Live Below The Line: What Would I Do Differently?

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 […]

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Day Eight, The End Of The Line

At the end of today, surveying the £5 food shop I did last Sunday, I have left: Bread, 4 slices. Lemon curd, one third of the jar. Cornflakes, 250g. Unsweetened soya drink: 200ml. Long grain white rice: 200g. Chopped tomatoes: 300g. Kidney beans: 200g – already made into kidney bean burgers on Tuesday, and frozen in patties. Frozen mixed vegetables: 300g. Spaghetti: 400g Onion: – NONE! Finally used the blighter! Broccoli, carrot, courgette and green beans: 120g – now eight days out of date. Mixed herbs: most of the jar. I could eke this out for another three days – but I need protein, fruit and whole grains. A week is more than long enough to demonstrate what nutritional deficiency there is in such a cheap food budget. Reading friends reported experiences during the challenge, who survived on 11p noodles and cheap crackers, I know I’ve done well to work in carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, tomato, courgette, peppers, bean sprouts and onions this week. Save two days when I managed to forget my lunch at work, I ate four times a day, usually toast for breakfast, cornflakes as a snack, rice and vegetables for lunch, and rice and vegetables for dinner. I averaged around 1000 calories a day – 600 below the recommended minimum daily amount for a woman of my age, height and activity level. I managed to consume around 30g of protein a day – less than half […]

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LBL Day Six, It’s Not Over Til It’s Over.

I have received a few messages from concerned friends and strangers since I announced that I was extending the Live Below The Line challenge to use up the last of my £5 supplies, and I would like to try to alleviate some concerns. I’d like to first thank everyone for their concern for my health – it is something I take seriously myself – and to clarify that I have sought advice from a dietitian about the challenge, who confirmed what I thought about my nutritional intake at the moment. It’s lower than it would ideally be, but I’m not at any real risk to my health if I continue for a few more days, and I will return to my normal eating patterns at the end of the challenge – which is higher in fruit, dairy products and protein than my current supplies! I decided to continue with the challenge for two reasons, firstly because I am still fundraising for Oxfam, and secondly because I am finding it challenging on a personal level. People often level accusations at me about my normal food shop and lifestyle that ‘not everyone has a herb garden’ or cumin and paprika in the cupboard. I know. I have lived through worse – regular readers will know that in the worst days last year I missed meals for days on end just to feed my son. Those who don’t know the story, I recommend […]

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At least I have food to be bored with. LBL Day 5.

This should be the end of my Live Below The Line challenge. Tonight, this should be all over. But for people living in poverty, in forgotten households and pockets all over this, one of the richest nations in the world, there isn’t a store cupboard to go back to. There isn’t a shelf with paprika and garam masala on, or a trough on the window ledge with coriander and chillies in. There’s no magic cupboard of carefully built up resources to fall back on. I remember those days all too well. Scratching around in the bottom of the fridge for half an onion and yesterday’s tomato pasta, cobbling together something, anything to eat. Picking the green spots off the side of a week old loaf of bread and pretending you can’t taste the sour yeasty tang that kicks at the back of your throat, because mouldy bread is better than no bread at all. I have raised well over £2,000 for Oxfam as I sit on my sofa and type this. But is it enough? How can I stop now? I have got left the following items from my original £5 food shop on Sunday: Bread, 11 slices. Lemon curd, less than half the jar left. Cornflakes, 390g. Unsweetened soya drink: 650ml Long grain white rice: 485g Chopped tomatoes: 400g Kidney beans: 300g – already made into kidney bean burgers on Tuesday, and frozen in patties. Frozen mixed vegetables: 525g […]

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Day Four, on accidentally forgetting ones lunch.

At the end of yesterday, day four of my Live Below The Line challenge, I had the following food left from my £5 food shop on Sunday: Bread, 13 slices. Lemon curd, approximately half the jar left. Cornflakes, 390g. Unsweetened soya drink: 650ml Long grain white rice: 555g Chopped tomatoes: 500g Kidney beans: 300g – already made into kidney bean […]

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