Preparing for the Live Below The Line challenge has been our main focus around here this weekend. What we’ll eat, what we won’t. What to buy, what we won’t. How to maximize our food budget of $1.75 per day.
Gerry has mentioned repeatedly how this would be “much easier in August when there is plenty of food to forage around Toronto.”
As soon as I tell anyone I’m doing this they immediately start coming up with creative ways to get us fed.
“Oh that’s no problem for you with all the food events you go to”, one friend said.
It’s hard to imagine someone living like this for 5 days without taking advantage of every opportunity to get something for free.
Another suggested I “go to the closest food court or McDonald’s and stock up.” They are both great places to get lots of salt, pepper, sugar, creamers, ketchup and vinegar in small packages. But really you should buy something to get these, and that’s not in our budget.
“Squirrels, now is the time to eat those damned squirrels” my father recommended when I told him what I was up to. They should be pretty well fed since they have their choice of all the food that is thrown out in downtown Toronto. He even offered his Brunswick Stew recipe (which I already have and, yes, traditionally it’s made with squirrel.)
Frankly, when you are hungry and broke these are all options work, though there are some ethical elements to consider and there is a point where snagging creamers and sugar packets for your breakfast wears you down emotionally. It doesn’t take that long.
I won’t be taking advantage of the ideas suggested above, though I appreciate the thought behind them. However, I will be taking advantage of the following loop holes:
The Pantry Loop Hole
I have a full pantry since by nature and training I am a stock-piler. Why buy 2 potatoes when you can buy 10 lbs. I have followed the rule to “shop with just the cash in your budget” to the best of my ability, but I’m using my pantry for things that I could buy within my budget but that I already have. This includes potatoes, chili flakes, cooking oil, and a couple of other items I don’t remember right now.
I also have sour dough starter that is essentially dried bits of my fathers 30-year-old sourdough that are left around the edge of the sour dough container. It’s been stored dried in my freezer and I’m hauling it out to get some sour dough rolling. While I’m paying for a little yeast to kick it up and the flour, this will keep me in fresh flavourful albeit small batches of fresh bread for the week.
The Foraging Loop Hole
While I won’t be scooping up salt and pepper at the nearby fast food joints, I have already started foraging. I’d be delighted to find ramps. Unfortunately I don’t already know of a patch in downtown Toronto. Even if I did I seriously doubt I’d get to them in time since so many people are clued into ramps these days. But I’m putting it out there, just in case.
The Grocery Store Foraging-ish Loop Hole
One of my favourite foraged goodies is beet greens! People buy beets for those luscious red bulbs but forget there is another whole vegetable attached to the top. They twist and rip them off to fit the beets into their bag, and cast aside the best part of the beet! If you see a produce guy doing it you can usually get the beet greens for free! Sometimes a lot of beet greens. One time I came home with 5 bunches. Beet greens and swiss chard are my favourite leafy greens!
Yesterday at the Metro I found a pile of beet greens shoved in with the beets sneakily. As if the person who did it was doing something wrong. It was right for me. I found a produce guy, and he priced those greens at zero dollars and zero cents!
I did not forage these, but I seriously considered it. This entire batch of asparagus was sitting on top of a compost bin at the end of the day at St. Lawrence Market. Not in top shape, but some times it’s worth it.
The Garden Loop Hole
I have a deck full of chives which are perennials from a small patch we transplanted over 10 years ago. They come up every year and we couldn’t kill them if we tried. We’ve tried, they started a coupe and now grow in all our planters every spring. I see some chive dumplings in my future.
As my regular readers know I recently made maple syrup for the first time. Absolutely free to make, but I am limited myself in it’s use in this challenge. Still I want to make sure I document it.
So there you go… my starting point.
Note: this post is part of my Live Below The Line series where I will be on a $1.75 food & drink budget from April 29th-May 3rd. You can support me in this challenge by donating on my behalf, donating to Bloggers Living Below The Line, or supporting one of my two local hunger charities: Second Harvest and Daily Bread Food Bank.
If you want to know more about what I’m involved in, you can read my disclosure statement here.