Project Frugal: Day One

Graduation was a celebration in no longer being a student and becoming a qualified adult, able to find a job.  I am currently in the position of having three jobs but no hours, so money has pretty much stopped coming in from May time.  My holiday at home was spent working the odd shift at my beloved cinema, but not nearly so many hours as before and it shows: the total earnings made last month whilst in Southampton is just enough to cover rent for a month and naught else in Oxford.  Like everything else - blame it on the credit crunch!  Today, two months after graduation and I was finally contemplating approaching the job agencies when in answer to my prayers, I received a startling email from my manager offering me a full-time job in something I truly love: Academic Support Work.  Effort involved in finding a job? Nil.  I'm happy with that, I can't wait to start!  Until I begin my job though, I have to wait a month which means for at least a month and a half I still have no funds and limited savings... what's a girl to do?

That was an easy answer once I returned to Oxford and realised just how much food I had managed to hoard over the year, tightly packed into my freezer and cupboards.  So my mission is to buy as little as possible in terms of fresh food so that I can start making things from the pantry and freezer.  The aim is to use up my stocks of flour, dried beans, spices, dried condiments, freezer meals and stocks, frozen vegetables, etc... And buy as little as possible.  Each week I aim to post how much I have spent on food, so that you will hopefully see that it is possible to live on a frugal diet and have fun and tasty food at the same time!

My housemate works as a cleaner in one of the student halls, and as a result brings home the weirdest things in terms of food sometimes.  Often it is not quite weird food, more the sheer quantity of food.  For instance, one day as a present she brought home a big bag of mung and adzuki beans, along with a monster bag of black eyed peas.  Although I normally eat black eyed peas, even this bag has stumped how we were going to get through it.  So far bean burgers have been made, stews and soups and we still have a way to go.  Today a batch was cooked up, ready to sit ready in the fridge or freezer for future use; with the cooking water and a 400g tin's worth of the cooked peas going towards my first frugal dish: Ugly Duckling Soup (recipe below).  No ducklings were harmed in the making of this soup, it tasted delicious and is 100% vegan friendly, but I can't say it was the prettiest soup I have ever made, what with the black eyed peas turning the soup into a murky red clay colour.  Dubiously, I poured it into a bowl for lunch to have with some cream crackers and some donated lemon and coriander hummus (Lidl's finest so not great...).  The first mouthful was a surprise, the peas and celery had lent the soup an earthy flavour with satisfying hints of bay leaf, and sweet notes from the red peppers.  I only blended a small portion of the soup to thicken it so that separate colours and textures from the pepper and other vegetables were retained. A few hours later and I was still full, so not only lovely to have but filling too!  I loved it so much I happily had it for dinner with a toasted and buttered malted bap.  If you ever feel the need to try this soup, don't be fooled by the colour, looks are deceiving!  Of course tinned black eyed peas can be used, or some other bean - being frugal gives one the freedom to experiment!  I soaked my black eyed peas overnight (about 1.5 Cups) in cold water then boiled briskly for 10 minutes the next morning and left to simmer for 25 minutes further until tender.  I reserved the cooking liquid for the soup (which turned the whole thing into a mud pool), but if you don't have the cooking liquid, feel free to use either stock or just water.

On another subject of free food, the season of blackberries is almost here and on a little detour through a nature reserve today, I happily picked a handful to take home to munch later.  On the way out of my road I also spotted a plum tree and another one down a route I sometimes take to the shops.  I can't wait to start catching ripe plums too!  In the meantime though, bon appétit!

Ugly Duckling Soup:
(Serves 2)

  • 1 Small Onion, sliced
  • 1 Clove Garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1 Stick of Celery, sliced into disks
  • 1 Small/1/2 Large Carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 Small/1/2 Large Red pepper, diced
  • 100g Dried Black-eyed beans, cooked
     -or a 400g Tin - save the water for the soup
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • About 1Pt Water/Stock
  • 1/2Tbsp Olive (or any) Oil  
  1. Pour enough oil to cover the base of a small pan and heat.  Add the onions, garlic, carrot, celery, pepper and bay leaf.  Cover the pan and gently fry for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are soft.
  2. Add the black eyed peas and cooking water or stock to cover everything in the pan, stir once and bring to the boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender.
  3. Remove the bay leaf and ladle out some of the vegetable and some liquid and blend until smooth then stir back into the soup to thicken, season and serve.


  1. Aw, I feel a bit sorry for your "Ugly Duckling" soup as it looks fab! I've been told to discard my bean-soaking water as it can cause... erm, digestive issues! Haven't tested this though so it might have been scare mongering.

  2. Hmm I've heard that too, but it doesn't appear to have made any difference! To be on the cautious side though, I used to rinse my soaked beans before cooking them so the water's fresh as a daisy - well as fresh as tap water can be...


Post a Comment

Popular Posts