Tag: Live below the line

Live Below the Line 2015

Up front, I break all the rules of Live Below the Line. I don’t go to the shop with a fiver in my hand and buy my food for the week. I had lentils in the cupboard and pretty much decided to base my food plan for the five days around these. I have calculated my budget on what it would cost me if I had bought them. My shopping list is at the end of this post.

Breakfast has been an egg and a slice of bread for me, and husband has had toast with home made bread costing under 27p per loaf.

I also had these waiting to be used before they went well past edible. I hate throwing away food.

Tired veggies needing tlc

This is what I have spent this week. £9.52  I am cooking for 2 adults and one meal (sausage casserole) was for 3 adults.

So what have I been eating?

I used the flour to make bread and flat breads. At 27p this is better value than any cheap supermarket bread and a lot healthier.

Monday

Dinner was A Girl Called Jack chickpea and peach curry, costing 22p per portion.

I cheated a bit at lunch as I am facilitating a cookery course for Smethwick CAN, who I work for. We made 3 pasta dishes and bread and then we sit and share a meal. The portions per person we costed at £1.50 so I skipped the meat dish, and had one slice of bread, and a small portion of the vegetarian one.

Tuesday

Lunch: Leftover chickpea and peach curry

Dinner: Lentil casserole with onions and spices, served with rice.

Wednesday

Lunch. Leftover lentil casserole.

Dinner. Sausage casserole. This cost a totals of £2.56 serving 3. At 84p per portion it takes us over budget.

Thursday

Roasted vegetable soup

Lunch. soup made with roasted peppers, onions, celery and tomatoes.

Dinner. Lentil curry and rice.

Friday is going to be tricky as I am going away for the weekend. I know lunch will be soup, and we may have some curry before we head off.

Yes I have cheated, again. I have spent more that I am supposed to. My husband added butter and jam to his toast and had tea every day. I have used herbs and spices in everything I have cooked. I had a ‘free lunch’. I bought meat. I have however only had 2 cups of tea this week although the plan was to stick to hot water. I have gone hungry and have been light headed. I have missed vegetables and fruit but not meat as much as I thought I would. Meat takes you way over budget too. I have also re discovered that peach and chickpea curry is so lovely it will be on the weekly meal plan going forward.

In the past I have been critical of the menus suggested by Live Below the Line. I ranted on about the use of value sausages and cheap bread. This year, I have to praise the resources available. And I wish I had planned better.

Why do I so this challenge every year (and fail)? I did not sign up to raise money, I do it to raise awareness. I work for a charity that manages a Trussell Trust foodbank. What I have saved on food this week will be used to buy much needed items for Smethwick Foodbank. Over 1 million people in the UK were given 3 days emergency food by Trussell Trust foodbanks last year (2014/15). Other foodbanks, soup kitchens and food drives, temples and mosques are also feeding people in food crisis. That is scandalous. Get sad then get angry that children go to school hungry. I do and that is why I Live Below the Line.

I have written posts before about my Live Below the Line attempts and failures. If you want to see those, just click on the Food and Live Below the Line category tab on the blog or use the search box. If you want to. Also please comment, I like that. And if you can afford to donate food to a foodbank, please do so.

Shopping list (most items from Aldi)

Lentils 500 g £1.29

Onions £0.79

Chickpeas 35p

Tinned peaches 35p

Tinned potatoes 15p

Tinned carrots 19p

Tinned tomatoes 31p

peppers £1.17

rice 40p

sausages £1.99

Strong flour 75p

Yeast 59p

6 free range eggs 95p

celery 59p

tomato puree 37p

 

Cooking with Jack and baking with Mary

For Christmas, as I am not accepting actual items into my home any longer, my good friend offered to give me a baking lesson. It has taken time, but I finally had a lesson in making shortbread.

We chose shortbread because:

  • My previous attempts have been rather disastrous as in over cooked, and too biscuity.
  • The good friend, is a big Mary Berry fan, and has made this shortbread twice with success.
  • My son likes shortbread.

I made it all by hand, which I think I prefer as it it quite therapeutic I find to crumble the butter and flour together. I had my doubts that I would achieve the dough, yet with patience I got dough, and then got it into a tin.

The verdict, well there is only half left, as we all dived in and ate almost half before it was even cool. The son, yet to be weaned off shop bought shortbread, with additives and palm oil, said it was better than Scottish Shortbread from Aldi. And I even managed to find a suitable tin to store it in.

Traybake Shortbread

Of course the upside to this, was that I finally got to sit and have a cuppa with the good friend as we have hardly spoken since Christmas. And that is the way it is with good friends, we cannot always see them every day or week and that it ok, as when you do catch up, it is still easy.

