The Breadline Challenge: day 7

Having given myself a ‘cheat day’ on Sunday as it was my mum’s birthday (and there was birthday lunch and birthday cake to be eaten!), I did my final day of the Breadline Challenge today. Here’s what I ate:

Breakfast: Cup of tea (I didn’t leave enough time for breakfast this morning)

Lunch: Tuna & sweetcorn pitta and half a packet of instant noodles

Dinner: Cauliflower soup with some added soup mix

Snacks: Free (out of date!) crisps and a few Quality Street while at the food bank

I actually have food leftover from what I bought with my £14.70; obviously porridge and rice, which last ages, but also a tin of tomatoes, some potatoes and some carrots. I have to say I’m relieved that the challenge is over and that I can go back to enjoying my usual variety of fresh vegetables. And fruit other than apples. I won’t miss having to put so much thought into dinner time, feeling hungry between meals or worrying whether my food will see me through the week.

So is it possible to live off around £15 worth of food per week? Yes – particularly if you know how to make your ingredients go further, you eat small portions, and you’re able to cook from scratch and are open to a certain amount of experimentation in the kitchen. Is it enjoyable or easy to live on a low food budget? No. Is it possible to get enough fruit and veg in your diet? I don’t think so.

Although it’s been a long and not particularly fun week, I’m glad I did the Breadline Challenge. Working in countries with standards of living far lower than that of the UK has taught me to be grateful for what I have. But this week I realised that food – plentiful and varied food – is something I’ve been guilty of taking for granted. I’d like to give myself a small food budget one week every year from now on, to remind myself of how incredibly difficult food poverty must be for people. While I’ve only had a tiny glimpse into the reality of not being able to feed yourself adequately, I hope it’s an experience that stays with me.

The Breadline Challenge: day 6

Today went much better than Friday, thanks to the fact that I was volunteering at the Trussell Trust, helping to put together Christmas boxes (more about that in another post), so the time absolutely whizzed by. In fact, I didn’t even get round to eating my lunch until about 5.30! Although I’m fairly sure that was partly because I had a couple of tea and biscuit breaks in between packing boxes for 5 hours which kept me going. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say biscuit and tea breaks, as the tea was just an excuse to eat free digestives! (And my word, did they taste good!).

I’ve had a discussion with several people over the course of this week about whether eating food that’s given to you is ‘cheating’ and I don’t see why it should be. If I was genuinely living on a low food budget all the time, rather than just doing the Breadline Challenge for this week, why would I refuse food simply because I hadn’t bought it myself?

My very uninspiring array of food for day 6 was:

Breakfast: Porridge with grated apple

Lunch: What I’m calling, er, ‘rice salad’: rice, a diced carrot, sweetcorn, a mushroom and a 2 tbs of baked beans. Sounds a bit odd, but tasted fine and filled me up.

Dinner: Instant noodles… A nutritionally atrocious meal, I know. After all those biscuits and a very late lunch, it was all I needed.

Snacks: DIGESTIVE BISCUITS!

Tomorrow is my mum’s birthday and as we’re taking her out for lunch, I’ve decided to do my final day of the challenge on Monday instead. I feel uncomfortable knowing that one main course in a restaurant in London is going to cost approximately what I’ve had to spend on food for the whole of this week, but in a way, it’s not a bad thing for me to feel like that. It just serves to highlight how incredibly lucky I am that I can afford to eat out with friends and family, usually without a second thought.

The Breadline Challenge: day 5

I have absolutely no idea how people manage to live on the breadline. It doesn’t seem so much like living to me as surviving; paddling furiously to stay afloat when you’d really rather just give up as it’s easier and requires less energy. I’ve been at the mercy of my stomach all week: lethargic, hungry between meals, frustrated, annoyed, irritable. I’ve had moments when the Breadline Challenge has felt like a game – a bit like the round on Masterchef when the chefs are given scraps to cook with. I’ve quite enjoyed that need to be creative and to figure out how to make the best out of what I’ve got to hand. But that’s about where the enjoyment of this week has stopped.

