Wednesday 18 May 2022

2022 £1-a-day Food Challenge - Day #6

I arrived at the last day of my 2022 £1-a-day challenge almost by surprise. I noticed this happened in 2017 that the first couple of days of the challenge had a steady pace and were lifted by the novelty value - costing recipes, cooking slightly differently and recording it all have an engaging quality to start with; Day #3 is not so good - the novelty has worn off and one starts to flirt with the idea of busting out and raiding the pantry for a very large bar of budget-busting chocolate, or just abandoning the whole project as a waste of time and energy. The realisation dawns that there are still three more whole days to calculate, cater and cook for in addition to the current one and it all seems a bit much. By Day #4 however, you have a little bit of a second wind - you think to yourself, "It would be a shame to abandon ship now, after completing three whole days successfully." And by Day #5 things are going more smoothly, so smoothly that, in fact, Day #6 creeps up on you, almost by stealth. 

It's worth remembering, I tell myself, that while human beings are extremely versatile and can adapt to circumstantial stringencies in the most extraordinary way, if they have to, that doesn't mean that adapting to new ways and patterns of living is easy, nor does it happen overnight. These things take time. A project like this one essentially, concertinas artificially into a few days what, if it applied as a given reality, would, in all likelihood, be a much longer term situation. 

I am all too aware that managing on a very limited food budget in the longer term comes with a whole host of other problems, some of them very significant and intractable - it's one thing managing like this for a short while but a whole other story once a few days becomes weeks, or months, or even years - but nevertheless a longer time span allows more space for the process of adapting and adjusting to take place.

It's an old aphorism that Rome wasn't built in a day but it is still true, in so many ways. Something that can feel quite counter-cultural to the 21st C mind-set hell-bent on instant results and high on instant gratification. I am privileged not to have to manage on a £1-a-day food budget as a general rule, but it's good to tuck away in the back of the mind that yes, it would take time to acclimatise and adapt but it is possible. 

Not ideal, for sure - the amount of time and effort to make these six days' meals conform to the budget has been, quite frankly phenomenal, for starters - but it is possible, even in today's spiralling cost of living crisis. And in a world where so many of the certainties that we previously regarded as inalienable and non-negotiable have been shown to be shaky, without foundation, or simply made of smoke and mirrors, and it's easy to think that we're powerless to combat much of that, I think anything that fosters a sense of self-reliance and resilience is a profoundly good thing, whatever budget we're working with. 

I felt I wanted to end with a little bit of a celebration meal for the final evening so most of my efforts for Day #6 went into that which means the rest of the day was rather repetitive, I'm afraid. Breakfast was therefore, yes, you've guessed it, porridge and bottled fruit again. 

Elevenses - strictly speaking, this was superfluous and could have been skipped but having been out cycling this morning I really needed something more than plain tap water to drink on getting home again and the bottle of masala chai I made on Day #1 was still alive and well in the fridge. 

I don't know why but Sainsbury's semi-skimmed milk froths up far better than any other. I assumed that all supermarket semi-skimmed milk was pretty much interchangeable but I've found that simply is not the case. If you want frothy milk for your cappuccino or, like me, for masala chai, Sainsbury's semi-skimmed milk beats everybody else's semi-skimmed milk. Just saying! I presume that the fat content is perhaps marginally higher in Sainsbury's semi-skimmed? If anyone has any more informed ideas - I'd love to know.

"Please may I have elevenses too?"

OK, Littlie, since you asked so nicely...!

Ever opportunist, Cicely and Sweeney Todd* get in on the act!

* Sweeney Todd, the bantam in the front of the pic, is so named because during 'Flockdown' in the winter of 2020-21, she developed the unpleasant habit of feather-pecking her companions, probably through boredom and / or depression. We managed to wean her off the habit last summer but over this last winter, when they again had to be confined to barracks because of the DEFRA regulations to prevent avian 'flu, she went back to her bad old ways and now anyone who doesn't move out of the way sharpish gets an unwanted haircut, as you can see the caramel-coloured Faverolle bantam at the back has had, in the pic below. Cicely (the White Sussex bantam) and Littlie (the last of our original Belgian Millefleurs Barbu d'Uccles bantams, now aged 13 and slightly unimaginatively named because she was the smallest of her bantam cohort) move to get out of harm's way too quickly to be victims but Sweeney's four Faverolle sisters are all sporting 'short back and sides' haircuts, I'm afraid. 

Lunch - what do you know? The same as the last four days!

Except for the fact that it was warm enough to take it outside and eat it as an impromptu picnic with a nice view. Everything tastes different and better outside, as we all know, even if it's exactly the same food (again)!


As I wrote at the beginning of this post, I wanted this evening's meal to have a slightly celebratory feel to it so it had three courses, not two and I just could not face stewed fruit and yoghurt for pudding again so there was a proper, unashamedly traditional pudding. Interestingly, I chose the kind of pudding I would never normally light on when rifling through a cookery book for inspiration as to what I might make on any given occasion. It's a thoroughly old-fashioned, steamed pudding with blackberries both at the bottom of the pudding and in the sauce to go with it. Although the recipe includes blackberry sauce as an integral part of the of pudding I also made an egg custard to pour over the top. Because, if I used bantam eggs and milk instead of cream, there was just room in the budget for it, and because why not?!

