‘No spend’ food challenge week

Filed in Blog by on August 12, 2009 18 Comments
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How’s everyone doing with their ‘no spend’ food challenge this week?

After our very successful, ‘you’ll find it in your soup’ soup, using up a packet of miso, I’m moving on to flour.

I’ve always fancied myself as a master bread baker, but the sad truth is I’m not. Cakes and biscuits yes, decadent puddings, yes,  perfect roast potatoes yes. But bread? Nope; I was at the back of the queue when given the bread making gene.

I have freecycled my bread machine because I couldn’t even make a decent loaf with that, unless I bought a packet mix.

In my cupboards I have lots of flour for baking, but also some bags of bread flour, along with some spelt flour. They poke their tongues out and tease me every time I open the cupboard door. They jeer at me for not being able to bake the simplest and most ancient of foods to feed my family.

My challenge for today then, is to make an edible loaf of bread. I’m going to start with the spelt flour and see how I get on.

If you have a blog or website, then feel free to download my funky ‘No spend’ food challenge logo on your own site write about your experiences below:


There are ten brave, intrepid readers signed up to reduce their food waste and save some money this week:

Kira, who might be living off assorted curries and spice dishes for a week with the contents of her larder-style cupboard.

John, who tried to wriggle out of things by claiming that he buys the stuff he needs every few days. I’m challenging John to create himself a tasty meal this week using at least one dried ingredient he has set aside for winter soups.

Poppy has already done a similar challenge, but I’m sure we can find her something lurking at the back of a shelf to use up. I’m going to have a rifle through her cupboards with her later.

Maisie, who we will no doubt be looking to for advise, has been clearing out her freezer; so she’ll be using up some batch cooked meals and adding to them with the contents of her cupboards.

Charity tried to get out of signing up too, but you’ll know I’m a bit of a task master, so I’m challenging you to use up some breakfast cereal this week, Charity! Maybe you’ll find some recipes to share such as flapjacks made with museli or might try your hand at Lazy Loaf.

Kate has already done this challenge and provided me with the inspiration to run a challenge of my own; but she’s joining in too. She’s not shopping for the next 6 days and is going to use up her produce, eggs and beans.

Sharon, who has been working really hard over the past few months to reduce her weekly food waste is signed up to use up the food in her cupboards and freezers.

The Green Gal, after checking her cupboards has signed up too – she had far more stuff in the house than she realised!

Sandy has enough vegetables growing in her garden to put with store cupboard lentils and beans to have a go at spending nothing on food for the week.

Deb’s teenagers have been voted in too, but we don’t think they are aware yet! They’ve been left to fend for themselves and have to use up all the leftovers before tucking in to new foods.

Please share details of one meal you create this week in the comments below so that we can all learn from one another. Or tell us about an ingredient in your cupboard that you are not sure how to use up. Octopus, Sharon?
Mine is walnuts; I’ve got a 200gm bag of them and no one is eating them. I guess they might be nice in a cake, but I don’t want to make an entire cake and find that that doesn’t get eaten either.

It’s not to late to join in! Sign up in the comments below and let us know what you are challenging yourself to use up from your food stores.

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About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (18)

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  1. Charity says:

    Oooh, a namecheck, that was unexpected! The cereal problem isn’t that it doesn’t get used, just that I keep a larger stock that I need. I only bought one packet, this week, so I am working on it. I do have a packet of baby porridge that my son is too old for now (no takers on freecycle) so I will feed it to the birds this week, along with some “fruity date porridge” that none of us like.

    I do have a can of flageolet beans to use that has been lurking for at least a year. Not sure what to do with it though. Oh and some ancient popcorn that I really must make. I will definitely do that this week.

  2. Charity says:

    Oh yes, I have frozen redcurrants to use up as well. I found a muffin recipe so will do that. Although I’m sure nobody else will eat them…

    The lazy loaf looks tasty, but I would have to buy some muesli especially! That’s one thing I don’t have.

  3. Just remember that spelt flour doesn’t need as much yeast as normal bread flour.

    I tend to use half spelt to half normal when I use it.

