Day 5: Live Below the Line

LBL5 Collage

We’re on the home straight now. Yes, the end is definitely in sight and I can practically smell the eggs and bacon in tomorrow’s English breakfast. In just a few hours the Live Below the Line challenge will be over and normally eating in the Bangers & Mash house can resume.

The challenge has grown progressively harder and harder as the week has gone on. It hasn’t just been the hunger. Some days I didn’t actually feel all that hungry, as we did fairly well at stocking on up carbohydrates. It was the boredom, the lack of choice. Eating the same thing for lunch over and over again. The no getting away from the crappy sliced bread. The dirth of fresh vegetables.

Our evening meals weren’t too bad. There was a bit of variety there. But to be honest, by the evenings just about anything would have been attractive. I really wished I’d been a bit more creative with our lunches. However when you’re working full-time and taking part in the Live Below the Line challenge, one decent meal a day is hard enough to manage.

So what did I eat on the final day?

Breakfast

One bowl of porridge (made with cinnamon, water and a splash of milk) with half a mashed banana and strawberry jam

Lunch

Sandwiches with cream cheese and cucumber. A couple of carrots.

Dinner

Pasta with tomatoes, peas and Marmite.

Breakfast cost around 10p. Lunch was 27p, while dinner was 32p. Plus a two cups of redbush tea with milk for 10p and a couple of ginger nut biscuits at 4, and my total spend for the day was 83p.

So what have I learned this week?

I’ve learned that when you don’t have much to eat, you notice so much more how much the people around you are eating. How much food is advertised and promotions for buckets of chicken and happy meals are constantly in your face. The reminder that you don’t have food feels like it is being rubbed in incessantly.

I’ve learned that it’s bloody hard work feeding a family on a £20 budget. It’s doable but only if you plan ahead, work out how to use a few ingredients in a multitude of dishes, get creative, shop around for bargains and swallow your pride to ask for freebies from your butcher. I’ve learned how easy it is for parents to do without some things (like fresh fruit in our case) to make sure their children get what they need.

We managed to live on £20 for five days but only  just. I don’t think we could have done it any longer.

And what if we didn’t have a car in order to drive a couple of extra miles to the cheapest supermarket? Or what if we didn’t have a fridge or freezer, or couldn’t afford to keep the oven on for a few hours to cook up chicken stock? What would we be eating then? How long would it take to break our middle class morals about eating only ‘good’ meat before we succumbed to the lure of cheap sausages or a value frozen lasagne?

Thank you

Another thing I’ve learned is how wonderfully supportive people can be. Thank you to everyone that has taken the time to read these posts and send such positive messages via the blog, Twitter and Facebook and also to everyone that has donated money to Save the Children in support of our efforts. We’ve beaten our target but you can still continue to donate at www.livebelowtheline.com/me/reesfamily.

live below the line logo

Day 4: Live Below the Line

LBL4 Collage

I’m glad today is nearly over. It’s been the toughest day yet on the Live Below the Line challenge.

I had a long day at work and my energy levels have been super low all day, partly because of the early start (I left the house at 7am) but also, I’m sure, because of the lack of fuel. I’ve had a headache on and off, probably due to lack of caffeine.

And to make matters worse, I had to attend a staff workshop which ran over lunchtime. We were given a sandwich buffet but of course I couldn’t touch it as I’m not allowed to accept any ‘donated’ food this week, and so I had to tuck into my hideous sandwiches made from cheap bread and cheap cream cheese and tasteless tomatoes imported from Holland.

Yes, I’m feeling sorry for myself and I can’t wait for this challenge to end. My family are all grumpy with me for making them do this, and I really can’t blame them.

I didn’t get home until nearly 7pm and couldn’t eat dinner until the girls had gone up to bed. The baked rice with beans and eggs was tasty and filling but, to be honest, I could have eaten just about anything by that point.

I really don’t have the energy to work out how much my meals have cost today but I can guarantee it came to less than a pound.

How people live like this everyday, I just don’t know. No-one should have to live like this.

It’s the last day of the challenge tomorrow. Hopefully that will put me in a better mood…

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:

Breakfast

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

Lunch

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

Dinner

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.

