In the three and a half years since my marriage ended I've learned a hell of a lot. I've learned a heap of what NOT to do and were I given this time again there are some things I would do very differently. It took me a while to realise the impact of some of my decisions (that's a whole other blog, let me get this Challenge week out the way first!) and I'm still kicking myself for them; maybe I always will. I'm sure I'm not alone in being one of those who make rash, silly and very expensive decisions when first branching out on their own in a quest to prove ourselves as STRONG INDEPENDENT WIMMIN!
Still, if there is one thing I've learned a lot more about it's survival and this has become even more apparent during my $21 Challenge week. As mentioned, it's been a very long time since I last did one, I can't even remember when but even though I have less this time than any other time, I'm finding it easier than ever before. I think this is because I've become so accustomed to surviving on so little that it has sharpened my skills far more than I realised. Whilst I was always pretty adept at making something out of nothing, now I consider myself a professional. My mum has often talked about how my late grandmother was a whiz at making the plainest of foods taste delicious during the war. I wonder how I would compare to her, I wish she was still around to share some of her secrets and recipes!
These days I no longer have to think to myself 'what can I use this for?' as I'm usually thinking ahead and can spot a meal idea a mile off. This sometimes results in great distress for poor Gareth, who has unknowingly had his eye on some precious leftover or another only to find when he goes to eat it I've already turned it into something else! Such as just the other day when he found that the leftover roast beef had disappeared, along with a leftover Yorkshire pudding that I thought he no longer wanted. 'I turned it into another meal for tomorrow's lunch', I justified myself, secretly racked with guilt at the sight of his horror stricken face. 'What is it?' he said dubiously, still far from impressed. It's kind of hard to explain what I call 'recycled roast', I think I described it to Gareth as a 'layer bake thing' in order to try and make it sound remotely appealing but I really need to come up with a better name for it as it's so good! Not that I can take credit for it mind, I learned it from a Simple Savings member called Squirrel years ago and it's the bestest, tastiest way I know to use up leftover meat and vegies, not to mention the best bit, gravy!
All you need is leftover roast meat (whatever you have – beef, chicken, anything
works well). First, put your oven on to 180ºC to warm up. Slice your meat thinly and
place in a casserole dish. If you have some leftover gravy, even better but if not,
make some more on the stove top and pour over the meat. Top with either leftover
roast potatoes (or parboil some and slice). Brush the top of the potatoes with a little
butter and bake in the oven for around 20-30 minutes until golden and cooked. You
can also use leftover pumpkin, kumara or parsnip and pop slices of these under the
potato slices. This can even be turned into a main meal by serving it with steamed vegetables for a super yummy and
Unappealing name or not, once Gareth could finally bring himself to try it, he was very pleasantly surprised, not least at the fact that the Yorkshire pudding I had sliced and added to the dish had become deliciously infused with gravy, making it even better! All things considered I think I was forgiven.
Anyway, like I was saying, this time around the $21 Challenge feels like an old friend. I've been a bit naughty and broken some of my own rules by not doing a pantry inventory yet - the simple reason being that there is really bugger all in there except icing sugar and tinned fruit. There is so little that I don't need to really do a stock take as I can see everything at a glance, gone are the days of having enough food in there to get lost or hidden! Still, whatever is in there can be put to good use. Same with the fridge too really but I know that should I run out of ideas I will find plenty in there to make a meal out of. At least I did the most important one (for me, anyway) which was the freezer and was extremely worthwhile as I had absolutely no idea what I had in there and was very pleasantly surprised. I don't think the cats were though, they won't touch the food I made. Fortunately the dog likes it! And at least it got used which is the important thing.
I've ended up with a bit of a bonus in that we have tons left from last night's corned beef. I haven't decided what I'll do with it yet but I've got plenty of ideas on how I can use it for tomorrow's dinner. Last night's spinach quiche was a hit, which it always is, even with people who insist they don't like quiche. 'What's for dinner?' asked Ali. 'Quiche. The one you like', I told him. 'Oh cool', came the reply. 'I'm not usually too fond of quiche but I like that one!' said Gareth, bringing up his empty plate. Check out the Facebook page for the recipe!
We have heaps of leftovers for lunches today and I'll definitely be in the good books tonight as I'm using the pack of sausages I found in the freezer to make 'Toad in the Hole', which for the unitiated is sausages baked in Yorkshire Pudding. I think I may have mentioned before that Gareth is rather fond of Yorkshire Pudding! So am I though, it's so cheap and easy and when you don't cook it with a bunch of sausages it's vegetarian. It's another favourite from my sadly no longer Winnie the Pooh Cookbook. Fortunately by a stroke of luck I included it in the $21 Challenge book so I still have it for posterity, woohoo! If you have a copy of the book you can find it on page 166. I've been having a bit of a chuckle at all the different Kiwi/Aussie/British terms for things, such as yesterday when several people saw the flapjack recipe and said they had always thought flapjacks were pancakes. When we were writing the $21 Challenge book, Fiona said 'We need to include Toad in the Hole'. 'Yes, absolutely!' I agreed. Turned out her 'Toad in the Hole' was my 'Eggs in a Nest' and she had never heard of my version - so we put them both in the book!
Today is (or at least should be) another no spend day, I can't think of anything we need. I got up this morning to find all the flapjacks have gone so will most likely have to make a batch of those before the week is out, or maybe I can use one of the tins of fruit to make a batch of muffins. I did end up buying a loaf of bread yesterday but that was only $1 which takes me up to $13.57. The only thing I need to get is cat food for our kitten but that's free because we are volunteer foster carers for our local cat rescue charity. This is Moppet, is she cute or what!