Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cheap eats...... Eating well while living on charity

Recently, a friend began a FaceBook discussion on the 'cuts' to the food stamp (SNAP) program.  The cuts being an end to the temporary increase provided for in the last stimulus spending spree.

This caused me to look at the numbers for SNAP charity aid, and I see a family of three could be getting up to $400 a month.  The cut is about $29.  Salon magazine screams this to be the loss of a weeks worth of food, although their math is questionable.

Now, friends, I have in my life lived on limited means.  Very limited means.  I mean sleeping on the floor, cooking in a coffee pot, and happy for whatever I could scrounge.  This experience leads me to consider what I might be able to do with roughly $1.37 per person per meal, or the amount a family of three would have if they relied solely on SNAP for all their food purchases.

Yesterday, I made such a meal.....

Art's Depression Chili

This is a vegetarian chili, with some 'fake' meat added because there was such a leftover hovering in the fridge.  The dish doesn't need the textured vegetable protein, but if it's something you like... go for it.  A bag of TVP 'Crumbles' costs about $4 and can be stretched across several meals. One of the great things about Chili is it's role as refrigerator Velcro.   Most leftovers can be slipped into the pot, and will only add to the happiness.  A stray cup of mac'n cheese is a treat, or maybe the last few bites of that veggie stir fry.

The ingredients:
  • One large can of kidney beans, drained
  • One small can of black beans, drained
  • One small can of diced tomatoes, UNdrained
  • One small can of diced tomatoes with jalopenos, UNdrained
  • One bottle of cheap lager beer.
  • Half a red pepper 
  • Half a large onion
  • Several heaped tablespoons of light brown sugar
  • Several teaspoons of garlic powder
  • A teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
  • Half a teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • A teaspoon of cumin
  • A tablespoon of salt
  • One quarter stick of butter
  • Three tablespoons of masa (corn) flour (to thicken chili at the end of cooking).
Excepting the masa, all these ingredients can be dumped into a large pot or dutch oven, stirred a few times, and then set to slow simmer the rest of the day (at least 6 hours).  An occasional stir is in order, and if it gets too thick add a bit of water to keep it thin enough to simmer.

In my case, the red peppers and onion were smoked over a wood fire, and then dehydrated.  I keep bags of just such flavorful goodness on hand for these occasions.  Fire roasted red peppers do AMAZING things to a dish, especially when zapped into fine chunks in a food processor.

Also in my case, this pot received the benefit of some leftover empanadilla filling from the refrigerator.  It had TVP meat crumbles, potatoes, and onions in it... maybe 1 cup worth.

About 20 minutes before serving, sprinkle on the masa and stir it in.  In a few minutes it will thicken the chili and add another level of richness.

I like to serve this chili with cornbread, and favor the Jiffy brand of corn bread mix.  It's cheap, very good, and easy.

Serves about six people, depending on appetite, and usually provides leftovers for lunch the next day.  It can be spread and nursed by adding more cans of beans and tamatoes, if the gang at the table grows.

Cost:  Roughly $6.50 for the entire delicious meal.


Old NFO said...

Art, the basic issue is that one would 'deign' to eat such plebeian fare... They wants their crab and smoked salmon...

Carteach said...

For some leeches and looters, I am sure that's correct.

Unknown said...

Hey, they're missing out. I've recently discovered the magic of slow cookers, and am making this this weekend strictly as a vegetarian dish for two reasons - trying to save some money, and trying to drop some weight... this oughta make some excellent lunches.

Hope you're doing well, sir. We miss you!