Reducing waste and saving money

I have now tallied up my receipts for food shopping for the past 7 days. Just under £30 for three adults, eating three meals a day. That works out at under £1.50 per person a day, and we still have some leftovers to cover lunches for a couple more days.

carrots  £       0.49
broccoli  £       0.49
apples  £       0.89
Cauli  £       0.89
cereal  £       0.89
mozzarella x2  £       0.88
fresh herbs  £       1.80
chicken breasts  x3  £       3.95
soya milk  £       0.59
milk  8 pints  £       2.00
broccoli  £       0.49
baked beans x3  £       0.75
sugar  £       0.85
bread x2  £       2.00
FR eggs  £       1.00
tin tomatoes  £       0.31
mince  £       3.69
passata  £       0.29
potatoes  £       1.99
bread rolls  £       1.00
ham  £       4.00
 £    29.24

What we ate.

Breakfasts have been toast, cereal or banana smoothies. Lunches have been a mixture of sandwiches and left overs from the previous nights meal and homemade carrot soup.

For dinners this week we have had: pasta with left over sausages and passata; curry with ingredients from the freezer; greek pie using up the puff pastry and some vegetables; sausages and mash (twice); pasta using up some of the vegetables with mince; chicken coated in breadcrumbs with stale bread and baked potatoes and passata; take out fish and chips. And I made an apple and sultana crumble.

Most of the evening meals gave us at least one leftover lunch.

I find doing exercises like this useful to inform me where I could be saving money. A third of the spending is on meat. The three chicken breasts now seem to be an extravagance, and when they were bashed with rolling pin, one and a half would have been ample for three of us. The ham (on a buy two for £4 offer) made 6 lunches yet I could have got off cuts of ham much cheaper, which I plan to do going forward. As these packs are so big I tend not to buy them as I am worried I won’t use it all before the use by date. With a bit more planning I could just divide it into daily portions and freeze it.

I also need to think more about making double the amount and freezing meals so that when we don’t feel like cooking we have something to fall back on rather than order a take out.

And I need to explore some vegetarian options that we all will like. I really do want to use those lentils.

I am off to Malta next week and I am really looking forward to a week of no shopping or cooking.

Travelling Coral is off travelling again. Hooray. Expect lots of pictures of food.

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And the food mountain is reduced

Since shocking myself at the amount of food there was in my kitchen, I am still planning meals around the Food List.

On Saturday night we had Greek Pie.

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This was made with the puff pastry loitering in the freezer, passata bought earlier in the week, onions and garlic from the food mountain, herbs,spices and the other half of 500g mince. It was ample for four portions, served with potatoes, baked beans and broccoli (one of the Aldi super six this week). Cost of pie based on ingredients purchased to make it, 53p per portion. I still have potatoes left from the £1.99 bag, so they will take me well into next week. I am guessing that each serving of spuds is about 10 p per person with milk and butter added to make mash. Baked beans are 25p and brocolli 49p.

I made a chicken dish on Sunday. Pollo impanato alle noci con mozzarella. Sounds a bit fancy, it’s not. Used up bread in breadcrumbs to coat chicken breasts, after I bashed them with a rolling pin. A tomato sauce and some mozzarella cheese and pasta. Of which I have plenty. It worked out at about £1.70 a portion, the most expensive meal I have cooked all week.

The last of the bacon hiding at the back of the fridge was used for Sunday breakfast. Lunch was carrot soup. There are still some leftovers from various meals that will feed us all for lunch the next couple of days. We are really loving our leftovers this week.

I plan to look at the food list and check off what I have used and tally up my food spending for the week at some point. I have definately spent less and it has been satisfying to know that I am limiting food waste.

World War I poster. "Waste not, want not....

World War I poster. “Waste not, want not. Prepare for winter. Save perishable foods by preserving now.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What I plan to do now is to donate any unopened items that I don’t think I am going to use to the local food bank. I know that I am fortunate to have so much food and know that others are not so lucky. I cannot afford to waste food yet if I am not going to use it, that is wasteful and I would rather someone who will use it, have it.

