$21 challenge: week 3 and 4 update...

01 July, 2015

It is now the end of the month long challenge I set myself to eat from the backyard and cupboard, and spend less than $21 on groceries.

Unfortunately for blogging life got in the way of the week 3 update, so here is the week 3 and week 4 wrap up combined.

The kitty had remained with $12.70 at the end of week 2.

Week 3 saw the purchase of more milk, and a splurge on some sour cream and avocado. Luckily for the challenge kitty at the checkout the marked down avocado (discounted to $2.50 for two avo's) didn't scan properly, so I ended up getting them for free. Bargain!

Thus the end of week 3 saw the challenge kitty stand at $9.50 ($2.00 for milk and $1.20 for sour cream).

As you may have already guessed given the purchased ingredients, I had the makings of a Mexican feast. With some homemade salsa, freezer beef stores, homegrown capsicums still going in the mini greenhouse and onions from the 10kg bag I had the makings of fajitas. But the store bought tortillas were out of my price range.

What to do? Why, make them yourself of course!

A quick google search showed many a recipe for tortillas, and I now can't recall which one I ended up using. Either way, a mix of flour, water and a pinch of salt, knead and rest, then roll out flat as you can and round as you can, then cook in a hot dry frypan. This was not much different to making flat breads, except these didn't puff up as much. They weren't as perfectly round as the bought ones and therefore made for some inventive wrapping techniques, but were more delicious being so fresh. The avocados were mashed into guacamole with lots of homegrown lemon juice. This meal lasted for quite a few meals and leftovers. Unfortunately not one of them got photographed. Clearly I was too busy scoffing.

The other more inventive meal was mushroom crepes. Clearly I was yearning for comfort food. Maybe I had just gotten into a wrapping food theme. I don't know. Either way, it worked out quite well. I made a few crepes with flour, an egg and just enough milk to make a thin batter. Let rest for 30mins before cooking. This gave enough time to defrost a packet of foraged mushrooms and cook up a quick bechamel. Mix mushrooms into bechamel, then fill the cooked crepes, lay filled crepes in a baking dish and top with more bechamel and cheese. Bake until toasty. Serve with self sown salad leaves.

The other bonus of crepes is the opportunity, nay the necessity, to nom the leftover crepes with sugar and lemon juice.

They were the main meals of week 3, with a few quick lunches of toast with eggs or tinned fish and a few boring dinners of pasta with homemade, homegrown passata. Breakfasts followed the usual theme of yoghurt and fruit (now using the bottled apricots) and weekend porridge with prunes. I've actually reached the end of one jar of my dried fruit (previously bought dried mandarins, so delicious!) but still have lots of home dried pears, plums and apples, and lots of bought dried pineapple, cherries and sultanas, as well as nuts, for snacks. I've been drinking a lot more hot lemon drinks instead of tea (I just got sick of drinking tea for some strange reason, so converted) and I'm loving it as a warming winter beverage.

Onto week 4, the final week.

This is where the end was in sight, and I was a little sick of trying to come up with tasty meals based on freezer and cupboard items. But I had committed and needed to stick it out.

Luckily there was still plenty of foodstuffs in the garden and the pantry. One of the things I had intended to make, but ended up leaving until the last week was pork schnitzels. These used up some remaining panko breadcrumbs, a couple of eggs, flour and of course the schnitzels from the freezer. I served these with frozen mashed potatoes (I always make a big batch and freeze extra's in containers),  some early purple sprouting broccoli and my second last jar of fig chutney, made at least 3 years ago and still good.

I also was in the mood for sweets, so used some frozen blueberries and a rough scone dough to make a blueberry cobbler. It was too good and did not last long enough to get the camera out.

Other meals have included more purple sprouting broccoli made into a warm salad with orzo pasta (this had been in the cupboard for a while), more passata based pasta dishes, and some fried halloumi with silverbeet. Snacks remain dried fruit and nuts. Breakfasts are still yoghurt and fruit, with the odd extra weekend breakfast of a herb omelette (containing homegrown parsley, sage, chives and thyme), mushrooms and my darling mother's lovely sourdough bread.

Bought over the week has been only another 2L of milk, bringing the remainder to $7.50. I cannot believe I still have 35% of my original budget left over. And I still have plenty of freezer meat, frozen raspberries/blueberries, dried fruit stores, preserved goods, a cupboard full of pasta, couscous, barley, freekeh, noodles, rice, the nuts, flour, eggs and other bits a bobs that can easily make delicious meals.

Really, it just goes to show that so much of what I buy on a regular basis really isn't necessary. I think from now on I am going to use Lisa's strategy of having a monthly food budget, and by the end of the month if there isn't much left I am then forced to eat from the stores. Not only a frugal exercise but an exercise in waste not, want not.


  1. An excellent example of how we buy food we don't really need because it's habit. You did an amazing job of "surviving" on what you had in your pantry and your freezer and to still have as much money left out of your initial budget at the end shows that you have some serious saving potential tied up with your food budget. Always good to see where you can pull in the reigns if you have to :)

    1. So true! I think I could "survive" for much longer on what I have in storage and garden if I had to, but one of the pleasures of eating that I had forgotten/taken for granted was the ability to choose what I felt like eating. I think I need to do that a little less and in so doing really relish the luxury of choosing foods based on appetite, not necessity.

  2. I always try to rotate my food so I go through it on a yearly basis. Mostly it works. Sometimes we get into habits of eating that take us away from some of our things and I have to bring us back.

    1. I do this with preserves, mainly by thring to eat down the stores in late spring to ensure I habpve lots of preserving jars ready for the summer gluts. But I have definitely seen that I can do this more throughout the year with the rest of the pantry and freezer items.

  3. And it wasn't that hard was it? Good on you, amazing what we can do when we want to. Pity I don't want to yet! Getting to the point when we will need to though so better start planning. Looking forward to reading about your next challenge.


    1. No, it really wasn't. That was one of the biggest surprises! I think the idea of it was much harder than the reality.
      Yes, next challenge. Hmmmm, will need to start thinking :)

  4. YaY! Well done on succeeding with the challenge! As Daphne Gould said above with rotating of food, I find my monthly food budget helps me to rotate the food a bit more - use up what is in the freezer and cupboards with more thought and so they don't hang around for too long and this then ends up evening out my monthly 'big shop' a lot more and results in less visits to the shops during the month which saves money.

    1. Cheers for the monthly food budget suggestion! I will be excited to give it a go and see how it works.

  5. Scary to think how much impulse buying must be done, even at markets I'm a shocker there! Reminds me of how I used to manage when the kids were little and we were as poor as..... Amazing what can be done relatively easily, actually, generations of women before us were experts at it! Annabel Langbein's Tortilla recipe is a ripper, wouldn't even consider buying them anymore. Really enjoyed reading this account of your experience. Good job :)

    1. Oh, I'm terrible at farmers markets, or any markets for that matter. There is just so much good produce to purchase. Never mind I don't really need it. Ah well.
      I will have to check out ALs recipe.