Day 1 & 2 of Rice, Beans & Mixed Greens

April 12, 2008 at 11:45 am 15 comments

This is my first progress report on day 2 of my 30 day challenge of living off of $30 of food. This is a fundraiser for Blandford Nature Center & Mixed Greens. ( If you’d like to following along now through May 9, find me at
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Please Don’t Feed Maria Rice, Beans & Mixed Greens in the Grand Rapids Press!

15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Korrie  |  April 13, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    800 calories…oh my! My husband says to tell you that spartan mac n cheese is on sale…buy 2 for $1.

  • 2. bigbinder  |  April 13, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    I looked at your grocery list. Is there any way you can make your own bread? I saw a breadmaker at a garage sale for $2.50 so it is within the means of many folks; maybe someone could let you borrow one. A loaf costs me $0.50 to make; and it’s much healthier and you’ll feel more full. Also rolled oats cost the same as instant but are less processed and you’ll feel full longer. And a big ‘ole box of dried milk is the lest expensive way to buy it if you can deal with the different taste – it helps to chill it before you drink it.

  • 3. ricebeansmixedgreens  |  April 14, 2008 at 8:44 am

    @ Korrie & bigbinder – thanks for the comments. I did some bartering and shopping this weekend and my menu has improved greatly. I’ll be posting about it soon.

  • 4. Steve  |  April 14, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    I commend you on your experiment for the various reasons behind it.
    I was wondering, could your friends that were looking for loopholes in the experiment to get you some food, maybe there are some loopholes they could find for some people that dont have a choice in being unable to buy food.
    Might be interesting to have them brainstorm by putting themselves in a predicament and think of possibilities and publish their ideas.
    Many people in tough financial situations get depressed because of their situations but also the frustration of not seeing viable solutions and suggestions to help alleviate temporary or chronic problems. The emotional impact of the financial squeeze often adds to the difficulty and can contribute to the cycle.

  • 5. Steve  |  April 14, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    another interesting mental excersize in empathy… As this experiment continues towards its end….what if at the end of the 30 days, you didnt have the ability to get out of the 30 days on $30? What would your attitude or mental or emotional state be and what questions would you have of yourself and of what the next 30 days would bring you.
    As well, is fasting for a day part of the experiment at all?
    In other parts of the world people often fast for religious, cultural and economic reasons.

  • 6. L Muresan  |  April 14, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Food salvage stores are great. There are two in the GR-area: M&B Foods in a warehouse at Wilson/Chicago Drive (I got a 16-oz tub of mascarpone there recently for $.50, and a 1-lb bag of fresh basil for $.50) and Wiseman’s Corner on 28th St SW in Grandville (where Frank’s used to be) where they often have, in there discount room, whole boxes of food for $5–of course, it can be anything in there, from great stuff to junk food. Last time I was there they had 32-oz tubs of Dannon plain yogurt for $.25. Those places make Aldi look high; though not everything at the food salvage places is cheap, there are real bargains to be found. And “back-door shopping” (Dumpster diving) at small grocery stores can yield real treasures in the food department, like a whole bag of potatoes where just one of them is bad, if you are feeling brave and daring. Also, dried beans are cheap in bulk at some of the Middle Eastern food markets in town.

  • 7. Paul from South Haven  |  April 15, 2008 at 8:05 am

    Good luck with your experiment. Here are a few recipes which are tested and found to taste good! You can use fresh vegetables instead of dehydrated, fresh is actually better. These recipes are intended for camping out for long periods with no refrigeration, but they will work in your situation as well.

    Split Pea Soup
    Pressure cooker method

    1 Tbs olive oil
    1 diced onion
    Heat and simmer. When onion is soft, add:
    4 Tbs split peas
    1 Tbs bacon bits
    1 Tbs dehydrated carrots
    1 Tbs dehydrated celery
    1/2 Tbs dehydrated onions
    1/2 tsp dehydrated garlic
    (or use fresh vegetables and simmer with onion, above)
    1 tsp Italian Seasoning (oregano, basil, thyme)
    1/2 tsp ground black pepper
    1 clove
    1 tsp salt
    2 cups water
    Bring to boil, simmer 15 minutes under pressure
    Add mashed potato flakes to thicken

    Red Beans and Rice in a Savory Gravy
    Soak 4 Tbs kidney beans (or similar sized beans) for 4 or more hours in water with the following vegetables:
    1 Tbs dehydrated onions
    1 Tbs dehydrated carrots
    1 Tbs dehydrated green peppers
    1 Tbs dehydrated celery
    1 tsp dehydrated garlic
    1 dried chile
    (note, you can use fresh vegetables, simmer them together with the onion in the next step below)

    Drain, add a cup of water and pressure cook for 12 minutes under pressure.

