What’s left in the cupboard after Below the Line

In terms of surviving I did fine on this challenge. I have hayfever or some kind of seasonal blossom allergy which is lessening my appetite anyway, which I guess was a kind of silver lining last week! Even so, I got quite sick of some of the things I had chosen – it’s going to be a good long while before I can face a pickled onion again, although if I was having to eat on less than £1 a day long-term they are definitely a valuable flavour addition (just not for nearly every meal!).

Here’s the list of items left at the end of 5 days:

  • approx 30g tomato purée
  • 20 teabags
  • approx 125g mustard (about 2/3 of the jar)
  • approx 200g pickled onions & pickling liquid (just under 1/2 of the jar)
  • 230g cornflakes
  • 810g flour*
  • 250g carrots*
  • Maybe 70g peanut butter (about 1/5 of the jar)
  • 378g red cabbage (plus about 1/2 a tupperware container of slaw leftover, and maybe 200g of the stuff I cooked)
  • The vast majority of the salt!

* 330g of the flour is in the freezer, along with about 250g of the carrots, which made spectacularly brick-like carrot bread. I had been planning to take this bread on my journey but it was too heavy and unpalatable, so I will defrost it some time to use as something like beanburger bulk filler.

There are no potatoes or split peas left. Unfortunately I did not consume all of the split peas, I had an accident where I dropped one of the containers and at least half of the cooked peas spilt over the cooker and the floor and I didn’t feel they could all be saved (although I did rescue and wash off what I could of the ones that fell on the counter-top).

This means over the course of 5 days I’ve consumed

  •  690g flour (2450cal, about 65-70g protein, some calcium, iron, niacin and thiamin)
  • 1500g potatoes (1155cal, 30g protein, some vitamin c, iron, b6 and magnesium)
  • about 280g peanut butter, 290 minus 10 for what’s left of the slaw (1898cal, 73.9g protein)
  • 270g cornflakes (1007cal, 20.25g protein, an average of 45% rda per day of vits B1, B2, niacin, B6, folic acid, b12 and pantothenic acid, and 30% rda of iron)
  • about 220g carrots, 250 minus 30 for what’s left of the slaw (90cal, 2g protein, beta carotene to make vitamin A – sources vary really widely in their estimates, I’m going to guess I averaged 50% of the rda, but that’s a very very rough estimate)
  • 542g red cabbage, 892 minus 150 for what’s left of the slaw and about 200 left of cooked cabbage (168cal, 7.6g protein, about 100% average daily vitamin c rda)
  • Approx 500g cooked split peas (590cal, 40g protein, 22mg iron)
  • And a few odd calories and nutrients from the onions, mustard and the greens I foraged.

Calorie total for 5 days is approx 7358, which divides to 1471 per day. I lead a fairly sedentary life although I do a reasonable amount of walking, and I’m not tall. To maintain my weight I probably would have needed to eat about 200-250 calories more per day. I certainly could have done this if I hadn’t been scared of running out of the peanut butter and rationed it more carefully than needed, or if I’d managed to eat more cornflakes.

Protein total for 5 days is approx 223.25g, which divides to 44.65g per day. That’s a bit low, I would have been okay if I hadn’t dropped the split peas, or been miserly with the peanut butter.

I hadn’t expected to hit the targets for everything, I don’t think I did, and that’s fine for this length of time. If I had been doing this for 10 days, or had combined with someone else so there was £10 to spend for 30 meals rather than £5 for 15 the whole thing would have been a great deal easier and more palatable, but doing it this way has made me even more grateful than usual that I don’t live in a food desert!

Once again, I should stress that I am exceptionally lucky to live in a big city, within walking distance of several large supermarkets with ‘value’ ranges of foods, and who need to price their other items competitively. I have easy access to the internet so I could price-check most of the items I was interested in online (the only one I had to visit in person to view the prices was Aldi). I’ve been looking at the World Bank’s report on extreme poverty and realised anew that I can’t begin to conceive of the kind of life that people living on less (sometimes much less) than £1 a day are having to put up with. Many of the countries with large percentages of their population living at this level have average life-expectancies of 50 or less. The percentage of people with access to the internet, television or even radio is far far less than in my country. I feel helpless when I see how vast the situation is, and yet according to that report there are less people in what they class as absolute poverty than there were 30 years ago.

I don’t know what the solution is, at all. I really wish I did. I hope that donating to poverty-alleviating charities does reach the intended targets in a timely fashion, and I will continue to save where I can so that I can donate what I can, and hope others will do the same. It’s also worth considering what volunteering work could be done, either in charity shops for organisations providing aid, or in food banks to help communities who are struggling closer to home – if we can lift our own societies out of relative poverty the government will have even less excuse to reduce aid they provide to those in countries who need it most. And if you’ve read this far and have any pet schemes for helping to raise people out of poverty, please let me know in the comments section!

