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of gummy bears and coffee beans

Recipe: stir fried rice

NaBloWriMo day 16 (we’re over the hump!)

Eat on $30 day 6

Today was so wacked out. You see, we are having a dinner party on Sunday and I went into town to purchase groceries for the party. I can’t tell you how nice it was to comparison shop, but not have to worry about a decisive budget like last week! I bought a lot of very very nice seafood. Oh! and vegetables – gorgeous gorgeous vegetables and fruits and cheeses and wines (so many lovely wines). All the while, it made me a little sad because you see, I can step out of this self-imposed challenge whenever I want to. It ends Saturday and Jeremy and I can resume eating. What about people who have to stress over their food – and I mean really stress, not “Oh, what shall we serve our guests? Sancerre or Chablis?” – day after day, month after month. It never ends.

We’re coming to the last day of the challenge and while I love love love my readers for their insightful and thoughtful comments, observations, suggestions, while I love that we ARE raising awareness, I can’t help but feel a little helpless. A lot helpless. Sure, I made the $60 challenge for 2 people. We ate well. It would be folly for me to assume that because I could do it, people on food assistance can too. It’s not a level playing field. I don’t even want to begin describing the cooking equipment I have at my disposal, the culinary knowledge and experience, the desire. We are also assuming that we all love to cook and that doesn’t apply to everyone. Others doing the Eat on $30 challenge have touched on it too. There are many more factors than just money that are stacked against the hungry: time, equipment, math skills, transportation, knowledge, access. Most businesses locate where they can maximize profit, not where they can help the most people.

So I was in Boulder all day Thursday and I had $1.69 burning a hole in my pocket. I wandered into another grocery store, Sunflower. I forgot about them during my aggregation of groceries for this week’s challenge. I also got tired thinking of visiting a fifth store to price things out (at some point, you just scream “stop!”). But Sunflower has a great bulk section and I wandered about looking for some sweet treats to nibble on in the evenings. Can I just bitch for a(nother) moment? Why can’t I find a scale in the bulk section of Whole Foods? Apparently, they don’t want me weighing what I decided not to buy… Sunflower did have a scale – a crappy analog scale. When buying quantities on the order of a couple of ounces (remember, the $1.69 budget) those analogs are useless. I wound up purchasing the cheapest (on sale) item: gummy bears. I got about 20 of those colorful, sugar-filled, deliciously fruity little guys at $1.99 a pound.

psst! see fred passed out over there? too many appletinis…

I figured I could also get a few banana chips – less than a handful at $2.49 a pound. The whole bean coffee was $6.99 for any type of coffee. I know nearly nothing about coffee but decided to get some. You see, a few days after our challenge began, Tami said she had the worst headache ever because she didn’t have coffee in her budget. If you will recall, Jeremy opted out of coffee because I couldn’t find any decent coffee (he’s a picky one) at Safeway (running something like $11.99 a pound for the whole bean coffee). When he came home Tuesday, I said, “Tami said she’s got a horrible headache because she hasn’t had any coffee.” He looked at me and pointed at his left eye, “I feel like there is a needle behind this eye. It’s been like that all day.” I asked if it was because of the lack of coffee and he nodded. I should also point out that Jeremy has been getting up at 3 am and observing on the telescope for several hours each morning and then going to work for a full day, then coming home and working all night – all without Precious Coffee. I felt so bad about that. You can just imagine when I saw the $6.99 per pound sign I scooped what I thought was about an ounce of beans into a bag as a surprise for my guy. A reward for his good efforts in the last few days of the challenge.

1.92 ounces of coffee beans!

I wound up paying $.28 for the gummy bears, $.20 for the banana chips, and $.84 for the coffee! Then I got a $.10 refund for my shopping bag. My total: $1.27. I have $.42 left! When I walked to the register to pay for my snacks, I spied the free coffee station with those cute little 3 oz. cups. I was about to pick Jeremy up from campus to go home, so I filled a little cup with their organic dark roast as an extra bonus for him. As soon as he got in the car I handed him the little cup. You should have seen the smile on his face! He had some interesting observations on his reaction to the coffee:

I am convinced that I get an anticipatory high from the caffeine before I taste it much less digest it. I smell the coffee and hold a warm vessel in my hands and my personal internal pharmacy injects some goodies to give me a warm glow, positive outlook, and energy boost. ~Jeremy

Here’s what we had today (day 6): oatmeal for brekkie (Jeremy), bagel for brekkie (jen), beef stew for lunch (jeremy), soy sauce egg for lunch (jen), the remaining soy sauce chicken noodle soup for dinner, apple turnovers for dessert (which we ate BEFORE dinner), the last of the gummy bears and all of the banana chips. Jeremy has been enjoying coffee in his French press for the past day.

