How to eat well in London on a budget

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As if I haven’t mentioned it enough recently, most of you will know that I’ve recently moved to London. Leaving the Northern nest was a big step but so far – so good! I have an amazing, rewarding job, which involves working alongside the most inspirational, friendly people and I’m slowly but surely making new friends with anyone and everyone. I’ve been in London just over a week now and although the full-time work fatigue is still kicking in, each day gets easier and I feel more settled.

Anyway onto the topic of the blog post – coming from a household where we have blueberries on tap (literally) and a fridge full of M&S fresh food and organic vegetables, the word budget never really crossed my mind until now. My parents have been amazing – caring, supportive and provided me with everything and more to allow me to move to London and become independent. But now, it’s time to become responsible, independent and accept my current financial situation. And so I’ve been working out the best ways to save money and eat well on a budget without deprivation. I’ve collected a few key strategies below which are definitely worth considering.

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  1. Waitrose free coffee – YES, that’s right, FREE COFFEE. As anyone living in London will know, there is pretty much a Waitrose on every street. By registering for a Waitrose card on the website, you can take your card into store, get it scanned by a member of staff at the checkouts or reception and they will give you a paper cup to grab yourself a coffee with no charge. The coffee machine offers americano, cappuccino, latte and espresso with additional condiments of milk, soy milk, sweetener, sugar etc! And the coffee actually tastes pretty good. So save the coffee shops for special occasions and get your free coffee on a daily basis – probably saving £2.50+ each day!
  2. Avoid expensive ‘whole food’ shops or only shop here for select ingredients. Whilst most foodies dream of lunch from Wholefoods Market on a daily basis. Being brutally honest, these stores are likely to shred your bank account. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to do my weekly food shop in Planet Organic or Wholefoods Market but living on a budget doesn’t quite allow for this. Personally, the only products I buy from these stores is Skyr vanilla greek yogurt from Planet Organic as it’s unavailable in other supermarkets and the belgian chocolate hazelnut spread from the nut butter machines in Wholefoods Market as it’s worth the price inflation from Nutella (trust me on this one).
  3. Use the freezer – frozen vegetables and frozen meat are both cheaper than fresh! Alternatively buying meat in bulk and freezing it immediately will save you money too. Bread can also be frozen – I tend to have a whole pack of bagels in the freezer as well as Artisan bread which I buy fresh, cut into slices and freeze immediately! Take it out the night before to defrost and it tastes just as fresh as when bought if eaten the next day! This also prevents food waste as it’s hard to get through a whole loaf of bread or a pack of bagels on your own before they are past their best. Frozen vegetables are also very convenient – you can get mixed vegetables which mean you can get 2-3 of your 5-a-day in one serving.
  4. Fruit is EXPENSIVE. I’ve not touched any kind of berries since moving to London. If you need your daily fix of blueberries or strawberries then be sensible – ration them and make them last! Personally I’ve found bananas and kiwis are the cheapest fruit. Bananas are cheaper if you buy them loose rather than a bag of 5 or 7. And kiwis are also relatively cheap – you can pick up 6 or 7 for less than a pound in most supermarkets! Alternatively scoot round the supermarkets at the end of the day and pick up the reduced fruit, it may not last too long but it’s perfect for dessert or breakfast the next morning.
  5. Staple foods – Stock up on a few essentials like tins of beans (1 of your 5-a-day!), tinned pulses like chickpeas and lentils and cans of sweetcorn and chopped tomatoes. Tinned foods are great for bulking out meals or adding extra protein/fibre. Most tinned foods cost less than a pound and can provide for several meals. Additionally peanut butter – it’s cheap, energy dense and is the perfect topper for toast or porridge with banana! Eggs are also convenient for a cheap source of protein. Whilst smashed avocado on toasted Sourdough with poached eggs may be off the menu for a while, eggs themselves are versatile – they can be cooked in several ways, packed into lunches or eaten for a protein rich breakfast to keep you satisfied all morning.Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
  6. PREP like a PRO. Definitely stole this catchphrase from my mother, who probably stole this from some fitness guru but still, it’s an important message. Pre-prepare your lunches for the next few days or make double portions for dinner and save half for your lunch the next day! This will save your life and bank account! No more cheeky trips to Itsu for a £10 lunch. Instead roast a whole tin of sweet potatoes, add a portion of veg (peas/sweetcorn/carrots) and add a source of protein (eggs, chicken, tuna, tofu). If you can get into a routine of prepping a packed lunch the night before, you’ll save yourself time in the morning and money!
  7. Make eating out an occasion – save it for once or twice a week at most! Order tap water with your meal as it’s free and be careful to order too many sides as they soon add up with cost. If you have a slight cafe/restaurant obsession, then make a bucket list of places you’d like to visit and each week visit somewhere different! This will make eating out more special and you’ll soon be ticking off as many cafes/restaurants as you desire. 

