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 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