Day 7: Lessons learned

Brekkie: I started today off with my usual mug of matcha, alongside a warming bowl of porridge with almond milk, crunchy peanut butter, ground chia, and mashed banana. I topped it today with some quick stewed cinnamon vanilla apples. Such an easy topping to make a simple brekkie a bit more exciting.img_9405

After brekkie we went into town to enjoy some sun and get a few bits. We walked to Infinity and grabbed a loaf of gluten-free bread for £2,85. We also stopped by Hisbe, which is quickly becoming my favourite grocer (although a bit far from our flat). I took along my ninja bullet container so we could take home some GF oats from their bulk section because we were running low. for nearly 400g it only cost £1,37 which is almost half what we usually pay.

 

Lunch: I used yesterday’s leftover cumin chilli chickpeas to top my avo toast (the half avo was also leftover from yesterday’s lunch) and wilted some cavolo nero I had in the fridge to put on the side. I squeezed lemon over the top and it was absolutely delish! You really can’t beat avo toast.

 

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After, I headed back into town to do some clothes shopping for my new job. I ended up exhausted, and couldn’t be bothered to come up with an interesting recipe for dinner.

Dinner: I picked up some veggie sausages and roasted them alongside basically all the leftover veg I had in the house (roasted garlic, carrots, parsnips, turmeric cauliflower, cinnamon sweet potato, and sauteed onions, spinach, carrot greens, and parsley). It was not the most cohesive meal of all time, but it tasted good, was filling, and only cost the £1,50 for the pack of 6 sausages we shared.

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Today’s total spend : £5,72

At the end of the 7 days, we spent a total of £105,27.

Which is pretty bad considering it was only the first week of this £10/day (£70/week) challenge. I wanted to be really honest about it so I even though I basically failed, I do think it’s important to share my experience! If we hadn’t gone out last night to celebrate my new job and had just had a simple meal at home, we would’ve been on budget 100%. That would have also included a couple treats (choccies, baked goods, special GF bread, a pricy smoothie…) so would have been a realistic week for us. I definitely don’t regret going out last night, it was a super yummy meal and I think it’s important to take time in a relationship to have a date night out together.

Moving forward, I know a bit better where to shop for what, especially in terms of plastic-free produce on a budget. I think in the future, doing a few bulk shops and meal prep will be beneficial, instead of trying to shop every day.

All the meals we cooked at home were on budget. So if we don’t have a big meal out, then it should be easy-peasy 🙂

I’m looking forward to trying again next week!

 

Day 6: Something to celebrate

I could barely sleep last night because I was so nervous about today’s interview. I woke up feeling anxious and tired but had to jump out of bed to get ready.

Brekkie: I made a big pot of coffee with almond milk for Charlie and me to share, and two big bowls of peanut butter banana porridge.

I had to dash to my interview which was across town, left the house with wet hair, realized I didn’t have any cash for the bus so had to find a cash machine, then found out the bus stop was closed due to construction, had to run up the road to the next stop, eventually got to the interview with seconds to spare looking like a sweaty mess. But it turns out that it didn’t matter because I got the job! It’s literally a dream position for me, and I can’t wait to get started.

I met up with Charlie for a celebratory coffee, then we picked up some groceries on our way home.

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We spent £9,54 on groceries. This was a bit expensive because we needed some almond milk for the next few days, and the tahini will last us ages. I also had to buy the cavolo nero from our neighbourhood speciality grocer, because it is one of the few places I can find unpackaged organic vegetables. They are more expensive, but I think it is worth it.

Lunch: Charlie just wanted soup and a bread roll for lunch, but I craved a big nourish bowl. I had a bunch of veg I needed to use, so I roasted the sweet potato with cinnamon, alongside turmeric cauliflower and garlic parsnip on a tray in the oven. While that was roasting, I sauteed some chickpeas with tomato paste, chilli flakes, and cumin, and then wilted the cavolo nero. To make a dressing, I blended a spoonful of tahini with some lemon juice, garlic, and warm water. I also topped the bowl with avocado, the rest of a red cabbage I had in the fridge, parlsey, and a grated carrot.

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These are my favourite types of meals because they are so simple and easy to prep for and you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand. I have leftovers of all the ingredients and roasted veg.

