If you follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or even occasionally pop in to read this blog, you’ll know that I’m a massive foodie. I’ll be honest and say I get a couple of messages a week from strangers having a cheeky little enquiry around “do you ever eat at home?” or “why are you always eating out?”…
Such a foodie…
I’m lucky that my job as a blogger and journalist allows me to review lots of restaurants and bars – it really is a huge perk of my job. Week nights or weekends, you will usually find me tucked inside one of Manchester’s newest eateries, scoping out the menu. And Instagram flat-laying the hell out of my plates!
It means that because I get to try a lot of fine dining, I’m rather silly when it comes to feeding myself. I don’t think twice about calling into Starbucks for a Vanilla Cream Frappucino at £3.20 a go, not to mention picking up take-out bagels packed with all the Italian meats and paying a fair whack for it.
It also makes me lazy. I don’t ‘meal plan’ or do ‘food prep’ or whatever healthy, fitness motivated people do. And in terms of those who are money savvy and budget wisely, I feel I have an excuse to splurge a lot more. Like its fine, because I’ve been treated for ‘work’.
So you can imagine when I got challenged by Satsuma Loans to take part in a blogger food budget challenge, it struck an interest. I’d have £50 to feed myself for the week, incorporating preparing what I would eat for the upcoming days, and making sure I stuck within budget.
OK. So I got my £50. And I was off to do a shop. So what did I buy and rustle up for a week?
Here we go:
x1 large pack of Chicken Breasts, diced – £5
x1 pack of Halloumi – £1.50
x2 packs of multicoloured Peppers – £1.40
x2 bags of Tomatoes – £1.20
x2 Red Onions – 60p
x1 carton of unsweetened Soya Milk – 80p
x1 pack of English Muffins – 69p
x1 pack of Ham – £1
x1 pack of Italian meat slices (pepperoni, chorizo, german sausage) – £2.50
x1 pack of Chicken Sausages – £2.50
x2 Avocados – £1.50
x1 large box Brand Flakes – £2
x1 Lime – 80p
x1 jar Green Olives – £1.20
x1 bag of Brown Rice – £1.50
x1 carton of Black Beans – £1.20
x1 pack of 4 fresh Corn Cobs – £2
x1 bag of Green Tea loose leaf tea – 70p
x1 bag ASDA Doritos – £1
x1 bag ASDA Giant Cous Cous – £1
x1 pot of Hot Salsa £1.20
x1 pack of 6 Eggs £1.35
X1 block of Mature Cheddar – £1.90
x1 Cucumber – 50p
x1 loaf Thick Granary Bread – £1.50
x2 bags fresh Gnocchi – 2.30
x6 pack Bananas – £1.25
x1 tin Chickpeas – 40p
x4 pack of Tuna in spring water – £4.00
x2 tins Chopped Tomatoes – £1.00
x1 bag Chia Seeds – £1.00
x1 bag Porridge Oats – £1.00
So whats the best way to diary my meals and snacks for the week, on my budget? Lets start with separating into the categories: Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners and Snacks…
First of all, I’m not really a ‘cooked breakfast’ kind of girl. Plus, I try to eat eggs and have them occasionally but they never jump out at me and I would never select them myself. I guess I just don’t enjoy them that much, which is a real shame.
To stick to a tight budget, I started bringing cereal to my office (I work from home as I run whatemmadid.com and my brand, but I also have a desk in Manchester for those days I need to be in the city). I chose Bran Flakes – quite healthy, low fat, OK-ish sugar content, and full of fibre.
I teamed this up with a carton of unsweetened soya milk, and dedicated three days of the week to this cereal breakfast. (I got a huge box, so it’s going to last me aaaaaages, so money well spent for a cereal, and soya milk is actually cheap when you buy a supermarket brand).
I also made sure I was fully stocked up with loose leaf green tea, as a little bit goes a long way. So every morning, I’ve been bringing my little loose leaf tea jug with me and brewing fresh green tea. It’s also a healthier choice for me, plus it meant I couldn’t go rushing off to Starbucks or Costa and indulging in £3.50 coffees every day!
However, there are 7 days a week, and I didn’t want to stick to Bran Flakes with soya milk and green tea everyday, so I purchased two forms of bread that I could also cleverly double up as lunch options too, to get my moneys worth.
So for the remaining 4 days of the week (and especially on the weekends), I opted for toasted chunky granary bread and black coffee, or porridge oats with soya milk topped with chia seeds, and occasionally a chopped banana in there too…
My lunch challenge was possibly one of my favourites, because sometimes what I would make for dinner the night before would be such a big portion that the leftovers would then be used for lunch the next day. Winner!
Plus, this saved me money like you would never believe. I’m terrible for grabbing take-out baguettes from pricey cafes, and occasionally even treat myself to fancy coffee shops and indulge in slices of cakes and croissants too. So naughty…
Here’s a couple of my lunch creations I made from my ‘cheap and cheerful’ ingredients, using them up wisely…
Green Olive and Black Bean Rice Bowl
I got myself into the habit of every other lunch time, cooking up a pan of brown rice, and muddling it up with chopped green olives and black beans, and seasoned with salt, pepper and a touch of garlic. For those days I wanted it to be a bit more ‘saucy’, I added a quarter of a tin of chopped tomatoes, cooked and heated, and enjoyed as a large bowl of rice with veggies.