This exercise has taught me is to only buy what I need and to plan more effectively. A good store cupboard is the basis to be able to eat well on a budget, but having more than you need is wasteful. Food you don’t use, filling up your kitchen cabinets, fridges and freezer is just the same as filling your living rooms with clutter you don’t need. Building a collection of spices and herbs is acceptable but three jars of pesto with mould growing on them (yup had to bin the pesto) is not. Buying something because it is on offer is fine if you know you need it and will use it, but if you don’t and won’t, that is wasteful and will only add to the kitchen cupboard clutter.

I have used up the pastry, most of the sausages, the cooking apples and vegetables from my list. Utilised the leftovers in the fridge to make budget meals. Leftovers that in the past may have gone off and then thrown away. Yet I have had to throw some food away. On closer inspection the cream and the pesto was past the sell by date and eat by state. I hope this is the last time I have to do this.

Those lentils are still there though. And that is the difference between someone like me who has to keep to a sensible food budget yet isn’t inclined to eat lentils and the person who has no choice as they have no money to buy anything else. And there, by the grace of our employer, the Job Centre, the bedroom tax, the redundancy notice and the mad men in Westminster, go all most of us.

Lunch with Steinbeck, dinner with Forrest

Chats about California today reminded me of this. Would love to go back and spend more time out there.

travellingcoral

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On the drive down the coast from Santa Cruz to Monterey the scenery was stunning, most of the time. The last few miles, we headed inland along Highway 1 across flat, fertile plains, dedicated to agriculture. The fields were full of people hand picking artichokes and sprouts. We saw signs advertising kiwis and strawberries too. These fields stretched out as far as the eye could see, between the sea and the mountains. Despite the obvious fertility, there was something else, the vastness, the intense human labour. This was a place where people worked the land by hand. Unlike the vast corn fields, that glow in the sun, this was not a place of beauty.

I had not then made the link between this valley and John Steinbeck. He was born and raised in Salinas, the town sitting in the middle of this plain. He sometimes worked the land to earn some…

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Planning meals around the food hoard

Earlier this week I wrote a post about how shocked I was at the amount of food I had in the house that I wasn’t using. It was written following a discussion on how we would behave if there was a blackout.  I thought that I probably had enough food to survive a short while and decided to do a food audit to see if there was a blackout could I survive.

I was shocked at quite how much I actually had in the house. Here is the food list and my mission is to plan meals around this, limiting my food shopping to staples and ingredients needed to make a meal from what I already had. This week is all about using left overs, store cupboard ingredients and cooking on a budget. More Jack than Jamie.

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Tuesday

Lunch was leftover items from pizza night and ham and bread. No spending on lunch today.

I made carrot soup using up stock and most of the carrots and Apple and Sultana crumble with ingredients I already had.

Dinner

Pasta bake made with pasta I already had, left over passata in the fridge and onions and peppers. I only bought Steak Mince that day, used 250g of 500g. The rest will be used on Saturday.

Spending £3.69. Expensive mince, yet I think it is worth it as goes further as there is so little fat. It fed three adults today and will do so again on Saturday. Just over 60p each for a portion of meat.

Wednesday

Lunch, sandwiches with existing ingredients.

Dinner

Sausages from freezer (10 Black Farmer) with frozen peas and fresh carrots and courgettes from a neighbours allotment. I bought bread, potatoes and baked beans from Aldi.  The bread will last the week for sandwiches and the potatoes will last about a fortnight.

Spending £3.23

Thursday

Lunch was ham sandwiches for two of the family. I had some of the leftovers from last night sausages.

Dinner

I used up the curry kit, chicken breast and prawns, with rice. This meal was made with ingredients I already had, so no spend on meals for those of us eating the curry. I bought butter, milk, a pizza (as one of the diners doesn’t like curry and quite honestly I couldn’t be bothered to make two different meals) and tinned chopped tomatoes for the curry. I ended up using fresh tomatoes that were very ripe instead.This fed two of us and there is a leftovers for lunch on Saturday.

Spending £4.26

Today (Friday) is fish and chips night so no cooking and no shopping.

