Monday, May 30, 2011

Early Blood

(Neither a Rambo movie nor a feministic pondering of menarche.)

I'm up late, or early, or whatever, reading and a mosquito is buzzing relentlessly around my body which is sprawled on my couch. It doesn't seem to light at all the entire time and when it does--seemingly for the first time--I smack the bug, squashing him flat and feeling the squish beneath my palm. When I raise my hand several large and bright red droplets of blood show me that I was wrong. He had landed. And with that realization, I immediately begin to itch.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Outraged yet? Pay attention!

One of my favorite buttons says, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." I pay a lot of attention, so that should explain much to the people who know me.

"I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV’s while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’ Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot - I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"--Quote from the movie Network (1976)

On Friday I completed the Live Below the Line Challenge which I wrote about with tips and recipes (of a sort) on this blog. The challenge (to which you can still donate here) opened up a lot of conversation with people I know--and a few I never met before--and many of these people either had tales or tips from their lives living on little money or questions asking for advice or tips from me.

One friend told me of going to a food bank:
"I was grateful for the help but blown away by the quantities of sugar they gave me. I understand processed foods like mac and cheese and canned veggies because they keep and are easy to donate. But why did they give me 5 packages of cookies, frosted flakes and 2 bags of marshmallows? A box of 'nilla wafers and two packages of sugar wafers too. There was way more than that in terms of sugar. They gave me beef liver and some kidneys, which I would not know what to do with even if I did eat organ meat. I guess that is what people donated and I should not be upset because I am taking a hand out."

Outraged yet? This person is not taking a government "hand out" (I am using quotes, because I don't see programs such as SNAP to be hand outs) but utilizing the charity of the citizens in the area. Compassionate conservatism, right? And for one's integrity, one gets marshmallows, cookies and kidneys. And we wonder why there is an obesity epidemic. Not only do we, as a culture, eat this way, but we see so little wrong with eating this way, that we consider marshmallows appropriate "food" to donate to those in need. I'm not saying we don't all deserve a cookie now and again, regardless of our station in life, but if you are donating a case of marshmallows and no vegetables or pasta or beans or rice to a food bank, then you might want to reconsider your own eating habits. And if you own a business and are donating a case of marshmallows which is about to expire so you can get a tax write-off, you might want to consider making a "real" donation, as well, so your conscious can stay crystal clear. And--hey!--extra tax write-off!

For the challenge, I just utilized things I've learned over the years. Yes, we used to be "poor." We utilized Medical Assistance, CHIP, WIC, SNAP and even, briefly, TANF. Here are some of those things:

  • Rice, beans, lentils and grains (like barley and wheat berries) are cheap in bulk and can be combined in infinite ways for breakfast, dinner and lunch and the leftovers always taste better than the first day, so you're less likely to waste leftovers. You just have to plan ahead because of the soaking. But you can soak a bunch a the beginning of the week and keep in the fridge until you're ready to cook. They are all pretty good sources of protein, as well, except for rice.
  • Nuts and nut butters are great sources of protein and not too expensive.
  • Eggs are a cheap source of protein and aminos.
  • You can add anything to pasta. (ANYTHING! Veggies, nut butter, sauces galore, butter, oil, spices, herbs, meat, eggs, fish, beans. Seriously: anything!) And pasta is cheap and filling and great reheated as leftovers.
  • Greens are probably cheaper bought frozen or bought in bulk and prepared for the freezer yourself [I highly recommend the previous link for instructions on freezing greens], because you won't have them going bad in your fridge if you don't want to eat the same ones three days in a row.
  • Weighing and measuring ingredients and portions allowed me to know almost exactly how much a meal cost and how many calories and grams of fat/protein/et cetera. So a good set of measuring cups and spoons and scale are important.
  • Freezing things like pesto, minced garlic, chopped onions and peppers in airtight bags or containers let's you buy items in bulk when they are on sale and makes it super easy when it's time to cook. (I did baby food this way when the kids were little as well. Cook, puree and freeze in ice cube trays. Pop the cubes into a freezer bag.)
  • Having a wide variety of condiments, seasonings, dried herbs and spices is important because it allows you infinite varieties with few ingredients. Buying these items in bulk is easy since they generally last forever under proper storage conditions. You can buy one or two bulk items a month until you've built up your cupboard.
  • TVP is a great meat "stretcher" or substitute, stores wonderfully and can be bought in bulk cheaply. I have a vegan "sloppy joe" recipe using TVP instead of ground meat, and you cannot tell the difference.
  • I learned to make a lot of things on the cheap from the Tightwad Gazette books. (Taco seasoning, cream of chicken soup mix, muffins using leftovers--don't forget to freeze extra muffins for later, shake 'n' bake, baby wipes--I used this a LOT and saved a LOT of money when my youngest was in diapers, but I used cut up flannel and terry, rather than paper towels as we did cloth diapers--and on and on...) I highly recommend checking your library for them if you can't afford to buy the compendium. (Don't forget, libraries will try to order books they don't have if they think it's a good addition to the collection. All you have to do is ask.)
  • Crock-pots! Crock-pot meals are not only easy, but help with eating on the cheap. There are a ton of great crock-pot recipes on the web, but one of my favorites is A Year of Slow Cooking.
  • The website MyFridgeFood is new to me, but really helpful if the cupboards are getting low or you have a craving for a specific ingredient but don't know what to make with it.
  • Sprouts are easy, even if you aren't a "green thumb," cheap when you buy bulk seeds, nutritious and can be used in myriad ways. Plus they are a fun project to do with your children. Even picky kids will eat healthier if they helped to make the food.
So, I hope you can use some of these tips, no matter what your economic situation and pass them along. These tips are a great starting point for eating less animal protein, saving money, using less packaging, consuming fewer "Big Food" products and getting creative with your diet.

