12 May 2012

Living Below the Line: Day 5

Day 5 -- last day of the Live Below the Line Challenge!

  • 1 Linda McCartney veggie sausage [16p]
  • 1 slice of toast [4p]
  • 1 cup of tea [2p]
22p down, 78 to go.  Later in the morning, I poured some water on an old tea bag to save money.

For lunch,
  • 1/2 PBJ [11p]
  • Popcorn [2p]
  • 1/8th of an under-ripe peach [1p]
  • Banana [9p]
  • 1 cracker with peanut butter and horseradish [5p]
Another 28p down, 50p to go.  I had some veggie odds and ends in the kitchen that I wanted to get through before they went bad, so I made a kind of mish-mash to go along with some pasta.

  • Value pasta [20p]
  • Broccoli [22p]
  • Mushrooms [38p]
  • Carrots [4p]
  • Home-sprouted sprouts [5p]
  • Wild garlic [foraged for free]
  • Oil [5p]
I'd say I had about 38p's worth of that.

Later in the day,
  • Herbal tea [3p]
  • 1 digestive biscuit [2p]
7p left, and then I fell asleep getting the kids to sleep.  ;p

I thought this challenge was going to be a doddle, but after going over by 3p the first day and wanting to snack and have tea all Monday and Tuesday, I started to worry that it would be kind of tricky.  It wasn't easy, but I'm really glad I did it.  I didn't realise how often I snacked during the day and I'm going to make an effort to keep track of what I eat from now on.  And, of course, it put my lifestyle, frugal, though it may be, into perspective.  The £1/day food-budget for the Live Below the Line challenge  -- the £1/day that had me pacing the kitchen, frustrated at having to stop snacking and curb my veggie intake, the budget that had me silently cursing my husband for throwing out a used teabag -- represents the what people below the severe poverty line have to spend per day on everything.

11 May 2012

Living Below the Line: Day 4

Day 4 and we're over halfway through Live Below the Line!

  • 1 Linda McCartney veggie sausage [16p]
  • 1 slice of toast [4p]
  • 1 cup of tea [2p]
You'll notice the price of my toast went up by 1p.  We got a new loaf of bread and it was more expensive than the last lot (even though both were reduced price).  I could make my own bread (and I often do), but this was a nice-looking buckwheat poppy seed bread and I love buckwheat, so we got it.  22p spent and 78p for the rest of the day.  The whole not-snacking thing is getting a LOT easier, although for some reason today, I am totally not satisfied with my breakfast and am still pretty hungry.  I dilute my tea with more hot water and decide to make an early lunch.

As usual, my vegetable budget makes lunch 'expensive.'  Under normal circumstances, I'd actually say that even with a lot of vegetables, my meals are pretty inexpensive and vegetables are certainly worth their price, not just because of nutrition and fibre, but because they are so delicious.  But since I am doing the Live Below the Line challenge, the cost of veg is kind of 'expensive.'  Of course, frozen veg is sometimes much cheaper, but I'm going to try to do this with mostly fresh veggies.  After going through my pantry, I decided on some dahl with rice.  I use the other leek, which has been wilting in my refrigerator, and some 'value carrots,' which were very, very cheap (2kg for 76p).  I used red split lentils instead of yellow split peas because I was in a hurry to eat and that and the leek made lunch much more pricey.  I can always make up for it with another popcorn and PBJ dinner.  ;D

  • 250g rice [10p]
  • 1 leek [35p]
  • 4 small carrots [8p]
  • 250g red split lentils [40p]
  • Spices & oil [10p]
£1.03 for the whole thing.  I ate just over a third, so let's say about 41p.  That leaves me with 37p for the rest of the day.  Not bad!  However, at first, I'd made some kind of crazy error and thought I only had 17p to go and was pacing back and forth, calculating what I could have for dinner if I still had a cup of tea.  I really felt like I was struggling.  Later in the afternoon, I double-checked and sighed with relief.

