For those of you who want to have a go…

Below is the list of what I actually bought, the prices, and the meals we ate last week. I shopped locally from a small farmer, at Lidl and at Tesco. My husband, Anthony, joined me in this challenge, which actually made it easier, as to formulate a budget based on £14.00 is much kinder than for one person on £7.00. You have far more options, as most foodstuffs have to be bought in quantity. You have to measure out and decide how much of the oats, rice and curry once you have made it before you start eating, to make sure you don’t run out before the end of the week. Happy Eating!

Menu Plan:

Breakfast:

Porridge, made with oats, water, desiccated coconut, and a teaspoon of honey.

Lunch:

Vegetable soup, made with potatoes, leek, swede, carrot, onion, garlic and cabbage, flavoured with oregano. Flat breads made with flour, veg oil and water.

Dinner:

Chick pea and Lentil curry, made with chick peas, lentils, onions, garlic, swede, cabbage and curry powder. Plus flat bread with lemon curd.

There is lemon for hot water and lemon drinks, plus we will try to pick some blackberries from the countryside so that we have some fruit; the budget would not stretch to buying any.

So far as I can see, there are only 2 glaring omissions from food groups; meat and dairy. Meat was not such a problem, as we had protein from the chick peas and lentils, and we were not too short on vitamin c as we had vegetables and lemon.

Shopping List:

From Local Farmer:

2.5 kg Bag of potatoes: £1.00

1 Large cabbage £0.50

2 Leek £0.20

From Lidl:

2 x 1kg Bags White Rice £0.80

1 kg Red Lentils: £0.95

Salt: £0.19

1 kg White Onions £0.59

1 Bag Desiccated Coconut £0.89

1 Jar Honey £1.35

Oregano £0.49

2 x tins Chopped Tomatoes £0.62

1 Bag White Flour £0.45

1 Large Swede £0.89

From Tesco:

1 Kg Porridge Oats £0.75

1 Bulb Garlic £0.30

2 Lemons £0.60

Curry Powder £0.85

Vegetable Oil £0.75

500g Dried Chick Peas £1.15

0.43kg Carrots £0.32

Jar Lemon Curd £0.22

TOTAL FOR WEEK – £13.86

This brought it in under budget, leaving us 14p, with which to allow 1 tea bag per day between us, at 2p per tea bag (from a box of Lidl Fair trade tea Bags, at £1.35 for 80).

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Day 7 and Beyond – A ‘Week Without’ Completed!

Week Without Logo

There can be no doubt that hunger and deprivation sharpen the taste buds; not that I consider for one minute that this short experiment can be compared to the very real hunger that exists in our world, and even in our own country. I have had the luxury of knowing that this is only for a week – you can put up with a lot for only a very short amount of time. I have also benefitted from having a car and computer, with which to determine where the best bargains are, and to travel in luxury to buy them. I have a very good kitchen, filled with equipment to prepare and cook my food, a dining room table upon which I can serve it, and family members with whom I can share it. Doing this week has brought all of these luxuries into sharp focus, not to mention the lavish food I eat normally, in comparison to many others, and my diet this week. I have a new perspective, and new eyes, through which to view the supermarket shelves, an increased focus on budget and waste, on sharing and giving, and a renewed vigour to test, research and try out new recipes and ways of living, and to be able to pass on and share this knowledge with as many people as possible.

An interesting thing I have noticed, since finishing the ‘Week Without,’ is that I really don’t fancy any of the foods that previously I would have considered a ‘treat’; foods such as sugar, cakes, crisps etc. They just taste horrible now, and really, anything sweet is a bit of a job to eat. This is not a bad thing really, as it is very easy for sugar consumption to get out of hand, in a country where it is easily on offer constantly. I also get full very quickly, and so consider carefully what I am going to eat, to make sure I am getting a balanced meal, rather than just filling a hole.

Although relieved that I have finished, there are certain things that were great about this experiment; not having to do lots of cooking every day, savouring food that had been seasoned by hunger, appreciating every mouthful, the clean palate that I experienced from no dairy and sugar, not wrestling every day trying to figure out what we all fancied for dinner. Some of these things I genuinely don’t want to lose.

