Sunday, May 29, 2011

Eating for $2 a Day

Hey guys, sorry for not updating in so long, I've been so very busy lately with uni work and taking photographs of attractive people. However since I've finished Live Below the Line and resigned last week from my cafe job, I'll have a bit more time to blog regularly again, though probably not as much money to spend on food. Also, a big hello and welcome to all you new visitors from Semisweetie (thank you to the lovely Ms Lara for linking me on her blog)!

Anyway, back on topic, many of you may know I did Live Below the Line in order to raise money and awareness for extreme poverty for the Oaktree Foundation and help those in need in Papua New Guinea - you can read more about the cause here, and please donate here. The idea of the campaign is for participants to only spend a maximum of $2(AUD) per day on food for five days, in order to experience what it is like to live below the poverty line. Admittedly, I broke the rules for one day for Chocolatesuze's 28th birthday party (I just couldn't turn down the bar tab, sorry guys) so in compensation I extended my challenge by an extra day to make up for that hiccup. Onto shopping!

$1.09 Bread - 1 loaf
$2.19 Eggs - 1 dozen
$1.15 Pasta - 1kg
$1.99 Kiwi Fruit - 9 pack
$1.59 Vegetables - 1kg
$1.69 Sauce - 700ml

$9.70 Total

I got all my food from Aldi's, because as far as I know, they are the cheapest place to get groceries if you're not concerned about buying brand names. One hilarious things I bought was the 1kg bag of frozen 'Mixed Vegetables' which came in a solid green opaque sack with no indication of its contents, and when you flipped it over the ingredients read "varies due to seasonal availability", essentially rendering it a big frozen bag of mystery. However the mystery contents did prove to be pleasantly edible, with a mix of corn, peas, beans, carrots, some broad beans and a tiny amount of broccoli. Good value for money, methinks. The sauce I got was 'Passata tomato cooking sauce' which I assumed was pureed tomato with flecks of herbs. It didn't really taste too good but it cooked up alright with a bit of garlic.

I didn't actually finish any of the stuff I bought aside from the kiwi fruit, and I did include some other items of food in my meals which I already had at home but it's okay, I did the maths and everything ended up under the $2 limit. I guess there were some choices I made that weren't too wise, I had half a six pack of pikelets from Woolies for breakfast on the first day before I had gone shopping, they added up to over 60c - three tiny pancakes for nearly a third of my daily budget wasn't probably a good idea, but I couldn't just leave them to go off. The kiwi fruits probably weren't the thriftiest decision either, but I felt as if I needed some fruit and even though they weren't the cheapest option, I was craving them and they were on sale, so whatever. Here is a comprehensive breakdown of my meals, for your scrutiny and judgement. Yes, my eating habits are terrible, and yes on some days I only have time to eat one meal a day and often I found I'd left myself more or less stranded if I leave home without packed food because there is nothing you can get on the go that could go into the budget so I don't end up eating until I get home for dinner.

Some more clarifications to be made - the avocado I ate was homegrown but I priced them according to how much they were are Aldi - $0.99. Mi Goreng I already had at home but can be bought for $0.30 a packet at any Asian grocer, the garlic was a jar of minced garlic from Aldi for $1.29 which contains about 50 teaspoon servings. The oats are from a box of 8 Uncle Toby's quick oats (creamy honey flavour, if you were wondering), the milk was $1/L at Woolworths, the potatoes I had at home I counted as 10c per 100g, as they were $0.99/kg at Aldi's and the rice we had at home was actually bought for $25/30kg but I calculated it as $0.15/100g according to Aldi's prices. Pasta, fried rice, pie and eggs price breakdowns and recipes are below, accompanied by terrible photos (missing my prime lens so bad right now).

