Live Below the Line – Day 3

Pasta in a hurryOh dear, still failing to meet the £1 a day target.

Tonight we are having our old favourite, a bargain version of Jamie Oliver’s Pasta al forno con pomodori e mozzarella using basics from Aldi. The most expensive item is the mozzarella at 44p per packet yet still it comes out at about 36p a portion. So with porridge at 7p, including milk and sugar, lunch at 40p as it was left over sausage casserole and tea at 4p for 2 cups (no milk) and a bottle of water I have ‘spent’ 94p on food and drink today.

I have now tallied what we have eaten the past 3 days, and what that has cost in real terms. So far this is £13.78 for three adults, or £1.53 per person per day. The most expensive meal was probably the sausage casserole followed by the pasta bake that was made before the challenge for supper on Saturday. Leftovers from this have been meals for The Gamer when he has not wanted to eat lentils or soup. Both of these contained meat. If I took the meat our of the menu we would be within the £1 per person a day. Oh and The Gamer bought fast food for two days when he has been out with friends. So add £6 to that total and now I am way over budget.

Yet, I think if I tallied up my costs I am within the £1 a day. And not hungry.

This is only possible because I did not go and shop with £5 on Monday. I have only used 200g of 2kg lentils and 100g of 1kg of rice so far and have costed meals based on those portions. I cannot buy small portions at the same cost per kg of these items. The bigger the pack the lower the price. So in a way this is where the challenge is flawed as it does not factor in the saving by buying larger packs that are better value. Yet if you are on a low income or benefits, the chances are you will only have £5 per person for food. This means you cannot afford to buy in bulk and reduce costs over a longer time.

What is the answer? I have ideas but I would be interested in what others think.

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Live Below the Line 2014 – Day 2

Day 2 dinner tonight. And yes we can afford some meat.

Image

I didn’t think meat would be on the menu at all this week. These are Aldi gluten free sausages and at £1.99 for  6, substantially more expensive that the 99p value sausages suggested by Live Below the Line UK. I decided to have only one sausage and have the other for lunch tomorrow as there was so much sauce.

And it will all come in under £1 a day as I had lentils and rice left over from yesterday for lunch today and porridge for breakfast. I really have not had the time to do the math yet, but I am pretty sure that as these meals cost less than 33p each, and my sausage cost 33p, I am still within budget. I have my home made bread to fill me up and I even had tea.

This sausage casserole has featured on this blog before, based on a recipe from a student cookbook, using tinned potatoes and carrots instead of fresh, inspired by A Girl Called Jack and her recipe for Sausage and Lentil One Pot dinner.

Living Below the Line 2014 – Day 1

I have cheated. I knew I would. I did not go to the shops with £5 and buy all the ingredients in one go. This is because I have a lot of the ingredients already in the store cupboard and it would be wasteful to buy more rice, lentils and porridge.

I am however tallying up the cost of what I eat. I am attempting to feed 3 Adults on the budget of £15. One won’t eat lentils. This could be interesting. The Gamer has already busted his £1 by getting a meal from a well known chain that sells bread rolls and calls them ‘subs’.

What I have bought/budgeted for so far.

1kg Porridge 71p, a serving is 30g =33 serving per pack

4 pints milk 95p 8p per peson a day for 5 days

2kg lentils £1 used 200 g today to make 4 portions

4 onions 89p

6 gluten free sausages £1.99 = 33p each (the cost of one meal on LBTL guidelines)

6 tomatoes 39p (thank you Aldi super six)

sandwich paste 25p to make A Girl Called Jack’s pasta dish

500g pasta 29p (half used to make meals for The Game this week)

Fresh coriander 85p – snuck that in, hope it comes within budget

6 free range eggs £1.00

Home made bread, 4 loaves £2

1kg rice 40p – cannot see me using all of that

500ml pasatta 39p

tinned potatoes 15p I think

Leeks and potatoes for the soup – to be costed

So far only one meal cooked and that is lentils and rice.Lentils and rice

Breakfast today was porridge, lunch was home made leek and potato soup with home made bread. A sad over ripe banana and two cups of tea. I drank hot water at work.

