Tag Archives: $5/person/day

the avocado banana smoothie

It’s obvious we love avocado around here. I’ve heard tales of delicious avocado smoothies and milkshakes. Apparently you can make a mean avocado milkshake combining avocado and sweetened condensed milk. The closest I’ve come to trying that is an avocado bubble tea. I wanted to try something a little healthier. I couldn’t find a recipe that sounded quite right, so I made up my own. Avocado, honey, and lime? Check, check, check. Get out your blender and give it a try.


Serves 3.

2 avocados $1.58
juice and zest of half a lime $0.25
2 bananas $0.50
3/4 cup plain low fat yogurt $0.30
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk of choice (we used non-dairy “coconut milk beverage”) $0.28
3 tablespoons honey $0.18

total $2.91 or $1.03 per serving

Put all ingredients in the blender, being sure to follow the avocado immediately with lime juice to prevent it from turning a hideous shade of brown. Blend until smooth. Add a little extra milk as needed to achieve the perfect smoothie consistency.


Filed under food, recipes

day seventeen

(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $4.58 yesterday, January 18, 2011.


steelcut oats (from 1/3 cup dry) $0.10
2 tablespoons raisins $0.08
1 tablespoon slivered almonds $0.06
2 teaspoons brown sugar $0.02


chickpea of the sea sandwich on whole grain bread $0.92
2 large organic carrots $0.16


kimchi quesadillas $1.61
green salad with radish and carrot $0.55
1 tablespoon sriracha buttermilk dressing $0.05


1/2 cup frothed soy milk (for coffee) $0.13
Gala apple $0.50
8 ounces organic plain yogurt with strawberry jam $0.40

total $4.58

Important lesson: we have got to plan and shop for meals for every single day of my work week before it starts. Otherwise it means a 6pm grocery run and really late dinner.

It was inevitable that we’d try some other tricks with kimchi after we fell in love with the grilled kimcheeze sandwich. And then Serious Eats had an entire slide show of things to do with kimchi Why didn’t I think of the next logical step: kimchi quesadillas?

Of course, we cut back a little on ingredients in part for cost and fat cutting, but also because how in the heck did that fit that much inside a quesadilla? We also added tofu that had been pressed, pan-fried in sesame oil, and tossed with a splash of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. Here is our adaptation with cost calculation:


for each serving of one large quesadilla:

2 10-inch flour tortillas $0.34
1 cup (2 oz.) grated cheddar cheese $0.24
1/3 cup kimchi $0.58
1/6 block extra firm tofu $0.33
1 teaspoon sesame oil $0.10
1 teaspoon canola oil $0.02 (to brush the tortillas for frying)
splash of rice wine vinegar and soy sauce

total $1.62

The only huge bargain price there is the cheddar cheese. We’re still slowly working through 2 pounds of Tillamook cheddar we got before the project for $3.99.

We also finally scored on organic yogurt – three giant tubs on clearance for $1.59 each! Hurray, generous serving of organic yogurt for 40 cents!

Oh, and if you decide to try the sriracha buttermilk dressing, we were too wussy for that level of heat. We started out making a half recipe and had to make a whole recipe using only half the sriracha. Levi decided he doesn’t like sriracha. He complains so little, I think it had a big impact!

I’d really like to read the Sriracha Cookbook, but our library doesn’t have it yet.


Filed under family

The Halfway Mark

We are at the fulcrum! The halfway point! It’s practically downhill from here, right? So far, this project has been both easier and harder than I really expected. Here is some insight from just a few weeks of eating at home. This is my personal list of the three best & worst things about this project. I did not consult Krista or Levi, so they may feel differently.

Three best things so far!

1. Family dinner at the table together every single night.

I admit it. We usually make Family Dinner at The Table happen about 50% of the time. With Krista’s complicated schedule and my occasional late nights at the office, we don’t always make it there. And sometimes it is covered in Projects-In-Progress. Family dinner at the table is really important to both of us, but we are imperfect and don’t always live up to our best intentions. Since the project started, though, we have eaten dinner at the table together every single night for 15 days in a row. We don’t keep a TV in our main living area, so we talk and listen to Cat Stevens records & Girl Talk. We have had some hilarious, gut-splitting conversations, rehashed our days at school & work, discussed food, money and time, and honestly? It has been really nice. The project has renewed my devotion to getting together once a day and breaking bread. Or breaking quinoa, whatever.

2. Sweetness of real food.

This ties into my sugar addiction issue (see below) but I am amazed when my mouth gets adjusted to less preservatives and HFCS and real food starts to taste awesome. I have been a vegetarian for almost two decades, and I have eaten many vegetables out of guilt, obligation or resignation. But this week? I’m excited about carrots in my lunch, possibly because they don’t have to compete with root beer for my attention.

3. We have saved so much money.

Make no bones about it, this was the whole point of the project – padding ye olde money collection – but it is still exciting to see the week roll over & have extra money to put into our savings account. It’s like we got second jobs – both in terms of financial and scheduling implications. In any case, I’m thrilled to feel like we’re closer to our financial goals for 2011.

Three worst things so far!