Dinner: Okay so we are totally cheating on the £10/day challenge today because Charlie took me out to dinner to celebrate my new job. We went to a plant-based pizza place we have been meaning to try, and tonight seemed like the perfect opportunity. We each only got one drink, Charlie a vegan red wine, and a virgin mojito for me (yum). We decided not to get any starters, partially to save money and partially because we always tend to over-do-it when we go out and leave feeling sick. We each got a pizza and after felt so full we didn’t have room for dessert.

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We overspent today but It was such a happy day I really don’t mind. We will make up for it over the next couple grocery shops. It’s important to indulge every now and then, especially on special occasions, and not to feel guilty or remorseful afterwards.

Total spent today: £49,54 

Day 5: Lazy leftover Sunday

I had a pretty slow start to the day. Charlie got up before me and had a tea while I stayed in bed a bit longer. I find it so much harder in the winter to get out of bed in the morning! Even once I’m awake, I just want to stay in the warm snuggly comfort of our bed.

Once I finally got myself up, I made a matcha tea by blending matcha powder, reishi powder, cinnamon, a bit of maple syrup, and hot water for a few seconds. Then I add a dash of almond milk. Last year I stopped drinking coffee and switched to matcha lattes for about 6 months. I actually prefer them still, but they can be hard to find, super sweet, or expensive in cafes, so I really only drink them at home.

The ingredients I already had in my cupboard, but the powders last ages as you only need a tiny bit each time.

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Brekkie: Charlie makes us our usual porridge (cinnamon, almond milk, mashed banana, ground chia) with extra peanut butter today. Always feels like a treat and gives me enough energy to go to the gym with Charlie. We had all the ingredients we needed, but I average this meal costs us £1.20 each, including all everything. (This could be cheaper, but gluten-free oats are a bit more expensive, and we use organic peanut butter).

After the gym, Charlie and I each have shakes, Charlie has a protein one, I have a VitaGlow vegan beauty skin blend. This does come in plastic, but it is recyclable and I can reuse the container for other powders or flour in my pantry. I bought it at TkMaxx (no shame) before Christmas as a gift to myself, because it was £16 and is usually £34. Because it comes in plastic and isn’t a necessity, it is not something I will buy again. For the time being, I do enjoy drinking it (especially through my stainless steel straw).

 

Sunday’s are always good for a little bit of self-care, so I give myself a good dry-brush before my shower. Afterwards, I use my Pai skincare rosehip seed oil (the most expensive thing in my bathroom, but the only face oil that works for my sensitive skin) and my rose quartz gua sha tool to massage my face which stimulates blood flow and circulation, reduces puffiness, and relaxes tension. I used to use so many different scrubs, lotions, spin brushes, etc. on my face, but after struggling for months with really bad perioral dermatitis, I had to really simplify my skin-care routine. The products I do use now are a bit expensive, but they are high-quality, cruelty-free, and long-lasting. Skin-care is one area I will not compromise entirely on for budget.

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Lunch: We have leftover spinach soup from yesterday and have it with some bread, so essentially a free meal (my favourite kind). I average it cost £2 for 4 servings of this soup.

Charlie and I spent the afternoon in town. It was pretty hard in the shops to not go crazy on January sales, but my wardrobe is an area that I’m really trying to be more conscious of. Fast-fashion textile waste is a massive issue and I don’t want to contribute to it anymore. I’m going to try to be buying as much second-hand as I can, and buy the rest from sustainable brands. I also realized that I don’t actually need that much in my closet if the pieces I do have are functional.

We end up in a vintage store/plant shop (basically heaven) and buy two monsteras for the house.

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Dinner:  We have more than enough stew from last night for dinner. Which is perfect because a) we spent too much money on plants today to buy groceries; and b) we are too lazy to cook anything,

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I’m pretty sure there is no way to make leftover bean stew look as good as it tastes, but this was a bowl of hearty, cosy, winter goodness. I topped both with parsley, and mine with raw red cabbage. I’m not sure what happened but in the past year, I went from literally never eating red cabbage, to snacking on it raw and topping all my meals with it. I like to always have one in my fridge, they are cheap, usually unpackaged, and last for weeks. I average this stew, cost us about £3,50 all together for 4 servings (which is really about 6-8 servings but my boyfriend and I are animals).

Because we ate what we already had in our kitchen, we didn’t have to spend anything on groceries today. Leftover days are great because you use up all the food you already have, saving money and reducing your food waste.

