Tag Archives: live below the line

Living Below the Line: Day 5


The last day of the challenge. I spent it working from home, succumbing at last to the diarrhoea that’s been plaguing me all week.

The thing I have to complain about today is water. I’ve been drinking nothing but water and I’m sick of it. Water, of course, is one of the hidden privileges of this challenge – you are allowed an unlimited supply as thought it’s free. It isn’t. We have water rates here in the UK, which belie the original investment in sewerage and mains that set up the supply. That investment is still ongoing in many countries where you can’t take water for granted.

No bean curry today, probably to the relief of my digestive system. I had the pasta sauce as soup instead. I think it makes a better soup than a pasta sauce.

As far as the eating goes, the challenge is done.

The brilliant news is, thanks to the generosity of my friends, we have raised £185!!! I think that’s brilliant considering my target was £100.

Thank you to everyone who’s donated some money. I also want to give a special mention to the guys at work who have been really encouraging as I’ve sat down to lemon curd sandwiches for breakfast and the dreaded bean curry for lunch.

So that’s how I did in fundraising, how about nutritionally?

This is what I bought.

Item Price Cost
1 Wholemeal loaf (800g) 0.50 0.50
1 Jar of Lemon Curd 0.22 0.22
2 PacketsFrozen Mixed Veg 0.75 1.50
2 Tins Tomatoes 0.31 0.62
4 Tins Kidney Beans 0.21 0.84
1 Tin New Po 0.15 0.15
1 Jar Curry Sauce 0.26 0.26
1 Packet Stock Cubes 0.15 0.15
1 Packet Spaghetti 0.19 0.19
1 Packet Digestive Biscuits 0.30 0.30

I didn’t eat all of that in the end. I only used two tins of kidney beans and one and a bit packets of frozen veg. Once I put that all together, this is how it matches against the Reference Nutrient Intake (the stuff you get with traffic lights on supermarket ready-meals).

RNI* £1 Diet %RNI
Energy (kCal) 1940.0 1622.3 83.6
Protein (g) 45.0 50.1 111.2
Sugars (g) 270.0 266.0 98.5
Fat (g) 70.0 32.0 45.7
Saturates (g) 20.0 12.4 62.2
Fibre (g) 24.0 33.2 138.5
Salt (g) 6.0 6.0 100.7
Sodium (g) 2.4 2.5 102.7
Calcium (mg) 700.0 1132.0 161.7
Iron (mg) 8.7 12.7 145.6
Vitamin A (ug) 700.0 2402.1 343.2
Folate (mg) 200.0 220.9 110.4
Vitamin C (mg) 40.0 51.0 126.6

*Reference Nutrient Intake
Figures from the FSA Manual of Nutrition 11th Ed

I think that’s pretty good. I’m on or slightly under for the stuff they warn you about and overachieving, frankly, on the vitamins and other good stuff. The calories are a little worrying at 15% lower than they should be. It wasn’t always that way. When I first put the shopping list together I was determined to get some fresh fruit or vegetable in there. I changed and trimmed it until I could afford an 84p bag of apples. I thought this was wonderful until I worked out the nutrition stats. I was only getting half the calories I should be and the fresh apples weren’t adding that much to the vitamins etc. I ditched the apples from the shopping list and bought the tinned potatoes, pasta and digestive biscuits.

That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from this. All the fresh fruit and veg and good nutrition in the world won’t work if you don’t get the calories you need. Sometimes on a very restricted budget you have to eat crap just to get the calories in. (The fact that good, fresh food is so expensive is something I’ll come back to in another post.)

The second thing I’ve learned is that not just armies, but everyone, marches on their stomach. Having nice, appetising food to eat makes the day go better. It doesn’t matter how nutritious something is, if you don’t want to eat it, it’s a misery to have to. We also need to fix the food supply economics in this country so that the only tasty food available to poor people is not junk food.

Third thing I’ve learned is that I’m a coffee addict. Not physically but mentally – I do like my cup of coffee in the morning!

Fourthly, I’ve already mentioned this, but I have very generous and encouraging friends.

Fifth, we are all privileged in this country to have an all year, constant abundance of food. That is just not true for a lot of countries. And I am among the privileged of the privileged to be able to buy to eat what I want when I want it without, really, counting the cost.

Thank you all a third time (it can’t be said enough) for helping me raise so much money. And thank you for reading my tales of the challenge.

Live Below the Line: Day 4


This has been the toughest day so far. The problem is lunch. I made the tactical decision when starting this challenge to make two big pots of food to have for lunch and dinner. It worked with dinner – the pasta sauce is fine – it still needs garlic and black pepper – but it’s nice. The bean and vegetable curry isn’t. It’s not completely inedible, but it’s not something I want to eat more than twice at the outside. I have to eat it five times and I’m really, really sick of it. It’s starting to blight my mornings as the time to eat looms every closer. That is so wrong for a work-day lunch. Lunch should be a highlight of the day, a little boost to get you through til home-time. This meal sits in the office fridge like a tax demand.

