Day two – lunch

Yesterday I opened my little tin of tomato purée. You can’t keep food in the tin once it’s open (not sure why, but I know it’s a bad idea!) so I set about decanting the rest of it after I’d used a spoonful for my soup. I thought it would fit into a handy small glass jar I’d saved from something else but it turned out there was about a tablespoon left over in the can that wouldn’t fit, so I thought I’d see if it made a difference to some quick-bread.

I filled the purée can almost to the top with water and stirred so the leftover tomato paste reconstituted nicely and then added that to 100g SR flour and about 1/8 teaspoon salt. Turns out there was too much liquid  so had to add another 50g or so of flour to make a rollable dough. I rolled it out to a couple of cm thick and baked it in a hottish oven (around 200 degrees) for about 18 minutes. I had a chunk for breakfast but about 2/3 went towards my lunch:

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I was quite pleased with this, it reminded me of a ploughman’s lunch. The tomato flavour is quite subtle, but it makes the bread a lot tastier, and to go with the bread I have red-cabbage slaw, dandelion leaves, a mustardy split-pea dip/spread (cooked split peas with pickle liquid, mustard, pinch of salt and water to thin, smushed with a hand-blender), a cold baked potato and a pickled onion.

I know I said I wouldn’t break down the cost of each meal, but just for the sake of curiosity I did it this time:

100g slaw – 5.6p

200g cooked split peas 9.4p

15g mustard (would reduce to 10g next time, it was just a bit too hot!) 2p

30g pickle liquid/an onion 2p

baked potato approx 200g – 11.6p

approx 100g flour’s worth of bread 3p

approx 15g tomato puree 2.11p

Total 35.7p

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Day 1 – breakfast and lunch

Maybe it helps that I’ve got hayfever at the moment so I’m not tasting things as much as I could be, but I don’t think the 20p-for-40-teabags tea is as bad as people have been making out! It’s certainly a huge improvement on having to go through caffeine withdrawal! I had four cups this morning.

Having said I’m not a breakfast person, I woke up peckish so I had 25g dry cornflakes in the privacy of my own home.

I ate the 6 snack crackers I took to work throughout the morning along with my cups of tea, then went into town on the never-ending quest for affordable potatoes. Nothing doing in Leicester Market, they had 1kg potatoes for £1.10 (I’ve got £1.17 left from the fiver, I could spend it all on potatoes, but I was hoping to get something else for flavouring as well, like a bulb of garlic), or some people were selling bowlfuls for £1 but lesser quantities did not seem to be on offer. Marks & Spencer didn’t have any for less than £1.75 a kilo. There’s an ‘International Supermarket’ (smallish grocery shop selling some fresh produce) on Granby Street, and they had 2 kilo bags of potatoes for £1, but they were outside in the full sun in an orange-toned plastic bag and I didn’t trust them not to be green once the bag was opened.

Empty handed I started for home, but on my walk back I saw some cleavers peeking through a hedge on New Walk so I gathered a small handful of those, they’re supposed to be a good spring tonic.

When I got home I made a very simple bannock from 100g self-raising flour, a pinch of salt and enough water to make a soft dough, rolled out a bit into a circle and baked in a hot oven until it had puffed up and just picked up a tinge of brown on top. I ate half of this with soup made from 150g split peas, 15g tomato purée, 25g chopped carrot, the cleavers and 2 dandelion leaves finely chopped, salt, and water to cover, simmered until the carrot was tender. I topped this with a couple of spoonfuls of the cabbage cooked with pickled onions that I made last night.

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The soup was… functional? It wasn’t bad, and the dandelions stopped it from tasting too boring by making it very slightly bitter, but it would have benefited from some spices and a squirt of lemon.

The other half of the bannock I had as a sandwich with 50g coleslaw and 5g mustard. This was good, I will make something similar again.

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I calculate I’ve had around 885 calories and 32g protein so far, which isn’t too shabby. I’m about to take a walk to Morrisons now to see what I can come up with for that final £1.17.


Last of the advance prep

I have now made the crackers for the actual challenge, using 200g flour and 100g peanut butter. It came out to 40 crackers this time (I must have rolled them slightly thinner) so I can have 8 crackers a day which I reckon totals about 280 calories and 9 g protein per day. I’ve packed up 6 to take to work, so I can have 2 as an after-work snack as well. I also bagged up 8 teabags from the packet of 40 bought for 20p. I don’t know what they’ll taste like, but they smelled like tea!