The first course was incredibly simple. Emboldened by the success of my wild green soup on Saturday, I raided the ground elder patch again and filled a colander with the stuff. Steamed briefly to wilt the leaves and lightly cook the stems, I served this up as it was, drizzled with a little French dressing made from 14g olive oil, 7g apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Split between two of us -  cost per serving 5p. It was surprisingly good - a wonderful vibrant green as you can see and with a pleasant spinach-like flavour. I was concerned it might be very fibrous but it wasn't. I'm glad I added the dressing though - lifted it no end and made it seem like serving (and eating) a proper dish rather than just sitting down to a dreary pile of cooked weeds!

The main course was a risotto. I had to fiddle around with the ingredients and quantities to get this to fit within the budget, bearing in mind I needed slack for my pudding (not forgetting the all-important custard) so I did a bit of teeming and lading and the end result was made up as follows:

10g sunflower oil (Aldi - this is like gold dust now with the war in Ukraine making the export of sunflower oil impossible and it's virtually unobtainable in UK supermarkets but I had a bottle of it on the go anyway in my kitchen so I used it. 1p)
94g onions (from a bag of Aldi Wonky Onions 4p)
3 slim walking onions (from the garden 0p)
224g risotto rice (Sainsbury's Arborio rice 44p - I could probably have used a bit less actually but D loves risotto and was happy to have rather more than me)
c 750ml homemade vegetable stock (made from vegetable trimmings saved from the last few days, plenty of herbs and 4g Sainsbury's Cooking salt nil)
180g frozen peas (Aldi Garden Peas 10p)
a handful of lemon thyme from the garden (nil)
a pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper (Sainsbury's / Aldi nil)
2 baby courgettes (the first of the year from the garden - so pleased that they were ready in time for this - I had not expected them to be but the rain of the last few days has accelerated them very happily - nil)

Total cost of risotto 59p ie 29p each for two. The budget also just allowed 4g of Aldi Grana Padano cheese for sprinkling on top of each serving. (3p)

The pudding was taken from The Hedgerow Cookbook by Wild at Heart Foods (aka Caro Willson and Ginny Knox) and it's called Bramble Pudding.

I made half quantities for the sponge bit and divided it between three individual pudding basins but used the full quantity of blackberries for the sauce so that there was plenty to go round. Having tweaked the recipe slightly to fit my budget, this is what went into it:

62g salted butter (from Marks & Spencer 500g pack 39p)
62g granulated sugar (from Sainsbury's 5kg sack 4p)
1 bantam egg (nil)
37g whole milk (Ocado 4pt bottle 2p)
275g blackberries (from the freezer - foraged last summer nil)
80g granulated sugar (from Sainsbury's 5kg sack 5p)
200ml grape juice (from the freezer - harvested last September nil)

Total cost of pudding including blackberry sauce 52p ie 17p per ⅓

The custard was made from 
3 bantam egg yolks (nil)
20g granulated sugar (from Sainsbury's 5kg sack  1p)
6g cornflour (Sainsbury's 2p)
400ml whole milk (from Ocado 4pt bottle 22p)

Total cost of custard 25p. It made just under 400g in total which allowed a generous serving of around ⅕ of the total (ie 80g) per person (5p each) to remain within the budget. 

I steamed the puddings for 5 minutes in the pressure cooker and then cooked them under pressure for 7 minutes which saved a lot of time and fuel - steamed puddings cooked conventionally are notoriously heavy on cooking times. I have to say it was absolutely delicious and such a treat with which to end the challenge. I shall definitely be making these again come the blackberry picking season. 

This marks the last of the six days of my £1-a-day Food Challenge for 2022. I'll do a summing-up post in a day or two - there's quite a lot of reflecting to do on the experience this time round but I need to digest it first. I know this challenge has been an artificial thing but I hope, if anyone is reading this and finding it heavy-going to put good food on the table with a very limited budget, it may encourage you and cheer you on - while these days have been hard work in the kitchen, the results have not just been cheap as chips, they've been nutritious, filling and joyful. 
E x


  1. Well, I'd eat that supper - food challenge or not. It looks delicious and how forward you are to have courgettes already. It's been interesting to follow your challenge, particularly with world events illustrating how ordinary people can be catapaulted from normal grocery shopping to having to subsist on meagre rations.

    Your bantams look very happy to be out in the sunshine and I'm sure Sweeney Todd's companions are glad to have more space to get out of her way.

  2. Your dinner looks delicious, I'd eat that, happily so. I do love a risotto. Our courgettes have only just emerged from the ground.


Thank you so much for taking the time to visit me at Mrs TT's and comment. I love to read what you write.