Lunch for me was left overs of the sausage meal. the others had sandwiches and soup.This fed three for dinner on Wednesday plus two smaller lunch portions for me so feeling very frugally smug.

I am getting to the end of the meat supply in the freezer so it may be a veggie week ahead. Lots of lentils and rice.

If anyone has any meal ideas based on my food list, please share.

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If there was a blackout could I survive?

I have pasted below details of a chat on twitter around community and food (two of my favourite subjects) which was prompted by the programme Blackout. Could we survive? Would people really behave like that? What would we do? 

  1. Steph Clarke ‏@Essitam9 Sep
  2. Where’s the scenes of community coming together? Because they would, there’s always people willing to do good #blackout
  3. Karen Strunks ‏@karenstrunks9 Sep
  4. @Essitam that was horrendous! The only hint of community was the old lady staying in the flat downstairs. The rest were animals
  5. Steph Clarke ‏@Essitam9 Sep@karenstrunks it was an awful portrayal of society. We’re not all monsters.
  6. Coral Musgrave ‏@travellingcoral9 Sep
  7. @Essitam @karenstrunks I agree in my terrace we would support each other i am sure. well we all have keys! and veg and lentils and rice.
  8. Karen Strunks ‏@karenstrunks
  9. @travellingcoral @Essitam it would be very interesting to see who helped who. Just remembered a gas camping stove in the cupboard! 🙂
    1. @karenstrunks @travellingcoral in case of #blackout l I’ve already proposed a massive street party to use up all the perishable foods 😀

    2. @karenstrunks @Essitam pretty sure in my terrace we could cobble something together as we have logs and open fire and they have veg
    3. @Essitam If someone hasn’t syphoned my petrol, I’m coming to your street party! 😀 @travellingcoral

This led me to think about the food I have in the house and whether, like Steph I could plan my meals around what I already have.

Coral Musgrave ‏@travellingcoral9 Sep

the irony is that most of us have enough in store cupboard to make a basic meal if there really was a blackout. #blackout

Steph Clarke ‏@Essitam9 Sep

@travellingcoral I’ve done food calender for this week using what I have in the house. All I needed to buy in was mushrooms.

Coral Musgrave ‏@travellingcoral9 Sep

@Essitam wow that is organised! i need to do a food audit

And of course I invited A Girl Called Jack into the conversation.

A Girl Called Jack ‏@MsJackMonroe9 Sep

  1. @travellingcoral tinned toms essential! 🙂
    A Girl Called Jack retweeted you
  2. 9 Sep:

    if i sent @MsJackMonroe a list of my store cupboard she’d feed a family for a month (may need to stock up on tinned toms) #blackout

The food audit has taken me a couple of days to complete and I am sure there is some things I have missed out. I was shocked at just how much I have. I consider myself good at cooking on a budget, shop almost daily for basics like milk and bread and cook low cost meals, stretching the chicken from Sunday dinner to chicken pie on Monday and make stock with the carcass for soup for lunch for the rest of the week. I hate food waste. I have taken up the Live Below the Line Challenge and have writting about surviving on £53 a week.

Yet I am hanging my head in shame. If you are interested the list is here.

Too much food is clutter.  I have written elsewhere about my mission to simplfy my life by getting rid of stuff that I don’t need and why I need to declutter. I am not saying we don’t need food, of course we do, but buying food because it is on offer and then not using it is wrong and wasteful. It is clear to me that I need to plan better and only buy what we need.

I have this week started to plan around the food list.

Yesterday I used up some of the vegetables and passatta left over from when we made pizza on Saturday. I had a half pack of pasta, so all I bought was 500g of mince, used half of it,  and made this. The rest of the mince will be for another meal later this week.

Pasta with leftovers

Today I bought some potatoes and we will have sausage from the freezer, use some of the fresh veg, with mash.

The carrots have been made into a soup for lunches this week, using up stock made with the chicken from Sunday.

Perishables are the priority as the street party isn’t going to happen unless we really do have a national disaster.

And it looks like I need to find ways of using all that pasta, rice and lentils. And buy some tinned tomatoes.

What would you cook?