Monday, 29 May 2017

£1-a-day Food Challenge 2017: Day 5

There's been a lot of watering down and out in the last five days - watering down the soya milk I have in my tea, watering down the tea itself, watering out milk bottles and soya milk cartons, watering down milk for cooking and baking, watering out tins and cartons of tomatoes and passata, watering down soup, watering down and out jugs of whey etc, etc. Diluting stuff in order to make small volumes of ingredients go further. Not a joyful part of the project, for the most part. You'd think that where the volume of liquid is the same, it might not matter much if it's diluted heavily but it does. With some things more than others, of course. Foods taste "thinner"; obviously their nutritional value is less too and after a few days, you do notice it. 

One of the things that I will appreciate most at the end of this challenge is being able to go back to having unwatered-down milk, soya milk and soup. I will, however, continue to wash out milk bottles and tomato tins and use the results, where it genuinely doesn't make much difference, so that nothing is wasted. In fact I've always done that with tins of tomatoes but the principle, judiciously applied, can be extended, I feel, to other containers so long as you don't use too much water. Do you wash things down and out with water and use the results in cooking? 

The brown jug in the pic is my soya milk jug in which I carefully measure out the amount I can have in my tea each day on the challenge. I then add quite a bit of extra water, give it a good stir and know that I can use that freely, but no more, each day. It's not a lot but it stretches out the maximum of what the budget permits. I tend to leave the jug out, as it's only a day's worth and it's convenient to have it to hand. But now that the weather has warmed up significantly, the kitchen has had a stream of unwanted pesky fly visitors. It's unavoidable, living in the country. I do not like flies. Their personal hygiene is atrocious and their habits disgusting - I certainly don't want them alighting on the lip of my jug or taking a quick dip in my soya milk. 

The jug needs covering, obviously, but I have given up buying cling film. It's not good for the environment and I always end up with the box falling to pieces before the roll of film is anywhere near finishing, with that feeble, serrated strip that you're supposed to tear the film against, hanging off at a drunken angle and being no use at all. Very annoying when you are in a hurry; (which I usually am). So I've taken to using old china saucers and odd plates to cover bowls and basins. These work well as an alternative to plastic film. Jugs, however, have a hilly contour around their perimeter, which is not friendly to balancing a china saucer upon. So I took a leaf out of the Victorians' answer-book to pesky flies and made a beaded jug-cover. It may look a bit twee and old-fashioned, but never mind that, it's not there as an aesthetic piece, it's there to do a very practical job and it's doing it perfectly. 

I was too lazy and in too much of a hurry to crochet the whole thing but in my kitchen drawer were two lacy circles of fabric that had once covered little pots of orange conserve given out as wedding favours - as delightful an idea as I think I've come across as far as wedding favours go. 

I found a pattern for a beaded crochet doily-edging, adapted it quite significantly, to simplify it and make it fit and voilà! - one highly effective jug-cover that deters all winged invaders. It's easy to wash through by hand, in some hot soapy water, at the end of the day; I hang it up up overnight and it's dry again by morning. The beads I had in my sewing box for some years and have been waiting for a happy use - I'm rather pleased that they've found one.  The watery soya milk does not exactly fill me (or my tea) with joy but using this old French jug my grandparents bought in France well over half a century ago and making this thrifty little solution to my fly problem gives me no little delight. I know... tiny things etc etc! 

Same again! Enough said!

Green split pea and wild green soup

15ml olive oil (Aldi) 10p
1 small red onion, peeled and chopped (Aldi) 7p
3 sticks celery, washed, trimmed and chopped (Aldi) 22p
200g green split peas (Sainsbury's) 28p
1.5 litres homemade vegetable stock (as Day 1) 3p
a large colanderful of greens (wild and cultivated from the garden) I used some bolted spinach left over from last year, lovage, dandelion, Jack-by-the-Hedge, oregano, chives & parsley

To make:
Heat the oil in the base of a pressure cooker and cook the onion and celery for a few minutes. Season with black pepper and add the stock and split peas. Bring to the boil and cook under pressure for 7 minutes.

Release the pressure and stir in the greens which will immediately wilt and collapse down in a bright green mass. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Whizz to a thick, bright green purée in a blender. Serve immediately or cool and reheat as required. Try not to reheat for too long or the vivid green colour will fade.

Total cost 69p.   Makes 5 portions, each costing 14p.

