Live Below the Line Day 54 – my tips for a successful challenge

Next week is the main challenge week of Live Below the Line so I want to share my top tips from my eight weeks of living below the line in the hope that it will help you have a successful challenge.

1) Set up your Live Below the Line profile page and fundraising page and send the link to your friends, family and colleagues. Update your page with photos of your food shop and the meals you are eating for the week. Write a mini blog on your page every day, talking about your experiences. By sharing your experiences in this way it will encourage people to sponsor you. Here is an example of what my colleague Jamie did: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/jwholiver Continue reading

2) Plan for your food shop. Got to https://www.mysupermarket.co.uk/ – it gives you all the prices of products. Put your search term in and sort by price. Search for the cheapest options by selecting the supermarket and in the search box type the name of their cheap range (basics – Sainsburys, value – Tesco, smartprice – Asda).

My top ten Live Below the Line foods

  • oats (65p)
  • flour to make chapattis and bread (45p)
  • tinned potatoes (just 15p for 500g)
  • tinned tomatoes (31p)
  • lentils (60p) or split peas
  • jam (29p), rice pudding (15p per tin)
  • pasta (500g pack of spaghetti is just 20p)
  • rice (40p)
  • chickpeas (55p)

The best time to go to the supermarket is around 7pm (or 3pm on a Sunday) to get bargains in the reduced section, especially vegetables! If you can get a load of vegetables cheaply like this, then do try making soup (you can get a pack of veg stock cubes for 20p) or my attached tomato and vegetable pasta recipe – it’s really tasty! Pasta is generally a good option. You can get a 500g pack of spaghetti for 20p and you can get tinned tomatoes for 31p. Or you can try my attached bubble and squeak recipe (a 500g tin of new potatoes is just 15p and you can get a pack of 8 basics sausages from Sainsburys for just 80p).

3) I have created a number of Live Below the Line recipes that you can use (see my previous blog posts) and here are my top tips on what to eat:

  • Breakfast – get a 1kg bag of oats for 65p and mix it with water for porridge but get a jar of basics jam for 29p and mix in a tablespoon of that. Tastes quite nice! You can get a loaf of bread for 45p, so that with jam or cornflakes (31p) with milk (although milk is quite expensive)
  • Lunch – if you need  convenience, try packet noodles, rice and pasta that you just add hot water to. Otherwise, I bought a pack of 6 pittas for 22p and made falafel to go in them – very nice!
  • Dinner – pasta, or lentil (or split pea) dhal with rice and chapatis, or chapatti pizza!
  • Dessert – chocolate mousse (18p for 4 in Asda), yogurt (34p for 4 in Tesco), chocolate cornflake cakes (you can get a 100g bar of chocolate for just 30p!) or tinned rice pudding (15p) with tinned peaches (35p).

food tips collage

Good luck with your challenge. Thank you for taking practical action against poverty and raising money to help the millions of people who go to bed hungry every day.

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 18 – biscuits and cake

I woke up in my hotel room feeling much better and had my Live Below the Line breakfast (see photo below), even though I was desperate for the full English they were serving in the restaurant downstairs. 

Live below the line breakfast

I had bought this jar of lemon curd for 22p and the fruit loaf was the same because it had been reduced – result! Continue reading

I didn’t want to have the complimentary coffee, posh biscuits and mineral water because I thought that was cheating, so I just filled up my water bottle from the tap and I was on my way (after removing the rice salad from the fridge and chucking it in the bin – see yesterday’s blog post to find out the story behind that).

I was off to meet an agency who is producing all the materials for our upcoming Live Below the Line events. We sat down and as with most meetings, a huge plate of biscuits appeared on the table. They weren’t just any old biscuits. These were really fancy ones. There were even florentines on the plate! It was torture! Then there was the offer of coffee. Considering the night I had, I really could have really done with a coffee – I was knackered. But I had a hideous week coming off the stuff and don’t intend on going back there.

I left my their office to go to my next meeting with the Spitalfields market estates manager. We are holding a Live Below the Line event there in a few weeks and I went for a site visit. She took me around the market and showed me where our stall was, where the facilities were, etc. She took me past this:

lolas

OMG, I love Lola’s cupcakes – this was even worse torture than the biscuits! I consoled myself with another slice of fruit loaf.

