Punishment Lentils! January 5th

Today has been a day of mixed emotions. I began optimistic, but my day was upset when I discovered that I had got the portioning of the latest batch of soup totally wrong. This was not the end of my misfortune.

I had portioned the soup inapropriately, leaving me with too few portions. Further problems and mistakes saw my day ending with a portion of punishment lentils.

How todays £0.81 was spent:

Porridge £0.19

Minestrone Soup £0.31

Carrot, Orange £0.14

Failure & Lentils £0.17

Lunch

When I cooked the last batch of soup I found I had two extra portions. This luncheon I discovered why - the portion control on the latest batch is far too harsh - leaving me with a tiny bowl of soup for lunch. I'm not happy, and this portion size is not going to be sustainable.

Fortunately, I've only frozen one portion so far - giving me scope to resize the rest of them. I'm hoping that it will turn out I've got 6 and a half portions so I can discount lunch, because it really isn't enough to keep me going.

Before I move onto reportioning minestrone, however, I have tomato puree at risk of going out of date, and need to get onto cooking some of my fresh ingredients before they ruin.

Cooking Tomato Sauce

As I mentioned yesterday, my tomato puree is in danger of going out of date. I therefore utilised a little of my cupboard in order to make a tomato sauce base.

My initial plan was to make a huge vat of lentil in tomato sauce, to serve with rice or pasta. My colleague, Harpreet - a clever yet succint fellow, managed to talk me out of it when I discussed my plans with him on thursday. Here follows my memory of the conversation:

Harpreet
So, what are you planning to do with the lentils?
Steve
I'm not sure, I was thinking about cooking them all up and doing a tomato based herby sauce with them.
Harpreet
Have you cooked lentils before?
Steve
No

As I mentioned yesterday, my tomato puree is in danger of going out of date. I therefore utilised a little of my cupboard in order to make a tomato sauce base.

Ingredients Tomato Sauce Base.

ItemCost
½ Portion Butter5p
1 small stick celeryn/a left-overs from soup
2 Cloves Garlic4p
½ Carrot3p
1 onion14p
50g tomato puree9p
1 Carton Pasata32p
1 Stock Cube4p
Herbs10p assumed for accounting purposes only
Total£0.81

Portion wise, it's hard to work out. I reckon I can dilute it with a equal quanity of water to make a pasta sauce, but I am tempted to freeze some in an ice cube tray in order to use as a substitute for a dollop of tomato kethup where appropriate.

In the end, I go for both options - freezing 14 sauce cubes, which it seems to make sense to put a notional value of 3p each. That makes 42p for the tray. The rest of the sauce, just over 300ml, I devide between three bags, giving a value per bag of 13p each.

Whilst making the sauce, I notice the carrots are showing signs of detoriation. Last night, I noticed a bruise on one of the potatos. As I have a fair bit of cash tied up with the remaining potatos and carrots, I need to transform them into freezable dishes before I end up with lots of waste.

Snacktime

Cooking is hungry work, and the energy provided by a poor serving of minestrone is starting to wear thin.

Optimistic that I will be able to reduce the cost of todays minestrone after reportioning, I dig into an clementine. The little orange tastes good, but is insufficient nurishment. I decide to eat half a carrot - left over from the tomato sauce. It tempers the hunger a little - sufficient to continue my day.

Cooking Colcannon

As I still had a little Savoy left over from the minestrone, I decide to couple it with some of the potatos I need to use up and a few other ingredients to make an approximation of Colcannon. This will also yield a great deal of potato skin with which I hope I can rustle up a great deal of potato skin crisps.

At this point I am still opimistic that I can use the crisps tommorow, and have a dinner of colcannon and beans.

I boil potatos, then fry up the cabbage, garlic and onions, hoping to use any butter remaining to cook my crisps. unfortunately the colcannon veg mix absorbs all of the butter, leaving a dry pan.

Unphased, I decide to use some butter and another clove of garlic to prepare the crisps...

Ingredients Soggy over garlicy potato skins.

ItemCost
½ Portion Butter5p
Potato skinsn/a left-overs from colcannon
1 Cloves Garlic2p
Total£0.07

The crisps did not go well. They form a barely adequate starter, eating another 7p of my dinner budget. A 7p dent may not be so bad, if I knew how much the colcannon cost - or how many portions it will serve.

At this point, I decide I am slightly late in reportioning the minestrone. It transpires that my lunch was approximately 2/3 of a normal portion, as were all the others I had made. Rejigging the portions leaves 5 normalish sized servings. At this point it dawns on me that I cannot discount lunch, and I've eaten an additional 14ps worth of fruit and veg.

By now, I'm very sceptical that I can afford to have colcannon for tea. I suspect I have used a third of a bag of potatos, for which I should responsibly budget 25p. With the other ingredients on top of this, my available dinner budget feels far too close for comfort.

I opt to freeze two portions of colcannon, weighing about 200g each - working out at 23p per serving.

Ingredients Cheap Colcannon.

ItemCost
½ Portion Butter5p
½ Onion7p
½ kg Potatos25p
Some Cabbagen/a left-overs from soup
2 Cloves Garlic4p
100ml milk4p
Total£0.45

Punishment Lentils

I decide to break out an emergency budget meal for the remainder of my budget. Boiled Lentils & Rice. Boiled Rice. Boiled Lentils and Boiled Rice.

To prepare this meal, I'm not going to use just any lentils. I'm using some secret lentils, the truth about which is such a dark secret, that it has never been mentioned... Until now.

A couple of days ago, I used a little bit of puree, some lentils, onions, carrot, celery to attempt to make a lentil kofta, based upon a recipe I found on the internet. It failed miserably. I didn't want to discard valuable protein, so I froze the food processed minced lentil mixture.

After the incident, I kept it a secret, unwilling to share my lentil based misadventure with the outside world. Well almost - I mentioned it to Harpreet. He suggested I might try to soak the lentils for longer. Or use chickpeas. That's an exercise for another day.

Upon serving my dish up, my wife, who had just enjoyed a steak, potatos and cheese sauce, suggested using one of my prepared tomato sauce cubes to liven the meal up. In hindsite I should probably of defrosted the sauce cube in the microwave prior to mixing it in with the lentils.

Ingredients Punishment Lentils.

ItemCost
1 Portion Rice4p
50g pulped frozen lentils10p
1 Sauce cube3p
Total£0.17

In all fairness, it didn't taste too bad, though I need to get better at cooking rice. Unlike the soup and porridge, however, punishment lentils is not a dish I can see myself returning to after the month has ended.

Conclusion

I've cooked a lot this weekend, but also created my first waste - about 50 grams of tomato puree, valued at 9p.

I'm hoping the cheap day today will facilitate a slightly raised budget later on in the month, if I can keep future wastage to a minimum.

The first weekend down, and three remaining - a significant milestone, but an early one.

Totals to date

Cash Spent£16.03
Value of Food Consumed:£4.71
Waste£0.09
Cash Remaining:£14.97
Cash Reserved:£3.71
Cash to spend:£11.26
Days Remaining:26