Live Below the Line Day 12 – week 2 reflections and learnings

My time in the girl guiding movement is one I now treasure (bear with me – this does link to my Live Below the Line challenge, I promise).

The movement’s motto, Be Prepared, is probably the most useful bit of guidance to life anyone’s given me – if something’s drummed into you from the time you join as a seven-year-old Brownie to the time you’re 16 leading a patrol of friends and peers, then it sticks. Continue reading

Fundamentally, it means taking a brolly to work or checking your tyre pressure and oil before you go on a long journey.

magic bag on Make A Gif

But I did not use this advice when going to do my food shop this week. Nor did my colleague Jonny (see what happened to him in yesterday’s post). That is why I spent three hours in the supermarket and Jonny hardly had any food for his Live Below the Line challenge week.

My second learning of the week is to buy flour and even if you’re not going to make bread and pittas, because it’s a bit of a faff, at least make chapattis to keep you filled up. They are so versatile – you can have them with jam for breakfast, instead of a pitta with a  filling for lunch and with lentil dhal or as a pizza base for an evening meal.

 

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Live Below the Line Day 11 – the story of Jamie and Jonny

This week my colleagues Jamie and Jonny have been doing the Live Below the Line five day challenge. They wanted to be able to speak from experience when recruiting people to do the challenge.

While chef Jamie has been sailing through the challenge, Jonny is having a disaster.

Jamie OliverJonny Randall

I thought I would share their experiences with you – so you know to follow Jamie’s example and don’t make the same mistakes that Jonny made! Continue reading

Jonny’s problems started when a certain supermarket had upped the price of tinned beans from 62p to 68p, causing a frenetic rejigging of the budget. He ended up spending £4.98 on this:

jonny shopping

Jonny didn’t test what he was buying before the challenge started and it turns out the tinned spinach he bought was close to inedible. He also, simply didn’t have enough food.

Jonny decided that he wanted to get some protein in his diet so spent a large portion of his budget on eggs. The other large part of his budget went on tortillas. If only he’d followed Jamie’s advice and bought a 1.5kg bag of flour for just 45p and made chapatis instead of having ready-made tortillas – he would have saved more than 50p! You can find out how to make chapatis in this blog post. So as you can see, Jamie’s first day on Live Below the Line involved a lot of chapatis – with basic strawberry jam for breakfast and with lentil dhal for breakfast and dinner.

Live Below the Line meals with chapati

Lentil dhal is a really good dinner option on Live Below the Line. Try my lentil dhal recipe below. It tastes amazing!

lentil dhal recipe

Jamie even made chapati pizzas, which he said was a revelation! Ok, so his girlfriend Lizzie made the pizzas. Jamie and Lizzie did the challenge together – they pooled their money together so their £10 went further. Another top for doing Live Below the Line – do it with other people. It’s fun and easier to do. Not only can you get more for your money but you do less of the cooking – a win win situation!

making pizzas

While Jamie was enjoying dhal and pizza, Jonny’s week was going something like this:

banana

There was hope:

lunch

But the hope faded with this:

dinner

And this…

smoothie

It smelled revolting!

Fortunately, Jamie saved the day. He invited Jonny round for dinner and pooled their ingredients. Jonny would have been eating three fried eggs for his dinner with some of the aforementioned spinach. So he went round to Jamie’s clutching his three eggs and they made pizzas. Here is the recipe:

Live Below the Line pizza recipe, cheap pizza recipe

The result was magnificent. Jonny’s mood lifted and he was back to his usual cheery self all because of a 39p pizza.

happy jonny

It is remarkable how food effects your mood and how easy it is to snap when you have got tired and hungry. Today’s lesson – fail to prepare, prepare to fail. And when doing Live Below the Line, make sure you work hard to keep your emotions in check to ensure you don’t end up losing friends.

