Holiday musings… continued¬†

I write this sitting in Malaga airport…

I have decided not to continue sharing my holiday musings on frugality with you.  I expect that you’re not disappointed – the Web is hardly short of blogs telling you how you should be budgeting and running your finances and my thoughts on the subject are hardly earth shattering. Also, it would be rather presumptuous of me to think that what works for me might work for you.

After Christmas it will be the year anniversary of starting my blog. Maybe I will give myself another January Challenge to mark the occasion – any ideas?

P.S. yesterday while visiting a vinyard in the Ronda region I got a fabulous Paella recipe from an equally fabulous lady called Ana. I will share it with you just as soon as I have tested it ūüôā


Holiday musings on frugality 

I write this sitting in a Spanish bar

‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink‘ would be a more appropriate start given the topic of frugality, but that wonderful first line has already been taken – plus it would be a big fib.

The bar in question has a black cat pictured on the menu, and a real black cat called Tahita who likes to have her ears tickled. It is a local’s bar, where no English is to be heard and the food and wine are cheap and good. I am very lucky that it is just across the road from my apartment building; most of the other options are the typical ‘Brit abroad’ Irish Bar or expensive seafood restaurants.

Anyway, back to ‘I write this sitting in a Spanish bar with a black cat‘; it was the perfect setting for some diary writing –  a favourite holiday occupation of mine along with reading, eating, drinking and sleeping. Holidays are a good time for reflecting, and writing has always been my favourite way to put my thoughts in order.  I decided that my musings from this morning were worth typing up and sharing with you,  given that quite a proportion of this blog is about frugal eating.

read an article this morning about a lady who gave herself a ‘spending break’ for a whole year – that knocks my January Challenge of ¬£5 a week for food into a cocked hat! Having said that, I suppose that what she has done – allowing spending on only mortgage, bills and groceries – is similar (although rather more strict!) to the rule I gave myself when I was made redundant in February. The bank account which my redundancy money went into I only allowed myself to use for my mortgage and for bills; the only money  which I allowed myself to spend was that which made it’s way into a different account from temping work and making and packing lovely meringues for my friend Lisa. I have kept to this rule rather well until the last month or so. Not bad.

On reflection, the problem with my redundancy money rule was that anything which made it into my other account I was allowed to spend on myself in what ever way I wanted, and so I lost much of the discipline learned during my January Challenge. Also, the January Challenge concerned only food rather than a wider ‘frugality’, which led me to reflect this morning on what other things I spend money on which are not strictly necessary. The things that most quickly came to mind were wine, gin and ‘lazy food’ – so still pretty food related! What is it they say about putting your money where your mouth is?! I had to put rather more thought into where the rest of my money is frittered away to.

… and now to repair to another Spanish bar for wine and tapas. I will finish typing up my musings tomorrow – providing that I can still read my handwriting ! 

Calais – Day Three

I am a couple of days late in rounding off my fleeting Calais trip for you – apologies! I was rather too exhausted on Saturday evening plus incredibly frustrated at how slow the internet was in the hostel, and my plan of writing while I was on the ferry was foiled by… sleep.

Day Three followed much the same pattern as the previous two; preparing salad to be taken out to the camp along with the curry and rice, then preparing vegetables for the next day. I also spent time slicing bread to be dipped in the curry – ten big sacks in all if I remember correctly (although not on my own of course!).

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The Refugee Community Kitchen in Calais benefit from the recent change in French law which requires all large food retailers to give their surplus fresh food to charity. Feeding approximately 2500 people a day means that bread and vegetables which the supermarkets won’t sell because it wouldn’t last long enough in peoples fridges can be used straight away to feed some very hungry people. Other ingredients are either donated or purchased in bulk with donated money.

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As promised, I did manage to leave the vegetable prep area for a short while on Saturday to talk to the cooks and chef about what they were making. I will share a curry recipe with you soon, but I want to have a go at scaling it down first because I don’t think that you will need to feed quite so many people as we were feeding in Calais!

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Over and out!

Kitty

Calais – Day Two

… today I have mostly been crying oniony tears…

Lots of chopping and peeling again today – carrots, onions, potatoes, chicory, lettuce and MUCH garlic. Lesson of the day – many hands make light work! The garlic took at least five people most of the afternoon. It’s a good job that there are lots of jobs to be done, so that we can swap around when either our minds or our bodies have had enough of being in one place. 

I expect that you are wondering what is done with all these vegetables?  Each day some variation on vegetable curry, rice and salad is made for thousands of people – all in one pretty small (all things considered) kitchen. The volunteers also get the same for their lunch so I have been able to sample it for the last couple of days – delicious and both days rather different. The kitchen depends on donations of food, so the recipe of the day really depends on what is to hand.

I had a chat with the head chef this afternoon, and we have arranged to spend a few minutes together tomorrow putting down on paper a typical ‘Calais Kitchen’ curry recipe to share with you. 

