Not a recipe today I’m afraid but something I hope you’ll find equally helpful? Interesting? Informative? Something?

We are currently on a very tight budget. It happens. Not that we’re particularly materialistic but there have been a few big purchases of late and now we’re paying the price – literally. Many people think veganism is expensive and it can be. That is if you’re buying such luxuries as cacao powder, chia seeds, coconut oil, however, these items last a fairly long time, so as long as you don’t go crazy and use massive amounts of  them everyday you can keep the cost down to a minimum.

I always make sure there are some staples in my cupboard so that my weekly shop doesn’t cost the earth. Well, I try to implement this system, some weeks more successfully than others and I will admit to having a tendency to frequently veer away from my carefully prepared shopping list especially if I spot a bargain or just fancy something I see in the supermarket. This tends to happen more often than I’d like. What ya gonna do!

If I really need to though I can reign myself in and stick to the list. I’m also pretty good at using up every scrap of food in my cupboards in order to make a little go a very long way. It takes a bit of planning and some imagination but the more you do it the easier it becomes. I’ve been making a weekly meal plan pretty much since I left home at 18. I’m not saying it happened immediately but I soon realised I needed to take control of my allocated weekly budget or else I would go very hungry(and I did) – you can only ‘borrow’ other peoples cereal so many times before they lose patience with you.

It was during my student days that I really got the cooking bug and I became an expert in making 50quid cover an entire weekly shop for two including wine. Including wine!! That’s breakfast, lunch and dinner with wine for seven days. Not bad even if I do say so myself. Some things never change and here I am all those years later still trying to make a small sum of money stretch to a now entirely vegan shop full of organic produce but without vino, which I now consider to be a treat rather than a nightly ritual.

Down to the nitty gritty then. I had 30 pounds (about $50). With that I needed to buy enough food for seven breakfasts, seven lunches and seven evening meals for two not forgetting enough snacks to satisfy an active hungry man and woman for a full week – phew! I also have to ensure my menu is balanced – protein, calcium, iron, vit c, you get the picture.

I had a few staples such as grains to work around. Here is a list of what I already had in my cupboards:

dried lentils (red and green)

vermicelli noodles

udon noodles

brown basmati rice

gluten free pasta

arborio rice

wild rice

mung bean noodles

canned tomatoes

cannellini beans

masa harina flour

polenta

rice flour

spelt flour

ryvita

dried mushrooms

sun dried tomatoes

and in my fridge and freezer I had:

2  Linda McCartney sausages

broad beans

soya beans

thai red curry paste

lemons and limes

spring onions

Of course I also have a host of herbs and spices as well as oils (extra virgin olive and coconut), vinegars, seeds, nuts, nut butters, dried fruit and teas. These are items you accumulate and I couldn’t live without them. Without these the following menu would be bland as an old boot. So stock up when you can on these essentials.

my menu read as follows:

Sunday: cannellini bean and courgette patties with a wild rice and arborio risotto

Monday: red lentil dhal with brown basmati and fried tofu

Tuesday: Thai red potato and cauliflower curry served with udon noodles

Wednesday: Tacos with green lentil meat and guacamole

Thursday: Pasta with a tomato and ‘sausage’ sauce

Friday: Butternut squash and black bean burgers

Saturday: Vermicelli stirfry 

My plan for lunches was to make the evening meal large enough so that my Husband could take some to work with him. I can always rustle something up for myself but frequently have soup and ryvita topped with either avocado or hummus and sliced tomato. Breakfast is very oat centered but that’s fine by me, as I can make a multitude of things such as porridge, overnight oats and granola. I’ll talk about snacks in a mo but first here’s my weekly list:

onions

spinach

sweet potato (they had none so I opted for butternut squash instead)

potatoes

cauliflower

carrots

mushrooms

cabbage

red pepper

cucumber

courgettes (zucchini)

avocado

black beans

soup

tofu

hummus

bananas

flat leaf parsley

hemp milk

organic jumbo oats

The total came to 27.50 so I came under budget but then went ever so slightly over with the purchase of four raw bars for Hubbie’s lunch, which took the official total to……31.50.  Not bad, not bad.

I also must stress that If I had stuck to my list (I tried!) I would have been well under budget but I couldn’t resist the locally grown strawberries that were calling my name. Nor could I not buy the ever so ripe satsumas and a pack of redwood ‘sausages’ that are great for chopping up into a multitude of dishes or eating straight out of the pack. Had I stuck to my guns that would have left the total at around 25 quid with the addition of the raw bars bringing it up to just under 30. Regardless I was pretty happy with the outcome – great food, great prices, job done.

I avoided the supermarket and instead opted for the the local farm shop. All the goods (apart from the satsumas, I think) were organically grown. They also sell non-organic produce, which is a little cheaper but I believe organic is best – not for taste but most certainly for the environment and your health. Pesticides are bad bad news people. Here are some reasons why you should be buying organic.

Oh yes, snacks! Examples are:

Hummus with either carrot or cucumber sticks

Ryvita or rice crackers smeared with nut butter (almond or cashew, sometimes peanut)

instant banana ice-cream (frozen banana blended until smooth)

raw bars or balls (shop bought or homemade)

Now you’re either going to be impressed with my efforts or thinking to yourself ‘Pffft, I can do better that that!’. Either way I’m sure you loved a virtual rummage through my cupboards – am I right, am I right? I love a mooch myself and am always drawn to posts like these. I’m endlessly fascinated by what foods people buy and eat and I hope there are some amongst you who are the same as me. Please tell me this is so – I don’t wanna be the only voyeuristic food freak in blogland.

Also, I thought I’d leave you with a review of last night’s dinner, it was beyond good. The tofu was literally tossed in a mix of polenta (cornmeal) and rice flour and fried for about five to seven minutes either side on a medium to high heat. OMG! Also, I mixed some broad beans and spinach through the dhal – you must must try this, it adds texture, bite and flavour.

One thing is for sure, being on a budget forces you to be creative. I’ve discovered some of my best recipes by having to be frugal and this week was no different. And I can’t deny, it was sorta fun.

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