Day 3 of Live below the Line Week started really well. I made a lentil curry. Using fresh vegetables and lentils and coconut milk from a local independent store, this was a very cheap and nutritious meal. It was also really tasty. I am not a vegetarian and I don’t think I ever will be, yet, having no meat days is a the way to eat well on a low budget.
I ate a lot of vegetarian food when I was a volunteer at Lentil as Anything in St Kilda, Melbourne. I really enjoyed my time working there, they are a great team and the philosophy of this social enterprise is amazing. There are no prices on the menu. Instead customers are invited to give what they feel the food is worth and have the opportunity to donate to the philosophy.
The food there is so tasty and filling, you do not miss meat. I had one customer, who had never eaten in a vegetarian cafe before. He was a retried man from Yorkshire. Now Yorkshire men are weaned on roast beef! If there is no meat on the plate, it isn’t considered a meal. Needless to say he loved his Moroccan Hot Pot. He was cool guy actually, taken early retirement and was visiting his children who lived in the USA, Melbourne and New Zealand. Living life not watching it from afar.
Working there had inspired me to make more vegetarian meals. this was from a Weight Watchers cook book and the ingredients were very cheap.
Lentils £0.80 as used half a bag
Coconut milk £0.25 as use 1/4 of a tin
Carrots (6) £0.18
Potato (1) £0.06
Onion (3) £0.09
Curry Powder £0.10
Organic Vegetable stock £0.10
So far so good. I can live below the line if I eat like this. Only 42p of the £1 allowance per day gone and I have had two meals.
So here comes the #fail. I went out that evening to a Social Media Surgery. I also had to go to the Apple Store to fix a problem on my iPad, so I was in Birmingham most of the afternoon and evening. I was hungry. I bought a pasty from Gregg’s at 91p. One pasty and that would break the budget for those living below the line.
It doesn’t stop there. A friend had come to the surgery and we had arranged to eat out and try out beer at a pub I had been recommended. Dinner at Bodega was £10 and the real ale at the wonderful Post Office Vaults was £3.40.
Definitely went over the budget then. I don’t regret the money spent on a really good meal at Bodega, but the 91p for a vegetable pasty, I do. For those who have to live on a limited budget in the UK every day, a 91p pasty may seem a cheap and filling option.
Learning to cook is one of the most important life skills. Headlines like this Our Hidden Poor and the growing number of food banks is worrying and are not a solution. They are a band aid. I hope that those taking part in Live Below the Line will continue to consider the cost of the food on their plate, reduce waste and whenever they can, share cooking and shopping skills to help those who live below the line, not from choice for 5 days but from necessity. Every day.