Live Below the Line – Day 4

Yet again, A Girl Called Jack comes to the rescue for ideas for dinner tonight. Chickpea and Peach Curry.

A Girl Called Jack

I have made this before and that time I changed it slightly as I only had tinned mangoes in the cupboard. This time I used peaches, but yet again I tweaked it. We are away for a long weekend and I had a banana and some tomatoes that really needed using up. So I threw those in plus the scraping from a jar of chutney. I used one mug of long grain rice, which gave me four ample portions. As a guess, as the tins of peaches, chickpeas and tomatoes are all under 35p each at Aldi, with rice, this cost just over £1 to make. It provided a large supper tonight and a light lunch tomorrow for two adults. That is 25p per portion.

My version

For the rest of my meals today I had porridge with milk, home made soup and two teaswithout milk.

I have not been hungry at all and I came in well below the £1 today.

What is more this is seriously going to change my attitude toward eating more meat free meals.

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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.

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!.

 

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

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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?

 

Cooking with Jack – Sausage and Lentil One Pot Dinner

I often make a sausage casserole loosely based on a recipe from this book.The Student Cookbook

I used to use fresh carrots and potatoes, turning my nose up at tinned veg, until I started to read A Girl Called Jack.

I wanted to make Jack’s recipe as I have a cupboard full of lentils that need to be used. I wasn’t sure that The Gamer would take to lentils so I made both versions. All left overs are used for lunches so, don’t worry, there was no waste.

All my ingredients are from Aldi although I get most of my fresh and dried herbs from a local grower, Urban Herbs. Ingredients gathered

The sausages I used are from the Aldi Specially Selected range and are high in pork content. I will not compromise and buy nasty cheap value range sausages. You may as well just mush up some bread, lard and salt. If I cannot afford good meat I would rather not eat meat.

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I am experimenting with a lot of recipes and noting prices of everything as I am planning for my week of living on a £1 a day for the Live Below the Line Challenge. It was while looking at the recipes suggested by the organisers that I started to write more about food. I was shocked to see how unhealthy some of them were (think of value white bread and sausages) so set out to come up with a healthier way to eat and drink on a pound a day. I wish Jack Monroe had been blogging then!

One of my very early posts was written for Blog Action Day 2011. Written at Heathrow Airport waiting to fly to San Francisco, those taking part had been given a theme to write about, in 2011 we were asked to focus on the many issues related to food, such as health, hunger, quality, culture, farming, access and waste to coincide with World Food Day.

So back to the sausages.

Sausages with baked beans

Student sausages with baked beans

My version uses baked beans instead of lentils and tinned tomatoes with a bit of mustard, tomatoes puree and Worcester Sauce to give it a bit of kick. A bit of flour was added to the sausages and onions before adding the other ingredients to thicken it up.

Sausage and Lentil One Pot Meal

Sausages with Lentils

The lentils in Jack’s recipe absorb the liquid from the stock, which as well as thickening the casserole, give it its texture.

As ever, I decided to tweak the recipe, and added some curry powder to the one with lentils, as I thought it would work. It did. I am sure Jack won’t mind.

The verdict, The Gamer still prefers the original as it is sweeter (that will be the baked beans) but he didn’t hate the lentil version. Vinyl Man loved the lentil version as did I. 2-1 to Jack. And I am at last using those lentils.

Night off tomorrow as The Gamer is cooking.

Cooking with A Girl Called Jack – Chickpea and Chorizo Burgers

Continuing to try out some more of the recipes from one of my food heroes, A Girl Called Jack. Today these burgers worried me as I am not a big fan of chickpeas.

The haul from Aldi

I tweaked the recipe and whizzed the chickpeas, breadcrumbs, egg and the sliced spicy meats I had in a food processor, and added them to the onion, garlic and carrot I had fried in a pan. I managed to make 8  burgers, the current lodger, The Tax Man, came in and remarked how good they looked, so let him have one.

Chickpea and Chorizo Burgers cooking nicely

My shopping bill today, Chick peas, 39p from Aldi,  as I had all of the other ingredients in. I did buy some chorizo but then discovered we had so left over spicy sliced meat from when we made pizza on Saturday, I had some breadcrumbs in the freezer I had made from the last bits of bread that was a bit stale, and already had eggs and vegetable and the spices I needed.

Verdict?

Another A Girl Called Jack recipe success

Absolutely nom.

I will make a veggie version for my daughter and pop them in the freezer.

And my chickpea aversion? Mushed up they are lovely. I wonder if this could solve my hatred of red kidney beans? Mmmm.

You can find the recipe here.

Not Buying It – food I don’t need

We seem to live in a very unbalanced world. We have food poverty side by side with obesity, a whole industry based on making us feel guilty if we choose full fat of anything and while some spend money on food in order to be thinner, the numbers of families dependent on food banks rises. I struggle to make sense of it.

this is what gets thrown away

this is what gets thrown away

And I see food waste every where. Supermarkets are possibly the biggest culprit of food waste. They encourage customers to buy more than they need with various offers, yet apparently one third of the bread we buy is thrown away! Food retailers need to really need to work out how they can support charities more effectively by donating unsold food and not throwing it into skips. I am already on the case on one chain of bakers who throw bags of bread away each day, to see if they can support SIFA fireside to provide breakfast for homeless people in Birmingham. And I am hoping that the recent case where charges were dropped against the men who raided a skip outside Iceland prompts them to work on a policy of working with charities.

surely some of this ccould be used by food charities such as Foodcycle?

surely some of this could be used by food charities such as Foodcycle?

