Below The Line Day 2: Why Aren’t Our MPs Joining In?

So, it’s the end of day two, of my Live Below The Line challenge. For those just catching up, I, along with 5,000 people in the UK, am living on £5 for five days to raise money for charity. My chosen charity is Oxfam UK, as I am involved with their Enough Food If campaign, tackling four major causes of food poverty in the world.

Today’s meals:

Breakfast: two slices of white bread, toasted, with lemon curd, 6p.

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Lunch: 70g white rice with 100g mixed vegetables (frozen broccoli, carrot, cauliflower and peas), and a sauce made with water and lemon curd, 12p.

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Afternoon snack: 30g corn flakes with 100ml unsweetened soya, 8p

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Dinner: 1 bean and vegetable burger, 70g rice, 50g mixed veg: 14p

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Today, my food has cost me forty pence in total. Added to yesterday’s sixty one pence, I have consumed £1.01 of my £5.00 worth of food bought on Sunday.

I have left:

Bread: 16 slices
Lemon curd: 3/4 of a jar?
Cornflakes: 420g
Unsweetened soya drink: 750ml
Plain white rice: 760g
Mixed peppers: 150g
Chopped tomatoes: 600g
Kidney beans: 300g
Mixed vegetables (carrot, broccoli, sweetcorn): 750g
Spaghetti: 500g
1 onion
Broccoli, Courgette, carrot and green beans: 240g
Mixed herbs.

Observations from the day: Firstly, I am much hungrier than usual, and although this sounds obvious, I didn’t expect it, as I have had four meals, all heavy in carbohydrates. My usual diet would factor in far more protein than this one does, but although it looks quite protein-sparse, my nutrition calculations put me at around 30g a day. That isn’t ideal, but it’s certainly better than nothing.

I’m also a lot more dehydrated than usual, despite drinking the same amount of water as I normally would. I don’t know the science behind this – perhaps a lack of foods that have naturally occurring water, like fresh fruit, would answer that.

Finally – I’m exhausted. I know I picked a bad week for this, off the back of hours of travelling to London and Salford for BBC appearances this weekend, I wasn’t in my finest fettle to start with. But I find myself out of focus at work, and obsessive about the amount of food I am consuming. I spilled some rice on the work surface of my kitchen earlier, and laboriously picked it up grain by grain and put it back into the bag. I recognise this ‘me’, the obsession over the cost of meals, the inset panic about what I can possibly make with the ingredients that I have. I’m back and it’s July again, i’m eating slightly less to eat more often, to stave away the hunger pains.

I go to my food cupboard, the one that is out of bounds until I complete this challenge, and I look. I’ve never been so glad to see a can of chickpeas, some cumin, and a bag of value mandarin segments. I know this isn’t forever, but still it chips away.

In an interview with Agent France-Press today, I referred to allegations people had made to me that this ‘living below the line’ for five days is a spurious exercise, an insult to poverty. People have asked me how it can possibly help or change anything?

I said yes – people like Ben Affleck, will be doing this from their large and comfortable homes. You can’t expect to understand poverty as a lifestyle, the day to say degrading and erosion of your being, by living off monotonous and basic food stuff for five days.

But the feedback I have had, and the comments I read from friends taking the challenge, is that they are suddenly extremely aware of how much food costs. How much nutrition costs. How mentally draining it is to toil around a supermarket with such a limited amount of money. How the panic sets in when their child asks for more food, because that’s one less meal left in the cupboard. I remember it well. I remember having to tell Small Boy that there is no bread or jam.

Aside from raising money for charities dedicated to tackling poverty in the UK – we’re talking about it. Thinking about it. People who have never gone to bed hungry in their lives are now consumed by the thought of where their next meal is coming from.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I hope this is a movement for change. I wish every MP across the land took the Live Below The Line challenge. I wish I could say to them: “Here are my shoes: how do they fit you? Not comfortable to walk in, are they?”

To donate to Live Below The Line, a global poverty project, click here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

If you are taking part in this years Live Below The Line challenge and want to share your experience, get in touch at jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Live below the line, day one summary.

At the end of my first day of this years Live Below The Line challenge, I’ve had three meals and two snacks, which is better than I thought I would do.

A seasoned frugal eater, even I have struggled today with my refusal to use my store cupboard ingredients and instead only use the £5 that I spent on Sunday for the challenge.

7am Breakfast: two slices of white bread, toasted, with lemon curd (2 slices white bread with approx 20g lemon curd). 6 pence.

