

When I ran out of chocolate and cookies, I resorted to yogurt and granola bars to silence my tummy. Of course, they both have added sugar too. I think I may have a problem. Please don’t stage an intervention. It would probably be ugly.

Eating out…or socializing over greasy food.

It wasn’t all home cooking on Tickety Boo last month. One of the reasons why I failed the SNAP challenge was that I went out to eat six times. It wasn’t like I was going out for fine dining either. Some of the visits were to fast food joints, which although relatively cheap compared to going to a sit down restaurant, still break the SNAP budget. For example, when I go to Dairy Queen, I get the $5 lunch meal. Sure, you get a lot of calories for your $5 (including a hot fudge sundae!), but it’s still over the daily food budget of $4.40 and it’s only one meal.

I went out to eat at a couple of local restaurants in Indiantown with friends. Probably the best value to be had in town is Taco Tuesday at the local pub. Tostadas are only $1.50 each and beers are $1 during happy hour. I can easily walk out of there for the same amount I would spend at Dairy Queen and I’ve had beer. Beer. Yum. Love. Beer. The other place we went to in town also has $1 beers on Wednesdays, plus burger and wing specials. I spent a bit more out on that night, but it was a fun outing.

The other big meal I had out was at one of those Chinese all you can eat buffet places on Valentine’s Day. Some friends invited me along. How could I say no? We decided to go for linner (lunch + dinner) and, since you can eat all you want, it kept me full well until bedtime.


Eating less meat was a breeze, but choosing between socializing with friends over a meal and staying within my food budget was probably the hardest part of the challenge for me. Check back on Friday to find out more about that, what else tripped me up during the challenge and what I learned.

What are your favorite budget friendly recipes?
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  1. I couldn't do this to save my soul. I really couldn't. I'd mess it up the very first day. I'm impressed that you did so very well.

    Have a fabulous day Ellen. ☺

    1. It was actually kind of fun to do it and try to be creative about what I cooked and think about budget friendly recipes.

  2. I love natural peanut butter! Especially the crunchy kind. I'm not sure I could do this challenge though.
    The Glasgow Gallivanter

  3. The best PB is in the deli at Publix. Fresh ground, that's it.

    1. Wow - I had no idea you could buy peanut butter from the deli at Publix! I'll have to check that out once my jar of Jif is finished. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Ever turn the ham hocks into split pea soup? Brown an onion, add whatever herbs and spices you like, it thickens over time, and you could probably extend it with bread crumbs or something similar.

    1. I'd never thought about adding bread crumbs to soup. I bet that's a great way to thicken it up and make it heartier. Good tip!


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