I think I have stayed within the budget. Will tally it all up at the end of the challenge. I think A Girl Called Jack will be more successful though.

Live Below the Line 2014 – preparations

The first day of Live Below the Line this year coincides with my first day in my new job. Whatever I save on food this next five days I will be donating to my new employer.

My new employer is Smethwick CAN and one of the projects they are responsible for is Smethwick Foodbank.

And Smethwick Foodbank relies on donations of food to ensure they meet the demand of those refered to them.

I have not signed up to the official Live Below the Line campaign, for a number of reasons. One is that I won’t stick to their rules and the meal plans they recommend. I think that advocating eating value sausages and plastic bread puts people off participating.

These are my plans to keep within the £5 per person budget this week.

I have persuaded my husband to join me in the challenge. Economies of scale, cooking for two not one, can work out cheaper.

I have stock piled pasta based dishes in the freezer for The Gamer, so he will be living above the line, but only just.

I bought lentils.
Lentils and spices

I got this lovely lot at my local Co Op for £4.44, as they had been reduced to half price. Split peas, 2kg for £1. Toor Dall, 2kg £1.52. The recipe on the packet suggests 200g will feed four. Maths is not my strongest subject but even I can work out that one pack will make 40 portions at around 3p a portion. Of course I have to add some onion and some spices yet this is truly the bargain food for this challenge. I have worked out that I could feed 80 people for under 10p a portion if I add vegetables and rice to these ingredients.

And I made bread.Bread dough rising

I can buy bargain bread at 47p from a supermarket, or I can bake this, without additives and preservatives for around the same amount. I know which I would rather eat.Home made bread

For everyone taking part in Live Below the Line this week, good luck with the challenge.  I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

If you are not taking part, here is a suggestion. Donate £1 a day to a local foodbank in kind. When you shop spend £1 on what your local foodbank needs. A suggested list can be found here. Then find out where you local foodbank is by contacting The Trussell Trust

And if you have some time to give, consider volunteering for a food bank. After all volunteering is good for you!.

 

You say tomato I say Greek Salad please!

I love Greek food, probably more than any food I have ever had anywhere. Perhaps it is because my first visit to Greece was the first time I had ever really found out what a tomato should could taste like.Tomatoes at Rethymnon market

English tomatoes never taste the same, however we do have a habit of storing them in the fridge and I was told, in St Kilda at a farmers market, that is the quick way to killing the flavour. And I think we also over water them here, I have watched Greeks just splash some water on their plants in the morning and that is it. And this is what they grow.

Of course, you never forget your first moussaka, do you.Moussaka

Although the one I had in Heraklion, or the stuffed vegetables that Phil and I ordered with it, didn’t forget us for a couple of days.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The only bout of food poisoning we had and not too severe, thank goodness. I will avoid Pantheon in Heraklion in future.

With raw ingredients like this it is really hard not to produce good food.

We had a Greek Salad with almost every meal. It is obligatory really. I hate olives but Phil loves them so they get pushed to his side of the plate. Yet I will pour a gallon of olive oil over the tomatoes then use the bread to soak up any excess.DSCN0840

Then there is souvlaki.This was my first meal in Santorini at Fanari, in Fira.Souvlaki

And meat balls. Phil chose these in Heraklion at Kastella and at Fanari.

Flavoured with a herb we could never quite put a name to. We were told it was mint but think it was this. Do you know what it it?SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Cant’t decide? Have a meze.Meze

This was the offer at Palazzo in Rethymnon. (It doesn’t get great reveiws here, yet we enjoyed our lunch).

Meat lover? A mixed grill to share?

Mega Mixed grillThis one from Byzantino in Plaka Athens was lovely, we spent 3 hours people watching while wading through it. We really struggled to eat later that night. Indeed we didn’t, just water and a coke for supper.

Deep fried courgettes.

Deep fried courgettesIf you are Heraklion these from Kastella overlooking the beach are to die for.

Really what is not to like? And if you only fancy a light snack there are plenty of shops and street vendors selling pasties and cakes.Greek pastry shop

And when you can’t eat any more, this comes out, with Raki, on the house.