Friday, May 20, 2011

FREE COUCH!! Please spread far & wide in Central PA--Must go SOON!

We bought a new couch to replace our somewhat dilapidated one and would like to offer this old one to friends and their friends before I put it on Freecycle. You must have your own truck and someone to help you load it. We are located in Penbrook (right outside of the City of Harrisburg).

This is, I think, a Broyhill. It was a very well made couch when we got it 12 years ago, but we are hard on furniture since we actually use it and have two sons and many pets. It was custom designed to have the big 4 for me:
  1. Removable back cushions.
  2. Rectangular--not t-shaped--seat cushions so they can be switched and flipped.
  3. Removable cushion covers so they can be removed, washed and line dried.
  4. Deep seating.
The current upholstery is the original, which is olive green canvas. Their is no skirt and it has four dark wood bun feet. I might suggest a fifth and sixth be added in the middle of the front and back if your are getting this to fix up. It might keep the frame from twisting again.

And now for the flaws.
  1. The top piece of wood across the front has become detached on both ends and twisted so it is now 1" high and 4" deep instead of vice versa.
  2. Along the top of this area of the frame--but under the cushion, and only on the one side of the sofa--the upholstery is split open.
  3. The upholstery has been split along the seems in two places.
  4. One of the seat cushion covers has a large hole on both sides.
With a knowledgeable re-upholsterer who could fix the part of the frame, it could be as good as new. With a slipcover it is perfectly serviceable for a rec room or first apartment. As is, an upscale frat house might enjoy it.

Please pass this along to anyone who might be interested. We will be getting our new sofa this Saturday, the 21st, right before the "Rapture." Whoever wants it will need a truck and a friend to help take it out of the house and load it. Our house is smoke free, but we do have both cats and dogs. Please call 717-314-1217 or email ASAP.

Click the pictures for a larger view, if you see a magnifying glass icon, click again for even larger pictures. The lighter "stripes" on the first picture is the sun coming through the window. The afghan on the back is not included.

(LATE! SORRY!!) Day 5! I made it! YAY! Where's my chocolate cake??

[This post was written, but sat in "Drafts" until just now.]

Day FIVE!! I'm at the finish line! YAY!
For a brief catch up if it's your first time here, scroll down to the post Shameless Promotion for a Good Cause/PLEASE SPONSOR ME!!! and read your way back up to this post.

