At the heart of it, we food bloggers are food lovers. We all started blogging for different reasons, but the reason we keep going is for the love of food. But it’s important to remember that there are some Australians who aren’t so lucky. Some for whom their next meal will be a struggle, not a celebration. Some for whom ‘bringing a plate’ is a near impossibility. That’s why a bunch of us bloggers came together to release The Potluck Club, an e-cookbook with all proceeds going to Foodbank, Australia’s largest food relief organisation.

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The book retails for just $5.95 and comes in both mobile device-friendly portrait and a pc/printer-friendly landscape formats. You get both when you purchase the book. But more importantly, each copy sold will fund a dozen meals for those in need.

Today I just want to take a moment to thank all the bloggers who have donated their work and their time so that Elise, Amy and I could put together a 50 page e-cookbook of fantastic recipes. We each brought what we could to the table; a recipe, a photo or two and after seven whirlwind weeks from start to finish, it’s done. So thank you.

Ai-ling Truong – Food Endeavors of the Blue Apocalypse
Alana Dimou – Alanabread
Anna Brownrigg – The Littlest Anchovy
Carly Jacobs – Smaggle
Cheri Flewell-Smith – Ms Critique
Christina Soong-Kroeger – The Hungry Australian
Heather Sharpe – The Kitchen Crusader
Helen Lee – Sassybella
Jacky Lo – Shared Plate
John Bek – He Needs Food
Jules Clancy – The Stone Soup
Lorraine Elliott – Not Quite Nigella
Manuela Zangara – Manu’s Menu
Olivia Mackay – Scoff & Quaff
Sandra Reynolds – $120 food challenge
SarahKate Abercrombie – Mi Casa Su Casa
Sarah Shrapnel – Love, Swah
Sharon Chan – Colour me plate
Shez Lee – One Bite More
Sneh Roy – Cook Republic
Sophie West – The Sticky and Sweet

And I also want thank anyone who has purchased the book so far. Your contribution makes a real difference in the fight against poverty. In the last three days we have already raised more than $100 for Foodbank! That’s more than 200 meals.

Well, it’s day three of The $35 Challenge and I have to say I’m a little…fatigued. Last night’s dinner was an inspired but ultimately unimpressive pasta bake in four layers – a tomato-tuna-zuchini-garlic-penne layer, a spanikopita filling layer (half a portion), the pasta again and a layer of bechemal. It was fine, but it was 9:00pm by the time we ate it and I have to admit I was pretty over it by then. That’s a recipe which needs some work, maybe it’ll make an appearance here once it’s fixed. We’re eating a lot of veg, but we’re also eating a lot of carbs, more than usual. We started off with pizza, we’ve had three days of porridge breakfasts, and dinner leftovers for every lunch.

Shopping at the Markets
To be honest, after all the veg we bought, I’m doing a worse job of cooking balanced meals than I expected. The big shop at Paddy’s Markets was relatively stress free; the two of us had $70, we’d spent $10 on pizza ingredients and bought a steak at the butcher, so we went into the markets with about $55 in our pockets. Putting aside $20 for the non-fruit-and-veg items (and inspired idea on the part of my beau), we roved the markets that Sunday arvo and we were ruthless. Brocollini $3.50? Tell ‘em they’re dreaming. Hard tofu $2.30 for 500g? Well, silken firm is $3 for 900g, so that’s the one we’ll get. We came out with everything we were after (or substitutions) and money to spare.

Shopping at Aldi
Our next stop was Aldi, where we planned to buy tinned beans, tuna, flour and pasta. At this point it was about 2pm and we were pretty damn hungry, so we decided we needed to make a lunch decision stat. We went with pork sausages at $2.99 for a pack and a discount loaf of fluffy white bread, to be served with salad. The whole bill came to only $11.50 for 9 items. I spent another $2.95 today for tinned tomatoes and milk. At 59 cents a tin for tomatoes and $1.19 for a litre of full cream milk, I did pause briefly and consider whether or not someone producing these goods could ever make a decent wage. But to be honest, on this budget, that kind of concern is a luxury we can’t afford.

Total Spend
In total, we’ve spent $62.85. And when I look at the numbers on the receipts from Aldi, they are so so low. At an estimate those tomatoes and milk would’ve cost twice that price at my local IGA, and the quality would be no better. That raises another question – that of proximity to cheap food. It’s easy for me to walk the half hour to aldi and pick up a few things for my two person household. But what if you have kids? Or what if you live 50 ks from the nearest large market or supermarket? Or don’t have a car? Or there’s no public transport? It’s a lovely thought that we could all shop at local markets, but if I rock up to Eveleigh Farmer’s Market of a weekend, it’s unlikely I’ll be able feed my household for a week on less than $200.