PancakesOh, I will make room for that!

And if you stay at Nectarios Villas at Easter, you may get some of these.

 
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Do you love Greek food?

What is you favourite food in the world?

Getting ready to Live Below the Line 2014

I will be honest, I have never managed to live on a £1 a day whenever I have taken part in this challenge. That is mainly because I cannot bear the idea of value bread, value sausages, frozen vegetables and pasta sauce from a jar.

This year I thought I would do some forward planning, mainly because I start my new job next week, so juggling that with shopping and cooking will be a challenge to me, after not being in paid work for nearly three years. £5 book

I went back to this book, first published in 1987, revised in 1995. I was a bit surprised at the cost of some of the items on the shopping list.£5 shopping list 1a £5 shopping list 1bAnd then I typed some items from this list into the online shopping page of a well known store to compare prices of some, not all of that on the list. It also conveniently compares its prices with other stores including Aldi. I also know Aldi prices pretty well as that is where I do most of my shopping.

1 chicken. Average cost is £5 but there are 2 for £8 and 3 for £10 offers. Aldi have a free range chicken at £4.99

Whole meal flour (2) £1.49

Plain flour 75p

Red lentils 75p

tinned tomatoes 31p

Baked Beans 24p

12 eggs £1.95

Porridge 38p

Potatoes £2.00

Oranges (6) 76p

Given that the prices in the book are I am guessing 1995 prices, food prices do not seem to have increased very much in 19 years. Yet all most of us are spending more on our food. Why is this?

Maybe we all buy too much food which we don’t use? Are the BOGOF offers to blame for food waste and perhaps food poverty?

There is of course very little meat on the list. I know that at least a third of my food spending is on meat and we are not what I call big meat eaters. I am also surprised there is no pasta on the list. At 29p for 500g, it is a good staple, filling food.

A Girl Called Jack

A Girl Called Jack

Meat will have to come of the menu next week. I will bake my own bread as I can make it for about 45p a loaf, and that for me is better than having cheap supermarket bread. I will cook with lentils, vegetables, pasta and rice. I will also therefore be looking for inspiration from A Girl Called Jack.

Gathering the ingredients

Gathering the ingredients

DSCN0426

What I do know is that nearly 1 million people used foodbanks in the UK last year. My new job is with an organisation that runs a foodbank.  I am going to do my best to live on £1 a day next week, I am hoping my son and husband will join me. The difference to what I would usually spend on food and what I actually spend next week will be donated, in food, to Smethwick Foodbank.

If you can donate this is the shopping list of items they need on a regular basis. Contact The Trussell Trust to find where your nearest foodbank is.

You don’t think it could ever happen to you? Many of us are 3 payslips away from not being able to meet household bills, if redundancy or sickness strikes. I have been there, down to my last pound with 3 days till the next dole cheque arrived. I was lucky as I had a family that could and would help. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Will you Live Below the Line next week?

Can you donate to a local foodbank or become a volunteer?

 

Not quite island hopping in Greece

But almost.

Santorini was always going to be the main destination for our week in Greece. Despite there being no direct flights from Birmingham to Santorini or to Athens, I knew that as a nation of sailors there would always be a ferry to catch. I thought we may get to visit a couple of other island in The Cyclades, but that was not to be. Yet, the Blue Star Delos that sails at 7.30 am each day from Piraeus to Santorini stops at Paros, Naxos and Ios, so at least I got to see these.

Greek Time

Greek Time

To get to Santroini we first had to get to Piraeus on the overnight Amek Lines Kretti 2. It sounds like a long way round, and it was, but in the end the arrangements suited our needs to always be on the move. I last did this sailing in 1979 and we slept on deck on towels. This time we were assigned couchette seats on the top deck, and thought they would be adequate as they were bigger than seats on a plane, but that was not to be.

