…in a good way!
I noticed earlier this year that a Lidl store was “under construction” on their store-finder 0.7 miles from my house. I’ve been checking the site every couple of weeks since then and it finally showed as open when I looked today, so I eagerly trotted over to check it out.
I found a few good bits and bobs. I got a can of coconut milk that is actually mostly coconut (rather than 48% plus thickeners and water, like some I have seen) for 79p, 4 big bulbs of garlic for 89p and some cashew nuts at £1.49 for 200g (so just under 75p per 100g). They also had some of the lowest prices I’d seen for a few staples I didn’t buy at this time but wanted to note for future reference. I didn’t buy the oats pictured above, but in a real penny-watching situation the information that 500g bags are available for 39p is useful. These packets didn’t say what country the oats are from that I could see, but I did find some Scottish porridge oats at 99p for 1kg, which is also a pretty good price. Other highlights included big jars of gherkins for 65p (I’ve had them before and they’re really nice, and the jars are a good size for re-using), and 1kg sugar for 49p, which is the lowest price I’ve seen sugar for quite a while (EDIT: I’ve since been to Aldi, who are also selling sugar for 49p and theirs is produced in the UK, a bonus for my next challenge which is going to be a local eating one).
Lidl is good in marking a lot of their own brand stuff suitable for vegans, even if you have to take a magnifying glass to the label to spot it sometimes, so that’s another plus for them. They also had a not-too-bad selection of Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance certified goods and one or two organic items as well.
I’m pleased to add this option to the already wide choice of supermarkets nearby, especially as it means I can now walk there then wander around for hours on my own, price-checking stuff and peering at labels and telling passers by that this is a great price (yes, I did that to some poor man nearby when I spotted the oats today!), rather than having to con someone into giving me a lift and then trying their patience so they eventually resort to “herding” me towards the tills!
So, how did I enjoy my first day of unfettered spending in two months, I hear you ask? Well, I liked it very much!
The day began with a final weigh-in for the 20lb challenge I’ve been taking part in, and I was relieved to see I was still okay, and will not have to pay £100 forfeit.
I also received a lovely surprise Advent House from B yesterday, and he brought it over this morning. Apologies for the terrible picture quality, but hopefully you can still make out how cute this is!
Perhaps you can see a hint of gold on the left? It’s a chocolate egg filled with fondant that wouldn’t fit in the day 1 cubbyhole!
Then we headed off to Oadby for some grocery shopping. I had earmarked some chocolate-hazelnut spread in Asda as a potential post-challenge treat on my previous visit, so we headed there first. I picked up some mushrooms and peppers (more expensive veg by weight so I haven’t bought in a while, apart from the bargain bowl of peppers from the market) and then made a beeline for the allergy section and popped a jar of spread in my basket. Then I put it back on the shelf. I do still have chocolate-christmas-pudding-with-nuts to eat and actually the thought of eating that spread just didn’t appeal for some reason after all.
After Asda we went to Waitrose, where as luck would have it they were reducing the price on loads of lovely veg! I got organic potatoes, carrots, a big coriander plant, broccoli and ginger, as well as some baked beans and a loaf of bread, spending just over ten pounds in total. I also picked up a membership card and got given a free newspaper as I’d spent over five pounds. The membership cards will also get you free coffee in their coffee shops, so it’s worth getting one if you have a store nearby.
Then we went to Shivalli (South Indian vegetarian restaurant) for the Sunday buffet and I got my deep fried food! I was hoping they would have the spicy gram-flour coated chips they sometimes make, but it was not to be, however the lentil doughnuts, battered aubergines, dosas and puris, with chickpea, potato and spinach curries were all excellent, though we found we couldn’t cram as much in as we used to be able to pre-diet.
We went back to B’s to decorate his Christmas tree, then had a quick look round the Queens Road Christmas Fair, which seemed to be buzzing. I came home and made vegetables in a nutty, garlicky sauce and mustard mashed potatoes for dinner, and am now comfortably full.
People commented yesterday that they’d be interested in a round-up from my challenges, and any tips. I’m not sure I have anything really to add to what I’ve mentioned going along, though. Although it’s not always been enjoyable it’s been useful to limit my spending like this to force me to use up my cupboards, limit food waste and make me appreciate and get creative with what I have. This isn’t the first spending challenge I’ve undertaken (I went over the limit with the first one as the timing was terrible! It was during a month I was at the Edinburgh Festival), but it’s been the most necessary one in terms of my finances, and I think that gave me extra motivation, and committing myself to blogging regularly helped too, because if there was something a bit extravagant in the shops the thought of having to justify the purchase in writing was an excellent check!
