I chose this image as I doubt I’ll ever see so much fruit in our apartment ever again.
Yesterday, we grabbed the few grocery store items we needed at woolies. This was relatively stress-free as the number of things we needed was dictated by our budget – $35 x 2. At woolies we spent about $18 and this got us cottage cheese, 2 litres of milk, tinned tomatoes, 59 cent spaghetti, frozen spinach and not much else. It took all of 10 minutes and at this made me wonder if maybe extreme cost cutting is the way to go.
However, this morning at Paddy’s Market (Haymarket) was more of a trial. We only had one shopping bag with us and I had decided we needed to buy heaps of fruit because we never eat fruit so now is obviously the time to start. We spent about half our budget there and walked out with more fruit and veg than we could carry. I wondered how we’d feed ourselves on such a budget if we didn’t have a really cheap market nearby.
I knew this would be a hard day, mostly because both Senhor R and I are exhausted. Also because I hate going to Paddy’s Market’s to buy fruit and veg almost as much as I hate exercise.
When we got home, we realized there was just over $16 left in our budget and we were out of coffee. The coffee we buy that costs $13. And we still hadn’t bought any meat. At this point we were at each other’s throats but we finally bought steak for $5 and downgraded to the $12 coffee. Yep, that’s right the challenge is already technically broken – I have spent $35.50.
After Senhor R had his coffee and things calmed down, I decided it was time for a massive serve of some of the fruit and veg we’d just bought in the form of a salad. This is a great summer salad, everything is really finely chopped and you get all these different textures – from mushy mango to crunchy macadamia and everything in between. I served it with a massive black sesame rice cracker we had in the pantry, but it’s fine just as it is. You don’t have to stick to what I used – you can sub in or add ingredients like red onion, cucumber, pineapple, lime juice, red basil, spring onions, grilled chicken, nectarines, tuna, cannellini beans, cashews, peanuts…the list is endless.
Everything Summer Salad
Serves 2 very hungry people
1 ripe tomato, chopped
½ bunch mint, finely shredded
½ cup chopped macadamias
1 mango, chopped
½ a large carrot, grated
A handful of lettuce, chopped
¼ of a red or yellow capsicum, finely sliced
½ packet tofu puffs, cut in half
For the dressing
1 long thai chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
¼ cup fish sauce
The juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp brown sugar
2 Tblsp water
Put all the salad ingredients into a large bowl. Stir the dressing ingredients together. Pour over about half the dressing and stir the salad well. Serve immediately.
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.
What grocery item can you just not live without?
The $35 Challenge has only just begun and I’m already feeling the pinch – isn’t that pathetic?
The weekends are usually times we spend doing what we like and eating what we like, telling ourselves it’s a reward for a hard week’s work. Usually Senhor R and I will eat out a few times, grab a few coffees and spend an evening or afternoon in the pub. Harmelss weekend fun.
But it’s becoming all too clear to me that food and eating are my main pastimes. There isn’t anything wrong with food as a hobby, but eating? I’m not so sure. I can’t help but think back to times when I was less well off – I ate healthier than I do now, which flies in the face of almost every statistic on poverty and nutrition. And having just spent a week in bed with a head cold and resulting middle ear infection, I can’t help but think Senhor R is right when he points out that my current lifestyle isn’t really the path to a strong immune system.
I have been productive though. I’ve scoured the freezer, fridge and pantry and put together a veg-heavy menu for this week. It’s really made me appreciate the stuff we keep on hand. It’s the starting point for any meal. These are my 5 pantry must-haves, a pretty dull, but essential list.
If I’m at a loss for what to make, pasta takes 10 minutes to cook and goes with pretty much everything. I usually buy Barilla spaghetti no 5, but this week on the $35 challenge I’m testing out a 59 cent pack of spaghetti from woolies to see if my brand loyalty is warranted.
2. Tinned tomatoes
If you have tinned tomatoes, you have an amazing tomato sauce. Just fry some onions and garlic, add the tomatoes and a slosh of wine and simmer for up to an hour. Add a pinch of sugar at the end and it’s perfect for pasta, pizza or even on toast.
3. Extra virgin olive oil
I wait until it’s on special and then buy one of those massive 4 litre tins for about 20 bucks. If I could only have one kind of oil, this would be it. As it stands I currently have canola and sesame as well but they’re really just extras.
4. Basmati rice
It’s the rice with the lowest GI and also the easiest to cook. 1 cup of rice with 1½ cups water simmered for 20 minutes with the lid sealed tight and then left to sit for 5 – perfect every time. Just stir fry some veg and meat while the rice cooks.
This is my breakky staple whenever I’m skint. It’s also the key to ANZAC bikkies.
Find my porridge recipe below.
Lau’s Porridge (serves 1)
1/3 cup oats
About 1 cup water
A slosh of milk (whatever type)
Sweetener – honey, brown sugar, golden syrup
Dried fruit/nuts/fresh chopped fruit
On the back of a packet of oats they’ll tell you porridge consists of chucking equal amounts of oats and water into a pan and simmering until done. For me, porridge is more akin to risotto. I put the oats in a pan and then add a good slosh of water. Give it a stir while it simmers and once the water is soaked in, add some more and if you’re adding dried fruit, nuts or fresh banana, do so now. Keep adding water and stirring in until you’ve got the consistency you’re after. At that point, stir through some milk and turn off the heat.