This story reminds me of Two Little Boys:

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Live Below the Line Day 10 – snack attack

I’ve had the munchies really bad today. Weird, as I had my peanut butter and banana toasted sandwiches today and my pitta with falafel, mayonnaise and grated carrot, plus a chocolate mousse.

I cooked dinner as soon as I got home – just after 5pm. Today it was vegetable curry made with tinned potatoes, tinned peas and a cheap jar of curry sauce served with pearl barley – I wanted to use pearl barley instead of rice this week as it’s high in protein, fibre, essential vitamins and minerals. I also made a chapati to go with it.

Live Below the Line vegetable curry recipe

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It was a really filling meal. I’m not bowled over by the curry sauce but it’s ok. Tinned potatoes and peas were a brilliant find this week – you can get a 500g tin of potatoes for just 14p! So I was able to afford a big portion of vegetables.

I was hungry again by 9pm but I think that’s because I had dinner so early (and I had a very busy day today so I was rushing around burning off calories).

I looked through the food I have leftover. Custard powder! Remember the disaster I had with my custard on Saturday (Day 6)?

I boiled up some more pearl barley (about 40g), until it was really soft and drained it. I made up half of the custard powder sachet with water and poured it in the pan with the pearl barley and returned it to the heat. I simmered it for a few minutes and voila – custard rice pudding! Just as good as a vanilla custard Muller Rice!

Live Below the Line custard rice pudding

I’m so happy! It’s filled me right up!

Today I have eaten:

  • Breakfast: Peanut butter and banana toasted sandwiches (17p)
  • Lunch: Falafel pittas (24p)
  • Dinner: Vegetable curry (31p)
  • Snacks: Chocolate mousse (5p), custard rice pudding (10p)

Total spent today: 87p

I’m Living Below the Line for Practical Action – an incredible charity that helps children and families to escape life threatening hunger, disease and poverty. Find out how you could join the global challenge and do the Live Below the Line challenge from 28 April to 2 May – £5 for 5 days.

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Live Below the Line Day 9 – poorly

Yesterday I was feeling confident and thought Live Below the Line was going to be a breeze. Today I’m really poorly and I’ve had to go home from work.

I’m not sure if it was because I made my butternut squash risotto all in one go and have been reheating it up every day or just that I’ve picked up a tummy bug.

I also have no energy today. I’m thinking that I might have to take one of those Berocca tablets. I’m spending the rest of the day in the bathroom and in bed. But…

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Despite being poorly I have tried to eat and managed the following:

  • Breakfast: Peanut butter and banana toasted sandwiches (17p)
  • Lunch: Falafel pittas with mayo and grated carrot (24p)
  • Dinner: Chocolate mousse (5p)

Total spent today: 46p

I’m Living Below the Line for Practical Action – an incredible charity that helps children and families to escape life threatening hunger, disease and poverty. Find out how you could join the global challenge and do the Live Below the Line challenge from 28 April to 2 May – £5 for 5 days.

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Live Below the Line Day 8 – my favourite recipes

I’m really pleased with my Live Below the Line purchases this week and the resulting meals. I think making things from scratch is the way to go.

Breakfast: Peanut butter and banana toasted sandwiches

Live Below the Line breakfast, peanut butter and banana toasties

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These are an expensive breakfast option but by far the most satisfying and these beauties filled me up until lunch. Usually I’m clock watching and I make my lunch as soon as the clock turns 12 but today I didn’t even think about lunch until my colleagues went for lunch.

I made the peanut butter using a pack of peanuts that cost me 48p and some oil (you are allowed to cost this out proportionally according to the Live Below the Line rules).

Peanut butter Live Below the Line recipe

I stored it in the fridge but it went a bit hard so I’ve been storing it in the cupboard since and it has a really nice consistency and is so tasty!

My lunch was the pittas and falafels that I made – see the recipe in yesterday’s post.