My husband had been hinting about tapioca yesterday, so I made some in my slow-cooker.  I LOVE warm tapioca pudding.  *Please note, I'm not including water in any of my ingredient lists -- just in case you try to make my tapioca.  You want at least a 5:1 ratio of liquid to tapioca pearls.  I used some soymilk and a lot more water.*

  • 250g tapioca pearls [40p]
  • 0.3L soymilk [20p]
  • Almond and vanilla flavouring [10p]
  • Sugar [2p]
I know that sugar number looks low because sugar has been pricey lately, but we got the bag of sugar on clearance (half off!) a few weeks ago and I only used about 3 tablespoons (I don't like my tapioca very sweet), so the whole crock pot was only 72p!  I'm guessing I had about 12p's worth, so I had 25p left for dinner.

My husband went out and picked some wild garlic and we had that with some value pasta.  I made some pesto (with ground sunflower seeds and olive oil) with it for the kids and my husband, but I didn't think it was in the budget for me, so I just had mine plain on the side.  Value pasta is 30p per bag and I used about 2/3 of a bag [20p].  BUT, my younger son decided he didn't want pesto on his pasta and ate most of mine instead (my older son ate both his and his brother's pasta), so I had a comically small amount.

  • Tiny amount of value pasta [3p]
  • 1 cup jasmine tea [2p]

I actually wasn't hungry after that.  I think I was still okay because I'd had the tapioca as a late-afternoon snack.  After that, I had a bath and fell asleep getting the kids to sleep -- I know it sounds like I sleep a lot, but the kids get up at the crack of dawn and the wee one gets me up a few times each night.  I meant to get up and have a banana and maybe some popcorn, but I didn't, so my total for the day was only 80p!!

10 May 2012

Live Below the Line: Day 3

And it's Day 3 of Live Below the Line!

  • 1 Linda McCartney veggie sausage [16p]
  • 1 slice of garlic toast [3p]
  • 1 cup of tea [2p]
As usual, this is pretty much my breakfast every morning.  21p spent and 79p for the rest of the day.

Today was going to be tricky, though, because I had half a bag of fresh spinach in the refrigerator and I knew my share of that would be close to 20p.  Yikes!  I could opt for frozen spinach, which is much cheaper, but I don't want any food to go to waste just because I am doing this challenge and trying to count pennies.  I decided to make some spicy tomato rice with leeks (we had 2 in the refrigerator and I didn't want them to go bad) and kidney beans (33p for a box from http://www.approvedfood.co.uk/ -- in general, it would probably be cheaper to use dried kidney beans, but I haven't found them cheap lately) and lemon juice (my husband must have bought the most expensive lemon in Scotland, it was 31p and the shop was out of lemon juice).  I threw the spinach in, too, because it was getting wilty and didn't look like it would be much fun fresh. Here's the breakdown for lunch:
  • 250g rice [10p]
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes [31p]
  • 1 leek [38p]
  • 1 box of kidney beans [33p]
  • 1/2 bag of fresh spinach [45p]
  • Spices & oil [5p]
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon [15p]
So a whopping total of £1.77 for a big pot of spicy tomato rice stew.   I had about a third of it, so the cost of my portion was 59p.

Ouch.  It was only just after lunch and I was already up to 80p!  My husband accidentally threw a teabag I was going to re-use into the compost bin, so my mid-afternoon drink was the other packet of free instant coffee that came in the post on Day 2.
  • 1 cup instant coffee [1p for the soymilk]
I decided to have PBJ for dinner.  I've already discussed the prices of bread and peanut butter in other posts, but my jam is a bit pricey because I buy unsweetened jam that costs £1.68 per jar.
  • 2 slices of bread [4p]
  • Peanut butter [6p]
  • Strawberry jam [10p]
I usually like a lot of jam, but I am on a tight budget today.  But even this is way over my budget, so I give 1/4 of the sandwich to one of my sons, so it only cost me 15p.  I have 4p leftover and am still hungry, so I make popcorn.
  • 1 big bowl popcorn [2p]
I really wanted another hot drink later in the evening because it was so chilly and was still silently cursing my husband for throwing out my bag earlier in the day, so I kind of 'saved' the last 2p for a cup of tea.  But then I fell asleep getting the kids to sleep (doh!) and never had my last cup!

So there you have it.  98p.  The biggest difference between today and the previous 2 days is I didn't have the urge to snack!

09 May 2012

Live Below the Line: Day 2

And it's Day 2 of Live Below the Line!

