EE Live below the line - Jane's Blog

First thoughts:-

When Ai Seok asked me if I would take up this challenge it sounded very interesting, but I was concerned that I would not be able to afford to drink tea.  I don’t think I can live without tea!  I calculated that a teabag cost 1.875p and 20ml soya milk is 0.25p.  Ok, if my cups of tea will only cost me 2.1p, I’ll take up the challenge!


Wow!  Everything is so expensive!  Especially fresh fruit and veg.  Thank goodness for Oats, Rice and Beans.  I think I have enough left to supplement these basics. I am concerned to make sure I get all my nutrients, and eat healthily.  I choose a bag of frozen peas (protein and vitamins J), 2 large bananas (thinking I could have a half for 4 days), a bag of value oranges (these turn out to be my most expensive “per portion” item, but I want my daily vitamin C.  I also buy flour, celery, an onion, and splash out on a tin of value tuna and one small piece of lambs liver.  I was disappointed to find this came to £9.53, but there are many items that I won’t use all of. 


Next job was to carry out the exact calculations (I’m very particular and wanted to know exactly how much each portion would cost!)  It was a little strange – I’m used to counting calories, not pennies!  Again the rice, oats, peas and beans worked out very cheap.  Left over mushrooms and even carrots worked out at about 10p per portion. 


I boiled up a Turkey carcass from my freezer (probably left over from Christmas!)  Ok, so this would have had an initial cost, but quite frankly, everyone else I know would have thrown this away.  Even after boiling, there was only ¼ cup of meat left to pick off.  The stock will form the basis of my soup dinners for the week.  I also made a rhubarb crumble with half value flour, half spelt, and a small amount of butter & sugar.  The rhubarb came from my garden and has been growing there for years so I think it is zero cost.  I have lots of other fruit trees in my garden but nothing else is in season yet.  This made me realise the importance of crops to poor people.

Day 1

I like porridge, although I usually buy the Finest!  50g of value oats cooked up to a delicious and filling bowl of porridge.  I usually make my porridge with water only so this was a normal breakfast for me, if perhaps a slightly larger portion – I just hope it keeps me going until lunchtime!

No chance of a Costa coffee today – that would blow my whole daily budget!

Thank God for Ai Seok and her husband!  What a delicious and filling Egg & sausage fried rice her husband cooked up.  And lots of veg in it too, and only 34p!  Thank you J.

I felt quite sleepy in the afternoon, possible due to jetlag, and normally I would have reached for a sugary snack.  Instead I savoured my afternoon cup of tea, which perked me up.

I am slightly amazed and thrilled that I did not feel hungry all day.  However, when I got home, I was craving an orange.  I ate half an orange whilst preparing dinner.

It is amazing how tasty the turkey stock is when you add half a celery stick, ¼ onion, 1 small potato and ½ carrot.  I also managed to afford a portion of rhubarb crumble with a table spoon of ice cream, and finished off with one piece of chocolate!  I feel slightly guilty about the ice cream & chocolate, but at such small portions it really was within budget. 

I was curious to check if I was getting enough calories and nutrients, so I entered everything I had eaten into my “Fitness Pal.”  Calories were spot on and nutrients were good too – a little low on Calcium & iron so I will keep an eye on that.  Rice is surprisingly high in calories, so I realised why this is such an important food in poor countries.


Day1 Dinner- Turkey & Veg Soup

Day1 Dinner- Turkey & Veg Soup

Day 2

I am slightly concerned about Day 2 as I am taking an early morning train to Hatfield, and usually I’m ready for lunch by about 9am!  I’ll also be missing Ai Seok’s lunch!  So I planned out all of my meals the night before, and made sure I would have enough things to snack on.

A pot of tea before I leave the house, one bag and 2 portions of milk = 1.875+.5 = 2.4p.

Breakfast: Saved to have on the train: 50g oats but no time to cook them so just soaked them in water overnight.  Turned out to be very tasty, though not quite as filling as when cooked.

Packed lunch: A whole banana (I can eat this mid-morning if necessary); and a salad of quinoa, soya beans and peas.  A carrot, chopped into snacking sticks.  That’s 3 of my “nutrient colours” – yellow, green & orange!

Dinner: Quite expensive option of the liver, but it needs using by today.  I calculated I could add 1 mushroom, and ¼ onion, but using up 2 small potatoes would just not give me enough calories, so it will have to be rice instead.  There should be enough money left for a portion of crumble and a teaspoon of ice cream (the rhubarb with very little sugar is too acidic on its own – that’s my excuse anyway.)

