It's Sunday afternoon and I'm about to set off to do my main weekly shop. As all good scrimpers know, a great way to save money when going shopping is to make a list. Smug with my saving ways, I head to the cupboard, ready to take notes on what to buy. As I open the door, my reflexes are tested as a supermarket own brand tin of mushy peas comes hurtling at my head. Unable to resist a bargain, my shelves are literally jam packed with reduced price this and BOGOF that. Curious to see how far this has gone I do a bit of a stock check. I realise that twice, I was unable to pass up the offer of a 35p loaf of bread, freezing it 'for later'. It seems that later hasn't arrived yet. I also have one and a half cucumbers, 4 packs of rice, 4 eggs ready to go off (left over from baking) and enough tinned goods to survive a war.
The irony of this hits me. In an attempt to save money and buy bargains, I have bought so much food I am not eating, instead sticking to the same things each week, meaning that tin of exotically flavoured tuna (at only 50p) will never get used. Something drastic has to be done: I will not go to the shops all this week and will survive until this time next Sunday with only what I have. I will state here that I have not gone to the shops in the past 4 days for food, and will not for the next 7. Bring it on.
With a bit of careful planning this can be done. I see my milk is due to go off tomorrow, so I will make sure I have cereal for the next two breakfasts (as long as the milk smells okay on day two) and use up some of that bread for toast or have porridge on the other mornings. Toasties and omelettes make a filling lunch with some of that cheese lurking at the back of the fridge. And dinner? Well that will be a nightly experiment of creating things from the vast array of tins in the cupboard and bits and bobs left in the freezer. I am excited to try some different foods and mix up my diet a bit - along with being able to put my weekly food budget towards my birthday party this weekend.
Each day I will post up any challenges or new creations I have come up with as an update on this post. Hope too see you each day as I go on my journeys!
I wake up excited to face my challenge of...no, that's a lie. I had an early morning maths tutorial. I woke up tired and not all that excited. But nevertheless, my challenge did slightly cheer me up! I was faced with an early issue - my friend had asked me to have lunch with her after class in the library. To me, going out and just buying lunch in a cafe completely defeats the purpose of my challenge, so I prepared a packed lunch. Although many of us (myself included) complain about a lack of time in the morning, making a packed lunch was surprisingly quick to do. 10 minutes of not so hard graft and I saved myself a fiver. Not bad for 8.30 on a Monday morning.
The rest of the day posed no problems, with plenty of snacks in the cupboards to get me through my studying. It's just now, as I'm sitting down to my dinner, that I have something to note. With no fresh chicken or meat in my fridge, I was going to have to raid the cupboards for my meat fix (I like meat before I go to my sports on a Monday). I come across a tin of Savers Irish Stew - 53p from Morrisons. I remember buying this a few weeks ago thinking it would be good as a quick meal and, at that price, it was difficult to pass up. The first thing I noticed when I opened the can, was the lack of meat. The meat that was there was quite fatty and not of the best quality and certainly not big chunks. However, there was some decent cubes of potato and carrot to bulk it up along with some discoloured peas. Sounds great, right? To make it more interesting (and filling) I added some frozen brocolli and peas, which at least makes it look a bit nicer. As I watch my, erm, interesting dinner spin in the microwave I consider the fact that I could have made something pretty similar in bulk, and then frozen the rest, for a pretty similar price and a fraction of the salt. A note to future self, some things are worth paying a little more for, or putting the effort in to make yourself....
This morning, I faced the problem of out of date milk. Now, I'm not usually one to be overly fussy with use-by-dates, thinking that the supermarkets must allow themselves a little margin for error to protect themselves. Instead, I tend to go by the tell of the smell (I just like the rhyme really). I have drank milk before out of date as, when I smelt it, it smelled like, well, milk! This time however, it smelled a little stronger of milk but, having already poured my usual breakfast of cereal, I chanced it. Now, I wouldn't recommend this. My stomach has been...funny all day. Tomorrow, I will have to get more inventive, and break away from the morning tradition of cereal that I never seem to waver from.
Lunch posed no problems, as I found a whole pack of (mercifully in date) ham in my fridge, so sandwiches were easy to make. However, tonight, I was having a friend round for dinner, so an experimental meal like last night wasn't really on the cards. I searched my freezer and found two fishcakes - perfect. Only issue being that they were different flavours. No worries, we could have half each, and this meant that we got to experience two rather than one flavour! Double bonus. With my friend bringing cucumber from her flat and splitting a tin of 16p Morrisons Savers mushy peas (very very good, without considering the price) we had a yummy and healthy meal, all from things taking up space in my cupboard or freezer. A bit hotch-potch maybe, but a great night catching up over food and Toy Story 3. And trying and failing not to cry at the end (spoiler alert).