On to my next meeting – with the chair of Practical Action’s trustees, Helena Molyneux…at Pret a Manger. Another bad decision because I love their sandwiches and salads and by this time I was famished. I had no more budget left for this week so I had another slice of fruit loaf.

Helena is taking part in the Live Below the Line challenge for Practical Action and amongst other things I was giving her some advice on what to buy and telling her what I had been eating (I didn’t tell her about my dreadful two days in London because I didn’t want to put her off!

Finally, our meeting was over and I left London at around 7pm. By the time I got back home in Rugby I was absolutely shattered so I was really pleased to have leftover sausage and bubble and squeak waiting for me. I reheated it, poured over a load of gravy and was in heaven…I didn’t care that the sausages only had 33% pork in them – at that moment in time they tasted amazing.

I haven’t experienced hunger that bad until today. I was nearly pushed to breaking point and I nearly gave up my challenge. But I’m a competitive person: it’s not going to beat me!

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 47 – week 7 reflections and learnings

I found the first couple of weeks of my Live Below the Line challenge a lot easier because some of my colleagues did it with me. But since then it has been a very lonely experience.

My advice to make your Live Below the Line challenge more enjoyable is to do it with others and organise events around food, like a Come Dine Below the Line With Me event.

This week I decided to invite the Practical Action UK staff to a Live Below the Line lunch in our canteen. I’m always asking them to sponsor me to do various things and so rather than ask them for money I wanted to show them what the challenge is all about, get them involved and give something back. Continue reading

I didn’t realise just how many people would want a Live Below the Line lunch! I had 30 for lunch in total and I was chef and waitress for all.

The following was on my menu.

For starters:

hummus recipe

For main, three options:

Live Below the Line sausage and mash recipe

lentil dhal recipe

Live below the line tomato and vegetable pasta recipe

 

And for dessert:

Live Below the Line flapjack recipe

 

rice pudding and peaches1

 

cornflake cake1

It was hard work, but a huge success and as a result, ten of my colleagues have signed up to take part in the Live Below the Line challenge. One of my colleagues even sponsored me £20, even though I hadn’t asked for any money.

So my learning at the end of this week is to share what you’re doing and involve your friends, family and colleagues in your challenge – they will be more interested in what you’re doing and inspired by your action. You don’t have to ask them for donations for them to want to give.

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 40 – week 6 reflections and learnings

This week has been a bit of a whirlwind and I didn’t have time to create my own recipes. But after finding myself at a Tesco Express on Monday morning buying ingredients for crisp and mayonnaise sandwiches I was shocked into action.

Ok, so my crisp sandwich on the first day was quite nice – it felt like a treat because I haven’t had one since I was a child.

crisp sandwich1

Continue reading

But I couldn’t believe I had made the decision to eat these for lunch for a week! So at that point I decided to I would not eat cheap, processed food again – I’ve already put back on the half stone that I lost in the first two weeks because I’ve been eating packet rubbish. Instead I got some help from Jack Monroe – writer, journalist and campaigner on poverty issues.

Jack has done the Live Below the Line challenge herself and has produced a recipe book of budget recipes. It is well worth having a look at, not just for the Live Below the Line challenge, but for future.

photo (6)

Thanks to Jack, I’ve rediscovered thick wholesome protein-packed soups, warming winter casseroles, curries, stews and home-made burgers.

Being a parent means Jack doesn’t have hours to spend in the kitchen , so most of her recipes are speedy and simple.

“I believe that in order to tackle food poverty and a culture of microwave meals with dubious ingredients, cooking at home needs to be presented as less glossy, less sexy, intimidating and more accessible, more about what you can make from what’s in the cupboard, to spend less, reduce waste, and knock up a meal in ten minutes when you get home from work, or when you have a toddler tugging at your leg.”

I didn’t want to waste the food I’d already bought so I decided to use the bread as toast in the morning with lemon curd. The crisps I would use as snacks.

I then decided to make the following from Jack’s cookbook:

hummus recipe

mandarin pasta

peach and chickpea curry recipe

Just what I needed this week – I felt so much better after eating these meals! I had started to struggle with my challenge so this lovely food has given me a boost and made me realise that I can do it if I put my mind to it and make a bit of effort.

