Counting

I got back from Edinburgh to discover that my bank have cancelled my overdraft facility. This is good on one hand as it means I am not constantly living in overdraft mode; however it is also bad as it means I have far less money this month than I was budgeting for. The situation is manageable, but shall require dedicated thrifting in order to remain stable.

With encouragement from Lara, I have therefore decided to turn my number-crunching this week into a blogging challenge. We enjoyed much packed-lunch fare and tupperware joy whilst in Edinburgh and this shall continue for the rest of March, with much fanfare, photographing of noms, and detailed expense-accounting.

Lunchbox NOMS! These are mushrooms slowly roasted in oyster sauce, ketjap manis and chinese cooking wine. Hurrah for the power of condiments.

The careful attention to budgeting numbers will be synchronised with a second system of counting, since I am currently following the excellent Weight Watchers scheme, and am therefore keeping a watchful eye on the points contained in what I eat. (Mushroom NOMS = 0 points hurrah!)

The start of the challenge is easy since it will mostly involve using up everything that is currently in the fridge and the cupboards, cycling and using my student railcard in place of driving, and writing down everything that I spend and everything that I eat. Mark is away this week and will not mind me using up things which would otherwise run out of date or rot, and there is plenty of joy in his freezer for me to get through, such as the bags of chickpea-vegetable curry (2 points) which I bagged up and froze in a cooking spree last week.

Sunday night NOMS = 2 points. It looked better once defrosted.

Monday’s numbers:

WW points consumed – 22.5
£££ spent – £7.50 on train ticket, £5.85 on WW treats (£1 saved in coupons!)
lbs lost – 3.5 (since 2 weeks ago)

Menu:

Muesli and skimmed milk for breakfast, marinated tofu and rice lunchbox for lunch, fish pie and veg for dinner.

Fish Pie NOMS! I am aware that my photos of food taken indoors in the dark are probably unappetising to you, sorry about that. Please to note that I only make tasty NOMS.

Top thrifting points:

Marinade for tofu watered down and reused for slow-cooking the mushroom snacks; the water from these cooked mushrooms additionally saved for a risotto later in the week.

The ends of an old jar of instant coffee were instantly recontextualised as smart urban take-out-coffee thanks to the magical powers of my ‘I am not a paper cup.’ Options hot chocolate (1 point) enjoyed in a similar fashion for the cost of boiling a kettle once to fill a thermos.

How I love my ‘I am not a paper cup.’ It was a present from my secret santa this year in the family gift exchange and I use it nearly every day and consider it to be a thing of utter wonder. Its glazed porcelain surfaces do NOT taste a little bit like everything that was ever in it before,* it feels warm and lovely in the hands, the wind never blows it away, and I never worry that perhaps a leaky seam in its side may cause structural collapse.**

But back to thrifting…old parsnips and cauliflower were integrated into mash topping of fish pie for fewer calories, more flavour, and waste reduction. I hasten to add that the cauliflower and parsnip were not very old, just a little bit past their best, but perfect for inclusion in a tasty fish-pie topping.

Highlights:

Printed food!

The red onions that I roasted*** before slicing into the tofu/rice box printed blue/purple lines onto the tofu so that it totally matched the tea towel I took in my picnic kit with its impressions of yellowed paper and smudged ink. The joys of matching food/tableware are perhaps not to everyone’s delight but it made me very happy to have ‘printed’ food.

This is the tea towel, purchased in Brighton in a sale in 2007 and much cherished. It is one of Julie Haslan’s and I love how its design is taken from the worn pages of old, handwritten recipes – some of the loveliest and most evocative kitchen items to come across. This tea towel reminds me of some favourite posts by some favourite people.

This is the marinated tofu (chinese cooking wine, ketjap manis, oyster sauce, slow cooked for an hour) which has been printed with a little purple/blue mark by the onions. Art NOMS.

Using my Y-peeler to turn the carrots into ‘ribbons’**** before steaming them was also totally worth it for textural/flavoursome nommage.

Fun:

After the sonic tuck shop installation last week, (more of this later) I find myself with a surfeit of cheap, sugar-free beverages in the house. The tasty cream soda, when combined with some gelatine and a little bit of extra light cream cheese, makes a tasty cream layer for a raspberry ripple dessert. (0.5 points.)

In summary, Monday’s numbers are quite good although the railfare to Guildford (I was checking out a print studio for an Arts Council funding application I’m working on) plus my spending at the WW meeting all ate into my budget. Tuesday involves lentil burgers, sweet potato and tomato soup, and further appreciation of the ‘I am not a paper cup’ mug and the domestic bliss teatowel.

*unlike the plastic/metal thermo cups which taste a little bit of soup even if you’ve only ever had tea in them.
**the worst cup of coffee I have ever purchased was, I am sad to say, purchased in my own home town of Croydon from the Allders Mall. Not only did it taste like engine grease, but Mark and I were obliged to drink it standing over a bin in Queen’s Park Gardens, hoping desperately that the bulging/leaky seams along the bottom were not going to collapse, scalding us both in the crack-strength contents. Do not buy coffee in the Allders Mall if you are in Croydon. Or if you do, please to use your handy ‘I am not a paper cup’ to prevent this kind of stress.
***seriously, if you have no time at all in your life, just throw some onions in the oven and forget about them for 40 minutes. When you come back they will be sweet and tasty, roasted right through and ready to chop into anything you want onion-joy in. I like onions cooked this way as they remain distinctly oniony and do not disintegrate into the sauce as is so often the case.
****a fierce idea plagiarised shamelessly from the wonderful Cook Yourself Thin cookbook, only in there they do it with courgettes and then griddle cook them.

3 Responses to Counting

  1. colleen says:

    Brilliant! I was beginning to worry about my obsession with root veg and frugal cooking and now I know that I’m not alone. (Have just, conincidentally, posted some more recipes on said obsession.)

    Your admiration of hand written recipes is shared too. Shopping lists are also fascinating. When I went to see the Roger Hilton exhibition In Cambridge at the back end of last year, I was very taken with his grumpy instructions to his wife on what she should buy for him when he was sick. Wish I had written them all down at the time.

    Looking forward to more frugal adventure reporting.

  2. tinebeest says:

    full of ideas for cooking! I’d forgotten about ribbon-shaped veggies, carrots suddenly look more appealing again. About the onions: you just throw them in the oven as is, without peeling etc?

    I love the taste of stir-fried onions and peppers in that smokey, almost burnt take-away Chinese restaurant taste, but I can never quite recreate it at home. And I need to do something with the 5,000 onions that have accumulated in the kitchen from my weekly veggie bag…

  3. Lara says:

    Hurrah for frugal adventure reportage. I love the numbers format. So much thrifty joy in this post and I will be creating vegetable ribbons. M&S are selling stirfrys that look very glamourous with carrot ribbons so you see, you are a pioneer of fashion.

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