I like food. I like cooking it and love eating it more. Sometimes I think this blog is more about food than travel. Yet faced with food waste by supermarkets and in the home, I am Not Buying It.

Of course I need food, I need to eat, but how many of us have food that we bought and never use or throw away ? I do, which is why I am not going to buy food I do not need.

One of my very first posts was written at Heathrow Airport for Blog Action Day 2011. I was in the food court, reflecting on how much some of have while others starve. You can read it here.

Food poverty is something that makes me really angry, and the past year or so there have been certain politicians who seem to be in denial that his is happening in a first world country. Ian Duncan Smith can, he told us live on £53 a week ‘if he had to’. I tried to and failed, and again I wrote about it here. In fact I banged on about it quite a bit so feel free to explore my blog to read more.

Then there is the annual Live Below the Line challenge. Five days with only £5 for food. Yes, I had a go at this too.  I would not compromise on nasty value sausages and plastic bread, choosing lentils and other cheaper and healthier ingredients, and some rather good Aldi sausages instead. I was spending slightly over the £1 allowed, but eating very well.

My food hero is A Girl Called Jack. I think she has done so much in the last twelve months to highlight the fact that many of us could end up on benefits and experience food poverty. More than that, she is jolly inventive with cheap food to provide nutritious meals for her and her son. Tinned potatoes and carrots are regularly used in this house now as they are cheaper than fresh. Add a tin of beans, some good sausages and an onion and you have a tasty supper. And the Creamy Salmon Pasta at 27p per portion is lovely. 

Another blog I followed avidly in 2013 was A Year Without Supermarkets. No supermarkets at all for a whole year with a budget of £50 per week to feed two adults and one toddler. And they did it. Indeed the average food bill was less than their budget.

So as part of the whole not buying it in 2014, I decided to really trim my food shopping. I have planned meals around what I had in the freezer, fridge and store cupboards and while I would love to say I have avoided supermarkets, I haven’t. But I will not give the big three (Orange one, Green one and Blue one) my money. They suck you in with the BOGOF deals and you end up buying thing you don’t need.

This month I have hosted a 20 year old French student who is studying English. Like most 20 year old men, he has a big appetite. Annoyingly he seems to be able to eat twice as much as I do and still stay slim as does my 21 year old son. The French student loves pasta and bananas. (only 29p a bag) and I seem to be buying a kilo of bananas a day. Thank goodness for my saviour of cheap food, Aldi. I have visited the open air food market in Birmingham a couple of times, and while it is undeniably cheap, I find by sticking to the Aldi Super Six, is more cost effective for me, as is buying the biggest bag of potatoes. The bargain bananas are 68p a kilo. 

Gateway pie

Gateway pie

So what have we eaten? Despite having those lentils and rice that are destined to haunt me (I know I have to use them) I have been experimenting with new recipes. The Hit and Run Tray Bake has become one of my favourite dinners to make as there is absolutely no faffing. To use up the potatoes I made a student favourite layering slices of potato, onion and bacon bits with a cheese sauce. Back in the 70’s the Gateway supermarket in Clifton had a deli counter where they had all the off cuts of bacon and cheese at silly prices so this was how this recipe got invented, I think. Because I had some spinich lurking in the fridge, that got added too. And I also made the Sweet Pea Fish Pie, another recipe from Jamie Oliver. All of these came to less than £1 per portion and the Gateway pie, as I call it, nearer 50p per person. We have had a roast turkey dinner, using up the half price crown of turkey I bought on Christmas Eve. That £55 has of course been supplemented by food I already had in. I am lucky, I have storecupboard staples and a freezer so that when I do see a bargain I can store it for another day.

Sweet Pea Fish Pie

Sweet Pea Fish Pie

I suppose what I am saying is that yes it is relatively easy to eat well on a small budget, if you have some basic cooking skills and live near a place where you can access cheap, good quality food. Not everyone does, of course and and not everyone can afford to buy in bulk which is often cheaper. That said, I have two elderly neighbours who buy the Aldi Super Six and split the packet and the cost. They can’t get through a big bag of carrots alone yet still want to save money. Excellent planning!

Planning  is the key to saving money on food, I list what I have in the house and cook around it buying only additional ingredients when necessary. I avoid the Big Three. If I go to the Green one I always end up being tempted to buy something I do not need. And this is how all this Not Buying It began.

Live Below the Line Lentils

And those lentils are still there

travellingcoral

Day 3 of Live below the Line Week started really well. I made a lentil curry. Using fresh vegetables and lentils and coconut mil from a local independent store this was a very cheap and nutritious meal. It was also really tasty. I am not a vegetarian and I don’t think I ever will be, yet, having no meat days is a the way to eat well on a low budget.

I ate a lot of vegetarian food when I was a volunteer at Lentil as Anything in St Kilda, Melbourne. I really enjoyed my time working there, they are a great team and the philosophy of this social enterprise is amazing. There are no prices on the menu. Instead customers are invited to give what they feel the food is worth and have the opportunity to donate to the philosophy.

The food there is so tasty and filling…

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