Mastercheap Day 6: Eye On The Pie

Today's Mastercheap menu includes fried eggs and a meat pie. Surprisingly, that doesn't completely blow out the energy totals.

Thursday's menu

Breakfast: 100g muesli, 100ml skim milk Lunch: 2 fried eggs, 2 slices multi-grain toast with table spread Dinner: 1 meat pie served with 150g mixed vegetables (microwaved) accompanied with 4tsp mustard, 1 slice chocolate cake Snack: 35g peanuts Totals Energy 7383kj: (target 9000kj), Protein 64.8g (target 55g), Sodium 1842mg (target 1500mg max), Fat 70g (target 90g max) Total cups of black tea: 6 In summary: "Unhealthy" food fails to deliver kilojoule hit.

Today's lunch was always scheduled to be eggs on toast. Following a suggestion from reader Heather, I decided to try frying the eggs rather than just boiling them as I'd originally planned. Fried eggs are often perceived as unhealthy, but in fact some studies suggest they can be helpful for reducing blood pressure. I was a little sceptical about whether the table spread would serve for frying, but it proved eminently up to the task.

Yes, the end result is some incredibly mangled eggs, but that's the fault of the chef, not the ingredients. I've never mastered the art of frying eggs sunny side up. Odd appearance aside, they tasted really good. Unlike Heather, I'm not really sure they were more filling than boiled scrambled eggs as such, but the variety was certainly welcome.

The really unusual dish for the day was the Home Brand Meat Pie (served with the ever-reliable mixed vegetables). This is the only excursion into red meat I've made all week. Meat pies do need to have at least 25% meat content, so it does qualify as "red meat", though it's obviously not equivalent to a steak. It's also the only truly "packaged" food I've eaten during this experiment.

Ever since I decided to add it to the menu, I've been torn between cooking it in the oven (which would use a massive amount of power for a single pie) and doing it in the microwave (faster and more energy efficient, and in line with my general take-it-easy approach, but resulting in a soggy pie).

I was eventually persuaded by Gizmodo editor Nick Broughall to cook the pie in the oven in order to maximise its flavour appeal. Nick also suggested I could use a smattering of spare pasta sauce to replicate tomato sauce, but I decided against that for two reasons: it would make it hard to judge the flavour of the pie itself and it would blow the already high sodium levels for the day well and truly out of the water.

That was a wise decision in pastry terms: it was crisp and tasty, if not flaky in the way a top-shelf pie would be. The filling wasn't filled with grit, but nor was it filled with grainy meat textures or a really flavourful gravy. It certainly wasn't inedible and getting away from pasta for a main meal was quite welcome, but of all the Home Brand products I've sampled during Mastercheap, this was the one example where it was unquestionably inferior to more expensive alternatives. If I was doing this budget again, I'd replace it with something else.

As ever, though, that raises an interesting question: what else could I get for the money? The pie cost 72 cents, and standalone meal replacements at that price are hard to come by. The most obvious candidate is probably a can of baked beans for 69 cents. Filling, but hard to enhance (I've got no spare bread left to eat with it).

The combination of a meat pie and fried eggs makes this easily sound like the biggest excursion into junk food of the entire Mastercheap menu. So it's worth noting that the total number of kilojoules for the day (7383) is actually well below the 9000kj target I'm aiming for. I haven't ended the day feeling hungry, and the total for the week will hew pretty close to that figure as a daily average. But it demonstrates yet again an oft-stated principle for good diet and weight loss: you can indulge yourself with "junk food" occasionally, provided you don't overdo it.

One day to go! Day 7 results will go up on Saturday morning, and I'll round out the project on Monday with a summary of what I've learned.

Lifehacker's Mastercheap experiment sees editor Angus Kidman trying to survive with a weekly food budget of just $25.


Comments

    Hilarious. After our conversation that I'd be eating much better than you last night, I ended up having fried eggs on toast. Mine did look a little bit prettier than yours though :)

    With microwaving pies -- wrap it in a paper towel and cook it halfway upside-down, and the remaining time the right way up. It won't give you the super-crispy result that an oven will, but it's a decent stand-in if all you have to cook with is the humble nuke-box.