The fried rice we had on Thursday was a combination of leftovers. That’s why I love fried rice, you can put anything in it. I used a third of the rice to eat plain with the beef stew, and the remaining two thirds to make fried rice with a whole yellow onion, a third of the beef kielbasa sausage, four eggs, and four stalks of celery.

ready to cook

hard scramble the eggs

I don’t typically make my fried rice this way. I use more Chinese ingredients, but I’ll post those recipes some other day. This is about making do with what I had and it was actually very satisfying. Despite being a noodle girl, I do love rice too.

sauté the onions and celery

add the eggs and sausage

People can throw in all manner of goodies like chicken, shrimp, beef, pork, broccoli, peppers, peas, carrots, corn. You name it, it’s probably been put in fried rice at some point in human history. I guess that could get a little scary.

so good hot (not so good cold)

Fried Rice
[print recipe]
this is just based on what I made for the challenge

vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
4 eggs, scrambled into little tiny pieces
1 cup beef kielbasa, diced
4 cups steamed white medium-grain rice

In a large frying pan, over high flame heat a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil and add the onion and celery. Sauté until the onions become translucent, seasoning with salt to taste. Add the eggs and beef. Stir together in the pan then add the rice. Break the rice up and stir fry (add more oil if needed – I prefer not to) until the rice is evenly distributed and browned in some places. Serve hot.

20 nibbles at “of gummy bears and coffee beans”

  1. Tartelette says:

    You’re in the finish line! I feel for Jeremy. The second thing that crosses my mind in the morning is the joy of having coffee in the next 10 minutes. However, I’d ask him to bring his if you guys come visit (we had to lower our standards or Bill would have divorced me because of coffee withdrawals:)).
    Loved your thoughts about this whole thing during the week. The discussion needs to be brought to government and institutions now that awareness is being raised. There must be more than can be done than just volunteering in soup kitchens and from both sides.

    Can you believe I have made fried rice only once before? Ugh…

  2. Yun says:

    this looks like home somehow. just love it.

  3. Phoo-D says:

    You’re doing great and it sounds like the challenge is serving its purpose to leave you with more questions and new thoughts rather than answers.

    I too have a secret love of gummy bears. My mom used to give me “one for every turn” when I was learning how to downhill ski. It was the only way she could keep me from going straight down the hill at 4 years old! =)

  4. Unplanned Cooking says:

    I love how hard you worked to raise awareness, and how you’ve shown us the big picture. Can I have some gummy bears ;)?

  5. Kristin says:

    If you figure out how to solve this problem, let me know…it certainly is something we think about. A few years ago we went out for our anniversary to a highly respected restaurant & spent way too much money on a meal that I seriously could have made taste a heck of a lot better at home w/ very little effort. I was so frustrated that we had blown so much money on mediocre food that I gave the first panhandler I saw twenty bucks. I hope he didn’t spend it at that restaurant (ha!) or on booze or drugs, but I was just felt so guilty that our money could’ve been used for better things. Do we still go out? Yeah, but we also give money & food & time & vote for candidates who I wish could be just a little bit more socialist than people seem to think they are. Sorry for the spew, but I’m just frosted with everyone who thinks our healtcare system doesn’t need changing, that people can take care of themselves, etc.

  6. Tawnia says:

    Great post! I really appreciate the depth at which you are able to see the issue. While I know it is easy to feel helpless, please remember there are many things that can help the issues of hunger and food insecurity. First and foremost–raising awareness! We are about to embark on our Empty Bowl Event here in my community and they are a nation wide project. By supporting events like Empty Bowl, participating in food drives and raising awareness of the issue are all parts of the fight against hunger! Thanks to both of you!

  7. Nate says:

    I used okra in my last fried rice. That’s right, okra. I fried it until all the sticky-gooeyness was gone, though. Tasted all right and no one complained about it.

  8. Silvia says:

    Hey, we had fried rice for lunch yesterday! It is a great way to use up leftovers. We had ours with chicken, egg, carrot and bellpepper. It’s been really interesting to read about the challenge. Thanks for making us aware.