And so to the Jack part of this post. I made soup with tired veggies lurking at the back of the fridge using this recipe for Simple Mushroom Soup. All made in a microwave and cost next to nothing. My greens were some pak choi, not cabbage. Lunch for both me and my husband for Monday. Out of things other people would have probably thrown away. Tasty Wastey!  The Real Junk Food Project would be proud of me. And one for the Live Below the Line challenge later on this year.

Simple Mushroom Soup

 

Live Below the Line – Day 4

Yet again, A Girl Called Jack comes to the rescue for ideas for dinner tonight. Chickpea and Peach Curry.

A Girl Called Jack

I have made this before and that time I changed it slightly as I only had tinned mangoes in the cupboard. This time I used peaches, but yet again I tweaked it. We are away for a long weekend and I had a banana and some tomatoes that really needed using up. So I threw those in plus the scraping from a jar of chutney. I used one mug of long grain rice, which gave me four ample portions. At a guess, as the tins of peaches, chickpeas and tomatoes are all under 35p each at Aldi, with rice, this cost just over £1 to make. It provided a large supper tonight and a light lunch tomorrow for two adults. That is 25p per portion.

My version

For the rest of my meals today I had porridge with milk, home made soup and two teas, without milk.

I have not been hungry at all and I came in well below the £1 today.

What is more this is seriously going to change my attitude toward eating more meat free meals.

Live Below the Line – Day 3

Pasta in a hurry

Oh dear, still failing to meet the £1 a day target.

Tonight we are having our old favourite, a bargain version of Jamie Oliver’s Pasta al forno con pomodori e mozzarella using basics from Aldi. The most expensive item is the mozzarella at 44p per packet yet still it comes out at about 36p a portion. So with porridge at 7p, including milk and sugar, lunch at 40p as it was left over sausage casserole and tea at 4p for 2 cups (no milk) and a bottle of water I have ‘spent’ 94p on food and drink today.

I have now tallied what we have eaten the past 3 days, and what that has cost in real terms. So far this is £13.78 for three adults, or £1.53 per person per day. The most expensive meal was probably the sausage casserole followed by the pasta bake that was made before the challenge for supper on Saturday. Leftovers from this have been meals for The Gamer when he has not wanted to eat lentils or soup. Both of these contained meat. If I took the meat our of the menu we would be within the £1 per person a day. Oh and The Gamer bought fast food for two days when he has been out with friends. So add £6 to that total and now I am way over budget.

Yet, I think if I tallied up my costs I am within the £1 a day. And not hungry.

This is only possible because I did not go and shop with £5 on Monday. I have only used 200g of 2kg lentils and 100g of 1kg of rice so far and have costed meals based on those portions. I cannot buy small portions at the same cost per kg of these items. The bigger the pack the lower the price. So in a way this is where the challenge is flawed as it does not factor in the saving by buying larger packs that are better value. Yet if you are on a low income or benefits, the chances are you will only have £5 per person for food. This means you cannot afford to buy in bulk and reduce costs over a longer time.

What is the answer? I have ideas but I would be interested in what others think.

Live Below the Line 2014 – Day 2

Day 2 dinner tonight. And yes we can afford some meat. It does taste better than it looks, I promise.

Sausage Casserole

I didn’t think meat would be on the menu at all this week. These are Aldi gluten free sausages and at £1.99 for  6, substantially more expensive that the 99p value sausages suggested by Live Below the Line UK. I decided to have only one sausage and have the other for lunch tomorrow as there was so much sauce.

And it will all come in under £1 a day as I had lentils and rice left over from yesterday for lunch today and porridge for breakfast. I really have not had the time to do the math yet, but I am pretty sure that as these meals cost less than 33p each, and my sausage cost 33p, I am still within budget. I have my home made bread to fill me up and I even had tea.

This sausage casserole has featured on this blog before, based on a recipe from a student cookbook, using tinned potatoes and carrots instead of fresh, inspired by A Girl Called Jack and her recipe for Sausage and Lentil One Pot dinner.

Living Below the Line 2014 – Day 1

I have cheated. I knew I would. I did not go to the shops with £5 and buy all the ingredients in one go. This is because I have a lot of the ingredients already in the store cupboard and it would be wasteful to buy more rice, lentils and porridge.

I am however tallying up the cost of what I eat. I am attempting to feed 3 Adults on the budget of £15. One won’t eat lentils. This could be interesting. The Gamer has already busted his £1 by getting a meal from a well known chain that sells bread rolls and calls them ‘subs’.

What I have bought/budgeted for so far.

