My Mom is a really good cook.  Some of her favorite dishes of mine growing up?

  • Chicken and Biscuits
  • Beef Stew
  • Steak and Baked Potatoes (that my Dad would butter, salt and pepper!)
  • Bacon and Mozzarella Open Face Sandwiches
  • Tacos!

Now that my Mom is retired and lives alone, I know she doesn’t do super complicated dishes just for herself, but she still meal plans every week.  If you were to look at her refrigerator right now, there would be a sticky note saying “Monday – chicken, Tuesday – out, Wednesday – chili, etc.  My Mom is also super active in her local food pantry.  Part of their supplies come from the Greater Chicago Food Depository and they get food delivered every Thursday.  Did you know that 860,000 people in Cook County alone have no idea where there next meal comes from?

She sent this email out to family over the weekend – I definitely wanted to share her challenge!

The $35 Week Challenge

 Several weeks ago, I learned of a challenge issued by the Greater Chicago Food Depository director to her staff.   For two weeks, they were to eat on $35/week/person – the typical amount provided to those on food stamps.  Without dipping into the freezer or pantry.  So I decided to try it for one week.

The first challenge?  Building a 21-meal menu and shopping list.  Aldi offers the most affordable prices, so that’s where I shopped.  My list included chicken, fresh vegetables and fruit, peanut butter, cheese, crackers, cereal, milk and eggs.  Even as I  tracked my spending, I had to modify.   Chicken breasts were out, even though on sale.  Chicken thighs were more than $2.50 cheaper for my week’s cooking.  Packaged deli meat for sandwiches?  Nope.    Fresh broccoli, green beans and snow peas were on sale, so into my basket they went.  My bill was $36.03, including tax.  Over the budget, but I knew that several items  – cereal, pasta, milk, peanut butter, bread and cheese  – would carry me into the next week.  Pro-rated, the bill dropped to $27.97.

So what did I eat that week?  Six big chicken thighs morphed into three dinners, two sandwiches, one stir-fry, and two soup servings.  Add homemade macaroni & cheese, fruits and veggies and food for snacks, eggs or cereal for breakfast, and it wasn’t that bad.   The seventh day dinner was crustless quiche with eggs, cheese, milk and zuchinni, and green beans on the side.

I always had hunger attacks mid-afternoon, so that’s when the crackers/cheese/ peanut butter kicked in.  I ‘cheated’ a bit though…  didn’t buy coffee, but used what I had for my necessary one cup in the morning; a bit of mayonnaise to make chicken salad; a tablespoon of butter for the mac’n’cheese sauce; and cooking spray for the grilled sandwiches.  I bowl on Wednesday mornings, treats are always there.  I scored two homemade chocolate chip cookies and rationalized “they don’t count”!  What I missed was variety.  I got tired of chicken, bored with flavors, and wished for more fruit.

All in all, I have a much better appreciation for the challenge that lots of folks face all the time, not just for one week.

So here is what she ate:

  breakfast lunch dinner snack
Sunday cereal, 1/2 grapefruit grilled cheese, raw veggies roast chicken thighs, rice, brocolli crackers, peanut butter
Monday egg mcmuffin, 1/2 grapefruit 19th Century lunch canned soup/ added brocolli, cheese, chicken Triscuits & peanut butter
Tuesday cereal, 1/2 grapefruit chicken thigh, steamed vegs stir fry – chicken/carrots/peas/rice ??
Wednesday egg mcmuffin, 1/2 apple chicken sandwich, 1/2 apple chicken soup made from thigh bones/skin (broth,carrot,celery,onion,rice) celery, peanut butter
Thursday muffin, peanut butter, 1/2 apple grilled cheese, 1/2 apple, raw zuchinni macaroni & cheese, green beans cereal w/milk
Friday egg mcmuffin, 1/2 grapefruit chicken soup, grilled cheese sandwich chicken thigh, mac n cheese, green beans Triscuits, peanut butter
Saturday cereal chicken salad, carrots, last of soup, crackers crustless quiche (eggs, cheese, milk, zuchinni) and green beans. Triscuits & cheese

I agree that after a while chicken would get old.  But that’s basically how I meal plan.  If chicken is on sale, we are going to eat a lot of chicken dishes.  On average, Tony and I spend between $80-$100 a week on food.  Still probably too much, but you all know how I love to cook new recipes, which call for buying seasonings I might not have, etc.

Here is a Picmonkey collage of my day:

PicMonkey Collage

In no particular order:  Subway flat out egg white wrap for breakfast; 40 minute swim! a shitty ass soup I tried to make over leftover refried beans – way too salty; before and after of my refrigerator – it was getting out of hand; Roz, a crazy carrot picture for you! have you noticed “sponsored” ads on Instagram? and a delicious taco salad for dinner.

I am just about to do Ab Intervals from T-25 before work – I already packed my gym bag and food last night so I have plenty of time this morning. 😀  Make it a great day!

Question of the Day:  Do you meal plan?  How much do you spend on groceries and for how many people?