Sunday, 28 April 2013

Live Below the Line in One Shopping Trip

I was sent a really interesting question yesterday from someone considering doing the Live Below the Challenge on Monday to Friday of this coming week.  In her words ...
 "If you were me with access to only supermarkets, no growing space and no chickens so no eggs, only a pot of basil and one of parsley on my windowsill, knowing what you do now after doing this challenge for the last two years, what would you buy with your £5 allowing for finding NO special offers at a random visit to the supermarket, also what would you make from these foods to last you the week".
A very good question it really made me think ..... and this is what I came up with.
Brown bread 50p

Peanut Butter 62p
Instant coffee 47p
Last year (LY) I got 22 slices from my brown loaf, I would have two of these each morning, toasted with peanut butter (LY = 6 servings from one jar) and a cup of coffee, (luckily I now have my coffee black and with no sugar or sweetener a real LBTL money saver).
1kg Rice 40p
The rice would be split into 5 x 180g portions and 1x 100g portion, one 180g portion allowed each day for lunch or for my evening meal.
Curry Sauce 26p x 2 = 52p
Each jar of curry sauce would be cooked with 2 or 3 of the onions and two fifths of the frozen mixed vegetables to make two and a half portions of vegetable curry to have with the rice meal
(two jars = divided into five portions of vegetable curry)
I would cook this all at once at the start of the week and portion it up.  It would keep well in the fridge or it could be frozen in daily portions.
Frozen Mixed Vegetables 75p

1.5kg Onions 95p
Vegetable Stock Cubes 15p
(chicken and beef flavours also available at this price)
Allowing that potentially 6 of the onions have been allocated to the curry the rest would be peeled (carefully to give you as much onion as possible) and finely chopped. I would then turn them into a basic pot of soup using around six of the stock cubes.  Once cooked either blitz the entire pan of soup with a blender and divide into 5 portions, one for each day or blitz some of the portions and leave others chunky.  The final portion of frozen vegetables can be split between some of the portions of soup, as can the 100g of rice not allocated for the curry meal. 
This I would serve with a slice of brown toast for either lunch or tea.

Sparkling Water 17p x 2 = 34p
Ice cold Sparkling Water would be my treat each day, a glass of this with ice served in a wine glass with the evening meal makes a lovely cheap treat. This would be rationed out to last over the entire 5 days.

3 slices Bread and 1 serving of Peanut Butter - available for an emergency snacks or could be added to give the soup more substance/flavour
4 stock cubes - could be used to cook the rice in to give it more flavour.
Any herbs growing on the windowsill or wild could be added to both the curry and the soup for extra flavour
*** *** ***
This is my personal choice of foodstuffs for the week, and comes to a total of £4.70, allocating 10p for salt and pepper and herbs to use as seasoning it would give me 20p left over, with this I would try to find a potato (of the right weight and costing 20p, Sainsburys scales are brilliant for this as they print out your price sticker for the checkout and you would know the potato is going to cost you exactly this) to help give the soup more substance.
*** *** ***
Alternative to consider

If you hated curry and rice my alternative would be to buy pasta instead.  Two bags of basics pasta would be 60p, two packs of chopped tomatoes would be 62p.
So taking away the rice and curry for 92p, and adding instead the pasta and tomatoes for £1.20, would mean that you have 28p less to spend, which would be possible if you didn't search for that illusive potato and used your leftover 2p for the seasonings (more salt and less pepper would achieve this).
I would use half the onions for the soup in this case and the other half to add to the chopped tomatoes to make a pasta sauce to last the full five days.  I would also chuck in every available herb I could find for added flavour.  I'm sure foraging is allowed and it is the right time of year for Wild Garlic and Dandelions!!
*** *** ***
I hope this answers the question, and now if I was you I would dash out to Sainsburys and Asda or your local supermarket with equivalent foods pretty sharpish to hopefully grab these bargain foods to see you through the week if you are going to give this ago.
  Of course if you get there and something is not available then you have to have your thinking cap on and reconsider the shopping.  But by keeping your eating to the same breakfasts each day, and the same foods that can be eaten either for dinner or tea it does make it much more achievable.  You only need lots of different foods if you want different meals for each day of the week, not something you have the luxury of really if you are living on £1 a day!!
Good luck to all of you who are taking part in this wonderful challenge.  Lets hope that once again it opens peoples eyes to the shocking truth about poverty both here in the UK and all around the world.  It does us all good to stop and think sometimes.
Please use the links at the top of my right hand sidebar to go directly to the official Live Below the Line web page and read all about the efforts being made by so many people and to also make your donation if you can.  I'll be looking around Blog land for more Blogs of folk taking part in the Challenge to add to my sidebar, let me know if you are.
Sue xx


  1. I think this is a well worked out menu Sue - and I really like the fact that you are not bothered by having the SAME meal repeated over and over. WHY do so many of the people on the £1 challenge feel they need a DIFFERENT dinner every night? That is a habit of affluence - most of the world's poor who DO have food have the same meal [eg rice/manioc/etc] day after day. To really appreciate how hard life is for them, we need to live for a week without CHOICE too!!

    thanks again for the great post - blessings xx

    1. You've got it in one Angela, very astute as usual, one of the first things we lose when we are caught in a poverty trap is CHOICE.