1kg Porridge 71p, a serving is 30g =33 serving per pack

4 pints milk 95p 8p per peson a day for 5 days

2kg lentils £1 used 200 g today to make 4 portions

4 onions 89p

6 gluten free sausages £1.99 = 33p each (the cost of one meal on LBTL guidelines)

6 tomatoes 39p (thank you Aldi super six)

sandwich paste 25p to make A Girl Called Jack’s pasta dish

500g pasta 29p (half used to make meals for The Gamer this week)

Fresh coriander 85p – snuck that in, hope it comes within budget

Fresh coriander

6 free range eggs £1.00

Home made bread, 4 loaves £2

1kg rice 40p – cannot see me using all of that

500ml pasatta 39p

tinned potatoes 15p I think

Leeks and potatoes for the soup – to be costed

So far only one meal cooked and that is lentils and rice.

Rice and Lentils

Breakfast today was porridge, lunch was home made leek and potato soup with home made bread. A sad over ripe banana and two cups of tea. I drank hot water at work.

I think I have stayed within the budget. Will tally it all up at the end of the challenge. I think A Girl Called Jack will be more successful though.

Live Below the Line 2014 – preparations

The first day of Live Below the Line this year coincides with my first day in my new job. Whatever I save on food this next five days I will be donating to my new employer.

My new employer is Smethwick CAN and one of the projects they are responsible for is Smethwick Foodbank.

And Smethwick Foodbank relies on donations of food to ensure they meet the demand of those refered to them.

I have not signed up to the official Live Below the Line campaign, for a number of reasons. One is that I won’t stick to their rules and the meal plans they recommend. I think that advocating eating value sausages and plastic bread puts people off participating.

These are my plans to keep within the £5 per person budget this week.

I have persuaded my husband to join me in the challenge. Economies of scale, cooking for two not one, can work out cheaper.

I have stock piled pasta based dishes in the freezer for The Gamer, so he will be living above the line, but only just. I bought lentils.

.Lentils and spice

I got this lovely lot at my local Co Op for £4.44, as they had been reduced to half price. Split peas, 2kg for £1. Toor Dall, 2kg £1.52. The recipe on the packet suggests 200g will feed four. Maths is not my strongest subject but even I can work out that one pack will make 40 portions at around 3p a portion. Of course I have to add some onion and some spices yet this is truly the bargain food for this challenge. I have worked out that I could feed 80 people for under 10p a portion if I add vegetables and rice to these ingredients.

And I made bread.Dough rising

I can buy bargain bread at 47p from a supermarket, or I can bake this, without additives and preservatives for around the same amount. I know which I would rather eat.Home made bread

For everyone taking part in Live Below the Line this week, good luck with the challenge.  I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

If you are not taking part, here is a suggestion. Donate £1 a day to a local foodbank in kind. When you shop spend £1 on what your local foodbank needs. A suggested list can be found here. Then find out where you local foodbank is by contacting The Trussell Trust

And if you have some time to give, consider volunteering for a food bank. After all volunteering is good for you!.

 

Getting ready to Live Below the Line 2014

I will be honest, I have never managed to live on a £1 a day whenever I have taken part in this challenge. That is mainly because I cannot bear the idea of value bread, value sausages, frozen vegetables and pasta sauce from a jar.

This year I thought I would do some forward planning, mainly because I start my new job next week, so juggling that with shopping and cooking will be a challenge to me, after not being in paid work for nearly three years.

The £5 book

I went back to this book, first published in 1987, revised in 1995. I was a bit surprised at the cost of some of the items on the shopping list.

.Basic shopping list Basic shopping list

And then I typed some items from this list into the online shopping page of a well known store to compare prices of some, not all of that on the list. It also conveniently compares its prices with other stores including Aldi. I also know Aldi prices pretty well as that is where I do most of my shopping.

1 chicken. Average cost is £5 but there are 2 for £8 and 3 for £10 offers. Aldi have a free range chicken at £4.99

Whole meal flour (2) £1.49

Plain flour 75p

Red lentils 75p

tinned tomatoes 31p

Baked Beans 24p

12 eggs £1.95

Porridge 38p

Potatoes £2.00

Oranges (6) 76p

Given that the prices in the book are I am guessing 1995 prices, food prices do not seem to have increased very much in 19 years. Yet all most of us are spending more on our food. Why is this?

Maybe we all buy too much food which we don’t use? Are the BOGOF offers to blame for food waste and perhaps food poverty?

There is of course very little meat on the list. I know that at least a third of my food spending is on meat and we are not what I call big meat eaters. I am also surprised there is no pasta on the list. At 29p for 500g, it is a good staple, filling food.