The best Colemanball I ever heard for myself was on the radio one time. A stately home cook had been fired and was suing her employers for wrongful dismissal. According to the radio news reader, her employers said her food was ‘bad and inevitable’. That’s what the bean and vegetable curry has been.

But! I have a plan. There’s enough tomato sauce to have it for soup tomorrow lunch and then dinner in the evening. To be honest I’d eat plain pasta if it meant I didn’t have to eat that bloody curry again.

So I have that good news. And other good news the Live Below the Line campaign has raised over £550,000 so far. If anyone wants to add to the total, you can do so here. Thank you.

Live Below the Line – Day 3


I had a headache for the morning, today. I’m putting that down to caffeine withdrawal, although I wouldn’t have said that I drank enough to warrant withdrawal symptoms. Mind you, I wouldn’t have said that I had any sort of a coffee addiction, but I find I’m really missing my morning dose of over-priced brown foam. I didn’t look forward to lunch today anymore than I did yesterday. It’s really weird. It’s a perfectly edible curry and I realise that as soon as I’m eating it. It’s just that I never want to eat it.

I don’t feel that about the pasta sauce I have for dinner. Although that might be because I’ve realised that, if you add a teaspoon of sugar to the recipe, it’s the same as for Heinz Spaghetti. I have clearly stumbled on their secret recipe!

My meals are getting quite a bit of attention in the office. Quite a few people want to know what I’m eating and why I’m doing it.

This is one of the reasons why. If you want to help you can donate at my Below The Line page.

Live Below the Line: Day 2


The second day. I had a digestive biscuit before I left for the train this morning. It helped me not feel totally starving before I got to the office.

I feel there’s something missing in my life, though. I’m used to having food to look forward to, little islands of pleasure dotted throughout the day. That isn’t here this week. The food is edible, but it doesn’t make me look forward to it with joy. Lunch is difficult. I have an upset stomach that’s lingered from the weekend. I’m sure a pile of beans and vegetables isn’t helping it calm down any. I bought some Colpermin on the way in to work. A pack was £5.99. If I was doing this for real, I’d have to choose between eating and taking medicine. I’m so glad I don’t have to make that choice.

On to the food. I thought I’d better give the recipe for the pasta sauce I made last night – just so you can avoid making it by accident.

The original idea for my dinners was to have the full kilo bag of mixed vegetables with two tins of tomatoes and two tins of kidney beans, all blended to make a pasta sauce. After the bean and vegetable curry from lunch, I found I couldn’t face beans again and I knew the full bag of vegetables was going to be way to much. I cut the amount of veg by a third and blended with the tomatoes, it makes a decent consistency for a pasta sauce. I wish I could say the same about the taste. It’s very watery. If I did it again, I’d buy another tin of tomatoes and let it reduce down before adding the vegetables. It also really needs garlic and black pepper. Even underflavoured it’s less scary that the lunchtime curry.

 photo IMG_0376_zpsd8241fda.jpg

2 tins plum tomatoes 62p
300g frozen mixed veg 25p
2 vegetable stock cubes 3p

Put the tomatoes, stock cubes and mixed vegetables in a saucepan.
Bring to the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Blend until smooth.
Taste and wish you had garlic, tomato puree and black pepper as a minimum.
Total cost 90p. Cost per serving 18p.

Serve over spaghetti. 4p

This isn’t just about food, though. In all of this I don’t want to lose sight of the cause I’m supporting. This is a video about what The Hunger Project do and how they approach things.

And this is my page if you want to donate.

Live Below the Line: Day 1


Yesterday I showed you the food I bought to eat this week. Today, I’m going to divulge the menu. It’s pretty simple:
Breakfast – 2 slices of bread, lemon curd
Lunch – 2 slices of bread, bean & vegetable curry, 2 digestive biscuits
Dinner – spaghetti with veg & tomato sauce, 2 digestive biscuits

That’s it. I eat that every day.

The only way I could think of getting enough to eat was to make two large pots of meals so I got some advantage of scale.

I made the curry yesterday. This is what it’s like at lunch this afternoon.

 photo IMG_0375_zps9eb2d5b5.jpg

It’s not as bad as I thought it would be after making it. There’s a definite air of the chippy about the curry sauce, though.