Afters: We cave, and buy a vegan dark chocolate orange bar £1.60. I have the biggest sweet tooth and it’s very hard for me to not have dessert. The chocolate is in recyclable paper packaging but does have an aluminium foil inside. Any way to recycle aluminium? Charlie thinks you can, but I haven’t found anywhere that takes it.

Today in total, we only spend £1.60 (the chocolate bar) on groceries. Since yesterday we spend £23,31, we are hoping to still stay under £70 by the end of the week.

Day 4: Saturday

Brekkie: We started off our Saturday morning with espressos and porridge (made with mashed banana, cinnamon, crunchy peanut butter, ground chia mix). Today, because I wanted something a bit special, I also added caramelised banana on top. To caramelise the banana, I put a bit of oil, maple syrup, and cinnamon in a pan. Once hot, I added in banana slices and stirred them around for about 3 minutes until soft and brown.

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After, we went to the open market to find some fresh veg. It was a bit of a disappointment, as we are used to Sydney markets which are full of local fresh produce and merchants, but we did manage to get some unpackaged veg to last a couple days. We decided to do a bigger shop today since it’s unrealistic to do a grocery shop every morning. We stopped by Infinity Food to get a loaf of fresh gluten-free vegan bread. Charlie couldn’t resist a vegan Chelsea bun, and I grabbed a gluten-free vegan muffin as well. (Saturday’s are for treats right?) We also saw a 1kg peanut butter on offer, which will last us a long time (well that’s what I’m telling myself). It is plastic, but we can reuse the container.

We also stopped into Morrison’s on the way home to get some tins to make a bean stew for dinner.

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Today’s haul cost us a total of £23,31, and should last us 2-3 days.

Before I start lunch, we sit and have tea and our treats. Absolutely no regrets.

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Lunch: For lunch, I made soup from half the head of cauliflower, about 2/3 of the spinach, two onions, and garlic. I used broth cubes and some coconut milk I had in the pantry and seasoned with nutmeg and chilli flakes.  I loosely follow this recipe. It’s a super simple and cheap meal, served with some slices of the bread loaf.  There is enough soup leftover for a portion or two tomorrow.

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Dinner: Charlie cooks up a big pot of bean stew for dinner. Made with butter beans, cannellini beans, chopped tomatoes, veg broth, a splash of red wine, carrots, sweet potato, lots of garlic and onion, closed cup mushrooms. We also threw in a chopped up bunch of the carrot greens (they taste basically like parsley and are packed with nutrients), and the stock from the broccoli from yesterday. Stews and soups and the easiest ways to reduce your food waste because you can throw in all the ends of your veg to add flavour and thicken it up. We eat it with more of the bread from today (because bread is life) and still have a ton leftover. It’s not the prettiest meal, but honestly in the winter in the UK, all I really want at night is a big bowl of something warm and filling and cuddle up on the sofa. In the summer I’m more likely to take the time to make a big beautiful nourish bowl, but this time of year ain’t nobody got time for that.

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Afters: Saturday night calls for a movie and a big bowl of popcorn. Popcorn kernels can be bought in bulk and we keep ours in an airtight jar. They last ages and are way more economical than buying the microwave bags (also less waste and no palm-oil) and you can control exactly how much salt you use.

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Day 3: Vegan comfort food

Today I found out that Morrison’s has a soft-plastic recycling bin, for carry-bags, sandwich bags, etc. This is really great, even though I’m avoiding plastics in general, it’s nice to know that if I need frozen peas, or if we order something online that has plastic packaging, we don’t have to put it in our regular bin. Also, since we can’t compost at home (1 br leased flat), I signed onto the waitlist for my local community compost centre. I’m really hoping to get a spot soon because I hate seeing our waste-bin fill up with organic waste! Looking for other solutions if I can’t join my local compost centre..

Breakfast: Charlie ran out to pick us up some bananas for our brekkie, costing £0.43. Because I had hot yoga this morning, I just ate a banana with green tea and then went to class. Charlie had porridge with the works before going to the gym.

Snacks: After 90 minutes of hot yoga, I felt like I really deserved a treat while I waited for Charlie to finish at the gym. So I bought a smoothie from YouJuice, costing a whopping £5,55. This was an impulse buy, but I really really wanted it. I haven’t had a smoothie in months. It was delicious, packed with nutrients, served in a glass with a compostable paper straw, and I have no regrets.

