Saturday, February 28, 2009
My grandfather (my dad’s father) grew up in Pocatello, Idaho, and his sister, my Aunt Blanche, told me this story.
When my grandfather was living back east in Washington, D.C., his mother came to visit on the train, and packed potatoes in her suitcase to give to him.
He said, “Mother, I can get potatoes here.”
She said, “Yes, but they’re not like these.”
That’s what I always think of when I make this dish.
It’s called an Idaho Sunrise and comes courtesy of my favorite cookbook author Marion Cunningham (who I hope to discuss in greater length in a future post) in her book The Supper Book. She says, “This is simply a baked potato with a bright yellow egg sitting on top of it, but when you mash the egg into the buttered potato, it’s like the sun coming up over the mountains.”
Basically you bake a potato, then slice off the top and scoop out the insides. In the actual recipe, you mix the scooped out potato with a little milk and butter and salt and pepper. In my version you mix with a little … salt. Then put the potato back in the shell and break an egg over the top and return to the oven until the egg is cooked to your desired level of doneness—”until the egg is set but the yolk is still soft enough to make a nice sauce for the potato.” About 8 to 10 minutes.
And I think that might have been the best meal I’ve ever had.
Also today did a rerun of the Jiffy biscuits, and glad I didn’t have to take pictures of this round since they did not hold together coming out of the pans nearly as well. They are not photogenic muffins.
For Meal One, I had a soft-boiled egg and and cornmeal muffins and an orange.
For Meal Two, I had a little bit of the millet un-pilaf and the Idaho Sunrise. I’ve actually never cooked millet before this experiment, and I need to make it when I can use some fat (i.e., in an actual pilaf) because the flavor is good and it’s filling, it’s just dry the way I made it. I still have one serving left of that.
That’s it for today.
Thanks for playing.
[Note that I had $2.43 available today and I came in just under the wire. Wasn't sure if I was going to make it, and it took some doing to find a potato that small.]
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Okay, I’m going to dive into this one, can’t wait to see how it turns out.
My body mass index (BMI) when I started was approximately 25.6, which is slightly into overweight range (between 19 and 25 is considered “healthy weight”). Therefore when thinking about this project, I did not design it to maximize calorie intake per dollar, or try to avoid losing weight. I figured if I’m going to completely upend my life for 30 days, I might as well try to drop a few pounds while I’m at it.
According to one formula, a person of my height, weight, and age would have a basal metabolic rate of aproximately 1,340 calories (i.e., my body expends about 1,340 calories of energy a day just to keep itself running—breathing, pumping blood, etc.). How much energy I need in addition to that depends on how active I am.
[If you want to come up with a number for yourself, there are all kinds of different calculators online—search for "calorie requirement calculator" or something along those lines—and you'll get a whole bunch of hits. Try out a few and see what different numbers you get, it's interesting to see how the different ones work and how the results differ.]
When thinking about the project, I decided I would aim for at least 1200 calories a day because I was afraid that I would be too hungry if I had less than that. It turned out that I was able to get by on fewer calories than I expected in the first week, and once I got through that, my body adjusted to taking in fewer calories and I felt pretty good. (Which I think is probably a good take-home lesson for the future—if I can suck it up and get through the first few days, things will get better.)
I have not calculated my caloric intake to this point, but intend to do an overall nutritional analysis, including calorie totals, at the end of the project, since I’ll know exactly what I’ve eaten for 30 consecutive days, and I’m extremely unlikely to have this kind of data set ever again. (Or at least I hope not.)
I’ve lost about 6% of my body weight since starting the project, and now weigh about what I weighed in September. (I usually lose weight when I’m biking a lot in the summer, then immediately gain it back as soon as I stop biking.)
In terms of whether or not my overall diet has been healthy, I feel like it has been.
I’ve had limited quantities of fruits and vegetables, but I’ve had limited quantities of everything. I think the proportion of fruits and vegetables I’ve eaten has been pretty good. Not all of the vegetables have been “fresh”—I used canned tomatoes and tomato sauce and frozen spinach, but those items are high-quality food.
Canned tomato products actually have more of certain nutrients available in them than fresh tomatoes, because the lycopene (an anti-oxidant phytochemical that makes tomatoes red) is more accessible to your body after tomatoes have been processed.
Frozen vegetables are also reported to have higher nutrient levels than many fresh vegetables because they’re picked and processed at peak ripeness rather than being picked early and ripening en route to market. (This is also why local food—especially food you grow in your own garden—is more nutritous than food that’s travelled long distances to get to your supermarket.)