Everyone, including the police, watched tv, smoked and talked all night. Instead we dozed on uncomfortable chairs in the bar area, along with most of the other passengers. The experienced travellers knew the best seats and spread out early on so they got somewhere semi comfortable to sleep. We did however have very good value food from the cafe (with the company of the bearded Mykonos FC) and waiter service at the bar. If I did this again I would probably look at upgrading to better seats.

We had 24 hours in Piraeus and Athens and visited The Acroplis and had lunch in Plaka. I would highly recommend that you base yourself in Piraeus especially if you have, like we did, a 7.30 am sailing the next day. It is easy to get to Athens on the train, we got a 4 Euro all day transport ticket, and Piraeus had lots to offer in the way of coffee shops and bakeries, and cheap accommodation.

Our next ferry was the Blue Star Delos.

Despite an early start this was a lovely relaxing mini cruise to The Cyclades. If the weather is kind there is plenty of seating on deck. It also has kennels with an dog exercise deck, a cafe selling fast food and a bar area. We had traditional spinach pies for €2.40 each, tea for €1.20 and a latte for €3.70. It was crowded and you need to board early to get decent seats, although there is the option of upgrading to numbered seats in quieter areas.

The best bit for me was pulling into the ports of Paros, Naxos and Ios. Then finally Santorini. Mom told that the best way to approach Santorini is by sea. She was right.

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I wanted to get off at all of them. Hopefully next year I will. I love the mad frenzy of passenger embarking and disembarking, the chaos of getting vehicles on and off the ferries in such a short time.

As we visited each island the numbers dwindled on the boat. When we had left Piraeus the passengers were about 60% locals returning home for Easter and 40% tourists. Most were American or Chinese. By the time we got to Santorini about 75% of those disembarking were Chinese. Speaking to our hosts in Santorini, they told us that in spring most of their guests were from China and from Russia in the summer. Most other tourists we met were American or Australian.

I really cannot recall meeting or hearing any other British people other than at the airport, or on our flight, in the week we were there. Not at Knossos, the Acropolis or on Santorini.

Have the English abandoned Greece? Or have they lost their sense of adventure and only visit Greece on package holidays?

If so, that is a shame as they really do not know what you are missing out on. It has been a few years since I was last in Greece, and while I have loved everywhere else I have been to, Greece is still like coming home for me. And I will be back. Soon.

You get what you pay for, don’t you? Budgeting for island hopping in Greece

I have just tallied up the costs of the recent trip to Greece. It seems that the quote I used in previous blogs is very true.

When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money.  Then take half the clothes and twice the money.  ~Susan Heller

I did well with the clothes, I think. Did I take half as much as usual? Possibly not? Yet I cut back on all the other bits that others deem to be absolutely essential. I didn’t take a hair brush, for example or loads of toiletries and make up. Two pairs of shoes, trainers to wear while travelling and and sandals for the day time were all I needed. And I packed really efficiently.

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I also think I got a good deal with the flights, when the price dropped by £40 per person. What I couldn’t plan for was the cost of the ferries. I also had no idea how much food and accommodation would cost for the week. so yes, there were a lot of variables to contend with, which is where the second half of the quotation, resonates. We really did need twice as much money.

Here is the breakdown, costs for two adults. Flights and other UK costs are in Sterling and everything else in Greece is in Euros.

Travel

Flights  £   175.38
Taxes  £     62.58
Baggage  £     96.00
Ferries Heraklion to Piraeus (overnight deck class) €         58.00
Piraeus to Santorini  €         75.00
Santorini to Heraklion (Flying Cat)  €      112.00

Our orignal plan was to go to Santorini from Crete and maybe island hop. As the Flying Cats were not operational until the 17 April we changed our plans, which I wrote about here.Delos, or ferry form Piraeus to Santorini

As it was we had a bonus day in Athens and the costs of the ferries were about the same as if we had got a return Flying Cat to Santorini. They did however take up a huge chunk of our budget.the Flying Cat from Santorini to HeraklionWe opted for Bed and Breakfast at all our accommodation. I think that this was money well spent, although in Piraeus there were lots of cheap coffee shops and bakeries to get a breakfast, yet as our ferry was at 7.30 am we took advantage of the 6 Euro supplement at our cheap 30 Euro per night hotel for a breakfast from 6am including a shuttle to the ferry.