 

Day two: Live Below the Line

I haven’t found day two of the Live Below the Line challenge too bad. Breakfast and lunch were pretty dull, both revolving around cheap, sliced bread that tastes like cardboard. I was too hungry to take a photo of the toast, which I ate with value strawberry jam and then the sandwiches I took to work were filled with cheap cream cheese and cucumber. I ate every last crumb but can’t say I particularly enjoyed the experience.

sandwiches

And despite there being more free food available in the work kitchen which I wasn’t allowed to eat, I didn’t really think about food too much as there was so much going on today to distract me.

Firstly it was my last day in Wells where I’ve been working for the Church of England for the last 18 months or so, covering a couple of maternity leaves. So there were lots of goodbyes and rather a fun, convivial atmosphere in the office.

Secondly, an RAF helicopter had to be brought in to rescue a woman who had fallen during a tour of Wells Cathedral towers, and as our office overlooks Wells Cathedral we had the perfect view of the dramatic events unfolding. Thankfully the woman was OK and none of the injuries she sustained were life-threatening.

wells cathedral

So you can see why food was quite far from my thoughts this afternoon.

However, when I got home it turns out it was quite a different story for the rest of the family. Tempers were fraught when my husband brought the girls back from drama club. Both girls were starving, as was Jason, and they were in bad moods because they hadn’t been allowed any snacks, chocolate or ice cream while they were out, and everyone seemed just generally tired and grouchy.

We sorted out dinner as quickly as humanly possible, which restored some good humour, but it’s pretty evident my family are not happy with me for inflicting this challenge on them. Dinner was a Chicken Brodo, a simple chicken broth which I packed full of penne pasta as well as some carrots and peas, made from one of the chicken carcasses my butcher gave me for free.

Louisa at Eat Your Veg recommended the recipe, and it was really very good. I’d prepared most of it last night after the kids went to bed and was pleasantly surprised at how much meat I managed to pull off the bones.
Chicken Brodo

It tasted incredible and our bowls were empty in minutes flat. We even shared an apple between the four of us and had a ginger nut biscuit each as a bit of a treat for pudding. Never has a ginger nut biscuit tasted so good.

So how much did I spend on my food and drink today?

Breakfast: two slices of toast and jam – 5.5p

Lunch: 4 slices of bread with cream cheese and cucumber – 17p

Dinner: Chicken Brodo – 18.5p

2 cups of redbush tea with milk: 10p

Quarter of an apple: 2.5p

1 ginger nut biscuit: 2p

Day two total = 55.5p

I really deserve another ginger nut tonight, I think.

Day one: Live Below the Line

LBL1 Collage

So, we’ve reached the end of Day One of the Live Below the Line challenge and I think we’ve done pretty well as a family. My menu today was:

Breakfast

Porridge, made with water and served with a spoonful of cheap strawberry jam (23p a jar from Aldi).

Lunch

Cup of homemade leek and potato soup and two slices of wholemeal bread.

Dinner

Vegetarian chilli served with a massive pile of boiled rice.

The highs and lows

There was a fair bit of stodge on today’s meal plan and, at nearly 10pm, I’m feeling surprisingly full.

Saying that though, one of the biggest challenges today for all members of the family was the inability to snack whenever we fancied a little something. The children have found the temptation of chocolate hard to overcome; I really should have hidden all their remaining Easter eggs. I had to contend with sweet treats left out by colleagues in the kitchen at work to celebrate birthdays and trips to Spain. Needless to say I avoided the work kitchen as much as possible.

The lack of coffee has been another challenge for me today. At work I get through countless cups and the working day doesn’t usually start properly until I’ve made a large pot of coffee. Instead I had to be satisfied with endless glasses of water and squash and a couple of cups of red bush tea. If I ever do this challenge again, I will definitely factor in a budget for coffee.

I will never be eating porridge made with water again. Not ever. It’s just yeuchhhh. I made my children’s porridge this morning with milk as I always do, but I’ve never been able to eat milky porridge myself. I just can’t stand warm milk. Usually I make mine with apple juice and cinnamon but apple juice was a luxury we couldn’t afford this week, so I thought I’d give water a go. I think I’ll be sticking to toast for breakfast for the rest of the week, even though the strawberry jam is pretty grim. At 23p I guess you can’t expect it to be packed full of big, juicy strawberries, I suppose.

