Another year, another attempt at making a reasonably decent meal from items at the Dollar Tree. This is purely for amusement. It will illustrate though how food deserts can really be hard to create a healthy diet. If I, someone with few food limitations, access to refrigeration and cooking source, struggle, I can't imagine if this store or similar, was all I could access with limited transportation options. My Dollar Tree, while small, had a limited refrigerator and freezer section. That helped with some variety. There's no fresh produce and bread products are hit or miss.
I tried to give myself rules that didn't make this an unchallenge. Using oodles of spices, oils, milk, butter, and other items that are pure ingredients are off limits. The only thing from my own supplies I'd allow is salt and pepper. It's true though, if starting with nothing, these may be nonexistent too.
So here's the thing though, I didn't actually do the challenge. I bought the ingredients as listed, and had ideas. In my head, I changed things up a bit. I shopped an easier route and decided to do a two meal, $10 challenge. This meant I could split some items to both to add more flavor, but add more calories too. However, once I really thought things through, I think I could get three meals made. Here's my shop:
- 6 medium eggs
- John Morrel Sausage
- Pepper, onion blend
- Bisquick mix
- 2 pounds rice
- I pound pinto beans
- Beef broth
- Hunts Pasta sauce, garlic
This is how I might have gone about making them. With helping my daughter with grandpup, working longer logged in hours to ensure I could get my work done with potential extra drive time or dog walking time, I just didn't have the energy to actually produce. I'm using ingredients I bought in other meals. So here's my three ideas.
Meal one: Rice crust quiche, rustic beans, rice pilaf
Mix 1 cup cooked rice with one egg, pat into pie plate, pre bake 10 minutes. Beat the other five eggs. Sauteed 1/3 pepper blend, cool add to eggs and put in crust. Bake at 350° for about 35 minutes until eggs are set.
Add 1/4 cup broth, 1/2 cup pasta sauce, and about 1 1/2 cup cooked beans. Simmer slow until sauce for beans thickens, taste for salt or pepper. Make rice pilaf by browning rice in a few TBLS of broth, add another 1/2 cup of broth, salt and pepper to taste, and 1& 1/2 cup water, cook rice as normal.
Meal Two: Chili pizza
Use biscuit mix to make a pizza crust, reducing the water by 1/3. Spread out on pizza pan or cookie sheet. Take one - 1& 1/2 cup cooked beans, mush them as fine as preferred, then cook adding beef broth to desired consistency, likely 3/4 cup. Spread on pizza crust. Then top with 1/2 the remaining pasta sauce. Saute 1/3 of the pepper blend, with half the sausage sliced in discs, top the pasta sauce. Bake for another 15 minutes, until crust is fully done.
Meal Three: Sausage & Bean soup
Sauteed last of pepper blend with either discs or chunks of remaining sausage, in a soup type pot. Add the remaining broth, pasta sauce, and beans. Add one cup water, and more salt and pepper to taste. This should yield about four hearty cups of soup. Cook 1 cup of rice to two water, with salt to taste. Serve soup in bowls along side or over rice.
There might be many reasons food access is limited. I was going to do this as a challenge, but the challenge was doing the challenge! I'm not happy with calorie or sodium, but using the rice and beans would keep sodium down and bulk up.
I worked with someone who 30 years ago only had a service station credit card and no money until payday. She had to creatively take care of her and her daughters needs for three weeks until her first pay day, shopping at a gas station. She shared how much she hated bananas after that as it was the only fresh fruit or vegetable they carried. When she later bought a manufactured home, she was ecstatic to be able to put in a garden, never forgetting the limitations.
How would you rate my plan? If I got gumption again, should I move forward? Feel free to be brutally honest.