10am snack: lemon curd sandwich (2 slices white bread with approx 20g lemon curd). 6 pence.

1130am snack: 20g dry cornflakes. 2 pence.

1pm lunch: 30g cornflakes with 150ml unsweetened soya drink. 11 pence.

6pm dinner: 100g plain boiled rice, 150g mixed peppers and stir fry veg, 200g chopped tomatoes and 20g lemon curd. 36 pence.

TOTAL SPEND: 61 PENCE

Total food left for the next four days:

Bread: 18 slices
Lemon curd: approx 350g
Cornflakes: 450g
Unsweetened soya drink: 850ml
Plain white rice: 900g
Mixed peppers: 150g
Chopped tomatoes: 600g
Kidney beans: 400g
Mixed vegetables (carrot, broccoli, sweetcorn): 1kg
Spaghetti: 500g
1 onion
Broccoli, Courgette, carrot and green beans: 240g
Mixed herbs: 13g

I attended a meeting tonight about living below the line and addressing poverty in Southend – most of the attendees were already participating in the challenge. I have challenged myself to carry on beyond the five days if there is anything left over – and see how long I can eke out the five pound food shop.

I have found today difficult, and the following few days will undoubtedly be more so. I sat at my desk this afternoon, in the middle of a carb slump, blood sugars crashing after a binge on processed white carbs this morning. I have lived through extreme poverty, I have described in harrowing detail how it feels to go to bed starving for nights on end. I am now in full time, minimum wage employment, and still usually only spend ten pounds a week on food for myself and my son. Halving that amount has meant stripping the meat out of my diet, the peanut butter, the chickpeas, the 27p box of 80 tea bags. It has meant eating processed white bread instead of making my own. But it has also, so far, raised over £700 for Oxfam, to tackle poverty in the UK. And for that, I will carry this through the next five days and beyond, until the list of food above runs out.

When you’ve had nothing, you take nothing for granted.

I hope all of the rest of you LBL-ers are reflecting this evening on the challenge ahead – and although living on £1 a day cannot possibly accurately represent the fear and despondency that comes with living in poverty, I hope that going without treats, and thinking a little harder about how much you spend on food in a country where people are literally starving, I hope this is a movement for change. Change starts with the man or woman in the mirror. Change starts with you.

To donate to Live Below The Line, a global poverty project, click here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

If you are taking part in this years Live Below The Line challenge and want to share your experience, get in touch at jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Live below the line, first dinner, 36p

Sort-of sweet and sour veg, 36p

This was a stroke of what I like to call genius, when I picked up the mixed peppers and the lemon curd, and wondered whether lemon curd and tomatoes would make a sweet and sour sauce. The short answer – yes! So here’s my answer to a Chinese takeaway, for 36 pence.

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Ingredients:

150g mixed pepper stir fry, 15p
200g chopped tomatoes, 16p
20g lemon curd, 1p
100g plain white rice, 4p

How To:

Put the rice on to boil. In the meantime, pop the stir fry vegetables into a saucepan with the tomatoes and lemon curd, and heat through on a low heat, stirring to mix the lemon curd in well. The vegetables should cook through the same time as the rice is ready! Serve together and enjoy.

To donate to Live Below The Line, a global poverty project, click here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

If you are taking part in this years Live Below The Line challenge and want to share your experience, get in touch at jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

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£205 raised so far for Oxfam UK – thankyou!

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Sitting at my desk with a tired head, although the carb-slump is probably not helped by an extraordinarily busy weekend, I thought I would check my Living Below The Line fundraising page for some inspiration and a reminder as to why I’m taking part in the challenge.

So far, by Monday lunchtime and just as I polish off my bowl of cornflakes with a splash of unsweetened soya milk alternative, £205 has been donated to my Live Below The Line page for my chosen charity, Oxfam UK.

Thankyou to everyone who has donated so far, to help combat poverty in the UK. We’re one of the richest countries in the world, and children and families are starving. If you’re as disgusted by that as I am – and I have lived through it and written about it (search ‘Hunger Hurts’ in the search bar) then join me with the Live Below The Line campaign, or donate at https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Live below the line, day one, mid morning snacks.

Well, it’s only half eleven and I’m already glad I had the foresight to pack some snacks for the day. After breakfast of lemon curd on toast this morning, with a glass of water, I packed two separate 20g portions of corn flakes to graze on, and a lemon curd sandwich. Normally a big protein eater, and off the back of an extraordinarily busy weekend, I find myself struggling to concentrate at my desk.