Falafel in pitta Live Below the Line lunch

These are incredible! I’d urge anyone to have a go at doing these on Live Below the Line. The falafel is so simple to make but if you don’t fancy making the pittas, you can pick up a pack of six for 22p from Sainsbury’s – bargain! They don’t last long though, so I would stick them in the freezer and take one out each day and toast them before putting your filling in.

Dinner is another triumph: the butternut squash risotto I made. Check out the recipe from Saturday’s blog post.

Live Below the Line butternut squash risotto recipe

I’ve done really well with my food today and I’m not feeling depressed or hungry. This can’t be right on Live Below the Line?! OK, so it’s hard for me to only drink water – I drink a lot of coffee and diet coke and I miss having a glass of wine every now and then. It’s hard not being able to snack at all. But I feel OK. Today I’m feeling confident for the first time that I can do Live Below the Line for 60 days. I hope I haven’t spoken too soon!

Today I have eaten:

  • Breakfast: Peanut butter and banana toasted sandwiches (17p)
  • Lunch: Falafel pittas with mayo and grated carrot (24p)
  • Dinner: Butternut squash risotto (39p)
  • Snacks: Chocolate mousse (5p)

Total spent today: 85p

I’m Living Below the Line for Practical Action – an incredible charity that helps children and families to escape life threatening hunger, disease and poverty. Find out how you could join the global challenge and do the Live Below the Line challenge from 28 April to 2 May – £5 for 5 days.

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Live Below the Line Day 7 – baking bread

I spent three hours baking today for my Live Below the Line meals this week. But it was worth it – I’ve got a loaf of bread, pitta breads, falafel and chapattis that all taste amazing!

chapatis, chappatis, bread, pitta bread, pitta, falafel, baking with flour on Live Below the Line

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Now you can buy a loaf of bread for 45p and a pack of pittas for 22p but I decided to buy a 1.5kg bag of flour for 45p and two packs of yeast for 28p. Yes, that’s 6p more than I would have spent, but I also wanted flour for my falafel and to make chapatis to go with my curry later this week.

Chapatis are a fantastic food on Live Below the Line – you can have them as snacks and add herbs an spices or dried fruit to give them more flavour. They also make fantastic pizza bases. Check out this chapati pizza I made on Live Below the Line last year:

Live Below the Line pizza

How to make chapatis

Put some flour in a bowl, add water, a little at a time, kneading as you go, until you have a soft, elastic dough. The longer you knead the dough the softer the chapatis will be. Roll them out on a floured surface into a flat disc approximately 15cm (6 inches) in diameter.

Heat a griddle or a shallow frying pan. Lay the chapatti on the griddle or pan and cook for about 20-30 seconds or until the surface is bubbling. Turn it over with tongs and cook the other side for 10-15 seconds. As soon as brown spots appear on the underside, the chapatti is done.

Here are my recipes for bread and pittas:

Easy white bread recipe

I probably should have given it more than three stars – it’s just that it didn’t rise very well because I couldn’t afford to use strong bread flour. Still tasted yummy though!

Live Below the Line pitta bread recipe

I’m so pleased with how my pitta breads came out. You have to watch them really closely though – if you cook them too long in the oven they burn and become crispy and then it’s really difficult trying to get the filling in them without them falling apart.

One of my fillings for my pittas this week is falafel. I LOVE falafel and figured they would be cheap to make because they’re essentially just patties made from chickpeas, herbs and spices. Here’s my Live Below the Line falafel recipe:

Live Below the Line falafel recipe, cheap falafel recipe

I wanted to have them with salad but it was too expensive, so I opted for grated carrot and I found a jar of mayonnaise for just 40p. I think this is one of the most successful and delicious recipes I have made this week and I’m so thrilled with it.

I’m knackered now after all that baking but I feel an overwhelming sense of achievement because I’ve never baked bread before, or pittas. Paul Hollywood may not be impressed – but I am! Hope you are too and that this has inspired you to get creative for Live Below the Line.

