Mini Budget in Manhattan: An Experiment in Eating on $50/Mo. โ€“ Day 30

Day 30 – 9/30/15 It’s going to take me a few full days to sum up my experience over the course of this month, but I DID IT! I feel like Reese Witherspoon at the end of Legally Blonde, #winning against all odds. I actually managed to feed myself on $50 for the entire month in Manhattan! Here is a list of thank yous, the Tonight Show style. Thank you to the supermarkets, restaurants, and chocolate shops that offered free samples. Thank you to the fast-casual restaurants that offered freebies for downloading their app. Thank you to my family and friends who were super supportive through this entire process. Thanks you to coffee and tea for keeping my energy up. Thank you, most of all, to everyone who has donated to our fundraiser. We raised $800 to date!ย  Some Q&As: Q: What happens now? This weekend and the upcoming weeks will be full of recipe writing, recipe testing, and food photography. I’ll also write a more comprehensive summary of the Mini Budget in Manhattan challenge. It won’t be radio silence from me! Q: What are you going to eat as your first “normal” meal back? Honestly, I don’t think my diet will change so drastically. I have gotten used to bringing lunch to work, and my bank account has enjoyed a healthy growth from cooking so much. Breakfast tomorrow will probably be fried eggs. However, I AM planning on going to an AYCE hotpot tomorrow night ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ Q: Will there be more budget recipes? Yes, the (no-longer Bicoastal) Cooks are working diligently to create a recipe book...

Mini Budget in Manhattan: An Experiment in Eating on $50/Mo. โ€“ Day 29

Day 29 – 9/29/15 I’m finishing up the contents of my freezer as I daydream about what to eat when the challenge is over. I haven’t missed the things I thought I’d miss, like pizza, steak, or dessert. What I have missed are flavors. I miss spicy foods and seasonings like cumin or dried red pepper or paprika or jalapenos or garam masala. I get really jealous of my coworkers when they have soup for lunch – especially if it’s a hearty fall favorite, like chili, or Italian wedding soup, basically anything with tomato and beans and lots and lots of spices.ย I can smell their soup from across the room. I miss limes and cayenne. I miss stinky cheese. I miss shrimp. I would like some Asian pickles. I can use some nachos and cheese the really fake kind of fluorescent yellow cheese you get at baseball stadiums. I miss dumplings! I’ve pushed these thoughts away for so long, and now that the end is near, they have come back to haunt me with a vengeance. And I don’t think I can make them go away by snacking on raw cabbage anymore. Also, I’ve been shopping around to see what $0.32 will buy me in terms of food, and I haven’t found anything besides Trader Joe’s banana (19c/each). What happened to the days of 5c Bazooka? Any ideas on how I can splurrrrrge? Daily Meals/Costs: Congee (็šฎ่›‹็ฒฅ)ย โ€“ $0.28 2 x Borscht with rice- $1.44 Cabbage garlic braise with rice – $0.28 Total: $2.00 If you think what we are doing is interesting, impactful, or maybe kind of insane, please...
Mini Budget in Manhattan: An Experiment in Eating on $50/Mo. โ€“ Day 28

Mini Budget in Manhattan: An Experiment in Eating on $50/Mo. โ€“ Day 28

Table of Contents: 9/30/15 – Day 30 9/29/15 – Day 29 Day 26 – 9/26/15 Two more days! I’m counting down the hours until I can eat like cookie monster. For now, my diet is limited to rice, and whatever is leftover in my fridge and freezer. I had a ton of borscht left over, which I’ve portioned out into tupperware along with rice. I’ll be having borscht and rice for lunch and dinner for tomorrow, and borscht+rice for lunch Wednesday, followed by Coke Chicken+rice for dinner Wednesday. Breakfast is congee for both days, supplemented with foraged burdock. When I got home today I really wanted a snack. The rice was cooking in the rice cooker, which takes ~20 minutes, andย I was really hungry! Starving and desperate, I attacked what was left of the raw cabbage in my fridge. The raw cabbage tastes a lot like Bai Cai (which Wikipedia calls Napa Cabbage and I have never heard it being referred to this way). Growing up, raw Bai Cai was a perfectly awesome crunchy snack, and healthy to boot! I wish more veggies would become common place snacks. I think I would gather some strange looks if I brought chopped up raw Bai Cai to the office, but is it really different from a sliced bell pepper? Or some julienned carrots? TL;DR – I snacked on raw cabbage; it was good. Daily Meals/Costs: Congee (็šฎ่›‹็ฒฅ)ย โ€“ $0.28 Banana – $0.19 2 x Borscht with rice- $1.44 (I’m getting a lot of calories via rice ๐Ÿ™‚ ) Total: $1.91 If you think what we are doing is interesting, impactful, or maybe...
Mini Budget in Manhattan: An Experiment in Eating on $50/Mo. โ€“ Day 27