Edited to add: one thing I didn’t mention explicitly before, although it’s probably obvious from the first picture for each month, is that I withdrew all the money for the month at the beginning. I put most of it in a wallet which I wrote the name of the challenge on, and tried to keep fairly close to the daily maximum spend in my everyday wallet. I found this helpful as I didn’t have to keep going to the bank or using my debit card, both of which might have tempted me to get out and spend more money.
I cracked last night! Spend so far now at £4.45, because I was going a bit stir crazy not being able to get out of the house apart from work or other people’s houses.
B and I took a scrabble board to the Swan and Rushes pub, and I bought a bottle of Dunkerton’s Black Fox cider for £3.70 (I also ordered a pint of water alongside to make it last longer) and a grab-bag of Walkers ready-salted crisps at 75p. The latter was because I foolishly decided to go out before eating, and only realised how hungry I was once we were there.
It’s a good wheeze to take games to the pub, though. Haven’t done that for ages. While I was winning at Scrabble (right up to the final word, where the tables suddenly turned. Grrr!) a group came along with folky instruments such as a squeezebox and tin whisle and a fiddle and started having a play. After a few instrumentals I asked if they could play something to sing along to. Being good sports, two of them launched into ‘cockles and mussels’, so it was a proper old fashioned pub sing-along for a few minutes.
Today I’ve finally opened up one of the butternut squashes, and made a sort of curry with some of that, some of the cabbage I still had left, in a sauce made from leftovers, the ever-present chickpeas, and a blob of peanut butter, served over some brown rice I’d found lurking in the freezer. Pretty good, as it turns out. I’m missing things like peppers and mushrooms but I’m still eating pretty well in spite of a dearth of the higher-priced veg.
Sorry to say that I was slightly at a loss for a Wednesday theme, so this is just what I had for lunch. It also doesn’t really fit into my overall frugal, locally gathered theme as one of the ingredients is red quinoa, however I did buy the quinoa at my local independent wholefoods co-op, so that’s… erm… B+ for effort?
– runner beans from the garden of one of the managers in my team. Free produce is always a good start to a day.
Some I ate last night, sliced and added to leftover cauliflower curry, and I’ve added some more to today’s lunch, which is a warm variation of a salad I make regularly.
Warm Courgette and Quinoa Salad
Red quinoa, cooked – approx 2/3 cup
A small-medium onion, chopped
Runner beans, sliced (a small handful, say 6-7).
1 tsp cooking oil (olive was the closest to hand so I used that)
A medium sized courgette, grated
A yellow pepper, chopped
(grated carrot and/or beetroot are really nice additions to these kinds of salads as well. A bit of lettuce doesn’t go amiss either)
Garlic, 2 cloves, or to taste
Root ginger, grated, about a heaped teaspoon.
Cayenne pepper (couple of shakes)
Marinaded tofu (optional)
Some nice fresh tomatoes
Hot sauce, a few shakes
(Some mustard would have been nice in the dressing too. And some sesame oil if you’re not going to add the tofu).
Cook quinoa in double the volume of water in a saucepan (I cooked a cupful of dry quinoa so I would have leftovers for something else). Bring to the boil then simmer with saucepan lid on for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and leave in the pan while finishing preparing the veg.
While quinoa is cooking, in a smaller pan, fry up the onion for a couple of minutes, add the chopped beans and a sliced clove of garlic and a pinch of salt and fry for a couple more minutes. Add about a tablespoon of water and cook for about 5 more minutes, just to soften up the beans. Turn off heat and leave in pan.
Make dressing from juice of half a lemon, a crushed/grated clove of garlic, finely grated ginger, pinch of salt, a little cayenne (about 1/8 tsp, maybe?). Pour over the bean/onion mix in the pan and stir it up.
Grate the courgette and put it in a medium mixing-sized bowl. Add in the chopped pepper, then add the bean mix and some quinoa – I added about 2/3 cup, cooked.
I had some firm tofu in the fridge I’d previously marinaded in more lemon juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, a dash of maple syrup, fresh grated garlic and root ginger and a pinch of dried 5-spice mix, so I thought I may as well have some of that as well, and it was finished off with a few ripe cherry tomatoes.
I tasted this, thought it could do with some hot sauce, which I added. Then I scoffed the lot!
Sorry if this isn’t very useful because the recipe is a bit vague. I really wanted to get a courgette salad into my MoFo though, as I’ve been enjoying variations enormously during the season, while they’ve been arriving regularly in my (now sadly defunct) weekly veg-bag delivery. Grated courgette makes such a nice, light base for a salad and because it doesn’t really taste of much is the perfect foil for loads of other ingredients. It’s also surprisingly full of vitamins. This is the first time I’ve added in quinoa, and obviously that and the tofu ramp up the protein, but without either of those, the courgette salad still makes a lovely accompaniment to a meal.
Oh, and I suppose there was an element of frugality because I saved heat cooking more quinoa than I needed. If you have any suggestions for cold quinoa please comment and let me know!