A Girl Called Jack
A Girl Called Jack

Meat will have to come off the menu next week. I will bake my own bread as I can make it for about 45p a loaf, and that for me is better than having cheap supermarket bread. I will cook with lentils, vegetables, pasta and rice. I will also therefore be looking for inspiration from A Girl Called Jack.

Gathering the ingredients
Gathering the ingredients

DSCN0426

What I do know is that nearly 1 million people used foodbanks in the UK last year. My new job is with an organisation that runs a foodbank.  I am going to do my best to live on £1 a day next week, I am hoping my son and husband will join me. The difference to what I would usually spend on food and what I actually spend next week will be donated, in food, to Smethwick Foodbank.

If you can donate this is the shopping list of items they need on a regular basis. Contact The Trussell Trust to find where your nearest foodbank is.

You don’t think it could ever happen to you? Many of us are 3 payslips away from not being able to meet household bills, if redundancy or sickness strikes. I have been there, down to my last pound with 3 days till the next dole cheque arrived. I was lucky as I had a family that could and would help. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Will you Live Below the Line next week?

Can you donate to a local foodbank or become a volunteer?

 

Cooking with Jack – Sausage and Lentil One Pot Dinner

I often make a sausage casserole loosely based on a recipe from this book.The Student Cookbook

I used to use fresh carrots and potatoes, turning my nose up at tinned veg, until I started to read A Girl Called Jack.

I wanted to make Jack’s recipe as I have a cupboard full of lentils that need to be used. I wasn’t sure that The Gamer would take to lentils so I made both versions. All left overs are used for lunches so, don’t worry, there was no waste.

All my ingredients are from Aldi although I get most of my fresh and dried herbs from a local grower, Urban Herbs. Ingredients gathered

The sausages I used are from the Aldi Specially Selected range and are high in pork content. I will not compromise and buy nasty cheap value range sausages. You may as well just mush up some bread, lard and salt. If I cannot afford good meat I would rather not eat meat.

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I am experimenting with a lot of recipes and noting prices of everything as I am planning for my week of living on a £1 a day for the Live Below the Line Challenge. It was while looking at the recipes suggested by the organisers that I started to write more about food. I was shocked to see how unhealthy some of them were (think of value white bread and sausages) so set out to come up with a healthier way to eat and drink on a pound a day. I wish Jack Monroe had been blogging then!

One of my very early posts was written for Blog Action Day 2011. Written at Heathrow Airport waiting to fly to San Francisco, those taking part had been given a theme to write about, in 2011 we were asked to focus on the many issues related to food, such as health, hunger, quality, culture, farming, access and waste to coincide with World Food Day.

So back to the sausages.

Sausages with baked beans
Student sausages with baked beans

My version uses baked beans instead of lentils and tinned tomatoes with a bit of mustard, tomatoes puree and Worcester Sauce to give it a bit of kick. A bit of flour was added to the sausages and onions before adding the other ingredients to thicken it up.

Sausage and Lentil One Pot Meal
Sausages with Lentils

The lentils in Jack’s recipe absorb the liquid from the stock, which as well as thickening the casserole, give it its texture.

As ever, I decided to tweak the recipe, and added some curry powder to the one with lentils, as I thought it would work. It did. I am sure Jack won’t mind.

The verdict, The Gamer still prefers the original as it is sweeter (that will be the baked beans) but he didn’t hate the lentil version. Vinyl Man loved the lentil version as did I. 2-1 to Jack. And I am at last using those lentils.

Night off tomorrow as The Gamer is cooking.

Cooking with A Girl Called Jack – Chickpea and Chorizo Burgers

Continuing to try out some more of the recipes from one of my food heroes, A Girl Called Jack. Today these burgers worried me as I am not a big fan of chickpeas.

The haul from Aldi

I tweaked the recipe and whizzed the chickpeas, breadcrumbs, egg and the sliced spicy meats I had in a food processor, and added them to the onion, garlic and carrot I had fried in a pan. I managed to make 8  burgers, the current lodger, The Tax Man, came in and remarked how good they looked, so let him have one.

Chickpea and Chorizo Burgers cooking nicely

My shopping bill today, Chick peas, 39p from Aldi,  as I had all of the other ingredients in. I did buy some chorizo but then discovered we had so left over spicy sliced meat from when we made pizza on Saturday, I had some breadcrumbs in the freezer I had made from the last bits of bread that was a bit stale, and already had eggs and vegetable and the spices I needed.

Verdict?

Another A Girl Called Jack recipe success

Absolutely nom.

I will make a veggie version for my daughter and pop them in the freezer.

And my chickpea aversion? Mushed up they are lovely. I wonder if this could solve my hatred of red kidney beans? Mmmm.

You can find the recipe here.