Thursday, September 8, 2011

Challenging Hunger (Sausage Stroganoff)

The 2011 Hunger Challenge is going to kick off at some point, with all the breast-beating and moaning about "raising awareness" of the plight of those who mooch food stamps off hard-working taxpayers and bitch about wanting more of their "rights" from "the guvmint." During the challenge, a bunch of disorganized people, especially bloggers, will try to feed themselves for $4.72/day, possibly even for a week, while setting up a bunch of arbitrary rules like "no free samples or food bought by friends!"

Which only proves that they're idiots. If you're truly hungry, you take food anywhere you can get it. If you're going to be short on cash for a long time, you get smart about acquiring and preparing food for the least amount of cash for the most amount of tasty calories. If you're whining about how you'll have to starve an entire day while the office holds a buffet, and can't have any coffee because a mocha costs too much, you're not hungry enough.

By the way, that $4.72/day represents the amount you get for food stamps alone, which are supposed to supplement your food budget, not replace it. Whining idiots.

As for the inanity and insanity that feeding yourself is impossible for less than five dollars a day, let's look at the true cost of breakfast.

1 Box Aldi's store brand bran flakes: $2.50
Sevings per box: 18
Cost per serving: $0.14

1 Gallon store brand Vit D milk: $2.89
Cups per gallon: 16
Cost per cup: $0.19

Cost for a bowl of cereal: $0.33

Let's try this again with a heartier breakfast like two eggs and a bowl of grits - a better breakfast if you're going to be on the run, and want the calories.

Eggs: $1.28/dozen = $0.22 for 2 eggs
Grits: $3.40/box with 14 servings = $0.25/serving

Cost for two eggs and about half a cup of cooked grits = $0.47

Either way, breakfast costs less than fifty cents. You could have that for all three meals and not break $1.50 - but we're moving on to lunch.

My Housemate goes through a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a 3-lb bag of apples a week. ($1.82, $1.79, and $3.49 respectively, as we buy a name-brand bread)
This means over 5 days, his lunches cost $1.42 a working day.

Last night, I felt lazy, and cooked from prepared ingredients, making dinner a little more costly than usual. Balancing this, I was testing out some bratwurst found on sale. And no, I'm not going to be idiot enough to make stupid rules like "Use the full price if you bought it on sale." You know what? If it had cost full price, I wouldn't have bought it. I'd be using a different meat bought on sale, a meatless dish, hunted meat, or really darned good cow that I personally eyed before its death and feel is worth every penny I paid to farmer and processor.

So, Bratwurst Stroganoff
1. Start water boiling for rice - one cup water per person, to which you'll add a little salt and 1/2 cup rice when it boils, cover and turn down to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat when done, even if the rest of dinner isn't finished yet.(3 servings = $0.57 cents)
2. Dump bratwurst in pan. Set to medium-high. (0.89 cents)
3. Roughly chop an onion. Add to pan. ($0.25)
4. Stir to ensure sausage browns, and onions saute in bratwurst grease.
5. Add a little paprika. Contemplate, and add more to taste. Add a dash of black pepper, and some garlic. ($0.02)
6. Add one can mushrooms, drained. Let everything brown some more. ($0.59)
7. When everything well browned, deglaze with one can mushrooms, undrained. Look in fridge, shrug, and add half a cup of white wine, as well. ($0.59 and $0.60)
8. Add can of condensed cream of mushroom soup. ($0.69)
9. Stir, set lid on, turn to low, and let bubble to itself. Clean up everything, set table.
10. Pull bag of spinach out of freezer, dump in bowl, add a little water, and microwave by directions. ($2.20)

By the time the spinach is done, the sausage stroganoff has melded together, the rice will be long done, and the table is set for dinner. Serves 3 for $6.40, or $2.13 each, and you'll likely have leftovers.

That's a day's meals for $3.89 to $4.03, depending on breakfast, and accounting for an expensive unusual ingredient - wine - in my dinner. You'd have to have two more bowls of cereal to even get to the $4.72 the government extracts from me at gunpoint and gives to others in the form of food stamps.

This wasn't even a "I'm feeling tight budget" day, this was a "let's try this on-sale meat to see if I should stock up in the freezer with more" day. For tight budget times, I have lots of beans and rice recipes that'll keep body and soul together.

I'm in favor of young people out on their own starving every now and then - if you don't grow up learning to save, budget, cook, and clean up after yourself, the inevitable realization that paying all the bills leaves less than $20 to feed yourself for a week is the slap in the face by reality that forces the thoughtless to become thoughtful, and start to take the painful steps toward being responsible for themselves.