Here’s what was on the menu for day 5:

Breakfast: Porridge with grated apple

Lunch: Hummus, carrot sticks and a pitta bread. Raw carrots are surprisingly filling; I think it’s all the crunching you have to do! My 1kg bag for 57p has gone really far, as even after my soup that lasted 3 meals and today’s lunch, there are still plenty left… But I’m pretty bored of them!

Dinner: Spanish omelette (3 eggs, 4 small potatoes, quarter of an onion & a couple of tablespoons of sweetcorn) and sofrito (half a red pepper, half a tin of tomatoes & a chilli). I felt a bit reckless using 3 eggs in one go, but I wanted to make something I would enjoy eating – and I did! I’d never actually made a Spanish omelette before today.

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Snacks: Half a packet of instant noodles

I guess with just the weekend to get through now I should feel like there’s light at the end of the tunnel, but somehow I don’t… I totally underestimated the mental strain of the living on such a small food budget.

The Breadline Challenge: day 4

Am I the only one doing the Breadline Challenge who lies in bed thinking about food? This morning when I woke up I was trying to figure out how to make porridge made from water taste better, and regretting not putting raisins or bananas on my shopping list. The bananas were a particular oversight, given how filling they are. What was I thinking getting three apples?! Apples though… I was sure I’d read something somewhere about grating apples into porridge. I wasn’t convinced it would work, but it did and it was absolutely delicious. I intend to continue adding apple to my porridge long after this week is over!

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Here’s what was on the menu today:

Breakfast: Porridge with a quarter of a grated apple

Lunch: The last remaining bit of my carrot soup, with hummus (most of a tin of chick peas, a couple of tablespoons of yogurt and a drizzle of oil) & 2 pitta breads. I really enjoyed today’s lunch and have plenty of hummus left.

Dinner: Leftover chilli bean pie from yesterday

Snacks: Instant noodles

I’m becoming increasingly conscious of how carbohydrate heavy my diet has been this week; I’ve had bread, noodles and potatoes today alone. In defence of carbs, they are filling, versatile and cheap, all of which are important when eating on a low budget. My usual hearty bowls of salad with things like rocket, watercress, avocado, plum tomatoes and tofu in them seem ridiculously extravagant right now…

The Breadline Challenge: day 3

It’s been a day of highs and lows. The low was that I was conscious at several points this evening that I was feeling impatient and easily annoyed because I was hungry. Anyone who knows me well knows the consequences of me being hungry; luckily, there was nobody around for me to get grumpy with!

I’ve also very quickly got fed up of constantly having to monitor how much food I’m eating and to consider in minute detail what to eat. Under normal circumstances, I’d have chucked an egg into my chilli bean pie (see below) without even thinking about it. But today I had to stop and question if I’d need it for anything else later on in the week.

On the good side, I did enjoy making (and eating!) my chilli bean pie tonight. I’ve come to realise, through trying to reduce my food waste, that I’m the kind of cook who prefers to be creative and cobble something together from bits and pieces, rather than following complicated recipes to the letter. So it was nice to adapt the chilli bean recipe, and as I was on a roll, I also made some hummus which will be a welcome addition to tomorrow’s lunch.

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This is what I ate today:

Breakfast: 4 slices baguette & a cup of tea. (Not the most nutritious of breakfasts, I know, but I couldn’t face porridge this morning!)

Lunch: Carrot & chilli soup (from yesterday’s dinner) & pitta bread… And there’s still some soup left for tomorrow!

Dinner: Chilli bean pie. This was adapted from a recipe I often make. It’s basically a mixture of vegetables and beans topped with potato slices and grated cheese. I made mine with half a tin of baked beans, half a red pepper, a few tablespoons of sweetcorn, two mushrooms, quarter of an onion, half a stock cube and a chilli. I put mashed potato on top, as my SmartPrice potatoes are too small for slices, and added a beaten egg into the mixture (mmm, protein!) before baking in the oven.

Snacks: None. A slice of cake wouldn’t have gone amiss though!