The Year of Quitting required a strict budget. All that saving for my move to Seoul meant I had to be diligent about sticking to my budget each month.
To help me keep on budget, a few months back I started playing a game. Every time I would cook dinner I would compete to see how cheap my meal could be.
So far the winner goes to a head of broccoli for 500 won, to spice up my pasta with garlic-oil sauce.
The game really took off the month I quit sugar. The hardest part about not eating sugar was that I had to pretty much cook all of my own meals. No more buying a quick jar of spagetti sauce, no more eating out at the kimbap place.
Week one was jolting. But by the time week 2 came around, I was ready.
I was craving pesto. I didn’t know how much sugar might be added in a jar, so instead of buying one, I went to google and figured out how to make it myself. I didn’t have any fresh basil, so I looked up a recipe for alternative versions of homemade pesto. I settled on one that called for cilantro and almonds.
Luckily, that first venture into homemade pesto was a success. That first success propelled me to start making other foods on my own. Since then I have made my own naan, tortillas, curry, and even ice-cream.
Fast forward to this month. My friend M taught me how to get the best deals on vegetables and fruits at the local grocery stores. When you walk by towards the end of the day, there is always a section of fruit or veggies that are starting to go bad, and they are significantly reduced in price. All you gotta do is cut off the molding parts and you’re good to go!
So these days on my walk home, I always do a quick scan at the sale items in the produce section. I no longer buy anything for more than 5,000 won. Ideal is when I can get multiple of one item for 1,000 or 2,000 won.
The upside is I get a deal. The downside is then I have to eat that one thing for days. But my limits usually end up making me more creative.
This week I bought a bunch of potatoes for 3,000 won and bunch of eggplants for 2,000.
I made potato eggplant curry the first night which was pretty good and an eggplant bread which was alright. Then, I tried to experiment with a simple potato and turnip dish. I think the problem was it was too simple. It was a huge flop!
I was dreading having to eat the leftovers for the next several days, so I knew I needed to try something more exciting.
So today, for the first time in my life, I made my own pasta! I used some of those extra potatoes to make Gnocci. Then whipped up a simple garlic- parsley oil sauce and threw in an egg plant.
It was a dish that soared.
So lesson learned- When it comes to food experiments, sometimes you flop, sometimes you fly. But when you fly, it’s so worth it.