Egg Fried Rice

Egg Fried Rice
Makes 2 servings

100g frozen mixed vegetables - 15.9c
300g cooked rice - 45c
1 egg - 21.25c
1T soy sauce - 3.55c

85.7c total
42.85c per serve

  1. Scramble egg, set aside
  2. Fry rice in pan, break any clumps
  3. Meanwhile, boil frozen vegetables for 3 - 4 minutes, drain and add to rice
  4. Add soy sauce, mix and heat through
  5. Remove from heat, add scrambled egg and season to taste

Shepherd's Pie

Vegetable Shepherd's Pie
Makes 3 servings

250g frozen mixed vegetables - 39.75c
3 potatoes - 30c
350g Passata tomato cooking sauce - 84.5c
3t minced garlic - 7.74c

161.99c total
54c per serve

Directions (adapted from here):
  1. Pre-heat oven to 175°C
  2. Peel potatoes, dice and boil until soft. Drain and mash in 1 teaspoon garlic
  3. Boil water, add frozen vegetables and cook for 3 - 4 minutes, drain 
  4. Meanwhile, cook 2 teaspoons garlic and tomato sauce in a sauce pan, stirring occasionally
  5. Add cooked vegetables and heat through, season to taste
  6. Transfer to oven-proof dish and top with mashed potato
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, or until impatient

Spaghetti Bolognaise

Spaghetti Neapolitan
Makes 2 servings

250g pasta - 28.75c
200g Passata tomato cooking sauce - 48.29
2t minced garlic - 5.16

82.2c total
41.1c per serve

  1. Fry garlic in saucepan until golden
  2. Add tomato sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally
  3. Meanwhile, do you really need me to tell you how to boil pasta?
  4. Add sauce to pasta.

Sunny Side Up Egg on Toast
This is what happens when you fry an egg without oil

Fried egg on toast
1 egg - 21.25c
1 slice bread - 5.45 c

26.7c total

Potato Omlette

Potato Omlette
2 eggs - 42.5c
1 potato - 10c

52.5c total

  1. Peel and slice potato into thin pieces
  2. Add to heated pan and pan-fry until cooked through
  3. Beat eggs in a bowl and pour over potato
  4. Cook on low heat until eggs are solidified

Specifications out of the way, the biggest difficulties I found with the week included lack of choice - it was immensely hard not being able to purchase something on the go and having to wait it out and starve if I was at uni or work without having brought food from home; not being able to consume drinks, only water, I missed Chatime like cray-zay; having to actually calculate how much I've eaten and calculating prices when buying groceries plus weighing food before cooking was a total bitch (purely for the purposes for this blog though, not that those living below the poverty line actually do this); not being able to eat what I'm craving; food being less satisfying when you have to manage portion control and finally, actually having to prepare my own food. The more positive aspects of the challenge I suppose was that I probably ate more vegetables than I do on a regular basis, drinking more water to feel fuller, though the hunger wasn't so bad because I'm kinda use to feeling hungry all the time, unfortunately. Anyway, thanks for reading and please donate! Posts on Sushi Train, Mamak and San Churro coming soon! All with terrible quality photos! Until then, I'll be binge-eating my way to recovery.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Daruma Japanese Restaurant, Haymarket

As a stereotypical starving uni student, any place which offers cheap eats becomes a new welcome sanctuary. If you're out for some decent and very affordable Japanese in the city, you'd be pleased to discover Daruma on level one of the Prince Centre on Quay St. With quality nosh, reasonable prices and close proximity to my uni, what more could I ask for? Happy Hour, of course. Running from 10AM to 12PM and then again from 3PM to 5PM every day with half-price dishes... a feed for under $6? I'm sold. Unfortunately when Fiona, Sharon and I visited for lunch, it wasn't Happy hour but we enjoyed a cheap and substantial meal nevertheless.

Chicken Karaage Bento Box, Daruma
Chicken Karaage Bento Box $9

Being the glutton I am, I go for the chicken karaage bento box, which comes with a generous serving of of chicken karrage, fluffy rice and sesame, picked vegetables and a small piece of agedashi tofu. The chicken was succulently juicy with a crunchy exterior, the karaage I've had at some other places is often soft or coated with egg, which is nice in its self but I much prefer the no-nonsense deep-fried crispy chicken. Which sort of gives indication to the regard I hold for healthy eating. However I did wish there was some Japanese mayo or other sauce to come with the chicken. The pickled vegetables were piquant and helps counteract the heavy oiliness of the other bento components. The agedashi tofu was silken soft in the centre and wore a coat of deep-fried gelatinous skin, topped with green onion and resting in sweet dashi dressing.

Mini Tempura Udon, Daruma
Mini Tempura Udon $2 (with any bento box)

For an additional $2, you can opt for a bowl of mini tempura udon. Which of course I did. The bowl was a good size, not so mini that you feel ripped off, and not so big that you are unable to finish your meal. The piece of tempura prawn was perfect and crispy, the batter had just the right amount of crunch, though the underside was slightly marred by sogginess as a result of resting in the soup. Not a fan of seafood, I was pleased to find the meat to be tender, sweet and not fishy at all. The noodles were chewy and soft, topped with a slice of fish cake, seaweed and green onion in a flavoursome soy broth.