    While cooking:
    Dice 1 large onion
    Add 3 Tbs olive oil to a pot
    Simmer diced onions until soft
    Add 3 Tbs flour, be prepared to stir
    Stir every minute or so, the flour will stick to the pot
    When flour has browned (about 5 minutes) add a shot of one of the following:
    sherry, wine, beer, broth, bean juice or water
    Stir and clean off the bottom of the pot
    Add another shot if it is drying up, keep stirring and adding small amounts of liquid to make a gravy.
    Add spices:
    1 tsp Spanish or Hungarian paprika
    1 tsp chicken bullion powder
    1/2 tsp ground black pepper
    1 Tbs Italian Seasoning (oregano, basil, thyme)
    A couple of splashes of worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, Maggi or your favorite sauce
    When beans are ready, drain and add to pot.
    Add 1 tsp corn starch.
    Add 1 tsp salt.
    Add bean juice as necessary to make a creamy sauce.
    Simmer for at least 15 minutes.
    Serve over rice with a bottle of tabasco sauce for individual heat preference.

    Fried Potatoes in a Cast Iron Pan

    A cast iron frying pan, or other heavy pan works best for this because it holds the heat and spreads it out evenly in the pan.

    Add 3 Tbs olive oil to the pan, heat it up.

    Peel a potato, rinse, and slice thin pieces into the pan. Watch out for hot oil splatters.

    Repeat until pan is full or you have enough.

    Stir and turn over potatoes.

    Cover pan for 5 minutes (no more). Stir and turn over potatoes.

    If you cover the pan longer, for example 10 minutes) the potatoes will turn out more like mashed potatoes. You may prefer this taste, but watch out that they don’t burn on the bottom.

    Stir and turn every 2 or 3 minutes.

    Use a lot of heat.

    It will take about 25 to 30 minutes to fry the potatoes.

    When they are crispy and relatively dry, they are done.

    Salt to taste and serve.

    If you let some of the potatoes sit in the pan (no flame) for a half hour after they are done, they will get crispy like french fries or potato chips, cooking in the pan as it slowly cools down.

    Lentil Hash
    Pressure cooker method

    Makes about 3 cups of a thick sauce with a texture and flavor
    comparable to ground beef (well sort of).
    No ingredients require refrigeration!

    Soak 4 hours:
    4 Tbs lentils
    1 tsp dehydrated carrots
    1 tsp dehydrated celery
    1 tsp dehydrated green pepper
    1/2 tsp dehydrated onion
    1/4 tsp dehydrated garlic
    2 cups water

    Simmer till brown:
    2 Tbs olive oil
    1 chopped onion

    1 tsp chicken bullion
    1 clove
    shake of black pepper
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tsp Herbs de Provence or Italian seasoning
    1 splash of soy sauce, Maggi or Worcestershire sauce
    splash of wine or sherry
    add the soaked vegetables

    cook 10 minutes under pressure
    If watery, add a tablespoon or two instant rice and simmer 10 minutes
    with open top

    Serve with fried potatoes, on spaghetti or as a thick soup with dark bread

    My apologies to the vegetarians, this meal tastes good “even though”
    it is similar to ground beef!

    I hope these recipes help. Actually it is no sacrifice to eat these foods because they taste good, it just takes some practice and experimentation to get them to come out the way you like them.

  • 8. ricebeansmixedgreens  |  April 15, 2008 at 9:06 am

    Wow! Thanks so much for all the support, suggestions and encouragement. I’m really amazed at all these great comments.

  • 9. Diana Sieger  |  April 15, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Maria – I am cheering you on! I just said to your friends here at the Foundation that you sure do not need to lose an ounce and that isn’t the point of this experiment – I do understand what you are trying to do. This is difficult and I will follow your adventures. By your example maybe just maybe I’ll slow down on the coffee and all that extra food that shows up at the office! AND maybe just maybe lose some weight which would be my point if I was doing what you are doing in addition to finding out if you can eat healthy on a dollar a day! Keep it up! Diana

  • 10. ricebeansmixedgreens  |  April 16, 2008 at 9:20 am

    @Diana – I’m glad all the cool people at GRCF are supporting me. I definitely don’t recommend this as a weight loss plan (I’m kind of on the Anti-Atkins diet right now!). One kind person described it as a spiritual exercise – that’s probably a better description.