  • 1 Linda McCartney veggie sausage [16p]
  • 1 slice of garlic toast [3p]
  • 1 cup of tea [2p]
Like I said in yesterday's post, this is pretty much my breakfast every morning.  21p.  Not bad and less than a quarter of my budget for the day.   However, at about 11:00, I started fancying a wee snack and another cup of tea.  (Before y'all start accusing me of having a caffeine addiction, I drink all kinds of infusions, tea, herbal, fruity, etc., but I refer to them all as tea.)  At 11:10 -- it's my lucky day! -- two free samples of instant coffee arrive in the post.
  • 1 cup instant coffee [1p for the soymilk]
  • 1 rich tea biscuit [1p]
I am going to come out and say it right now:  I thought this would be a lot easier.  It's not hard by any stretch, but I kind of figured I always ate close to the £1 mark unless I was going out.  I didn't take into account any of my (numerous) snacks, hot drinks, and booze and I totally underestimated the vegetable budget.  I love veggies and eat a lot of them.

For lunch, I made a dahl (yellow split peas)-based dish.  I added an onion, half a cauliflower (and all the green leaves that came with it), some leftover butternut squash, a little oil, and some spices.  I was going to serve it on a bed of bulgar wheat (because I got 2kg for £1 on http://www.approvedfood.co.uk/ a couple weeks ago and my portion would only cost about 4p) or rice (1kg of value rice is only 40p), but the kids started hounding me for baked potatoes (a bag of 15 for £1, so just shy of 7p each).
  • 250g yellow split peas [23p]
  • 1 onion [10p]
  • 1/2 butternut squash [50p]
  • 1/2 cauliflower + greens [39p]
  • spices & oil [4p]
Which totals £1.26 for a nice pot of stew.  I ate about a third, so that's 42p for my portion + 4p for half a potato (my husband swears he didn't accidentally eat half, but someone did and it wasn't me or the kids) = 46p.
So just after lunch, I was already up to 69p, leaving me with 31p for the rest of the day.  Not too bad, and a lot better than Day 1.

The dahl stew was really filling.  I wasn't hungry, but was inexplicably struck with the urge for something sweet.  I don't usually fancy sweets, but not being able to 'afford' snacking had me really focused on the bar of chocolate in the cupboard.  I did a little math and it was 12p for one of their little 3cm x 3cm squares, so it was out of the question.  I did cave to my sweet urges, though.

  • 1 cup of tea with sugar and soymilk [3p]

I never have sugar in my tea and rarely have soymilk in it, but for 3p, I figured it was a frugal way to calm my sweet tooth.  It didn't.  It just kind of tasted icky (I just don't fancy sugar in my drinks).  I also reused the tea bag later.  Again, just not very satisfying.

It was getting close to dinner time and one of my sons started begging me for baked beans (~23p/tin).  I made some and the kids insisted I have 3 bites myself.  I kind of feel like being coerced into eating by my cute kids shouldn't count, but I'll bill it anyway, since I had more than 1 spoonful. I also had about a third of a bowl of cereal with soymilk.  The soymilk was 69p per carton and I didn't use very much on the cereal.  The cereal was 3 boxes for £1 at http://www.approvedfood.co.uk/, so it's pretty cheap. Speaking of cheap, I also had a bowl of popcorn.  I also had 2 crackers (they are just shy of 2p each) with peanut butter (value peanut butter is just 62p  for a 340g jar and it has no added sugar, so I really like it) and a beetroot-horseradish spread (4 for £1 at http://www.approvedfood.co.uk/).  I know that sounds crazy, but I love peanut butter and horseradish.  Ever since my friend Maureen told me about it, I've been absolutely mad for it.  I never would have come up with that combination on my own, but it's delicious!

  • 3 small spoonfuls of value baked beans [1p]
  • 1/3 bowl of cereal & soymilk [6p]
  • 1 bowl of popcorn [2p]
  • 2 crackers with peanut butter and horseradish [12p]

After dinner, one of my sons announced he wanted some tiny oranges and returned from the kitchen with 3 clementines, gleefully announcing, "here three oranges for three friends!"  (One for me, one for his brother, and one for himself.)  At 8p, I could afford one, but after peeling mine, I offered it to the kids, who gobbled it up (they are crazy about fruit and veggies).