Until then it’s rest time for me. 

Over and out! 

Kitty

p.s. follow the kitchen on Twitter @RefugeeCKitchen

Calais – Day One

Today I have mostly been peeling carrots and garlic…

This post is a bit of a departure from the usual here at Kitty’s Storecupboard; still food related but written from a kitchen in Calais, France where I am helping to feed the thousands of migrants camped out at the Calais ‘Jungle’. I have brought three people with me – my friend Sarah and two lovely ladies from Stroud called Claudia and Frances who have been asked to spend a few days at the youth centre in the Jungle teaching circus skills to some rather traumatised and bored young people.

Sarah and I are based at the warehouse where lots of hard work goes on behind the scenes – sorting dontations of food and clothes, cooking hot food to be served at the camps, packing bags of dry food to distribute (a bit like Foodbank bags). 

Morning

I have been helping in the kitchens this morning – although most of my vegetable peeling was outside, which was nice given the weather. I have also unloaded the donations from the lovely people of Stroud – food, vitimins and first-aid supplies for the women and childrens centre and a computer for the school.

Sarah’s job this morning was in a production line packing the food bags to be distributed and Claudia and Frances were sorting tents in the warehouse. I have now dropped Claudia and Frances off are  at the youth centre so that they can get started with their circus skills workshop.

Next  – to head to a supermarket and spend the cash given to me by the wonderful Rasmachaz shop, the congregtion of Trinity Church Stroud, and friends and neighbours who were really keen to give knowing that it will go to directly stock the rather empty warehouse. I will be much happier when I have parted with the cash, I don’t like walking around with lots of Euros!

…afternoon

We didn’t need to go shopping in the end – the people of Stroud were so generous that the lady in charge of stocking the warehouse decided that it would be better spent on bulk buying a pallet-load of food, such as milk or tinned tomatoes. I will let you know exactly what it was spent on later in the week.

I have mostly carried on with vegetable preparation and general dogs-body in the kitchen. Sarah carried on with packing food for distribution; they packed 5000 bags – so literally feeding the 5000! Claudia and Frances survived their trip into the Jungle – but I think it is up to them to tell there own story. 

That’s all for now – time for a well earned sleep. 

Kitty 

P.s – I do have a few photos  to add,  but the internet at the hostel is being so slow that I can’t upload them. I will add them another time.

Lent 2016

Hi ladies and gents,

It is a week since pancake day and I have yet to share my Lent Challenge with you which is rather remiss of me, sorry. I was a bit torn as to what to do this year, not least because in some ways fasting for Lent is quite a personal thing, and I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t choosing something just because it would be interesting to write about!

In the past I have given up various things; I have had a dairy-free Lent, gluten-free, vegetarian  (much to my mother’s annoyance when I was living at home and she was cooking!), caffeine free and last year I gave up coffee and wine. These have all been challenging in different ways, in some cases forcing me to broaden my repertoire of recipes and giving me an appreciation of other people’s food allergies and intolerances.

So, back to 2016. As some of you will know I am pretty passionate about sharing food, not wasting food and about being mindful about where food has come from. I wanted my Lent challenge to build on the discipline which my ¬£5 a week challenge had instilled in me, and in addition to heighten my awareness as to the origin of  the food that I eat. I had a few ideas and a few suggestions from people including a vegan diet, something food-miles related, abstaining from alcohol, following the strict Greek Orthodox Lenten fast (effectively vegan plus wine-free with a couple of full fast days thrown in for good measure), cooking without the contents of my storecupboard, a zero food-waste Lent, cooking something new every day, and a complaining-free Lent (I like that idea and might try to do it anyway!).

I really liked the idea of having a ‘Local Lent’ based around food-miles, however, I found it rather difficult to get my head around what food-mile parameters I should set myself. Would it be just Gloucestershire, England, the UK, Europe? Or should I set myself a number of miles per week, so that if I had a cup of coffee I would be restricted in what else I could have?  If things weren’t labelled with country of origin would I have to make the assumption that I couldn’t have it? All a bit complicated!  Given all of the above what I finally decided upon is to have a Supermarket-Free Lent; so still a ‘Local Lent’ but with less maths! In addition I want to continue to be mindful about the quantity of food that I buy, making sure that I only have as much as I need, so I am giving myself the slightly less ridiculous budget of ¬£10 a week for food and drink.

So what can you expect in the next few weeks? Probably lots of drooling over the delicious Pippin Doughnuts at the wonderful and award-winning Stroud Farmers Market – it’s a good job that I have given myself the ¬£10 budget! There will also be some pretty amazing recipes coming your way; I have no idea yet what they well be, we will all have to wait and see what inspiration my local shopping gives me!

Ta’ra for now!