Because it’s winter, I can get cheap citrus—tangerines for $0.20 each and oranges for $0.13 each at the independent Latino grocery or $0.25 at the Latino supermarket. (Also I’d like to point out that I had no idea I could get fruit so cheaply until I started looking around in preparation for this project. I had been paying two or three times as much at my regular stores. So if you’re trying to save money on groceries, be sure to check your local ethnic markets.)
If I were doing this at a different time of year, the kinds of fruit I would be able to get cheaply would be different, but I’m confident that I would be able to get something that I could make work with my dollar.
Fruits and vegetables are higher-priced items, but they’re generally cheaper than meat, so by reducing the amount of meat you eat, you can easily add more fruits and vegetables to your diet (and at the same time reduce your intake of unhealthy fats). Also cooking from scratch and reducing the number of convenience foods you use will save money that can be used instead for fruits and vegetables.
Frozen vegetables are especially valuable—they’re affordable and also have the advantage of keeping for extended periods, so you can keep them on hand to use in recipes when you aren’t able to make it to the store. For instance you can add frozen spinach to mac and cheese, mix with scrambled eggs, add to soups, etc. Or do the Sneaky Chef thing and put it in brownies. Or whatever.
During this project, I’ve eaten primarily whole grains and legumes. I’ve had some white flour and sugar (in the Jiffy mixes) as well as pasta, and I will say that carbs are the one thing I’ve missed. I felt much better in the second week, when I had something other than really dense whole grains to eat. (I expect if I did this project for more than 30 days, I would be able to wean myself off of sugar and refined flour products, but I’m not sure that I’m particularly interested in doing that.)
So overall I think this is a good, healthy diet. Calorie intake has been limited, but I needed to lose a little bit of weight, and also there is a large body of evidence showing that consuming reduced calories extends lifespan in a wide range of nonhuman species.
I’m not interested in participating in the Caloric Restriction movement or even getting into the debate over it, but I wanted to point it out for anyone who is working under the assumption that all low-calorie diets are unhealthy. The are a whle bunch of people who are totally into it—see the The Calorie Restriction Society for details.
And note the especially helpful article: “Calorie Restriction or Anorexia? Ten Ways to Tell.”
Friday, February 27, 2009
Another day of distractions. Yet I persevere.
I got the pictures of the millet/chickpea/spinach un-pilaf to work, so you can see how much that made. It’s a lot—more than five cups. (I put the pint glass of water in the picture so you could get a better sense of the relative size of the bowl.)
Unfortunately, it is less than fabulous, but I added the leftover curry powder and orange zest and some lime juice from today’s outing and it was improved.
On the plus side, it’s done and in the refrigerator and healthy (millet is a relatively high-protein grain, plus protein from the chickpeas, plus the spinach), and I spent only $0.51 today, so I’m building up a nice little nest egg for a future shopping trip.
I also had steel-cut oats with toasted sunflower seeds, and I finished up the spinach chicken noodle soup as a little afternoon snack. Thumbs up on that. I’m going to see if I can get another round of that going next week, it was good.
I bought two oranges and a lime at the carniceria. Their oranges are even cheaper than at Compare, but it’s much further from my house so generally not worth the trip.
At one point during my reconnaisance missions, they had limes 10 for $1, but they’re 6 for $1 now. Still a good price, but I loved the idea of being able to get a lime for ten cents. And you gotta love a store that has limes as their loss leader. That’s my kind of store.
I have no idea what I’m doing over the next few days, but I know I can make it through tomorrow working on the millet/chickpea/spinach pilaf and steel-cut oats, so I don’t know if I’ll try to get to the store tomorrow or just save it up for another day.
You’ll just have to keep reading…
Thursday, February 26, 2009
First, I need to say that I do not understand the appeal of blogging as a full-time job. Maybe I’m just not doing it right.
And secondly, I’m realizing now that the aerial shot of the food probably wasn’t the best idea since you can’t tell how much is in each of the bowls. Sorry about that.
The good thing about my not being able to get to the store is that I had extra money to work with. The bad thing is that by the time I got to the store I wasn’t in quite the zen state I needed to be to get the right amount of food, so I ended up with about twice as much as I meant to from the bulk bins. But I had the money available ($1 from Monday, $1 from yesterday, and today’s dollar, plus some change from earlier, for a total of $3.09 today) and there’s enough time left in the project for me to work through all of it, so I think that’s fine.