I can't deny it, I am a creature of habit. So when faced with having to have something different for breakfast, I was a little put out. But the whole idea of this experiment was to try new foods and use up some of the random things in my storage. I thought I would go for the classic, peanut butter and jam on toast. Only issue being, I have no jam. After rummaging through the freezer yet again (seriously, never underestimate those things) I found some frozen berries, put them in a mug, and chucked it in the microwave until they became a lovely hot and jammy mess. Then, I poured this on top of my freshly spread peanut butter for one of the best breakfasts I've had in a long time:
Dinner was a store cupboard staple for me, baked beans and rice...seriously, don't knock it til you try it. It's one of my favourites and a real comfort food, without being too unhealthy (especially if you used reduced salt and sugar beans, but these are more expensive than the 27p smart price ones). I also like to bulk up the rice with a grated carrot and some peas/broccoli (again from the freezer) which adds some crunch, colour, flavour and nutrition! This is a great cheap meal that can be whipped up in a flash and minimal effort. I always tend to have these ingredients in the cupboard too, which makes it a perfect meal for this week!
Any comments much appreciated! :)
To be honest, I'm starting to miss fresh fruit and veg. I have a cucumber and some tomatoes I've been rationing all week but that's about it. In fairness, I do appreciate the fresh food I do have a lot more, and have discovered that the frozen equivalents taste just as good (even if your berries will definitely not look the same after defrosting). So in attempt to quench my fresh fruit cravings I raided the cupboard. The only success I got was a tin of apricots. Now, apricots are my favourite fruit (when fresh) so this was a good test. Having already discovered that dried apricots are nothing like their fresh counterpart, I was hoping for better results this time. I opened the can, drained the apricot halves and put them in a Tupperware to store in the fridge (and have discovered that they last a good week there). I was surprised at how many you got in a tin for 58p, far more than you would in a punnet, despite the fact that the tinned variety are marginally smaller. Although the flavour is the same, the texture and eating experience is not, as they were far wetter and mushier than the fresh ones. Nevertheless, they spiced up my plain porridge (made with water, of course) and once mixed into the lovely, gloopy breakfast, it made no difference if fresh or tinned.
Despite my cravings for fresh fruit, this weeks task has so far been much more enjoyable than expected, and I've been trying different meals and clearing some much needed space in the cupboards!
My cravings for fresh fruit is getting a bit extreme now, so I thought I would go back to an old hobby of mine. When I was younger, me and my dad would spend hours together 'brambling'. For those of you who are not Scottish, this is simply going out foraging for berries, particularly brambles (or blackberries to most people). So I called up my dad, who I hadn't seen in a while due to moving out, and he was happy to take up our old past time together.
We set off, pockets full of empty bags to his 'secret brambling spots' - namely the local golf course. He had it all planned out, and had even spoken to the green keeper who, rather than telling him off, had pointed out some great locations (but did warn him to only go on the course after hours). His top tips for brambling are:
- Don't pick anything too low down, as dogs may have 'fertilised' it
- Only pick the ones that come straight off the bush, as they are the ripest, sweetest and tastiest
- Look in places other people may not look
- Only pick what you know is edible
- Save some for other people.
I loved the last one, as it showed me how many people take joy from finding things for free. He often sees the same people day after day on the same spots (as in September - October the berries just seem to double every day!) and chats away to them about the best places, and the tastiest finds.
When we got back, we put a third of our berries into a container in the fridge, and then decidedto open-freeze the rest.This technique stops the berries from sticking together when you freeze them, meaning you can take out an exact amount later. To do this, simply line a tray with baking paper, and spread your berries out making sure they don't touch too much, and lay them flat in your freezer. Once frozen, put them in a freezer bag for easy access.
Today I learnt more than just how to forage for berries, I learnt that having fun and spending time with people can be free. Not just finally getting round to catching up with my dad, but seeing him meet new people through a shared hobby. Do you have childhood memories of foraging, or have you started it as a new hobby, or just want to start now? Comment below or tweet me @LaurieBeat.
So today is the final day of my challenge. I've found it difficult in many ways but also an enjoyable shake up to my everyday routine. It made me really use my brain a bit more and come up with alternatives to things I otherwise would have just popped to the shops to get. I think my favourite experimental food has been the hot jam on peanut butter laden toast (something I tried this morning with my delicious freshly foraged brambles) and is one that will be making regular appearances. But not too often. That is something I have certainly learnt this week, I am such a creature of habit when it comes to food, and could have a far more exciting menu if I just put my brain to it.
Another thing I have learnt is that it's only a bargain if you are going to use it. Even after this week, I could easily cobble together some meals from the things left in my cupboard and freezer. This is why, as I make a shopping list for tomorrow, it is mainly fresh fruit and salad, along with milk (because I do miss cereal and milk in my tea). Twice a week, I will endeavor to go through my cupboards and freezer and find meals that will use up some more of these 'staples' I felt my shelves needed.
Do you think you have a weeks worth of food in storage? Give the challenge a shot and let me know how you get on by commenting or tweeting me @LaurieBeat