Kitty

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Stroud Farmer's Market

January Challenge ‘de-brief’

I am almost exactly a month into my life as a food blogger, and I have to say that this is definitely the most difficult post that I have written so far. Those of you who have been following me for the last month will know that I set myself a challenge at the beginning of January to ‘cook using only what I already have in my cupboards and freezer, plus what I can buy for ¬£5 a week’;  you will also know that I like to communicate what I have been cooking with minimal ‘waffle’. Now that February has arrived it is time to reflect on my January Challenge and I really hope that I can do so in a concise and interesting way. Please leave me a message if you make it all the way to bottom!

Most importantly, I must say that I have really enjoyed giving myself a ridiculous budget for a month; it reminded me of how much fun it is to be creative with my cooking, and in addition it ‘reset’ my shopping habits and prevented me from producing any food waste.

What I would really like to get across to you is how well you can eat on a small weekly budget if you keep a few ‘core’ things in your storecupboard. If you are not used to this style of food shopping and cooking then there will be some upfront expenditure (but not much, see below how much I spent on topping-up my cupboards at the end of the month); but once you have initially stocked up there will just be a small ‘rolling cost’ as you replace things.

So here goes a short retrospective on my January Challenge:

What did I buy with my £5 a week?

My first £5 was spent on onions, carrots, mushrooms, some good British sausages, a lime & soda from my local pub, and some reduced bread for my freezer.

Lesson #1 – lime & soda is totally pointless and a waste of money!

During the second week I spent the princely sum of £4.88 on free range eggs, carrots, new potatoes, frozen peas and a British lamb shank.

Lesson #2 – a box of mixed-sized eggs is considerably cheaper than buying a box of identical eggs, and unless you are doing high-precision baking they are just as good.

For the last couple of weeks of the challenge I was more ‘bitty’ in my shopping (I didn’t have time for a ‘big’ ¬£5 shopping trip!) and I was not quite so disciplined in writing up what I had bought; in summary I topped up the onions, potatoes, mushrooms and carrots, and I had a cup of tea at a church coffee morning for a whole 80p – decadent!

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What are my new favourite recipes?

As I mentioned above, one of the best things about giving myself a ridiculous budget was re-discovering my creative ‘make-it-up-as-you-go-along’ cooking flair! I think that my favourite was probably the Roasties with Garlic & Coconut Dip – this was a very spur of the moment ‘snack’ using some coconut yoghurt that a friend had left in my fridge, I will certainly be making it again.

If I had to choose another top creation it would be a difficult choice between the vegetable curry and spaghetti with tomatoes and poached egg.

Lesson #3 – if you don’t allow yourself to ‘pop to the shops’ for additional ingredients you will discover new and exciting (or sometimes just ‘interesting’) recipes!

Please do let me know what your favourite recipe has been so far, and do do do give them a try and let me know how easy or otherwise they are to follow!

What did I run out of?

Early Grey tea – disaster! Tonic water – disaster! Garlic – disaster! Cheese, milk, almond milk, vegetable stock, pasta…

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… and, as the observant amongst you will note, cheap gin! Don’t worry, I haven’t yet stooped to cheap gin; the reason I require it is to make Cranberry Gin… a recipe for another day. (Retrospectively, here is the Cranberry Gin recipe)

Despite making a show of being organised, I actually managed to forget the shopping list when I went for my ‘top-up shop’ – so in the end I forgot a few things, got a few extra things, and spent about ¬£30 (including the gin). Not bad.

What is in Kitty’s Storecupboard?

Having set myself a ridiculous budget for a month I have concluded that the following constitute the ‘core’ storecupoard ingredients which I would be hard-pressed to do without (although I’m sure I’d cope!); I hope that I have demonstrated over the last month that very little is needed in addition to these things to cook some rather delicious meals.

‘Dry Goods’

  • Lentils (Puy and Red-split lentils)
  • Rice (brown and white)
  • Pasta
  • Couscous
  • Oats

Tins / jars / cartons

  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Tomato pur√©e
  • Chickpeas
  • Butter beans
  • Pesto
  • Milk (‘cow’ or otherwise – I am rather fond of Almond Milk)

Baking ingredients

  • Plain flour
  • Self-raising flour
  • Margarine
  • Sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Baking powder
  • Bicarbonate of Soda
  • A selection of nuts and dried fruit

Freezer

  • Peas
  • Stock
  • Cooked vegetables for soup (from when I got portion sizes wrong!)
  • a bit of meat and/or fish, usually from the reduced section of the supermarket

Spices

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What can I say? A picture says a thousand words!

However, I would say that the ‘core’ herbs and spices for me are:

  • black pepper;
  • chilli flakes;
  • mustard seeds;
  • cumin seeds;
  • ground coriander;
  • mustard powder;
  • cayenne pepper; and
  • oregano, or some kind of mixed green herbs.

Garlic and onions are also very important!

and for my next challenge? I’ll keep you posted. In the mean time I have a number of January recipes to share with you which I ran out of time to write last month.

Well done for getting to the bottom of the page!

‘over and out!

Kitty