The cheap brown bread was probably another false economy. I felt quite chuffed yesterday at Aldi when I worked out I could afford three loaves. It tastes of nothing and sticks to the roof of your mouth when you’re eating it. Hopefully it’ll be better toasted. That’s another thing I’d do differently; if I do this challenge again, I’ll definitely be making my own bread.

I’ve roughly calculated the cost of my personal food and drink consumption today and it comes to…

Porridge with jam = 4.5p

Two cups of tea and milk = 10p

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

Vegetarian chilli and rice = 34p

Day one total = 83p

I think I might just have to treat myself to a ginger nut biscuit to celebrate!

Find out more about the Live Below the Line challenge how you can sponsor my family’s efforts here. Thanks to everyone who has supported us already – it means a great deal to us.

One day to go: Live Below the Line

live below the line
Could you live on just £1 a day?

Today I’ve been busy getting ready for the Live Below the Line challenge, which kicks off tomorrow, Monday 28 April. I’m taking part along with my family – my husband Jason and our two daughters Jessie (9) and Mia (6). The aim of the challenge is to spend just £1 each a day on all our food and drink for the next five days. For more on why we’re putting ourselves through this, read my earlier post.

Along with eating as much as humanly possibly in an attempt at stock piling, the first job was to sort out a meal plan. With a little help from some blogger friends (such as the lovely Louisa at Eat Your Veg who suggested the Chicken Brodo to make the most of the free chicken carcasses donated to me by my favourite butcher in Wells) and a bit of online research, I came up with a plan and then a shopping list and headed off to my local(ish) Aldi over in Shepton Mallet.

Here’s what I bought:

Frozen garden peas – 89p
4 pints semi-skimmed milk – 95p
Cream cheese with garlic and herbs – 55p
Blackcurrant and apple squash – 99p
3 leeks – 69p
10 onions – 69p
7 bananas – 68p
2.5kg white potatoes – £1.89
14 carrots – 59p
1kg porridge oats – 75p
9 apples – 89p
1 kg penne – 58p
Packet of ginger nut biscuits – 25p
4 cloves of garlic – 39p
1 kg long grain rice – 40p
Strawberry jam – 29p
2 tins of red kidney beans – 50p
1 cucumber – 39p
6 free range eggs – 89p
6 tomatoes – 39p
3 loaves sliced wholemeal bread – £1.35
6 wholemeal rolls – 55p

Total spend at Aldi = £15.54

I couldn’t find any cannellini beans or redbush tea at Aldi, so popped into Tesco for these. I was also convinced I’d be able to find some cheaper chopped tomatoes at Tesco compared to the ones I found at Aldi. It turned out I was wrong, but I couldn’t be bothered to go back again. So my mini shop at Tesco consisted of:

4 tins chopped tomatoes – £1.36
1 tin of cannellini beans – 50p
Redbush teabags (Jason and I are allowed two each a day) – 50p

Therefore our family’s total spend so far comes to £17.90. When you divide that by the four of us, that comes to £4.48 a day, equating to just over 89p each per day. I’ve left ourselves a little wriggle room as we will also need to factor in proportional costs for things like cooking oil, spices and seasoning.

I’ve never shopped at Aldi before, as I do most of our grocery shopping online (I’m not a fan of supermarkets) and Aldi don’t offer an online service, but I was pleasantly surprised at how far our budget stretched. I didn’t expect to be able to afford much in the way of fresh fruit or vegetables for instance, and I certainly didn’t think I’d be coming away with free range eggs, or biscuits.

live below the line

I was adamant though I wouldn’t buy any meat, and instead I’ve spent this evening boiling up the free chicken carcasses from my butcher and picking off a surprising amount of meat to use in Tuesday’s evening meal. That will be the only meat of the week.