Some facts from Live Below the Line's website:
9. In 1982 half the world’s population was living in extreme poverty. By 2005 that number was reduced to one quarter. It’s feasible it could be reduced to zero if the world keeps its promises made under the 8 Millennium Development Goals and works to tackle the structural barriers that keep people poor.
10. The UN estimates it would cost just $160 million a year to achieve the Millennium Development Goals whiles he US alone spent more than $8.5 trillion on bailing out failed banks and car companies

Over the course of the day I had two cups of tea from the same teabag, each with one teaspoon of sugar. TOTAL COST: $.05Link

I made one big meal and split it into two different small meals. Black beans and rice. TOTAL COST: $.74
Soak 1/3 dry black beans in 1-2 cups of water overnight, drain and rinse, place in pot and cover with enough water so no beans are poking through the surface of the water.
Simmer on low (again, I use a heat diffuser) for 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes or until bean are tender.
Add 1/2 tsp of Goya of Annatto and Cilantro seasoning
Add 2 tbsp of "trinity" [recipe follows]
Add 1/3 of a can of diced tomatoes with juice
Add 1 oz of frozen corn
Add 2 tbsp of Frank's Red Hot
Cook until everything is cooked through
Serve over 1 cup of cooked white rice

If you eat a lot of rice and beans, stews, soups, jambalaya, et cetera, the "holy trinity" is easy to cook up on Sunday night and keep in the fridge as needed for the next week or so.
1 medium or 1/2 of a large onion (I prefer white or sweet) diced
1 medium bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
4 large stalks of celery diced
1 tbsp olive oil
Heat oil in heavy skillet
Cook ingredients until translucent
Let cool uncovered and store in airtight container in the fridge for a week or two.

[NOTE: We use glass storage containers as it have been proven that chemicals in plastic leech into your stored food. We use these but buy them cheaply at Costco. Costco is also great for buying many cheap foods in bulk and many other household items. If you can't afford a membership, find some friends who will share a membership with you or who will let you "ride along" on their shopping trips. You can also create your own "buying co-op" if you don't have a lot of storage space for bulk items. If you have kids in diapers and don't use cloth, I highly suggest Costco just for the diaper savings alone, but you will come for the diapers and stay for the rest of it. I also advocate Costco because they pay a living wage and treat their employees fairly unlike other warehouse clubs which are owned by the Walton family...]


Overall, I raised $345, which was $45 more than my goal. You can still click the link and donate if you'd like, since you know now that I did it, lol.

By the way, at midnight of the last day I celebrated with Kraft shells'n'cheese and two craft beers.

Day 3 & 4: Feeling Like I was Cheating When I Wasn't

Days 3 and 4 are done. Sorry I didn't post last night; I've been feeling really tired since Saturday. It might be related to some mold we found in the house as I am pretty allergic to molds. There wasn't much to recap, anyway, since I didn't really feel like eating. I wasn't terribly hungry today, either, so the past two days I feel like, by being sick, that I've been cheating by having a "leg up" because of being sick. Just wrong, right? Well that's the way my mind works...

For a brief catch up if it's your first time here, scroll down to the post Shameless Promotion for a Good Cause/PLEASE SPONSOR ME!!! and read your way back up to this post.

Some facts from Live Below the Line's website.
5. 75 Million Kids miss out on going to school, most of them girls
6. The end of extreme poverty can be achieved. The World Bank found the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has dropped from approx 52% in 1982 to 25% today.
7. In 2011, February 19, the US put forward a motion to make huge cuts in this year's budget. Poverty-fighting, cost-effective programs - which make up less than one percent of the US budget - were sharply cut.
8. Key programs that fight AIDS, malaria and hunger were cut by 40%. Programs that promote long-term economic growth were chopped up to 30%.

Day 3
I had a cup of tea with a teaspoon of sugar. TOTAL COST: $.045
Later, I had a bowl of cooked barley with a tablespoon of honey. TOTAL COST: $.14
For dinner I had two eggs fried in part of a tablespoon of Country Crock Spread and a piece of Martin's potato bread toast with the rest of the tablespoon of Country Crock. I also had 3 ounces of applesauce. TOTAL COST: $.50
For a snack, I ate half of a banana. TOTAL COST: $.09

Day 4
I had a cup of tea with a teaspoon of sugar. TOTAL COST: $.045
Later, I had an open-faced tuna melt. TOTAL COST: $.73
Mix 1 tbsp mayonnaise with 1/2 can of drained tuna (packed in water)
Toast a piece of bread and spread tuna on toast
Top with a slice of American cheese
Broil until the cheese is melting. (We have a toaster oven, so broiling one tiny thing isn't as "decadent" as it sounds.)
I had another cup of tea with a teaspoon of sugar, but I had to use an new teabag, as Nate had thrown my used one into the trash. (Not even the compost, sheesh!) TOTAL COST: $.045

Then I had a bowl of full-fat Greek yogurt with half of a banana sliced and six chopped almonds (which is approximately 1/4 ounce) and a tablespoon of honey. TOTAL COST: $.68

I'm pretty sleepy, so I'll see you tomorrow. Last day! You still have time to sponsor me by clicking through the link in the title of this post. It's a secure and tax deductible donation.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day Two: Hit it on the nose!