Today I have eaten:

  • Breakfast: Banana (6p) – I got my bananas reduced as they were on the turn, but fine after putting them in the fridge!
  • Lunch: Falafel pittas (24p)
  • Dinner: Butternut squash risotto (39p)
  • Snacks: Chocolate mousse (5p)

Total spent today: 74p

I’m Living Below the Line for Practical Action – an incredible charity that helps children and families to escape life threatening hunger, disease and poverty. Find out how you could join the global challenge and do the Live Below the Line challenge from 28 April to 2 May – £5 for 5 days.

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Live Below the Line Day 6 – be prepared!

Nightmare – I spent three hours in the supermarket trying to get my ingredients for my second week on Live Below the Line!

I hadn’t prepared before I went to do my food shop – huge mistake! I thought that I would just go round ASDA, look for the cheapest items I could find and get some inspiration as to what I could make with them (I wanted to buy items that could be used in a variety of ways). The inspiration didn’t come. On top of that, every time I added up the cost of the items in my trolley, it was more than £7 (from now on I am buying for 7 days as I am also doing Live Below the Line on weekends).

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Stupidly, I went shopping on an empty stomach and because the Smartprice range is so cheap, I was picking up everything the range had to offer and putting it into the trolley. I think I imagined that because it was cheap it would come under my budget!

The best thing I found was a jar of of curry sauce for 20p!!! I’m holding my breath though, it may be disgusting. Sometimes these things are cheap for a reason.

curry sauce, cheap Live Below the Line meal

I got there in the end and I was really happy with my purchases:

Live Below the Line food shop

I was now running late for my mum so I skipped lunch (I hadn’t eaten breakfast either) and rushed off to meet her in town. We went to a coffee house (another error) and I watched her tuck into one of their amazing homemade scones while I sipped a tap water.

In the last year my coffee addiction has hit an all time high. I must have spent hundreds of pounds in Starbucks, Costa and Nero’s, so not buying any coffee is probably a good thing, despite having to go through the hideous withdrawal symptoms detailed in yesterday’s post.

I arrived back home ravenous so I had my dinner early – butternut squash risotto. For some reason I was set on using butternut squash this week but it cost me £1.03 – I think that has been the most expensive single item I have bought so far. I decided to use pearl barley instead of traditional risotto rice as it’s high in protein, fibre, essential vitamins and minerals.

Here is my risotto recipe:

Butternut squash risotto recipe

I’m so chuffed with my dinner – it’s flavoursome, filling and doesn’t make me feel like I’m Living Below the Line.

My dessert wasn’t such a success though. When I found a bunch of bananas half price in the supermarket I decided to get some custard to go with it. I found a sachet of custard powder for just 7p!

Rather than making up the whole packet, I portioned it out and added boiling water to this evening’s portion. Unfortunately it didn’t thicken, so my bananas and custard looked a bit like this.:

Live Below the Line bananas and custard, Live Below the Line dessert

Gutted!

However, you may have noticed that I have bought some chocolate mousses – a pack of four is just 18p. These are for my lunches for the week and for emergencies. Although I ate my bananas and custard, I needed a pick-me-up…and a chocolate mousse saved it and made my day!

Today I have eaten:

  • Breakfast: nothing
  • Lunch: nothing
  • Dinner: Butternut squash risotto (39p), banana and custard (8p)
  • Snacks: Chocolate mousse (5p)

Total spent today: 52p

I’m Living Below the Line for Practical Action – an incredible charity that helps children and families to escape life threatening hunger, disease and poverty. Find out how you could join the global challenge and do the Live Below the Line challenge from 28 April to 2 May – £5 for 5 days.

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Live Below the Line Day 5 – week 1 reflections and learnings

Week 1 of my Live Below the Line challenge is almost complete. It’s been tough. Long waits between meals, no treats, hunger, temptation and a lack of diversity are battles I’m fighting.

