Free Beer – Day 36: Eating Well On $1 A Day


After the coupon blunder, it seems that my luck turned the corner as I went on my first foraging trip (now allowed with the new rules).

I take a walk every morning and part of that walk is through a city owned park. Near the creek there are wild blackberry bushes and I decided to see if they were ready for picking. Along the way, I spotted a lemon tree overflowing with lemons on it (also on the city park land) and picked a few:

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This is part of a continuing challenge to eat well while spending an average of only $1 a day on food. You can find the beginning and the rules of this challenge here

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day 36 lemon tree

With three lemons in my bag, I headed toward the creek when I came across a scattering of half consumed beer, half eaten food and other things scattered on the ground. My guess is that a bunch of under-aged kids were drinking and eating in the park when they were spotted and they scattered as fast as they could leaving everything behind. Among the things left were 4 bottles of unopened beer:

free beer

While I am not a big beer drinker, there are certainly times when it is nice to have one, but the $1 a day food budget doesn't really allow for purchases like that. So I claimed the beer bottles (and cleaned up the mess) and now have 4 beers to drink at some point.

At the river, I found plenty of blackberry bushes, but the berries are just beginning to come in and ripen. I did find a few, but not a whole lot at this point. This should provide some berries for me in the future as long as not too many others have the same idea as I do:

blackberries

So my first foraging trip yielded me 4 beers, 3 lemons and a few blackberries for free:

day 36 walk food

I also decided that I needed to get some oil as the number one need on my list. I walked down to my local CVS store to pick it up and also three more of the Pure and Simple Power Bars:

day 36 CVS

The cost was $0.47 for the purchase, but while I used a $4.99 Extra Buck coupon that I had, I only received $3.97 in Extra Bucks back, so the actual cost to me for the oil and bars was $1.49:

day 36 CVS receipt

day 36 CVS extra bucks

The coupon gods must have taken pity on my for by coupon blunder because I also received a really nice bonus coupon of $5 off a purchase of $15 or more (it is the lowest one I have ever seen — most are $5 off of $20 or $30) which should get me some more free food to add to my stash in the next few days:

day 36 CVS coupon

Breakfast

Now that things are a bit more settled, I am going to try my 4 to 5 meal routine again. I started off the early morning small meal with a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios:

day 36 breakfast early

It became apparent that I have absolutely no idea how to cook potatoes with the later morning meal. This, of course, is a huge dilemma since I have 20 lbs of them that were going to be a staple part of my diet over the next month. Tell me where I went wrong?

I hadn't bought the oil from CVS yet, so I decided to get a bit creative. I took the Kraft Italian salad dressing made from olive oil and poured some of the olive oil from the top into the pan:

using oil from salad dressing

With plenty of oil in the pan, I thought I was going to get some nice hash browns using the last of the boiled potatoes that I had, but it didn't quite turn out that was. I couldn't get the potatoes to brown — they either burned to the bottom of the pan (even with the oil) or didn't brown at all. In the end, I had to put salsa on them to salvage them.

My omelet turned out a bit better. I have been trying to come up with ways to use the Deli Creations food before it goes bad and decided to use the chicken and cheese to make an omelet:

breakfast omelet

day 36 breakfast

Lunch

For lunch, I made a deli chicken sandwich on whole wheat bread with lettuce, tomato, Dijon potato salad dressing and a bit of pepper. I also cut up a carrot to make carrot sticks with cream cheese as a dip for it and some of the Wheat Thin toasted chips. I also had a glass of water with half a lemon squeezed (this should get me drinking more water which will be essential as the weather gets warmer):

day 36 lunch

Dinner

For dinner I made a chicken pasta salad. I boiled 1 cup of the veggie spiral pasta, lined a bowl with lettuce, cut up half a tomato and fried up the chicken from another one of the Deli Creations packs. I then added a bit of the Italian salad dressing on top:

day 36 dinner

I also did a lot of snacking throughout the day. One of my huge weaknesses is that if I do have snacks around, I eat them. When they are in shorter supply, I will limit the amount I eat, but when I know I have enough, my willpower isn't very strong. I ate another one of the Power Bars, had a peanut butter and banana sandwich, snacked on more of the Wheat Thins toasted crackers and opened up the Nature Valley nut clusters (which won't last long now that I have tried them). I even had a late night bowl of Cheerios. One of the things that I wanted to make sure is that I always had enough to eat during this challenge, but I need to be careful that I don't start snacking just for the sake of snacking. I also went through 1.5 of the lemons making lemon water to drink throughout the day.