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  8. Don’t stress – if you forget to pre-prepare your lunch or find you’re running late and have no time then picking up food in supermarkets can be quite cheap! Avoid sandwiches and salads as they are expensive but instead, buy a fresh bagel and a banana and keep a jar of peanut butter in your locker at work for a quick lunch or pick up a pack of pitta bread and a tub of houmous with some carrot sticks! There are many food combinations which you can cheaply put together to provide a quick, convenient lunch.
  9. Supermarket markdowns – get to know how your local supermarket works! M&S for example have an initial markdown in the morning between 9:30 and 11:00am then a second markdown at about 4:30 – 6:00pm. It’s ideal to grab some bargain priced food and freeze it or eat it for lunch/dinner that day!
  10. Check out your local market or greengrocers for fresh fruit and vegetables, quite often you can get them much cheaper than in supermarkets!
  11. Buy carbs in bulk such as brown rice and pasta – it might seem a little more at the time but it will last you much longer! And on this note, when shopping in supermarkets start looking at the price per kg or price per 100g as this will indicate what is good or not good for value.
  12. Finally, make friends and talk to people. A little smile or comment can make someone’s day and before you know it, you can get discounted lunch or free drinks with your meal! This one takes time and patience but if you do it right, you can get pretty lucky! 

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Buckwheat, Baobab and Banana Cookies with Raw Chocolate Chips

I call this experibaking… I’ve been looking for a way to incorporate baobab powder into some baking so after a little research, I threw together this recipe to make some healthy cookies.

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Aduna are currently working on a campaign to #makebaobabfamous and create sustainable income for 10million households in rural Africa. Ownership of trees and their produce is one of the few rights women have. Baobab fruits ripen in the dry season when most other crops are unable to grow and so empowering women to harvest and process their baobab crops provides a much needed source of income at this critical time.

Aduna have already helped to improve the quality of living and opportunities for numerous families in Africa, however, they would still like to reach out to more women and help them increase their income to provide food, education, healthcare and other basic needs for their families.

All they need to do is increase the demand for baobab powder. With the super fruit being a rich source of vitamin C, fibre and antioxidants, you can enjoy the benefits of the powder whilst knowing you’re helping women and their families in Africa.

 

Ingredients:

70g buckwheat flour

70g coconut oil

50g baobab powder

140g coconut sugar

1tsp bicarbonate soda

1tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

50g banana mashed

75g Rawr dark chocolate

 

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180degrees. Cream together the coconut oil, coconut sugar, egg, vanilla extract and banana until you have a smooth creamy mixture.
  2. Combine the buckwheat flour, baobab powder and bicarbonate soda in a separate bowl and then carefully fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. The dough should be thick and slightly on the wet side.
  3. Next chop the chocolate into small chunk size pieces and fold this into the dough.
  4. Lightly grease a baking tray with a little coconut oil and dollop the mixture onto the tray. The cookies will expand when in the oven so be sure to leave a little room around each one.
  5. Bake in the oven for 10-12minutes or until they start to brown around the edges.

Diet & Weightloss

The title caught your eye right? You are interested in the topics of diet and weightloss? We live in a society that is obsessed with these two words. Have you ever picked up a womens magazine that doesn’t feature the words diet, weightless or exercise on it? Chances are slim – literally. Dieting has become a fashion statement; the novelty of starting a new diet is almost exciting as buying new clothes. As for losing weight, the majority of us would rather be a few kg lighter or more toned. We compare ourselves, the food we consume and the behaviour we display to our weight-related ‘goals’.

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“This chocolate muffin is not going to help me look good in a bikini”

“I didn’t exercise today, no wonder I’m fat”

This is all starting to sound rather pathetic isn’t it? Yet the majority of us can relate. It was only last week, whilst sat in a lecture related to nutrition that I realised just how distorted our views of dieting and weightloss really are. Furthermore, the messages imposed by food and drink manufacturers can often mislead our perceptions of health and diet. So here’s back to basics with some common misconceptions:

  1. Which is the best diet for losing weight? Weightloss is not so much influenced by the type of food you eat, the times at which you eat or the number of meals you eat in a day. More so, being vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo etc etc does not result in weightloss. Weight management is related to energy balance – put simply, how much energy you take in, and how much energy you expend. To lose weight, a negative energy balance is required; energy intake needs to be less than energy expenditure. To gain weight; energy intake needs to be greater than energy expenditure and to maintain weight, intake and expenditure should be equal. So actually, you could probably gain weight by eating only fruit and vegetables (it’s given, you’d have to eat a hell of a lot, but it is possible). On the other hand, you could eat chocolate on a daily basis and still lose weight as long as your net energy intake is lower than your expenditure (that sounds more appealing, huh). There’s some food for thought.
  2. Skinny/detox tea? Pay £20 for a box of tea bags which magically makes you lose weight… People actually pay this money. 99% of the time, this ‘branded’ tea is just green tea. Yes green tea is good for you, but it won’t make you lose weight alone (see above point) and it doesn’t taste particularly nice anyway, so save your pennies and make yourself a good proper brew with milk or for the health benefits, spend a fraction of the price on some green tea. Same thing.
  3. Juice diets? Ridiculous, utterly. It won’t detox you body, you have a liver for that and it does an amazing job. You may lose weight but simply because juices are mostly water so your energy intake will be lower than expenditure, you will get similar results eating actual food (see point 1.). If you think it gives you more energy, try running a marathon on juice alone – you probably won’t get very far. And finally, your urine is going to be VERY expensive because your body will only absorb and use the vitamins and nutrients it requires, the rest will be excreted.
  4. Carbs make you fat? Wrong. Excess carbs will make you gain weight, but so will excess protein, fat, sugar, vegetables, chocolate etc etc. If you eat a balance and don’t eat food in excess, you will not gain weight (yes, it’s really that simple).
  5. Eating clean. With ‘clean’ meaning unprocessed foods in their natural state. The term eating clean is often linked with dieting and weightloss. Eating clean doesn’t instantly promote or prevent weightloss (see point 1.). More so, it’s usually a good way to fuel your body through the incorporation of food rich in vitamins and minerals and balanced with carbohydrates, fat and protein.

 

This post may seem brutal, or aggressive, but it’s not targeted at anybody individual and expresses my annoyance at fad diets more than anything. Like many, my perceptions of diet and weightloss have often been distorted by myths we’re lead to believe through reading and research online. But once you break the misconceptions down, it’s quite simple. Energy balance is key.

DISCLAIMER: This post is not related to health, happiness or wellbeing and weight. It’s simply looking at myths and misconceptions about dieting and weightloss, to which I’m not promoting or discouraging.

Back to basics.

First of all, I’m aware I didn’t even last a week posting recipes for ‘Veganuary’ however cooking and taking photos with a lack of daylight proved difficult and my recent lack of concentration didn’t bode well either.

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On a more positive note, I’ve taken a long hard look at my diet. I use the word diet sparingly – I don’t follow a specific diet for the purpose of losing weight or achieving a certain physique – I use it as a means for the food I eat. In the last few years, I have become quite passionate about healthy eating and superfood trends. Being a runner and training six days a week, eating is quite an important part of my daily regime. I’ve been a lot heavier than I am now, and I’ve also been a lot lighter until recently. But my goals are all running orientated and so food is just the fuel required to train hard and get the most out of my body.

Whilst I’ve never been 100% vegan, I agree with the ethos behind the vegan lifestyle and how animal products do not necessarily contribute positively to the environment. However after reading that one of the 2016 ‘top-listed’ super foods was black pudding, I started to think about my body and what I need to be eating to fuel my training to get the most out of myself – as a runner and for my general health and well-being. So I ditched the soya milk for semi-skimmed . I’ve upped my protein via recovery bars and LOTS of chocolate milk and I’ve started eating meat with most meals; both white and red. I also eat a couple of squares of dark chocolate or ice cream every evening, definitely influenced by Sophia Parvizi-Wayne, it’s definitely the way forward! I eat carbs with every meal and still eat whatever my mum bakes (cinnamon buns, flapjack, cake etc!).

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I wouldn’t say the changes are drastic and I’m still eating mostly healthy, not because I feel pressured to or have a weight/physique goal in mind but because I enjoy healthy foods and nourishing my body well. The changes have been very positive though – I have a lot more energy, I’m recovering after training a lot better and I’m feeling a lot healthier than before. I’ve gained a few kg, which I feel 100 times better for and on the whole I feel a lot more positive. I love cooking and coming up with new recipes and broadening my diet has enabled me to experiment with even more recipes.

