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 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:

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. I’m certainly getting a lot of inspiration from your blog to change the way I both shop and once the currently clutter in the fridge has been eaten I will but replenishing with ingredients and trying some of your recipes especially your take on sweet and sour from today’s meal. Your story is an inspirational one, which will hopefully bring change to this culture of spend spend spend the UK seems to have developed. Congratulations on raising £700+ too!

  2. Today I have had 2 bowls of homemade from value ingredients mexican bean soup, a rich tea and a tesco value roll with tomato ketchup and two cups of tesco value tea. I only discovered your blog today but I am loving it. I am going to make sunshine bread or rolls tomorrow for my 3 boys. Could you do a recipe that uses red lentils sometime please?

    • There’s a red lentil bolognese that I usually use the next day to top home made pizzas if there’s any left… I also have a recipe for carrot and kidney bean soup, if you add red lentils to it too, it thickens to make a delicious pasta sauce. (You can add chilli and/or cumin to it too, depending on taste, or coriander for a milder, sweeter version.)

      • Ooh will have to look the recipes through again 🙂 my kids love pasta and pizza. I made homemade pizza last week & just used tomato purée to top & some grated value cheese but I bet it’s much tastier with bolognase sauce instead of purée. Thanks 🙂

  3. I know left overs don’t count but as I’m unable to throw away any food I shall be starting my 5 days as soon as the 2 inches of cucumber, half a nan bread and other bits and pieces in the fridge are finished up. Not sure how I’ll do without tea, maybe I’ll see just how many cups you can get out of one bag. I tried the carrot, bean and cumin burger – which were great. We used to make orange squash iced lollies as children – these might be making a come back in our household.

  4. One nutritionist told me to add black pepper, cinnamon and turmuric to my cooking to stabilise blood sugar and have anti-inflammatory effects. Black pepper and cinnamon are pretty cheap but the turmuric I waited until it was on offer.

    Onions, lemon, garlic, fresh cilantro ( coriander ) seem to make me more alert, and I can buy ginger root very cheaply which also seems to help, I sometimes buy a little lump and peel then dump it in boiling water for 10 minutes, always feel better after.

    I have also found eating ‘traditionally’ works better turned on its head: dinner foods in the am, sleepy high-carb foods in the pm!


    Question: are vitamins available on the NHS in the UK?

    • You can buy turmeric powder and other spices in larger quantities very cheaply if you shop for them in little Asian supermarkets. Nowadays, Tesco, Makro and maybe others have Asian food and spices isles which are better priced for the Asian community who use these foodstuffs in quantity.

      Turmeric is mainly used as a “poor wo/man’s saffron”, but has beneficial properties for your liver. A study on laboratory rats 11 years ago showed that consumption of turmeric prevented cirrhosis of the liver on rats addicted to alcohol.

  5. Wow. Thank you so much for sharing and foe highlighting what real day to day life is like for so many people. After working since I was able to pay narional insurance, I have found myself suddenly jobless with 3 children and a husband who has just started a business. I am a teacher but cannot afford childcare for full time work and so have had to stop. I find that each week I am scraping together enough money to feed the family and there is no way I could do it on £5, although some weeks I genuinely think I may have to!
    Thanks sgain, I shall be reading with interest

  6. Hi. I think you are doing a great job highlighting the problems. I’ve directed so many people to your blog and written down recipes for those who haven’t got a computer. Thank you so much for your help (and your enthusiasm)!

    My local Sainsburys does a basics medium sliced wholemeal loaf for 50p. I’ve always found that wholemeal bread keeps me feeling fuller for longer than white bread. Maybe it is the extra fibre but I wondered if that might help your midmorning empty feeling next time??

  7. Thank you for all the work you do in highlighting these problems. I’ve passed on a link to your blog to so many people and written out recipes for those who don’t have a computer. Thank you : )

    My local Sainsburys does a basics medium sliced wholemeal loaf for 50p. I’ve always found that wholemeal fills me up more for longer than white bread. I wondered if that might help your midmorning munchies next time??

  8. Hi, Jack, sorry to sound like your mum, but I`m worried about your lack of protein. After 30 years as a veggie, I know that we in the West eat too much of it, and can manage with much less – but wouldn`t want to miss out on your blog cos you`re in hospital! Do take care – SB needs you. x

  9. Wow, this is a really interesting read. I have decided not to do the challenge with my family, but I do want to highlight the issues it raises

    You can find my thoughts about Live Below the Line here

    A big part of this for me is that the five days do not give long enough for people to understand the monotony of eating the same things day i, day out and the horror of an empty cupboard. It is possible to do this short term, but long term it is soul destroying.

    I have huge issues regarding waste and wonder if more focus should be put in to showing people just what could be achieved with the food they throw away and stop people wasting it

    • Interestingly, I’m doing mine for longer than 5 days – until the supplies run out, in fact. I’m also keeping track of food waste. So far, zero! I was talking on BBC Jersey yesterday about supermarkets throwing food away. I think I called it ‘abysmal’. I’ll find the recording!

      • i Have just watched your BBC News piece and have to say you are a pretty inspirational lady. I guess that necessity is the mother of all things.

        I am really glad I have found your blog and will keep on reading. Jen

  10. This is excellent – fascinating, eye-opening and sobering. Thank you for writing and sharing it. It has made me think I should experience LBL next time round.

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