Visit my new blog!

10 Sep

Hello all,

Thank you for visiting. If you enjoyed reading this blog, why not hop over and subscribe to my new blog, Twisting Kitchen – which is about stretching what you can prepare and eat at home, one interesting recipe at a time.


Prices just went up.

5 May

Prices just went up. Lentils are now £1.10 for 500 grams. Fortunately, two readers suggested a solution:

Turns out, split peas contain nearly as much protein as lentils, are high in iron and retail for just a bit less – so 5 days worth of food can be had at a whopping 225p.

As groceries, it doesn’t look like much either. That’s five days worth of food right there.
Meanwhile, I’m still not sure if I’m going to participate in this thing this year. This is crazy.
Of course I don’t have to stay within 50p per day. One pound per day is still the norm, after all. And it does suddenly seems a pretty reasonable budget.

French clochards probably eat more interesting food than this. In fact I’m pretty sure that at the remaining 275p of the total 5-pound budget, they could rustle up a full-size bottle of pretty dodgy plonk, whereas that sort of budget is reserved only for the very dodgiest of plonk here in the UK.

I don’t think I’ll do it. Then again maybe I will. I might not do anything official. I might just do it “for kicks and giggles”. The Dutch would say, “for bacon and beans”. Hmm… bacon and beans. I’d settle for that. Sounds pretty good in comparison.

So… for now, no promises. Give me some time to think this through. Any suggestions on a 5-day menu will be much appreciated!

How low can you go?

4 May

Hey people!

Over the past years when I’ve challenged myself to live on just a pound per day, I’ve relied heavily on discounted foods. One could argue that this means that living on such a tight budget doesn’t scale, since there are only so many discounted foods available. And one would probably be right. On the other hand, I’ve managed to stay well within the one pound budget last year – ending up spending a mere 80p per day and swearing a good bit along the way.

Other than doing my bit for charity, I’ve also tried to convey a second message – if you know how to cook, you’ll be able to eat a reasonably varied, reasonably healthy diet for less than you think.

But it made me think. What is the minimum cost at which we could still sustain ourselves reasonably well?

So I’ve done some number crunching and realized… even without depending on discounts, it’s possible to push things quite a bit further. I wouldn’t be doing anything much that you haven’t seen me do before though, so here’s the “magic formula” I came up with (prices as at the time of this writing):

  • Carbohydrate (Flour is cheapest – 45p for 1.5 kg at ASDA)
  • Fat (Lard is cheapest – 39p for 250g at ASDA)
  • Protein (Lentils are cheapest – 100p for 500g at ASDA)
  • And some budget frozen veg (1kg for 77p at ASDA)
    Total cost: 261p.

On a day-to-day basis, nutritionally this would provide you with the following (WARNING! Rough estimates):

50 grams fat, of which (approx 19.5 grams saturated fats); approx. 450 kcal
300g flour of which approx. 30g protein; approx. 1100 kcal
100g dried lentils of which 25-28g protein; approx 360 kcal
200g mixed veg, approx 134 kcal


Calories: 2044 kcal (recommended daily intake for an adult: 2000 – 2200)
Fats: 50 grams, (NHS reference intake: “Max. 70g”)
of which saturated: 20 grams (NHS reference intake: “Not over 20 g”)
Protein: Approx. 60 grams (NHS reference intake: 50 grams)
Carbohydrate: Approx. 300 grams (NHS reference intake: 260 grams)
Salt: See below* (NHS reference intake: <2400mg sodium or 6g salt per day)

* Unlike a normal diet where salt is a problem, I’d be worried about not getting enough sodium… but self-raising flour contains raising agents. For the above flour it accounts for the equivalent of .7 grams of salt worth of sodium per 100 grams of flour, keeping your sodium intake nicely in the recommended range between 500mg and 2400mg per day.

By the way, your food is going to be pretty bland.