So here’s our Living Below the Line meal plan for the week:

live below the line meal plan

People on Facebook and Twitter have commented that it looks quite a tasty menu and I must admit to being quite chuffed with what I’ve come up with. But it was bloody hard work. It took ages to come up with the plan, making sure ingredients required for one dish would be useful on another day, and then it took ages to do the actual shopping, adding up the cost of every item as I went along and looking out for all the cheapest offers. I really wouldn’t want to have to do that every week.

I should also point out that I’ve only included lunches for Jason and I. Jessie and Mia normally take packed lunches to school on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and have hot school meals the other two days. I’ve decided to let them carry on with this. My reasoning is that if we were on the poverty line in the UK, then I’d hope the girls would be in a position to receive free school meals. So I’ve taken their lunches eaten at school out of the equation.

It’s getting late now. I’ve just cooked up the leek and potato soup for mine and Jason’s lunch tomorrow, plus a big pot of veggie chilli, along with the chicken stock, and there’s a large pile of washing up awaiting. I’ll be back tomorrow to let  you know how our first day goes.

Oh, and if you fancy supporting our efforts, you can do so at the Rees Family’s online fundraising page.

Living below the line

live below the line logo

Next week my family and I will be joining thousands of people across the country and internationally to take part in the Live Below the Line challenge.

For five days from Monday 28 April to Friday 2 May, each of us will spend £1 a day on our food and drink. When you say it like that it doesn’t sound all that bad. But think about it. Think about what you consume in a day and tot it up. You could easily blow a pound on a frothy coffee on the way into work. This is going to be a tough challenge.

So why are we doing it? The aim is to raise awareness and change the way people in the West think about extreme poverty. The £1 a day figure is the UK equivalent of the international extreme poverty line. It’s a hideous fact that 1.2 billion people across the world struggle to meet their daily needs on less than a pound.

Save the Children
One year old Shamsia is being treated for severe acute malnutrition at an inpatient stabilisation centre funded by Save the Children in Niger. Photo: Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children

You might perhaps think that £1 a day is likely to go much further overseas but that’s not the case. For the five days, we might only get to spend £1 a day on food and drink, yet for people really living on the poverty line this would have to stretch so much further, also covering lodging, healthcare, travel and education. While for us the challenge is going to be hard, it will undoubtedly reveal just how lucky my family and I are.

Initially I was going to do the challenge on my own. Last year I got involved in a very little way by publishing a few recipes on the blog for others taking part in Live Below the Line; things like megadarra with roasted broccoli, spicy bean burgers and a virgin bloody Mary soup using value tinned tomatoes. Coming up with the odd cheap dish is one thing but this year I wanted to do more.

At first, I thought it would be unfair to make my family do it with me but it seemed to me that for families genuinely living in poverty, there’s no choice about these things and it’s only five days after all. It’ll be a good learning experience for my kids, won’t it? And we’ll be able to make £4 a day between four of us go further than £1 a day just for me.

My husband really isn’t keen. When I officially signed us up yesterday, he looked horrified.

“But we talked about this last week,” I said.

“I remember talking about it, but I don’t remember actually agreeing to anything,” came  his reply.

Funny how we all remember things differently.

Jessie, my nine year old, seems quite up for it but I wonder what she’ll think when the reality kicks in she can’t reach for a snack whenever she fancies one. Mia, the six year old, isn’t really sure what it’s all about but didn’t look impressed when she heard she’s unlikely to be seeing any meat or chocolate next week.

As a food blogger and a foodie family, food is important to us on so many levels. As well as a source of fuel and nourishment, it’s also a huge source of pleasure and conversation. What have we let ourselves in for?

Sponsor us and support Save the Children

Everyone taking part in Live Below the Line is fundraising for their charity of choice. We’ve chosen to support Save the Children. If you would like to sponsor our efforts, you can do so online here. Every penny will help Save the Children in their life-saving work with children and their families around the world.

What will we eat?

I’ll be putting my meal plan together and shopping for our family’s £20 worth of ingredients on Sunday. I think I might give Aldi a go, as everyone tells me their prices are the cheapest around. I’ve never shopped there before as I generally do grocery shopping online but I want to go in person as I’m hoping to pick up a few specials from the bargain aisle.