A quick and simple option, great for prepping the night before and taking to work…
Italian Meats with Giant Cous Cous, Salad and Veggies
My favourite lunch creation of all time from my challenge week had to be this concoction of giant cous cous, italian meats, olives, tomatoes and cucumbers. And occasionally, I would poach and egg or two and add them to the plate to bring in some protein, although I’m not a huge fan (but sometimes you gotta do these things!…)
I was lucky enough to have two blazing hot days of sunshine during my food challenge week, which let me sit outside in the garden when working from home.
They were the days I enjoyed this Italian lunch feast, sat ‘al fresco’ with a mug of black coffee. It’s surprising how nice giant cous cous tastes – it’s much softer and a little more ‘rubbery’ than usual cous cous (that sounds weird, but trust me, it’s a good one!)
Eggs Benedict/Ham and Eggs on English Muffins
So trying to bring the cheap and cheerfulness of eggs into my diet, with all their goodness, was my lunchtime version of Eggs Benedict. I loaded poached eggs on top of breaded ham slices, onto a toasted English Muffin smothered with butter. I didn’t add Hollandaise sauce as this wasn’t in my budget, but, it was surprising how tasty it was without it.
Maybe I could get into this egg craze after all?…
Again, doing this down the ‘affordable’ route meant making the most of those bags of rice and gnocchi, and seeing what I could rustle up with my tinned produce.
However, I did get a little more arty and creative towards the weekend!
Here’s some dinners I made, which could be transferred into a lunchbox container and stored in the fridge for the next evening…
Gnocchi with Tuna, Tomatoes and Chickpeas
Now this is delicious! I LOVE nothing more than gnocchi, pasta, or anything remotely Italian. But this Gnocchi dish I created was so simple to make, soooo affordable to buy and a real treat to eat. Plus, it literally takes 5 minutes to cook. Busy girl, get cooking!
I simply boiled the gnocchi, and then cooked the chickpeas with a tin of chopped tomatoes and seasoning in another pan. I then added the tuna last, and poured the sauce over the cooked gnocchi.
Then, top with grated cheese if you wish! Just like you’re in an Italian cuisine restaurant…
Chicken Kebab Sticks
A real simple one which was brought on my the warmer weather I had on the particular weekend this challenge weekend fell on. For the Friday and Saturday evenings, I enjoyed chicken cooked via the bbq with peppers, red onions and cherry tomatoes. Accompanied with tortilla chips an hot salsa dip, and I was ready to go!
The beauty of these is that any cooked ones I didn’t finish, I refrigerated and had cold the next day for lunch. Again, just winning at this food challenge here aren’t I! And, more protein – hooray!
Halloumi Kebabs/ Halloumi and Veggie Cous Cous/Rice
Because it’s only fair to switch it up a bit, I got stuck into some Halloumi versions of my chicken kebab sticks, option for a veggie option. Another great idea I had here was to serve up the Halloumi kebabs with a side of cous cous and all the remains from the vegetables, so that’s finely chopped onion, peppers and tomato, mixed into the cous cous.
In all honesty, with the food I purchased from my £50 shop (and I came in exactly on £49.99 – how did I manage to be exactly 1 penny under?!) I’ve found it quite easy to make snacks. I made quite of these listed below, so any gaps to my eating was usually filled with some of these…
Avocado on Toast
For a more filling snack, I would toast a slice of brown granary bread and smother it with smashed avocado. Simple, tasty, and also healthy when you consider how good for you Avocados are. Just maybe make sure you use much more avo in reltion to bread, which is why I’d just have the one slice toasted. Which brings me nicely onto my next one…
Who knew how easy this was to make? Just simply whizz a whole Avocado into a food blender, squeeze half a time, add a pinch of chilli and salt, a teaspoon of olive oil, and voila! You can dip til you drop… (it tastes great with the tortillas I purchased!)
Banana and Cacao Smoothies
Now I already had cacao powder in my cupboards so this one isn’t strictly from the budget, but still, it was using what was already in those trusty kitchen cupboards.
To fill those periods between lunch and dinner, I just blended up a banana with a glass of soya milk, a sprinkling of cacao powder and there you have it – a quick and easy, thick and delicious, banana smoothie! You can indeed add int whatever else is in your cupboard. I had crunchy peanut butter and vanilla protein powder, but I didn’t want to put in too much of what wasn’t included in my £50 shop.
Banana and Oat Flapjack Bites
Another simple little snack I made at home with my ingredients was this rather yummy banana and oat flapjack. All that is used is 2 ripe bananas, 2 cups of oats, and enough soya milk to cover the mixture! The full recipe and method can be found over on my other blog post here, where you can add lots of other things to it as well.
I made this at the start of the week and would wrap up a cheeky slice in tin foil and have it during my tea breaks when working. Again, so simple, cheap, and super cheerful!
That pretty much sums up my £50 food blogger challenge, and I’m surprised at how much I could create and eat for just under £50! What a way to win at life… I seriously need to do this more often and really get stuck in with home cooking.
Do you make a lot of your lunches and dinners at home? Any tips and tricks you can give me for being more creative, and/or thrifty? Feel free to share!