Serve immediately with a slosh of cold milk, a sprinkling of brown sugar and whatever fresh fruit you have on hand – in my case, I used strawberries but you can use blueberries, pear, banana (although I like to add bananas early on so they get mushy) or whatever you fancy.
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.
What are your pantry must-haves?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan on dying of some kind of vitamin or mineral deficiency in the next week. Sure, I could complete The $35 Challenge on nothing but mee goreng, oranges and beer, but that’s not really a sensible way to play it, and I’m nothing if not sensible. Below are my top ten tips for menu planning, your money and sanity saver. And not just during The $35 Challenge.
1. Take stock of your pantry
I just did and there is waaaaaaaaaaaay more stuff in there than I realized. 4 kinds of rice, three shapes of pasta, tins of tomatos, legumes, beetroot, pineapple, tahini, enough condiments and sauces to open a deli, at least 18 different spices and various baking ingredients – sugars, flours, cocoa, almond meal, rosewater, vanilla pods…the list goes on. Any and all of these things can form the starting point for a menu, so take a quick look in your cupboards.
2. Take stock of your fridge/freezer
Before I write a menu, I so often make the mistake of not checking what’s in the fridge or freezer. More condiments. A dozen eggs. Half a kilo of greek yogurt. Five kinds of cheese? All that’s really needed is a shitload of veggies and some meat and I should be able to sort out at least 5 main meals.
3. A menu is just a list
Here’s how you do it: write down every meal you’re going to eat. Then write down every ingredient you don’t already have which is in that meal. Then add anything else to your list that’s not technically part of a meal – snacks, fruit, cleaning products etc.
In fact, why not just write down everything you ate last week as a starting point? Maybe you eat all your lunches out and have toast for breakfast every day. In that case, a menu would just cover dinners. Maybe you order takeaway once a week? This doesn’t have to change, just pencil it in.Suddenly, your shopping list is done.
4. Plan regularly – about as often as you shop
I prefer to shop once a week, so I write a menu once a week. This is a trick I learned from my mum and it’s what has always worked for me. I find fortnightly shops mean I end up with stuff going off or getting forgotten about, and shopping every few days means I end up making a lot more impulse purchases. Find what works for you and stick to it.
5. Be realistic
This is key. You need to be realistic about what you’ll cook, how often you’ll cook and what you’ll actually eat. There are a few dishes that crop up again and again on my menus but never get made because they’re either too boring (chick pea stew anyone?) or too much effort come 6:00pm on a Thursday evening (yes, I will stuff and roast an entire chicken on a week night, without a recipe). Make it easy on yourself.
6. Consider what’s in season
Taste.com.au publishes a monthly list of all the fruit and veg in season. It’s often a good idea to have a look at something like this before you decide what to cook as it will give you some idea of what will be available, tasty and cheap.
7. Be flexible
Maybe you thought you’d serve grilled fish with mashed potato and green beans today – that’s what’s on your menu. But when you get to the supermarket, asparagus and pumpkin are on special, so you change your plans accordingly. Flexibility should also apply to when you want to serve something- just because your menu says taco Tuesday doesn’t mean you can’t switch it to Wednesday ‘cause your plans have changed. In my case, I don’t allocate specific days on my menu – my menu is just a list of meals in no particular order.
8. Throw in a few wildcards
Try and prepare one new dish a week or, failing that, try one new ingredient. Or, use an ingredient in a new way. This will stop your taste buds getting bored. Until recently I’d never really cooked steak or fish (I was vego for 10 years). A few weeks ago I finally tried pineapple as a savoury ingredient when I made this pineapple salsa. Try new things whenever there’s time or the mood takes you.
9. Stop asking yourself ‘what do I feel like eating today’?
If your menu is realistic, flexible and varied, you won’t need to ask yourself this question each day or for each new meal. By taking choice out of the equation on a case-by case basis, you’ve also taken out the work. Once menu planning is a habit, you’ll never look back.
10. Make your final weekly meal ‘odds ‘n ends’
Chances are no matter how meticulous your planning, you’re going to have a few things left at the end of the week. Maybe you didn’t make one of your meals or maybe you just ended up with too much of something. Either way, you can probably whip something up with what you’ve got. Then you’re all ready for your next menu.
It’s not too late to support the $35 Challenge. During Anti-Poverty Week, from October 16-22, participants 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 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.
If you only have $5 a day to spend on food, all it takes is $3 coffee and suddenly 60% of your daily food budget is spent. The fact is, this is reality for many Australians. In Australia, approximately 2.2 million people live below the poverty line. That’s 11.1%. of us without access to basic necessities like healthy food, dental care, transport, affordable housing and education. The $35 Challenge aims to raise awareness of this fact, along with raising money for a worthy charity – OzHarvest.