I as so hungry today I found myself chewing on my top!

hungry

On top of that, I’m suffering hideous caffeine withdrawal symptoms. Continue reading

Lesson 1) Give up caffeine before you do the challenge. Being hungry and on top of headaches, irritability and lethargy caused by coming off caffeine is not great. You could buy a jar of cheap coffee for 50p but as it’s a tenth of the weekly budget I decided I’d rather have food thanks. Anyway, I needed to come off the stuff – much better for my health not to be addicted to it. Having said all this, other people who have done the Live Below the Line challenge say that they

My colleague Rachel did the challenge with me this week. She said: “These last few hours are being by far the most tortuous! I’m hungry, tired and can’t wait to get to the end!” She said she’s going to have a pizza and a glass of wine as soon as the clock strikes midnight!

Rachel did really well on Live Below the Line though. She chose several basic ingredients and used them to make lots of different meals. Her staples were split peas, rice, new potatoes, frozen veg and sausages and oats which created sausage and mash, sausage and split pea pie, rice salad and dhal among other things. Dhal was my favourite meal on Live Below the Line last year and I expect I’ll cook it again this year.

Lesson 2) Be creative with your food shop and experiment with different. ingredients. Although I’ve enjoyed my tomato and vegetable pasta dinner this week, eating the same thing every day is tedious. Gosh, listen to me. Many people in this world have no choice but to eat the same thing every day – and nothing as nice as tomato and vegetable pasta.

Lesson 3) Read the rules and understand them before you take part. On day 3 there was flapjackgate. Although it was an innocent mistake, I still felt like I had cheated and was immensely disappointed when I had to give my flapjacks away to my colleagues.

It’s surprising the number of people who desperately want to see me cheat the system and find exceptions to the rules. ‘Can I just buy you lunch?’ No. ‘Can’t you just have a spoonful of coffee?’ No. These questions show how difficult it is for people to grasp the concept that I actually have to do without. My family, friends and colleagues think I’m mad trying to attempt this for 60 days (including weekends). But for 1.2 billion people who will go to bed hungry tonight, this food poverty will continue for a lot longer than 60 days. They don’t have anyone who can just buy them lunch. They can’t cheat the system.

Today I have eaten:

  • Breakfast: Porridge with jam (6p)
  • Lunch: Mushroom soup with two slices of bread (33p)
  • Dinner: Tomato and vegetable pasta (32p)
  • Snacks: 2 slices of bread with 4 tsps jam (9p)

Total spent today: 80p

I’m Living Below the Line for Practical Action – an incredible charity that helps children and families to escape life threatening hunger, disease and poverty. Find out how you could join the global challenge and do the Live Below the Line challenge from 28 April to 2 May – £5 for 5 days.

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Live Below the Line Day 4 – keeping busy!

Evenings on Live Below the Line are the worst. I think about my hunger most when I’m bored, which tends to be when I’m sitting in front of the TV at home.

So I have devised a plan – I’m going to try and keep busy. Going down to the local pub may not be the best idea, but going to see friends, going to the gym and doing things like dance lessons or crafting will really help take my mind off food, or lack of.

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Tonight, I went to play bingo with one of my colleagues. It’s free or £5 on Wednesdays and Thursdays. So I packed my bottle of tap water and off we went!

We got there early to sign up as members. Membership is totally free, and membership process takes just a couple of minutes, after which access to the bingo hall, and all of its facilities are yours to use and have fun with.

We then went to the sales area to get our bingo cards. I needed a lot of guidance from staff at first but  it’s very straight forward once you know what you are doing. For £5 I got a whole booklet full of sheets in different colors for each round of “The Main Event”.

We walked through a hall of fruit machines to go and take our seats in the main hall. It was massive and there were several hundred people there of all ages. There was a bar and a diner and the food looked really good.

I ignored my rumbling tummy and got straight into playing some interval games before the “Main Event”. You put a coin in the slot of this machine on your table and you can play on a loose plastic board. The winnings aren’t great on these games but it kept me entertained.

