Last year I managed to feed myself for a day spending just $2.
The aim was to help with the ‘Live Below the Line’ campaign to raise awareness for global poverty. While I was able to eat without going hungry on $2, it wasn’t the most nutritionally balanced day of eating.
So when I was invited by the lovely Lauren from Corridor Kitchen to participate in her $35 challenge – feeding yourself for a week on just $5 a day – I was super excited about her idea.
Unfortunately, I was travelling the week Lauren suggested. So I adapted the concept to my own challenge.
Just 5 days or $25 per person for the week.
and how did I go?
While it did require quite a bit of thought and planning, I actually enjoyed the week.
My Irishman said if I hadn’t told him about the challenge, he would never have noticed we were eating any differently to normal.
And we even managed to entertain some friends on the Friday night, without breaking the challenge, or spending extra cash.
If you’re wondering what we ate, I’ve included a list at the very end of this post.
Basically it’s all about not spending more than $25 per person on food and beverages. I didn’t include alcohol.. that would have had me over budget on the first day :).
Lauren allows food from your pantry. But apart from salt, pepper, a few spices, mustard, olive oil and vinegar, I didn’t dip into my well stocked pantry. I could probably feed myself for a week for free if I was just eating my pantry / fridge / freezer staples.
Although I did use some pantry items to bake a cake for our guests on Friday night and our sausages for the ‘bangers’ came from the freezer.
Leftovers were also allowed, but again I didn’t rely on any, apart from some leftover cheese for our Friday night entertaining.
I also didn’t include any things from my garden, except a few sprigs of rosemary. Because every where I’ve ever lived, (including Australia, France, the US and England) I’ve always found a rosemary bush somewhere that needs a little pruning.
The most difficult part of the week for me was shopping. Keeping it to just $50 was tough.
I found it helped that I kept a tally on my phone calculator as I added items to my cart. And was very excited when my grocery bill came to $49.99.. phew.
The other thing I really missed was being able to eat from my garden.
There was a new crop of baby broad beans finally on the bush to tempt me. And masses of purple spouting broccoli, cavalo nero and kale that needed eating up.
So it felt a little weird to be focusing on supermarket veg. But hardly the end of the world.
where to next?
As luck would have it, I was already planning to run a class at The Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School in November focusing on Mastering the Art of Cooking on a Budget.
So I decided to video and photograph my week of eating on a budget to use as a foundation for the cooking class.
The class starts 19th November and is ‘Pay What You Can Afford’.
about Mastering the Art of Cooking on a Budget
If you can only afford $10 or even $2 that’s fine too.
Anyone who pays something, even $1 will get a copy of the video ebook to download at the end of the class and keep forever.
If you’re really broke that’s OK as well. You can always set the price as ‘$0′ to signup for the class, but you won’t get a copy of the ebook at the end of the class.
salt crusted burgers with mashy peas
This was one of my favourite dinners from the $25 week. The secret is using the salt layer to cook the burgers. So as the juices drip out, the salt helps them congeal and form an instant crust which makes for a moist, full flavoured burger. I actually find that more fatty (and cheaper) beef makes for a more moist and tasty burger.
I’ve served the burgers here with caramelised onions. If you can’t be bothered with all that chopping and sweating, feel free to serve the burgers with your favoruite condiment. Or even just serve them simply with the peas which act as a bit of a sauce anyway.
400g (14oz) minced (ground) beef
2 large handfuls frozen peas
2 knobs butter
splash lemon juice
caramelised onion (recipe below), to serve, optional
1. Heat a frying pan or skillet on a super high heat for at least 3 minutes. You want it smoking hot.
2. Meanwhile divide beef into two and shape into burger patties.
3. Sprinkle a fine layer of fine salt onto the pan and slide the burgers on top. Cook for 4 minutes then turn, adding a little more salt for the second side.
4. Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a medium pan and add the peas. Cook covered on a high heat for about 4 minutes or until peas are hot.
5. Once the burgers are turned, cook for another 4 minutes or until burgers are how you like them.
6. When the peas are hot, add the butter then roughly puree with a stick blender or mash with a fork. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
7. Serve burgers on a bed of mashy peas with caramelised onion, if using.
vegan / vegetarian – make lentil burgers by draining a can of lentils and roughly mashing with a fork. Mix with 2 large handfuls soft bread crumbs and form into 2 patties, using more bread if the burgers feel too wet. Fry in oil until golden on both sides (about 3 mins a side).
chicken burgers – use good quality chicken mince instead of the beef. Serve with a dollup of mayo or aioli instead of the onion.
traditional burgers – cook salt crusted burgers as above but serve on a burger bun with ketchup and a little mayo and some crisp lettuce.
chilli burgers – serve with chilli oil instead of the onion.
If I’m bothering to make these onions I usually make a heap because they’ll keep in the fridge for a month or so. By all means, halve or quarter the recipe if you’re short on time.
While cheap balsamic is great here, you could easily just add a little sugar and a little regular vinegar (start with 2 tablespoons) instead.
1.5kg (3lb) onions, peeled & finely sliced
4-6 tablespoons cheap balsamic vinegar
1. Heat 6-8 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan. Add onion and cook, covered over a medium heat, stirring every 5 minutes or so.
2. When the onion has gone deep brown – about 40 minutes or so, add the balsamic and continue to cook, this time uncovered until the onion is super soft and the balsamic has reduced a little – about 5 more minutes.
3. Taste & season.
video version of the recipe
recently on The Stonesoup Diaries
We all go through times in life when we don’t have as much cash as we’d like but it doesn’t mean we can’t eat food that tastes good and is good for us. Cooking healthy food on a budget is a very handy skill to have.
For more details on the class, including how the ‘Pay What You Can Afford’ model works, go to:
ps. If you know someone who could benefit from learning to master the art of cooking on a budget.. please send them the link to this post. Thanks!
B. 2 poached eggs with cheat’s hollondaise & kale from the garden
L. coronation cauliflower
D. mushroom ‘steaks’ with life-saving lentils & cheat’s hollondaise
B. 1 fried egg with lentils
L. ‘green is good’ salad
D. salt crusted burgers with caramelised onion & mashy peas
B. 1 poached egg with raw asparagus & cheat’s hollondaise
L. green split pea & broccoli salad
D. veggie ragu (tofu & lentils) with steamed broccoli
B. leftover veggie ragu
L. legume & raw veg salad
D. carotti bolognese with celery heart salad
B. leftover carotti bolognese with celery heart salad
L. spiced cauliflower with lentils
D. bangers & smashed potatoes with caramelised onion
burnt carrot salad
minted pea & parmesan salad
lemon cake with ice cream