The $35 Challenge asks you to experience poverty. During Anti-Poverty Week, from October 16-22, you have $5 a day to spend on food. For 1 week, experience what it feels like to eat below the poverty line. By experiencing poverty for just 7 days, we can come to a better understanding of the reality of living in poverty, and 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.
Take the pledge!
There are 5 main ways to get involved in The $35 Challenge:
1. Participate in The $35 Challenge.
2. Blog your experiences of The $35 Challenge.
3. Promote The $35 Challenge on your blog/twitter feed.
4. Organise a a ‘Shout Lunch, Fight Hunger’ event in your workplace during anti-poverty week.
5. Donate to The $35 Challenge.
I hope you will join me in the inaugural $35 food challenge, as we do our bit to raise awareness and funds in the fight against poverty.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- eating out will swallow you entire food budget. In fact, not only will it gobble it up, it will also, inexplicably inflate it to the size of a large, cranky walrus.
We all know this, minus the tusks perhaps, and yet we kid ourselves that we don’t know where all our money goes. According to the ABS, as of 2003/2004 the average household expenditure on food is around $150/week. However, the average household expenditure on entertainment is around $125/week. I don’t know about you (well, I know about you food bloggers), but eating out has become one of my main forms of entertainment. That in itself is a worry.
Ok. Deep breath. Here goes. Last week, I spent $166.04 on food.
That is seriously embarrassing for someone who used to make do with so much less. And ok, so we had a friend staying from overseas for a few days, so we ate out more than usual. And we just moved house, so I’m buying groceries a few times a week rather than once a week, and we’ve ordered in a tad more than we usually would…
This is all true, but it’s no excuse for one person to spend nearly $200 on a week’s food!
|Sunday 3/10||popcorn at the movies||$6.90|
|water + a drink||$5.50|
|Monday 4/10||Groceries – steak, fruit, cheese||$17.00|
|Tuesday 5/10||Groceries – veggies, meat, ice cream||$17.50|
|Lunch – noodles||$9.80|
|Wednesday 6/10||Groceries – pizza ingredients||$13.19|
|coffee – campos||$13.00|
The scary thing is, when you break it down item by item, no one purchase looks unreasonable. Popcorn at the movies? You gotta have popcorn at the movies. Buying steak, fruit and cheese at the grocery store makes perfect sense. And on Thursday, I ran out of milk, so I had to buy toast on the way to work rather than make the porridge I’d planned.
But that’s how it is. These teensy little things add up. And for some people, a serve of toast or a cup of coffee might actually break the budget. Whereas I’m just left mildly confused about what I keep spending all my money on.
Wanna know something even more shocking? I live in a 2 person household. This week, our household spent OVER $400 ON FOOD.
On the plus side, OzHarvest will be getting a healthy donation from me pretty soon.
It’s not too late to support The $35 Challenge. During Anti-Poverty Week, from October 16-22, participants 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 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.
What about you? How much do you usually spend on food?
For the first few years I lived out of home, I remember quite clearly my grocery budget – $35 a week. That number is burned into my brain. $35 after rent, bills, a weekly train ticket and whatever uni required that week. And that’s if nothing else came up. When you only have $35 to live on, essentials tend to fall by the wayside. In fact, they have to. This was my experience. I’d have a coffee once a week, and my aunt paid. I only went to bulk-billing doctors in my area, all of whom were overworked and uninspired. I barely exercised, except to rush between the places I needed to go. I didn’t buy shoes. I didn’t go to the dentist for 6 years. Eventually I dropped out of uni and went and worked fulltime in a cafe.
And if you think I was frittering away my money on trivial things, you’re wrong. I never ate in restaurants. Me and my housemate drank two beers a week together, and that’s only because our pub had a thing called ‘free beer Wednesday’, so that cost us all of $3.80 each. My Friday ‘treat’ was a $4.50 toasted sandwich at the uni tuckshop. For my 20th birthday, I treated myself to a new top, $15 at Myer.
What’s crazy is that I didn’t know that I was living in poverty.
I don’t remember those times as miserable, in fact, I remember them as a lot of fun. But when I look back on it now I’m amazed at my resourcefulness, I’m amazed at anyone’s resourcefulness at surviving on so little for so long. I’m also very thankful for the family and friends who kept me from going under- I don’t know where I would be without their help. Many people out there don’t have such support network, I have no idea how they struggle through each day.
This is not a hard luck story, but it is an example of what it’s like to live in poverty. And what’s worse it’s not uncommon. Approximately 2.2 million Australians live in poverty. That’s 11.1% of us without access to basic necessities like healthy food, dental care, transport, affordable housing and education. In a country of relative wealth, in stable economic times, I think we can all agree that is a disgrace.
But this is not about despair, it’s about action. It’s time to act to raise awareness rather than hiding our heads in the sand. That’s what we’re aiming to do with The $35 Challenge; experience poverty, raise awareness and raise money for a worthy charity, Ozharvest, who do so much for Australians in poverty.
I hope you will join us in the inaugural $35 Challenge, as we do our bit to raise awareness and funds in the fight against poverty. Every little bit helps.
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