I'm not opposed to safety nets, but I am opposed to ones extracted from me by force and presented as a "right" to people who feel entitled to take it and demand more instead of accepting responsibility and getting back on their own two feet. If you're making Stroganoff, you're not hungry enough to really feel motivated to spend less elsewhere, or jump for something that'll bring in more food on the table.

Therefore, based on this experiment, I meet the hunger challenge and prove that really, the government should cut food stamps by at least $2.00/day.


  1. "the government should cut food stamps by at least $2.00/day"

    An altogether admirable effort, and well-documented/reported.

    However, I'm still trying to figure out where government has any business at all giving people coupons/money (same thing, actually) for food. It's not the government's job to feed the supposed poor.

    But that's a rant for another day. Sorry.

    (WV: "unrep" - Navy contraction for "underway replenishment" when the oiler and/or supply ship brings fuel & food to a warship at sea. Seems fitting, somehow.)

  2. I debated making several arguments - of which one was exactly your point. It isn't the government's business, and they shouldn't be doing it in the first place.

    Another was the blatant and willful hypocrisy of declaring that hunger is a problem "for the poor" out of one side of their mouth, while decrying the "epidemic of obesity" out of the other.

    But finally, I decided to meet these idiots on their own terms, and draw my conclusions based on their own conditions. Try as you might, there's no way to "hide the decline" when you run real data through.

    The sausages were tasty, and I went back and bought 8 more packs of 'em to freeze and use later. Some people invest in gold as proof against inflation. I prefer bullets, meat, rice, beans, and other shorter-term stocks that are immediately convertible to food no matter what the market is doing, eh?

  3. I've been feeling poor these past few weeks bc the IRS hit me with a $50k tax bill (run your own business, pay yourself a small salary...but pay down some corporate debt because of the recession...and the IRS construes ALL OF THAT DEBT PAYDOWN as "profit" on which the citizen gets taxed at around 35%).


    Living frugally:

    Stop and Shop is selling chicken for 99 cents/lb.

    Buy a 5lb chicken, get 4 lbs of meat off of it.

    I've had chicken breasts, roasted chicken, and I ground up some of the meat and diced a lot of onions to stretch the meat and made chicken tacos.

    Wait, you're not done with that bird yet! After all the meat is gone, roast the carcass with an onion (another 75 cents), then place in a pot, cover with water and simmer overnight.

    Voila. Chicken stock. Cube a cheap squash, throw that in, cook for two hours then blend.

    You now have more soup than you can shake a stick at.

    I did this the other day and I am getting SICK of this soup...even though it is excellent.

    To go along with the soup I made some bread. 3 cups of flour, a dash of salt. Ingredients cost of about 80 cents...for a monster loaf of fresh-baked bread.

    Oh, I forgot to mention breakfast: 4 eggs (about 60 cents) plus - sometimes - one strip of bacon (20 cents). Today I didn't have any bacon, but I did fry the eggs (1 cent on oil? No! on... ) leftover bacon fat that I save in the freezer.

    Living on $4.72/day, and living pretty damned well, is trivial.

    Leftists can all bend over and take it in the ass.

    They believe in theft, and the use of force, so screw them.

  4. Travis,

    When I make soup stock, I tend to put a cup in a plastic container and freeze it, so I have use later - and when I make soups, they get divided into small containers at one cup each, with half being frozen as soon as they've cooled to room temp. This way I avoid burnout on any one dish, as well as eating large amounts without noticing. As an added bonus, it makes the Want Food Now days a mere microwave time away from insta-food.

    Then again, I'm part of a three-adult household, with two kids every other weekend. Leftovers can go faster than expected, or fail to be left over as planned!

  5. Wing, my recipe for Pizza (which I am told is slightly above average) will absolutely stuff 6 college students and two normal adults, with enough calories to put them into a stupor, for about $0.60 per serving (2 slices of 16" pie).

    The trick is that these are made from scratch, so you have to forgo watching 'American Idolatry' or 'Mincing with the Almost-famous' (or worse, anything on MTV or VH1).

    I like to call it 'inconvenience food'. :)

  6. $1.28 a dozen for EGGS?!?! WOW, I want!

    The cheapest - when on special - eggs here they're just under the $3 mark ...

    (sorry not much after that sunk in)

  7. Miss D.

    Myself being a currently broke Alaskan and yourself being a formerly broke Alaskan, you know just how stupid this particular "challenge" is.
    For those of you have never lived in Alaska, it's hideously expensive to buy food up here compared to the Lower 48. Still with prices 200%-300% higher up here you still can eat pretty cheap, if you really have to. I resent the heck out of being forced at the point of a gun to buy KFC for people who weigh 300 lbs.
    Starve a little, you stupid lazy bastards, a see how often you can survive on gardens, rice, beans, and fish you caught your own self before you whine to me about how you're "hungry"