Snickerdoodle Blondies and wrap-up of the Eat On $30 challenge

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It's been a crazy last few weeks work wise and I haven't had time before now to post my thoughts on the Eat On $30 challenge.  

First, here's a breakdown of the final numbers:

Breakdown of costs:

Breakfast: Scrambled free-range eggs, bread, fair trade coffee and local organic milk
Lunch: Homemade pizza with homemade sauce, cheese and turkey sausage
Dinner: French onion soup w/ swiss cheese and bread
Dessert: Snickerdoodle Blondies – 2

Breakfast:
3 Eggs: 57¢
6 tbsp milk: 18¢
3 tbsp coffee: 33¢
Bread: n/a
1 organic local apple: 70¢
TOTAL: $1.78

Lunch:
TOTAL:  $0 because these were leftover from the previous nights dinner

Dinner:
1 pounds onions: 80¢
Organic beef broth: $2.50
8 oz wine: $1.44
Bread: n/a
4 oz Swiss cheese: 56¢
TOTAL:  $5.30 (with leftovers for the next day's lunch)

Dessert:
Snickerdoodle Blondies: 76¢
TOTAL: 76¢

GRAND TOTAL FOR THE DAY: $7.84
TOTAL SPENT FOR ENTIRE CHALLENGE: $54

What are my thoughts on this challenge?  First of all – a reminder.  This is in no way an attempt to mimic the life of anyone on food stamps or on such a limited budget.  There's no way to do that and this challenge was less about stepping into the shoes of someone in that situation and more about bringing attention to the issue of hunger.  I think the challenge was pretty successful in that right.  A lot of bloggers participated and lots of people have expressed interest in doing this challenge the next time it comes around.

With that being said, I guess what it comes down to is that I DID feel like a bit of a fraud doing this challenge.  There's just no way that what I do can mimic what's it's like to have to live with this on a daily basis.  I have way too many resources – too many stores within walking distance, too much cooking equipment, too much knowledge of how to cook and eat healthy – all of these are issues I covered in previous posts.  I'm so relieved to not have to do the endless calculations to see if something was in our budget.  I'm not talking about making sure to stay within a rough amount – I'm talking about the sheets of paper I filled out with the cost per ounce of lots of the foods we eat on a regular basis.  I'm grateful that I can pour a glass of cheap wine and not have to worry about how it will affect our budget.  Like I said, my husband and I are already very frugal out of necessity but I didn't expect how wearing it could be to constantly think about food, down to each and every penny.  I take my dollars seriously but I take those pennies for granted.

What did I learn from this challenge?  I'm already a pretty thrifty person.  We have to be to stay afloat in this economy.  Vegetable odds and ends go into my freezer so I can make vegetable stock.  I do the same with chicken bones and scraps.  I was surprised by the way one ingredient can make the price per serving skyrocket. I love my Penzey's double strength vanilla but I'll be saving it for recipes where the vanilla flavor really stands out.  We do a pretty good job with not letting food go to waste in our house but I'm being even more vigilant about using everything up.  I'm also watching my grocery spending.  I'm not going to break everything down into a price per serving but I am going to keep better track of how much we're spending.  I think a lot of people underestimate how much they spend on groceries – I know I did and I'm going to keep better track of my spending in that area.  I was also amazed by how $60 seemed like such a huge amount in the beginning but when I started adding up the costs, that money flew out of my hands.

What am I going to do differently next time?  I'm going to plan ahead of time so that my fridge doesn't have any leftovers that need to be dealt with.  I want to go into a store with the money I have for the week and buy what I'll need – no borrowing from my pantry and figuring out the cost per ounce.  I've thought about buying a box of food from Angel Food ministries and figuring out how to use that with the addition of a few staples – that would be a challenge because I'd have to come up with a menu based on what I got from there.

I'd also love to get a group of people in East Tennessee to do this challenge with me the next time. I'll post about the next challenge ahead of time and I'd be glad to have a party afterwords at my house.  We could collect food or money for a local food bank in our area.  This time, I'm going to be making a donation of $27.69 to Second Harvest Food Bank – that's the price of one of those Penzey's bottles of Double-Strength vanilla that I've been taking for granted.

I strongly urge you to donate either your money or your time to one of these organizations.  They do a great job helping the working poor in our community :
Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee 
Fish Pantries

I also want to thank Tami of Running with Tweezers for organizing this great challenge.  She was a wonderful cheerleader and I'm grateful for her kind words and encouragement and for all the support I got from fellow participants, other food bloggers and my readers!  You all are awesome!