The final numbers
In the week prior to the challenge this year, our household (2 people) spent a total of $519 on food and drink. $519. On food and drink. Yes there was booze in there, but only eighty bucks. It’s an average daily household spend of $74, $37 per person per day. So basically, this week, we are spending less money of food in a week than we would usually spend in one day.

It’s not too late to support The $35 Challenge. During Anti-Poverty Week, from October 14-20, you have $5 a day to spend on food. By experiencing poverty for just 7 days, we come to a better understanding of the realities and stresses of living in poverty. By blogging or tweeting this experience, we can raise awareness of an issue so often swept under the rug. And by donating the remainder of the money we would usually spend on food to Foodbank, we can make a real difference. For more info, click here.

The other night, Elise was coming round to finalise the launch of our The Potluck Club (you can read more about it here) and offered to bring some takeaway, and also her husband, Chris. But the $35 Food Challenge had just begun, so this was out of the question. So I offered for them to have some pizza with us, as last week, we’d bought a ton of toppings for a pizza that never eventuated. They agreed and offered to bring salad, so basically it was a mini potluck. Since I still had the receipt from Aldi I figured I could subtract the pepperoni, olives and cheese from our big shop the next morning. And then I looked in the cupboard. And there was no flour.

We’d done the exact opposite of what I always advise people – be prepared and do one big shop. So I popped out to our much-loathed local IGA for some flour, only to find black and gold products have been discontinued. My 1 kilo of plain white flour suddenly jumped in price from $1.59 to $2.39. Shit. My stomach dropped. Oh yes, The $35 Food Challenge really has begun.

People who live in poverty are not able to participate in many of the activities we take for granted. This could be anything from sending your child on a school excursion, to a visit to the dentist, to having your friends around for dinner. Foolishly, we decided the first night of the Challenge to do the latter of the three.

Imagine your friend invites you round for dinner. Your automatic response? Great! I’ll bring a bottle of wine. But you have no wine. And you have no money to buy any. Or maybe you have enough cash for a really shitty $4 bottle of wine. Will that be good enough? Maybe you just tell them you can’t go, I’m sick, or I’m busy, or something. Anyway, I’ll never be able to return the favour.

That was the feeling that hit me in the supermarket aisle. And it occurred to me that since I was doing the Challenge, since I INVENTED the challenge, I could tell Elise and Chris about the flour, a funny story, and publish it on my blog. Nice one, Lauren, you’ve just created some content. But if this were really my financial situation I’m not sure I could laugh it off. It wouldn’t be blog material. And when my dinner guests showed up, I certainly wouldn’t be telling them this story. You want your guests to feel welcome.

In the end, we had a great night, ate up all the pizza and the delicious salad Chris had made and drank the last of our wine. It made me realise though that there’s a conversation we need to be having about poverty and about that taboo subject, money. It needs to be ok to say we can’t afford something this week or it is just not in our budget. I doubt very much that your imaginary friend who invited you round for dinner would want you to stay home because you don’t have the cash for a bottle of wine or a box of choccies.

This is exactly why we started The Potluck Club in the first place; to share a meal among friends, to contribute what we can. It’s why 20+ bloggers donated their work for free to put together an e-cookbook of recipes to share among friends, and to raise money for Foodbank.

Maybe having friends around for dinner wasn’t a wise financial decision that week, but it was worth that short lived panic in the supermarket aisle to enjoy an evening with friends.

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In support of Anti-Poverty Week (October 14-20) and in partnership with the $35 Food Challenge, a group of Aussie food bloggers have come together to launch an e-cookbook of simple and affordable recipes called ‘The Potluck Club’, at the low price of $5.95. All proceeds from the book are going to Foodbank Australia via The $35 Food Challenge. By purchasing a copy of ‘The Potluck Club’ you will be doing your bit to in the fight against poverty and not only cooking for yourself but cooking for a cause.

This week I had the nerve racking but ultimately rewarding experience of presenting a talk (twice) on The $35 Food Challenge as part of the City of Sydney Library’s ‘Lunches with Bite’. It would be an understatement to say it was a fantastic experience. Once I started talking I found I just couldn’t shut my mouth. And the reason is this.

