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.


Plus my earlier shop at £4.40:


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:

If you are taking part in this years Live Below The Line challenge and want to share your experience, get in touch at

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe


  1. Love your recipes…you’ve taught me how to cook.
    But…why don’t you get a nector card? Points add up for free food!

  2. Nice mix of vegetables! Was going to suggest leaving a few pence so you could use your windowsill garden produce since that is permitted in the challenge.


    • Where I live (Wallisdown) in Poole we have a choice of local supermarkets and convenience stores (Tesco). The supermarket choice is Sainsbury’s and Aldi, Now the brands are different but the products are the same. So 8 yogs (2 packs) is £2 in Aldi, whereas. In Sainsbury’s its £4. Bread is 99p in Aldi and £1.50 in the other. I’ve seen a trolley full ( family of 4 for a week) in Aldi cost £30 and similar trolley full for the same family size is £50 -£ Sainsbury’s. Now for the interesting bit. 1 litre Brandy in Aldi is 9.99 and a 1ltr baileys like drink is £4.99. Get my beer at the local Turkish off licence for 24x 440ml cans of Holsten Pils. £20. I soak mixed cake making fruit and cranberries in Brandy and sling 2 teaspoons of it in my breakfast yog. yummy! Now I only mention this because the pricing of essentials in Aldi is consistently lower than Sainsbury’s. We are all equipped with receptors in our brains for alcohol, nicotine, cannabis and opium. That’s why there’s a constant legal argument about the third and fourth. However the third receptor is an anti-inflammatory one and doctors exploit the fourth which is pain relief. One day the third (THC) will be prescription only. But not too soon. So don’t hold your breath.

  3. I’m so glad you got some fresh veg! I checked out my local Sainsbury’s to see if was doable for me on the Paleo diet, ie high protein. Not very easy but, yes, it is doable. Going to try when current supply of fresh food runs out. I too saw the reduced bags of veg and salad. That’s the way to go! Good luck. Shall follow your progress with great interest and link to my blog.

  4. Brilliant, it’s amazing how healthy and goodness filled those bags look compared to all the ‘red and white’ packaging of the rest. And isn’t your onion well camoflaged in that top picture, took me a minute to spot it 🙂

    Are you like me in that you’ll sit patiently picking through the ‘mixed bags’ to get the right ingredients for each meal instead of just using them en masse?

    By the way what is your little one eating, just his normal foods or will he be joining in slightly?

    Wishing you the very best of luck for the week ahead.

    • SB will be eating with me when he’s here. I’ve worked out ‘daily amounts’ by adding everything up and dividing by 5, I think I might be okay…if a little sick of lemon curd sandwiches by the end of it all! I was going to get whole meal bread as its the same price, but I had a ‘sod it’ moment – I never eat white, and it’s delicious. It’s about as close to a treat as I’ll get all week!

  5. Hi Jack, I started following you this weekend after seeing you on BBC morning telly and felt so inspired, and also ashamed of what I waste every week. I am going to be more discerning and careful with my food shopping from this coming week. I have recently started renovating the wasteland that is our front garden so I can grow my own veg, which is a long term thing but will reap benefits I hope. Do you grow stuff other than herbs – it’s possible to grow tomatoes and salad on window sills and even potatoes and strawberries in old welly boots I have learned! All the best and looking forward to your future posts, Fay

  6. This is an enormous challenge – very inspiring, I never used to buy reduced food but now I hardly buy full price where possible – especially meat and fish as they are just soo expensive full price! I have much less food in my fridge now and make sure I use it and dont waste where ever possible! Dogs will eat most things if I cant for some reason, good luck with your challenge!

  7. Inspired and moved by your blog yet remain unconvinced by most (not yours) live below the line meals such as nasty value sausages and think sharing recipes as you do and cooking skills are the real answer, It is 2013 and we have food banks and this is shocking.

    • Hi Jack, Love your blog and ideas.I’m living on a tight budget and so I try to target low priced foods of course but I also focus those which are particularly satisfying, eg natural yoghurts,pulses,eggs,tuna fish,ham,reduced fat minced beef,fruit and vegetables. When buying bread, I choose rye for that reason (a loaf costs 1€50 in France where I’m living). Best of luck this week and I will be following your blog with interest.

