Sunday, 4 May 2014

Day 5 - the finishing line

A belated update on my final day of joining the 1.2 billion people who live below the line, just that I had to survive on £1 a day only for 5 days.

Yes, I totally welcomed the last day. While it's possible to manage on £1 a day, even after 5 days I got more than bored of beans and lentils. The titles of the recipes sound different, but it was clear that I always used an amount of some bean (and to me, they kind of all taste the same) plus an onion, a clove of garlic, some spices and one cheap vegetable, plus the obligatory starchy food. Booooring.

In addition, I could only stay below the £1 because I cooked from scratch. This does mean that I probably used more gas for the cooker and electricity for the oven than usual, so the real cost of the food may be significantly higher. Plus while I was lucky to have had food cooked for me on 2 days, it was still a massive effort to cook from scratch the other days after a long day at work. And yes, the kids did not like the meals, which in a real life living on a budget situation would be extremely stressful for the parent.

So today it was the usual porridge for breakfast, 18 p instant noodles for lunch, and dinner was bean burgers with potato wedges. No picture today because I also rushed off straight after dinner. I then made the mistake of not asking for just tap water at the bar, but had blackcurrant in it, and because I bought it with another drink, had no idea of the cost. So I didn't drink it. Which is of course a bit daft, having paid for it and all.

So here's the sums:
breakfast and milk for the day 27.5
tea 4.5p
lunch 18p
slice of bread 2p
reduced chocolate cake 7.5p (I had a choice between this or a tangerine...)
dinner (bean burgers = 3 portion):
onion 10p
garlic clove and spices
pepper 33p
tin of mixed beans 45p
 = 88p, which equals 31 per portion
potato wedges 17p per portion

Total: 108.5p

which is 8.5p over. In my defence, I had a couple of pence to spare from previous days and probably didn't use as much milk as I calculated, and also refrained from eating my full allowance of chocolate, so it's just about possible that I stayed within the £5 overall. Should have done the calculations before eating the food... Which I didn't, I kind of hoped it would be below £1. The pepper was maybe a bit of a luxury and if I had cooked the wedges from scratch, I'd have saved another 3p. I could also not have had instant noodles but 3 slices of bread instead because the bread was just such a low price, so had I done my calculations in advance, I could well have adapted my lunch.

The bean heavy food on the last two days meant I wasn't as hungry (though I was hungry during the day, esp. as I had to fit my lunch around an extremely busy working week, rather than being able to have lunch at times most conducive for my challenge).

While I didn't miss alcohol too much (I don't drink much anyway), it was quite hard to order water on my night out. It was kind of ok because this was my choice but if one actually can't afford it, it would be rather embarrassing (having been in the situation, I know how it feels having to calculate if the bank balance is enough to buy a round, leaving out one's own drink and hoping the total is not causing an overdraft). And yes, going to a gig without being able to tuck into a cider... it's just not the same thing for me.

I'm definitely glad that I'm done with doing the sums and can tuck in to my hearts delight again. My meal planning was rubbish so I still have  a lot of the food that I had bought for the challenge, again in real life this would have been a terrible waste and meal planning is essential on this kind of budget.

Please sponsor me by donating to my chosen charity. Each donation will be tripled (match funded by UK government for Action Aid, and matched by me for a local food bank).

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Day 4

I had planned to blog each day but alas what with working late, and I mean very late, I was too tired (and hungry).

In a way my task was made a bit easier because my work involved a low cost dinner on two nights (days 2 and 3), so I didn't need to cook from scratch and still had a budget meal, one of them was even costed to the penny by the kind dinner lady who prepared it.

Today though it was back to cooking.

I did a bit of thinking around the challenge and compared it to how others interpreted it. I had no qualms about buying in bulk - I do this for a number of reasons, to save money but also to reduce my waste, and I then calculate the cost by accounting for the amount actually eaten. However this assumes that one can afford the cheaper bulk purchase. I realised that I'm privileged to be able to purchase in bulk, and that the challenge would be much harder if I just had a fiver in my pocket and had to make do on it.

Similarly, I bought the cheapest produce I could find but overbought - i.e. bought for about £15 and I was flexible about what I'll use, leaving the rest for a later date. This is also a luxury, and not to be compared with someone who only has a limited amount in their pocket and can't afford to buy food for next week, or have the choice that I had to prepare my food from. Effectively, I didn't need to budget, I could focus on the challenge as a game, rather than a necessity.

I'm also lucky that I was able to supplement my food by using some items growing in our local community garden, where I (very) occasionally help out, and from a dish prepared from another garden crop. A colleague had bought fruit from a market stall which was incredible value, so I had the odd tangerine. I could not have afforded a tangerine from the supermarket. All of this is rather lucky, and improved the diet over the 5 days a lot.

If you take all of these privileges away, it would look rather dire. Nutritional value of the food would go down, I'd be much hungrier than I am (though I have been hungry, don't get me wrong, but I'm a big eater and it was more a case of adapting to smaller portions and no snacking in between meals).

And even in spite my luck, the Live below the Line diet isn't healthy. Someone commented on the photo of my shop that it looked quite healthy, but I beg to differ. There is no way I can get my 5 (never mind 7-9) fruit and veg a day. I have totally excluded meat and fish, my protein comes from beans and lentils. The rest is carbs.

This is today's food:

Breakfast: porridge with water and splash of milk, milk for the day and 2 teabags. 30.5p
Lunch: Instant noodle soup, 18p
snack: slice of bread with a tiny bit of butter: 2p, some tiny chocolates (I'm adding my allowance for the whole week today, which is 25p)

Dinner: Chilli sin carne, 4 portions

1 onion 10p
garlic clove, spices 4p
200 gr carrots 14 p
can of kidney beans 30p
200 gr rice (value) 8p
50 gr grated cheese: 28p

Total: 94p, each portion = 23.5p

Total for the day: 99p. Big phew.

Dinner was very tasty, my children once again did not agree. Serious coercing was involved, and what I saved on the cost of dinner was probably made up by the cost of jelly babies to entice consumption of dish containing, imagine, kidney beans.

Please sponsor me by donating to my chosen charity. Each donation will be tripled (match funded by UK government for Action Aid, and matched by me for a local food bank).



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