Advertisements

early supper, day 5

Since I had been hoarding the peanut butter and had so much left I decided to splurge on it, and had a nice early supper with the last of the baked potato, which I sliced up and spread quite thickly with peanut butter then heated up in the toaster oven until the edges of the peanut butter were beginning to bubble. I gathered a few more dandelion leaves, washed and tore them up and then put about 1/4 teaspoon of mustard on a fork and sort of swirled it around the wettish leaves to approximate a dressing. It wasn’t a gourmet meal by any means, but I feel better for it.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I really should finish off the rest of the coleslaw if I’m to get enough vitamin C (100g dandelion will give about 60% rda and I think I’ve only had about 20g. I doubt there’s much left in the potatoes since those were baked Tuesday evening and it deteriorates with both heat and time) but I’m not sure if I can face it today. I might go to a supermarket and spend my last 30p on an orange!


Halfway through day 5!

I had to go and visit my parents on Wednesday and only just got back home today. This was a bit of a challenge for continuing with LBtL as I was travelling by coach then tube then train, and I thought I was going to be away until next week, so I had to carry a couple of changes of clothes, but I knew I didn’t want to give up on or postpone the challenge, especially since a few people have donated to the JustGiving page I set up (thank you!), so I packed up as much food as I thought would keep me going until the end of the challenge: I baked all of the potatoes,  took the rest of the snack crackers, made some more tomato bread and made that into a couple of sandwiches with some of the coleslaw (and took the rest of the coleslaw in a tupperware container), the rest of the jar of peanut butter, and made a sort of spread by blending up the split peas with some pickle juice, a bit of mustard and about half of the remaining tomato puree.

I thought the latter item would make a passable soup if I mixed some water and whatever greenery I could forage into it (which ended up being a couple of handfuls of hedge garlic). I also chopped up one of my potatoes to add. This might have worked if I hadn’t added the pickle juice to the pea goo, but I’d put too much in and I regret to say that the overall effect was revolting, and actually ended up making me feel sick. I ate as much as I could by trying not to taste it but the last 2-3 spoonfuls went into my parents’ compost bin, I’m sorry to confess.

vile soup

Yesterday evening was better, I had the second coleslaw sandwich (I’d had the first on Wednesday), some more hedge garlic, some dandelion leaves and another cold potato. Today I’ve eaten dry cornflakes and finished off the snack crackers. I’ve still got quite a bit of coleslaw, which I bought back with me, 2 halves of potato, there’s about 1/4 red cabbage left in the fridge, and I’ve got lots of cornflakes and flour left too, and about half of the peanut butter still.

I’ve also got about half of the teabags left, and I’ve been extremely grateful to them, but coffee has been the hardest thing to go without, followed by salad (I made a salad for my parents, and it was quite difficult not to pop a stray leaf of lettuce or bit of cucumber into my mouth). The time of year has helped though, with the abundance of fresh greenery which is available on common land at the moment. As well as the dandelion greens, cleavers and hedge garlic I’ve also pinched a few leaves from the lime trees in the park, they’re very pleasant-tasting when they’re young.

Roll on tomorrow, and the French Press!


Day two – lunch

Yesterday I opened my little tin of tomato purée. You can’t keep food in the tin once it’s open (not sure why, but I know it’s a bad idea!) so I set about decanting the rest of it after I’d used a spoonful for my soup. I thought it would fit into a handy small glass jar I’d saved from something else but it turned out there was about a tablespoon left over in the can that wouldn’t fit, so I thought I’d see if it made a difference to some quick-bread.

I filled the purée can almost to the top with water and stirred so the leftover tomato paste reconstituted nicely and then added that to 100g SR flour and about 1/8 teaspoon salt. Turns out there was too much liquid  so had to add another 50g or so of flour to make a rollable dough. I rolled it out to a couple of cm thick and baked it in a hottish oven (around 200 degrees) for about 18 minutes. I had a chunk for breakfast but about 2/3 went towards my lunch:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I was quite pleased with this, it reminded me of a ploughman’s lunch. The tomato flavour is quite subtle, but it makes the bread a lot tastier, and to go with the bread I have red-cabbage slaw, dandelion leaves, a mustardy split-pea dip/spread (cooked split peas with pickle liquid, mustard, pinch of salt and water to thin, smushed with a hand-blender), a cold baked potato and a pickled onion.

I know I said I wouldn’t break down the cost of each meal, but just for the sake of curiosity I did it this time:

100g slaw – 5.6p

200g cooked split peas 9.4p

15g mustard (would reduce to 10g next time, it was just a bit too hot!) 2p

30g pickle liquid/an onion 2p

baked potato approx 200g – 11.6p

approx 100g flour’s worth of bread 3p

approx 15g tomato puree 2.11p

Total 35.7p


Day 1 – evening

I wasn’t planning on going anywhere by car to buy food, I was going to get it all on foot, but I unexpectedly had the opportunity of a lift to Asda where they are selling 1.5kg (which worked out to 6) potatoes on special offer for 87p, so I’ve got my spuds after all. I even got half of them baked for me!