As my mother pointed out, diet trends and super foods come and go and are recycled over the years. Whilst you’ll read in one article that red meat will give you cancer, you’ll read in another one how red meat is one of the richest sources of iron, which is important for athletes especially. Hence yesterday after a long morning run, I had my usual buckwheat pancakes with a side of black pudding and ketchup #irongains (I never thought the day would come that I would be eating black pudding!).

Additionally fats are to be embraced. Coconut oil – trending as one of the best cooking oils in 2015 and featuring widely in most new recipe/dieting books, yet some articles pin-point the high levels of saturated fat and hereby don’t recommend cooking or consuming it otherwise. The moral here is take what you read with a pinch of salt and don’t over think the health benefits of food. Fat, even the saturated kind can be used by the body as fuel. More importantly I tend to incorporate avocados, nut butter and eggs into my diet for essential fat and for healthy skin and hair!

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The majority of the population (sporting and non-sporting) require a balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. But also a variety of each food type. It doesn’t require a qualified nutritionist to establish that. This is why I’ve decided to go back to basics; I eat when I’m hungry and no foods are restricted or limited. Your diet is not a status or a fashion trend, nobody cares if you’re vegan or if you eat meat. You have to listen to your body and nourish it as well as you can and in return you’ll have more energy, a stronger immune system and a better general wellbeing. But most importantly you’ll be happy and healthy.

Lots of love❤

Vegan and Non-Vegan Pancakes

Breakfast is possibly my favourite meal of the day and whilst most weekdays I tend to stick to porridge or weetabix as it’s quick and convenient, at the weekend or on days off, it’s nice to spend a little longer making pancakes. It’s taken me quite a lot of failed attempts to get this recipe right which is why the measurements are so specific. I actually use an egg when I make these pancakes as I find it binds better however I’m well aware this is not vegan and so I’ve tweaked the recipe to use milled flax seed if you’re wanting to make vegan pancakes.

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Ingredients:

  • 40g oat flour
  • 5g xylitol or sweetener
  • 5g baking powder
  • 25g banana
  • 30ml almond milk
  • 1 egg (non-vegan) OR 1tbsp milled flax and 2tbsp water (vegan)
  • 1tsp coconut oil
  • Toppings: Maple syrup, banana, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, dessicated coconut, chia seeds, Greek yogurt (non-vegan), soya yogurt (vegan)

 

Method:

  1. Weigh out the oat flour, xylitol and baking powder and mix together in a jug.
  2. Mash the banana in a separate bowl, then add to the jug along with the almond milk and egg or flax seed and water.
  3. Using a whisk, mix all of the ingredients together until there are no lumps and everything is combined (alternatively, throw everything in a nutribullet for 20seconds)
  4. Heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat.
  5. Now carefully pour the mixture into the pan to make 10cm pancakes. You should be able to make 3-4 at a time depending on the pan size. Cook each pancake for 1-2mins on each side.
  6. Once the pancakes are cooked, stack them up on a plate and top them with whatever you like!

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Vegan Rainbow Wraps

I often lack inspiration when it comes to vegan sandwiches; houmous can be a food filling along with roasted veg, smashed avocado and tofu but after this there aren’t too many interesting options. However this wrap basically has a rainbow salad contained and is full of flavour and texture.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large wrap
  • 80g cooked quinoa
  • 2 tbsp salad dressing (I used tomato and chilli)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 3 mango fingers
  • 2 small pre-cooked beetroot
  • Handful salad leaves

 

Method:

  1. Lay out the wrap on a flat surface. Mix 1tbsp salad dressing with the quinoa before spooning it onto one half of the wrap.
  2. Next cut the avocado into thick strips and layover the quinoa with the mango fingers.
  3. Peel the carrot into long strips and lay this over the avocado and mango.
  4. Lastly add the beetroot before folding in the sides of the wrap and rolling up.
  5. Cut the wrap in half and serve with a side salad and dressing.

Tofu and Mushroom Miso Soup

Personally I think eating with chopsticks makes a meal 10x better (although you may need a spoon for this too). This soup is a quick, easy, warming and nutritious meal which can be thrown together in a hurry.

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Ingredients:

  • 100g tofu
  • 5 broccoli trees
  • 5 mushrooms
  • 2 spring onions
  • 80g brown rice noodles
  • 400-500ml water
  • 1 miso sachet

Method:

  1. Add the water to a saucepan and bring to the boil, then add the miso sachet and stir.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the tofu into strips and slice the spring onions and mushrooms before adding them all to the sauce pan with the broccoli.
  3. last of all, add the noodles and allow everything to simmer for 5-8minutes.
  4. when everything is soft, carefully pour the soup into a bowl and enjoy!