Living off $4.90/day – Day 5: Turning down “free”

Today was mercifully easy compared to the previous days of this week.  Breezed through (yet another bowl of) the oatmeal, devoured some more of last night’s dinner (again) for lunch and was all set for a re-run of last night’s dinner when I came home and found this!

Glorious taco dinner that was super filling…and cost $3.02/serving!

I wanted to veer away from the political/social posts a little today and talk about the glorius world of free a little. I’m a little late posting because I was sitting in on San Diego’s very ‘regular people’ friendly workshop on how certain types of city budget items are decided. It’s technically called the Capital Improvement Project (CIP for short), but that’s a separate story. Let’s focus on the food and what Dan Ariely calls the irrational exuberance of free.

First, can I just say–again–that the whole turning down the kindness of others part of this challenge is really difficult.  Free is so wonderful, and the number of people who happily offer free to me in all its glory and magnificence seems quite high.  Already this week I have turned down amazing Ballast Point kegs as provided by the San Diego Tactical Urbanists at our planning for Park-ing Day.  I turned down the cake I mentioned yesterday at work, followed today by the all too familiar office job mass email “bagels in the break room” (which this unhappy soul doesn’t seem thrilled about).  And then tonight, before I came home, I turned down several drinks, dip, pita and some mac and cheese at a neighborhood joint.  Yep, I tempted fate and went there to meet a few friends and threw caution completely to the wind.  As I sat there drinking my water, enjoying the slightly lathered banter of my friends, I didn’t feel too bad about abstaining.  One of them reminded me–quite appropriately–that one week of being kinda hungry some of the time ain’t s#$t!  She didn’t say it quite like that, but it is a good reminder that my moaning about a temporary, self-created hunger pales in comparison to real, where-the-hell-is-my-next-meal-coming from hunger.  And I get that.  But by my count there are at least 18 people who didn’t know a week ago how little money people on food stamps actually get.  And probably many more who hopefully now realize that a far greater number of recipients HAVE JOBS than don’t and are not entitled freeloaders.

That was a social/political tangent I blame on my friend, who I’ll call Che.  Che is a rockstar.  I’ll probably write more about her later.  Actually, same goes for my other friend who I met, who we’ll call Jamilah–I should do a post about them soon.  Two powerful women who move people that don’t even know they are being moved.  Anyway, the trip was well worth the gallon of water I drank while watching those thirsty somebodies down drinks all around me!

What about the food?

Well, first let me say that if you are into tacos and need seasoning, but your parents thought Lawry’s was the hotness when you were growing up, I’m here to tell you that today is your lucky day.  If you happen to be from a family who was not as allergic to seasoning (salt excluded) as mine was, this won’t move you.  But for the rest, here’s a quick, handy taco seasoning mix alternative:

1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp coriander, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tbsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp oregano.  That’s it! No MSG or sodium-whateverthehell needed!

You do have to make the initial investment in spices, but there are a bunch of places in City Heights that sell Souq-esque quantities of spices at dirt-cheap prices.  The other thing to know about cooking is it does take a little time.  This dish took 30 minutes.  Now,  I am the dish-doer in chief in my house, which adds another 10-15 minutes on to “cooking” (because, just like with our city budget, if we are going to get the TRUE cost we need to factor in both the capital improvement–cooking–and the maintenance cost–busting suds).  Technically if this was a budget conversation we’d factor in the cost of replacing the dishes/food, but I digress.  The point is, if you either don’t have kids or a spouse/partner to put in charge of sud-busting, you need to factor that extra time in the kitchen to get a true picture of how much effort it takes.

It’s late, and tomorrow I’ve got a ton to do.  So I’ll note that tonight’s dinner cost all of $3.02.  Lunch was left over from last night at $1.48 and breakfast was .55 cents, I think.  So technically today I didn’t actually live off $4.90, but I’m happy to report we are within our budget–with one small error my wife pointed out to me tonight.  That damn gum that has been keeping me going was a pack I actually bought last week.  Completely forgot and it blew our budget by about $1.50. Dang. Thanks for dropping by.

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