Accomodation

 Hotel  per night  B&B
Kastro  €     45.00  €     45.00
Kronos  €     60.00  €   120.00
Argo  €     42.00  €     42.00
Nectarios  €     52.00  €   104.00

 

The cost of the Kronos Hotel on the Friday and Saturday in Heraklion reflects that it was the weekend running up to Easter. This was the most expensive accomodation we stayed in. We were not going to consider the Youth Hostel in Heraklion as it had such dreadful reviews.

Anita Argo in Piraeus at 30 euro without breakfast was the cheapest and had the smallest bathroom and no view. We were offered an upgrade at 10 Euro but as we were only there one night, with an early start, we just wanted a clean room to sleep in.

Nectarios Villa was the star accommodation. We paid extra as we had an apartment, a double room was c 45 Euros with breakfast but they were all booked. We would not hesitate to stay here again. Santorini has a reputation for being expensive yet this accommodation was well priced. And so welcoming.

All the places we stayed in were clean, with hairdryers and good showers. The Greeks must be the friendliest people on the planet, all the staff in all the hotels were helpful and genuinely lovely people. Even the man at Argo who was pretty grumpy at 8 am when we wanted to check in early, after a poor nights sleep on the overnight ferry, was lovely a bit later in the day (perhaps he just needed caffeine).

Food

Many years ago Greece was somewhere you could get food very cheaply. Not so much now. As a guide a beer was between 3 and 5 Euro, a Greek salad between 4 and 5 Euro and a main course  about 8 Euro. Some places were cheaper others more expensive.

Portions were generous and we could have saved money by having a salad at lunch time. We didn’t of course. The food was too good to miss. The only bad meals we had were in the centre of Heraklion. Corner Cafe Club SandwichRubbish Club sandwiches with horrid fries right in the middle of a fashionable square where all the students hung out and food poisoning from a back street taverna. Pantheon, that looked like the place locals would hang out.

It was deserted when every where else was packed and we really should have known better.

Kastella,  on the sea front we ate at twice, was very, very good and we regret not just sticking with it.

Food €   252.10

Drink  €   139.10

We averaged 36 Euros a day on food and we ate very well for that. We only had beer or soft drinks, wine would have cost more.

The absolute bargains of this trip however were visits to Knossos at 6 Euros and The Acropolis at 12 Euros. How can you miss these?

Have you been to Greece? Where would you recommend we visit next?

 

When preparing to travel Part 3 (things I didn’t use)

I packed the lightest I could on the recent week trip to Greece. I used almost every item I took, except these. Things packed not usedDetails on how I packed and what I took were in these previous posts.

I didn’t use the swimsuit, sarong or shorts.

The extra t shirt was not needed either.

The Kindle, not used.  I had a paperback and that was all I needed. Annoyingly I left it at Birmingham Airport on the way home and I hadn’t finished it.

The Cag in a Bag, as it rained on our last day in Santorini, if I had not packed it away would have been quite useful. By the time the rain got really heavy we were back at the villa, so we only got damp, not wet.Ten minutes later the sun was out.

All beds were new and sheets clean so sleeping sack not needed.

Good quality towels were provide even in the cheapest 30 Euros a night room, travel towel not needed.

Would I pack all of these again? Yes. They were light and took up very little room and could have come in useful.

I am glad I had room for an extra, warm top. I wore one and packed a second. The evenings and mornings were chilly and the last day it rained and was quite cool.

I really could have taken less toiletries as all bar one room (the cheapest) provided shampoo and shower gel. All the rooms had towels and a hair dryer. This was not the Greece I was used to. They had decent showers and hot water too.

Greece has moved on from the days of showers over the toilet, thin towels and old mattresses on a concrete base. We paid from 42 to 60 Euros for a double room with breakfast, and that price did not always reflect the quality of the rooms. We didn’t check out hostels and having just seen this review of the Hostel in HerakIion I am pleased we didn’t.

I will be sharing details of where we stayed and the costs of our week in Greece in my next post.

