Live Below the Line – The First Day

Today’s meals:

Breakfast – 2 slices of bread 8p, approximately 10g marmalade 1p

Lunch – 2 slices of bread 8p, 15g marmalade 2p, fromage frais 7p

Dinner – 2 slices of bread 8p, 2 eggs 34p, 2 Quorn sausages 26p

Total cost: 92p

Verdict: too much bread and not enough (any) vegetables, but that was due to a lack of time to cook anything properly. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.


I woke up this morning in a hotel in Woking, but I had fortunately remembered to bring a packed breakfast of marmalade sandwiches (without butter, since it wasn’t in my budget). I was surprised by how filling it seemed, but perhaps that was partly to do with the enormous amount of food I had eaten at the wedding the night before.

Due to an unexpected delay on my journey home, I didn’t get back in time for lunch. I managed to resist buying any food, despite being surrounded by people who had raided the station shop for ice creams, packets of crisps and chocolate bars, and at the first opportunity once home I made myself some toast and ate a yogurt.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! First I should probably list what I managed to buy for my £5.

Before setting out on Friday morning I double-checked online that my carefully planned list was still within budget, and it was: £4.98. But when I got to the supermarket a dreadful thing had happened: Tesco had entirely sold out of 47p Everyday Value bread. The next cheapest was 90p, way out of my budget. I tried to think of what on earth I could get instead but there is really no obvious alternative for bread when you have planned on having bread.

So I left the bread aisle and continued down my list. To my delight I found that the £1.40 box of eggs I’d selected – I could have got a cheaper box, but I wanted to buy free range if at all possible – was now £1, not only making the free-range designator less of a luxury but also freeing up 40p to put towards my bread, plus the 2p which was left over in the initial plan. I had chosen the smallest onion I could possibly find, and went to the checkout with bated breath to discover whether it was small enough to cost 1p less than Tesco Online had predicted.

Tesco Online is a pessimist: it had predicted 19p, and the onion cost 9p. Suddenly I could not only afford the more expensive bread but I also had 9p over which I have a couple of ideas for. Maybe a clove of garlic, or a single pat of butter from the college canteen. We shall see.

The final haul was:

Onion 9p

8 Quorn sausages £1

Bread 90p

Tinned carrots 20p

Tinned tomatoes 31p

Kidney beans 21p

Marrowfat peas 17p

Marmalade 27p

Tinned new potatoes 15p

Dried spaghetti 19p

6 free-range eggs £1

6 fromage frais 42p

Total: £4.91.

Possibly I could have hunted around for longer to find even better bargains, but I was short of time and had thought for quite a while about the best combination of items. I’ve planned various meals I will be able to construct from the list, including an optimistic veggie burger on the final day, when I will only have 4 hours of babysitting and no choir to fill up my day. The fact that I’m very, very busy this week means that I need meals which are quick as well as cheap.

Even without having completed the challenge I have already realised that I waste money unnecessarily by buying more expensive versions of things. Some things I am prepared to pay a little more for: I eat very little bread normally, and when I do, I want it to taste interesting. I don’t like plain wholemeal; I buy seeded bread and make it last a month by sticking it in the freezer. But I’m not quite sure why I don’t buy value jam and spaghetti. I usually do buy the supermarket own brand, but even that is more expensive for no obvious difference in quality.

One thought on “Live Below the Line – The First Day

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