Length: grab a cup of tea and settle down
Weekly Challenge #1 – No buying food or drink out
Rules: Ant and Rosalind cannot buy any food or drinks outside of their weekly shop.
Report by Rosalind
We wanted to do this challenge for a few reasons:
Being young(ish) millennials working in the arts and living in London, money can be pretty tight, so we wanted to be more spending savvy. I estimate that on an average week, without evening thinking about it I can spend approx. £60 on food and drink out and about. That’s £240 a month which, let’s be honest, is probably more than we can afford.
We are always trying to do as much as possible for the environment, because…it’s pretty screwed at the moment. Buying food out often comes with much more packaging than a good old reusable water bottle and Tupperware lunch box.
Finally, it’s much more healthy (depending on what you cook, of course) to provide your own food. Packaged food in shops and meals out often have much more salt and sugar in them than we would add if we were cooking ourselves. Let the experiment begin!
(Planned) Dinner Menu:
Sat: Jacket potatoes
Sun: Freezer dinner (veggie sausages and sweet potato fries)
Mon: Spinach, veggie chorizo, halloumi and asparagus salad
Tues: Pasta e fagioli
Weds: Spinach, herb and almond soup
Thurs: Veg moussaka
Cereal and toast for breakfast, leftovers and sandwiches for lunch, homemade hummus & pitta and fruit as snacks.
A tiny bottle of red wine (for pizza sauce)
A tin of chick peas
A tin of cannellini beans
Praline ice cream (because, treats)
2x baking potatoes
Own brand potato hoops crisps (sharing bag)
6x loose apples
Own brand white chocolate
Packet of cereal bars
2x packs of spinach
Packet of new potatoes
2 x aubergines
A huge punnet of nectarines
Friday: The first day of our seven day challenge and we have to draw up a shopping list that will last us for three meals a day (plus snacks) for seven days. We hit our huge stack of cookery books for inspiration. A few favourites include; Leon Fast Vegetarian, Anna Jones, The Groundnut Cookbook and Veggiestan. I should also add that we are both vegetarian and don’t use cow’s milk. Our menu for the week completed, we hit the supermarket. Our shop comes to £41.63, which means that somehow all our meals cost just £3 a day per person. We do have well stocked store cupboards, which helps. For dinner on Friday we both obviously want pizza, because pizza = life. More often than not, we buy a frozen pizza. However we are feeling inspired so Ant makes the pizza from scratch. Yum. Whilst he makes the pizza, I melt white chocolate and dip strawberries in it. Pizza and chocolate coated strawberries on a budget? This is the dream!
Saturday: For breakfast we have some cereal with soya milk, both of which we had before the challenge started. For lunch we have toasted pittas with cheese, spinach and salad cream in, with a glam side of pom bear crisps. Leftover chocolate coated strawberries round off lunch. I go out to meet my mum and sister for a concert in Peckham and this is where our first failure hits. After the concert, they want to go for a drink, and try and persuade me that if they buy me a drink then I haven’t failed. We have the most amazing afternoon out that turns in to an evening out, and somehow we end up ordering pizza and a few more rounds of cocktails. Ant joins us for the latter part of the evening. I spend £15 overall…it was worth the money and the failure for such a great day though.
Sunday: I feel very smug as I put a loaf of bread on to bake in our bread machine, ‘look at how accomplished I am, we’ll even have fresh bread today’. Unfortunately the yeast I used was out of date and the world’s most awful looking loaf of bread is turned out. Sweet lord it was horrible, so flat and doughy. For breakfast we have cereal again, as my bread has failed. Lunchtime rolls around and we panic a little. No bread, no leftovers from the night before because we ate out and a trip to the freezer reveals we only have one pitta bread left between us. We scramble up some eggs and have them on half a pitta each, with some cheese grated on top (and ketchup for me, obviously). Later that afternoon we are at my aunt and uncle’s house to celebrate my cousin’s fifth birthday. My aunt is Ugandan and loves to feed us, so we didn’t even need to panic about lunch because she constantly fills our plates with bean stew, avocado and sweet potatoes until we really are stuffed. We leave with a bag full of peanuts she brought back for us from Uganda and plan to attempt homemade peanut butter. We come back to our flat with my mum and watch Strike on BBC with huge mugs of tea and pear and chocolate tart that my mum bought.