Day two is done. Still doing pretty well, thanks for asking. For a brief catch up if it's your first time here, scroll down to the post Shameless Promotion for a Good Cause/PLEASE SPONSOR ME!!! and read your way back up to this post.

Some facts from Live Below the Line's website.
3. 884 million people do not have access to clean drinking water leading to 2.2 million deaths per year – mostly children under 5. We spend globally $60 billion on bottled water this year. – twice what the $30 billion the UN believes is needed to give everyone clean water
4. One child every 3.5 seconds dies from hunger and entirely preventable diseases. This year American households will throw out millions worth of food – more than three times the budget of the World Food Program which has $5 billion to support the World’ hungry.

Today's menu:

When I woke up I had a cup of tea with one teaspoon of sugar. TOTAL COST: $.045

My first food of the day was a pack of instant oatmeal with apples and cinnamon (already in the pack). I made a second cup of tea with the same teabag (total old lady chic, dontcha know?) and added a teaspoon of sugar. TOTAL COST: $.155

About two hours later I had one egg over easy fried in a portion of a tablespoon of Country Crock spread and a piece of Martin's potato bread toast on which I spread the rest of that tablespoon. TOTAL COST: $.28

My late afternoon/early evening snack was half a banana. TOTAL COST: $.09

Now here comes the BIG ONE!! For a late dinner I experimented. I made stir fried mixed sprouts and sweet potato over rice. TOTAL COST: $.78 (I know!! I thought it was expensive, too!!)
4 oz. cubed sweet potato (about 1/4 of a large sweet potato)
1 oz Protein Powerhouse Sprouts
2 tsp stir fry oil
1 tbsp The Ginger People Ginger Peanut Sauce
1 tsp Sriracha (which, if you seriously don't know where to buy it near you, you can buy online here)
I steamed the cubed sweet potato in a covered pot for about 10-15 minutes. During the last two minutes I threw the sprouts into the steamer basket as well.
Heat the stir fry oil to the point where water sizzles when you drip it into the oil. DO NOT let it start to smoke. Throw all of the sweet potato and sprouts in and stir fry quickly adding the ginger peanut sauce right at the end, but be sure to coat all of the food with the sauce. Serve over rice and garnish with Sriracha.
This was pretty good, but if I made it again, I'll use more ginger peanut sauce and serve over one of the Lundberg Gourmet Rice Blends.

My "second dinner" or big snack was--drumroll!--a pack of ramen. TOTAL COST: $.15


Again, today was a day of much water and more peeing. Yay!

You still have three days to sponsor me if you are so inclined. Even a dollar or two. The donation is secure and tax deductible.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Day One: Chocolate and change to spare...

Well, I made it through day one. I did drink a lot of water. And I did pee a lot. Other than that, it wasn't too bad.
In case you don't know what I'm talking about, read this and this.

Some facts from Live Below the Line's website.
1. There are 1.4 Billion people still living in extreme poverty despite the fact that there is enough food to feed everyone one and a half times over.
2. Half the world’s population are women yet 70 % of the world’s poor are women. They work 2/3rd of the world’s working hours and earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1 % of the world’s property

On to the food!

I don't usually eat when I wake up. I'm just not hungry and my first pills of the day need to be taken on an empty stomach, so I had a cup of tea with a teaspoon of sugar. TOTAL COST: $.045

A few hours later and I was hungry so I had a bowl of cooked barley and water to drink. TOTAL COST: $.085
1/4 cup dry barley (rinsed)
1 tsp sugar
3/4 cup water
In a small covered saucepan simmer ingredients over a low flame (I have a gas stove and use a heat diffuser under the pan) until the barley are tender. Don't let them get mushy or you won't get to enjoy chewing your food.