  8. Good luck Jack. Looking at the shopping list it made me think about the huge variety of food I eat, and the number of spices and flavours I use to try and interest the appetite of two adult children who are, I am sad to confess pretty fussy eaters. It also made me reflect on the way that millions exist on an unvairying diet of staples, cassava, rice, or whatever is their cultural norm.

    • Spices New buzz about Cinnamon. Apparently the soluble version is completely non-toxic and it improves cholesterol ratios and lowers blood pressure. As a true believer of nutritionals; Saw Palmetto has done the job for me. African Mango means I weigh less and keeping my trousers from falling down could do with a little help. Proteolytic Enzymes we all have but as we get older many suffer with pain. I give my wife Proteolytic Enzymes and she can do without water tablets, dicodramol and morphine. Some peoples Proteolytic Enzymes drop as they age.

  9. It’s funny how many different diets I’ve had over the years yet the only times I’ve been thin/healthy were when I chose to eat vegetarian ( but soon found I needed red meat once a month after having a baby- to prevent anaemia ) or when we were less well off and subsisted on jam/toast, tea, rice pudding, baked potatoes and fish fingers!

    Every health issue I have had through life I have been given different nutritional advice on cruciform vegetables/ soy/ stuff with seeds/ dairy/ wheat etc etc. Liver was good then bad then good again. Same with tuna. Same with eggs. At some point I gave up on it all- so much is marketing hype around the sale of groceries/ supplements/ books/ diet plans etc.

    A friend told me recently she can no longer eat processed foods, she was sweetening her tea with Stevia retrieved from her purse because the Truvia on the table was unacceptable; I hadn’t the heart to tell her they are both processed foods marketed by competing major maufacturers, and some raw honey might be a better choice for unprocessed sugar…she isn’t allowed honey on this diet!

    We can learn a lot from people in other nations who aren’t bombarded with over-information and pseudo-science eg.,29307,1626519,00.html ‘What the World Eats’.

    It’s an interesting ethical question whether all the avaiability and regulation of foodstuffs has helped capitalist nations: we certainly don’t seem entirely healthy and that spawns a whole other industry, whether private or tax-funded, of treating our indulgence-fuelled ailments!

    Good for you trying to reach out to people, you certainly look very well…but I also don’t think what you are doing there would work the same here. If you did get sick from overconsumption of salt/sugar/fats in the UK, you would get free medical advice and treatment: here in the US the people who are fighting the same daily battle for sustenance are likely to be underinsured, uninsured or even if they are covered with health insurance, their premiums and yearly deducible is really expensive.

    With Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by January next year everyone in America should theoretically be able to OBTAIN healthcare…whether they can afford it is another matter. I priced mine up best value as $300 a month premiums plus $10000 I have to pay before the insurance kicks in- $1100 a month just for what I know I will need? Currently to do that would also be a six month waiting period for ‘pre-existing conditions’, still working through the small print on that.

    Plus most policies will have a ‘grace period’ say 60 to 90 days when if you catch up on payments you’re still covered, but in reality even three months does not reflect recovery from a crisis. So- many people will pay their payments to no long-term benefit if they cannot keep affording them.

    Why bother? becomes a legitimate question…

    Because the longer we live the more people make money?

    Quality of life is more important than how long we live because we may or may not eat the right vegetables.

    I myself do not want to propel myself into longeivity just to find I am an unwelcome nuisance in my culture.

    That’s the whole diet-society argument: what are we trying to acheive here? Daily survival- I get it. What happens beyond that?


    Good luck with your challenge- challenge more from what I have seen!

  10. If all I can afford was out of date stir fry mix, and cheap poor nutrition from the supermarkets, own brands, what is the point, is this living, surviving, what for ?

    • @ Heather…What is wrong with supermarkets own brands?! We are disabled and having to live on ‘supermarket own brands for many years’. Cheap yes, thank the Lord, but ‘Poor in Nutrition’ NOT. We actually have a balanced healthy diet and Jack has proved that wholeheartedly out of her own circumstances trying to fed herself and her dear little boy. We need more blessed people like ‘Jack’ to inspire us at such times as these, God Bless. In today’s financial climate with thousands forced into deep poverty, being made homeless and having to choose between heating or eating. Those of us who have a roof over our head, and a meager meal on our table whether it be ‘out of date stir fry mix and cheap own brands from supermarkets’ is the way it is. Going back to the Victory days in war time Britain, how do you think they survived, on less, if they were lucky!!!! Sending prayers out to those who have nothing but a plastic bag with just their immediate belongs, and having to forage for what they can get to fed themselves and their family. Stay strong and keep fighting, Don’t let this Con-dem Nation beat you down. We are NOT going to LAY DOWN & DIE!!!!!!