1. My Sugar Addiction is real.

My heart actually breaks when I look at that photo of a caramel brownie. I thought sugar was like coffee for me. I could take it or leave it; life is better with it but I would be fine without it; I control it, it doesn’t control me, etc. I learned on, oh, Day 3 of the project that is completely not true. Our $5/day project is not sugar-free, but we don’t budget for dessert more than once a week and we don’t add sugar to most of our food. I am on the verge of a sugar crisis breakdown at least once a day. My brain is a parade of confections, which sounds delightful, yes, but it’s actually torture. I’ve had more than one temper tantrum over the state of dessert this month. I’m not proud of it, but honestly? This is really hard for me! I miss sugar so much more than I expected to.

2. I prefer to eat like a restaurant customer.

I’m sort of a picky eater. I will eat a wide variety of food, as you know, since you have seen a parade of my every meal for the last two weeks, but I am a picky eater in that I don’t like to plan ahead and I don’t like to each a “scheduled menu.” I figured out around Day 5 that I like to eat what I want, when I want, as if I were at a restaurant all the time. Planning meals 4 days in advance and then actually eating them? That’s hard for me. Even though we don’t eat restaurant food that often in our normal lives, I prefer flexibility to change our meal plans almost every night of the week at a moment’s notice. This generates extra trips to the store, extra groceries, extra food going to waste. Krista has been good about holding me to our menu plans this month, which I know has not been an easy or fun task for her. I think I’m getting better, though. Yesterday it felt like a relief to have three meals planned and ingredients waiting in the kitchen.

3. It’s a second job.

Of course it takes a lot of time to plan, shop, cook, clean, photograph, blog and calculate every cent of your food for an entire month. I’m not an idiot. I expected that. Both Krista & I work full-time outside our home, and generating three meals a day, often entirely from scratch, is a significant time investment even without photographing, blogging, and all the math. Some of the chores will become habitual and more time-effective, but so far as I know, no one has conquered the problem of how many damn dishes you can generate cooking three meals a day. Levi tries to help, but he gets confused.

Cream of Wheat+Dish Washer

Just kidding. He’s a big help, but he also regularly brings home 3-5 hours of homework a night.

If you usually see our family socially and you’ve been missing us, this is why: It’s like we have second jobs this month! For all the time we’re investing, we are saving money, spending more time together and eating very awesome food. We are creating good habits we will carry through the other 11 months of the year. We will not calculate how much an ounce of coffee costs in February, but we will be conscious of budgeting, planning, and homemade goodness.

And so far, our January kitchen has stayed relatively clean. For all my bellyaching, we’ve washed 90% of our daily dishes the same day they are dirtied. The floor is mopped and the stove top is clean. The sense of accomplishment is fantastic, but it has driven home the point that it’s not easy to eat fantastic, healthy, cheap food for a family with two full-time jobs. We can definitely manage it (especially once we’re done photographing & blogging & calculating), but it’s not as easy as take out. Anyone who says it’s “easy” to work full-time jobs and feed your family healthy food on a tight budget is either lying or deluded. But it’s entirely possible, and more than that I’ve decided it’s entirely worth it.

I’ll revisit my feelings on these matters at the end of the month. In the meantime, send us luck, inspiration and dishwashing elves in the next two weeks.



Filed under food

day sixteen

(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $4.73 yesterday, January 17, 2011.


grapefruit $0.25
whole grain toast with 1/3 an avocado $0.44


2 large organic carrots $0.16
4 butternut stuffed shells with tomato porcini sauce $1.28


1 cup dal palak $0.93
1 cup cooked quinoa $0.36
1/2 cup green beans with olive oil, ginger, and garlic $0.17


Theo Marshmallow Big Daddy (free trivia prize)


6 ounces stovetop espresso $0.57
1/3 cup “coconut milk beverage” $0.07
Gala apple $0.50

total $4.73

“Avocado toast: simply the best breakfast ever?” asks the kitchn. The answer is yes. The only way this could be better is some freshly baked bread.

I won’t bore you with the cost analysis of the dal palak recipe. It’s a bunch of affordable ingredients combined to make a large quantity of food. We actually ended up with more than 9 one-cup servings. And it was pretty darned delicious.

COFFEE. So, we bought an assortment of coffee beans at various prices. And then I calculated the weight of our most common method of making coffee lately, the stovetop espresso maker. We usually make a generous serving in the 4-cup capacity Bialetti for one person, which is actually a tiny serving of really strong coffee. I get teased at work about my tiny coffee cup on a regular basis. This can only get worse with Starbucks’ introduction of the trenta. Anyway, I calculated the weight of the beans going into the Bialetti, and it was seven-eighths of an ounce.

The cheapest coffee we buy at the grocery store is $6.99/lb. The organic coffee beans we buy at the co-op are $10.39 and $11.20 a pound. So for what we drink as one serving of stovetop espresso that works out to:

61 cents at $11.20/lb
57 cents at $10.39/lb
39 cents at $6.99/lb

Wow, we were both a little surprised it was that much. Okay, that is super cheap in real life. We are skipping out on $5 soy lattes. But in terms of our $5 a day budget, 61 cents is 12% of our budget. Even at it’s cheapest, it is 8 % of the food budget! I think we were expecting more like 30 cents.