The cornflake portions cost just over 1p each, and the lemon curd sandwich was 6 pence. In total, my food consumption so far has cost 13 pence for the day – but I only have dry cornflakes left until I get home for dinner. I’m craving something fresh, something unprocessed, something that isn’t a starchy carbohydrate. I’m craving one of my own carrot, kidney bean and cumin burgers, with fresh vegetables and soft, warm rice.

Knocking a couple of quid off my usual food shop has made an enormous difference to what I have available to eat this week, and although I have planned in snacks and grazes through the day, well, you try nibbling on a fistful of dry cornflakes while you’re trying to work!

Not being able to fall back on my herbs and spices or plan a month in advance – this was the challenge I set myself as part of Live Below The Line, as commentators criticised me on the BBC website for daring to have built up a collection of herbs and spices and ambient goods over the past year of frugal eating – so I’m right back to basics. See my earlier post for my total food for the five days, at a cost of exactly £5.00.

The last time I checked, my Live Below The Line page had raised £165 for Oxfam UK, who with the Enough Food If campaign are working to tackle food poverty in the UK and abroad.

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Nutrition calculations so far (for my height and weight and activity levels, not a general guideline):

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To donate to Live Below The Line, a global poverty project, click here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

If you are taking part in this years Live Below The Line challenge and want to share your experience, get in touch at jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Live Below The Line 2013, Breakfast

My first meal for this year’s Live Below The Line challenge…. Two slices of toast with lemon curd, and a glass of water.

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Cost: 6 pence
Calories: 288

I will also be adding my detailed nutrition calculations for the day, adding to them as each meal is consumed. The calories, fat, protein etc in the ‘left’ column are worked out specifically to my height, weight, and activity levels.

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Good luck to everyone taking the challenge, and feel free to tweet me for tips, advice, support and encouragement. I’ll be back with a more detailed post later – I need to take SB to school!

To donate to Live Below The Line, a global poverty project, click here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

If you are taking part in this years Live Below The Line challenge and want to share your experience, get in touch at jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Final 60p spent! £5 for five days Live Below The Line challenge – ready to go!

After a quick whizz to my local supermarket with my remaining 60p, I found the following two items in the bottom of the reduced chiller, bringing my total spend for the Live Below The Line challenge to £5.00, for the next five days.

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Plus my earlier shop at £4.40:

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Total food for the next five days:

300g mixed pepper stir fry (carrot, white cabbage, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion), 30p
240g broccoli, courgette, carrot and fine beans, 30p
1kg frozen mixed veg (broccoli, carrot and sweetcorn), 75p
411g lemon curd, 22p
White medium loaf, 50p
1l unsweetened soya drink, 59p
1kg white rice, 40p
500g corn flakes, 31p
400g chopped tomatoes, 31p
400g chopped tomatoes, 31p
400g kidney beans, 21p
13g mixed herbs, 30p
500g spaghetti, 39p
1 onion (125g), 11p

I won’t be using my herb garden, chilli plant, spices or anything from my store cupboard. This is it, back to basics, and I’ll see what I can do with it. I’m happier that I have a bit more veg, and will sit down tonight to work out what my meals will be. I can definitely see a lemon curd sandwich and a few bowls of cornflakes coming out of that list!

To donate to Live Below The Line, a global poverty project, click here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

If you are taking part in this years Live Below The Line challenge and want to share your experience, get in touch at jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

My ‘Live Below The Line’ challenge 2013

I’ve just done my Monday to Friday shop for this weeks Live Below The Line challenge.

I live and eat on a very small budget already, and several of my friends have asked me what would be so ‘challenging’ about taking part in Live Below The Line for me.

Well, most of my recipes are built around a 1.25kg vegetable bag I find in my local supermarket for £1. First hurdle this morning – they haven’t got any in stock. So I find myself in my supermarket, thinking on my feet with my fiver in my hand. Mentally rewriting my meal plan for the week, I picked up an onion and headed for the frozen department.

I also normally build my meals around the herbs growing on my window ledge, and the spices I have accumulated one at a time over the past year. I won’t be using those this week at all.

In fact for the next five days, I will only be eating anything I manage to buy for five pounds in total, from today until friday. No store cupboard essentials that I have built up over time, even on my stringent budget.