So, nutritionally, at first glance, we can do pretty OK – unless you pay very close attention to what you eat, most of us do a lot worse than that! Even in terms of your five-a-days, you’re getting close – I’m not sure if preparing the lentils (which doubles their weight) counts in full.

I wouldn’t recommend doing this long-term, of course. It would probably kill you for lack of certain nutrients. In other words, DO NOT TAKE NUTRITIONAL ADVICE FROM THIS PAGE. But if you’re next to broke, at £2.61 for five days, you’re unlikely to go hungry… while still eating a fairly balanced diet.

Get a few more people together, and economies of scale start to apply. I reckon 50p per day is possible.

Donation status

7 May

It’s Wednesday now and although it is still possible to donate, I’m pleased to announce we’ve managed to raise a few more pounds in the past few days and we’ve hit the 100 pounds mark! As I’m writing this, we’re at 110 pounds which I’m told is enough to save 22 children from starvation. Greg, Sue and A – Thank you very much, you’re life savers!!!


Let’s trick out a bit.

2 May

Yesterday, after writing up the blog for the day, I felt decidedly crappy, but cooking generally helps me feel better.

Today, I feel a LOT better about things, and I’d like to thank everybody for their kind words and support. I was very close to shouting out, “WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!” but it turns out, you have. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Although today is the last day of this challenge, it’s still possible to donate to Unicef until the end of June 2014, so if you read this tomorrow or next week, don’t let that stop you.

With that out of the way, in the end I still went out bargain-hunting yesterday. There was’t a lot of exciting loot to be found, so I figured I’d splash out on a 32p can of baked beans (at the time of this writing). I couldn’t be bothered to keep the receipt but feel free check the link to confirm the price.

I did however notice some discounted bread and milk at 5p each, so I brought a whole frickin loaf of bread and three pints of milk, for a total bill of 52p.


This may seem puzzling. After all, today being the last day of the pound-per-day challenge, I didn’t need to stock up. But before I get to that, let’s take a look at the financial status first – Add 4p worth of tea for throughout the day and we get to a pre-cooking status looking as follows:

Total spent so far: 375p
Money left: 125p

Come breakfast, I decided to keep it simple – toast and milk. I managed to not entirely burn the toast this time, I might yet get the hang of this cooking thing.

I still had near a whole cabbage, and no real plans for it, so I brought it in for lunch along with bread. To make the cabbage chewable, I microwaved it for a few minutes. If you ever need cabbage leaves to look as green as possible, this may be the way:


In any case, for lunch I had a cabbage toast-sandwich. Cabbage on bread. Not recommended.
Sure, it looks pretty enough. But it’s dull and chewy. And I had another. At least I wasn’t hungry.

It would have been a lot easier to just eat the baked beans for lunch. I had other plans for the baked beans though, so I decided to be conservative.

Now for dinner, I figured I’d trick out a bit. Here’s what I did.

I warmed my remaining two pints of milk in a saucepan and added 1 gram of calcium chloride. I proceeded to heat it to 85°C. Meanwhile, I mixed half a teaspoon of citric acid with some water and microwaved that, so that that, too, would reach the same temperature. I then added the citric acid solution to the hot milk.


This caused the milk to curdle. Milk is a chemical buffer; it maintains its pH (acidity level) even when small amounts of acid are added. Add enough acid, though, and the buffer won’t hold, the milk will split and it will curdle. Those curds can be used to make cheese. There are many ways to make cheese, some involving enzymes (rennet) but the cheese I was going for was a simpler kind. I could probably have done without the calcium chloride; it merely helps improve the yield, as do high temperatures.


Once the acid was added, the cheese began to curdle. The benefit of citric acid over lemon juice is that only a minute amount is needed to make the milk curdle; since it’s a pure chemical, the results are more consistent than using lemon juice, and it works out cheaper as well. I probably could have used vinegar just as well.

By the way, vinegar is a total rip-off nowadays. Only two years ago, a pint bottle cost 13p (when I first did this blog). The same product costs 35p now. Hello, inflation.


