5-spice lentils topped with balsamic vegetables

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.

bowl full of lentils topped with vegetables

November ninety – day twenty-six

Tired today. My neighbours have a malfunctioning burglar alarm that has been erupting into unpredictable whoop-whoops for the past few days (and nights), sometimes every half hour or so. I do have earplugs, but they don’t completely cut the sound out, and the noise makes me jump sometimes because it’s so random.

As well as being near the end of the November ninety challenge, I’m also on the final stretch of the 20lb weight loss challenge I started with B back in June. I was at the goal weight and then suddenly put on 3lb for no apparent reason, so I went out and bought Ryvitas and fruit for brunch today to help with the final kick. £2.52 spent on those to bring the month’s spend to £72.50 (target for day 26 is up to £78). Four more days! I am going to celebrate December 1st with fried potatoes!

Dinner tonight was pea soup. The value frozen peas I bought a while back have lasted well, mainly because they’re not as nice as the regular peas I usually get. Another lesson learned. It’s not a very good saving if you’re reluctant to eat the product instead of deriving pleasure from eating it!

£100 challenge – day fourteen

Beware the banana! Or rather, beware freezing bananas in value-range freezer bags, and freezing savoury pasties near them. My mushroom pasties, which I made last month and froze most of, seemed a perfect idea to quickly shove in the oven when I came home very hungry from work, having not taken any breakfast with me apart from a few dried apricots. Alas! They are now mushroom-and-banana flavour.

To go with the pasties, I have frozen peas which I heated up with leftover quinoa and some of my last jar of mushroom risotto sauce. The sauce was from Sainsbury’s, I bought 4 jars when they were reduced from about £1.60 right down to 25p, presumably because nobody in their right mind would pay over £1.50 for a 200g jar of sauce. However, they were pretty good value at 25p, I wish I’d cleared the shelves of them now, instead of just buying 4 jars. 🙂

No money spent today. I’m off later to do a couple of hours extra work and then tomorrow I have extra too, so that’s nice. November is starting to look slightly less sparse on the pay front!

(I ate yesterday’s beans last night, and I’m saving the calabrese for tonight, in case you’re wondering why I’m eating frozen stuff.)

£100 challenge – day ten

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.

White bowl containing white rice noodles and a mix of vegetables. Cabbage, peas and carrots are visible, coated in a small amount of orange coloured sauce.

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.