Through the basket hole: a Sunday supermarket raid.

After arriving home from an amazing holiday in Ethiopia Friday, that’s another blog post if I can do it justice, I’ve spent most of the weekend chilling. With my mum cat sitting Tigs, she’d left food behind which I had and I used what was in the freezer. By Sunday, I decided that I’d better hit the supermarket and get myself ready for the working week; sob!

I left home just after 3pm and arrived at the supermarket at 3:15pm in the hope of reductions coming out at around 3:30pm. There were 5 or 6 loiterers at the reduced fruit & veg section so knowing that they were waiting on final reductions I quickly nipped off to the other sections. I checked out the meat aisle; whilst I don’t eat it, it’s where other produce like reduced price sandwiches, salads, sauces, dairy free products are often placed. I got a couple of the Wicked range slaw for 17p each. A pack of 40p cooked chicken for Tigs. Being vegan, I feel a little conflicted when buying meat but figure Tigger is eating it in processed cat food anyway and it is heading for the bin.

I added bleach to my basket then returned to the fruit & veg aisle where my fellow raiders were still patiently waiting. I had a scroll through Instagram and at around 3:35pm the store assistant wheeled out crates filled with fruit & veg. It was a bit of a mad scram but I managed to grab a bag of Desiree potatoes for 20p, broccoli florets 32p, sweetcorn cobettes 15p, a bunch of spring onions for 6p, sprouts 25p, vegetable & beansprout stir fry mix 25p and oyster mushrooms for 9p.

A few minutes later another member of staff came out to reduce the flowers. There were far more than usual; I guess plenty left over from Valentine’s Day. I picked up a beautiful bouquet for 62p down from £6.25; love thyself and all that!

With all my veg and having noodles at home, which I’d collected some time ago using food sharing app Olio, it made sense to make a stir fry. I kid you not when I tell you I wondered whether I could get away with making a stir fry without soy sauce or oil ha ha. I decided to treat myself seeing as I had a £3 coupon. It didn’t stop me opting for store brand soy sauce and vegetable oil; well the latter is essentially rapseed oil for less.

I checked the reduced sections a couple of more times; people often put things back after the initial scurry to fill their baskets. I left the bakery alone as my freezer is already filled with bread, rolls, wraps. Then I headed for the self checkout; I like to be sure that everything scans at its reduced price! Inserted coupon which brought total down to £1.81, an overall saving of £20.48!

It’s all the money that I’ve spent this weekend. Although, it’s not far off a meal out in Ethiopia. I might have had a yellow Sunday but I’ve still got the holiday blues!

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Coco-Beet Dal; a different sort of CBD

It may sound odd but a suggestion that I make beetroot macaroni inspired me to make beetroot dal. You see, I had organic yellow sticker beetroots to use but no macaroni or vegan cheese. I did however have yellow sticker green lentils and what can’t be curried! The rest of the ingredients were free from cupboard clear outs and food sharing app Olio so feel free to substitute with what you have.

Serves 4-6

    500ml Water
    Makhani Paste pot (approx 1 large tbsp) use any paste or spices of your choosing.
    200g Green Lentils; other colours are available
    3 whole beetroots; you can use more or less or a different vegetable. Parsnips, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Greens; even a mix
    1tbsp Ginger Powder
    1tbsp Chopped Garlic from frozen
    400ml Tin of Coconut Milk; could use chopped tomatoes or vegetable stock
    1-2 Chilli’s; use powder if you prefer

    I soaked the lentils for 7 hours as that was how my day had panned out; I’d only intended to soak for a few.
    Add the lentils to the water, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the lentils are soft: approx 20 mins. 
    Whilst lentils are cooking boil beetroots. They don’t have to be cooked right through as will cook in dal.
    Peel and chop beetroot then add to lentils with coconut milk, paste, ginger, garlic, chopped chilli’s. I didn’t de-seed my chilli’s. They came from Andy’s allotment and having had a load which I’ve stored in the freezer I know they are rather mild.
    Simmer for around 20-30 minutes depending on your preferred consistency . 
    You can add fresh coriander if you have it; I didn’t.
  • I’m going to have my dal the next day, let the flavours develop and serve with yellow sticker rice and onion bhajis which I’ve got in the freezer.

