Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Living Below the Line - Day 3 and 4

"Variety's the spice of life." 
~ William Cowper (British poet, 1731-1800)

I have never had as much appreciation for this saying as I have this week.  Cooking for one is incredibly inefficient and the result, cooking with fresh ingredients and on a budget, often means a lot of the same thing.  For the last three days, I have been eating a lot of pumpkin.  

Thankfully, in various forms (soup, risotto and fritters) but tonight was a welcome change.  I can't help but feel a need to finish eating what I've cooked before I make something else (fresh is best) so I've been in the routine of eating last night's dinner for today's lunch.  If I had the willpower, it would be a great idea to have a little of a few different things instead of having a lot of one to create the sense of a meal, as is the principle of many Asian cultures.

This morning's breakfast, morning tea (2 pieces) and afternoon tea: flatbread as per the last couple of days ($0.185), however I kneaded thinly sliced green onion into the dough once it had already been formed and cooked as per normal.  I've decided I prefer this to having the fresh green onion on top.

Lunch: last night's pumpkin, carrot, potato and onion fritters.  Even better as leftovers at room temperature when you can taste each component more vividly, I feel.

Day 4’s dinner: Tomato and dhal nachoes! I love nachoes and love how healthy you can make them by loading in heaps of vegetables and using plain, unflavoured corn chips.  All of my dhal lentils (312g, $0.93) parboiled in 500ml water with 1/2 tsp salt ($0.01), stirring frequently until water is absorbed and lentils are al dente. 1/2 onion ($0.10) diced, 1 green onion ($0.15), white part sliced and green reserved, sautéed in 1 tsp oil ($0.05) with 1 tsp each of cayenne pepper, cumin and dried oregano ($0.15).  Add cooked lentils, 1 can of whole peeled tomatoes ($0.88) and 1/2 potato ($0.09) grated straight into the pan and combine, heating through for a further couple of minutes to allow the tomatoes to break down and potato to cook through.  Season with 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper ($0.03).

Tomato and dhal nachos

I love layering my nachos so every corn chip has the chance to soak up the filling, softening slightly but still retaining some bite around the edges.  A layer of corn chips (whole bag, $0.98), a layer of dhal mix and repeat. For extra health, I topped it off with 1/2 grated carrot ($0.07) and sliced green onion (reserved from earlier) adding freshness, texture and colour.

Coming in at a luxurious $3.44 in total, for a satisfying and hugely joyful dinner, lunch tomorrow and probably enough dhal to accompany my daily flatbreads, I think this is still pretty great value. And while I realise $3.44 is more than my allocated $2.25 a day, I noticed last night that I am actually coming in way under budget. My brother pointed out that I should be stating the total cost of my 'meals' (which I've updated on previous posts) but in summary Day 1-3 looks like this:
     Day 1   Pumpkin soup (for dinner and lunch) and flatbread (for breakfast) = $1.545 (including full quantity of soup which was also used to make Day 2's dinner)
     Day 2   Risotto (dinner and lunch) and flatbreads (breakfast) = $0.985
     Day 3   Pumpkin, carrot, potato and onion fritters (dinner and lunch) and flatbreads (breakfast) = $1.475
     TOTAL   $4.005, about $2.75 less than total daily budget

Projecting the next day's worth of eating:
     Day 4   Tomato and dhal nachos (for dinner and lunch) and flatbread (for breakfast) = $3.625
     TOTAL AFTER DAY 4   $7.63, about $1.37 less than total daily budget

To be under budget at this point is quite satisfying and hard to believe (I've checked my calculations thrice!).  Prior to doing the challenge, eating off of $2.25 a day seemed like a really tough goal to achieve but since then I've noticed that the biggest challenge is not at all preparing decent meals from limited ingredients; it's actually the not being able to have that extra piece of fruit or go out for a coffee with friends or accept that lovely bit of slice that a friend has kindly baked for the office.  It's these can't-haves that are the hardest, if only for those moments when I forget about what I'm doing and get excited about the prospect of a treat.

Tomorrow will be the most challenging in this aspect when I fly to Auckland for work.  Refusing the complimentary snacks on-board? It goes against my principles! I'll have to save them for my drawer of snacks at work...  (for next week, of course).  And, yes, I will be bringing my packed lunch of nachos and flatbreads with me. High-flyer? Not so much.

To support me (and Oxfam) on the Live Below the Line challenge, please donate by clicking here.

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