Day 3: Live Below the Line

jess message

I got home from work tonight to find this note from my Jessie on the white board in our kitchen we use for shopping lists. It says it all really.

In case you can’t make out her handwriting, it says:

Lots of food to pay us back for doing LBL. OK? LOL Jess xxx

Yes, everyone is getting a bit fed up. It’s the lack of variety (and doing it as a family we’re enjoying way more variety than people doing Live Below the Line on their own) and the lack of snacks outside of mealtimes. The kids want apple juice and milk; the adults want coffee and alcohol. And everyone wants nice bread and chocolate. And fruit. And salad. And roast lamb with mint sauce…

We spend more and more time talking about what we’re going to eat on Saturday. The plan, as soon as Mia has been to her ballet lesson, is to go out to a really good cafe and have a cooked breakfast with sausage, eggs, bacon, black pudding, spinach, tomato – the works. Oh, and lots of fresh orange juice and strong coffee.

But then, as I’m thinking these thoughts, I start feeling guilty. It’s OK for us, isn’t it? We only have to cope like this for five days. It’s not long really. For too many people, living on a pound a day is a reality they can’t escape from.

LBL3 Collage

Today’s exciting menu was:


Two slices of toast with jam and half a very thinly sliced banana.


Bowl of homemade leek and potato soup and two slices of wholemeal bread. (Again.)


A spicy bean burger in a bun with potato wedges with a couple of slices of tomato and a spoonful of mayonnaise.

I’m well and truly bored of this cheap brown bread now, but it was vastly improved this morning by having sliced banana on top. Lunch was dull, plus there was no salt in the kitchen at work and it really needed seasoning, and everyone else in the office seemed to be eating the most wonderful smelling creations.

I have a new job in Bristol, which I’m really enjoying but it’s a long drive back to Somerset and I got stuck in some pretty heavy traffic. As I sat in the car, everything around me seemed to be making me hungry. Adverts for fast food joints on bus stops, pubs promoting their special two-for-one offers, people coming out of takeaways stuffing chips in their mouths. Cheap, fast food and yet all of it still unaffordable and out-of-reach.

Thankfully when I got home, Jason had started work on the spicy bean burgers which tasted so, so good. The potato wedges were wonderfully fat and satisfying and a dollop of mayonnaise has honestly never tasted so good. I came up with the recipe for last year’s Live Below the Line, and you’ll find the recipe here.

So what was my budget for food today?

Two slices of toast with jam and half a banana = 10p

Two cups of tea and milk = 10p

Leek and potato soup and two slices of bread = 34.5p

Bean burger and potato wedges = 35p

1 ginger nut biscuit = 2p

Day one total = 91.5p

Tomorrow’s going to be tricky. I have to go to a lunchtime staff meeting which involves a free lunch for everyone attending. But the rules of Live Below the Line say I’m not allowed any donated food, so I’m going to have to watch everyone else tuck into their free goodies, while I eat more grim sandwiches. Roll on Friday…

If you fancy sponsoring the Rees Family for taking part in Live Below the Line, you can do so here. We are fundraising for Save the Children.


Spicy bean burgers for Live Below the Line

Spicy bean burger

This is my second dish for Save the Children and the Live Below the Line challenge.

From 29 April, thousands of people will be getting sponsored to live below the extreme poverty line for five days, with just £1 a day to spend on all their food and drink. I’m not sure I could do it. But I’m playing my part, in a very tiny way, by trying to come up with some vaguely tasty dishes that cost less than 40p a serving to prepare from scratch. My first offering was a Virgin Bloody Mary soup made from cheap tinned tomatoes and a red pepper, costing less than 34p a bowl.

I’ve managed to save an extra halfpenny (not that they exist anymore) with these spicy bean burgers. Based on cheap tinned kidney beans pimped with garlic, cumin and paprika, this recipe creates four burgers costing just 33.5p each. You could probably even allow yourself a dollop of mustard or tomato ketchup. What luxury! But no skinny fries on the side I’m afraid.

spicy bean burger

Spicy bean burgers

2 tbsp vegetable oil (30ml)
ASDA sunflower oil £3 for 3 litres = 3p

1 small onion (80g), chopped
ASDA Smartprice brown onions £1.16 for 2kg = 4.64p

1 tsp (2g) ground cumin
ASDA 57p for 41g = 2.78p

1 tsp (2g) paprika
ASDA 58p for 46g = 2.52p

4 cloves garlic, crushed
ASDA loose garlic 30p for approx. 8 cloves = 15p

1 x 400g tin kidney beans
ASDA Smartprice kidney beans 400g = 27p

Breadcrumbs made from 1 slice of white bread
ASDA Smartprice medium sliced white bread 50p for 22 slices = 2.27p

Pinch of salt (1g)
ASDA Table Salt 29p for 750g = 0.04p

Grind of pepper (1g)
ASDA Smartprice Ground Black Pepper 25g for 20p = 0.8p

1 tomato, sliced
ASDA salad tomatoes £1 for 6 = 16.66p

Lettuce leaves (40g)
Sainsbury’s Basics young lettuce leaves £1 for 75g = 13.33p

4 soft bread buns
Sainsbury’s sesame seed burger buns 70p for 6 = 46.66p

Total cost = £1.34. Cost per serving = 33.5p

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion until soft and golden. Add the cumin, paprika and garlic and fry for a couple more minutes but don’t let the garlic brown.

Remove from the heat and leave the onion, garlic and spices to cool a little before you add them to a food processor. Next add the drained kidney beans, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Blitz but not for too long – you want a fairly chunky texture. Shape by hand into four patties.

Heat the remaining oil in the frying pan and fry the burgers over a medium heat until cooked through and crispy on the outside. Turn them over gently to prevent crumbling.

Serve in toasted buns with a slice or two of tomato and some lettuce leaves.

Spicy bean burger

As with my last Live Below the Line dish, I’m also entering this into April’s Credit Crunch Munch co-hosted by Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla from Fab Food 4 All. If you’re looking for frugal food ideas, this is a very good place to start.