    Karma

    Karma: the principle of retributive justice determining a person’s state of life and the state of his or her reincarnations as the effect of past deeds. (www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.collinsdictionary.com/amp/english/karma)

    Karma: a Swedish startup founded in Stockholm, November 2016. The app connects surplus food from restaurants, cafes and grocery stores to consumers for a lower price. As a result, users eat great food for less and businesses receive an additional revenue stream — all while reducing food waste. (https://karma.life)

    Karma: I receive £5 credit from the Karma app, I use £2.49 to collect Teriyaki Tofu served on sushi rice with kamameshi sauce, edamame, leeks and pickled radish from EatFirst for dinner; restaurant style, healthy gourmet meals which you heat in the microwave. On my way home, I unwittingly drive through the congestion zone and get stung for the £11.50 charge. Now the what actual Karma is this?!

    I’m full of first world problems, I could list them daily; the steam room is currently out of action at my health club, my running times are not what they used to be, I forgot that I had cut price tomatoes and now they are mouldy. It’s astonishing that food waste has become such a first world problem; I don’t like that I’ll bin it, I don’t want to eat that twice I’ll bin it, the restaurant portions are too large let them bin it, we need to overstock sandwiches in the interest of custom, if they don’t sell we’ll bin them.

    Have we lost sight that in third world countries people regularly die of starvation. 98% of the world’s undernourished people live in developing countries (https://www.thp.org/knowledge-center/know-your-world-facts-about-hunger-poverty/)

    We don’t even need to go that far afield, most of us would have walked past at least one person today who cannot afford to eat. Someone without the same choices as us. You see most of us are in a position to make informed choices daily as to how we spend our money, what we eat, what we invest in. Some of our decisions will inevitably be more ethical than others and our privilege influences than that.

    By using the Karma app you choose to save money on a meal, you choose what you buy, you choose to reduce food waste. Businesses such as EatFirst choose to operate with a social consciousness, reduce landfill, whilst still generating a revenue. We all make choices as to what sort of world we want to live in.

    Let me know what you choose from

    http://karma.life

    Good Food for Good Causes

    I first came across The Felix Project in the summer of 2017. A wellness event that I attended were donating their proceeds to The Felix Project and being curious I looked them up online. It sounded like a cool concept; a charity which collected surplus food that would otherwise be wasted, and redistributed to homeless shelters. At the time, I was interested in volunteering with a food waste/food poverty charity which would allow me to cook on premises. I figured it would be a good way of improving my culinary skills whilst helping others, so thought The Felix Project wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

    A week or so later, I was in Sainsbury’s, on a yellow sticker shop, when I spotted a flyer for The Felix Project and noticed that they had a warehouse in North West London, which was easy enough for me to get to. Taking this as a sign, I thought what have I got to lose by getting in touch with them, so I did. I couldn’t make their induction day so development manager Anne suggested that I co-drive a route and see how I got on. It was great; driver Ross was good company, we took in the sights of West London, whilst collecting from places like Gail’s Bakery and dropping the food off to hostels. It was really humbling seeing first hand where the food was delivered to, and knowing that many of these people were waiting on us to eat. I can’t imagine having to be dependent on others for my next meal. Grenfell Tower was in full view as we drove over the Westway; if there was ever a time we were invoked to come together as a community this was it.

    Some weeks later when Anne asked if I was available to drive, I thought she’d lost her damn mind. I mean I reckon myself a pretty decent driver but I wasn’t a van driver. She invited me to the warehouse before the shift to take my licence details and to go on a test drive. “I don’t know what you was worrying about, you are doing great” she said, and she was right, I had been fretting unnecessarily. The vans are a breeze to drive and made all the more easier with the introductions of zipvans, electric vehicles; they even offer walking and cycling routes.