    Shame about the bread machine as you could have used the dough facility and than baked off in the oven.

    I only use mine for this as i can’t do the dough but then can make all number of variations from a batch of dough.
    I don’t like how the machines bake the loaves either.

  4. Kirsty says:

    Mrs G
    I have a great receipe for Banana and walnut loaf, which is a favourite in our house. Only problem is it’s done in the bread maker. I always have banana’s that have gone brown, and as I dont’ like them that way due to the texture, I always make this banana loaf. You’ll also get to use up some of that excess flour you’ve been talking about too. I’ll try and find you a receipe you can make without the breadmaker and post a link here for you?

  5. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Recent days have seemed more like the end of year, rather than the middle, with cold, shortened daylight hours and heavy rain. Hopefully, we shall see more warm sun before the Sweet Basil season ends. Soup is therefore a suitable challenge. Lentils are already on soak with carrots and onions to prepare. A new angle could be the fresh tomato & basil flavour. It will be good to try this in soup.

  6. Kirsty says:

    As promised, a few banana and walnut recipes for your perusal. Can’t say how they taste compared to my usual one, but well worth a try I think.



    Regards – Kirsty

  7. Mrs. Green, what sort of bread will you be making with the spelt flour? I wouldn’t do a yeast bread with that, as it won’t have enough gluten to support the yeast.

  8. Rachel says:

    I think I ought to sign up to this after DH was in charge of shopping for a month – He’s stocked up the cupboards good and proper (I usually keep 1 tin of chopped tomatoes in for example, we now have about half a dozen tins!). I also have some baby food items that our little boy is too big for.

    Last night’s dinner was curry made with left over veggie roast and a jar of sweetcorn and carrot baby food included in the sauce – It tasted just the same as usual. The regular recipe is here: http://www.annabelkarmel.com/age-range/children-age-4-10/recipes/fruity_chicken_curry_kids and it is also good made with veggie alternatives to the chicken. Our little boy loves it and so do I.

  9. Mrs Green says:

    @Charity: Hi Charity; I’ve always fancied having a go at making baked beans from scratch; flageolet beans would be good for that. Alternatively they might be nice with cooked green beans, red kidney beans, garlic and sweetcorn as a salad?

    Popcorn is great fun; a healthier alternative to crisps!

    We made blackberry muffins this week and they went down a storm; redcurrant ones sound delicious.

    @maisie dalziel: Thanks Maisie; I have followed a recipe from the Doves farm site, so I didn’t have to worry to much about how much yeast to put in as they told me!
    I never really thought about using a bread machine do the mixing; but you know, I really like the kneading process. I find it quit meditative.

    @Kirsty: Thanks so much Kirsty for the recipes; the Kate Ford one looks great 🙂

    @John Costigane: Hey John, great to see you are taking up the challenge and have some lentils soaking already! Enjoy the soup 🙂

    @[email protected] Frugal Girl: Oops; too late! I really wish you were here, Kristen; your bread always looks so delicious – you’re a natural. but I’m always shocked at how much sugar you put into your loaves… Having said that we bought some American burger buns the other month and couldn’t eat them; they were SO sweet!

    @Rachel: Hi Rachel, welcome to the challenge! I love the story about your DH stocking up the cupboards LOL! What a fab idea to use up baby food as a sauce for your curry; I’ve used soup as a base before now, so it’s just the same thing.
    Glad everyone enjoyed it; let us know what you cook for the rest of the week.

  10. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    The basic soup is completed ready to pot and freeze for later, probably Friday and Saturday where rainfests are forecast. Today is a Sweet Basil day and the recent growing buds can enjoy the sun and heat. The Tomato & Basil will be added on the later cooking days. I have a few tomatoes but will buy some huge LIdl ones next week. These I usually avoid but will be good for the soup.