This is the current list of what I have purchased:

Money Spent $34.13
Money left to spend: $26.87 ($0.51 must be spent at CVS)
Retail Value of everything bought: $733.09

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The Beginning ::: Day 37: Mail-In Rebates Are A Pain

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23 Responses to Free Beer – Day 36: Eating Well On $1 A Day

  1. Anne says:

    I haven’t tried it yet, but I got this recipe from a friend (who claims great results). Apparently, you can’t just FRY the potatoes for hash browns:

    Two potatoes (Russet)
    A shredder
    Olive oil (Or peanut oil, or vegetable oil)
    Salt and pepper

    Shred the potatoes (not on the finest shred) and rinse them off. Squeeze them as dry as you can with paper towels, wrenching them until you’ve gotten all the water out – this is the secret to making them crispy. (Bonus point: You have a ricer, you can use that to get all the water out.)

    Put 3-4 tablespoons of the oil into the pan and heat it until it’s shimmering but not smoking on medium-high heat.

    Add the potatoes in a layer across the pan – no more than half an inch thick.

    Cook until they are GBD (golden brown and delicious) on one side, then carefully flip them over (in quadrants if you have to) and cook the rest of the way. This’ll take 3-5 minutes per side.

    Sprinkle immediately with salt and pepper and serve!

  2. Theresa says:

    I would bet almost anything that the dressing you used in place of oil was the culprit – it probably has some kind of sugar or starch in it that caused the burned potatoes. You’ll probably have better luck with just oil, but it is always good to cook them on a lower setting for longer then on high.

  3. Dana says:

    I hope you don’t mind a few assorted thoughts:

    Even though the salad dressing looks separated, I think that it’s emulsified enough so that you didn’t end up with oil, but an oily mix. So you’ll probably do much better when you use real oil.
    One secret to potatoes is not to stir them at all. Put them in the pan, spread them out in a single layer then only turn them when the bottoms are browned.

    Your omelet looks really good! How did you cook that without oil? Come to think of it, you also did really good on your pancakes without oil. Are you using a specific brand of cooking pan and maybe it cooks better without oil?

    I don’t drink at all, but if I had a bottle of beer, I would make a beer batter like this:
    http://southernfood.about.com/od/deepfryerrecipes/r/blbb352.htm
    It can be used for onions, zucchini, mushrooms and vegetables that have similar density. It can also be used as a batter for chicken or fish.

    About snacks: If you feel the urge to nibble, you might want to grab a bag of popcorn. Not the microwave kind, and not JiffyPop, just the kind that’s in a plastic bag. You can pop it on your stove with a bit of oil, using any pot or pan that has a lid. If you don’t butter it, there’s about 50 calories per cup and it’s also a great source of fiber.

  4. Gretchen says:

    Hmm, my guess is there was some stuff in with the oil as well. If your pan is none-stick enough not to cook eggs in it without oil, you may not need oil for potato’s.

    The key is not flipping to soon, and not flipping to late. Check the center VERY carefully, before flipping. I haven’t tried it yet, but I recently read on another site that recommends baking the potato first. I haven’t had a chance to try that yet.
    Ah, new I could remember if I thought long enough: http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/make-your-own-frozen-hashbrowns

  5. Rebecca says:

    The best thing for improving your cooking skills is to search the library and second hand stores for how to technique cookbooks. they often include very basic recipes that are the foundation for more complex meals. Most cooking from scratch success is due to technique knowledge.

  6. Elisabeth says:

    Foraging should allow alot more greens. You may or may not be surprised at how many flowers are edible, beware of pesticides/ herbicides. Rose petals are very good. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for you.

  7. amber says:

    Dandelions are also edible. Here is a youtube video on how to collect and prepare them. http://www.youtube.com/user/DepressionCooking#p/c/F6BF18EE722850A9/0/51VhG8MKxJY

  8. Kellie says:

    If you boil the potatoes a bit first or even pre-boil them the night before & store in the fridge, then chop them into cubes, and fry them up, they should turn out brown & crispy … especially now that you have oil.

  9. Mary Ann says:

    Great job!Concerning the fried potatoes, how long did you allow them to fry? I would say I allow mine to fry for about 15-20 minutes to get them nice and crisp without burning them.

    So glad I found your blog…it is so interesting.

  10. Melanie says:

    I love reading your blog. I am taking some of your suggestions since I am new to couponing. :) I too have found beer, although I have found it at the student off campus housing by the local university. I usually clean up all their cans for recycling and end up with some free un-opened cans of beer. But I don’t drink it, I instead use it in a tonic for the vegetable garden. Plants love beer. I saw the potato problems you’ve been having and seen in the comments the answer, your potatoes are too moist to fry, you need to remove some water. I don’t know if you use a microwave, but you can make a baked potato in one. It takes about five minutes on high (medium size). Wash and poke steam holes with a fork. After cooking, split to make sure it’s cooked through. if not, put back in for a minute and recheck.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Love the blog! This is such a creative process and I can’t wait to see what you do next.

    Try cubing your potatoes into 1/2″ cubes, adding some green pepper and onion (when you have some handy) heat up oil in a pan, cook everything together stirring so nothing sticks and you will have something closer to home fries. You can also toss those ingredients with oil and bake it in the oven on 300 degrees for about 30 minutes, stir occasionally.

