Saturday, April 21, 2012

04-21-2012 Update on the $33 Challenge

          It’s been two days since I challenged myself to cook more, and see how many meals I can make with a $33 bag of groceries and some other basics I had on hand. So far, I’ve cooked four meals at home, starting my total count at four and the cost per meal at $8.25. I know I can do much better, but $8.25 per meal would be cheap if I dined out for three meals a day (and this used to be the norm).

          The first meal that wasn’t at home was a build your own pizza night with some friends. I considered this to be in the spirit of the challenge, despite not being cooked in my home. The second was a beer and light lunch while watching the Bruins game. This was not at all within the rules of the challenge, but I don’t plan to give up my social life completely. I expect to have at least a few meals out; I’ll track these along with the meals I cook, and days before I need groceries (not counting the milk I bought today with $2 in CVS rewards).

          I started out the first day by cooking two meals from ingredients I had on hand in my kitchen. Breakfast was a veggie scramble, I sautéed mushrooms and onions in a frying pan with some cooking spray, added one scrambled egg and egg white, and sprinkled the whole thing with some parmesan cheese. The scramble is my lazy version of an omelet; it doesn’t look quite as nice, but tastes just as good and doesn’t require any special folding and flipping skills (something I’ve never quite mastered)!

          While breakfast was cooking, I started some white bean soup from a mix I had (add water and boil for fifteen minutes). I’m good about eating breakfast at home every day, but I have a lot of trouble with lunch. I don’t like most cold sandwiches, and have an aversion to salad greens once they’ve been in my fridge for more than a day or two. Consequently, I eat lunch at one of the takeout places near work most weekdays. When I was thinking about this challenge and planning my meals, it occurred to me that I have plenty of time to boil some pasta or couscous in the morning, and could reheat it later for lunch. The soup was quick and easy, and I portioned it into three containers for three days lunch.

          Day two was another breakfast scramble, this time with some chicken sausage. I noticed the sausage wouldn’t be good for much longer, and I made a mental note to include it in more meals sooner rather than later. The most creative meal was dinner on day two: curried chicken and couscous tacos. I made one package of near east instant couscous (the Mediterranean Curry flavor) according to the directions on the box. While this was cooking, I heated up the precooked sliced chicken in a skillet with the spicy curry rub. When both the chicken and the couscous were done, I heated some corn tortillas in the skillet and assembled my tacos. They were delicious and had a little bit of a kick to them. They were so quick and easy, I could definitely see myself making this dish again (and maybe add some vegetables if I’m planning them in advance).

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