Thrifty Carrot and Banana Muffins

250g carrots, peeled (Aldi) (You can save the peelings for stock-making) 11p
2 large ripe bananas, peeled (Aldi) 24p
170ml sunflower oil (Aldi) 19p
170g light soft brown sugar (Aldi) 23p
2 dsps (40g) honey (Aldi) 11p
280g white self-raising flour (Aldi) 8p
1 tsp baking powder (Waitrose) 2p
1 tsp mixed spice (Aldi) 2p
6 bantam eggs (or use 3 large ordinary hens' eggs)
70g raisins (Aldi) 18p

Preheat the oven to 190 C. Coarsely grate the carrots into a large bowl and set aside. Put the bananas, oil, soft brown sugar and honey into the food processor and whizz until smooth. Add the eggs, flour and mixed spice and whizz again to make a smooth batter. Scrape and pour the batter into the bowl containing the grated carrot. Add the raisins and gently fold the mixture together with a large spoon. Spoon the mixture into about 14 paper muffin cases and bake for about 25 minutes until well-risen and golden. Cool in the tin. These freeze beautifully.

Total cost £1.18. Makes 14 muffins ie 8p each.

In other news, we have also been preparing to feed the garden as well as ourselves on less than £1-a-day and making gallons of comfrey tea. D has cut down a vast load of the comfrey taking over the flowerbeds and left it to wilt overnight in the wheelbarrow.

Today we spent a happy Bank Holiday afternoon stuffing it into old, jute potato-sacks (as you do!)

These we then lowered into a ¾ filled, small, bargain water butt bought for the purpose at the local garden centre, (at a drastically reduced price, because it had faded, while on display). The butt has been prudently placed as far away from the house as possible, in a secluded corner, by the woodpile where, hopefully, the only ones to be assailed by any aroma of decomposition will be the huge, rugby-boot-wearing spiders who lurk among the logs and I don't mind if they are seriously offended and take themselves elsewhere (although not into the house obviously!)

In a few weeks' time we will turn on the tap at the bottom and out should come a very rich, (if smelly), liquid fertiliser to feed the vegetables and various pots. The smell is, apparently, the only drawback. The reason for putting the comfrey into the jute sacks rather than simply adding it loose to the butt is because otherwise the leaves can block the tap and then, as the website, where we found instructions for preparing comfrey tea, tells you happily, "you have to lower your watering can into the stinky barrel" to extract it. Hmm!

I have suggested hopefully to D that when it comes to removing the comfrey "tea bags" and emptying out their putrid contents, that particular job has his name on it, not mine! So far, bless him, he has not objected but we'll see how bad the stinkiness gets! It's reputed to be pretty bad but the fertiliser itself is second to none, as comfrey puts down very long roots that extract nitrogen and other plant goodies from deep below the soil surface that shorter roots never reach and comfrey tea is meant to be the plant equivalent of an all-in-one health tonic.

Nearly at the end of the challenge and the cupboard is almost bare.

Thank you for reading my rather repetitive posts these last few days - I am aware they are somewhat esoteric, not to say eccentric! Only one more at the end of tomorrow's final day and then there will be a breathing space, I think, for a bit!

E x


  1. Almost there! Reading your posts, I've realised that if you live alone on a limited budget, then meals must get very boring. Realistically, you could make no less than half a batch of the muffins so you'd have to eat them for several days on the trot.
    Your comfrey tea bags look interesting. I hope the butt doesn't spring a leak.

    1. Yes, even if you don't live on your own meals risk being boring but thank goodness for the freezer as that has helped me out no end. D echoed that thought about the butt leaking both from a liquid and a gaseous point of view! As it's just next to where he parks his car I think he is slightly concerned about driving to work in a cloud of unspeakable fumes! So far though there is neither leak nor smell - I checked this morning! Apparently you must also be careful not to store the finished "tea" for later use in plastic bottles or it can ferment and er, explode! Eeeek! One to avoid, I think! E x

  2. Loved the cover such a great idea. Useful and very pretty.

    1. Thank you! Glad you like it - I do love pretty glass beads! E x

  3. Your jug cover is adorable! Lacy handkerchiefs work well as long as they are weighted as you have done. We cover our jugs of ice tea and lemonade with fancy handmade covers! One more day so hang in there!

    1. Thank you! Glad you like the jug-cover. From what I've read they seem to divide people - you either love them or hate them but I suspect the haters do not have to see off flies in their kitchens! E x

  4. Just one more day to go. I would have given up after two days to be honest! Alas, you are made of tougher stuff than I. I rinse out tomato cans and coconut milk cans and use them for cooking but not consistently so. I rinse out milk bottles for recycling but don't use the washed out milk. Your jug cover is delightful! I have started using beeswax wrapping, this moulds nicely to even the weirdest shapes. There is always a lot of fabric remnants and beeswax is readily available. My covers are not as sweet as yours though! x

    1. So glad when today arrived and I could lay the régime of the last six days down. It was not too bad the first few days but it became rather more difficult to keep going as time went on, I have to say. What an interesting idea using beeswax wrapping - how do you wash it without the beeswax melting and potentially blocking the drain? Or does it just wipe clean with cold water? Going to investigate acquiring some beeswax and have a little experiment I think! Thank you so much for reading and commenting. E x


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