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 […]

Read More →

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. 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 […]

Read More →

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, […]

Read More →

“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 […]

Read More →

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, […]

Read More →

Carrot And Coriander Soup

Carrot and coriander soup is a classic fresh soup that crops up everywhere – from inside cardboard cartons in the supermarket to on smart restaurant menus. here’s my simple recipe for making your own. I often substitute the fresh potato and carrot for their tinned sisters, for an even easier version. Serves 2 1 onion 4 carrots 1 potato 1 […]

Read More →

LOVE SOUP [VG/V/DF/GF]

There are many different recipes entitled Love Soup – I’ve seen some rich chicken soup recipes, some with heady garlic and some deep red tomato ones. By chance, the ingredients for this were what I had kicking around in the fridge last Valentines Day, so this warming carrot, ginger and onion soup is mine. Nothing says ‘I love you’ quite […]

Read More →

For John Hadjicostas, In Memoriam.

For John S. Hadjicostas, in memoriam. John Hadjicostas – or as I called him, Grandad – passed away this morning at Southend Hospital. The man that we thought was invincible, who survived strokes, heart attacks, and cancers, has gone. I spent summers down at his guest houses on the seafront, folding bed linen and washing up and eventually cooking breakfasts, listening to his stories of growing up as a boy in Cyprus, and drinking Aldi lemonade. It was at the dining table of 12 Hartington Road that I had brawn for the first time, ox tongue, squid (he told me that it was an onion ring) and various other culinary delights. He taught me to fry an egg, to use an old fashioned laundry press, and how to spectacularly lose my temper. He taught me how to raise my middle finger, at Boxing Day dinner in a party hat, telling me he’d give me a pound if I stuck it up at my mother across the table. I did, and he clipped me round the head for swearing at my mother. We both laughed then, but I still got my pound. The last time I saw him, he was hunched in a chair in the Castle Point Ward at Southend Hospital. He sat there quietly, not the Grandad I knew, but soon found his voice to grumble and growl when the lad in the adjacent bed started chatting up his […]

Read More →

Hunger Hurts. (July 2012)

Today has seen fourteen job applications go in, painstakingly typed on this Jurassic mobile phone, for care work, shop work, factory work, minimum wage work, any kind of work, because quite simply, this doesn’t work. For reasons unbeknownst to me, this month my Housing Benefit was over £100 short. I didn’t get a letter that I know of, but I can assume that it’s still the fallout from the cockups made by the various benefit agencies when I briefly went back to work from March to May. Whatever the reason, it’s easy to work out that £670 of rent can’t be paid of £438 of Housing Benefit. So I’m a week in arrears, almost two, as by the time Thursday comes and the next £167.31 is due, there’ll still be nothing coming in. The Income Support went on keeping me afloat, briefly, as did the Child Tax Credit. Now I’m not only in arrears, but last night when I opened my fridge to find some leftover tomato pasta, an onion, and a knob of stem ginger, I gave the pasta to my boy and went to bed hungry with a pot of home made ginger tea to ease the stomach pains. This morning, small boy had one of the last Weetabix, mashed with water, with a glass of tap water to wash it down with. ‘Where’s Mummys breakfast?’ he asks, big blue eyes and two year old concern. I tell […]

Read More →

In Memoriam: Helen Constantine

When I was a child, I spent my summers at a large and sprawling house in Plymouth, and these are some of my earliest memories. Playing hide and seek in three gardens, watching baby chicks bathe in a sink of water, sitting in the smallest ‘secret’ garden with a book all afternoon; these are some of the earliest childhood memories that I have. Travelling all day in my Mum’s Land Rover Discovery, sitting in the back seats and pausing on a motorway to eat sandwiches and apples. Pulling up at the house to be greeted by a pair of enormous geese, Charlie and Geraldine, who would chase me around the garden shrieking in a green summer dress. ‘Aunty Helen’, as she was known to us, was a small, smiling woman, always with outstretched arms, a plate full of food and a gentle word of wisdom. She once told me to help her to prepare food in the kitchen, I must have been eight years old or so, and a few hours later, watching many people gather around the table to eat vegetables that I had chopped up (and made a terrible job of it, I might add!) the first seeds of enthusiasm for cooking and entertaining may have been sown. Aunty Helen was a tireless giver; always there with a lap, a cuddle, a handbag she had painstakingly crotcheted or a potato sandwich. The memories I have of her from […]

Read More →

Don’t Blame Single Mums For High Streets Problems

Letter in the Echo newspaper, Thursday 1st March. In response to the following article: ‘Anna Waite: Druggies, Drunks and Single Mums Driving Upmarket Shops Out Of Southend.’ http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/9557798.Druggies__drunks_and_single_mums____driving_upmarket_shops_out_of_Southend___/ “Anna Waite thinks druggies and single mothers are killing trade in Southend High Street. It would be great to be married with two incomes and a nice family business, but I’m not. […]

Read More →

Sleep Rough To Raise Awareness Of Youth Homelessness: with Southend YMCA

To donate, click here: http://www.justgiving.com/jackmonroesleepeasy This Saturday night, Southend YMCA are challenging people to ‘sleep rough’ to raise sponsorship money, and awareness of youth homelessness and the issues that young people face when forced to sleep on the streets. The ‘sleep out’ is being held outdoors on Saturday 2nd March, overnight in a car park in central Southend. It costs […]

Read More →