 

Santorini, a final resting place for Mom

There is only one reason I went to Santorini. Mom had asked for her ashes to be left there. She first went there in the 80’s with her sister in law. Every summer Mom and Brenda went island hopping in Greece. She fell in love with Santorini. And so did I.

Oia

Oia Santorini

Windmill Santorini

Windmill Santorini

After just over a year since she passed away, I finally decided it was time to take Mom ‘home’. Just before she died she told me she wasn’t sure that she wanted ‘it’ to be Santorini. I think she was worried that it had changed from what she had remembered. And she had since travelled to so many other places she loved. Dalyan, Turkey being one.mom dalyan by the river

After she died, I was not sure where she really wanted to be, her partner and I thought Dalyan and my daughter suggested we took her to all the places she had travelled to. A lovely idea yet limited by money, I was not sure I could fit in Thailand, Egypt, Greece, Malta, Menorca,Turkey, Hong Kong, and goodness knows where else she had visited.

Approaching Santorini by sea

Approaching Santorini by sea

I had three overseas holidays last year and took a little bit of Mom to two of those destinations and one in the UK. I may have broken a Turkish law but I knew she loved it here.Dalyan

And I found the perfect place in Malta too.  I chose Marsaxlokk as it is a colourful village that hosts a lively Sunday market, and no one loved a good market better than my mom. Only after I had scattered her ashes I realised that the curtains hanging in a little house overlooking the spot where I left her are identical to the ones my mother had in her home.

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Mom had also been an actress and one of her very last proper outings was to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see The Tempest. I thought she may enjoy being here, in the shadow of The Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

In the shadow of The Royal shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

In the shadow of The Royal shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

As time went on, I knew I really needed closure and in my heart I knew I had to take her to Santorini.Oia Santorini

We could only get flights to Crete at this time of the year, yet I was pretty sure that we would be able to get to Santorini from there, by boat. As it was it turned out that the fast ferries were not running until 17 April and we flew home in the early hours of 18 April. At that point I was thinking I would only get a day trip to Santorini and have to spend the rest of the week on Crete.

I was not prepared to give up and with the help of a brilliant travel agent, Paleologos, in Heraklion, planned an itinerary that got us to Santorini on the 15 April via Piraeus. We would be leaving Santorini on the first fast ferry on the 17 April at 6pm, with plenty of time to get our flight at 1am on the 18th. Cutting it fine, and the Sea Cats don’t run if the weather is windy. Ah well I had taken out insurance and enhanced it to cover unexpected events, given our history of holiday almost disasters. If the weather made us stay longer in Greece, so be it.

It also meant that we would get an unexpected bonus of visiting The Acropolis in Athens.The Acropolis

Mom had made her first journey in Greece from Piraeus in 1980 when she travelled solo, flying to Athens and then getting a ferry to Rhodes. She loved Piraeus and the bustle of getting on and off ferries, so I was pretty sure she had had some influence on these plans. She was going to get her last bit of island hopping in before settling on Santorini.Santorini

A twitter friend recommended accommodation in Santorini. What a find! Affordable, comfortable and the owners, Katerina and Nectarios treated us like family rather than guests. And Katerina is a fantastic baker. We didn’t want to leave.Katerina

Santorini has an reputation for being expensive, and yes there are some places that are eye wateringly pricey, yet it is still possible to visit and enjoy Santorini on a modest budget.

We were based in Fira, the capital, but I had an inkling that it was Oia that Mom had stayed in, so we took the bus there with Mom in the back pack.

Oia is stunning. I had seen countless photographs and was worried that it would not live up to my expectations. It exceeded them. And I knew this is where Mom was meant to be.

We got away from the crowds and searched for the perfect place. And found it.

Mom wasn’t religious yet I thought being in front of a tiny church was appropriate.Church in Santorini

And this field of daisies just seemed to be the right place.Daisy field

This is the view.The final resting place

And I chose the right place, as after I had left her in her final resting place, although off the main drag where tourists gathered, everyone who passed the field stopped to admire them and the view. So she will get plenty of visitors. She would like that.Daisies