I thought it’d be a good idea to prep a lot of my food, so it’s ready to portion out as needed over the week.
I’m going to cook all of the split peas in one go after soaking them (which is happening right now), then turn half of them into soup (with tomato purée and carrots) and the other half into a hummus-type dip flavoured with mustard and pickled onion. The packets always say “no need to soak” or something similar, but then tell you they’ll take 45 minutes to cook. Well, they won’t take that long if they’re soaked, so you don’t have to steam your windows up as much or spend so much money on fuel if you can just spare a few hours to soak the dried peas in some water. I’m also going to combine soaking with my other favourite way of saving money, which is to bring them to the boil for a few minutes and then turn the heat off and leave them to finish cooking with a lid on in the residual heat. Works like a charm!
I’ve already trialled the following coleslaw recipe a couple of weeks back, except I used spirit vinegar because I’d not yet bought the pickled onions. I’m tempted to chop some onions into the slaw as well, but I might see how many I need to use elsewhere before I do that, as I don’t want to run out of one of my few strongly-flavoured ingredients.
Red cabbage slaw with peanut-butter mustard dressing:
550g grated red cabbage(19.5p)
150g grated carrot (8.1p)
2 Tablespoons (60g) chunky peanut butter (10.9p)
1 Tablespoon (15g) everyday value mustard (2p)
2 Tablespoons pickling liquid from a jar of pickled onions (2p)
1 Tablespoon water.
Put the cabbage and carrot into a storage container, mix the rest of the ingredients together in a small bowl then add to the veg and mix well. You could add another spoonful of water to the dressing bowl and use that to eke out the remains of the dressing and pour that over as well, as it’s quite thick and difficult to scrape out. Store in fridge. Leave flavours to meld for at least an hour before tasting for seasoning. Add more mustard/vinegar or a dash of salt if needed.
This is going to give me 5 servings of approximately 140g at a cost of 8.5p each, and it’ll go a long way to covering my vitamin C and A needs (I would say it’ll cover them entirely, but I’m not sure how much loss will occur over the days it’ll sit in the fridge).
Back from my journey to Aldi, followed by a walk into the city centre. The good news: I got a 1.27kg red cabbage (grown in the UK) for 45p! This is by far the cheapest I’ve seen red cabbage in a supermarket, they’re usually about 80p a kilo. The bad news was that there were no fresh potatoes available for less than £1. They had 500g bags of carrots for 27p, and I decided to buy one of those instead of a 1kg bag for 49p, even though it works out at 5p more a kilo, because I think 100g of carrots a day will probably be sufficient and it gave me a bit of extra cash to play with.
I left Aldi and walked into town via the medium-sized Sainsbury’s on Humberstone Gate. I was hoping for better potato luck there, but the only loose ones they had were bakers for £1.25 per kilo, so I didn’t get any, but what I did get was a special offer tin of tomato purée for 20p, which I think is going to make my split peas taste a whole lot better, so I’m really pleased with that! That means I have £1.17 left to spend.
I also dropped by one of the Tesco Express shops in town. They didn’t have any usefully-priced potatoes either, but what they did have (although I didn’t buy them) were 500g bags of oats for 68p:
Now, you can get 1kg bags of oats for 75p in Morrisons, larger Tesco stores and Aldi (they didn’t have any today though), so these aren’t the best value around, but if I end up being desperate for oats with less than 75p left it’s worth knowing about them, as until now I thought 75p was the lowest price available for oats.
If I were asked to give my top five tips on frugal living, they would definitely include one on onions. If you can get hold of a catering size bag of onions, they seem to be about half the price of smaller packs, they keep well and they form the base of savoury meals from all over the world. Having large sacks of red and brown onions available to me means I’ve never been at a loss for how to start a meal throughout these challenges. Chop up an onion or two and take it from there!
Earlier today I fried up about 2/3 cup of chopped red onion in a large saucepan, threw in some salt, five-spice powder and about a cup of red lentils, covered with water and boiled them for a few minutes, then put the lid on and left them for a couple of hours while I thought about what to have with them or add to the pot. I remembered still having half a red cabbage and a couple of carrots left, so I fried up another red onion in a different pan, added strips sliced from half a carrot and about a quarter of the cabbage, a glug of balsamic vinegar and some soya sauce and a few frozen peas for the heck of it. It’s not meant to be any particular style of food, but I really thought the whole lot came together very well, and I feel like it probably contained a few vitamins. It’s a pity I didn’t do this while it was still daylight as the colours came out very pretty, my phone cam under artificial light doesn’t really do them justice.
After worrying about how I was going to get out to dinner, I ended up getting lifts both ways, so didn’t spend any money yesterday at all. I do owe those friends a lot of dinners by now, though!
Today’s weather is damp and dreary. After work this morning I was happy enough to hurry home, so no temptation to go to the shops. I’m wearing two jumpers but my hands and the tip of my nose were getting cold so I’ve momentarily succumbed to putting the central heating on. Good job that’s not part of the challenge pot.
To counteract the cold I made a quick and simple stew including the last of my potatoes which were just beginning to sprout but fortunately hadn’t gone green, with a side of quinoa and some spicy croutons on top.
Potato, carrot and cabbage stew (3-4 servings?)
