(Note the lack of limes.)
Not content with just suggesting the 365 day photo challenge, IP has challenged me to eat for an entire week (7 days) on just $15. I usually see reddit posts talking about eating ramen or black beans on rice, and I figured I could easily survive on that, considering my breakfast is oats, milk and banana, leaving plenty of money for beans and rice. But MrFodder expressed concern that I’d be malnourished and it would start to affect my work. So I did a bit more research, and it seems chickpeas are another good source of protein. I looked at some sites that list low-cost recipes:
The problem is, not only are they all American, where it seems food is cheaper, but it seems to assume you have access to pantry staples, and as part of the challenge set by IP, I had to buy everything. That ruled out used spices I already had. I couldn’t use flour, yeast, salt, sugar, or oil that I already had at home. Though to be fair, given how much we have in the pantry, it would have made the $15 week far too easy.
A quick search on the Coles and Woolworths websites lead to a basic shopping list, with essentials at the top, nice-to-haves next, and even nicer-to-haves after that. I had intended to get two bags of black beans and chickpeas, because Google said each bag would only be about 4 servings, and I need 7 lunches and dinners in total.
Unsurprisingly, I barely made it to the end of the list of essentials before running out of money. In fact, I couldn’t afford the canola oil I wanted to buy, and had to settle for spray oil, which was $0.40 cheaper. Also, I found it interesting that it was cheaper to buy a 1kg bag of onions ($1.80) than it was to buy a kilo of individual onions ($2.50/kg). MrFodder said it’s probably because they can get away with putting some uglier onions in the bag. Plus, you are paying more for the convenience of being able to only buy one or two onions.
I really didn’t want to have to buy spray oil, so I thought I’d try my luck at the market and see if I could find some cheaper produce.
Fortunately, I lucked out, and there was about a kg of carrots for $1!
Not the prettiest carrots, as they were a bit bruised, but as MrBrioche says, it’s still food. They also had bananas at 2 for $1, but unless I was able to find a bag of onions for $1.05 or less, I couldn’t afford it.
I wasn’t able to find cheap onions, or anything cheaper than the shopping list I had already put together for the two major supermarkets, so I went to them to pick up everything else.
The price of onions at Coles was actually $0.20 more than advertised online! :(
I also realised that I would be really deficient in vitamin C (because I was suddenly reminded of Gwyneth Paltrow’s limes), so I looked up a good source of vitamin C and while citrus fruits were listed, they also listed capsicums, and I saw a bag in the Odd Bunch section at Woolworths. MrBrioche told me about it, they’re the “outcast” produce that don’t look as pretty as what you’d normally see on the shelves, but still perfectly edible. He thinks it’s sad that so much food goes to waste because it doesn’t meant presentation standards.
So I did some mental gymnastics to work out whether it was worth giving up a bag of black beans and chickpeas in order to get some capsicum. I was also trying to fit tofu somewhere in the budget ($2.99 at the Asian grocery store), and if possible, get a litre of soy milk ($1.95). In the end, the capsicums won out.
My final spend:
1kg carrots $1
1kg capsicums $3.80
750g rolled oats $1.20
375g black beans $2.25
750ml canola oil $2.25
1kg brown onions $2
375g chickpeas $1.50 (actually cheaper than was listed online!)
1kg plain flour $0.75
Total: $14.75 – underbudget!
If I were to continue this challenge, at least I would already have the oil, and I also have some flour leftover, and will probably have leftover oats. It was pretty time consuming though, planning what I would eat, then shopping for the food and having to go to multiple difference places to try and get the cheapest available. I didn’t even end up going everywhere as I could have gone to Aldi, too, but since their catalogue wasn’t online, I tried to weight up the (time) cost of going there, versus what potential savings I could have.
While I was at the market, MrFodder asked me to pick up a pain au chocolat for him, as I usually do. This wasn’t going towards my budget. There was a line, and when it was finally time for me to be served, the conversation went like this:
Cashier: How can I help you?
Me: I’d like a pain au chocolat, please.
Cashier: Is that all?
Cashier: That will be six dollars.
Me: Sorry, how much?
Cashier: Six dollars.
I fished out the coins and paid – I’m pretty sure it’s the same price I’ve always paid. After spending so much time trying to justify spending $3.80 on capsicums, rather than more beans, buying a pastry for $6 seemed crazy. It’s a beautiful looking pastry though!
I soaked the beans in water for 8 hours. Then boiled them.
Stir-fried the veggies.
Originally I had planned to do chickpeas for lunch, and black beans for dinner, but by the time I got home tonight, I only had time to cook one, so I just put them both in the pot. I added that to the veggies, and that’ll be my lunch and dinner for the week.
I used the scraps from the veggies to make a vegetable stock, which I’ll probably use to make my second batch of food (with the leftover veggies I haven’t cooked yet).
With the water from the chickpeas, I know that it can be used to make an egg substitute (aquafaba), so I added some flour to that, and made a dough, which I used to make a crummy damper-substitute.
I haven’t tasted any of it yet, because I don’t want to tar the memory of all the good food I’ve had today. Wish me luck for tomorrow!