The Zamcog £2 Challenge – Feeding myself for £2 a day:
When I was contacted by Voucherbox and challenged to feed myself for £2 for just one day, I was curious. Although I cook most of my food from scratch, I don’t generally think too much about what goes into the food I am eating and so it came as quite a shock to me when I first started to work on this project.
I imagined my own cooking to be quite frugal. I wander along to the Farmer’s Market at Oval on most Saturdays and come home with free range chicken carcasses at £0.50 for 2. I boil them up to make stock and use that stock through the week to make soup and risotto or to add to other dishes for extra flavour. I don’t generally buy ready meals and only resort to pre-prepared soups when I am in a rush.
I haven’t ever really tried budgeting my meals. Once I got to University, I was part of a cooking collective – there were six of us and we’d all make one 2 course meal a week. Saturday was our night off. The result was that my food budget was really quite low – it’s much easier to cook a frugal meal for 6 than for one, especially if you don’t have the luxury of a freezer. We had the odd disaster – I still remember someone’s attempt at baked beans lasagne and a recipe misreading which involved star anise and resulted in a Chinese casserole that tasted very much like aniseed balls only stronger. When I left University, during my early ‘impoverished in London flat share’ days I was working in marketing for a hotel and restaurant group – so we ate a hearty staff lunch every day. So this challenge was a true one for me, it just isn’t something I’ve had to think of.
That said, I suspect I have some good Scottish blood in me yet. My normal modus operandi of buying chicken carcasses and making stock worked very well to provide me with a base for meals for the day. Like my mother used to do, I skim off the top of the stock when it is cool and generally get a tablespoon or so of dripping. And, I pick the carcass for meat. Sometimes I eat it myself, adding it to soups and risottos and sometimes I use it to treat my cat. I had porridge made with milk and a teaspoon of honey for breakfast, home made soup for lunch and a leek and chicken risotto for dinner.
I did have to swap out the wine which I would normally add to the risotto for half a lemon and forgo the parmesan – neither too much of a sacrifice in a risotto which may lack authenticity but which has a lot of flavour thanks to the leek and chicken. And I didn’t even try to budget for drinking coffee. the budget would only let me use the ‘every day’ range. Finally, there was really nothing left for treats. I’d probably have to rethink if I was doing this for more than a day – no budget for wine, biscuits, chocolate or even butter…
The point of the challenge IS to make people think a little about how they eat and to encourage us all to cut down on food spending and waste, even if it is just for a day. Voucherbox are running this campaign to support a charity in Zambia called Zamcog. It costs £2 a day to both feed and educate a child in Zambia. So, for every post published, Voucherbox will be donating £50 to Zamcog to help the charity continue to support Zambia’s most at risk children.
Here’s my budget breakdown – I bought everything other than the chicken carcasses from Morrisons – and the grand total is£1.95. I’d originally included a banana – but that was 20p, so took me well over my allowance!
I make variations on a theme with this soup on a regular basis. As it happens, I had half a kilo of carrots in the fridge – a very frugal way to add substanceand sweetness to a soup. It was delicious and very filling. Adding lentils is important, especially if you are using a vegetable stock, it’s the protein in the lentils, not the carbohydrates that will help you to feel full without adding too many calories. But, if you don’t have lentils in your storecupboard, pre-soaked and boiled chickpeas would be a good substitute.
Here’s the breakdown of the meals I cooked – First the Soup – which did depend a lot on having stock and dripping
Then supper – again, the dish wouldn’t have been nearly as substantial without those chicken carcasses!The soup recipe is really quite simple. And if you don’t have chicken stock or dripping, of course, you can substitute a stock cube and some oil – or even just make the soup with water. Here’s the recipe if you want to try for yourself. It’s low calorie too, so perfectly suitable for the 5:2 diet or any other weight loss programme – just under 100 calories for a bowlful, including some half fat creme fraiche
- 500 g Carrots Topped and tailed and chopped into chunks
- 1 Medium Onion Peeled and chopped
- 50 g Red Lentils
- 1 teaspoon Dripping Or Oil
- 750 ml Chicken Stock
- 1 can Chopped Tomatoes
- 1 pinch Chilli Flakes
- 1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- 1 teaspoon Creme Fraiche Or Greek Yoghurt
- Salt and pepper to season
- Using a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan soften the onion in the dripping or oil for 5 minutes
- Add the carrots and cook for a further 5 minutes over a low heat
- Add the chilli and paprika and a good pinch of salt and pepper and stir through
- Add the stock, lentils and chopped tomatoes. Cook for at least 30 minutes until the lentils are soft
- Blitz and add water as necessary so that you have the thickness of soup you prefer. If you like chunkier soup, then before you blitz the mixture, remove 2 or 3 tablespoons of the vegetable and carrot mixture with a slotted spoon and reserve.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning
- Serve with a teaspoon of creme fraiche and a little ground chilli or paprika as a garnish.
To find out more about the #2poundchallenge, pop over to Voucherbox – the challenge runs until the end of February and, if you have a blog you could help by writing your own post. Voucherbox are donating £50 to Zamcog for every post written.
This post was written in collaboration with Voucherbox