I’m going back to where I started from, just under a year ago. No cumin, no garam masala, and although I had the chilli plant back then, I won’t be using it this week.

Those of you who have read ‘Hunger Hurts’ on my blog know where my story began. For five days, fifteen meals, five pounds, I’m going back to the start.

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Total food for the week:

1kg frozen mixed veg, 75p
411g lemon curd, 22p
White medium loaf, 50p
1l unsweetened soya drink, 59p
1kg white rice, 40p
500g corn flakes, 31p
400g chopped tomatoes, 31p
400g chopped tomatoes, 31p
400g kidney beans, 21p
13g mixed herbs, 30p
500g spaghetti, 39p
1 onion (125g), 11p

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To donate to Live Below The Line, a global poverty project, click here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

If you are taking part in this years Live Below The Line challenge and want to share your experience, get in touch at jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Reader’s Recipes: Patricia’s Dried Broad Bean Soup (Bessara)

I must say I use more and more pulses in my cooking now, as I am also trying to balance my budget, but I have to say that I really enjoy this kind of food. If you have a chance do try this recipe. It is absolutely delicious.

Beyssara, or Beyssar, depending on who you speak to, is a street food staple, somewhere between a thick soup and a thin puree. In Marrakesh it is cooked in large, round earthenware jars which are balanced over charcoal fires in a tilted position. The narrow opening of the jar faces the cool and he ladles the soup out into bowls using a long handled spoon.

Ingredients (Serves 4-6.)

250 g/ 9 ounces dried split broad beans, soaked overnight with 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda added to the water
2 unpeeled garlic cloves
1 ½ teaspoons each ground cumin and paprika scant ½ teaspoon dried chillies crushed to a coarse powder, or taste (or use chilli powder) salt to taste extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Rinse the broad beans, which will have swelled to twice original size, and put them in a large saucepan. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves and the spices and cover with water (about 2 litres / 3 ½ pints). Bring to the boil over a medium high heat, then cover the pan and leave to boil for 30 minutes or until the broad beans have turned into a mush.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer for a further 10-15 minutes. Add dried chillies, cumin and paprika. Discard the garlic and add sea salt to taste. Pour into a shallow serving bowl, drizzle olive oil all over and sprinkle with a little more cumin. Serve very hot, with more oil, cumin and chilli powder for those who like it.

Wishing you all the best.

Patricia

To see your favourite recipe here, email it to jackmonroe@live.co.uk

You’ve got to believe it will be alright in the end.

I stepped off the BBC Breakfast sofa this morning, said goodbye to Louise Minchin and Charlie Stayt, and hello to a thousand new Twitter followers.
I stepped into a lift at the hotel the BBC had provided for me in Media City, Salford, and a woman jumped in with me to say she had just seen me on the TV. With tears in her eyes, she told me she had just been made redundant, and that she had stopped to watch it, because the information about cooking meals on a tight budget had come at ‘just the right time’ for her.
I had just eight floors to reassure her that no matter how horrible and awful things are, you find a steely determination and a strength you didn’t know you had, to just bloody well carry on.
As I said on Facebook last night, I’m not pretending it’s ben easy. Constantly feeling like a failure, two suicide attempts, sitting with my back against the door as the bailiffs hammer on it for an electricity bill that I know I can’t pay. Applying for jobs week in, week out, with the deafening silence as not even a rejection email comes through.
My ‘£1 a day food’ started a year ago, when, with just over £6 in copper coins and five pence pieces in a dish in my kitchen, I went to my local supermarket to see what I could buy. Yes, I was on Income Support. Yes, I was claiming Housing Benefit, because I live in a society that thankfully supports people when they need it and having needed that system, I am eternally grateful for its existence. But my Housing Benefit wasn’t enough to cover the rent on a flat I had moved into when I had a £27,000 a year job, so I topped it up with Income Support. I didn’t meet the eligibility criteria for a Social Fund loan or Crisis loan, so I couldn’t move to a cheaper place. I unscrewed the light bulbs, turned off the heating, and eventually opened up my house to sell everything I owned in a desperate bid to clear rent arrears and stabilise.
I went to my local supermarket with that £6, knowing it was all I had for the week to feed myself and a 2 year old boy. I bought value chopped tomatoes, value kidney beans, value pasta and rice, value bread, value jam, some mushrooms, etc. I took it all home and looked at it, and started to cook simple food for myself and my son. We managed.
As the weeks went on, I became more adventurous. I had rice leftover, so I bought lentils one week. I went mad one week and bought paprika and garam masala. I found a bag of vegetables for £1, for 1.25kg of potatoes, carrots, parsnips and onions, and I started to make soups. And so it began.
I never set out to be ‘famous’ – in fact notoriety is a pain in the backside when you call someone up in your everyday job as a news reporter for the local paper and they want to talk to you about kidney beans – I set out as an angry single mum, commenting on local politics in my town. When I added the recipes to my blog, it was to help other people in similar situations, to cook simple, nutritious food for themselves and their families.
The feedback I get from people is largely, hugely, positive. People get in touch every day to tell me how much they save on their food shop, people discover cooking skills they didn’t know they had. Pensioners tell me that they cook my meals as they are on tight budgets themselves. A woman at the BBC office asked for my Twitter handle, because she would be drawing her pension soon and wanted to know how to cook well without spending a fortune.
People tell me I am a voice for hope, and for change. I don’t know about that, but I do know that if you told the young woman, who cried herself to sleep after writing the blog post ‘Hunger Hurts’ in July 2012, resolving to sell everything she owned to keep the four walls around her – that less than a year later she would be helping thousands of people in similar situations, she wouldn’t have believed you.
My recipes are handed out for free at local food banks, mentioned in the Telegraph and the Independent and on online money saving discussion forums every single day.
Someone told me, all those months ago, that it would be alright in the end.
Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