After the kids went to bed, I thought about eating some more, but actually wasn't very hungry, so I settled down with a good book and a cup of tea.  I really wanted a wee dram of whisky -- for medicinal purposes, because I have a slight cold ;D -- but that wasn't in the budget.

  • 1 cup of herbal tea [2p]

My grand total for the day was only 96p!

08 May 2012

Live Below the Line: Day 1

Here's a breakdown of what I ate yesterday.

  • 1 Linda McCartney veggie sausage [16p -- I stock up on them when they are £1 or less for a box of 6]
  • 1 slice of garlic toast [3p -- 2p for the slice of bread (20 slices/loaf and it was on sale for 39p) and ~1p to spray the toast with a little olive oil, rub a cut piece of garlic on it, and sprinkle on a wee bit of salt]

This is pretty much my breakfast every morning, along with a cup of tea.  However, I felt like having a second cup this morning and did before realising it was Day 1 of the Live Below the Line challenge.

  • 2 cups of tea [4p -- 2p each -- I got a box of 50 bags of Clipper organic white tea for £1]
And, just as a treat, I had

  • 1 rich tea biscuit [1p -- they were 24p a pack and there are at least 24 biscuits in each pack].
I was already up to 24p.  I really wanted another cup of tea while I was fixing lunch, but I decided to really be frugal and poured hot water over my old bag.  I know a lot of people do this all the time and it is no big deal to them, but I generally am not into double-brewing my tea bags.  I didn't really enjoy the double-dipped tea bag tea, but it warmed me up.  I made lunch in the slow-cooker and did the dishes while it cooked.  I really started fancying a little snack while I was doing the dishes, but decided I couldn't "afford" one.

For lunch, I really splurged with a butternut squash and lentils dish (it was delicious and totally worth it, but cramped my budget for the rest of the day).

  • Slow-cooked butternut squash, lentils, and onions with herbs and spices [50p for 1/2 a squash (I ate all of it, too, even the peel, which softens up quite a bit once cooked and is perfectly edible), 5p for half an onion, 6p for the lentils (which I got really cheap from  http://www.approvedfood.co.uk/) and 1p for the herbs and spices (I've mentioned this elsewhere in my blog -- always try to get your herbs & spices either in bulk or from a Chinese or Asian grocer or the 'foreign' section of the grocery store -- do NOT buy spices marketed toward middle-class white people because you are totally getting ripped off), so a whopping 62p total!!]
I did get a bonus snack out of all that, though.
  • Dry-roasted (in the oven) squash seeds [free!]
I was now up to a whopping 86p.  Only 14p left for the rest of the day.  Later in the afternoon, I was starting to feel desperate for a snack or a hot drink.  I let one of my sons feed me a piece of his pasta.  I had 3 bites of my son's cereal.  I debated eating a stale biscuit I found hidden under one of the dishes on the table.  Eventually, I caved.
  • 1 cup of Barleycup and a splash of soymilk [2p]
Only 12p left for dinner.  I decided to take drastic measures.  
  • 2 bowls of popcorn [5p]
  • Small handful of dates [3p]
If you think that sounds crazy cheap for the popcorn and dates, it is.  I bought a 50 lb bag several months ago for about £14.  I have made popcorn several times a week ever since and it doesn't even look like I've made a dent in it.  I also bought 10kg of dates for £15 (it usually costs about £18-20, although I've seen 10kg for as cheap as a tenner before).

So, I was doing really well.  But then...
  • 1 wee clementine [8p]
I picked it up and started peeling without even thinking!  By then, I was committed to eating it.  I could have fed it to the kids, but they were getting ready for bed and, besides, that's kind of like cheating.

Grand total for the day:  £1.04

Whoops, I went over by 4p!  That's not too bad, though.  I think tomorrow will be easier because I am planning on having a much cheaper lunch.  The hardest part about this for me is not snacking and not having a cup of tea whenever I fancy one.  I also sometimes have a small glass of wine or a measure of whisky (or bourbon or brandy) before bed, which is clearly not in my £1/day budget.  In this case, I didn't even consider a nightcap because I fell asleep getting my kids to sleep, which happens 2 or 3 nights a week, no matter how badly I want to stay awake!