Live Below the Line – Day Five

I am very glad that this is over, but at the same time incredibly glad that I took part. I’ve learnt far more than I expected to, and suffered far less discomfort than I feared. I haven’t made a great deal of money for the charity, but at least it’s something.

Today I had toast and marmalade for both breakfast and lunch: 18p in total, using the last of the bread. I had planned to make veggie burgers tonight, and had even composed a mental recipe of sorts (although the plan was basically to experiment optimistically), but as I was walking to the kitchen with my tubs of vegetables, I suddenly remembered that in a fit of rare packing zeal I had packed my frying pan.

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Live Below the Line – Day Four

No picture today, I ate exactly the same lunch as on day two and dinner was a) not photogenic and b) rushed.

This morning I went for a run about an hour after my breakfast of two slices of toast and marmalade (9p). I felt well-rested, well-nourished and tolerably well-hydrated. It was somehow easier to run than it’s been any other time, which I took to be a very good sign. When I got back I had a fromage frais – 7p. Continue reading

Live Below the Line – Day Three

I had a bit of a mental blip today and was very close to going over the £1 budget. However, once again factoring in the 0.25 and 0.5p rounding up I’ve done on some calculations, I’ve just managed it. I had cooked a sausage casserole (peas, carrots, beans, 1/4 of the tin of tomatoes, 1/2 the potatoes and four sausages) intending it to last for two meals. But I was hungry and it was delicious, and I ate all of it. And then I added up the costs and realised I was a hair’s breadth away from being over budget for today. Dinner will definitely be bread and marmalade only!

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Live Below the Line – Day Two

Today has been a little more varied than yesterday, although still fairly bread-based. For breakfast I had two slices of bread with a slightly less lavish quantity of marmalade than I had for lunch yesterday – I’m not concerned about running out, but it felt excessive. Breakfast cost: 9p.

Spaghetti with tinned vegetables

Spaghetti with tinned vegetables

Lunch was a two-part special due to choir commitments, so I first had a boiled egg to tide me over, and then cooked a surprisingly delicious pasta sauce using 1/4 tin of carrots, 1/4 tin of chopped tomatoes, 1/4 tin of peas and 1/4 tin of kidney beans, plus 1/4 of an onion diced very small, all served over 125g of spaghetti. I wasn’t expecting it to taste very good, because I had no oil to fry the onion in and nothing to add flavour, but it was actually excellent. It’s certainly true that hunger is the best sauce, at any rate. I rounded it off with another fromage frais. Lunch cost: 46p. As ever, please forgive the fuzzy photo!

I’m about to leave for another choir commitment so I’ll be taking marmalade sandwiches (two slices of bread and approximately 10g of marmalade, 9p). I considered boiling another egg to take with me, which would have edged the total cost to £1 – bearing in mind that I have rounded up the cost of anything that divided to .5p or over – but I don’t have time now, and I’ll just have to manage. I wouldn’t exactly say I’m hungry, but I don’t feel completely full. I’ll fill my water bottle and resist the temptation of other people’s snacks. A couple of my friends have offered me slurps of their cup of tea or crisps from their mid-rehearsal snack but it doesn’t really feel like it’s in the spirit of the challenge to accept.

Total day’s meals cost: 64p.

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.