£1,049 For One Night On The Streets

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Remember that sleep out I did in a car park in March to raise money for the Southend YMCA? Sleeping on a box in a car park and waking up with frost on my face?!

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Well thanks to 67 amazing donations, I’ve raised £1049 so far to go towards tackling youth homelessness in the borough of Southend.

The donation page will be open for a few more weeks, so read the account of how I spent an evening sleeping on a cardboard box in a car park at minus three degrees, which was not only physically uncomfortable and absolutely freezing, but also extremely mentally challenging, considering my own experiences over the past year.

Many thanks – I wouldn’t have raised this much for Southend YMCA without your incredible donations. Thankyou for making a difference to young homeless people in my town.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Vanilla from Vanessa at Juniper & Rose

One of the fabulous things about the Internet, is its ability to connect people… In this case, a couple of weeks ago (yes, blogging has fallen slightly by the wayside lately), I received a delicious-smelling parcel to my desk at work…

And inside, were seven pods of vanilla all the way from Uganda, via Vanessa Kimbell from Juniper and Rose.

Vanilla is one of those things that I LOVE, but haven’t had for a very long time!

Anyway, I left it wrapped in its foil until today while I pondered what to do with it…

Pod #1 has been finely sliced and scraped out into a Kilner jar of sugar, to make vanilla sugar.

Pod #2 & 3 are going to be stood in a tall sealed jar of rice, to infuse – and to make heavenly rice pudding with a little further down the line…

Pods 4, 5, 6 and 7 are wrapped in tin foil, sticky and black and heady, awaiting their fates on top of the microwave…

How exciting – and luxurious! If anyone has any suggestions as to what to do with the remaining ones, give me a shout! Thanks Vanessa!🙂

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Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe. Email: jack.monroe@nqe.com

Fortnum & Mason Food And Drink Awards 2013

Well look at what just landed on my door mat…!!!😀

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How exciting! And how unbelievable. I never imagined, when I started scribbling down my budget recipes on my blog to cheer myself up last summer, that anyone else would even read them, let alone *this* happen. Life is a funny old thing. And now – its a funny old thing with a swanky awards ceremony. Well I never. Such fun!

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

“I Do Not Intend To Die, Washing A Teacup”. Margaret Thatcher, 1925 – 2013.

MARGARET Thatcher has passed away today, aged 87, following a stroke.

She entered the Houses of Parliament with drive, with ambition, and with a vision that she truly believed would change this country for the better. The daughter of a grocer, and a woman, she is often described as ‘shattering the glass ceiling’ for women in politics. She was the first, and only, female Prime Minister of this country.

Many on the Left joked about having “the champagne on ice” for her passing. Although I despise her politics, I am writing this with a heavy heart. I will not be hypocritical enough to write a gushing tribute, as I disagree profoundly with a lot of what she did. I know enough of my history to know that she was a truly divisive figure, and that many suffered under her leadership. I do not dispute that, nor dismiss it. It is both history, and a legacy, an undercurrent into our current Conservative Party politicians mindset and policies.

Yet Margaret’s death does not change anything.

