I can't find my Trader Joe's receipt anymore but I bought one each of the interesting frozen dinners that were under $2, and $2 worth of cheese. Cheese is way cheaper at TJ's than at Safeway, at least some of it, and good quality. The mild cheddar is $3 a pound, which is awesome.
Anyway, that shopping trip came to $7.33, oh plus 2 boxes of mac and cheese on another trip = $8.80
Then at Safeway:
3 cans of green beans (OMG I love canned green beans, a taste I developed who knows where) on sale - 3@ $0.69 = 2.07
2 cans vegetarian refried beans on sale - 2@$1.00= $2.00
Bag of 36 corn tortillas - $1.84 (these are good for you, cheap, delicious, versatile: I recommend them!)
3 cans tuna on sale 3@$0.66 - $1.98
Safeway total: $7.89
So for the week I have $37 minus milk&coffee&groceries so far = $18.30 left
I think I also have about $4.00 left over from last week, but I'm not going to count it because last week was kind of irregular what with the camping trip and all.
I haven't been doing a very good job of documenting what I eat day to day, but I do have a lot of food left over from last week. I might even have more food than I started with. Lord. But here are some basic themes:
Free food: I get a lot of it. The second day of food stamps I helped to run a meeting which meant I got to take home all the leftover food, which was a bag of carrot sticks (score) and chips and popcorn which I packed into my lunches over the rest of the week. Friday I went to school with my lentils which felt so sad for the second day in a row, without cheese or yogurt. I went to the student lounge to microwave it, and there was a whole huge dish of leftover curry sauce! So that basically made my day; I scooped the sauce onto my rice and lentils and was so happy. Then I came home from the camping trip with a ton of leftover food. I'm not sure how to count this, since I did pay for my food for that weekend, and only counted it as $10 instead of $20.. anyway, I'm going to just go ahead and eat it, but I'll be sharing it with Jay too, so I can't really document prices or anything for that. Sarah suggested just thinking about it as food bank food, which is a good idea, except like it's a super posh food bank. It's a bag of baby bell peppers, some guacamole, a whole bunch of grilled chicken, mushrooms, salsa, and rasberry jam. All of those are REALLY expensive luxurious things that I can't afford right now. Except maybe the mushrooms and salsa. So I don't know, it feels like cheating. I'll see how much of it I end up eating and if it does make a sizable dent I'll just note it. Oh and also, the last and most amazing free food - today there was a knock on the door and when I went to answer it I saw two rapidly retreating figures (I think I know who they were but I'm not telling) and on the doorstep, a loaf of home-baked zucchini bread with two wild flowers and a hand written list of ingredients. I feel like gifts delivered by sprites are well beyond the limitations of food stamps, so I happily ate a piece, and LORD am I glad I did because oh my GOD it was seriously the most delicious zucchini bread I have ever eaten, bar none. Really. Amazing. Sarah and Mike, eat some, you will be so happy about it. So that was magical.
Not Sharing Food: I hate it. Passionately. I mean, just logistically speaking, our fridge is a nightmarish hellscape. But also, like, used to be every morning Jay would help make me lunch and I would help make him breakfast, which is so nice; food prepared for you by someone else just feels so much more loving than anything you can make for yourself. I really miss that. And I miss the surprise of having groceries my housemates bought appear in the fridge. Buying all my own just feels so well circumscribed, it takes some of the exploratory pleasure out of eating. Plus I am such a mother hen in some ways, particularly in that I really like cooking big meals for lots of people, and sharing my food with my friends. And worrying about scarcity is totally inimical to that impulse. Now that I feel a little more comfortable within my limits I think I will maybe try to share more. Somehow.
No cafes or restaurants: A really interesting part of the experiment. I thought it would be way worse than it is. It requires way more foresight in terms of bringing lunches and/or dinners, of course, but there's something pleasurable in that. I do miss coffee shops, but I've been bringing tea bags and my travel mug everywhere, and there's endless hot water, and some coffee shops have even let me sit there without buying anything, and even given me hot water, so that's cool. I do feel bad though, and won't do that much. Walking down the ave is tough, or down Broadway, because everything smells so good, there's pictures of food, it's stuff that I can't make at home... I'm compiling a long mental list of things I can't wait to eat again. Pho, like Erica said. Ethiopian food, mmm. A big enchilada plate. Thai food...and on and on. But I really like the feeling of not hemorrhaging money all the time, because I really do have strong impulses to just buy little things when I can. Yogurt, little babybel cheese rounds I can get at school, coffee, and so on. I don't have a lot of restraint. I mean, I don't go crazy, but I also indulge myself when I get the impulse. I guess I don't have a lot of splurgey impulses generally, but when I do, I indulge them. On the way to camping, Raz and Jay and I stopped at a restaurant, and though I had decided to let that just count as part of the camping trip and not be part of the food stamp thing, I still felt like I wanted to be frugal. So I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, and was pretty satisfied. I realized that I almost always get more food than I need at restaurants, and less healthy than I want, and things that I maybe don't even really want, out of a feeling of extravagance and experimentation, as in - if I'm at this restaurant, I might as well get the full experience! But really, eating at restaurants (or cafeterias) is like a daily thing for me usually, and so that sort of "but this is different, this is a restaurant" feeling maybe shouldn't apply. I think I'll work on that less formally after this month is over.
Well, I have more I want to say (about nutrition, note to self) but I'll save it for next time. Love.