So, the budget is back with a vengeance. Some unexpected taxes, wedding costs, and other life events mean that Jesse and I cannot afford to live extravagantly at a $75/week/person grocery budget. We can save $200 a month if we both go down to $50/week, $1000 by our wedding day! The $50/week is $5 less than my previously maintained budget of $55/week. While I may be mildly curious and excited to see just how Jesse survives, I am starting to realize the value of $5.
Fruit. Mainly fruit.
Going down in budget means that you finally have the motivation to clean out your cabinets. Every secret stash of beans, every leftover can of sweet potatoes or bag of coconut shreds is greeted with squeals of excitement. Spices, the powdered gold that they are, are rationed and savored. It’s the seasoning to life that happens when you know you’re living on borrowed time. I keep making weekly grocery budgets, hoping to see some slack somewhere, some extra space that will be necessary if we need shaving razors, curry leaves, or god forbid, hemp oil.
There isn’t any, and the first thing to be cut is one of my favorite things in the world. Fruit. You’d think that $18 in produce would be able to afford $3 worth of oranges, but no dice. Next week my produce will consist of:
Cabbage — 3
Lemon — 1
Cilantro — 2
Onion — 2
Hot Peppers — 2
Greens — 6
Carrots — 2
Most of these ingredients will get used in my recipes for a cabbage stir fry with curry leaves, and a black eyed peas, greens, and lentil stew. I might have leftover carrots, so that I can have a carrot a day. Oh luxury! For want of even 5 pieces of fruit!
Throughout it all though, my commitment to sustainable agriculture is strong. A little research on the internet is all that needs to be done to leave my heart heavy and tears in my eyes reading about Chinese forced garlic prison labor, and cancer ridden agricultural workers. My recent obsession is the netflix show Rotten (link), which is all about the global food industry. How could I ever justify causing that type of pain?
Furthermore, my explorations into Indian cooking remind me of just how little families have subsisted on for generations. Reading certain recipes, you can see the ingenuity and creativity resulting from lack funds. Dosas, an Indian staple, are fermented rice and lentil cakes. I would never have thought of fermenting rice, and fermentation is one of the easiest ways to add nutrition to any food. I am not hungry. I have plenty of money to make my own bread, homemade dosa’s, naan, and coconut rice. Sure, it may not be ideal, but I am both healthy and strong. After reading about the value of fermented rice, I think I may ferment all of my rice before consuming!
The best cuisines, from India to Italy, were forged out of necessity. Why do you think modern American cuisine sucks? For the last 4 years, a $55/week budget forced me to learn how to bake my own bread, make my own pasta, and taught me the value of split pea soup (truly the cheapest meal ever!). What will $5 less teach me?
Well, both you and I, together, we are going to find out!
This Week in Updates: Alone in the Suburbs
After coming back from such an epic trip, being alone in the suburbs is a bit of a letdown. Yes, I like doing my own thing, but being completely isolated for over a week means that this introvert has resorted to lots of vegan treats and has blown through every episode of Grace and Frankie. Yes, I have also read a book on urban design, racial segregation, and am beginning a new book on trans feminism. I have also made one tie, and a few other sewing projects that I cannot talk about now (because they are a surprise for when Jesse gets home). I had a wedding dress fitting, volunteered with homeless adults again, and learned that the grain grinder I got on amazon sucks. I should just save up for the $700 made in USA one that is SOOOOO PRETTY. If you’re going to do something, do it right, yeah? Obviously trying to go the cheap route just gets me barely bits instead of barely flour. Who wants to help me get an awesome Christmas present????
We’ve also received some bad news about my cat January. She has aggressive jaw cancer and will probably not be around that much longer. All those things mean that cooking has been quite a nice reprieve. I made barely sweet potato raisin vegan bread yesterday, and I will be attempting dosas with mung beans today, as well as a coconut chutney!
Recipe: Basic Dosa’s
These are absolutely delicious. Think of fluffy gluten free pancakes that taste like toasted rice. I’ve eaten them with potato curry, plain, salt and olive oil, and (of course) peanut butter and maple syrup. Both rice and lentils are cheap, making this dish incredibly affordable. The 2 ¼ cups of rice and the ½ cup of lentils for my first batch cost me $3, and one batch makes about 16 dosas!
- 2 cups uncooked long grain rice
- ¼ cup cooked rice
- ½ cup (or more) lentils
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
- Soak the lentils and rice overnight in separate bowls. The fenugreek seeds soak with the rice.
- The next morning, blend the lentils with 1 cup of the soaking liquid, and the rice with 1 cup of soaking liquid plus the cooked rice. Mix these two mixtures together with the salt using your hands. This helps the fermentation process. The batter will feel slightly grainy, and that is okay!
- Cover with a damp towel, and place the bowl somewhere warm for 8-24 hours. The warmer the environment, the faster the batter will ferment. I usually put mine in the oven with the oven light on. If your batter has not fermented in 24 hours, your tap water might be too chlorinated.
- After your batter is bubbly, has expanded in size, and smells ferment-ie, cook like you would normal crepes or pancakes.