It's been quite a while since I've done this - made a detailed record of every single thing I ate and drank during a week that is. For one thing, I know roughly how much I spend each week anyway, because it has to come out of a fixed weekly amount and, after several years of this malarkey, it seems I can now instinctively plan to buy, cook and eat at around the £40 mark. Also it is a fucking boring thing to do. But I thought it might be useful to blog about a whole week's worth of cooking and eating the 'skint foodie way'.
I planned the week's meals in advance (as I always do) then went out and bought the food (as I always do) and, yes indeedy, it came to just a few quid over the £40 target figure. But there are weeks when I spend under that, and weeks when I push the boat out a bit more. Only a few years ago my shopping list was a lot simpler to compile. It looked something like this:
Day 1: 4 x cans of Tennent's Extra, 1 x 1 litre bottle of Glen's Vodka,
1 x steak pasty, 1 x bag of Quavers.
Days 2-7: As Day 1.
Believe me, the present regimen is a significant improvement.
Before we go any further I'd like to emphasise something that should be obvious from the figure mentioned above of £40-ish a week: that this is not a blog about how to survive on the very lowest budget possible. It's more about eating good food, simply prepared, on a budget. There's a difference.
The difference can be seen, partly, by the presence here of things like scallops, smoked salmon, pancetta, steak and blueberries. But, while the cost of the scallops and pancetta (used in two dishes) came to £4.60, the smoked salmon was from a 90p/120g pack of trimmings from Asda, the blueberries were half price at the local Tesco Express and the 250g butler's steak (from the wonderful East London Steak Co.) cost £2.50.
Plus which, these few 'luxuries' were counterbalanced elsewhere by meals using split peas, rice, eggs and cheaper cuts of meat.
And, of course, everything I ate (with the exception of a handful of almond thins) was home-made - including breakfast cereal, bread, stock, desserts and cakes.
For the cost of each individual dish I have counted every ingredient, save for seasoning, herbs and spices (and I've made an overall allowance for these at the end). Anyway, here's the menu:
Lunch: poached egg + rarebit £1.97
Dinner: scallop, pear, pancetta + little gem salad £3.90
Sub total £6.92
The rarebit was made with a small chunk of Sparkenhoe Red Leicester which I got from Huey at Bambuni. I already had a pear, half of a little gem and a few spoonfuls of honey + mustard dressing in a jar in the fridge; I was passing Moxon's on Lordship Lane in the morning, popped in and couldn't resist buying a couple of their spankingly fresh scallops. This salad was the result.
Last thing in the evening I made a sourdough sponge, to leave overnight.
Lunch: tuna mayo on sourdough toast; chocolate + burnt sugar pot £1.54
Dinner: (pea + ham soup £0.78)
Sub total £3.69
The granola and the chocolate pot had been made earlier in the week. During the day I baked a sourdough loaf, and made the soup (and terrines for use later).
The keen-eyed among you might have noticed that the line item for dinner is in brackets. That is because, in reality, I was invited to dinner by Lisa, she of the Peckham Rye Eats blog. But, even if I could have put a figure to the splendid repast she laid on, it would have skewed the figures wildly. And pea + ham soup is what I would have had, if I'd stayed in. And it was the first time I'd been invited to dine at anyone's home in over six years, so I hope you'll forgive my sleight of hand in this instance.
Lunch: scrag end of lamb, tomato + olive stew with new potatoes £3.76
Dinner: smoked salmon + pancetta sandwich £1.48
Sub total £6.29
I'd been thinking of making this lamb chops recipe, but then thought about the idea of braising scrag end as a whole piece, so came up with this delicious (if I do say so myself) stew.
The sandwich is more formally known as 'bacon du bedat'. I haven't got a scooby why. It is one of the world's great sarnies.
I also baked a simple, plain white bread.
Lunch: ham hock terrine + sourdough toast £0.78
Dinner: courgette risotto; chocolate + burnt sugar pot £2.41
Sub total £4.56
With every other thing already made, today's cooking was simply the evening meal of risotto, using home-made chicken stock.
Lunch: tuna mayo on sourdough toast £0.79
Dinner: sausages + potato salad; financiers £2.83
Sub total £4.67
The (beef) sausages came from the aforementioned ELS Co. They were their monthly special and cost £6.50 for six. But they were whoppers - 18cm long and, really, two was ever so slightly too much for this po' boy. But I struggled heroically, and successfully, to finish them.
Also, in the evening, I had a bash at making some financiers. Little baked 'fancies' aren't normally my thing and (as you can see from the photo) they were more than a tad mis-shapen. But, fuck it, they tasted lovely (and cost 12p each).
Lunch: cheese + bread; pear; financiers £2.49
Dinner: pea + ham soup £0.78
Sub total £4.23
I had three egg yolks left over from the previous night's baking and the last remnants of the packet of smoked salmon trimmings - so breakfast was sorted. Lunch was a sampling of some of the cheeses that I'd got from my latest trip to the Cheeseboard and dinner some of the soup I'd made at the weekend.
Lunch: fruit (satsumas, kiwi, nectarine, banana); financiers £1.44
Dinner: steak, pecorino tomato, oven chips £3.53
Sub total £6.07
If you ever happen to be going along Evalina Road at just after six in the morning, you'd be well advised to pop into the wonder that is Ayres The Bakers for a bag of their just-made doughnuts for breakfast. Which is what I did.
The steak. My God, the steak. I've had feather blade (aka Butler's) steak before, often. But, I now realise, they must have been badly butchered, because there would always be a line of gristle running through them. Not these babies. Absolutely fantastic.
drinks + other stuff
Bread £ 0.80
Apple juice £1.48
Honey and Sugar £1.25
Olive oil £1.20
10 almond thins £ 0.80
Allowance for store-cupboard items 1.00
The coffee was from Volcano, the tea was builder's variety, with the odd cup of either Assam or Orange Pekoe bought from Tiger Spring's stall on North Cross Road. And I made guesstimates for the honey, sugar, butter, oil and store-cupboard items used during the week.
And that was everything I both ate and drank (except for a few mugs of tea on the two days I was at the Maudsley). No soft drinks or snacks excepting what is recorded above.
and the total for that little lot is...
...£41.88. Which is slightly below the figure of £46.31 for a single adult allowed in the Minimum Income Standard project's report which I've alluded to elsewhere on the site in more detail (see the spending page).
So, there we have it, one week of (if you'll forgive me for saying so) pretty decent nosebag, fairly typical of the kind of thing regularly to be found on the table here chez Skintster.