      Sometimes it's important to sit back and realise what true blessings we have.

  2. An interesting suggestion. Be careful though and do the maths-sometimes the cheap pack is not always cheaper per weight as well as being slightly lower quality. (although Mr. S does sell better quality cheap stuff ). We buy a larger pack of one item each week where more economical.
    btw, carb portion sizes are usually 50g per person per meal.

    What we try to do is shop at the right time to get reduced items.

    1. All these packs have been very carefully scrutinised to make sure that they are indeed the cheapest option available. I ALWAYS look for the price per 100g on food labels and shelf edges before handing my money over for ANYTHING.

      Yes, carb portions are recommended to be 50g per person per meal, but that is when you are eating other varied foodstuffs on your plate, when living on this amount of money for a short period it is more effective to have a full tummy and thus extra carbs should be allowed for. As a person who eats a very low carb way usually I do know this.

      There is nothing to stop you eating until you are full of the the curry/soup etc and then leaving some if there is too much on your plate. It can always be reheated (carefully) for the next meal, thus saving some of your still packaged ration.

      The question I am answering here is about hitting the shops at a random time and there perhaps being NO bargains available at all, so how do you get the best selection of menu friendly foodstuffs from readily available stock in ONE shop.

  3. OMG your groceries are SO cheap. I was at the supermarket here in NZ this afternoon. Rice is about $3, jars of a curry sauce would be $4, frozen veg $3, and everything is basically 3 or 4 times the price, for homebrands as well. (1 pound is about $2 NZ). Meat is around $24-30 a kilo, and salmon about $28. I could only afford a chicken cos they were down from $15 to $9 today on special, a small piece of salmon and two tiny steaks. Nothing wrong with lots of fruit and veg and toast though to get me through the week.

    Love your blog.

    Julie Q

    1. These are all from the most basic range at our supermarkets. Yes, I guess in many ways lots of our foods are much cheaper than in other countries. I sometimes think that folks are spending more on 'gadgets' and technology than they are willing to spend on foodstuff. Hence the mass production and cheaper and cheaper ways of 'making' artificial foodstuffs (ie. fillers and white pappy bread). Good real food is more expensive but then you need less of it, once folks realise that the tide turns.....but when will it !!

  4. Oh my, i feel sick. Take a look at my post today and i feel like a glutton. Yes it was a celebration and i was a willing victim of an over enthusiatic host but after reading your post, i have a guilty conscience.

    1. Never feel guilty - feel grateful that we can.

      It looks like you had a wonderful time :-)

  5. Are you allowed to use stuff you already have in the storecupboard or is that cheating? I've only just heard about this so I'm not going to give it a go but as I mainly eat leftovers from my real man's dinners (suitable adjusted of course) I don't think I cost much anyway!

    1. You can use what you already have but you have to 'buy' full packs of things off yourself at the price you originally paid for them. So a 'real' £5 worth of foods from your fridges and cupboards would be fine.

  6. Sounds like a great challenge. I think I'd ave to go for pasta though as I'd soon get sick of rice!

    1. Thinking about it I might have gone for the pasta option too :-)

  7. I had not really given the challenge a great deal of thought, and thought that as it is a short time, the £5 would not be REALLY difficult, as many of us very frugally anyway. However, seeing your menu choices written down by way of reply to the question of ONE person, ONE shopping trip (with no special offers) it is really difficult. Of course, the challenge is made easier when more than one person is taking part, so you can vary the meals more, (pasta and rice) and maybe more fresh vegetables. This has really made me think about how lucky we are, as you say, to have so much choice. Thank you Sue, and very good luck to all those taking part.

    1. It does change your perspective a bit when you have to visit the shops with just £5 clutched in your hand knowing that whatever you buy has to last you the entire five days doesn't it.

      Of course doing it for real when you turned at the supermarket you could make use of whatever offers you were lucky enough to find on the day.

  8. Thank goodness you received the question as I loved reading this post and seeing how you'd go about planning meals for the week. £5 for 1 week isn't easy, but you've shown again that it is possible.

    I'm not taking part in the challenge this year, but I'll be eagerly watching those who have.

  9. Sainsbury's basics tinned spaghetti at 19p for a 410gm tin makes a quick, filling and tasty lunch.

    1. I've never tasted this but if it's like a lot of the cheaper tinned pastas you would get a lot of sauce, which you could drain some of to add to another meal, and therefore even more of a bargain :-)

  10. As a family of four we chose not to take the challege this year, but hats off to those who do

    You can find my thoughts about +Live Below the Line here

  11. I think your attitude towards the challenge (which I'm not taking) is truly "in the spirit" of what it's about. It's not about finding Yellow labels bargains at midnight or whenever, but being realistic about what people, living below the poverty line, face every day.

  12. Hi Sue, I've just noticed the link on your Blog to my Live Below the Line efforts. Thank you so much for sharing my progress with your followers. I've now raised over £500 for Oxfam through living on £1 a day for food for 5 days. Would love to talk to you about your challenges and blog at some point. Heidi, The Moving Foodie Blog.


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