    I’ve volunteered as driver and co driver regularly since 2017. Having the flexibility of booking in for shifts, as and when I’m available, works really well for me being able to fit it in around work and other commitments and has lent itself to my still being motivated 18 months later. Aside from being out on routes, there are opportunities to volunteer in the warehouse. I’ve volunteered at events and am on The Felix Project team running The Big Half marathon in March; raising money and awareness.

    They really are a fantastic charity who are so appreciative of any help that they receive and look after their volunteers; you’ve not eaten until you’ve attended a Felix Project party and of course taking home a doggy bag is encouraged. You see food and our need to eat is what we all have in common; it’s a basic human function that cuts across gender, race, class, religion. Unfortunately, social disadvantage can too easily affect our access to food and allow too many to go hungry.

    It was Felix’s upset that there were children at his football tournament who hadn’t eaten that day which inspired the project, after his death, in his memory. The Felix Project’s mission of lessening food waste and poverty is what keeps it going. Knowing I’ve never regretted undertaking a shift is what makes me sign up for the next. What will be your reason for sparing some time for this cause?

    Sign up to volunteer with The Felix Project.

    http://thefelixproject.org/help-us/volunteer

    Bargain Bubble & Squeak

    Christmas may be well and truly over for one year but the leftovers are still in abundance. When the roast dinners ran their course – pun intended, I turned my attention to brunch. Is Christmas even Christmas without bubble and squeak?

    Bubble and squeak is such a great way of using up leftovers whatever the time of the year. These were cold roast potatoes, pumpkins, parsnips and carrots mashed with reduced price, yellow sticker, spring onions and chopped green chilli that I collected for free using Olio. I kept the seasoning to salt and pepper as the roast potatoes and veg already had garlic and thyme on them but you can add whatever you have, or fancy.

    I added a little flour and formed them into individual patties. Pan fried on a low heat with spray oil, simply because that’s what I had. Flipping over and cooking until browned and warmed through. I cooked 2 large patties for approximately 10 minutes either side.

    I towered these up with yellow sticker hummus, spinach, baked beans and spring onions. Again, you can use up whatever you have. Let me know how you have yours.

    Eat more Greens, Spend less Green!

    1st January, and the start of Veganuary marks my one year veganniversary.

    Here are my tips on how to embrace the one month plant based challenge, transitioning to a vegan lifestyle whilst still eating well for less.

  • 1. Splurge. I’m not talking cash, I mean do not deny yourself. I found a gradual transition easier; I went from cutting out meat, then fish and had done shorter challenges before veganuary. It can feel like a big jump and is restrictive so I would avoid limiting other foods alongside i.e. the oh so predictable New Year, New Me diet!
  • 2. Network. There are so many online resources available which can provide you with tips on eating out, recipe ideas, supplementation, motivation. Check out websites

    www.vegansociety.com

    https://veganuary.com

    www.happycow.net

    Podcasts: The Plant Proof Podcast Instagram accounts: James Aspey, The Happy Pear

    Facebook: Zanna Van Dijk Living Consciously Crew Facebook group

    Also, food sharing app Olio. Not only will you find individuals sharing food and other goods; I’ve collected a couple of vegan cookbooks using the app. Eateries distribute surplus food via food waste heroes (FWH) on the app. Deliciously Ella, foods from her vegan deli is a favourite of mine. I regularly message FWH collecting from Pret in advance, to let me know if they get any vegan bits.

    Too Good to Go and Karma are food waste apps where you can buy surplus at a discounted price. You can filter searches to list veggie/vegan friendly options.