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 33 – week 5 reflections and learnings

This week has been a week of two halves - the best and worst week of my Live Below the Line challenge so far!

Why it has been the best week of my Live Below the Line challenge

We’re at the London Coffee Festival this week and so far it has been awesome! We have been blown away by the support for our charity (Practical Action) and the Live Below the Line challenge. We never expected so many people to sign up to the challenge!

Coffee Festival collage

Continue reading

It is such a fantastic event – such a buzzy atmosphere with loads going on. There’s so many stalls, demos, workshops…

When people have come up to our stand and we’ve asked them to take on the Live Below the Line challenge, they’ve all said: “I couldn’t do it. That’s impossible!” When I’ve told them that I’m doing it for 60 days and what I’ve been eating, they’ve been totally inspired and signed up straight away! So it has made me really glad that I’m doing this challenge. I feel that I’m making a difference

Why it has been the worst week of my Live Below the Line challenge

There was loads of free coffee and food on a lot of the stands at the coffee festival, plus espresso martinis, and I couldn’t have any!

coffee festival freeby collage

I figured that freebies aren’t allowed on the Live Below the Line challenge and I don’t want anyone accusing me of cheating! But it was so hard to resist temptation.

Instead, I’m muddling through the week on cereal bars, peanut butter sandwiches and mashed potato with tinned vegetables.

Working on a stand for 10 hours a day, being on your game, enthusiastic and full of energy is quite hard without the right foods inside you. And I’m continuing to work when I get back to my hotel room.

It has definitely been the most mentally and physically challenging week so far but I’m just over halfway through my challenge and I’m determined to see it through!

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 26 – week 4 reflections and learnings

You don’t have to cook from scratch on Live Below the Line. You can still make dinners in ten minutes, so the challenge doesn’t have to be a chore!

I am a healthy eater. The main food in my diet is vegetables, salad, beans and fruit. While I have been doing the Live Below the Line challenge, I have been trying to eat as healthily as possible. But when I was given the challenge of making super quick meals, that kinda went out of the window. Even my nice vegetable and tomato pasta took 20 minutes to cook!

One of my colleagues said she wouldn’t take on the Live Below the Line challenge because she didn’t have time to try and get to the supermarket at the end of the day when the fresh produce is reduced or prepare meals or lunch boxes for work. So I set out to prove that it can be done. Continue reading

As a result, I ended up with a real carb heavy diet this week:

carbtastic

Gosh, it all looks very yellow and orange when you put all the photos together!

I’m not used to eating carbs – my body is not a big fan of them. So as you can imagine, I put on a bit of weight this week! I felt bloated and even more lethargic than usual.

There has been a lot in the media about cheap food and links to obesity. I can understand why a low income family would buy the rubbish that I’ve pictured above. Not only is it ridiculously cheap, but when you’ve got a family I guess you want to buy food that doesn’t take ages to prepare and that food that your children are actually going to eat. I must admit that when I was a child, we often had fishfingers, chips and peas or tinned spaghetti.

I think that I could have done a better job this week – I could have found food that is better for me and I could have experimented with different recipes. But I have been rushed off my feet this week and I guess that is the point. People don’t have the time – they have 10 minutes to get round the supermarket so they look for what is easy to throw together.

I’m glad I only have to survive on this stuff for a short amount of time but it must be awful to have no other choice.

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 19 – week 3 reflections and learnings

This week has been the toughest yet on Live Below the Line and I have three pieces of advice as a result.

1) Don’t join people for a meal at a pub or restaurant and just sit and drink water. It is not fun. Learn to say no

or instead, ask your friends or colleagues to join you for a Live Below the Line lunch instead! Continue reading

2) You need to plan well in advance if you are going to stay away from home. What meals will you need? Will you need cutlery and crockery? If you are staying in a hotel you need to check if there will be a fridge in your room. If you intend on using the fridge you need to think about the food that you are going to be putting in there. How long will it be traveling at room temperature, for example.

3) Rice is one of the staple foods on Live Below the Line, but it is very easy to get food poisoning from it (as I found out) so I’m going to give you some top tips on how to cook it and store it.

It’s actually not the reheating that causes the problem but the way the rice is stored before it is reheated.

How does reheated rice cause food poisoning?

