Lean Cuisine

I do so love the library. Not only does it provide free internet access for up to two hours a day, it’s also full of books! I’m slowly but steadily working my way through the cookery section, having previously devoured the entire WW2 section. It’s a brilliant way to sample cookery books that I may have been tempted to purchase, but am now relieved I didn’t.

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If I was browsing on Amazon, this delightful book may have fallen into my virtual trolley. After reading it, I’m very glad to have saved the money. Naturally, it was the title that drew me in, focusing on two of my favourite things: Economy Gastronomy. Co-written by Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett, it was a dream to read – very witty and humorous, with helpful advice to boot. But the recipes somehow felt out of reach. The idea of cooking once and making the most of the leftovers was solid, but undeniably geared for families. Little old me would be eating lamb for a month if I bought a whole leg! Some of the ingredients listed went straight over my head, but the photography was stunning. All in all, I think you could tell it was written by chefs, a bit out of my league.

But the book inspired me to get in the kitchen and make sure nothing went to waste. The facts contained in the book were shocking, talking about how nonchalant our culture is about throwing away food. I set out to rescue my on-the-turn vegetables into a simple curry.

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The cauliflower and potatoes were set on to steam. I mixed a third of the potatoes with the last bit of light mayo, cress and chopped basil to make a cold potato salad for me to take in my lunch box to work.

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I gently sautéed an organic onion and the remaining half of a green bell pepper in some garlic oil. I folded through the potatoes and cauliflower and went crazy with the spice tin – coriander, cumin, chilli, organic curry powder, salt and pepper all went in the pot. I used the stock created from steaming the veg and brought it up to the boil. Then I added a decent amount of red lentil, put on the lid, turned the heat down and let it simmer for half an hour.

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Basically, I create six meals for the week ahead out of practically nothing. It’s my kind of lean cuisine, lean in terms of monetary costs to make. It was economical on fuel too, and meant that nothing went in the bin, aside from a few dodgy peelings. Thank you McAvedy and Merrett; that is a lesson truly learnt.

PS Tuesday was a no spend day – hurrah!

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Forging a new path

It’s Day One of my latest spending challenge and already, the goal posts have been moved. The Friday night takeaway is no longer applicable and I added the remaining change from my purse to the pot. So I set off to go shopping yesterday afternoon with £17.37 for the week.

I have become increasingly aware of the damaging nature of the meat industry and fear for the ecological future. I have decided to live as sustainably as I can, within my means. A book has triggered my new mindset, more about which in a future post. Even though my budget is minimal, I will be buying local, free-range, sustainable, organic produce where I can. Also, I’m avoiding waste like the plague. I’m making the most of every scrap, so I can make the most of higher quality products.

In Sainsbury’s on Sunday, I bought:

  • SO caramelised onion chutney
  • Tin foil
  • Reduced Black Farmer’s Daughter chipolata sausages
  • SO bananas (6)
  • Reduced Free From Gingerbread man (a snack for me and the chap whilst shopping)
  • Toothbrushes

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The reduced sausages were a great buy. The label reads “British Outdoor Bred Freedom Food Pork.” What more could one ask for? I bought foil, which is not environmentally friendly, but I’m not perfect, goodness no, I’m just trying to do my bit to help the planet. And yes, organic Fairtrade bananas are more expensive than regular Fairtrade, but not by much, and the whole idea is less food of a higher quality.

I then visited Waitrose to get my free coffee (Fairtrade!) and pick up supremely delicious milk. Less than 20p extra compared to Essentials, but I think the flavour is noticeable. Plus, it’s a donation to charity as Duchy is affiliated with the Prince’s Trust.

You might think I’m mad (the chap does!) spending more on food when I could get similar items cheaper. But it’s not just about the money. Personally, I would rather cut out television and instant internet access than nourishing food. It’s starting to feel illogical to live any other way.

I spent a total of £10.77 on my Sunday afternoon trip, as I also purchased a Basic chopping board with the intention of using it solely for meat. I have £6.60 in my purse to last until next Sunday.

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PS This is why eating up the stores is so much fun – my Sunday lunch; GF ciabatta from the freezer, drizzled with garlic oil, topped with the last of the Cornish cheddar, accompanied by carrot batons with the last of my previous jar of chutney and cucumber. Pudding was the last of the packs of finger cakes from last week’s afternoon tea. All raided from the stores but felt very decadent!

PPS: Today, Monday, I have spent £4.40 in the greengrocers and local co-operative. I have £2.20 left.

The other side of the world

Much of this week has been dedicated to intensive study. After two weeks in a work placement, I’ve had to pull my focus back to my University work. As I adore my degree course, this has prompted no hardship. But it has made me think.

One of my modules this year is Creative Visions. It looks at utopian and dystopian texts, as well as related issues in our world today. After going through the list of online resources that were made available, my mind was a whir. I’ve been forced to contemplate and reassess my view on many areas of life that were once a norm for me.

Like eating meat. I’ve been eating meat for as long as I have been able to. When I once asked my mother if I could become vegetarian, she refused, on the grounds that such a diet wouldn’t help me grow. I know which animals produce which meat, like we all do. But I’ve never been confronted with the sheer, unadulterated facts before. There were some truly horrendous sources about the meat industry. Some of them I couldn’t stand to watch the whole way through. After gathering knowledge, I am questioning the unsustainable meat industry for the first time. I am but one person, but this person will not be eating meat for the foreseeable future. I will not fund such irrational behaviour.

I already consider myself to be an environmentally friendly consumer, but this research has reinforced those values so much. To only purchase what I need. To cut down on waste. To constantly re-use and recycle. To use ethics as a guide when shopping, not greed.

Treading lightly on the earth has become my ultimate goal. It would be too easy to let anger overcome you, to lash out and rant about the unfairness of it all. But instead, my actions will become my words. I plan to focus on my own actions and strive to do everything I can to, at the very least, slow down the demise of the planet.

Mind blown.

It all started when I was browsing The Body Shop website. The sister had requested more body butter for Christmas and I was weighing up the options. Being a curious devil with time on my hands, I began reading their “About” tab. That led me on a journey of discovery into the realm of Fairtrade and ethical shopping.

As I followed the path, link after link, questions flew up in my mind. Why is this not the default option? Why is it not standard to pay the right cost for a product? Why is it unusual to run schemes to help poverty-stricken nations?

Do you know, I felt guilty. I felt truly guilty for having so much, or at least having access to so much. When you stop and think how your shopping habits can affect people, real people, not numbers or statistics, on the other side of the world, it opens your eyes.

Greed. That’s what forces us to get as much as we can for as little money as possible. I’m sure I’m not the only one with a wardrobe full of clothes, far exceeding the amount I need. Greed drives us towards the bargains, the offers, the deals, regardless of the cost of human life.

Apologies if I am conveying myself too strongly. I am no saint with regards to bargain hunting, indeed, the majority of this very blog is about making the most of money. But after feeding myself this information, I am feeling inclined to change. I do little clothes shopping anyways, but any further purchases I make will be second-hand, from charity shops preferably or eBay. Any garment I can save from landfill will be a step in the green direction.

Just having enough if what I need will help me to lead a more ethical life. We don’t need excess, we just think we do. I have much more to learn and more to engage with surrounding this topic. Food is another minefield of ethical questioning, but more on that in a later post. I hope you will follow my quest towards a sustainable lifestyle.