    Your bread looks a good effort on Thursday’s topic. Wholemeal bread would be a good choice as an alternative to the usual plastic bag. My food processor has a bread mixing function so I can investigate the possibilities.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Hi John, great news on the soup. THe rain has stayed away today I’m pleased to say; in fact it’s been a lovely day here. The bread was with wholemeal spelt flour, so I was really pleased with it. Let us know if you decide to join the bread making brigade…

  12. Poppy says:

    @Mrs Green: You must have been very quiet Mrs G! I did catch one of the mogs rifling through Mr P’s underwear draw though ….. maybe you sent him in with a mission and he got lost 😉

    We managed our left over use up mission tonight, so we’re now ready to move onto searching the freezer and cupboards 🙂

  13. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    The soup was fine yesterday and this year the full range will be tried to test different additions. Ham, Beef, Chicken and Vegetable stock are the basis for the different types. Tomato & Sweet Basil is another obvious choice, with the chicken casserole sauce delicious.

    My food processor can knead dough, using a particular attachment. Wholemeal bread is prime target as a weekly attempt. Other types can be added with practice, especially fruit loaves. I now have a source of unpackaged sultanas and coconut, for cakes, is a strong possibility. One of the best aspects of Zero Waste is interacting with local traders to our mutual benefit. Such activity can help change the public mindset away from plastic packaging.

  14. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    The Sweet Basil pots have now gone to 9 contacts, the latest of whom, cousin Brian, returned the favour with 2 of his own plants in pots. These were spearmint and chives and since both are perennial I decided to immediately plant them in a small isolated, from other parts of the growing areas, spot for containment. Chives are a familiar sight which I have planted away from edges, which otherwise tend to get engulfed.

    Spearmint is similar in handling to Basil with leaf removal a spur to growth. The scent is already evident, from the 2 stalks provided and a flavoured tea will probably be the first use. Growing your own is obviously beneficial in promoting good contact with others where everyone gains. Do you have any uses for mint flavouring? Use with lentils in soup was indicated on a Google search.

  15. Greenlady says:

    @John Costigane – I find raita/tzatziki and variations thereof a good use for mint. Goes with all kinds of things, not just curry – many pulse dishes, roast/grilled meats, salads, roasted veggies, jacket/wedge potatoes etc. Tabbouleh, the middle eastern bulgar wheat salad is a delicious way of using it too. Mint in with new potatoes is a classic but I find it tasty in potato salads too. Although to me it doesn’t really work with pasta, although I’m sure others will disagree 😛

  16. John Costigane says:

    @Greenlady: Thanks for the details, Greenlady. The grilling meat option would be my choice from your examples, apart from the tea. Do you use fresh or dried leaves for cooking? It seems to handle much like basil.

  17. Greenlady says:

    Heh, I meant the raita/tzatziki goes with all those dishes as an accompaniment, not specifically mint itself, but give it a try ! I use fresh because I always have fresh mint from the garden, 3 types, spearmint, normal and ginger mint.

    The only dried mint I use is in the Minos dip mix from Halzephron Herb Farm ( http://halzherb.com/content-home.html , not a plug for them, just saves me explaining who they are 😛 )

  18. Mrs Green says:

    @Poppy: Ahh, the freezer; I have not yet ventured, although when I went to get some sweetcorn earlier I could hardly open the door because of the ice around it 🙁
    Sorry moggy got lost on his mission…

    @John Costigane: John, that’s fantastic news about the coconut and sultanas; is it a local trader who is helping you or a chain we all need to know about?
    Glad the soup was a success and how lovely to have some chives and mint. Here, we use mint in tea for colds and as a decongestant or for tummy aches. Also, it’s lovely chopped up small and mixed into butter for dolloping on new potatoes. The obvious choice is to chop it finely and add to vinegar for mint sauce, which is great with fatty meat and SOMEWHERE I have a recipe for mint sorbet I think – I must go and find it.
    I agree with Greenlady; one of my most spectacular dishes, according to friends is tabbouleh!

    Another faovurite, although I’m not sure it would be your taste is to blend together 2 bananas, 1/4 cup dessicated coconut and 1 tsp fresh mint. You can water it down with milk if you like.

    In all instances we use it fresh; I never use dried. Although I have some bunches hanging from the beams in the dining room at the moment (it’s good for deterring flies from coming into the house)

    Let us know what recipes you come up with,

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