After three days, the steel-cut oats with sunflower seeds got a thumbs-up as an A-1 breakfast, so I got a supply of those and am planning on having that until I’m sick of it. It’s healthy, it tastes good, it’s filling, and it’s really easy. All good.
I also got some chickpeas (meant to get $0.20 worth but ended up with $0.40 worth — but given how hard it’s been for me to get to the store lately I think that having extra food is probably not a bad thing) and meant to get just enough millet to make one full serving (I had some left from the first week’s purchase) but got more than that too. Overpurchasing was definitely the theme for today’s trip.
Also swung by the Compare for a couple of tangerines (or, as the receipt calls them, tangarines). Happy to see those again.
Total spent was $2.15.
For Meal One, I had steel-cut oats with toasted sunflower seeds and a tangarine. My new favorite meal.
For Meal Two, I had sort of a millet pilaf with spinach and chickpeas. Except it isn’t really a pilaf, because I don’t have any fat to saute vegetables in or coat the millet with before cooking, and I wasn’t able to get to the carniceria to get another onion. But I cooked the millet in the leftover chicken broth and overall it was pretty nice. [Sorry, problems with the millet/chickpea/spinach picture, but hope to have it posted soon.]
So that’s where we are for today.
Over and out.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
I think there will be more to add to this, but here’s one for starters…
Here’s a nice article in the New York Daily News about my project.
(And just one comment about the article… I might have said that, but I think what I meant was “If I can do this with $1, think of what you can do with $5 or $10.” I would have trouble with $10; I’m flummoxed by abundance.)
Thursday, February 26, 2009
I expect there will be several rounds of further clarification as this project moves through the next two weeks.
I am not suggesting that eating for a dollar a day is a viable lifestyle, or that anyone can do it, or that everyone should try it. (Though trying to eat for much less than you usually do is definitely a worthwhile exercise.)
My primary purpose was to see if I could meet the challenge issued by the One Dollar Diet Project people—“I challenge anyone in America to eat fresh food for a dollar a day.”
I set up the project in the hardest way I could think of—starting with no food and only a dollar each day to work with (with anything I didn’t spend on prior days carrying over)—because:
(a) it was interesting to me because I wasn’t sure if I could do it (when I first thought of the idea it seemed impossible)
(b) it allowed me to do the project without having to calculate unit costs of food items
(c) it allowed me to adjust as I go, seeing how I feel and what I feel like I need, instead of having to plan everything up front and eating the same limited selection of food days after day.
In addition to wanting to see if I could meet the challenge, I also wanted to demonstrate an approach to cooking and eating that I’ve used for the past 10+ years that allows me to eat well for much less than most people think possible.
This project is basically an extreme version of what I do normally— cooking from scratch, eating mostly whole foods, buying just what I need for the next few days instead of shopping in bulk, and working with what I’ve got in my pantry and freezer instead of always having to get everything for every single meal.
So that’s the main point of the project.
Thanks for asking.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
More than halfway done and things are getting a little surreal, but I’ll tell you about that when I have something to link.
Today I ended up skipping the store because I had phone calls to deal with in the morning then decided that if I don’t get some work done I’m going to get fired from my job that I don’t have. So I went out and sequestered myself in an internet-free location instead and tried to work through some things.
For Meal One I had scrambled eggs with spinach (which would have been better with cheese and just a little bit of black pepper—if I thought of it, I would have added some of the leftover curry powder I have in the pantry, but alas, I didn’t think of it until after I was done eating) along with Jiffy biscuits with orange zest which was a fabulous addition. (Thanks again to fivecats for the good suggestion.)
The biscuits were mostly really good, but the Jiffy mix is really salty compared to the scratch biscuits I usually make. But since I haven’t had any processed foods in 16 days and I’m only about halfway through the six cents of salt I bought on Day One, I’m not going to get too worked up about excess sodium right now.
For dinner I was going to have spinach chicken soup with Jiffy corn muffins, but I didn’t make it to the store for the Jiffy mix, so I just had spinach chicken soup. It was quite good, and I’m always amazed at how much more filling a small amount of food is when you put it in the form of soup than if you were just to eat it on its own. The Mock Turtle was right on.
Today was the first day in a while I didn’t have any fruit (more because I couldn’t get to the store than because I didn’t have the money) and I missed it. But I think I’ll survive.
And I got a little bit of work done.
And tomorrow is a new day.