    BTW, those beers are begging for a wedge of the lemons you found.

  12. Amy says:

    I recommend picking a bunch of the lemons and freezing them. They juice even better after freezing them, and that way you’ll have lots even when the ones on the tree are gone.

  13. Judy says:

    I will second Anne’s comment about frying potatoes – important to rinse them well (will remove extra starch from the surface) and then get them very, very dry.
    Plus your regular canola oil would probably work better than just the oil part of the salad dressing. Canola oil is better for frying than olive oil anyways.

  14. Gail says:

    If you are just making home fries and not hash browns with the potatoes, it works very well to use leftover baked potatoes. Cut hem into slices or cubes and brown in REAL oil or bacon fat on medium heat covered and check frequently like every couple minutes. I don’t know if you mentioned if you cook on gas or electric, but electric is a bit harder to control the heat. If you are cooking on gas and things seem to be going too quick turn the heat down, if cooking on electric you may actually have to take the pan off the heat until the burner is cooled down so your stuff doesn’t burn.

  15. Joless says:

    Spuds are awesome cheap food, you can boil them, bake them, mash them, make chips, rosti, spanish omlette etc. To fry them either boil or par-boil them and slice / cube them (prob better fried from cold?), or make mash and fry the leftovers next day. To get mashed potato just boil til they are soft when you stick a knife in, and then mash with some butter and a little milk. Maybe add salt/pepper. And how did you manage to overcook a baked spud? Just stick it in the oven at about 160-180C for a couple of hours. Serve with cheese and baked beans. Easy :-) Enjoy!

  16. Mike Dunham says:

    Since you already have Bisquick and brown sugar, you can make beer bread. Google “Bisquick beer bread” for plenty examples of this very simple, three-ingredient recipe (I can’t imagine subbing brown sugar in for regular white sugar would make that much of a difference).

  17. Rachel says:

    wait a second….why are your bottles of beer fizzy at the tops. that doesnt seem right?!

  18. Barb says:

    Idaho (baking) Potatoes:
    Scrub clean, poke holes in, toss in 375 degree oven for 60 minutes. To eat while hot slice across length and squeeze ends so they pop open – add butter or cheese. Throw extra potatoes in fridge and eat cold by slicing and adding salt and/or catsup. This is great so you always have cooked potatoes on hand ready to go. They can be eaten cold, nuked or pan warmed.
    Or cook in microwave (be sure to puncture!) for 6 to 8 minutes for quick baked potatoes. If undercooked they stay hard all over, if overcooked the bottom (on the plate) gets really hard.
    For best pan fries use sliced cold baked potatoes cooked in hot oil. I slice about 1/4″ thick.
    For potato salad peel and chop/dice the cold potatoes, also a few boiled eggs (1 egg for 2 potatoes). Mix mayo, mustard, salt, pepper and grated raw onion (I often omit the onion or replace with dried onion that I let sit in the mayo for 5 min). When well mixed add to potatoes & eggs. You can also add sliced red onion or pickle relish or diced dill pickles. Refrigerate religiously!!

    For mashed potatoes peel raw potatoes, chop or dice, toss in pot with enough water to cover and boil until soft then drain. Return immediately to cooking pot and add lots of butter and a few tablespoons of milk. Mash, if no masher then make sure very well cooked and use large spoon. Also add salt and pepper. Adding grated cheese can add lots of flavor. be sure to stir mashed potatoes well after mashing and adding extras.

    Red/White/Yukon potatoes:
    Much better for potato salad than bakers, not so good when baked. Boil like making mashed potatoes but remove quickly at first sign of softness and rinse well in cold water. Internal heat keeps them cooking so your mushy potato salad was probably either overcooking or using baking potatoes which turn to mush when boiled.
    Reds also roast very well and make good gratins which is just sliced thin and baked with cheese topping.

    Cheers!!

  19. AB says:

    The blunder was that the Pure and Simple energy bars had a limit of two for the extra bucks.

  20. jeffrey says:

    @AB

    No, you can plainly see that I received $2.97 back in extra bucks for the 3 bars from the Extra Bucks pic I posted. That was a weird promotion — there was a month long promotion where you could get 3 free (and that is when I got mine) and then one week where you could only get two free. Not sure why CVS did that.

  21. Tracy says:

    If you have a gallon pitcher (or rinse out a milk jug or juice container) you can fill it with water and put 1/2 a lemon, sliced, in it and stick it in the fridge. You’ll cut back on how much lemon you use, and have lemon flavored water ready for you in the fridge.

  22. Mitch says:

    Another lemon suggestion is to let it get to room temperature and then roll it on a flat surface for a minute with your hand. You will get a lot more juice out of your lemon.

  23. Nicole says:

    Your sister is going to have something to say about those beers.