Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cooking? For Myself?

Last night I embarked on part of my new adventure of being more thrifty. Yes folks, I actually cooked dinner for myself! To many, this may not seem like much of an amazing feat, however, for those that know me best, they understand that this is a giant step for Alyssa, giant leap for mankind.

What giant meal did I craft? A Chicken Roast!

This chicken roast fed me last night, for lunch today and for dinner this evening. I also clearly underestimated the size of those chicken breasts because I have a whole dish of chicken leftover.

"So what?!" you might be saying. Well, I will tell you what. I am not just eating the chicken dinner to throw the rest away!

So here is what I am doing with the rest of it:

The chicken juices were utilized to make an easy gravy that is made with just flour, water, salt and pepper. Lesson learned: do not put in too much flour. It may look like it's not thickening up at first...oh but it will! Then you will have this lovely chunkiness! (I had a picture of the good stuff and of the meal itself but somehow it got deleted and I no longer have them! Boo! I'll do better on pics next time! :D)
Bad gravy and crazy hair! I just finished showering! 

The ends of the celery and carrots as well as the bones of the chicken, I will utilize to make chicken stock. I will portion into 1 cup servings and freeze it to use for a pasta or a soup someday. I will throw in some potatoes and onion in the stock as well, both of which I bought on sale yesterday at the local grocery store and I bought in "bulk". Not only will I be utilizing all of the meat and bones, however I will be eliminating waste (no broth box or can to throw away!)

I've shredded all of the chicken meat and I put it in a container in my fridge for sandwiches and I think that tomorrow, I will whip up some peanut stir fry, adding some broccoli to it as I also purchased a bunch of that on sale.

The remainder of the carrots and celery I cut up into sticks to take to work with me for lunches.

I was thinking about it today, and I realized that today I had what I like to call, "a zero spending day." Yes, I technically did spend money (gas back and forth to work), however, I did not make any other unnecessary purchases. I must admit, I haven't had a day like that in a while. Usually, I might have a daily coffee at a cafe, a goodie from a local bakery or another sweet, and most recently, new items for my apartment.

Prior to starting this blog, I was thinking a lot about, how much money for food, can I live off of in one month's time?  I knew that I would now be living on more of a budget so it was a thought I had been contemplating for a while. This hit very close to home today when I was working at the food shelf and a young woman, not too much older than I, came in for some food. She had recently received $200.00 in food stamps. Being an intake worker, part of my position requires me to review a client's finances with them. I asked her about having recently received the food stamps and she told me that they just didn't last. "Impossible!" I thought. However, I did not say anything with regards to the food stamps as she does not come to the food shelf frequently and I sent her on her merry way. During my drive home, I was pondering that woman and her $200.00 per month in food stamps. I questioned, "Could I live off of $200.00 worth of food a month if I budgeted wisely?"

Pondering the food purchases that I had made yesterday, I purchased approximately $60 worth of items at the grocery store (granted about $20.00 of this was spent on a cooking thermometer and strainer for some other projects). This doesn't include the chicken breasts that I ate, which I had previously bought on sale (a family-size package of 2 for the price of one), as well as many of the other food items that I have in my house that I've previously purchased while they were on sale (cans of diced tomatoes, pinto and kidney beans).

So how can I ultimately determine if I can live off of $200 worth of food for a month? I don't know if I have the exact answer, but I AM going to keep track and try to do so. I am going to begin tracking my food expenses as well as any other expenses that I have for every day. Not only will this help me curb my spending habits, however I think it will give me a new perspective on budgeting and food with my clients.

This also brought another thought to mind. I have had frequent discussions with a coworker on the way home with regards to our clients and the events of the day. One of the many topics that we discuss is how many of our clients, "Simply do not know or do not have the education to budget wisely." Recently, one of my bosses asked me if I could think of any other programs that we could utilize in the food shelf. I did discuss with her an idea of a job placement program. However, I think that I've just thought of one more. How come I so frequently spoke about the topic saying, "They just don't know how or have the education," when perhaps they simply don't have the means to learn how? Maybe no one has sat down with them or led by example that, "Here, this is one method by which to save money." I recognize that I come from a background where I've been blessed to never have to utilize food stamps, have always been provided for and had more than I needed. Who am I to judge if I've never had to do this and though I've never had to, have been given all of the skills and tools to do so?

I know that I am on the beginning of my journey on becoming more thrifty, however why not use the journey for the common good?  Especially now, when I am in the perfect position to do so?  Tomorrow, a chat with my boss is in order. After all, if I can cut my spending, anyone can! I am bound and determined to try and make the majority of my days, "zero spending days."

I would love to know, how many other people of you out there have "zero spending days"? How much do you think that you pay for groceries in a given month? Could you live off of $200 per month?

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