It is estimated that 2.2 million Australians live in poverty. That’s 11% of us, and that percentage has been increasing over the years. Well may we say that Australia, as a whole, has weathered the global financial crisis and its aftershocks. Well may we say that as a population, we are objectively materially better off than at any time in our history, and yet convinced we’re all hard done by. But for that 11% of us for whom something like meeting a friend for coffee, going to a restaurant, catching a bus, ordering a pizza, recharging their mobile phone credit or even using their heating in winter is something they really have to weigh up, that kind of information brings little comfort, if any.

In fact, it is a slap in the face to every person living in poverty, because if we are so well off, why are those people not being taken care of? Why are Australians in poverty not being given to opportunities the rest of us have? In fact, why is there ONE SINGLE AUSTRALIAN LIVING IN POVERTY AT ALL? Why is there any one of us for whom a visit to the doctor, or the dentist, or an interstate relative is a complete financial impossibility? And WHY the FUCK are there children in this country, IN THIS CITY who don’t have access to the coloured pencils they need to do their homework, or enough food for their school lunch? AND WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT??

*Ahem*. You can consider that rant as bonus content. They certainly didn’t get that at lunches with bite.

I can’t thank Ellen Lowry and the rest of the folks at the library enough for having me, I really appreciate having an opportunity to speak on this subject. A huge thank you also to everyone who came out to hear about the Challenge, especially those of you who asked questions, made comments and generally got angry about poverty in Australia and creative about how to navigate your way through the process of going without. When this was just a kernel of an idea, I never imagined it would get anywhere near the kind of attention and uptake it has so far, and it is only growing.

Resources
And on the subject of thank yous, did I tell you there’s a $35 Food Challenge Food Spending Tracking App? You can find it at spending.the35dollarchallenge.com, it is free (you just need a name and password to use it). The app was designed, completely unprompted and at no cost whatsoever, by Jacky Lo of the blog Food Rules, who had the idea, emailed me to ask if it was ok (to which I replied OH MY GOD YES THAT WOULD BE AMAZING SORRY TO YELL AT YOU IN CAPS, or words to that effect) and the rest is history.

I also had a few requests for the powerpoint slides I used, you can download them here. The reports I referred to in the presentation are here and here, however ACOSS (The Australian Council of Social Services) will release their most comprehensive survey of poverty in Australia to date tomorrow, to mark the beginning of Anti-Poverty Week. You should also check out Four Corners’ ‘Growing up poor’ if you get a chance.

*Phew*. So, The $35 Food Challenge starts tomorrow. Are you ready?

It’s not too late to support The $35 Challenge. During Anti-Poverty Week, from October 14-20, you have $5 a day to spend on food. By experiencing poverty for just 7 days, we come to a better understanding of the realities and stresses of living in poverty. By blogging or tweeting this experience, we can raise awareness of an issue so often swept under the rug. And by donating the remainder of the money we would usually spend on food to Foodbank, we can make a real difference. For more info, click here.


The Sydney Food Bloggers Picnic 2012, hosted by Suze and Helen.

The Potluck Club
The Potluck Club is a new ecookbook of simple, affordable recipes that anyone can cook. A fundraising initiative for The $35 Food Challenge, the ebook will be sold to raise money for Foodbank Australia.  A collaboration between food bloggers and budding home chefs, we are now seeking submissions for our first issue.

  1. Submit 1-2 original recipes of 200-300 words and a brief 50 word bio by Tuesday September 4th 2012 to elise@stuffthatibought.com or lau@corridorkitchen.com
  2. Submit 1 high resolution photo (minimum height 1000px) per recipe and one avatar (300px square – optional).

Please note: Recipe photos will be cropped to fit our layout and cropped images will be roughly square in shape. With this in mind, please send photos with plenty of space around the food, suitable to be cropped – pre photo-shop photos are fine.

Deadline: Submissions close Tuesday September 4th.

What are we looking for?
We welcome a wide variety of recipe submissions to The Potluck Club, however the emphasis is on affordable food, so steer clear of hard to find or expensive ingredients- no truffle oil, expensive cuts of meat, isreali couscous, purslane,  etc.

We would love anything that is culturally specific or that people might not know how to make (shakshouka, summmer rolls) or really on trend (peanut butter bacon maple hotcakes, easy pulled pork)…while still being relatively inexpensive.

