I’ve been noodling over The Food Stamp Challenge, again. Nope, still not taking it; looking at it from a home ec perspective, though. For a family of three in Los Angeles County, the maximum monthly SNAP benefit is $511/month. The Hillbilly Housewife has two meal plans that could take the challenge – one devoid of meat (but with eggs) and the other with a bit more variety.
The last time the author updated the meal plans was in 2009, but the core items in the lowest-cost plan can be purchased from Amazon Fresh, in most of the quantities indicated, and come in at the $511 price point for the month. (My basket for the week was $96.81 – $20 to spend for the last two days would be pretty slim pickings). So, in theory, one could buy through Amazon Fresh on a food stamp budget without starving. But I think I could do better, for my specific situation, with that monthly allotment.
Later this week I’ll show my work (which takes into account the fact that I work outside the home; the kids eat a school lunch; and I usually skip both breakfast and lunch on weekdays). Until then, one of the recipes in my meal plan would be for dirty rice. My daddy is from Louisiana; if I ever set a plate of this dirty rice down in front of him, he’d check my forehead for fever. Missing is the Holy Trinity (onion, celery, green bell pepper) and the giblets, as well as a traditional Creole seasoning.
But the FSC version is tasty and inexpensive. This version (with cheats) is also tasty, not quite as inexpensive.
- 5.33 oz rice
- 8 oz fresh green beans
- 11 oz chicken broth
I have a rice cooker, so the amount of chicken broth used may have been less. The rice was washed and went into the cooker, the broth was poured to the measuring line, the green beans went into the steamer basket on top, the cooker was turned on until the rice was done. If you’re not cheating, nuke the green beans until tender (you can also use frozen), wash the rice then set the rice and broth aside.
- 8 oz ground beef
- 85 g bell pepper (any color), diced
- 28 g shallot, finely diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 T fresh parsley, minced
- 1 t Old Bay Seasoning
- Salt and pepper to taste (1/2 t and 1/4 t, respectively, but delay adding salt if your broth is not low-sodium)
All of this gets dumped into a pan large enough to hold it and the rice (I used a 3Q pot). Cook on medium heat until the bell pepper is softened and the beef is browned. At this point, you may have to drain the fat from the pan. The ground beef I used was pretty dang lean, and didn’t require it.
The rice and broth go into the pan, bringing to a boil and then simmering, covered, for 20-25 minutes until the rice is cooked. Give it a peek and a stir every so often – you may add a bit more water if the rice seems to need it. When the rice is cooked, add the green beans and warm the whole mess through. This will feed two children and one adult or feed two adults. Increase the rice to 8 oz and broth to 16 oz, to stretch the meat further and increase the chances of having leftover dirty rice for lunch.
Back to Cheating
I dumped the cooked rice and green beans into the pot with 2T broth, stirred in a touch more (1/8t) Old Bay and heated everything through.
- Remove the shallot and parsley, add the rest of the Holy Trinity, adjust the bell pepper (50 g onion, 30 g celery, 30 g green bell pepper)
- Use ground turkey instead of beef
- Use Creole seasoning instead of Old Bay
- Leave out the Old Bay if you don’t have it (try 1t of other dried spices on hand)
- Use water instead of broth, or water plus 1 beef bullion cube (but don’t add any salt until you taste it)
Omitting the shallot, broth and parsley and using The Holy Trinity and a bullion cube, I can bring this meal in for $4.05 – 5.76. That’s a pretty good deal to fill bellies at AF prices.
- Meat – $2.99 based on 1 lb/$5.98 (Marconda’s lean ground beef; $2.49 for the lowest-price ground beef; $2.08 for ground turkey)
- Rice – $0.39 based on 5 lb/$5.92
- Onion – $0.15 based on 3 lb/$2.99 and 82% yield
- Green Pepper – $0.28 based on 1 large/$0.99 and 65% yield
- Celery – $0.22 based on 1 bunch/$1.79, 8 useable stalks, 1 stalk used
- Green beans – $1.50 based on 1 lb/$2.99 ($0.86, if using frozen mixed at $1.72/lb; $0.70, if using frozen mixed at 4 lb/$5.60 from Vons)
- Bullion – $0.15 based on 6 cubes/$0.99
- Garlic – $0.08 based on 1 bulb/$0.75 yielding 10 cloves
The Old Bay is not factored into the cost, because I would sub other dried spices on hand if I didn’t have the Old Bay.