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Lunch: For lunch, I have the leftover stirfry from last night, and Charlie has the leftover chilli from the night before. Later, we have coffee and finish off the pumpkin pie together.

Dinner: Charlie decided to make dinner tonight, so we go to Morrison’s and grab a tin of baked beans, three potatoes, broccoli, and Morrison’s brand veggie sausages. They come in a recyclable paper box and only cost £1.50. We also grab bananas for tomorrow.

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The groceries come to £3,87. On the way home, we pick up a small baguette for Charlie from the bakery (since he has cut out plastic-bagged sandwich bread), costing £0.59. 

Charlie makes one of our heartiest regular meals: baked beans, sausages, and mash. We usually have sweet potato mash, but because we still had some veg gravy in the pantry from the holidays, we opted for regular potatoes. (with steamed broccoli on the side to pretend like we are healthy vegans).

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Look, there is no way to make beans and mash look nice in a photo, but it was super filling and yum, so whatever. Since moving back to the UK from Sydney, we have definitely been eating heartier. I think it’s due to the weather and the holidays, but also because transitions are stressful and we need some comfort food. Looking back on today, did I need to finish a pie in the afternoon and then have a massive plate of mashed potatoes and gravy and three sausages for dinner? Probably not. I am trying to incorporate more fresh greens into our diet, but really struggling to find leafy greens that aren’t in plastic bags. This has made super salads, green smoothies, and spinach based soups basically impossible to make at home. Tomorrow we will go to a market and try to solve this!

Today’s spend: £10,44. I did go slightly over today due to my smoothie splurge, but sometimes you have to reward yourself! We underspent yesterday, so I am happy with today’s total as we are still underspending for the week. Today was not a very photogenic or exciting day to write about, mostly because we didn’t think too much about food. Planning meals, grocery shopping, and cooking are really fun parts of life, but some days you just want to enjoy an afternoon together without discussing the dinner menu. Sometimes simple is best!

 

Day 2: Something sweet

I had an interview this morning so we both were up early. I had a green tea and porridge with the works (smashed banana, GF oats, cinnamon, ground chia mix, and almond milk) I bought the bananas and milk with my change last night, so this morning’s brekkie cost us £0

After the interview, I popped into Morrison’s for some things to put in a tofu stir-fry I am planning for tonight’s dinner. Maybe because it was only 9:30am, but they hadn’t seemed to restock many of the unpackaged veg, so I left with just mushrooms, a bulb of garlic, a knob of ginger, and a small butternut pumpkin (impulse buy since I have been promising Charlie an American pumpkin pie for ages). The total came to £1.89

I then had to stop by the street grocer for some carrots and bell pepper, since the ones at Morrisons were all plastic-wrapped. This came to £1.73 which if you ask me, is bloody ridiculous for 3 carrots and one pepper. This is really the problem with trying to reduce your plastic, it seems like everything wrapped in packaging is half the price of the loose counterpart. Anyway, because I already have broccoli, red cabbage, and tofu in my fridge and some tamari and rice in the pantry, all together dinner will only cost £3.62 today.

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Lunch: Charlie and I are having leftover chilli, which for some reason is always better the second day. Currently regretting not buying another plantain, and fighting my urge to buy a bag of tortilla chips. Stevieyaaaay, my favourite zero-waste Instagram, sometimes gets tortilla chips in large paper bags from Mexican restaurants. I’m too awkward to attempt this but I think it’s a great zero-waste solution. We both have massive bowls of the chilli, Charlie has toast with his, and I top mine with more chopped red onion. We still have a portion leftover in the fridge.

After picking up a butternut squash, I had all of the ingredients I needed to make a pumpkin pie. So after lunch, I sliced the squash in half, scooped out the seeds, and roasted it in the oven.

I also lightly coated the cleaned seeds with a mix of salt, oil, tamari, and paprika and roasted them separately for about 4 minutes. I like roasting the seeds because they’re a waste to throw away and are a really easy yummy snack! My mom used to roast them for me when I was a kid carving jack o’lanterns at Halloween so they are very nostalgic for me.