The book will be in 3 sections:

  1. Share Plates and Sides
  2. Something Substantial
  3. Sweets

The fine print:

  1. You are welcome to submit previously published recipes and images, on the understanding that they are your original work and you retain the rights to them.
  2. You can submit as many recipes as you like, but we will only publish a maximum of 2 recipes from each contributor. All contributions must be received via email by Saturday September 4th.
  3. We encourage you to promote The Potluck Club on your own blog and will provide a visual ‘badge’ to link to our online store so that your readers may purchase it.
  4. As The Potluck Club is a fundraising e-book, with all profits going to Foodbank Australia, submissions will not be paid for, however all recipes will be attributed to you and include your blog url. Your bio and picture will also be included in the ecookbook (submitting a photo of yourself is optional).
  5. If your photographs do not fit with the ecookbook aesthetic, we reserve the right to re-photograph your dish. We also reserve the right to reformat your recipe/s to fit with our layout.

The Potluck Club
Elise Phillips and Lauren Quinn

The $35 Challenge, where we have just $35 to spend on a week’s worth of food and drink, is drawing to a close. And while it hasn’t been as hard as I thought, we are getting to the point where were actually running out of food. Or so it seems.

Eating last night’s dinner for lunch will be impossible tomorrow, because today, dinner is steak and mash. Discount rump steak that’s been sitting in the freezer for a week, waiting for this very day. The day when I can’t be arsed to chop more than a potato and some beans. But what of our tomorrow-lunch?

As usual, the answer is leftovers, but not in the way you’d think. This time, I’m taking all the disperate leftover bits and bobs we’ve accumulated over the week and making them into (hopefully) a tasty dish for tomorrow.

Here’s what I have to play with:
Crepe filling from day 1 (cottage cheese, spinach, dill)
A tiny bit of chicken pie filling that’s been in the freezer forever
Tomato sauce for the pizza we ate on day 5

To that I added:
The juice of a lemon
Green beans
A tin of butter beans
Spaghetti

Basically, I cooked the spaghetti and green beans, stirred everything else through it and bunged it in a container for tomorrow. It’s not the most incredible meal in the world, but it’ll have to do.

What about you? Do you ever throw all your leftovers together in this way?

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Day 5 of The $35 Challenge sees me a tad tired of coming home from work and having no choice but to make dinner (and tomorrow’s lunch) from scratch. Don’t get me wrong, I cook dinner at least 5 days a week but sometimes that could be just grilling a steak or making a salad. I haven’t chopped this many veggies on a regular basis since I was vegetarian.

I’ve been saving a treat for later in the week, knowing that we were going to get sick of veg-heavy meals. Maybe it wasn’t a great idea as piza is a bit labour intensive, but I sucked it up and got on with it. This meal is the ultimate in frugality- it takes one portion of pizza dough (care of The Australian Women’s Weekly) and divides it into three so-thin-you-can-cut-them-with-scissors pizzas.

Fancy Pants Pizza
(makes 3 pizzas, serves 4)

2 teaspoons (7g) dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
¾ cup (180ml) warm water
2 cups (300g) plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine yeast, sugar and water in a small bowl. Cover, stand in a warm place for about 10 minutes or until very frothy. I usually have to put it in my oven on its lowest setting.

Put flour and salt into a large bowl; stir in all other ingredients with your hands. Mix to a soft, sticky dough.

Knead dough for 10 minutes/until smooth and elastic. Oil the bowl you mixed the dough in and place the dough in. Cover with cling wrap, stand in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 250◦c/220◦c fan forced (I have a pizza stone in mine). Punch down the dough, knead until smooth and then separate into three even balls. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.

Roll out one of the balls, place on greeaseproof paper and top as desired. Don’t go nuts on the toppings or you’ll weigh your pizza down. Place the pizza, on the paper either on the bottom of your oven, the baking rack in the oven or on a pizza stone if you have one.

Tip: Each pizza should take less than 15 minutes to cook. Keep an eye on it or it will burn! Be sure to leave about 10 minutes between pizzas to reheat the oven properly.

What’s you fave homemade treat?

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We’re four days into The $35 Challenge and still going strong. The support in the blogosphere/twitterverse has been fantastic, and while we may not raise a ton of money this year, we’re definitely raising awareness of poverty.

I am planning to run the $35 Challenge every year during Anti-poverty week so hopefully it’ll just get bigger and better. If you can’t do it this week, why not next week, or the week after that? It’s never too late, drop me an email and I’ll add you to our tally. Or, if you donate to OzHarvest for the $35 Challenge, let me know.