I would encourage everyone to try a ‘Week Without’; I have learned so much experientially from it, and recalibrated my relationship to food entirely….all in 1 week. The great thing is, it’s not just about you – you can help others whilst taking this journey too.

Prior to this experiment, I had not actually appreciated just how bombarded we are with food industry advertising. It seems that every second commercial on TV is for food of some description, billboards scream it out, magazines and newspapers are full of adverts; no wonder there’s an obesity crisis. I know the problem is more complicated than that, but surely having tempting pictures thrust at you at every turn does not help. The food industry in this country is worth billions; and the bottom line is that there profits are worth more to them than your health. This rather puts the ball back in our court, to take responsibility for our own health, and the health of our children. The trouble is, the advice is so conflicting; for years we were told not to eat too many eggs – now we can eat as many as we like. Then fat was the enemy – now it is sugar. Carbs got bad press, and then it was the turn of all the diets that restricted them. Detoxing, coffee, alcohol, fasting, meat, soya, nuts, even water – all declared the enemy at some point; we are a society of confused consumers.

During both World Wars in Scandinavian countries, when meat was severely restricted, the authorities found that disease, and health in general changed dramatically for the better. It then dropped again when diets returned to normal, and meat was back on the menu.

During World Wars I and II, wartime food restrictions that virtually eliminated meat consumption in Scandinavian countries were followed by a decline in the mortality rate (by ≈2 deaths/1000) that returned to prewar levels after the restriction was lifted

From online article’ Does low meat consumption increase life expectancy in humans?’ http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/3/526S.long

 

Whilst I am not necessarily advocating a vegetarian lifestyle, clearly moderation of meat can be linked to better health and longer life.

This was again played out in Britain during the rationing of the WWII years and beyond; although a relatively boring diet compared to our standards, the limitations on intake of sugar and meat, and the increased and natural exercise of the nation produced a much healthier population. Perhaps, as we are experiencing austerity times now, we could take a leaf out of history’s books, and try to employ our own rationing system, that would improve the health of the nation once again. I doubt there’s a politician in the land that would attempt that one! We could, however, do it for ourselves. The old adages ‘less is more’ and ‘a little of what you fancy’ are principles that could be employed, to good benefit.

In the spirit of further experimentation, we shall, as a family, be testing the War Years Rationing diet in the next month – again for a week. Watch this site for further info. I expect it to be as enlightening as the last week has been.

https://capuk.org/

 

Days 4 & 5 – Food Bank, Failed Porridge & Fadge

Fadge - Irish Potato Pancakes, sizzling in the pan.

Fadge – Irish Potato Pancakes, sizzling in the pan.

Click here for a link to Cromer & District Foodbank:-

http://cromerdistrict.foodbank.org.uk/

It’s amazing how our bank balance has remained almost untouched this week…clearly it was getting a hammering from frequent ‘pop ins’ to supermarkets, theoretically to get just milk and bread, but actually spending an awful lot more; clearly those marketing ploys work!

We contacted the Food Bank this week, an organisation that we support locally, to see about their operation in Cromer and Holt. Meeting the people who run it and talking about all the amazing work they do to support local people who are in difficulty was eye opening; we think we live in a affluent area, but there is much need in North Norfolk. We have offered our services, and hope to start training soon, joining the regular operation as well as hopefully being part of some exciting new local initiatives that are currently in the planning stages. It was an exciting meeting, and I very much look forward to getting stuck in. I hope to do some regular articles for this site regarding my experiences as a volunteer. Food Bank provides much needed support in the form of food and toiletries for many people who are currently in financial poverty; it is easy to support them, just pop a few extra tins or packets (non perishable) into your shopping basket each week, and give to one of their many collection points. If you get a few people together, you can end up with a carrier bag of food – all essential help for others less well off, and so easy to achieve.

Eating has gone from a pleasurable experience to one of mundane, repetitive functionality. There’s nothing wrong with the food…it’s just the same thing over and over. But I have actually struggled much more with the drinks; I didn’t realise quite how important tasty hot drinks were to my life! The first thing I am going to have on Monday morning is a huge cup of tea….