Through the afternoon until dinner I had two snacks: 1/2 ounce of raw almonds (about 15 almonds) and an ounce of applesauce (two tablespoons). I drank as much water as I wanted through the day. TOTAL COST: $.14

Dinnertime! I had black eyed peas, rice and spinach with some Frank's Red hot. TOTAL COST: $.42
1 cup soaked (overnight) black eyed peas
Place beans in the bottom of a small saucepan cover with water so no beans are "poking up" through the surface of the water.
Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, checking occasionally for tenderness.
When the beans are tender stir in 1/4 teaspoon of Goya cilantro and annatto seasoning and 1/8 teaspoon of Goya ham seasoning.
Cook for another minute or two to ensure the the seasoning is cooked through the beans and "bean juice."
Stir in one ounce of frozen chopped spinach and cook until spinach is heated through.
Serve over one cup of white rice. (Cook rice with water at a 1:2 ratio. For example: 1/3 cup of dry rice plus 2/3 cup of water. If you don't use a rice steamer, simmer the rice and water on low in a small, covered saucepan and DO NOT stir at all. You stir: you get sticky rice.)
Serve with one tablespoon of Frank's Red Hot sauce.
NOTE: Goya seasonings contain MSG which some people do not like and/or to which they have sensitivities. I use it because I enjoy the slight saltiness and the strong umami flavor. If you can't use them, experiment with your own herbs and/or spices.

As the evening went on I snacked on a mixture of 1/2 ounce whole, raw almonds, 1/2 ounce of craisins and 1/2 ounce of raisins. TOTAL COST: $.23

I stay up pretty late, so I have my third "meal" between 10:30 p.m. and midnight. Tonight I ate one pack of cooked ramen noodles. TOTAL COST: $.15

After my noodles I finished the dried fruit and almonds from before the ramen. And then I ate three Hershey Kisses. TOTAL COST: $.12


In case you are wondering how much "a lot" of water is, I drank 3.75 liters and just refilled my 750 mL bottle to take to bed. On an average day I drink about 1.5 liters.

Anyone wanting to know how I arrived at specific prices, please email me with your question(s).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Night Before Day 1

In case you did not see my previous post, go read it now. Go on; I'll wait.

From Live Below the Line's website:
The Rules
The “what”: Feed yourself on $1.50 per day for 5 days
The “when”: May 16 – 20, 2011
The “how”: Each day’s food budget is $1.50. However, you can spend the entire week’s allotment once. So you can go shopping at the beginning of the week and spend $7.50, but you won’t be allowed to purchase anything else for the remainder of the challenge.

The Goal
Live Below the Line was designed to give you a glimpse into what it's like for the millions of people living in extreme poverty. It’s an experience meant to be shared with others, as well as an important opportunity to raise funds for the campaign to end extreme poverty.

It's Sunday night and I've done a lot of my prep work for the next few days.
Beans are soaking:Beans and seeds are sprouted: Price list is nailed down:(A note on my prices: We do almost all of our shopping at Costco and the rules allow for using partial packages. I've based the price list on these two factors.)

Some "holy trinity" is cooked up:
I'm planning on eating little bits of food many times a day instead of a few meals and I'll be drinking a lot of water.
So, other than weighing and math and cooking and eating, what will I be doing this week? When I'm hungry and not busy, I'll probably be painting my nails. It keeps me occupied and you can't eat with wet nails.
I finished tonight with a few leftover blueberry pancakes, then some Hershey kisses, then a hyooooge gin and tonic. See you next week, old friends. Sigh.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Shameless Promotion for a Good Cause/PLEASE SPONSOR ME!!!

From May 16th to May 20th, I'll be taking the Live Below the Line challenge and eating and drinking on just $1.50 per day to raise funds for CARE and Global Poverty Project. CARE’s maternal health programs, which seek to safeguard women’s health during pregnancy and childbirth, and ensure mothers have access to emergency lifesaving health care. Healthy mothers are essential to poverty reduction. I hope to raise awareness about the issue of extreme poverty and encourage others to join the cause. I will do the challenge individually, but in concert with thousands of other people across 3 continents. I hope to be a voice for change.
My fundraising goal is $300. If everyone on my friends list gave just $1.00, I would exceed that goal.
PLEASE SPONSOR ME by clicking through to make a secure donation.

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