Casserole Club: An experiment in waste-free tasty lunches

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:

A winter stew with spicy sausage, barley and root veg

Monday – Spicy sausage and barley stew

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.

thai curryThursday 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!

butternut squash and beef casserole with gremolata

Butternut squash and beef casserole with gremolata

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.

lasagne without cheese

Friday – Lasagne

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!

8 comments on Casserole Club: An experiment in waste-free tasty lunches

  1. Hannah Mattinson
    January 6, 2014 at 10:18 pm (4 years ago)

    And mega yummy it was too! I actually asked Santa for a casserole dish for Xmas so that I could recreate the tastiness at home xx

    Reply
    • Fay
      January 6, 2014 at 10:24 pm (4 years ago)

      And did Santa oblige? I have a massive iron casserole dish capable of feeding around 20 but a kitchen table that only seats four, it’s all a little off kilter…x

      Reply
  2. Bethanie
    January 6, 2014 at 10:24 pm (4 years ago)

    Beautifully written, I really enjoyed this foodie week. We should do it again soon!!

    Reply
    • Fay
      January 6, 2014 at 10:26 pm (4 years ago)

      We really ought to, it saved so much time during the week. It’s a little tricky with me following slimming world but a soup week would fit nicely. I love a nice chilli chicken ramen soup! Probably easier to serve soup too – we did have some utensil issues…x

      Reply
  3. Amy
    January 7, 2014 at 1:10 pm (4 years ago)

    This is such a great idea! The most annoying thing about taking lunch to work is the planning, I’d be much better at it if I only had to do it once a week! Definitely going to float this idea at work :)

    Reply
    • Fay
      January 9, 2014 at 12:14 pm (4 years ago)

      Sorry for the delay in replying Amy, as I said on Twitter my comments were being pesky. I look forward to potentially reading a post on your blog about your own lunch club – I can’t recommend it enough, we are planning to do it again in February. It actually feels like a bit of a treat too.

      Reply
  4. Robert
    January 10, 2014 at 12:34 pm (4 years ago)

    This is a great idea, all the meals look fantastic!

    Reply
  5. Lee
    January 12, 2014 at 11:29 am (4 years ago)

    Good work. Anything that rescues work lunches from the tyranny of the sandwich van/ Greggs is to be aclaimed. There’s something similar at my work, but it’s an arrangement of the slimming world variety. I’m afraid anything I might offer would be seen as heretically caloriesome!

    Reply

Leave a Reply


*