Once the curds had a few minutes to set, I poured them into a colander lined with a sterilized tea towel to separate the curds from the whey, after which the curds were squeezed further…


… to finally be dry enough to collect. I then placed the curds in a ring and pressed them down.


After removing the ring and refrigerating the result for a while, the result was a block of unsalted paneer cheese.


I also had far too much bread left. I took six slices and gently dried them out in an oven at around 120°C. This temperature is high enough that water will boil and evaporate, and it is still below 150°C, the temperature around which the Maillard reaction normally occurs – the reaction that causes browning. As a result, I ended up with bone-dry white bread, which I proceeded to crush. I then continued to sieve the crushed bread to separate the bits from the crumbs, and I crushed a bit more, until I was satisfied that I had enough bread crumbs.



I then proceeded to drain my can of baked beans, through the sieve, into a saucepan, and rinsed the beans with a cup of water to collect as much as possible of the tomato sauce into the sauce pan. I then rinsed the remaining tomato sauce off the beans.

This gave me two products: baked beans, and tomato sauce.

justbeans justtomsauce

I reserved half of the baked beans, and proceeded to reduce the tomato sauce. I also added a bay leaf, two cloves, a spoonful of sugar, some salt and vinegar. For good measure, I added a few drops of liquid smoke. The result was that the boring baked bean tomato sauce had now turned into a rather tasty barbecue sauce.

I pureed the other half of the baked beans and spiced them up with cumin, coriander, black pepper, paprika powder and a splash of soy sauce. I then shaped the bean paste into balls. I took my last egg, briefly beat it with a fork and proceeded to give the bean balls a triple coat of bread crumbs, after which I fried them in a small amount of oil.




Finally, I rubbed the paneer with some salt, kashmiri garam masala and turmeric and pan-fried it. I shredded a bit of cabbage and plated it all up.

I present dinner: Spiced, breaded baked-bean balls with BBQ Baked Beans and pan-fried paneer on a bed of shredded cabbage.

And after accounting for pantry items – I’ve got a whole pound left.

How’s that for frugal eating?

What’s the point?

1 May

Sometimes I start something and then start wondering what the point of it all is. Today, especially, I had that feeling, so excuse me very much but this isn’t going to be my longest post.

As mentioned, I had yesterday’s leftovers for breakfast.


At work, I decided that the jar of tea yesterday was worth it, so it was worth repeating. Here, have the same picture as yesterday!


Occasionally refill with hot water. You’ll have hot tea all day long.

Around lunch time, I thought I’d garnish the hell out of my food. Turns out, potato salad doesn’t freeze well – the mayo split. Still made for a nice plate of food, though it certainly looked better than it tasted.


I had a hard time getting inspired for supper. Couldn’t find anything interesting to forage, and any crazy plans for food just turned out to be just that – crazy plans.

Once I finally started cooking, I was hungry and grumpy. Needless to say, everything went wrong. Yorkshire puddings didn’t rise. And this.


Along with being way off-target, as you’ll understand, I’m not having a good time. But what would someone desperately poor do? Exactly. I do regularly mop my kitchen floor with bleach. I wasn’t cooking for you, or for customers, or for anyone else. I put it on a plate and ate it ANYWAY. 45-second rule and all that.


And then I had my last bun of bread.

From the pantry, I used two spoons of flour, an onion and some oil. So the bill for today is, let’s say 15p+4p tea=19p.

So this is where we’re standing:

Total spent so far: 319p
Money left: 181p

Food left: 1 egg
No bread
No coffee
No carrots
No peas
No potato
No potato salad
Some parsnip
Most of a cabbage

I still have to clean the kitchen, and do the washing up.
I might as well quit.

But first I’ll have to find something heavily discounted to eat tomorrow.