I suspect there will be quite a lot of rice, beans, pulses and frozen vegetables on our shopping list. Thankfully there are heaps of recipe resources on the Live Below the Line website and I reckon I might get an idea or two from A Girl Called Jack.

If you have any suggestions for cheap and cheerful dishes, I’d love to hear from you. Oh and my local butcher has promised me a free chicken carcass or two, so if you have any ideas for what to do with the chicken stock let me know.

We’ll keep you posted on how things are working out. Wish us luck!

Megadarra with roasted broccoli for Live Below the Line

megadarra

Here’s my final frugal recipe offering for Save the Children and the Live Below the Line challenge, which will see thousands of people this week attempting to spend just £1 a day on food and drink – the equivalent to the extreme poverty line. My previous creations have been a Virgin Bloody Mary soup made from tinned tomatoes and red pepper, and Spicy Bean Burgers made from tinned kidney beans.

Admittedly it might not look all that appetizing, but it is tasty and cheap and filling. And at less than 40p a portion, that’s no mean feat.

Also known as mujaddara, this is a peasant dish made from lentils and rice, popular across the Arab world. It’s supposed to be made with brown or green lentils. I made mine with red lentils, which is possibly why mine went a little mushy but my family weren’t to know and ate it without complaint for lunch today. Well, except Mia the youngest, who complains about everything the first time she tries it. She got into it two after a few mouthfuls. I was lucky enough to use fresh broccoli from our vegetable patch, but you’ll see I’ve costed frozen broccoli in the recipe below as this, I’ve discovered, is the cheapest way to buy vegetables.

Megadarra with roasted broccoli

Serves 4 

250g red split lentils, rinsed and drained
East End red split lentils from ASDA £3.50 for 2kg = 43.75p

800ml vegetable stock (made from one stock cube)
ASDA Chosen By You vegetable stock cubes 12 for 78p = 6.5p

250g brown basmati rice, rinsed and drained
ASDA brown basmati rice £1.68 for 1kg = 42p

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

2 tbsp vegetable oil (60ml)
ASDA sunflower oil £3 for 3 litres = 3p

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

2 cloves garlic, crushed
ASDA loose garlic 30p for approx. 8 cloves = 7.5p

300g frozen broccoli, defrosted
ASDA Smartprice broccoli £1 for 1kg = 30p

1 tsp (2g) mild chilli powder
ASDA mild chilli powder 80p for 44g = 3.63p

100g plain yoghurt
ASDA Smartprice low fat natural yoghurt 45p for 500g = 9p

Total cost = £1.53. Cost per serving = 38.25p

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Put the lentils and stock in a large pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for around ten minutes before adding the rice and cumin. Simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes until the lentils and rice are cooked and the stock has been absorbed. You may need to add a little more liquid if it starts to dry out before they are cooked.

While the lentils and rice are cooking, you can get on with preparing the onions and the broccoli.

Fry the onions in a tablespoonful of oil over a low heat. Cook gently for around half an hour until soft and golden. Add the crushed garlic and fry for another couple of minutes before removing from the heat.

To roast the broccoli, place in an ovenproof dish and toss with a tablespoonful of oil and sprinkle with the chilli powder. Roast for around 25 minutes until just tender and darkening.

To serve, stir two-thirds of the onions into the lentils and rice, and serve in bowls with the rest of the onion and broccoli on top with some yoghurt on the side.  Dig in!

megadarra

And as with all my Live Below the Line dishes, I’m entering this into April’s Credit Crunch Munch co-hosted by Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla from Fab Food 4 All.

Credit-Crunch-Munch-Just-Pic

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.

Credit-Crunch-Munch-Just-Pic

Virgin Bloody Mary soup – a recipe for Live Below the Line

virgin bloody mary soup

When Save the Children first invited me to contribute some frugal recipes for the Live Below the Line challenge, I knew immediately I had to get involved. Trying to eat good food on a budget is what I’m all about after all. But as soon as I started pulling together possible recipe ideas, it dawned on me this was going to be really rather difficult.

People taking part in Live Below the Line are getting sponsored to live below the poverty line on a measly £1 a day for five days from Monday 29 April to Friday 3 May. That’s just £1 for all their food and drink. No foraging or gifts allowed. £1 wouldn’t buy you a cup of coffee in your average cafe. It’s harsh, but it’s also the reality 1.4 billion people around the world wake up to each and every day.