    3. Bye Brands

    Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that there are so many vegan products launching and that big brands are offering vegan alternatives. I am packing the vegan Magnums, both flavours, and steadily working my way through the Wicked Kitchen range. However, I only buy such products when sporting a yellow sticker, on offer, or I have coupons. Business is still business, irrespective of any ethical ideology. This is a great time for the food industry to capitalise on the growing popularity of veganism and convenient foods, of any dietary requirement, cost. A ready meal will generally cost you what it will to cook from scratch food serving at least 4.

    A lot of simple meals can be made using few ingredients and shops own brands; oats, smoothies, curries, soups, pasta, stews. There are so many recipes online, it doesn’t always have to be a vegan recipe, any can be tweaked. If you are unsure think about the purpose of an ingredient and look up vegan substitutes.

    4. Shop Smart

    On a whole fruit, veg, pulses, grains are generally cheaper than meat. You tend to find fruit and veg in the reduced section daily. It was a factor in reducing my meat consumption as I’d only buy meat yellow sticker. It is less available reduced as has a longer shelf life and more sought after. If no fruit and veg yellow sticker, there are ranges of imperfect produce available and a number of supermarkets are launching too good to waste boxes, including Morrison’s and Lidl, selling fruit and veg nearing the end of its shelf life.

    Food products which are common place in the East such as coconut oil, lentils, chickpeas, tend to be cheaper in the world food aisles.

    5. Freeze

    Freeze sandwiches, fruit, veg, soups, leftovers. When you cook get into the habit of storing a portion in the freezer. You’ll be grateful to have your own ready meals on hand at times when you can’t think of what to make. It avoids spending a small fortune on buying lunch out or coming unstuck if no vegan options on hand.

    6. Forgive & Forget

    We are only human and I think it’s safe to say that most of us have had slip ups when trying to live more consciously; whether it’s reduce food waste, single use plastic, eat more plants. Long lasting changes tend to be best achieved when coming from a place of kindness and patience. Scolding ourselves or becoming overwhelmed only encourages us to throw in the towel. The idea of challenges such as Veganuary are to offer a taster, instil new habits, widen our horizons, start conversations and journeys. I’m not sat on a high horse, in fact it’s a leather sofa. The reality is that I have many animal based products which I’m not going to just bin, what I will do is continue to welcome in the new.

    Feel free to drop me a line and let me know how you get on!

    My love don’t cost a thing; but the Xmas dinner does!

    I recently had a row with someone who was insistent that I should be cooking meat at Christmas. Said person was not coming for Christmas dinner, or any other dinner for that matter, so not sure what concern it was of theirs. I pointed out that preparing food takes time, energy, money, care so there was no way that I’d be told that’s not quite good enough and I should delivering meat too.

    Interestingly, my sister, who is a meat eater, and would be joining for Christmas dinner, described me as her saviour for taking care of the food shopping. For her not having to worry about traipsing around the shops, or bearing the financial cost, far outweighed the need to be served meat.

    My mum, another meat eater, is prepared to sacrifice it as long as she does not have to be involved in the cooking. She’s no one’s fool and has no interest in slaving away in the kitchen.

    Food has meaning, it is political, symbolic, a form of communication. And, despite any differences, unites us all. Had I not regifted Christmas cookies to a woman begging on the street, the likelihood is that I would have pretended not to have seen her. A side effect of turning vegan has been my offering surplus food to others less fortunate, who lack the same autonomy over their food choices that I do. It is only the privileged who can afford to argue about what should or shouldn’t be served on their plates.

    There is a value to food which is not simply monetary, so this Christmas I will continue to predominantly prepare food which would otherwise have been wasted. I will share what I can spare with the needy. I’ll welcome the opportunity to cook with my sister, try new foods, recipes, spend time with family, find out which vegan joints my niece has been hitting up. And, the only animal on the table will be Tigger; what can I say the cat is a law upon himself!

