I’ve been asked a few times by different people what I would do differently if I could do Live Below The Line again. (Which could be a serious consideration, as it runs until June, so plenty of time for a second crack at it!)
Firstly, in the first five days I only used up half of my food budget, with around four small meals each day. But, as it was pointed out to me by both well wishers and my own plummeting energy levels, the meals that I had were high in cheap carbs and very low in protein.
So what would I do differently?
Firstly, I think I’d lose the cornflakes and have toast for breakfast instead, but I’d trade the white bread for whole meal, to get more whole grains and fibre. When you’re eating such a limited diet, it’s important to maximise the ‘goodness’ wherever possible. I wanted white bread, because I thought it would be a ‘treat’, but I found myself peaking and crashing with inadequate nutrition and far too much starch. (50p)
Secondly, I’d buy some meat. I did some swift calculations and the value sausages provide 6g of protein each, at 7p each (8 for 58p). The 670g bacon for £1.09 provides an average of 19g protein per day if split over 5 days, and the 650g turkey drumstick for £1.75 is the highest in protein at 44g per day if split over the 5 days. Unfortunately the budget doesn’t stretch to all 3, so I’d choose the sausages and bacon at a total cost of £1.67, for versatility as well as additional protein.
Thirdly, I’d skip the pasta. I only ended up using it because I felt obliged to, and the same with the onion. I’d keep the rice, as I could do different things with it, and even considered a rice pudding at one point! (Rice 40p)
I’d keep the kidney beans and mixed veg, as I think the burgers (a rehash of my kidney bean and carrot and cumin burgers) were a good source of protein during the week, which is another 96p of my budget gone. I could also combine the sausage meat with mashed beans to make burgers that stretch just a little bit further..
I’d keep the chopped tomatoes, at 31p.
With my last 54 pennies, I’d scour the fruit and veg department to see what else I could pick up.
From the list above, I could have whole meal toast with peanut butter for breakfast – far healthier than the white toast with lemon curd, but more expensive at around 12p for breakfast instead of the 3 – 6p I was averaging last week. I could also stretch to a sausage sandwich if I planned carefully enough – but without butter or ketchup it wouldn’t be brilliant…
For lunches and dinners I could have a bacon and bean casserole, or cold tomato and vegetable rice with chunks of bacon, or kidney bean and vegetable burgers with rice, or sausage and bean burgers, with a yoghurt for a snack.
I haven’t worked out the nutrition calculations, but it looks higher in protein and whole grains than my previous attempt. I think I’ll let my body recover before I consider attempting it again, however…
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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