Living Below The Line

Last week was The Global Poverty Project’s “Live Below the Line” challenge, asking people to try and live on just £1 a day for all their food and drink (excluding tap water only). After reading a bit about it I thought it sounded like a good challenge so have taken part. There is a serious side to it all, raising awareness of the 1.4 billion people who live in extreme poverty, and lots of people have been taking up the challenge to raise money. I chose just to do it as a personal challenge and not for sponsorship myself, so please consider going and sponsoring someone or donating to Live Below The Line if you want instead.

Well, I manged to eat three meals a day for all five days, at a total of £4.92 (I don’t normally eat breakfast, but the challenge was for three meals a day). It was a really interesting week, involving spreadsheets, careful planning and lots of trading off of one item for another to make better use of a couple of pence here and there. I’ve been genuinely impressed by just how far a quid can go if used very very carefully.

I’ve used various items from the Basics range at Sainsbury’s and have a much better appreciation of the relative costs of basic foods I normally wouldn’t even think about. Peppers, for example, are ridiculous! Basic root veg (carrots, potatoes etc) were working out about 6.7 pence an item, but peppers and corguettes came in at about 26p each. At a quarter of the daily budget that makes it very hard to squeeze any “fresh” type fruit and veg into the diet. At 12.8p each, bananas were a possibility, but a good mix of fruit and veg is tricky and I would imagine at certain times of year almost impossible.

I tried to be as accurate with the costing as possible, and also as honest. I did buy most of the food especially for the week so I could get the best value brands, but where I was using items I already had (coffee, tea, salt, pepper etc.) I priced them up for the brands I was actually using, rather than a cheaper brand I could have bought, so I could probably have shaved a few extra pence off. I also tried to ensure I didn’t just bulk buy everything to get the lowest price and then let it go to waste, everything I bought could be used up in the week or would last long enough to be used later.

Given I was only doing it for five days my meals were a little limited, and usually pasta or bread based. But living like this for a longer period you could certainly experiment quite a lot and make some pretty amazing dishes, especially judging by some other peoples efforts (See http://agirlcalledjack.com and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22263706).

Here is my food diary for the week for anyone bored enough to care about the details:

Monday (99.79p)

Breakfast

Poached egg on toast. 15.275 pence.

Ingredients: 1 egg, 1 slice brown bread, butter spread, salt, pepper.

Lunch

Chicken roll sandwich. 20.3 pence.

Ingredients: 2 slices brown bread, 5 slices chicken roll, butter spread.

Dinner

Beef pie, potato and carrot, rice and peas. 44.4 pence.

A big dinner, didn’t really need the rice and peas but didn’t think the rest would be enough when I was preparing it. The pie was only 19p, reduced because it was a bit battered, otherwise it would never have been affordable.

Ingredients: Beef pie, 1 potato, 1 carrot, 50g rice, 1/2 tin processed peas, stock cube.

Other

1 cup of tea with milk, 1 ginger biscuit, 1 banana. 19.81 pence.

Tuesday (100.64p)

Breakfast

Toast and jam. 8.75 pence.

Ingredients: 1 slice brown bread, butter spread, 1 tsp. jam.

Lunch

Chicken roll sandwich. 17.5 pence.

Ingredients: 2 slices brown bread, 4 slices chicken roll, butter spread.

Dinner

Tomato, potato, parsnip and bacon stew. 53.28 pence.

Way too much parsnip, the flavour overpowered the whole dish, should have used one instead of two.

Ingredients: 1/2 tin of Peeled Tomatoes, 1 potato, 2 parsnips, 80g cooking bacon, 1 tsp. mixed herbs, 1 bread slice, butter spread, black pepper.

Other

1 cup of coffee with milk, 1 cup hot chocolate, 1 ginger biscuits, 1 banana. 25.31 pence.

Wednesday (97.29p)

Breakfast

Toast. 3.15 pence.

Ingredients: 1 slice brown bread, butter spread.

Lunch

Poached egg on toast, and yoghurt. 23.525 pence.

Ingredients: 1 slice brown bread, 1 egg, butter spread, salt, black pepper, fruit yoghurt.

Dinner

Veg and bacon spaghetti with jacket potato. 63.575 pence.

This dinner was huge, and I didn’t need the jacket potato at all. I had a mate over for dinner and made him eat the same with no complaints.

Ingredients: Spaghetti, 1/4 courgette, 1/2 green pepper, 1/2 onion, 100g cooking bacon, 1 tsp. mixed herbs, 1 cove garlic, 1/2 tin of processed peas, 1 potato, butter spread.

Other

1 cup of coffee with milk, 1 ginger biscuit. 7.01 pence.

Thursday (99.56p)

Breakfast

Fruit yoghurt. 8.25 pence.

Ingredients: Fruit yoghurt.

Lunch

Chicken roll sandwich. 17.5 pence.

Ingredients: 2 slices brown bread, 4 slices chicken roll, butter spread.

Dinner

Tomato, onion and pepper pasta bake with potato and cheese topping. 48.4 pence.

This looked awesome but was a little lacking in flavour, could have done with some seasoning and maybe something to thicken the sauce. Thankfully very filling though as there was nothing on the side to go with it.

Ingredients: 1/2 tin of peeled tomatoes, 1/2 onion, 50g pasta shapes, 1 potato, 1.5 tsp. grated hard cheese, 1/2 green pepper.

Other

1 cup of coffee with milk, 1 cup of hot chocolate, 1 ginger biscuit, 1 banana. 25.41 pence.

Friday (98.06p)

Breakfast

Bacon, egg and toast. 31.45 pence.

As I had the day off work to do some decorating I thought I’d start the day with a good breakfast, as the previous four days have been very basic breakfasts. A smaller dinner will follow to keep the total day cost down.

Ingredients: 1 egg, 100g cooking bacon, 1 slice of brown bread, butter spread.

Lunch

Chicken roll sandwich. 17.5 pence.

Ingredients: 2 slices brown bread, 4 slices chicken roll, butter spread.

Dinner

Baked beans and fried egg on toast. 30.8 pence.

Ingredients: 1/2 tin of baked beans, 2 slices of brown bread, butter spread, 1 egg.

Other

1 cup of coffee with milk, 1 cup of hot chocolate, 1 ginger biscuit, 1 banana. 18.31 pence.