It does not turn the clock back to May 1979.

It does not undo what has been done.

In this, I am saddened by todays events – not the death of the first female Prime Minister of this country, although this will be in itself a historically significant day – but at the jubilation and exultation displayed by people vulgar enough to celebrate the death of another human being.

A frail, 87 year old woman suffering a stroke, and dying in pain, is not something to rejoice in. She leaves behind her daughter Carole and son Mark, and I hope both have the sense to avoid their Twitter feeds for a week or so to let the trolls crawl back under their bridges.

As one of my friends pointed out as they ‘pulled rank’ on me earlier, I did not live through the Thatcher years. I did not live through the high levels of unemployment, strikes, riots, and social unrest that ensued.

However, now in 2013, the years that I undisputedly am living through, I look around me at high levels of unemployment, strikes, riots, and social unrest.

For those embittered at what they call ‘The Thatcher Legacy’ – ask yourselves, what do you want to see happen in our Great Britain today? The same again? What would you change? What would you do?

As Sure Start childrens centres are closing, as Disability Living Allowance is being replaced by Personal Independence Payments, as the Bedroom Tax uproots people from their homes – what would you change? What would you do? If you hate the contents of the history book so much, why not change it so it doesn’t repeat itself? Or do you intend to die, washing up a tea cup?

To those exultant, even fleetingly, about the death of a frail old woman, I leave you with these words, from the 2011 film ‘The Iron Lady’:

“Watch your thoughts, for they will become words.
Watch your words for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they’ll become habits.
Watch your habits for they will forge your character.
Watch your character, for it will make your destiny.
What we think, we become.”

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Lemon Curd Sponge Puddings, 24p.

Lemon Curd Sponge Puddings, 95p for 4 or 24p each.

Luckily for me, as I shop very carefully, I have most of the ingredients for this in the cupboard at all times. Unluckily for my jeans, that means I’m never more than thirty-two minutes away from a cake…

This is a simple, classic, sticky treat, that Small Boy and myself enjoy every now and again. They also freeze well, so I make four – we have one each, and pop the remaining two in the freezer.

If you don’t have pudding tins, then a deep muffin tray will do the job just as well, but may make six smaller desserts instead.

Lemon Sponge Pudding. Jack Monroe, April 2013.

Lemon Sponge Pudding. Jack Monroe, April 2013.

Ingredients:*

100g self raising flour, 4p (65p/1.5kg)
70g butter, 34p (£1.20/250g)
2 eggs, 44p (£2.65/12 free range)
50g sugar, 5p (89p/kg)
Splash of lemon juice, 2p (60p/250ml)
8 heaped teaspoons of lemon curd, 6p (22p/411g)

How To:

1. Place the butter in a microwaveable dish and heat on the defrost setting for 30 seconds until soft. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

2. Add the sugar and a few shakes of lemon, and mix together until well combined. Break the eggs in, and add the flour.

3. Mix well with a fork or wooden spoon to create a smooth, glossy batter.

4. Lightly grease each of your pudding tins with a little extra butter to stop the puddings from sticking to the sides – which will ruin a seriously good dessert!

5. Dollop a generous blob of lemon curd in the bottom of each pudding tin.

6. Divide the batter between each pudding tin, spooning it on top of the lemon curd until each tin is approx 2/3 full.

7. Cook in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes at 170C. They should be risen, light and golden, and should come away from the tin easily to serve.

8. Tip into a bowl to serve. Can be served with additional lemon curd, warmed through to make a sticky sauce – that’s how I eat mine!

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

*(All prices quoted are Sainsburys or Sainsburys Basics where available, correct at time of publication. Costs checked against ASDA SmartPrice, Tesco Value, Morrisons Value and Waitrose Essentials ranges. Some variation between spermarkets but most items widely available at similar prices.)

Dear George Osborne, I Am Not A Sociopath

Dear George,

I would like to address your comments that have been in the national media today, Thursday 4th April.

When asked whether Mick Philpott, the now-notorious killer of six of his seventeen children, behaved in the way that he did as a result of the benefits system in the UK, you replied:

“It’s right we ask questions as a Government, a society and as taxpayers, why we are subsidising lifestyles like these.”
Now I am not the Government, so cannot ask the question ‘as the Government’, but as a member of society and as a taxpayer, I can ask the following questions myself, and seek to offer the following reassurances that I am not a sociopath.

