Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Day 142- Food, Money, and Math

So, 2200 calories a day. For a quick visual, that's almost 3 full sticks of butter. It's cups of pure oil. It's maintenance if I don't exercise at all. It's also a bit of a problem.

Finding 2200 calories is easy- it's about 1.25 cups of oil. Finding 2200 calories in a balanced, healthy, cheap way is a bit more of a challenge. I'm not totally sure it's possible. You see, when I first ran the numbers for this crazy eating thing, I was hoping for lower prices, and planning to make up for shortfalls with things like potatoes that count as vegetables (sort of) while providing a chunk of calories. Which I think, by now, we all know didn't happen.

So how could the numbers really work out? It's what I've been thinking about for the last week or two. I'm coming up (in about 40 days) on the second half of this thing, and I want a real plan this time. One that actually allows for enough calories. That's where things go wonky shaped.

The least expensive source of calories from grain I can regularly find is the cheap flour at Save-A-Lot, for 30 cents a pound, give or take. A pound of white flour is about 1600 calories- most dry white carbs are- like rice, but that's 50 cents a pound, and more bulky when cooked.

Least expensive source of protein would be beans, of course. There's some selection there, from black beans for $1 a pound, to the recent find of 25lbs of pintos for $14.99- around 60 cents a pound. There are about 1400 calories per pound of dried beans, and about 4 days worth of servings.

Oil is regularly $2 for a 48 oz bottle, about 96 servings, or a month's worth at three 100 calorie servings a day. Say 6 cents a day.

Now, I could eat that- a pound of flour cooked into plain pasta, 3 servings of beans, with three servings of oil, and spend between 51 and 61 cents a say, getting all my calories with plenty of money left for spices or (a bit of) veggies. Of course, most of the veggie money would be eaten by onions and garlic, and the rest would have to be sweet potatoes or stolen.

Not very healthy though, is it? Plus, even I can't eat a pound of flour a day, every day. I don't care what you do to it, I'd be on constant sugar high.

I could use less flour- 11 or 12 oz would save me 10 cents a day, but it also leaves me with 4-500 calories to make up- instead of being 50 over, I'd be about 400 short. And in my world the tasty veggies are pretty much devoid of calories.

Anyway, even I can't eat sweet potatoes every single day.

Somewhere in there is the mix of numbers and foods that keeps me both full *and* happy. Honestly, though? I don't know how long I can follow that kind of diet before it drives me bonkers. More bonkers?

Kinda funny, actually- everyone talks about beans and rice being what you eat when you're broke. I'm not going to say I don't have rice. I'm not even saying it isn't available for less than I paid. But really? Homemade pasta and beans wins. If only it weren't so expensive to make it taste good.

Oh well, at least my summer cold is going well- for the cold. I love Luden's wild cherry throat drops. I don't want to know about anything in them that might be bad, either. They're about the only thing I'm managing to eat. I probably should make soup and drink hot tea, but I'm seriously crap at taking care of myself.

Right, so- Any ideas on manipulating my numbers? I know there's a balance in there somewhere, I'm just not sure where. It's not cool to keep making up calories with junk, either.

Hope everyone had a better holiday weekend than I seem to have.


  1. Does Sav-a-Lot have a 50/50 flour, for a slightly higher price? Have you considered how more frequent, smaller meals might work? Remember, another way to get flour into your diet is bread. You could either add bread to, or make a calzone out of just about everything you eat. You just have to make the bread, but it'll add variety.

  2. I don't think I can help you much. I don't think you can do it on $1 a day. Maybe $2 or $3 a day. But $1/day? Prices aren't what they used to be.

    If you could find a source of free vegetables (a friend with an overflowing garden?) or a source of free peanut butter...maybe.

  3. Kim- nope, no 50/50. Luckily I already have yeast, so bread is still in, but if I didn't, catching a decent yeast is a time (and resource) consuming task. Re: the calzone thing- I can see it now, a freezer filled with home-made hot-pockets labeled "bean taco" and "bean enchilada" and "channa masala" and "lentil soup"...

    Marcia- Yeah, my problem at this point is veggies. Sweet potatoes are almost always cheap enough that I could have a pound a day on near any budget, but my options for variety of sweet pot, cabbage, and maybe carrots isn't very appetizing. The problem really is getting a minimum of 5 servings of (different) veggies a day- even if you count the beans as one, like the food pyramid does....