    • Cheap raw ingredients are not necessarily poor in nutrition i.e tinned tomatoes, bread, corn flakes, spaghetti, kidney beans etc have the same nutritional value as expensive branded goods.

      We have been conditioned to think that you must buy the big brands and cheaper products are always inferior and that is not always the case.

  11. Hiya Jack, thank you for your amazing inspiration and teaching others how to live on what they have! What people don’t realize is that this challenge as they see it is how you and your little boy ‘have’ to live, or should I say ‘SURVIVE’ because living on benefit is not living, it is surviving, if your’e lucky! Many thousands of peoples are finding themselves in a similar situations, other from being made homeless and forced into poverty, through disability, benefit cuts, loose of job etc.. having to choose food or heating. Being disabled ourselves my fiance and I having to live on Disability benefit. We had to cut our fortnightly food shopping by half and have since they cut my fiancé’s ESA and appealing ESA. We have a small plot where we grow our own veg and staples’ Carrot, Onions, Potatoes, Green Beans, Corn, Squash and Cabbages, Raspberries, Strawberries, Loganberries, Peaches, Blackcurrants. Even though we have help to work when we are unable to. We are following your blog and am copy and pasting your lovely recipes we are looking forward to try out. And am reblogging your blog site to share with others, God Bless. We hold you and your dear little boy in our prayers. Blessings, Peace, Prayers and Huggs 🙂

  12. ‘If all I can afford was out of date stir fry mix, and cheap poor nutrition from the supermarkets, own brands, what is the point, is this living, surviving, what for ?’

    surviving is an instinct in itself, especially for those with young children to care for. But when the thrift movement was reborn here in the US a writer Amy Dacyzyn produced a magazine called The Tightwad Gazette which was published into a book where she points out the best time for thrift is before it is necessary. I took a lot from her writing which was based on her family experience of raising 5 children and buying her dream home through maximising use of every penny and doing without- and making it fun too.

    People laughed at me buying a small car and penny-pinching when I didn’t need to but I sure was glad when I got sick last year that I’ve overpaid my mortgage and don’t have car payments to make. My income dropped by a fifth as my bills went up ( medicine is extremely expensive in the US, especially for those without insurance )

    It’s a hell of a struggle here in the US if you get sick- still trying to work out how to cope with that long-term, but at least I have a roof over my head for some time while I work it out.

    In another book The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents are Going Broke the now US Senator Elizabeth Warren advises people the most important bill to pay is rent or mortgage, when the most aggressive collectors/marketers are with loans and credit card companies etc.

    I enjoy finding bargains and free stuff, and learning about people’s experiences not unlike my own makes me feel less isolated.

    Gentile poverty was always known in the UK, especially women growing old alone, having traditionally priorited the lives of their men and children, but I remember people helping each other, a feeling of all in it together. It’s not the same here, cross the rubicon from wealth to misfortune and everyone takes a big step away!

    Allowing poverty has many implications. 5 black children died here recently jumping into water to save a sixth child ( who survived ) when they couldn’t swim: because of segregation their parents and grandparents couldn’t swim, they weren’t allowed in public pools when there still were some, and it’s not part of the current education curriculum. I don’t know of a single public pool here in Houston, one of the largest cities in the US, though there was one when I lived in Arkansas.

    There are still public libraries where people can take classes, get books, use computers…but there are regular mutterings about not funding them.

    I grew up in Britain when every child had access to books, parks, swimming pools, doctors, all through commitment to ending poverty.

    Erode all that and what quality of life will future generations have?

    It’s fun to me to see how little I can get by on in the grocery shopping: there’s so much I can’t control or manage well right now, it’s one little thing I can!

    And store-brands are often better quality than some of the named brands,in my experience…

  13. Are canned kidney beans cheaper than dried in the UK? We would get waaay more dried for the price of a tin in NZ.

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