Firstly, while we’re making sweeping assessments about what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ and what ‘should’ and ‘should not’ be funded from taxpayers money, let’s have a glance around.

As a member of society and as a tax payer, why am I funding lifestyles like, say, Iain Duncan Smith claiming £39 on a breakfast, while I queue in a food bank for an hour in the freezing cold to collect a can of chopped tomatoes, some pasta, and some haricot beans? Why does 20% of my salary go towards these gross excesses, when I cannot afford to feed myself?

How about Sir Peter Vigger’s £1,165 ‘floating pond feature’ for his duck pond? Or for £41,000 of furniture for the Care Services Minister, Phil Hope’s small London flat?

Why, as a taxpayer and as a member of society, am I paying for second and third homes, for soundproofing of bedrooms of MPs daughters, for Laura Ashley curtains for other people, when I have no curtains myself?

Why, as a taxpayer and as a member of society, am I paying for prisoners to have Playstations and to paint their walls in pretty colours, when I have had to cancel my own TV license because I cannot afford the bill?

You talk about excesses and abuses (and to my knowledge no Member of Parliament has murdered his or her children), but to read the Judges speech at Mick Philpotts sentencing today shows a deep, dark insight into the life of a man for whom money may have been a motivating factor, but not the only one. A man obsessed with his young mistress, a man to whom the idea of ‘heroically’ saving his children from a house fire that he started himself. This is not the behaviour of an ordinary man, and should not be used as an example to castigate us all. If you use benefits as a factor, you may as well use his hair colour, or the first initial of his name, for all the relevance it has to his mindset.

You ask why the taxpayers and members of society should be funding this level of depravity, of self-obsession, of injustice – and I ask you, Mr Osborne, to look around you. I ask you to get your own House in order before you start to point fingers at every single mother in the land who claims £20.30 a week in Child Benefit, with your implication, your dividing and ruling tactic, that welfare claimants are scroungers, and hard-working people should be terrified of them all.

Receiving £20.30 a week in Child Benefit does not drive one to fantasise about murder and deception.

I do not doubt that it is true that Mick Philpott would not have been able to sustain his lifestyle without the financial support of the welfare state.

In the same way, your own colleagues, Members of Parliament, would not be able to sustain their own lifestyles without the support of the very same taxpayers. Why do you seem to forget that the ‘squeezed middle’ provide for those at the top, as well as those at the bottom, while freezing and starving themselves?

In your accusation of ‘lifestyles like these’, you are judging every single mother that claims £20.30 per week in Child Benefit, or those who earn so little that they claim Housing Benefit – 80% of new claimants of Housing Benefit and Local Housing Allowance are in work, for your information.

By using the most extreme example as a justification for castigating and bastardising the welfare state, you undermine your own argument and moreover, undermine every single decent, honest person that is in the unfortunate position of having to declare every penny that moves through their bank accounts in order to claim Housing Benefit, or Child Benefit, or any other benefit.

I took the BBC Class Calculator test yesterday, twice. The first time, I answered it as to my current circumstances. I work full time, on minimum wage. I am a single parent to a three year old boy, who attends a nursery while I work. His childcare fees are partly covered by the Childcare element of Working Tax Credits, and I currently receive £20.30 a week in Child Benefit. I rent my home, and currently do not receive any Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit.

I am currently in the lowest social class, that the BBC Class Calculator defines as ‘precariat’.

I also answered it as though I had travelled back in time two years, to my £27,000 a year job and no childcare fees. Under those circumstances, I was the Technical Middle Class.

It is fair to say, then, that I have seen both sides of the coin. And that I am not a sociopath. This hasn’t been assessed by a medical professional, but I am self-assured enough to know that I do not fantasise about burning down my house or murdering my child. Such qualities do not manifest themselves in any decent character, with ones giros, benefit payments, welfare, or handouts.

I understand that the welfare system in this country is in desperate need of reform, and that it is no longer fit for the purpose it was intended. I do not support the hyperbolic public petition for Iain Duncan Smith to live on £53 per week, because I honestly don’t think that he is open-minded enough to learn anything from it.

However, I would like you to take five minutes to get inside the head of a real life benefit claimant, and understand that life on the downward slope, freezing, starving, and applying for jobs every single day, is a much more typical example of ‘what the Government, taxpayer and society are subsidising’ than the Mick Philpotts of this world.

I suggest you visit the link below, and type the words ‘Hunger Hurts’ into the search bar.