    If you can cut back on coffee & tasty snacks in solidarity with me I will be flattered. Those are my biggest temptations, but I have a great support system here which helps a lot.

  • 11. Linda  |  April 17, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Maria; this is an awesome project. I absolutely love it.
    And connecting it to Blanford Nature Center/ Mixed Greens by donating to their efforts makes perfect sense. Organizations that help us learn where our food comes from, and being better connected the sources of our food are worthy of our support.
    I totally want to join you in some way in this.
    Since I don’t eat much anyway (being a smaller person), and don’t spend much on food as is, I’m thinking maybe I’d up the stakes for myself. Maybe only organic, and stuff I grow or find (like your dandilions) could be in my diet.
    Another downside for the cheaper foods like many boxed mac-n-cheeses or factory-produced white breads is that the nutritional content is so minimal or nonexistent.
    I was even thinking of maybe buying the food with money I get from deposits from returning cans and bottle — Help clean up litter, recycle, as well as save money for Blanford/Mixed Greens.
    Anyway, what you are doing is awesome. You’ve come up with an incredible idea that can lead us to stop and think, empathize, and maybe change habits and learn more about our connection to food, and our planet.

  • 12. Karin  |  April 17, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    What an interesting experiment. While you are doing it for the reason of showing the hardships of living on a limited food budget, it is also an example of showing that we all really should get back to basics of eating. If we all ate plainly, simply without the refined foods it would be cheaper and healthier.

    To give a little brainstorm idea per Steve: we have gone through some tough lean years when AT&T forced my husband into early retirement with 6 kids still to finish raising. We found some of the local grocery stores allowed people who needed it to as an organized group so that we were assigned stores and days to do our pick up of out of date items that would have been tossed. We ate pretty well on produce, breads, bakery items—great desserts—and sometimes even dairy! It can take the time and effort to do the required paperwork to register as a ministry or charity organization, so those who don’t need the food that have more time than those who are working hard to make ends meet could be the ones to organize it and get it going. Those who are needy can sign up for a time to do their pick up and they get the pick of what they get. Then the remainder they take to a pantry or somewhere that other needy people can come “grocery shop” for free. None can be sold, that is part of the agreement the head of the ministry or organization would sign.

    For three years I arose at 5 to do pick up at 5:30. separated what I was keeping for my family, dropped of the rest, then took mine home, got ready for work and went to work.

    It could be hard labor: sometimes there were as many as 6 shopping carts overflowing with stuff!

    Anyway, kudos for being so dedicated!

  • 13. R Green  |  April 18, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    I really like what you are doing…I just wish it would keep more true to what finacially underprivaleged individuals in the U.S. would be able to access in real life…Where do you go to find wild dandelions and wild leeks..and how would they know if most people in mainstream America don’t know? What can you eat from the grocery store for $30 a month other than Ramon noodles (completely filled with sodium and nothing else) or Mr. T’s pizza’s? Bananas would be the only affordable fruit and definitely no exotic fruit or nutrient rich vegatables. As a society we need to figure out a way to enable everyone to have healthy food choices. Especially with obesity.. and this is only going to become more difficult with this horrible economy

  • 14. ricebeansmixedgreens  |  April 19, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    @R Green – I appreciate your concerns and input. It IS possible to forage for wild plants in an urban area. In fact, Blandford Nature Center has urban foraging workshops.

    However, I definitely agree with your opinion that there have to be systemic solutions to problems of poverty, malnutrition, and obesity. If you are interested in the policy side of these issues, please do contact your state and national representatives or find advocacy groups to get involved with.

  • 15. Steve  |  April 25, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    – Karin – great idea! wow, i would have never thought of that.
    ingenuity great and small is always a benefit.

    ricebeans – your experiment has really gotten people talking and expressing their viewpoints and opinions! good job!
    All these great ideas should be similated into a booklet format and distributed at all shelters, charities, and given media recognition when compiled.

    I wonder how you are doing this week, how you are feeling and what thoughts are going through your mind regarding this experiment.


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Would you like to support Blandford Nature Center & Mixed Greens? You can make an online donation through Network for Good or PayPal If you'd like to donate a more traditional way, check out the Donate page at MixedGreens.Org.

I would appreciate it if you mention Rice, Beans & Mixed Greens in your donation.

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