I’m a little torn. On the one hand, we are usually that much under budget and could probably still calculate coffee into the budget without changing much. On the other hand, I want us to try to spend more of our budget on food and some days eat more. Even though I’ve been saying I would calculate coffee into the budget, I’m not sure it’s the best idea.

So for today it is added into the budget, but I’m leaning toward coffee not being part of our $5 per day in food. We have already given up take-out and the coffee shop entirely. We have cut back significantly on sugar. And I’m currently working the 11pm to 9am shift, so I’m not about to go cold turkey on that one homemade coffee I have per day. I do want to continue to calculate the cost of some specific homemade coffee drinks, and especially the per serving cost on toddy, or cold brewed coffee.

Oh, and chocolate. You will know what tremendous will power we’ve been demonstrating when I tell you we have quite the stockpile of Theo chocolates each of us won in trivia contests on the Theo Facebook page. Levi asked sweetly if we could finally have some chocolate, and it was 100% free so I gave in. Even though those amazing little confections are each worth more than half our entire food budget for the day, they were free to us. So if you’re not doing it already, follow your favorite food companies and restaurants on Facebook. Find out about discounts, get coupons, or just win free stuff!

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Filed under food

fifteen down, fifteen to go!

(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $4.30 yesterday, January 16, 2011.


overnight steel cut oats with raw apple and toasted pecans $0.59


2 large organic carrots $0.16
4 butternut stuffed shells with tomato porcini sauce $1.28


chickpea of the sea sandwich on day-old whole grain bread $0.92
blueberry pineapple smoothies $0.86


banana $0.25
1 tablespoon organic peanut butter $0.11
½ cup almond milk (Levi) $0.13

total $4.30

It’s vegan week over at the kitchn, so tonight’s dinner (linked above) and tomorrow’s will both feature recipes from some of the wonderful things they are posting. The chickpea of the sea sandwiches* were simple and everyone agreed it’s a dinner we’d eat again. We added a little kombu seaweed to give it a fishier flavor.

Last time we ate steel cut oats, Caitlin mentioned in the comments that she prepares them the night before by just bringing them to a boil and then covering and letting the oats soak overnight. That reminded me that my friend Emma had posted about her soaked oatmeal, although that version involves adding a bit of yogurt (or other acid medium like kefir, lemon juice, etc.). Apparently people have been soaking oatmeal as long as they’ve been eating it, and the fermentation breaks down the phytic acid that can prevent the absorption of nutrients.

This time we tried the overnight soak where you bring it to a boil the night before, and it was so much easier than the last time we cooked them. I also preferred the texture. I think we’ll try the lemon juice method next time.

*Somehow I misread the recipe and used half as much filling per sandwich, which tasted great as it was! But the price was based on half a serving per sandwich.


Filed under food

day fourteen

(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $4.56 yesterday, January 15, 2011.


whole grapefruit $0.25
baked eggs with grape tomatoes and feta $0.86
slice of toasted leftover sprouted bread (freebie)


chocolate peanut butter smoothie $0.86
whole grain pita $0.43
4 tablespoons hummus $0.24


4 butternut stuffed shells with tomato porcini sauce $1.28
honey roasted carrots $0.34


half an organic packaged iced mocha from Grocery Outlet $0.30

total $4.56

I know I said we would be eating more snacks, but we had super filling meals today and used more of our budget than we have in awhile. Here’s the cost breakdown for dinner:

1/2 medium (2 pound) butternut squash $0.53
1 tablespoon olive oil $0.13
2 pounds part-skim ricotta $3.99
2 eggs $0.34
1/4 bunch Italian parsley $0.25
3 cloves garlic $0.03
4 ounces reduced fat feta $1.02
12 ounces jumbo pasta shells (about 36 shells) $2.49
2 cups tomato porcini sauce $2.74

We got 9 servings of 4 stuffed shells each.

Total cost $11.52, or $1.28 per serving.

The recipe and cost for the chocolate peanut butter smoothies is posted separately. Levi and Jess both declared me a genius for the smoothies. It’s also been dubbed the “Reese’s peanut butter cup of smoothies.” I guess I haven’t made them in awhile. And roasting carrots in a little honey and olive oil is the next big thing in this house. We are obsessed.

Expect a few more grapefruit glamour shots, because we went shopping today and they are still 4 for a dollar.

Oh, and we’re officially out of our free coffee. Coffee calculations to coming soon.


Filed under food

chocolate peanut butter smoothies

The milkshake of smoothies. A meal in a glass. Have it for breakfast, although it’s sweet enough for dessert.

Per person, throw the following in your blender:

1 fresh banana $0.25
1 frozen ripe banana, chopped $0.25
1 tablespoon organic peanut butter $0.11
1-1/2 tablespoons cocoa $0.12
1/2 cup almond milk $0.13

total: $0.86

Full nutrtion information here, calculated via sparkpeople.com recipe calculator.


Filed under food, recipes