  4. What about turning some of that flour into seitan? and, a little pricey, but buying some higher-quality olive oil and just downing a tablespoon as 'medicine' at some point during the day?
    I have no idea if this is feasible, but is there a farmer's market nearby? You could talk to the vendors and find out what happens to the leftovers. They usually have to get rid of them at the end of the day, and often have deals or would be open to them.
    can you get nut-butters? I've seen bulk peanut butter; that might help?

  5. I second all the other suggestions... I know a friend that has posted on craigslist and gotten free food that people were going to throw away, that might help? And any non-vegan stuff could be given to your family or friends. Also, how do you feel about oatmeal?

    Out of curiousity, are you feeling your energy slumping because of your diet? I know if I don't get 3 fair sized meals a day I cannot stay awake and get super crabby.

    That all said, I totally feel you on your last post - I never craved cheese until it started making me sick, and it's such a great source of protein/fat/calcium! bah.

  6. Nava- turning flour into seitan is something I just don't have the patience for. also, it washes the bulk of the calories away. I have no real problem getting enough protein- beans really are pretty cheap- but straight calories are where it gets tough. Nut butters tend to be more expensive around here than nuts, but they are a great source of calories... Unfortunately the farmers markets are all at least as far away as my super-deal local veggie shop- about $5 round trip for gas. I'm kinda negative today, I notice...

    theresa- I'll look into craigslist- I'm sure there's someone out there with zucchini they want to get rid of (but why?). I have oatmeal. There was a while there when it was a three meal a day thing, so I had to limit it for my tastebuds' well being.

    It's kinda tough at this point to tell what's causing my energy to flag- I'm not used to the heat, I'm not eating enough (or the right) food, and I've got a rather nasty bit of a cold.

    And yeah, the cheese thing. I don't crave bacon, 'cause I *could* eat it, if I really wanted to (and could, you know, actually get it to my mouth without gagging), and when I could still eat cheese with no problems I'd happily go weeks or even months without it. Now that it makes me sick? Must have cheese. I finally breakdown and eat it (or dairy ice cream, or...) and eat it and eat it, then I'm sick for a day, swear off it again, rinse, repeat. Could be days, weeks, months between falls, but it always happens. Someday dairy-free cheese will be as amazing as dairy cheese, and come in all the same varieties and flavors, and I'll maybe even be able to afford it. Om nom nom.

  7. There's also corn-based meals. You should be able to get masa harina for pretty cheap, and that give you corn tortillas, tamales, chips, you can use it to stuff veggies . . .

  8. Yep, about the same price as the rice- so really not bad for variety. Also not too bad cooked up into polenta with random leftovers dumped on top.

  9. You need to find a gardener with excess. Where I live people give vegetables away right and left because they have more than they can eat. Especially the elderly. We used to have a neighbor that grew everything but was alone and did not use it all. Maybe if you are on any social networking sites ask your friends if they know anyone willing to trade. Maybe sweat equity??? Help a grandpaw out with his crop...I can not think of anything else helpful but I love reading your blog.

  10. Ever think of making sushi rice out of the white rice you may have laying around? I find myself craving it now and again, and after all it's just vinegar and sugar added to warm rice and then mold into sushi looking forms. Don't need anything fancy like the seaweed wrapper. I sprinkle with some sesame seeds and soy sauce (and make some wasabi on the side from the powdered stuff you can find a small bottle).

  11. tiff- that's a pretty good idea. I don't know a lot of people so I hadn't even considered it. I'm glad you like reading here.

    MrsG- I haven't been motivated to, but that's a good suggestion. I've done it before, and the rice cooker helps with the stickiness. I actually use the same rice for just about anything- I don't have the 1337 palate to tell the difference between rice varieties. Ok, that's a lie- I can tell with the texture of basmati and the flavor of wild rice, but other than that, rice is rice.

  12. Have you thought about writing to different food companies and complimenting their products?
    I've written to a few canned vegetable companies praising their product, and I get coupons sent back to me for a free can or two.
    I don't know if it's against your rules, but it might be worth looking into.

  13. You're about 3 months ahead of me (I'm on day 69 and someone please shoot me if I am still going at 140 days), but it is very possible to greatly increase the amount of food you get through creative couponing (even if you hate couponing because you can't possibly hate it as much as I do). I have managed to get about $1000 worth of food for $45 -- with enough extra that I have been donating to my local food bank. You can see how I have been able to do it here:


    Please feel free to email me if you have any questions about how to get started doing it - I would be more than happy to help out in any way I can.

  14. savingadvice- I use coupons where I can (though I haven't got a cvs card yet), but there aren't a whole lot of vegan or even milk-veggie friendly foods that give coupons. I hear you on the shooting, though.