- 1 medium onion, chopped medium-fine
- 1 tsp cooking oil
- 2 medium carrots, cut into chunks
- 3 smallish potatoes, cut into chunks
- few leaves of cabbage (maybe 100g), sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- Bouillon powder to taste (start with a teaspoon, I probably added more like 2-3)
Fry the onion in the oil in a medium-sized saucepan on a medium heat until starting to soften and brown, add the bouillon powder, carrots, potatoes and top up with water to cover. Turn up heat until simmering, then add the cabbage and cook until that’s done to your liking and the potatoes are cooked. Turn off the heat and add in the garlic (I like to find a balance between stinking of raw garlic, but still being able to taste it, and I find if the garlic gets added earlier it’s not very noticeable, but the residual heat takes the raw edge off. I am pretty garlic-immune these days though!)
I cut up the last bread roll from the batch I baked a few days ago to make croutons, which I fried in a small amount of olive oil, with a sprinkle of salt, smoked paprika and cayenne. This is my new favourite way of using up bread. Strictly speaking the stew hardly has enough liquid to count as a stew, and the croutons rested on a big pile of veg rather than soaking up the liquor, but they added a pleasing contrast in terms of both crunch and flavour. The quinoa was another great addition to make the whole dish a bit more hearty.
I also have bonus croutons left to snack on!
No money spent so far, so the current total spend for this month is still under £19, however all that could change this evening, as some friends have offered to cook dinner, but they’re quite a way from my house. I might just about manage a walk there, but not back as well, so that means either trying to get a lift (still waiting to hear from a friend who has also been invited), or getting a taxi. If I have to get a taxi both ways that’s at least a tenner gone. That’s for one evening out.
…having just typed all that out, my boyfriend has now sent me a text message to say that if I don’t hear from our friend then he will drive. The problem above has been stressing me out for a good couple of hours though. It can be pretty isolating to be on a very tight budget!
I did at least have a very pleasant lunch of carrots, savoy cabbage, onion and peas in a spicy carrot and peanut sauce with some rice noodles.
I fried up an onion in a medium sized saucepan, added a sliced up carrot, and a handful of frozen peas for extra texture and protein, then some sliced up leaves of the cabbage I bought yesterday. Added a sprinkle of salt, some five spice powder, and a little bit of bouillon powder for good measure, then poured over some sauce.
As a lazy so-and-so, I make most of my sauces by shoving ingredients into the Vitamix. That means I don’t have to bother peeling garlic, as the Vitamix just pulverizes everything into a smooth texture. This sauce contained 3 small cloves of garlic, half a red chilli (still working through the ones I got given), a carrot, a handful of peanuts, a knob of root ginger and a slosh of soya milk for added vitamins (I get Basics longlife soya milk, which is fortified with calcium, B12 and I think one or two other things).
While I was waiting for the sauce to heat through and the carrots to finish cooking I bunged some rice noodles in a pan. I bought a bulk pack of noodles from one of the local Chinese shops, and they only take 3 minutes so they’re great if you forget that you actually have quinoa you could have made in only 15 minutes, if only you’d thought of it until just before the rest of your meal was ready!
I had half a lemon leftover from yesterday’s overnight oats so I squeezed some of that over my bowl of food. It was pretty good, and I was glad to be eating fresh veg. I miss soya sauce though. I’m going to have to pony up for some of that stuff.
I worked most of yesterday and spent no money. Nothing of interest to report (apart from that I worked at three different sites!) so I didn’t bother doing an update.
This afternoon I tried making pikelets.
Actually, I was going to make crumpets, but apparently I don’t have any suitable metal rings. Now I think about it, I believe the rings I was looking for this afternoon actually went all rusty and horrible and had to be thrown away some years ago!
I didn’t really follow a recipe, just cobbled something together. About 250g flour, a teaspoonful of yeast, a spoonful of sugar and a pinch of salt, with enough warm water to make a pancake-type batter. Left it to rise for an hour and came back to very active-looking batter.
I have a tiny frying pan, so anything like this has to be done in small batches. I made about 4 pikelets, then got bored, so turned the remaining batter into apple bread, adding in some grated apple (the massive bag of apples I was given is still half full!), molasses, cinnamon and nutmeg and more sugar, then some wholemeal flour to absorb the extra liquid from the apples. The result was okay for a make-up, although it could have done with extra sugar and spice. B and I ate about half of it while watching the Great British Bake Off.
I’ve been out of green vegetables for a few days now unless you count peas, so after watching Bake Off we went to Morrison’s and I bought:
1 bag of carrots, 600g, organic – 82p. They were 90p a kilo for the non-organic ones but I don’t get through carrots that quickly so 600g was a better choice. While carrots aren’t on the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen of conventionally grown produce, they’re not on the clean fifteen either (see here for the full list of produce they tested. They’re based in the USA but they did test both domestic and imported goods. I don’t completely avoid standard produce, but I do bear the list in mind where practical).
1 savoy cabbage – 80p – the cabbage weighed over a kilo, whereas broccoli was £2 a kilo. I know broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse so I’m going to investigate the relative merits in nutrient density between the two, and weigh those against the cost difference.
1 garlic bulb – 25p
This brings the total spent today to £1.87, and the total spent for the challenge so far is £18.62.