Everyone taking part in Live Below the Line for Save the Children will be doing their bit to raise awareness of the plight of people facing extreme food poverty, while raising vital funds to help change the lives of vulnerable children everywhere.

Save the Children has challenged food bloggers to devise dishes that cost less than 40p to make from scratch. Every single ingredient has to be costed; every grind of salt and every splash of oil.

As I was thinking up ideas, it quickly became painfully clear just how difficult it is to eat well on such a low budget. Fresh vegetables and meat are practically out of reach, making tinned and frozen foods so much more attractive. While sliced, white bread might offer virtually no nutritional value, it does has the advantage of being cheap, and fills you up for a short time at least.

If you’re going to try to eat anything vaguely tasty or interesting while on the Live Below the Line challenge, as opposed to surviving solely on beans on toast, it pays to cook in bulk to get your money’s worth. Team up with others as it’s pretty much impossible to cook cheaply for one. And plan your meals. For instance, to get the cheapest onions you need to buy a big bag of them. So then you need to plan a whole list of meals to make sure you get your money’s worth. That’s why the three dishes I’ve come up with for Live Below the Line all revolve around onions, oil, garlic and spices to make sure I made the most of them.

Coming in at just under 34p a serving, the first of my dishes is a spicy tomato and red pepper soup, flavoured with celery, Worcester sauce and hot pepper sauce rather like a Bloody Mary, but alas without the Vodka. You really couldn’t sneak that in on this budget! I did intend to use Tabasco but found I couldn’t afford that either, so had to find a cheaper alternative. The soup is served with crispy garlic croutons, which I reckon is a pretty good use of cheap white bread, and helps bulk it out.

virgin bloody mary soup

Virgin Bloody Mary soup with garlic croutons

Serves 4

1 tbsp vegetable oil (15ml)
ASDA sunflower oil £3 for 3 litres = 1.5p

1 onion, chopped (around 100g)
ASDA Smartprice brown onions £1.16 for 2kg = 5.8p

1 celery stick, sliced (around 35g)
ASDA celery sticks £1 for 350g = 10p

1 red pepper, chopped
ASDA red pepper = 40p

1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
ASDA Smartprice chopped tomatoes 400g = 31p

500ml vegetable stock (made from one stock cube)
ASDA Chosen By You vegetable stock cubes 12 for 78p = 6.5p

Dash Worcester sauce (5ml)
ASDA Lea & Perrins £2.16 for 290ml = 3.72p

Dash hot pepper sauce (5ml)
Tesco Frank’s Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce Original 148ml for £1.00 = 3.37p

Salt (2g)
ASDA Table Salt 29p for 750g = 0.07p

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

2 tbsp olive / vegetable oil (30ml)
ASDA olive oil £1.98 for 500ml = 11.88p

4 slices white bread, cubed
ASDA Smartprice medium sliced white bread 50p for 22 slices = 9.09p

3 cloves garlic, crushed
ASDA loose garlic 30p for approx. 8 cloves = 11.25p

Total cost = £1.35. Cost per serving = 34p.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan and cook the onion, celery and red pepper until soft. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock. Add a dash of Worcester sauce and hot pepper sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Leave to simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes while you get on with the croutons.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil in a frying pan and gently fry the garlic until it has just turned golden. Throw in the cubed bread and stir well so all the pieces are coated in oil. Turn the bread out onto a baking tray and cook in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. When the croutons are looking crispy on the top, use a spatula to turn them over and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes depending on how just how dry and crunchy you like them.

When the soup is cooked, blend in a liquidiser until you achieve a fairly smooth consistency but not completely – it’s good to have a little texture. Serve in bowls and sprinkle a handful of garlic croutons on each. Grub’s up!

virgin bloody mary soup

As this dish is so utterly cheap and cheerful, I’m entering it into April’s Credit Crunch Munch, a wonderful blog challenge celebrating the very best in fantastically frugal food. This month it is co-hosted by Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla from Fab Food 4 All.

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