Before I made the coleslaw I peeled the outer leaves off the cabbage, but apart from a couple of spots they were perfectly fine, so I thought it’d be a shame to compost them, and instead I chopped then cooked them up with some of the onions, pickling liquid and some salt. I added a bit extra to make it up to 340g cabbage (12p) to which I added 45g pickled onions & 15g pickling juice  (4p) and 3g salt (I’m not even going to bother costing this), plus about 3 tablespoons of water. Brought it up to a simmer in a pan then turned the heat down and left to slowly cook with the lid on for about 15 minutes. The leaves were beginning to tenderise but still had plenty of crunch, and I’ve put that away in a 700ml container in the fridge. The amount almost filled the container – I’ll be able to have a good 2-3 spoonfuls per day for a total of 16p or just over 3p a day.

I drained and weighed the split peas. 500g dried made 1128g cooked, so I can eat 225g peas a day if I wish. I’m beginning to think it’s a good thing I won’t be sharing a bedroom with anyone during the week, I fear this amount of pulses, cabbage and onions may lead to some pungency! 225g cooked split peas provides 256cal, 18g protein, 2.9mg iron, 31.5mg calcium and 18g dietary fibre (according to Google’s nutrition data. I have no idea how accurate that is, but I guess it’s some idea). I decided against making a big pot of soup after all, instead I’ve refrigerated the cooked peas and will see what I feel like eating for lunch tomorrow. I spotted some nice big dandelions in the garden so thinking about using those somehow (I think weeds are fair game since I could gather these from common ground and nobody would object). I believe they’re full of calcium and other good stuff.


Prep for next week, part 3 – peanutty red cabbage slaw (recipe)

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.

Method:

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).

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Prep for next week, part 2

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.

carrots 500g 27p Aldi

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.

tomato puree 142g 20p Sainsbury

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:

oats 500g 68p Tesco

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.


Jan62 day 28. More chickpeas, more cabbage.

There are still plenty of chickpeas in the 5kg sack I bought back in December, so I’ve been keeping a look out for interesting recipes to use them in. One that continuously cropped up was for something called Burmese tofu, while many more people raved about pudla (kinda Spanish omelette made from chickpea flour with veg in the batter from what I can make out), and then I saw a few recipes combining those into a quiche, notably The Gourmet Vegan’s vegetable quiche which is based on the I-40 kitchen’s quiche idea, which also gives a recipe for the tofu. In the comments on that post, Hilda from Triumph of the Lentil commented that she had been experimenting and reduced the timescale of the original tofu recipe, and since I’m all for less hassle and more delicious food as quickly as possible I decided to try her method, divided in half to make the straight tofu and also a crustless quiche type affair. I made the process even simpler by just combining whole chickpeas with about half the water in my Vitamix, whizzing them on high speed until there was a smooth batter then pouring that straight into the remaining water once it was at a boil.

For the quiche, I chopped up about three red onions and sautéed them with a pinch of Herbamare in a little olive oil until soft, then added that to the remaining chickpea mix after pouring out the plain portion once it had got thick and cooked through. I threw in a pinch of kala namak salt for a whiff of egg (although I was actually never a fan of the egg taste. I bought a huge bag of this salt though, so am trying it out in a few things), then poured the mix into a baking dish I’d greased with a bit of olive oil and smoothed a dribble more oil over the top, then baked it in a medium-hot oven until the top was starting to brown.

I tried some of that warm and thought it very reminiscent of onion quiche of yore (though it’s got to be 17 years or more since I last had eggy quiche, so who knows how accurate my taste recollection is?), but not interesting enough to eat a whole pan of as is, probably mainly because I’d undersalted it, so treated the quiche as a tofu-like/polenta-ish substance as well for my lunch today, sprinkling with salt and pepper, pan-frying in olive oil and serving with the last of the red cabbage which was lightly cooked with half a carrot and a splash of balsamic and just enough water to stop it scorching.

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As noted on Triumph of the Lentil, don’t expect this to have the same texture as tofu, although I think the longer process does produce a slightly silkier product. However, this is a tasty protein-rich food which I can see having a lot of applications.

*****

For the remaining three days of the challenge I still have just over £4 left. The cabbage is gone now, so I’m going to see what’s cheap at the market tomorrow. I’ve also got no washing powder left, and am running out of clean socks. I hope I can get some greens and laundry supplies with the remaining funds!


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