Pantry Power

30 Apr

With the fridge stocked with all manner of discounted food, it seemed pretty clear I was going to get through the day just fine with nothing but what I had in stock, although I was running a bit low on carbs, though not worryingly so.

While thinking what to cook, I thought I’d give a toasted breakfast roll another try, this time being careful not to burn it. I’d top it with the perfect soft-boiled egg and all would be good in life.


Right. Apparently I still can’t toast bread. But you’ve got to admit, that egg looks pretty awesome – just the way I like it. I also had my leftover cup of (refrigerated) tea, and all *was* good in life. I’m not sure if I’m getting over the caffeine withdrawal, or if the tea provided just enough, but fact is that I’ve been feeling a lot better today.

Since I figured out that tea sets me back 4p a bag (or really 3.75p, but who’s counting), I thought I’d make some tea at work as well. Using just a single tea bag, I made a jug-full of the stuff.


Luckily, I actually like my tea weak, sugar-free and without milk. So this ended up providing me with tea throughout the day, using just a single teabag. It’s finally happened: I’m feeling cheap now.

For lunch – two buns topped with potato salad. Simple, fast, and satisfying, once you can get over the fact that you’re putting tatties on bread.


It was time to think about supper. I needed carbs, and since potatoes were on my mind, I dropped by at the ALDI on the way home, knowing I’d find cheap canned ones. I felt like something Indian-inspired, and Bombay Potato is just about as Indian-inspired as it gets. I also got a tin of peas, which upon opening looked as though someone had left a green felt tip pen in the tin. Upon checking the label, this was confirmed: these peas were a good source of copper complexes of chlorophyllin, of which I have far too little in my usual diet. But they were cheap enough.

I was going to need some flour as well, and realized I still had plenty in the pantry. But does flour count as a pantry item?


By its name, I decided it did. (For what it’s worth, I ended up using two tablespoons, about 60 grams or 2p worth of flour this time). I went to the checkout and paid.


The full shopping list for the week now looks like this:
2x discounted Kingsmill Rolls (pack of 6) @ 11p - 22p
Pint milk - 5p
Tub houmous -11p
Roasting veg - 18p
-- Daily subtotal: 56p
Half kilo carrots - 10p
Half kilo parsnips - 10p
Tub of pasta - 15p
-- Daily subtotal: 35p
2x tub potato salad @11 p - 22p
1x sweetheart cabbage - 32p
1x value eggs (pack of 6) - 89p
-- Daily subtotal: 143p
1x tin potatoes - 15p
1x tin felt-tip green peas - 21p
-- Daily subtotal: 36p
Pantry items used:
Spices day 2 - 5p
Tea day 2 - 4p
Tea day 3 - 4p
Flour - 2p
Spices day 3 - 10p (that's going completely overboard!)
Some oil for shallow-frying, rest saved - 5p?
Total spent so far: 300p
Total budget: 500p
Budget left for this week: 200p

With two days and two pounds left, it would seem we’re nicely on track. But that would presume there’s nothing left of what I’ve bought so far. In reality, I still have:

1 kingsmill wholemeal bread rolls
1 tub potato salad
200g carrot
200g parsnip
3 eggs
1 sweetheart cabbage

I could probably live off that for the day and be fine. Which means that I’m still about a pound under budget.

But I can hear you think… What did you eat today?!

Well – this: curried potato and misshapen samosas.


I made the skins out of brick pastry – which is made by brushing a thin batter of flour and water over a skillet set over a pan of boiling water. I could use some work on my folding technique as well as find a better recipe (onions would have been nice). Still, it was comforting food. And too much – I didn’t manage to eat it all. I’ll have the rest for breakfast.

Oh by the way, good news – some donations came in today! To the anonymous giver and my cousin Eric (Keep the nice pictures coming!) – You guys are literally life savers, awesome!

Want to be an awesome life saver too? You can, there’s still a long way to go to hit the target! To donate this year, please go to my Living Below the Line donation page. Thanks in advance!