Anthony confessed to having raided the lemon curd and honey jars….as well as giving in to a scrumped grape from our underperforming grape vine outside, which must have been a sour experience, and not at all as satisfying as the filched honey! But he’s not the only one; our daughter Daisy has insisted on having a little of everything we eat, and even made some flat breads for herself with the flour, which she enjoyed immensely. I will most definitely be making those for the family from now on.

Sadly, not all the cooking has been successful: Thursday’s porridge was a disaster, as I thought that adding lemon curd to it instead of honey for a change would be tasty…it so wasn’t. What I should have done was tried a little, but I stirred a spoonful into the whole bowl (rather stupidly) and ruined mine completely. I thought afterwards that what I did was symptomatic of living in plenty for so many years – I am sure that someone who was used to being without would have approached things far more cautiously. Needless to say, I was livid with myself, and had a small cup of the soup for breakfast instead. Anthony, as ever with far more forgiving taste buds than mine, tucked in regardless; I am sure he would cope far better in a real food crisis than I would. Evidently I am far too picky, although this week has tempered that somewhat!

Making the second batch of soup, I thought I would ring the changes, and used the little bit of curry powder to make a smooth curried vegetable soup. I also had a small bowl of chickpeas leftover, and a tiny amount of lentils. This made a nice, thick satisfying soup, to ring the changes for the latter half of the week.

I am so glad that I saved 4 small potatoes and ½ an onion for emergencies,  as I have used them to make fadge, which is an old Irish recipe for potato pancakes. They are so easy to make, and a tasty change from porridge in the mornings (see recipe below). They really stick to the ribs, and it’s nice to have something savoury in the morning. I had to cook the potato the day before, (you could use leftovers) and just mash them with a little oil and salt, but they worked just as well. They would be amazing topped with a fried egg, with beans and mushrooms on the side…but that’s for next week! Remember, this is a restricted-ingredients recipe for this week, so if you’re trying it and want to add more flavourings or onion, feel free! I am going to try adding some oats tomorrow, to see if that makes it more filling, and holds us for longer.

 

Fadge: Makes one large pancake for 2 people

8oz cooked mashed potato

2 oz plain flour

¼ onion, finely chopped

A little oil

Salt

A couple of pinches of dried oregano

 

Gently fry the onion for a few minutes, and then turn off heat. Heat the mash up slightly in a microwave to loosen it a little (don’t make it too hot or you’ll burn your fingers). Add the flour, onion, oregano, 2 tsp oil and good pinch of salt, and mix. Add in 2 tablespoons of warm water, and bring together into dough. On a lightly floured surface, knead gently until it is smooth, and then press out into a round, about ½ inch thick. Cut in half (this makes it easier to flip over in the pan). Put a little more oil in the frying pan that you fried the onions in, heat up on a medium heat, and place the potato pancakes in. Cook gently for about 3-4 mins on each side, until the pancakes are browned and cooked through, being careful that they do not burn. Serve immediately.

 

 

Day Three – An Assembly, A Few Cravings and a Soup Kitchen

Serving Soup at my 'Soup Kitchen' at the Uni

Serving Soup at my ‘Soup Kitchen’ at the Uni

Apologies for not posting yesterday….After doing a Doctor’s run for a relative and an assembly, a headache of Biblical proportions set in, and I was unable to endure looking at a computer screen. Don’t know whether that was caffeine withdrawal or just plain ol’ hormones, but I was out of action for the afternoon and evening. But we’re up and running again today…!

I’m very pleased to report that I have experienced no hunger so far; the meals are sufficient to ward off any pangs. They are, however, a bit dull, and I’m just so glad that I bought the flour for flat breads, and the lemon curd; who knew that a 22p jar of lemon curd could taste so good! We have been saving a quarter of our flatbreads at lunchtime, to spread a little lemon curd on as a sort of dessert, and nothing ever tasted so fabulous. Normally, I would never consider buying a 22p jar of anything, and I’m surprised that it is OK; a lot sweeter than a good jar of lemon curd, but palatable nonetheless.

Breakfast has been a trial for me; I don’t really like sweet things in the morning, so eating porridge with honey is not easy for me, and I haven’t managed to finish a bowl yet. But I am eating as much as I can, so that I don’t get hungry through the morning. Porridge really does keep you full for a long time. Anthony is enjoying it much more than I am, and tucks in every day.