Mini Budget in Manhattan: An Experiment in Eating on $50/Mo. โ€“ Day 27

Table of Contents: 9/29/15 – Day 29 9/28/15 – Day 28 Day 27 – 9/27/15 Three days left until the end of my Mini Budget in Manhattan challenge! I was super productive today, woke up early, and cooked up all the the goodies from foraging in Central Park. Some highlights: Burdock: How to cook Burdock roots: parboil, peel, and chop the roots up matchstick style. Simmered in water, soy sauce, and sugar. These came up super delicious – savory and sweet with tons of umami. It tastes just like the burdock you get as a side dish at upscale Japanese and Korean restaurants. This would be great to eat with a bowl of plain congee! Purslane: I had low hopes for the scrubby little Purslane when I was foraging, but little did I know it would turn out so amazing. The leaves and stems were juicy and meaty, absorbing much flavor and maintaining great texture. This vegetable can really hold up to a mean braise and maintained great color. I would buy this if it’s in a supermarket! For simplicity’s sake, I decided to sautee all of the green vegetables together since there was only a little of each. I heated up some canola oil and fried up some garlic, and added the greens in order of my best guess at cooking time as well as some soysauce for flavor. Well, some of these vegetables could not handle heat at all! The Curly Dock shriveled into lemony brown messes. The Wild Lettuce was only slightly better. The Lamb’s Quarters was pretty good, and tasted like spinach. The Epazote flavor...
Mini Budget in Manhattan: An Experiment in Eating on $50/Mo. โ€“ Day 26

Mini Budget in Manhattan: An Experiment in Eating on $50/Mo. โ€“ Day 26

Table of Contents: 9/29/15 – Day 29 9/28/15 – Day 28 9/27/15 – Day 27 Day 26 – 9/26/15 Today, I got up early and made my way to Central Park, sun hat, shovel, and tupperware in tow. I signed up for a tour led by Wildman Steve Brill to forage for wild edibles! Foraging is not a common practice in the United States, and especially rare in Manhattan (blame the “Concrete Jungle” moniker). But growing up, foraging was not only normal, it was fun! I grew up in a medium-sized city in China. Though we didn’t forage often, each spring, my grandparents would bring home bundles of young dandelion leaves, foraged from a nearby park ย or schoolyard. We’d blanch the bitter green leaves and eat them with jiang. Dandelion is supposedly good for cleansing the body and reducing the inflammation. But as a kid, I just thought of it as a yucky vegetable. Back to present day, I was really excited to harvest some greens right from Manhattan’s own backyard. Steve was fantastic and amazingly knowledgeable about botany. Our tour group of twenty or so trekked our way through grassy fields, drier dirt patches, and woodlands. For three hours, Steve taught us how to identify, harvest, and cook wild edibles. Our lucky finds today include but are not limited to: Wood Sorrel – heart-shaped clovers that taste like lemonade Common Plantain – edible seeds and leaves, but not amazingly delish (not pictured) Burdock – Root vegetable commonly used in Japanese cuisine (not pictured) Tupelo Berries – Little blue-black berries that grow on trees, tart! Epazote – “Mexican Oregano”...
Mini Budget in Manhattan: An Experiment in Eating on $50/Mo. โ€“ Day 25

Mini Budget in Manhattan: An Experiment in Eating on $50/Mo. โ€“ Day 25

Table of Contents: 9/27/15 – Day 27 9/26/15 – Day 26 Day 25 – 9/25/15 Happy Friday! Today, I went to a happy hour with my lovely coworkers, who were amazing and supportive and kind enough to offer to pay for my drinks! The waitress ended up splitting our checks evenly by mistake, so I did pay for my own drinks. But the “pay you back for drinks” rule was silly, and silly rules are made to be broken. Anyways, 3 drinks later…here I am, almost too inebriated to update everyone on my day and thankful for/bloated on the extra calories. I was concerned about getting enough food in my stomach to counter the alcohol at happy hour, and I didn’t think the potatoes strings from lunch were going to hold up. Carbs digest way fast. But it ended up all being okay. Back at home in a tipsy haze, I ended up cooking up another batch of borscht. Other people get the drunchies, but I have a even more advanced form of the drunchies called the cook-ies (does that work?). I seem to cook most of the times I get home from drinking. I make wonders with potatoes and flour and eggs. My creations range from a simple packet of ramen, to the complex brownies and channa masala (not at the same time). It’s probably slightly dangerous to be around sharp objects and fire in this state now that I think about it. I took stock of the fridge again tonight. Turns out I forgot to account for the last two days in September (Silly me assumed 4*7=28...