After the pumpkin roasts til tender, I scoop it out of the peel and into my food processor (best Xmas present), then add in a mix of ground cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. I also add in some cornstarch to thicken it, a dash of almond milk, and some brown sugar and maple syrup to sweeten. Once I’m happy with the taste, I added it into the pie crust I rolled out and into a pie pan. This crust I actually already had frozen in the freezer (I know, another cheat), one of those things I forgot I had bought for Christmas but never used.

The pie cools/sets for 4 hours (if Charlie can wait that long) and I will whip up some soya cream, which comes in a small carton and was bought for £1.25, to top it off.

It doesn’t look perfect (I’m notorious for making failed desserts), and I definitely needed a larger butternut squash to make more filling, but it smells yummy and warming so this may actually be a success (minus the two visible pumpkin seeds that snuck in the puree).

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Dinner: Tonight we are having a tofu stir-fry using the tofu and broccoli I already had in the fridge. I am going to throw in all the other veg I have with tamari, fresh ginger, lots of garlic, and steam some rice to go alongside. It’s a pretty basic meal, and generally, I would’ve bought some greens to go in it, but I couldn’t find any that weren’t in plastic.

We made enough for two massive portions and a lunch portion for tomorrow. Served with rice.

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Dessert: Pie was a success! Had a lot of trouble trying to whip soya cream in a food processor… ended up with foam instead but still yummy. (You can also see I needed a bigger pumpkin based on how short the filling is compared to the crust)

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Today’s total spend: £4,87

 

Day 1: working with what you already have

Okay, so I’m kind of cheating on day 1 because we already had a few things in the house to get us through brekkie and lunch. However, I think one of the most important steps in staying on budget and creating less waste is assessing what you already have.

We don’t have much, but here is a stock of what we do have to us in the pantry:

  • One jar gluten-free oats
  • tea & coffee
  • one can coconut milk
  • popcorn kernels
  • half-loaf regular sandwich bread (Charlie’s)
  • cacao powder
  • 1/2 bag tiger nut flour
  • cornstarch
  • gf veg gravy mix
  • gf veg stock cubes
  • a bit of maple syrup
  • seasoning (cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, paprika, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla extract, S & P)
  • 1/2 bag ground chia seed mix
  • 1/2 bottle olive oil
  • 1 bottle balsamic vinegar
  • 1 bottle Gluten-free tamari
  • marmite (Charlie’s)
  • 1/2 small bag basmati rice
  • 1/2 bulb garlic
  • 1/2 jar peanut butter
  • we both have our own protein powders

Fridge:

  • one unopened container tofu
  • one litre almond milk
  • left-over veggie curry from last night’s dinner
  • handful of greens
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • broccoli
  • a few clementines
  • one banana
  • ketchup
  • tomato paste
  • dairy-free butter

When you actually write it all down, it seems like a lot more than you thought.

Breakfast: we had porridge (like we do every day) with smashed banana, cinnamon, ground chia seeds, and almond milk. £0  (All ingredients we already had on hand).

Snacks: I snack on the clementines, Charlie has a protein shake £0 

Lunch:  We had the leftover curry with a bit of rice, £0 (also already on hand).

Dinner: I had a pretty strong craving for one of my favourite winter meals, chilli. It’s so easy to make, you can throw in whatever you like, it’s warming, filling, lasts for days, and easy to make gluten-free and vegan.

This is the only meal I had to shop for today.  I went prepared with a list and all my bags to make sure I wouldn’t have to take any single-use bags.

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My shopping list:

  • 1 tin black beans
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 tin sweet corn
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin plum tomatoes
  • avocado
  • red onions
  • red pepper
  • 1 lime
  • 1 red chilli 
  • 1 plantain
  • red cabbage

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I spent a total of £7,48. All but the last three items were found plastic-free at my local Morissons. I had to go to a small neighbourhood grocer, who sells most of their fruit and veg unpackaged for the last three. It was a slightly more expensive meal, mainly because I didn’t have any of the ingredients I needed. However, even after Charlie and I both had seconds, there were enough leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch and then some. I also didn’t use the entire red cabbage or all the red onions for this meal alone, so it is still low-cost.

I could’ve bought fewer ingredients and made it cheaper, but I think for this challenge to be sustainable, I need to still be creating meals that I find yummy and interesting. If I make two-ingredient meals three times a day, after a week I’m going to be so bored and resent the whole thing. It’s all about a balance.

After dinner, I popped into our local co-op to grab two cartons of almond milk (they’re on sale) and two bananas for the morning. £2.31