 

I was able to go into a local Primary School yesterday, and share with the children about my ‘Week Without’. I had some great responses and questions from them, and one funny moment when I asked them which food group they thought was missing from my current diet – they answered ‘sugar’!! I was invited back by the children, who would like to actually taste the recipes that I am eating this week, and I’m hoping it may inspire them to think about how they can live their lives to help other people.

I am missing tea so much, and my elderberry cordial that I make into a hot drink. I am having a couple of cups of hot water and lemon, which is enjoyable actually, but there’s nothing like a cuppa in the morning! That first cup next Monday is going to be fabulous.

The cravings have been spontaneous and surprising; a mince pie, elderberry cordial, cheese, a pear. Each craving has popped into my head unprompted, but left just as quickly; I can’t say I’ve been dwelling on them, which is the surprising bit. I really thought I would struggle more with this. However, we are only on day 3…….there’s time yet!

I hope that the lack of struggle is because the food is substantial and satisfying. The fact that this is research is also helpful, allowing me to be more analytical about my responses than I would normally be if I were simply denying myself on a ‘diet’.

Baking cakes for a Soup Kitchen I was running at the Uni today was a little difficult, as the smell was tantalising as they came out of the oven. But I was not concerned whilst serving them, and didn’t feel any temptation to eat them at all. Wearing my ‘Week Without’ T shirt, I had some interesting conversations with the students about my experiences so far, and interest in receiving more information and recipes from me, which is encouraging. One of the reasons I am doing this research is to find out just how little you can live on, whilst still eating a balanced and nutritious diet. The plan I am currently on lacks fruit and dairy at the moment, and there is still some way to go, but hopefully I will end up with some good empirical research that can be used to pass on to people who need or want to learn how to live and eat well, for less money.

One problem with eating the same thing every day is monotony; part of me is wondering at which point the dread of the same meal will set in. I did think it might be tonight, but was surprised to find myself tucking in and enjoying my curry as much as the first day…long may it continue! Wish I felt the same way about the porridge…..

 

Another Happy Customer

Another Happy Customer

‘Week Without’ Curry

Warming Chick Pea and Lentil Curry

Warming Chick Pea and Lentil Curry

4 onions, sliced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 kg bag red lentils

4 tsp curry powder

½ swede

½ tsp honey

½ cabbage

1 x 500g bag dried chick peas

4 tablespoons Vegetable oil (approx)

2 tins chopped tomatoes

 

Start the day before, by soaking the chick peas as per packet instructions. Next day, drain, rinse and add to a large pan and cover with water, and cook as per packet instructions. Drain, rinse, and set aside, ready to add to the curry later. Cook the swede in a pan with enough water to cover them, plus a little extra, and place the cabbage in a steamer over the top. Cook until just soft through. Meanwhile, very gently fry the onions in half the oil (I cooked the curry in 2 deep frying pans, to lessen the chances of it sticking or burning), stirring occasionally. After 10 mins add the honey and garlic, and stir for a further 5 minutes. Add the curry powder, the rest of the oil and the lentils, keeping the heat low and stirring all the time for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, vegetables and chick peas, season and stir well, and simmer until the lentils are soft, about 15 minutes. Check seasoning and serve with rice. This amount will serve 2 people for 7 seven days; freeze half the recipe until the second half of the week.

‘Week Without’ Soup

Delicious Vegetable Soup

Delicious Vegetable Soup

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 large leek, finely chopped

3 large potatoes, skins on, chopped into bite size chunks

¼ cabbage, finely sliced

¼ swede, peeled and chopped into small chunks

1 large carrot, skin on and chopped into small chunks

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Heaped tsp oregano

Salt, to taste

 

Gently fry the onion and garlic in the oil for a few minutes, and then add all the rest of the vegetables, stir to coat with the oil, and cover, sweating gently over a low heat for 5 minutes. Boil kettle, and add enough water to completely cover the vegetables, stir, and replace lid simmering until vegetables are soft. Slightly mash down, stir again, check seasoning and serve. This amount should serve 2 people for at least 3 days.