Snacks – I’m taking some snacks from California to my team in Hatfield today.  I have seeded crackers (bought in bulk so I think I can try one 1” cracker for about 2p) and Ghiradelli chocolate. I’ll save a taste of that for another day, when I’m off this challenge!

Amazingly, after my oats this morning I still don’t feel as hungry as I usually do after muesli.  Perhaps is it the lack of sugar!

Drugs: I have hayfever, and I may need to take an anti-histamine.  Each tablet probably costs 20p.  I realise that many people have to choose between food and medicine.  I’m thankful that I don’t, and that I have clean water and electricity.

I ended up eating 6 crackers which blew 15p of my budget.  This meant I had to choose between a mushroom and Rhubarb Crumble.  Guess which one I chose!

Dinner: I was ready for my dinner tonight,  The liver with rice & onion was very tasty.  Followed by dessert of course J.  Still within budget!

Day 2 Lunch Box - Quinoa & Edamame

Day 2 Lunch Box - Quinoa & Edamame

Day 2 Dinner - Liver & Rice

Day 2 Dinner - Liver & Rice

Day 3:

Porridge again, cooked this time.  It was a huge bowl and actually made me feel almost too full!  Looking forward to something a little different for lunch....

Ai Seok’s husband did well again and we enjoyed Malaysian Prawn Noodle Soup for lunch today – and at a bargain price of 29.2p.  That means I have at least 60p left for dinner tonight – that is starting to sound like a lot!

Mid-afternoon, flagging now, need a 1.87p cup of tea to perk me up!  Sponsors have spurred me on!

It seemed like loads of money for dinner tonight – I had a delicious mix of quinoa and vegetables, dessert of rhubarb crumble, and still had 15p left over!  I was actually feeling full, so I splurged it on a single square of dark chocolate.  Hmm – that would have bought 3 bowls of rice.  This is making me think a lot more about all the privileges and treats I have.


Breakfast everyday

Breakfast everyday

Day 3 Dinner.

Day 3 Dinner.

Day 3 lunch - Malaysian curry noodles

Day 3 lunch - Malaysian curry noodles

Lunch - All gone. Only 29.2p per person. 

Lunch - All gone. Only 29.2p per person. 

Day 4:

Well I didn’t actually lose any weight yesterday – must have been the piece of chocolate.

Soaked oats for a late breakfast (my soya milk tea kept me going until 11am!)  Followed closely by Porridge for lunch – hmm?  Oh, Rice Porridge – Ai Seok & Vivien talk about it like we should know what it is!  Chicken Ginger Porridge to be precise.  It was very tasty, and very filling, and kept me going until... 3:30pm. 

It is a long time until dinner and well-meaning colleagues are offering to buy me a chocolate bar.  No!  That does not count!!  But you can sponsor me.... Lots of people have, I’m very encouraged.  Thank you J

Day 4: Dinner Preparation

Day 4: Dinner Preparation

I drink black tea, and try to revive half a cup of tea with soya milk, left over from this morning.  It doesn’t taste that great.  Roll on dinner time!

Dinner is ready-prepared – I added ¼ onion, ¼ carrot, ¼ celery stick, 2 mushrooms and 2 small potatoes to a portion of Turkey Stock (that’s the turkey carcass water – anyone want to join me for dinner?!)  It has been marinating all day and should be very tasty by now...

I had to go to the Mall after work.  I was feeling VERY hungry.  It was a “Card holders event” at M&S, which means free wine & snacks... I headed there first.  I turned down the wine (didn’t even bother to calculate the cost) and compared the mini cup cake (turned out to be 22p) or a Cheese Twist (3p).  I settled for a Cheese Twist and it tasted so good, and huge!

I finally ate my dinner around 9pm.  I was really ready for it!

Day 5

– that must mean it is the last day!  I treated myself to a third of a banana this morning, to give me the energy to walk to work.  It tasted amazing, and very luxurious!

Oats again for breakfast– I think I prefer them soaked to cooked.  I could hardly wait to eat them and I heard my tummy rumbling in anticipation.

Lots of sponsorships pouring in!

Lunch smelled so good, and tasted just as good too.  It has been a real blessing to have lunch prepared by Ai Seok’s husband this week, and to meet for lunch with others.  Thank you both J.

I’m making a tea bag last this afternoon – I keep topping it up and it is getting weaker and weaker... I know how it feels!

I can’t decide what to have for dinner – I have a choice!  But I have realised I often have to choose between calories (eg oats, rice, pasta) and nutrients (fresh fruit & veg.)  It seems impossible to have both. 

I have learnt a lot this week and I think the lessons will stay with me.  I will try not to take food for granted again.  I will bring in chocolate biscuits for my team next week, and I might have one or two myself.