Yesterday Emma over at Love Thy Kitchen posted an update on what she’s been eating so far. By the second day she’d spent only $8 and doesn’t feel like she’s going without, and I have to say, neither do I.

If anything my household is eating healthier than usual this week. Everything is packed with veggies, and I’m squeezing the last ounce of flavour out of every meal. My cooking is also a hell of a lot more creative. I made this salad which came out of nowhere and blew my mind. I keep forgetting just how much limitation breeds creativity.

Every day I’m eating last night’s leftovers for lunch, and it’s fine. It’s not amazing, but fine. And I’m loving how when lunch rolls around I don’t have to think about what I’m going to have and how much it’s going to cost.

Here’s what we’ve been chowing down on in the Corridor Kitchen household this week:
Day 1 – Breakky – Scrambled eggs on toast
Lunch – Everything summer salad
Dinner – Crepes with spinach, cottage cheese and dill, salad

Day 2 - Breakky – Porridge with brown sugar and strawberries
Lunch – Leftover veggie curry (made last week)
Dinner – Ginger brown fried rice w/ tofu and 7 veggies
Snacks – Grapes, an orange, raw almonds

Day 3 - Breakky – Burgen toast with cottage cheese and tomato
Lunch – Ginger brown fried rice w/ tofu and 7 veggies
Dinner – Pantry Pasta + salad
Snacks – Blue cheese, 4 crackers and 4 pear slices (work leftovers)

Suddenly I can’t bear to waste anything – last night, old broccoli became broccoli and ginger soup. This was while I was making dinner. Now there’s soup sitting in my fridge, rather than old floppy broccoli I could justify chucking out in a couple of days.

Broccoli and Ginger Soup
Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 thumb of ginger, finely chopped
1-2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 small potato, roughly chopped
1 ripe tomato, roughly chopped
2 heads of broccoli, in florets
½ a stock cube
Freshly ground black pepper
water

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Fry onion and ginger with a pinch of salt. Once they start to colour, add the carrots and potato and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add all remaining ingredients, almost covering the veg with water. Put the lid on the pan and simmer until all veggies are well cooked.

Take the pan off the heat and blend the soup with an immersion blender until smooth. Heat to thicken and serve.

You can read about Emma from Love Thy Kitchen’s take on the $35 Challenge here. She’s costing it down to the cent, I really applaud her commitment. You can also read more about the nuts and bolts of the challenge here.

What are you eating this week?

Yesterday I was interviewed for 612 ABC Brisbane by the lovely Emma Sykes.

The interview went to air this afternoon. If you missed it, you can listen to a podcast here.

Thanks so much to Emma and the ABC for helping promote The $35 Challenge!

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Yesterday afternoon, in the midst of wishing I could run out and grab a coffee I got an email from Luci, a woman living on the disability pension.

Luci feeds her whole family for $100-$150 each week. All 7 of them. That’s $14-$21 per person, per week.

Sure, shared food costs may help – the cost of food for a family of 4, for example, is less per person than for a single person living alone. But $150 to feed 7 people is nothing in Australia, especially with the increase in cost of living.

As is true of so many things, Luci and her family pull it together each week through their own ingenuity. They’re not starving, although she admits that things are getting harder as food gets more expensive.

“I do think we eat quite well though. We eat sprouts and eggs from our chickens, we grow pots of herbs for herbal tea, a leg of lamb (8.99/kg) can stretch to make 21 individual meals…”

My hokey little ‘taste of poverty’ challenge is not something Luci, or her family can afford to try. However, she wasn’t critical of it, even though I am coming from the privileged position of being able to ‘play’ at being poor for a week.

“I really like this challenge however and I hope it does increase awareness of poverty in Australia. We tend to think it is overseas, not in our backyard.”

These kinds of situations are exactly what I’m trying to raise awareness of. 11.1% of us live below the poverty line. 2.2 million Australians go without the basics we consider essential to live, not even a comfortable, but a not-hideously-uncomfortable life.

With this in mind, I invite you to donate to OzHarvest today. If you do, please comment below or email me at lau@corridorkitchen.com so that I can keep track of the $35 Challenge tally.

It’s not too late to support The $35 Challenge. During Anti-Poverty Week, from October 16-22, participantshave $5 a day to spend on food. By experiencing poverty for just 7 days, we come to a better understanding of the realities and stresses of those living in poverty. By blogging or tweeting this experience, we can raise awareness of an issue so often swept under the rug. And by donating the remainder of the money we would usually spend on food to OzHarvest, we can make a real difference.

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