My wonderful husband, and chief eater, is away for a week for work, that means cooking for one. I’m not a fan of cooking for one, its just not in my DNA – I’m a crowd feeder. And I don’t like easting alone at home either (eating out alone though is a bit of a treat though – goo figure!). My main concern though is waste. I know that if I stick with the usual shopping routine, I’ll buy too much and I’ll waste good food. I hate food waste, but it does happen, and it is mostly vegetable waste. Now that our very wonderful next door neighbours have a compost bin that they are happy for us to use, I feel less bad but that’s not really the point, so this week and I’m going to make a huge effort to waste as little as possible by making these changes:
Reducing the budget
We usually spend about £60 per week on food for our household. £50 of that goes on a supermarket delivery and about another £10 goes on bits and bobs that need buying fresh or topping up. This doesn’t include eating out, or the odd take-away. I cook everything from scratch, we both work from home, we don’t eat sweets or junk foods, so its easy to stick to a modest budget. With only me here this week, it stands to reason that the budget should be halved. When I lived alone (though we’re talking over 12 years ago), I spent £25 per week on food. Yes, things are more expensive now, and at the time I was vegetarian, but it seems like a fitting challenge, so £25 it is.
Using up my stored food
I often joke that if there is a zombie apocalypse, we won’t go hungry. Because of all of the recipe development I do, as well as being gifted so many ingredients, my store cupboards and freezer are full to bursting. I need to do an audit, and I need to use some of it up so this week is the perfect opportunity.
I live in Tooting. There really isn’t a good excuse to use a large supermarket because there are independent shops, green grocers, butchers, fish mongers and bakeries on every corner. The produce is cheaper, bigger, more flavourful, slightly ugly (those fruits and vegetables rejected by the supermarkets are so much more endearing), there’s less plastic packaging and my carbon footprint is reduced because I’ll be walking there. Supermarkets encourage us to buy more than we need with special offers and bulk deals, but if we don’t need it, and don’t really have room for it, then what’s the point? I’m doing to only buy what I need. There are some ‘big brand’ things I’ll need, like non-dairy milk, but I’ll be buying those in local independent shops, its better to spend your money there.
Using Too Good To Go
I’ve been aware of Too Good To Go for a number of years now
but, shamefully I’d never actually used it. Recently a friend of mine mentioned
that they’d had some great stuff from using it so I downloaded the app again
and I’ve every intention of using it this week. The concept is simple. Shops,
restaurants and café’s have surplus food at the end of the day which will be
wasted, but you can order I ahead of time and pay for it at a 50-80% discount
and pick it up at the specified time. Depending on the closing time, some of
them are quite late so may not be practical for everyone but there are places that
have an earlier pick up time, so with a bit of planning you can use it for some
of your meals.
I’ll be updating this blog post every day this week with this table to show how I used by budget:
|Day||£ spent||£ of £25 remaining|
|Sunday||£3.99 Planet Organic on Too Good To |
|Sunday|| £1.99 Almond milk from my local |
SUNDAY – it begins
Though my food buying week runs from Monday to Sunday, I needed to get ahead and do that audit, and knowing that I didn’t have a delivery coming in the morning I had to work out my essentials and get those too.
Clearing out the vegetable drawers in my fridge was a bit depressing. We’d been out in the week and I hadn’t cooked the vegetables I bought. Worse still was the sheer volume not only of produce, but of plastic that they were wrapped in. I couldn’t compost all of this, I had to find a solution. I decide on ‘dump soup’ (nicer than it sounds, I promise). Most dump recipes that you see are for a dish where you ‘dump everything in together’ but mine is slightly different, mine is a soup to ‘dump more things in’. It’s a lunch blank canvas if you will. And its’s green.
Click here for the recipe
Using all of the green veg that I could – spring greens, spinach and green beans – I made a simple soup, with the chicken stock that I had in the freezer (you don’t have to use chicken stock, I make my own every week because if its incredible nutritional value). It really is the easiest thing in the world and great for lunches, just throw new things in every day to keep it interesting. We had it immediately for lunch with a chopped-up pack of ham that needed eating, a drained and rinsed tin of haricot beans and a sprinkle of smoked salt. Simple, delicious and definitely at least half of your five a day. There was also a kilo of sweet potatoes. They’d get chopped and roasted today to use over the week.
The meat and dairy section was also an eye opener. Sirloin steak, sausages, mature cheddar, soft herb cheese, parmesan, butter. And without some conscious thought and planning, this could be waste. Scary. Also arrogant and selfish of me to nearly let this happen. And by this point, I’m wondering if I’ll need to buy anything at all this week! The steak has until Tuesday, the sausages will need to be cooked on Monday but will then keep longer and the cheese is fine. I’ve been craving toad in the hole this week so I’ll make a gluten free version with a mashed sweet potato batter. Yum.
The store cupboard was full of food, but not surprises. Rice, gluten free pasta, rice noodles, beans, lentils, chopped tomatoes, tinned cherries, tinned peaches, tinned sweetcorn, and an unexplainable number of tins of baked beans (those can stay there for the zombie apocalypse), and one hidden treasure – a tin of Foul (pronounced ‘fool’), Egyptian recipe fava beans, often referred to as the ‘baked beans’ of the middle east, they are a staple in Arabic cuisine eaten for breakfast with chopped fresh coriander, dried cumin, bell peppers, onions, chillies and lemon juice scooped up with hot fresh pitta bread. I’d have this over a full English any day, and now I am committed to making some cracking gluten free flat breads with the GF flour blends I have stashed in the other store cupboard.
My freezer needs defrosting soon, and it is full of great stuff, great stuff that I’m going to eat this week. Bean and vegetable mixes for my dump soup lunches, pulled pork for a chilli, bolognaise and gluten free cheese sauce for a quick, mid-week lasagne, more sausages – seriously, why do I have so many sausages?! Pork steaks, pastry, rostis, haggis, parathas…a mind-boggling array of foods. All I can say it that its nice to have options!
With my vegetables mostly cooked into a soup, it turns out there were only a couple of essentials that I actually needed, which were some non-dairy milk for my tea and some fresh green vegetables. Wondering if I’m going to need much of that remaining £20 food budget! I decided to get my first Too Good To Go order from Planet organic in Wandsworth, a 2.6 mile walk (I got the bus back!). For some reason I was expecting to get some fresh produce but I had misread the description. I was picking up cold, prepared food, rather than the hot option – oops. Still, the meal that I received looks pretty nice, I love aubergines so a parmigiana is welcome, apparently, it’s a weight loss food, so that combined with my long walk ticks some healthy living boxes. it’s ‘use by’ date is Sunday, but I’ll actually be having it for dinner on Monday. Having looked up the normal price, which would have been about £8, I’m pleased with the price being a 50% discount, but also shocked at how much you can spend on something so simple, but then I’m not the target audience for this type of food. I’m very much looking forward to tasting it tomorrow though…
On the way home, I stopped at a local shop to get some dairy-free milk for my morning coffee. I’ve been trying to get the ‘professional’ versions at the supermarkey for ages but they never seem to have them, and they’re so much better. Low and behold, my local shopped stocked professional version almond milk, so I can have frothy milk if I want it this week – win win!