I'm going to end my posts about this challenge on a sweet note.  I'm a sugar junkie and for the sake of my husband's sanity, I knew I'd have to have some kind of sweet treat while doing this challenge.  Chocolate desserts were out – too pricey and I thought about making an apple crisp.  But then I saw this recipe on my friend Maris's blog and I knew we had a winner.  Snickerdoodles are my husband's favorite cookie of all time.  He's been known to inhale a dozen cookies in less than half an hour and he actually tested several recipes a few years ago to find his "perfect" cookie.  Because these are a bar cookie, they're much easier and while they'll never replace the actual cookie in my husband's heart, we both thought these were fantastic.

Snickerdoodle Blondies (Adapted from In Good Taste and Dozen Flours)

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt 
1 cup packed brown sugar 
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature 
1 egg, at room temperature 
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract 
1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar 
1 1/2 teaspoons & 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, divided

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease an 8×8 inch pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Beat until smooth

Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture and mix until blended.  Don't over mix!  Spread evenly in 8×8 pan.

Combine the 1 1/2 tablespoon of white sugar with the 1 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter.

Bake 25-30 minutes(this is what the original direction called for but ours were done at 23 minutes) or until surface springs back when lightly touched. Cool slightly but cut into bars while it's still warm.

Here is a list of the other wonderful bloggers who participated in this project! If you decide to follow along on Twitter the hashtag is #EatOn30:

6 Comments on Snickerdoodle Blondies and wrap-up of the Eat On $30 challenge

  1. The Frugal Hostess
    November 5, 2009 at 11:00 pm (4 years ago)

    Great post! I decided to do Eat on $30 once a month and give the extra money to Wholesome Wave (they double food stamps at farmers’ markets); next week is my second try. You are so right – the planning is the hardest, most important, and most draining part.
    One question – any idea on the price for the snickerdoodle blondies recipe? I nearly died from lack of sugar last time, so I’m going to try it if it doesn’t rule out my morning coffee. :)

    Reply
  2. TNLocavore
    November 6, 2009 at 11:51 am (4 years ago)

    I think it’s so cool that you’re doing this once a month. When you factor in the expensive vanilla, it comes to $3.03 for an 8×8 pan. If you take out the vanilla – it comes to $2.03. I’d just get a small bottle of artificial vanilla flavoring to use to keep the cost down. I did use Penzey’s cinnamon which is pricier but in this case, I think it’s worth it because cinnamon is the main focus of this.

    Reply
  3. April
    November 11, 2009 at 10:30 am (4 years ago)

    I have been so envious of you while doing this challenge! If you decide to get a group from E TN, I am in! I consider myself to be frugal as well, but when you are really down to the nitty gritty, it brings a whole new meaning! Congrats on completing it!

    Reply
  4. Laura
    November 12, 2009 at 11:11 am (4 years ago)

    I have NOT been envious of you–impressed as hell, yes, but no way envious! :) A long while back, when our finances got tight, we scrapped almost everything else there is (well that’s relative, but compared to many people I know) in an effort to NOT have to worry about the grocery bill. No dinners out, no new clothes, at least not for adults, no pedicures, no almost anything frivolous in order to be able to be frivolous at the grocery store. I spend a lot there and I know it. :o
    I wanted to mention 2 vanilla extract options to you (because I am a recovering Penzey’s double strength– $$$$ yowsers!!!– addict). The first is Costco–if you don’t belong and someone you know does, have them pick it up. It is excellent quality and $7 a big bottle! The second is of course as you mentioned making it–I do both. The best priced organic beans are at The Organic Vanilla Bean Company, or at least they were a few years back. I bought a ton. Hope it’s ok I post a link:
    http://stores.ebay.com/The-Organic-Vanilla-Bean-Company
    Plus then you can experiment with both Tahitian and Bourbon–I make both kinds of extract. Which is fun. But in my opinion, having used Penzey’s, it takes a lot longer and a lot more beans than people claim–I like my vanilla super strong. Which is why I use Costco also.

    Reply
  5. TNLocavore
    November 12, 2009 at 2:33 pm (4 years ago)

    April – when we do this challenge again, I’ll be sure to let you know. And I’m definitely going to have a party when we get finished!

    Reply
  6. TNLocavore
    November 12, 2009 at 2:35 pm (4 years ago)

    Laura – I’m pretty sure that they use tons of vanilla beans in the Penzeys vanilla. I’m going to keep using it but only in recipes where it can really shine. I would love it if Costco came to Knoxville but they do have one in Nashville. I may have to pick some up. I want to try making the vanilla just so I can say I’ve made it so thank you for the link!

    Reply

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