Chicken Karaage Curry, Daruma
Chicken Karaage Curry $8.80

Fiona ordered the chicken karaage curry, the same lovely chicken atop Japanese curry and a side of rice. I had never had Japanese curry before and I was surprised to find it rather different to the Indian and Thai curries I've previously tasted. In comparison, Japanese curry is mild and not as spicy, whilst being smooth and thick, which I later discovered was a result of being made from roux. The curry also included pieces of carrot, potato and onion which made for pleasing accompaniments.

Chicken Teriyaki Udon, Daruma
Chicken Teriyaki Udon $9

Sharon's chicken teriyaki udon completed out trio of chicken-based dishes. Her bowl of huge udon arrives steaming and topped with fish cake, seaweed and green onion as well as five slices of teriyaki chicken. The swollen noodles were chewy and soft, in that same more-ish broth (I have a feeling it might be laden with MSG, but who cares it's delicious). The chicken was tender and flavoured with the familiar taste of sweet soy, the skin especially good, as all the unhealthier parts tend to be.

Daruma Japanese Restaurant
Level 1, Prince Centre, 8 Quay Street, Haymarket 2000
Telephone: (02) 9281 2889

Daruma on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Iku Wholefood, Glebe

Now I doubt that I'll ever buy into the whole fashionably organic and health conscious lifestyle embodied in the slogan "eat well be well", but in an attempt to show me that vegans do actually eat, Myles took me to the original Iku Wholefood cafe in Glebe. This post is dedicated to the veganazi himself.

As an advertising student, I've always felt that any commercial entity that pretends to actually care about you or your well-being comes off rather gimmicky, however Iku seems to pull off this image rather well, at least judging by the success of the franchise in setting up countless chain stores around the city. I respect and commend that Iku caters to all those with dietary requirements such as allergies, gluten and lactose intolerance and all the vegans and vegetarians.

We ordered at the counter and took our plates out the back of the shop to eat, where there was a small courtyard-like area decked out with wooden platform seating, no tables but a scattering of colourful cushions, and plants everywhere. It was all very inner-city bohemian.

Macroburger, Iku Wholefoods
Macroburger $9.80

I ordered the decidedly least healthy/most familiar-looking item on the menu, which was the Macroburger - a tofu fritter served on a steamed wholemeal bun spread with tahini sauce, topped with leafy green salad and Iku dressing. I wasn't actually sure if the burger came with a side serving of salad or if it was just the sheer amount of greenery in the burger that overflowed onto my plate, but after even after I finished the burger itself, I looked down to see that my plate was still turfed in a healthy layer of lettuce. The tofu fritter was also very chewy and slightly sticky, I couldn't really pinpoint a flavour, however it was definitely wholesome-tasting, and the tahini sauce was a winner. Overall the burger was somewhat plain, but really I feel healthier just looking at it.

Cauliflower Soup, Iku Wholefoods
Cauliflower Soup $6.50

Perhaps a little heavy on the parsley garnish this time, Myles' cauliflower soup was smooth and light. I only had a tiny bit as Myles was sick and had already contaminated it with his horrible germs, but I tasted a subtle flavour of cauliflower and miso.

Blueberry Muffin, Iku Wholefoods
Blueberry Muffin

In amongst all the other good-for-your-body/soul foods, the baked goods looked deceptively healthy, however a glance the nutritional content on the Iku website will tell you otherwise (if you're calorie-conscious, don't even think about the cocoa cardamom muffin). Not that I personally minded of course, after all the plants I'd consumed that day, I was looking forward to some sinfulness in the form of a blueberry muffin. I always find vegan muffins slightly dry with the exclusion of milk, butter and eggs, however this one is lovely and moist, with sweet bursts of berry.

All in all, I left feeling full and guilt-free, yet still oddly unsatisfied and craving saturated fats. I guess I'm just not mature-minded enough to be health-conscious, but at least Myles got two more stamps on his loyalty card.

Iku Wholefood
25 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe 2037
Telephone: (02) 9692 8720

Iku Wholefood on Urbanspoon