Monday: Overnight we bake another loaf of bread, this time with yeast that is in date and we are gifted with a perfect wholemeal loaf, hurray! We have toast for breakfast because, fresh bread. We then drive off to see Ant’s parents because it’s a bank holiday, wahoooo. They take us for lunch which somehow feels like cheating again. Then I get a text from my sister asking if we want to have a BBQ. The weather is glorious and the promise of veggie sausages lingers. After one huge meal we head to bask in the sun in my parents’ garden and eat more food not on our menu. This weekend has included many meals out, some cooked by others, one bought by us, some bought by others. But they are all with people we love and the weekend was a perfect, sunshine and laughter filled event. I feel slightly guilty for failing so much, but it was worth it.
Tuesday: Back to work. We have run out of soya milk and only have almond milk because it is in the recipe for the soup on our menu. Almond milk (in my opinion) tastes foul in tea. Have a herbal tea instead. We’ve also run out of cereal and I make a sandwich for lunch so I don’t want toast for breakfast. I chop up a banana and have it with a date vanilla soya dessert I find at the back of the fridge. I garnish it with honey and the crumbs from the cereal box. Surprisingly yummy and I congratulate myself for having had one of my five a day so early on. For lunch I have my sandwich along with a packet of quavers, a cereal bar and an apple. So pleased I added ‘packed lunch’ items to our weekly shop. For dinner Ant makes pasta e fagioli and it is great and there is loads leftover for lunch tomorrow. Result.
Wednesday: Summer feels well and truly over as it pours with rain and I have to wear a coat to go to work for the first time since May. I still can’t have builders tea because now I’m convinced almond milk is the work of the devil, so I have a coffee for the first time in about a year. As a result I feel like I’m buzzing until lunchtime. I have toast for breakfast because I know I have pasta for lunch. The slightly smug feeling that I love and hate in equal measures returns as I tuck in to my tasty leftovers for lunch. When I get home, Ant has made tortilla chips from leftover tortillas we have lingering in the freezer and I gobble them up with our homemade hummus. So smug. Dinner is spinach, halloumi, vegetarian chorizo and asparagus salad which is VERY tasty. We set about baking Nutella and banana brownies because after pizza, Nutella is the best food (and we have some brown bananas). Thus concludes two days of not failing at this challenge, I think we could actually do this during the week most of the time?
Thursday: At work we are baking along to The Great British Bake Off, and this week the signature bake theme is cake with fruit, so I bring in my previously-mentioned Nutella brownies and they go down a treat. I feel like I eat brownies all day long. I have another coffee at breakfast time because I’m still avoiding tea with almond milk. I have leftover salad for lunch and it’s tasty despite the slightly wilted spinach. Probably best that I have salad because of all the brownies I’m consuming. For dinner we have the jacket potatoes we were supposed to have on Sunday, with baked beans and cheese. Is there any better dinner?
Friday: The last official day of our challenge, I quaff a fruit tea at breakfast time, since a third coffee might signal the start of a caffeine addiction. I have a piece of toast with marmite and peanut butter on, because double savoury spread is the best. Last night there were no leftovers from our jacket potatoes so for lunch Ant hastily cooked some pasta and mixed it with the leftover tomato sauce we made for the pizza. Genius. We are running out of fruit and I worry if I am going to get scurvy as I chow down on a slightly soft apple. For dinner we make Anna Jones’ vegetarian moussaka and it turns out amazingly – so far we have not encountered a dud recipe in her book. Thus concludes a week of not buying any food or drink out and about (despite the false start).
Conclusion: This is something we are absolutely going to continue to do. We both love cooking and are lucky enough to have an array of great cookery books (maybe that’s worth another blog post?) I check my bank balance and it is much healthier than it would usually be at this stage in the month. I feel healthier and the meals I did end up having out felt so much more meaningful. I know that not everyone likes cooking or planning meals, but I recommend trying it! I would buy more milk, fruit and breakfast foods. I think for all meals for two people for a week £50 is a more likely target.
If you got this far, thank you so much for reading! We will be back with more weekly challenges, and we will be revisiting this particular challenge in a few months’ time to see if the habits have stuck.
Rosalind and Ant x