    These are the foods that I have planned for the big day:-

      Seitan Wellington; I’ll be making this from scratch for the first time! It’s been on my to do list for a while. The gluten flour was full price but the chickpea flour that I’ll be adding was reduced to clear, yellow sticker, as is the shortcrust pastry. The recipe calls for puff pastry but my sister says pastry is pastry.
      Roast potatoes; I collected a free bag using food sharing app Olio.
      Roast pumpkin; a new addition to Christmas. I still have loads chopped in the freezer having had 4 this year from Andy’s allotment.
      Parsnips, Sprouts, Carrots; all yellow stickers. I’ve been buying as and when I see them and keeping them in the fridge.
      I stored a box of fresh yellow sticker cranberries in the freezer weeks ago so will be making cranberry sauce.
      My sister is insisting on making a nut roast because she likes it.
      Bisto gravy, because who doesn’t have at least 4 tubs in their cupboards.
      Accidentally vegan, yellow sticker Tesco bakery mince pies which I’ve stored in the freezer
      Tesco Wicked Kitchen, yellow sticker, pineapple dream cake. Instructions read not suitable for freezing; I’ve done it anyway.
      Healthy chocolate truffles which I made in a vegan Christmas cookery class back in November but have stored especially.
      Biscuits made in a different Christmas cookery class at a community college which again I’ve been keeping.
      Carrs Table Water crackers, accidentally vegan, and from a friend’s cupboard clear out.
      Red sticker, the reduced stickers are red in Holland & Barrett, Mozzarella style vegan cheese at 12p a pack! They were marked down to £1.20, I asked the shop assistant whether any more would be taken off and they took another 90% as use by date was following day (22/12); I’ll keep them in fridge till Xmas day. Just goes to show it pays to ask!
      Selection of fruit and nuts; either yellow sticker or free from Olio
      Alcohol, others will be bringing, including a bottle of champagne that my mum bought at a car boot; now you know where I get it from!

    I’ll share the final food pics on insta!

    I hope you all have a wonderful day and I’d be interested to hear the value that you place on Xmas.

    Imperfect Produce

    “How are the baking classes going” a work colleague asked. “Ah, my Christmas cake was a bit of a flop so I’ll now be eating the lot rather than saving it for Christmas” I told him. He went on to suggest that I blog about it and reminded me that not everything has to be perfect.

    Why hadn’t I thought of this I wondered. I’d taken a before picture of the ingredients which I’d saved from the bin; buying yellow stickers, using food sharing apps. I’d planned on taking a snap of the finished product and sharing on Instagram, showing how you can eat well for less, I didn’t bother when the bottom of the cake stuck to the tin as I lifted it out.

    The last blog post that I wrote was on eating well for less during the festive period, yet I had no intention of sharing that I’d baked a Christmas cake until Andre gave me the nudge I needed. It’s not like I’m precious about food; it was just the other day that I found an orange on the pavement, proudly declared this to an old flame on the phone before proceeding to eat it. I realised, that whilst I’ll publicly advocate to remove the 10 seconds from the 10 second rule, that I attribute a whole different meaning to street food, and will happily eat your leftovers, that something changes when posting on social media. It’s less about it being public, more the sharing of an image.

    No matter where the ingredients come from I still want a glossy image, of a perfect cake. And I’m not alone in this, we can get lost scrolling through pictures of avocado bun burgers, food bloggers arranging photo sets to snap a cold meal; steam will blur a picture you know!

    The dilemma is that an image is a perception, a representation, profile, it is what is put forwarded and presented, polished, manipulated even, it is not the subject, or object in its entirety. Food on the other hand is the substance. It’s energy, it’s what fuels us, comforts, soothes, nourishes, keeps us alive. The more we focus on the aesthetics of food the more we lose sight of its primary function. The more pressure on supermarkets, farmers to provide consumers with perfect looking produce. The easier it becomes for us to say I don’t like that, I’ve gone off it, maybe I have an intolerance, I don’t know how to cook it, oh just bin it.

    My Christmas cake didn’t go to waste, it was delicious afternoon tea and I shared it with my work friend Andre who asked for any royalties from the blog; cake is as far it stretches mate ha!