Yours, without hysterics and hyperbole,

Ms Jack Monroe

http://www.agirlcalledjack.com

School Dinner Days Jam Sponge, 23p

School Dinner Jam Sponge, 90p for 4 at 23p each.

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Ingredients:*

100g self raising flour, 4p (65p/1.5kg)
70g butter, 34p (£1.20/250g)
2 eggs, 44p (£2.65/12 free range)
50g sugar, 5p (89p/kg)

4 heaped teaspoons of jam, 3p (29p/454g)

How To:

1. Place the butter in a microwaveable dish and heat on the defrost setting for 30 seconds until soft. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

2. Add the flour and sugar, and break the eggs in.

3. Mix well with a fork or wooden spoon to create a smooth batter.

4. Lightly grease each of your pudding tins with a little extra butter to stop the puddings from sticking to the sides – which will ruin a seriously good dessert!

5. Dollop a generous blob of jam in the bottom of each pudding tin.

6. Spoon batter on top of the jam until each tin is approx 2/3 full.

7. Cook in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes at 170C. They should be risen, light and golden, and should come away from the tin easily to serve.

8. Tip into a bowl to serve. Can be served with custard, but I don’t bother. In fact, I just devour it. *chomp!*

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

*(Prices calculated at Sainsburys, using the Basics range where available. Costs checked on date of publication against ASDA SmartPrice, Tesco Value, Morrisons Value and Waitrose Essentials. Some variation between major supermarkets but most items widely available at similar price.)

Leek, Savoy & Cheese Pasta, 43p

Well, Lent is over and save a few hiccups, accidental and weakness, I managed to add quite a lot to my vegan recipe repertoire over the past month and a half.

However, a week ago when I was clearing out my fridge, I came across a piece of smoked cheese i’d bought from the reduced counter at my local supermarket a long time ago. I’ve been in this game too long to throw it away, so I thought I would make something out of it.

The result, is the best thing I have ever put in my mouth. This didn’t even make it to my dining table – I stood and scoffed it in the kitchen, and had to be very disciplined about the second portion, which is tomorrows lunch!

I have made vegan alterations below for my vegan readers, and those that don’t have teasing, tempting cheeses loitering in their fridges…

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Ingredients, Serves Two at 43p each*.

100g leeks, 25p (£2.50/kg loose)
2 Savoy cabbage leaves, 8p (80p/cabbage)
100g pasta, 8p (39p/500g)
1 garlic clove, 3p (46p for 2 bulbs, avg 8 cloves each)
1 onion, 5p (from a 1.25kg veg pack, £1)
Tablespoon of flour, 1p (65p/1.5kg)
15ml tablespoon of vegetable oil, 2p (£4.50/3l)
100ml soya milk, 6p (59p/1l, Unsweetened Soya Drink)
30g Smoked cheese, 23p (75p/100g)

1. Firstly, put the pasta water on to boil at the back of the stove.

2. Add a little oil to a saucepan. Finely chop the leek, peel and crush or finely chop the garlic, and finely chop the onion. Add to the pan on a low heat.

3. Cut the thick stems away from the middle of the cabbage, shred finely, and add to the pan.

4. When the vegetables have softened, tip into a bowl to one side and reserve.

5. Using the same saucepan, add a little extra oil, and the flour. Stir together quickly to make a paste.

6. Add a little soya milk (or ordinary milk, I used soya as I never have cows milk in the fridge these days) and stir constantly to make a smooth sauce. Use a wooden spoon or a fork to mix. Keep adding until you have a sauce of medium thickness.

7. Chop the smoked cheese into cubes; the rind is edible, so you can throw that in, or discard it if you wish. Add the vegetables back to the sauce and stir until the cheese has melted.

8. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the now-boiling water and cook for a few minutes until soft.

9. Drain the pasta, and serve with the sauce on top. Enjoy!

Variations:

To make it vegan, omit the smoked cheese. Instead, add the vegetables to the white sauce with a splash of lemon and a pinch of nutmeg, and allow to cook for longer on a lower heat to infuse the flavours together.

If you’re a carnivore, this would be delicious with some cubes of bacon cooked in with the vegetables at the beginning.

Also going to try to make a beetroot and balsamic dip/chutney/accompaniment for this at some point in the future…

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

*(Prices calculated at Sainsburys, using the Basics range where available. Costs checked on date of publication against ASDA SmartPrice, Tesco Value, Morrisons Value and Waitrose Essentials. Some variation between major supermarkets but most items widely available at similar price.)