1kg bag of frozen vegetables – 75p
2 400g tins of kidney beans, drained – 42p
1 400g tin of new potatoes, drained – 15p
1 jar of curry sauce – 26p
3 vegetable stock cubes – 4.5p

Put the vegetables in a big saucepan.
Realise that 1 kg of vegetables is an awful lot of vegetables.
Add the beans and potatoes and watch the pile in the pan grow.
Pour over the curry sauce.
Mix the stock cubes in hot water to fill the curry sauce jar.
Add this to the vegetables and beans.
Heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Taste sauce and realise that it’s nastily weak.
Remove the vegetables from the pan and put in a (large) bowl.
Heat the remaining sauce until it has reduced by about half.
Pour the reduced sauce over the beans and vegetables.
Worry about the effect that amount of veg and beans is going to have on your digestive system.

Total cost £1.63 Cost per serving 32.5p
Serves 5 lunches, with brown bread and digestive biscuits as dessert

Joking aside, it’s been an interesting day. I really missed my morning coffee. I haven’t had a headache from caffeine withdrawal (yet), but a woman on the train had a coffee and I could smell it. It smelled wonderful, probably because I knew I couldn’t have one. Breakfast was OK. The 22p jar of lemon curd was actually quite nice. A colleague has come back off maternity leave and the team were going out to a local pizza place for lunch to welcome her back. I had to decline the invite. There was my curry to eat. It’s better than I thought it was going to be. Beans and veg in a chippy curry sauce. It was filling and tasty and that’s all I was hoping for.

But this isn’t about what I can buy and cook for £5. It’s about raising awareness about extreme poverty. To that end compare and contrast the weekly grocery shopping of families around the world. I am so grateful not to be spending $1.23 for the whole week.

Live Below the Line: Preparation


Tomorrow I start my Live Below the Line Challenge. Before I start on that I have to do the shopping (obviously), but it also seemed a good place to stop and take stock of what is a normal food week for me.

Taking last week as a model. I did my normal grocery shop and the total for food (not including toiletries etc) came to £31.30. I do try and take a packed lunch with me, but only managed one day last week, so averaging about £5 a day for lunch, that’s £20. I have a daily Starbucks’ habit that comes to £12 a week. I also eat out about every other week so that’s £15 a week.

Groceries    £31.30
Lunch         £25.00
Starbucks   £12.00
Eating out  £15.00
Total            £78.30

That’s a scary figure for one person, even when I make the excuse that food is a major hobby of mine.

Anyway, for 5 days this week, the bill can only reach £5 in total.

This is what £5 of food looks like:

 photo DSCN0723_zps8f165d2a.jpg

This is what I bought:
Wholemeal bread, 1 800g loaf @ £0.50/loaf      £0.50
Lemon curd, 1 jar @ £0.22/tin                              £0.22
Frozen veg, 2kg @ £0.75/kg                                 £1.50
Tinned tomatoes, 2 tins @ £0.31/tin                   £0.62
Tinned kidney beans, 4 tins @ £0.21/tin            £0.84
New potatoes, 1 tin @ £0.15/tin                         £0.15
Curry sauce, 1 jar @ £0.26/jar                              £0.26
Stock cubes, 1 pack @ £0.15/pack                      £0.15
Spaghetti, 1 pack @ £0.19/pack                          £0.19
Digestive biscuits, 1 pack @ £0.30/pack            £0.30
Total                                                                          £4.73

I hope that’s enough to keep me fed and satisfied over the five days. There may seem to be some odd choices in there, but I’ll explain more when I do the nutrition calculations later in the week. Bear in mind that I’ve taken the challenge as not spending more than £5 on food for the five days, unlike this idiot at the BBC who only ate £1 of food a day but spent £30+.

Coming tomorrow – the menu, and recipes.

Live Below the Line – 5 Days, £1 a Day


As you know if you’re reading this blog, food is a major preoccupation of mine. I cook it, I eat it, I think about it, I read about it, I watch tv programmes about it, I take pictures of it, I write about it. Because it it such a large part of my life, I prioritise my spending on it. I am in the incredibly privileged position of not having to worry how much I spend on food. That’s not true for the majority of people in the UK and it certainly not true for the vast majority of people living on this planet.

1.4 billion of us live on just £1 a day.

That’s a level of poverty I can’t imagine.

Live Below the Line is a charity dedicated to raising awareness about this. They have a challenge to live for 5 days on £1 of food a day. The challenge runs from 29 April to 3 May 2013. And this year I’m taking it on.

The charity I’m supporting is The Hunger Project UK . They’re a charity dedicated to the sustainable end of world hunger. I’m aiming to raise £100 over the week. I’ll be donating what I would normally spend on food that week. That puts it a considerable way towards £100, but if you’d like to support me in this effort, my donation page is here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/antheahawdon

Anything you can spare, however small, will be gratefully received.

I will be (inevitably) blogging about this her throughout the week of 29/4 so you can read how I’m finding it.

Thank you, in advance, for your generosity.