    He couldn’t tell what had gone wrong with it, and neither can you in the image that I’ve attached. Because it’s simply that an image, the cake was still tasty and when all said and done, it’s the substance that’s important. It’s food that satisfies you, images just make you hungry.

    Peachy Pumpkin Soup

    When your work bestie keeps supplying you with mutant pumpkins from his allotment, and tinned peaches with a best before date of 2015, from I don’t know where, there’s only one thing to do.

    You put the pumpkin in, take the peaches out, in out, in out, shake it all about. Enough of this Hokey Cokey, it’s peach pumpkin soup!

    If you like sweet and sour, you’ll love this soup. When I get an idea, I google it and if it’s been done before it validates it for me. I’m yet to come up with a recipe that has not been done before, no matter how out there it may seem. So go ahead and use up any veg, and fruit that you have lying around and let me know if you think of an original mix.

    Recipe

    • 1kg chopped pumpkin chunks, I used a bag from frozen which I’d pre chopped and stored: Andy’s allotment
    • 1 chopped red chilli: Andy’s allotment
    • 1 clove of garlic: jar collected using Olio
    • 420g tin of peaches in light syrup, given the BBD was 2015 I clearly would have used any type of peaches or fruit ha
    • 1 inch of fresh turmeric: yellow sticker
    • Half a thumb size of fresh ginger: yellow sticker
    • 2 pints of vegetable stock: yellow sticker
    • 1 tsp garam masala: Olio
    • 1tsp cinnamon: cinnamon
    • Chopped coriander from frozen: yellow sticker
    • Salt & Pepper to season

    I added all the ingredients, bar the coriander, in a pot, brought to the boil, then simmered for 20-30 mins.

    I simply did this because I wanted to save time, you could fry spices before adding pumpkin and peaches.

    Turn off the heat, blend with hand blender or alternative, stir through coriander and season.

    I like to wait until the next day to eat soup to allow the flavours to settle and for it to thicken.

    Vegan Pumpkin & Kale Cheese Bake

    Every year I’m blessed with squash from the work bestie’s allotment. This year he’d outdone himself, and me, with a pumpkin so huge that it had to be cut into slabs from the boot of my car; check out my instagram for the video! After gifting pieces to friends, family, donating on Olio food sharing app, making pie, kao pung, hummus, soups, bread, muffins and roasting I was still left with plenty so cut into chunks and stored in the freezer. He threatened, promised I mean, to bring another so I thought I best clear some freezer space and think of another recipe.

    I thought of adding it to macaroni cheese as a friend had but with no pasta thought again. I loved cauliflower cheese growing up and having picked up vegan cheese and parmesan using food sharing app Olio, I thought why not a pumpkin cheese bake!

    If you’re still harbouring pumpkins from Halloween or fancy something a little different for thanksgiving why not give it go. If you shop from your kitchen and use completely different veg let me know what you make!

    Recipe:-

    • Roast a dish of chopped pumpkin and kale with a couple of sliced red chillis from the work bestie’s allotment, 4 garlic cloves from Olio, sunflower oil from my sis, reduced price dried sage for approx 30 mins. Be mindful that pumpkin produces a lot of liquid particularly if defrosted so either drain when adding your cheese sauce or incorporate it into the mixture.
    • To make white sauce 4 tbsps sunflower oil with 4 tbsps of flour, mix into a roux. Slowly add 500ml coconut and almond milk or of your choosing. Add 50g of grated vegan cheese, or an alternative or leave out. Stir vigorously, until sauce thickens and to consistency of your liking; approx 15-20 mins add seasonings.
    • I added dried sage which I’d bought reduced. Chopped chives, again reduced and stored in the freezer, salt and pepper.
    • Add the white sauce to the dish, mixing with the veg. Top with grated cheese; I used a mix of vegan parmesan and vegan cheddar.
    • Bake for 35-40 mins until top golden.
    • I served with yellow sticker roasties and green beans I got for free but be as creative as you like.