  9. Alissa H says:

    I too often get frustrated by this issue. Having been on both sides (my family received food assistance when I was younger) I see how complex of an issue it is. I decided this year to finally put my money (literally) where my mouth was and start donating to a local food bank that does a good job locally and manages it’s money well. I made room for $10 in my meager (but well above poverty line) grad student stipend to donate to said food bank. $10 doesn’t seem like a lot to me, but I know when I was a kid how far my mom could have stretched that money and I can only hope that I will help someone else out like others helped my family out. No, it isn’t a lot, but it’s what I can manage, and to me, if more people did *something*, we all would be in a hell of a lot better shape as a country.

  10. charlane says:

    oh how my niece loves gummies. she squeals with utter delight at any bite she can have of them.

    and I will try this fried rice as I love it.

  11. Fiona says:

    This has been a great series, Jen. I’m thinking Alissa’s response is the one I’ll take. We can certainly afford a small monthly donation to our local food bank. And given what you’ve done with $60 (your first try), I expect they can make a donation go pretty far.

    So thank you for this. It’s been eye opening and has sparked some discussion in my house.

  12. Y says:

    Day 16 and still going strong! Woohoo! :)

    Gummi bear photo is adorable. I love fried rice – I’m a chuck-everything-in kind of person when it comes to fried rice. Especially around Christmas time when there’s leftover turkey and ham.

  13. April in CT says:

    The words of coffee wisdom from Jeremy brought a caffeine stained tear to my eye. He seriously hit on exactly how I feel about my cup of coffee, but never knew how to put into words.

  14. Jie says:

    Jen, you have such a wonderful husband. I know some people who’s very addictive to caffeine. And i know when the headache comes, they feel terrible. it’s good that both of you are heading to the finish line. waving hands..yay!!!
    Do you refridge your rice before you making this?

  15. Erin says:

    way to go, Jen! And Jeremy, too! On both your eat on $30 challenge and your blogwriting storm. You’re a rockstar.

  16. Suzanne says:

    Someone (on food stamps) once told me that she didn’t know what to feed her son since he was supposed to be gluten-free. She couldn’t find frozen chicken nuggets w/o the breading. So she just fed him [freezer section] fries.
    It is really amazing how many people I know that don’t cook at all, don’t even know how. My kids know how to make Danish meatballs and fresh-pumpkin pie from scratch. (Bragging… : ) Homeschooling makes this a lot easier too. I know with 2 working parents families it is hard to have time for cooking on weekdays and grocery shopping on weekends. I’m very impressed with people who can do it. Strange how eating well requires so much time, money, knowledge. Q: Do they still teach home-ec in schools?

  17. Dani says:

    I’m so impressed. You really brought our attention to the multi-facets of the problems of hunger and poverty. It seems surreal that these conditions can still exist, as well as the lack of clean drinking water in much of the world. I hope that my grandchildren’s generation will find solutions since they are more aware than I was growing up.

    So, drunk gummy bears? Too cute!

  18. TheKitchenWitch says:

    I am giggling at the gummi bear pic! Your love for Jeremy comes out so sweetly this week–you go to such extra lengths to get the man his beloved coffee. Adorable.

  19. Mrs Ergül says:

    When I did not prep much for my lunch, I will do fried rice!! Love its versatility! Great job here Jen!

    hooray to Jeremy who got a little surprise treat from his lovely wife!

  20. jenyu says:

    Thanks, all! I really do appreciate the discussion and thinking that is going on here. You guys are great.

    Tartelette – yeah, you coffee fiends ;) Time to make more fried rice! I’ll have a better recipe up later.

    Kristin – I hear ya. I think awareness (the more, the better) and action. Donations to charities are good, but choose charities that work at fixing the problem, not just putting a temporary band aid on it. What do you think?

    Tawnia – that is AWESOME. Thanks.

    Nate – I loooove okra! Never cooked with it. I need to change that.

    Alissa – you ROCK. I think people who have been on the other side tend to be the most generous when helping others. Good on ya.

    Fiona – she is inspiring, isn’t she?

    Jie – no, I just let it cool on the counter and then dumped it into the pot.

    Erin – :) xxoo

    Suzanne – I don’t know, but I think they should (along with other practical life skills, no?)

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