Let’s be honest – January isn’t the best month for food – with the barrage of brands telling you that you look fat and frumpy post Christmas indulgence and the lack of funds after the festive splurge, January can be a bleak time for the tastebuds. Fear not, dear friends, because now is a great time to embark on a culinary adventure with a comforting name: CASSEROLE CLUB.
I’ve long been a fan of the food club as a social affair (if you are too, you should check out my article for the Guardian). I think I first read about the casserole concept in an India Knight book and banked it somewhere in my brain as ‘something interesting to try’ and then proceeded to forget about it for a good long while. The idea was plucked from the archives when waste food was once again headline news late last year, with supermarkets being criticised for waste resulting from BOGOFF offers and other related multi-buys. As a single female who lives alone (don’t pity me, I have my own kitchen and 15 cupboards all to myself) I do struggle to keep food interesting and affordable, I like to batch cookbut it doesn’t half get boring ploughing through the same meals over and over. So, I rounded up a group of fellow food appreciators at work and asked if they fancied joining me in a lunch club experiment.
The rules of casserole club
- Each person takes turns to cook for the whole group
- The maximum budget for each meal was £10
- The meal didn’t need to be an actual casserole, though the ease and affordability of stews/casseroles mean that most we eat at least fell into the one pot category
- Avoid food waste
Apart from seeming a little anti-social to some of our work colleagues because we formed our own lunch clique, casserole club was a massive success. I’m fussy about my lunches but I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so well at work and it was such a relief not to have to prepare something every evening for the next day. I was a little worried about the impact the week might have on my weight loss but I actually lost a pound and a half during the week, just by having my main meal at lunchtime and switching to homemade soups each evening. Here’s what we ate:
Peter started off the week with a rich, tasty barley and spicy sausage stew, complete with juicy root veg and a touch of chilli.
I saved money by buying a large selection of chicken thighs and drumsticks and made my Slimming World friendly chicken and lentil one pot recipe, I had enough money left over to treat us all to fat free fromage frais, lime and coriander to serve on the side and blew £1 on an offer pineapple, which I dressed in lime juice, brown sugar and mint to create mojito pineapple without the rum. The remaining coriander ended up in a carrot and coriander soup (made with organic carrots that Sainsburys had reduced to 20p, winner!)
Wednesday’s wonder came courtesy of the lovely Bethanie Jane, who created a vegetable Thai curry and sticky rice that was deliciously sweet and indulgent without being stodgy. You can read the lovely Beth’s post about her experience of the week on her blog here. She’s also dairy free, so has lots of dairy free tips on her blog.
Thursday took us back into meaty casserole territory, with Craig’s rich beef and butternut squash stew, which came with it’s own condiment in the form of a gremolata. I LOVE CONDIMENTS, I snuck extra teaspoons of the gremolata onto my bowl when the others weren’t looking, shhh!
The week ended with a carbtastic offering from Hannah from at my-first-house – a lasagne with an extra meaty sauce. My portion (bigger than my head) came without cheese to keep me dairy intake low.
And so concludes a week of very tasty waste-free lunches, hopefully to be repeated soon! On a sidenote, when tweeting about our experiment I came across a charity casserole club in London that looks like a great way to put extra portions to good use.
Have you ever tried a lunch club? Is it something you’d think about giving a go? If you do, let me know how it goes!