Walking a Mile in Their Moccasins


Could you eat on $30 a week? That is about the amount of money the average food stamp recipient receives.

That is what CNN producer, Sheila Steffen, wanted to find out since this is reality for 40 million Americans during this recession. She has been reporting on her experiences all this week on the CNN morning show American Morning.

An on-line CNN blog post relates her thoughts on her grocery shopping trip. You can read it by clicking the following link, Could You Eat?  It was hard. Very hard. She could not afford to purchase the number of fruits and vegetables she usually buys and eats every week.


Even before she begins shopping she knows straight off she will not be able to afford Starbucks, cannot afford vending machine snacks at work, no dining out, and no glass of wine this week.



The glass of wine comment struck me simply because San Francisco Chef Karl Wilder tried the exact same experiment about a month ago. He said that what he missed most was not being to afford wine on his food stamp budget.

He also said he could not afford to eat as many, nor as wide a variety of fruits and vegetables as he was used to either. You can read the article about Chef Wilder by clicking the following link: Living On Food Stamps.

CNN’s Sheila Steffen also noted she would no longer be able to afford the salads she usually brought to work. She also realized that meat and fish were not going to be on her menu for the entire week.

“I feel totally constricted; not free to eat the way I want or buy what I want. I cannot afford that freedom,“ she said.

Chef Wilder said his experience showed him, “How lucky I am…….”

Featured Recipe                    Rice Pilaf

As promised on Monday today I am going to share with you a basic rice pilaf recipe to show you how you can save money. The boxed rice I used last Monday in Lemon Caper Chicken and Rice Casserole cost $5.59. I can cut that down byalmost half, lowering the the total cost to around $3.00, and the per person cost to less than $1.00.

I am also going to share half a dozen or more VARIATIONS of this basic recipe.

This is what you will need for 4 people:

1 cup long grain white or brown rice

2 cup of chicken broth or stock*

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons shallots or onions

NOTE: * 1 can normally holds 14 ounces, 2 ounces shy of 2 cups. I do not open another can to get two ounces for the simple reason 14 ounces does very nicely, thank you very much. This also keeps the rice from getting overly mushy and keeps the rice nice and firm, which is a good thing when making pilaf.


1-2 teaspoons saffron

Here is what you do:

The secret to a great rice pilaf  is to heat the chicken broth or stock. So heat your broth or stock over medium low heat.

While the broth is heating, dice the shallots or onions.

Over low heat melt the butter in a large pot, VARIATION #1: I add some saffron threads. Sauté for 1 minute.

Then add the diced shallot or onion. Sauté another 1-2 minutes.

Add the rice. VARIATION #1: I add a bit more saffron. I really love saffron. Stir and sauté until rice becomes golden.

NOTE: If you do not use saffron your rice may not be as golden or yellow as mine. Saffron makes the rice a lovely shade of yellow.

When the rice is golden add the warm broth VARIATION #1: I add a bit more saffron at this point too. Stir and heat the broth to boiling.

Cover, lower the heat to lowest setting and cook 15-20 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed.

Minus my #VARIATION # 1, this is a basic rice pilaf recipe.

Serve warm.


2. Use beef or vegetable broth or stock instead of chicken.

3. Use brown rice instead of white.

To the cooked rice add:

4. Add some sliced green onions. Or parsley. Or mint.

5. Add fresh or frozen French sliced green beans and sliced almonds. Heat a minute or two.

6. Add chopped green chilies and a sprinkle or two of cumin and/or coriander.

7. If using brown rice add some soy sauce, thinly sliced green onions, and some sesame seeds. Or add some Toasted Sesame Seed Oil to the rice. [Yum-Yum]

8. While rice is cooking sauté some mushrooms of your choice and add to the cooked rice.

9. For a Middle Eastern taste add some toasted almonds or pine nuts and some raisins. Add a dash of cinnamon too.

10. Add some fresh or frozen peas with some more butter. Heat till warm.

11. Substitute ¼ cup of orange juice for part of the stock. Stir some orange zest into the cooked rice as well. Serve with slices of orange on the side.

12. Add some curry powder or curry paste of your choice to the finished rice.

These ideas should get you started.

What variations can you come up with? Leave your variation(s) in the Comments section below.

Bon appétit!!! 


1 cup long grain white           $0.51  

2 cup of chicken broth           $0.99

2 tablespoons butter             $0.28

 2 tablespoons shallots          $0.58

Total cost = $2.36
Cost per person = $0.59

VARIATION # 1 Saffron

Saffron  = $1.15

Total cost = $3.51

Cost per person = $0.88


Now compare these costs with the outrageous cost of $5.59 for the boxed rice in Monday’s recipe. By making your own rice pilaf you would save $3.23 for plain pilaf or $2.08 for Saffron Rice Pilaf.

And it would not take that much extra added time to make your own pilaf. Maybe 5 minutes.; 10 at most.

Quote of the Day

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

Spoken by Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird,  Harper Lee, Author


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1 comment to Walking a Mile in Their Moccasins

  • Great article Roberta. Between you and me, ever since I became disabled I have lived on food stamps. right now I get 48 a week.Luckily my mother taught me how to eat frugally and the fact that I garden.