Uncooked rice can contain spores of Bacillus cereus, a bacterium that can cause food poisoning. When the rice is cooked, the spores can survive.

If the rice is left standing at room temperature (this is what I did), the spores can grow into bacteria. These bacteria will multiply and may produce toxins (poisons) that cause vomiting or diarrhoea.

The longer cooked rice is left at room temperature, the more likely it is that the bacteria or toxins could make the rice unsafe to eat.

Symptoms of food poisoning

If you eat rice that contains Bacillus cereus bacteria you may sick and experience vomiting or diarrhoea about 1-5 hours afterwards. Symptoms are relatively mild and usually last about 24 hours.

Tips on serving rice safely

  • ideally, serve rice as soon as it has been cooked
  • if that isn’t possible, cool the rice as quickly as possible (ideally within one hour)
  • keep rice in the fridge for no more than one day until reheating
  • when you reheat any rice, always check that the dish is steaming hot all the way through
  • do not reheat rice more than once

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 17 – working away

I find myself in a bizarre situation – staying in a four star hotel that has a really nice restaurant but unable to eat in it because I’m on the Live Below the Line challenge.

Instead, I’ve had to use the kettle in my hotel room to make my dinner:

Live Below the Line pot noodle

 

I haven’t had one of these since I was a student and now I know why.

But there’s worse to come. I made a rice salad on Monday and figured that I would put some in two tupperware pots and have one for my lunch today and one for tomorrow.

I ate the first pot on the train down to London before my course this afternoon. I put the second pot in the fridge in my hotel room (I checked I had a fridge before I booked so I could store food in it).

However, I have been extremely ill this evening and spent most of it in the bathroom. I think it’s my rice – I think after I cooked it I left it at room temperature too long before putting it in the fridge.

I’ll have to throw that other pot of rice and I’ll have to come up with another plan for lunch tomorrow. It’s now after 1am and I need to go to bed – I don’t think I can be ill anymore .

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 16 – the best dinner yet!

I love sausage and mash with gravy so I am delighted that I’ve managed to come up with a cheap Live Below the Line version.

I didn’t think it was possible to have meat on Live Below the Line but my colleague Rachel, who did the challenge the other week, used cheap sausages and she said they were ok.

I found a pack of eight sausages for 80p in Sainsburys. They only contain 32% meat but I was eager to give them a go.

You can get a pack of gravy granules for just 20p and a 500g tin of potatoes for just 15p that you can just heat and then mash as normal. You could buy two tins for 30p and have four portions of sausage, mash and gravy for just over £1 – that’s just 25-26p per serving!

But I’ve gone one better this week. I found a bag of new potatoes for just 29p this week, a bag of kale for 8p, a cabbage for 8p and a swede for 29p. This is what I made:

Live Below the Line sausage and mash recipe

NB. If you are using tinned potatoes, you do not need to cook them as long. Continue reading

This dinner really made my day because lunchtime was depressing – all my team went to the pub for lunch as it was my boss’s birthday. I felt bad saying that I wouldn’t go but I had already baked her a chocolate cake (which by the way is really hard to do without licking the bowl – I just about managed it by getting my husband to get rid of the left over mix and icing):

choc cake1

However, my dinner was just as good as pub food and the icing on the cake was thinking of the money I saved by not going.

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 15 – double dilemma

A quarter of the way through and so far, so good. My Live Below the Line challenge has gone better than expected. However, I have a couple of obstacles in my way this week that will test me.

Tomorrow, my boss is having a birthday lunch at the local pub. Looks like I will have to sit and watch them eat while I drink tap water – great.

The following day I am off to London for two days. If I can find a hotel that has a fridge, I could take tupperwares of prepared meals. I won’t find a hotel with a microwave though, so I can’t prepare anything that has to be reheated. Continue reading

Stupidly, I didn’t plan for this when I did my food shop. My best option is to take some rice salad that I made today for lunch.

Rice is so cheap: 40p for 1kg. I’ve boiled it and added a load of chopped veg and salad bits that I found in the reduced section in the supermarket: cucumber, sugar snap peas, broccoli, carrots and corn. I’ve also added a couple of chopped tomatoes, kidney beans, salt and pepper and some jif lemon to give it some flavour. Not bad:

Live below the line rice salad recipe

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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