Music and an announcement heralded the start of the main session. This is the part of the proceedings where you mark off the numbers on the tickets that you have previously bought, with a felt tip pen or a Dabber.

As the bingo caller shouted out the numbers I excitedly marked them off, convinced that I was going to win something. I didn’t, but I got really close a couple of times. It was quite hard as the bingo caller was really fast – but it kept me busy and I didn’t think about food once!

week 1 bingo with border

I’ve definitely caught the bingo bug – it’s easy, fun and sociable – and will be going regularly at least during my Live Below the Line challenge.

Do you have suggestions of any other activities I could do in the evenings while I’m doing my 60 day Live Below the Line challenge?

Today I have eaten:

  • Breakfast: Porridge with jam (6p) – cheaper now I’ve changed my jam – see why in my flapjackgate post
  • Lunch: Mushroom soup with two slices of bread (33p)
  • Dinner: Tomato and vegetable pasta (32p)
  • Snacks: 2 slices of bread with 4 tsps jam (9p)

Total spent today: 80p

I’m Living Below the Line for Practical Action – an incredible charity that helps children and families to escape life threatening hunger, disease and poverty. Find out how you could join the global challenge and do the Live Below the Line challenge from 28 April to 2 May – £5 for 5 days.

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Live Below the Line Day 3 – flapjackgate!

I’m in panic! I’ve just been told that I can’t eat my Live Below the Line flapjacks!

Live below the line flapjacks

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I had a cunning plan to use some of the oats leftover from my Live Below the Line shop to make flapjacks. I already had sugar, butter and golden syrup in my house so yesterday I costed out the amount of each ingredient I needed to make flapjacks.

My recipe made 12 flapjacks at 8p per serving and I could afford to eat 8 of them this week, which would take me up to my £5 budget.

However, my know it all colleague Jamie said I couldn’t eat them because it would be breaking one of the Live Below the Line rules.

So, according to this rule (which somehow I managed to miss), you can’t buy an item and then only include part of the cost in your budget. You have to include the cost of the whole packet, even if you don’t eat it all. However, for items such as flour, salt, pepper, herbs and spices, the rules say you can work out the cost of these items per portion and budget your shopping accordingly.

Now I’m also worried that I can’t use my homemade jam! I’d worked out the cost of a jar of jam I’d made from foraged blackberries, jam sugar and lemon in the autumn. However, this rule means that I would have to take the whole cost of the packet of sugar and lemon together. PANIC!

 photo beaker.gif

I emailed the guys at Global Poverty Project, who run the Live Below the Line initiative, to clear this up. Here is the response:

“The Live Below the Line rules technically do state that you need to account for the cost of the full item – however we allow people to budget the portion of items such as flour, oil, spices etc as these would be items you’d likely have in your cupboard to last you months. Ultimately, it’s up to you how you’d like to take the challenge. Some people chose to cost things out from the whole budget, others prefer to literally spend £5 for the 5 days only using what they have bought with that £5.”

I gave my flapjacks to my colleagues. They were delighted:

Live Below the Line flapjacks

I was not.

happy place

I also gave up my jam…and then went to buy a jar of jam from the supermarket for 29p with my leftover budget (I had 49p left after substituting 16p for the two flapjacks I’d already eaten). This seems a bit ridiculous to me. But I want to play by the rules. I hope you will forgive me a couple of flapjacks and some contraband jam.

So today I have eaten:

  • Breakfast: Porridge with jam (7p)
  • Lunch: Mushroom soup with two slices of bread (33p)
  • Dinner: Tomato and vegetable pasta (32p)
  • Snacks: 2 slices of bread with 4 tsps jam (12p) and 1 flapjack (8p)

Total spent today: 92p

I’m Living Below the Line for Practical Action – an incredible charity that helps children and families to escape life threatening hunger, disease and poverty. Find out how you could join the global challenge and do the Live Below the Line challenge from 28 April to 2 May – £5 for 5 days.

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