      I invariably used this trick when microwaving pies, and you're quite right -- much better than just nuking, but not the same as going in an oven.

        I know they would blow the budget here, but you can get Mrs. Macs pies in special microwave wrappers for about $2. Cut one end off, microwave as usual and let them stand for a couple of minutes afterward and they crisp up almost as good as an oven-baked pie. One or two of them are my favourite quick lunch meals ;)

        5 mins in a hot oven after the microwave crisps them up nicely ;)

        @RogerTI
        The oven requires preheating though...and by the time the oven is nice and toasty, you might as well use that energy to cook it whole.
        I suppose if you have a toaster oven though, you could use that. I use my toaster oven all the time to "crispen" things after nuking.

    I would hardly consider a pie and 150 grams of vegetables a meal, more like a snack (especially considering the size of frozen pies these days).

      @Cameron - that's the problem, most people eat too much these days!

    Surprising that you didn't hit your energy total for the day, but then I guess you're cutting down on the carbohydrates. The sodium is worrying though. When I did human nutrion at uni we used this tool: http://nat.illinois.edu/mainnat.html to analyse the diet of patients, it is american, but it does give you a good guide of all the nutrients that a diet provides and whether any one is lacking.

      The sodium is over for the day, but across the week it's less of an issue.

        That's the important thing then, people always think that their diet has to meet all the requirements EVERY day, rather than an average of a few days, which is even used diagnostically.

    one question i'm sure everyone is interested, have you lost weight?

      Not visibly (nor should I with the kilojoule counts).

    Do what I do, microwave the pie until its hot, then stick it under a sandwich press to crisp up the top and bottom. Its awesome.

    I microwave pies and whack them in a hot oven to crisp up.. sometimes along with frozen chips .. less power than using the oven by itself but also get crispiness!

    One of the things I do with a meat pie (especially if I've had to go the budget pie) is cut the top of and stir in either some tomatoe sauce or some dijonaise. I see that you wanted to actually taste test it this time, but it's a good way to mask it next time :P

    Great work on these MasterCheap stories too by the way, just wish I had something like this when I was on my traineeship budget. This would come in handy for those having to pay rent and live off less then $300 per week.

      I do this, but put Worcestershire sauce in instead.

      Sweet Chilli sauce for me ;)

    I've experimented with heating frozen pies in the microwave and come up with a half-decent method, which I wrote up in my blog:

    http://www.thrifterrific.com/2010/04/heat-a-frozen-pie-in-the-microwave/

    Essentially, you mummify the thing in absorbent paper to suck out the moisture prior to microwaving, which will help prevent sogginess. It's not perfect, but results in something approaching decent if you don't have access to an oven.

    I remember my uni days involved going to bi-lo and stocking up on no name past, sauce, bread, cereal baked beans, tea/coffee and peanut butter. Sometimes but rarely vegies to go in the pasta. Not good.

    Home brand pie would never enter my mouth. However even a tin of Baked Beans doesnt cost less than 72c.
    I have out of work for 7 months now and am living on about 40 a week for food, nil alcohol but am not going hungry.
    Very good effort.

    @Michael Wow, $300 a week! Thats awesome! After rent I have $100 a week, $50 of which goes to petrol :(. Yeah uni sucks, but education is important!

    I am very interested in this Mastercheap Series because I usually do a $25-35 week, but have gone as low at $5, or 500cents as we like to say (sounds like we have more hahaha)

    The biggest thing I am noticing here is that Angus is having a lot of trouble money-wise because he wanted to avoid bulk buying ($100 of groceries over 4 weeks) which helps SO MUCH. Basically the only things I get on a weekly basis is fresh fruit/veggies and bread.

    One other thing, if you shop later at night, you can get the Woolies Buns and things for pretty cheap. 12 pack of Extra Soft Hamburger Buns or the like go for less than $2 and last me a week.

    I eat fairly well, but I spend far more time in the kitchen than Angus is.

    All in all, Angus, well done mate, awesome series, probably the best since the On Board Luggage one!

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