Find out how I feed my family on a shoestring budget.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Salad Days

Just recently I made a pledge to myself to eat more veggies. You'd think that as a vegan I'd eat heaps of veggies, but sometimes I don't. I may have cereal or toast for breakfast, beans on toast for lunch, and then maybe only a portion or two of veg for dinner. Sure, I snack on fruit in between, but I resolved to do better on the veg front.

The answer was simple, eat salad for lunch and so for the last 8 weeks or so that's what I've done every day. And I really look forward to my daily salad, which contains a rainbow of raw veg.

I weighed my lunch a couple of times, and it averages around 450-500 grammes - roughly the equivalent of 5-6 servings. This also means I make good in roads into my 7 a day quota.

And best of all what I've realized is, is just how tasty a varied salad bowl can be. My salad rules are to include some kind of leaf, veg of a couple of colours (the more the better), something crunchy and a nice dressing. Last week I had some bean sprouts left over from dinner, so I made an chinese nspired salad, with lots of bean spouts, crunchy carrots sticks, avocado and a tahini and soya sauce dressing. 

I also pretty much always add toasted seeds (usually a mix of sunflower, pumpkin and cumin) and I've just started making a dressing using a flax and hemp seed oil blend for added omegas. I like to have something special in the salad too, so griddled aubergine, or asparagus, avocado or toasted nuts often feature. I have also added in grains and beans if they're to hand. I'll go to my local greengrocer and have a browse to see what's in season and then chuck it in.

Three of last week's lunches, you can tell I had aubergine in!
And I plan on keeping up the healthy habit all year round. I'm looking forward to some hearty winter salads full of crunch to keep me bright and healthy later in the year.

In case you want to try it here's my tahini and soya sauce dressing recipe.

2 tsp of dark soya sauce
1 tsp of dark tahini
1 tsp of flax and hemp seed blend oil (sesame oil, or even olive oil would work well too)
2 tsp of fresh lemon juice

Put all the ingredients in a jar, put the lid on and shake. Pour over the salad (works well if the salad is nice and crunchy).

If you eat lots of salad, why not tweet it with the hashtag #saladaday and share the veggie love!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

May's meals

Menu this week (sorry didn't manage photos)

Saturday (spontaneous) Barbecue

Sunday Spag Bol

Monday Lentil Flan and Salad

Tuesday Shepherd's Pie

Wednesday Sausage casserole and mash

Thursday Baked potatoes, beans and sausages

Friday Bean casserole.

Err recipes another time I'm afraid, got to catch the wind in the washing!

Organic or cheap?

I've been having an internal tussle recently. Do I buy as much organic produce as I can for my family, at a greater financial cost, or do I try and save the pennies and buy the cheaper stuff? I spent a full five minutes on Friday picking up the normal brocolli and then putting it back and choosing organic and vice versa. In the end I chose the organic brocolli, it was 76p more than the normal stuff, but as I looked at E smiling at me in the trolley I knew what choice I wanted to make.

E suffers from ezcema and I've just made the decision to upgrade his vests and sleep suits to organic cotton for the next size. This is a pricey decision, but if it helps his skin then it's a no brained. And if I want what he wears to be organic then of course what he eats should be too. The question is will it make a difference?

I used to think organic was a waste of money - pesticides are still used, so it's not really any better. However, far fewer pesticides are used and crucially organic farming practices are different. Organic matter (poo) is an important part of the cycle, soil quality is important as is rotation. Many people have attributed modern industrial farming practices as one of the reasons Somerset flooded so badly in the winter.

Where does this leave my budget? Well, it means food is costing me a bit more. Me and E don't drink milk, eat cheese or eggs, but N and S do and I don't want them to have the hormone filled, super dairy, GMO stuff, both for health, social and political reasons. So I buy organic, but expect them to eat a but less of it.

Eating less veg is not an option though. In fact, I've been eating a large and varied salad everyday for lunch for the last six weeks and upping our veggie in take all round, so our veg spending is significant.

There is a budget busting light on the horizon though, summer is coming and seeds are a sprouting. We are very lucky to have an allotment. We've neglected a bit over the last few years, but this year it's looking good. We've got carrots, radishes, parsnips, leeks, broad beans and beetroot in now. There are redcurrants, blackcurrants, and gooseberries ripening on the bushes. In the garden we've got more radishes, rocket, mixed leaves and strawberries appearing. There are peppers, chillis, beans and courgettes germinating in pots on the window sills. Through all this we've greatly reduced our food miles, given the bees something to pollinate (we've got companion flowers too), and supplemented our organic vegan in take.

In addition I've been making no knead bread and started a sour dough starter. Organic flour is pricey, but cheap compared to organic bread.

Having said all this though I did buy the cheapest pasta and tinned tomatoes in the shop this week. It's all about compromise I guess!