I took the rest of my daily portion of slaw and 2 pickled onions in a container with me to serve over a potato, but ended up just eating a half-potato as I have been strangely un-hungry this evening. I will eat the rest cold over the next couple of days, but I also saved the other 3 to boil/mash/add to soup.

Since I’ve got everything I planned to, pretty much, here’s my final list for the week:

  • Tesco yellow split peas, 500g – 53p
  • Tesco value cornflakes 500g – 31p
  • Tesco value crunchy peanut butter 340g – 62p
  • Tesco value silverskin pickled onions 440g – 30p
  • Tesco value self-raising flour 1500g – 45p
  • Tesco value mustard 190g – 25p
  • Tesco value teabags (40) – 20p
  • Tesco value salt 1000g – 25p
  • Sainsburys tomato purée 142g – 20p
  • Asda ‘Extra Special’ Rudolph potatoes 1500g – 87p
  • Aldi red cabbage (weight not listed, but weighed by me at 1270g) – 45p
  • Aldi carrots 500g – 27p

That leaves me 30p as I couldn’t decide between a jar of jam, a bulb of garlic, an orange or lemon, and I was even kind of tempted to buy some Love Hearts sweets, even though they probably have even less nutritional value than the jam.

I don’t know if there’s much point in my costing out each day’s worth of food (I did make a start but it got fiddly with all the components in each thing I made), but I will run through what is left at the end of the challenge and work out the total spend and average nutritional intakes that way.

I already know I have enough here to last the 5 days in terms of calories and protein and will do roughly okay with regard to some vitamins and minerals although I’ll be falling short on a few things e.g. essential fatty acids and B12 and won’t manage to make the 5-a-day fruit and veg goal unless I eat more dandelions and other freebies.

I’m lucky to have plenty of spare time to source the cheapest item from each store, cook from scratch, and to own the equipment and know-how to carry that out, and I know that has made my cash go a lot further.


Day 1 – breakfast and lunch

Maybe it helps that I’ve got hayfever at the moment so I’m not tasting things as much as I could be, but I don’t think the 20p-for-40-teabags tea is as bad as people have been making out! It’s certainly a huge improvement on having to go through caffeine withdrawal! I had four cups this morning.

Having said I’m not a breakfast person, I woke up peckish so I had 25g dry cornflakes in the privacy of my own home.

I ate the 6 snack crackers I took to work throughout the morning along with my cups of tea, then went into town on the never-ending quest for affordable potatoes. Nothing doing in Leicester Market, they had 1kg potatoes for £1.10 (I’ve got £1.17 left from the fiver, I could spend it all on potatoes, but I was hoping to get something else for flavouring as well, like a bulb of garlic), or some people were selling bowlfuls for £1 but lesser quantities did not seem to be on offer. Marks & Spencer didn’t have any for less than £1.75 a kilo. There’s an ‘International Supermarket’ (smallish grocery shop selling some fresh produce) on Granby Street, and they had 2 kilo bags of potatoes for £1, but they were outside in the full sun in an orange-toned plastic bag and I didn’t trust them not to be green once the bag was opened.

Empty handed I started for home, but on my walk back I saw some cleavers peeking through a hedge on New Walk so I gathered a small handful of those, they’re supposed to be a good spring tonic.

When I got home I made a very simple bannock from 100g self-raising flour, a pinch of salt and enough water to make a soft dough, rolled out a bit into a circle and baked in a hot oven until it had puffed up and just picked up a tinge of brown on top. I ate half of this with soup made from 150g split peas, 15g tomato purée, 25g chopped carrot, the cleavers and 2 dandelion leaves finely chopped, salt, and water to cover, simmered until the carrot was tender. I topped this with a couple of spoonfuls of the cabbage cooked with pickled onions that I made last night.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The soup was… functional? It wasn’t bad, and the dandelions stopped it from tasting too boring by making it very slightly bitter, but it would have benefited from some spices and a squirt of lemon.

The other half of the bannock I had as a sandwich with 50g coleslaw and 5g mustard. This was good, I will make something similar again.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

I calculate I’ve had around 885 calories and 32g protein so far, which isn’t too shabby. I’m about to take a walk to Morrisons now to see what I can come up with for that final £1.17.


Last of the advance prep

I have now made the crackers for the actual challenge, using 200g flour and 100g peanut butter. It came out to 40 crackers this time (I must have rolled them slightly thinner) so I can have 8 crackers a day which I reckon totals about 280 calories and 9 g protein per day. I’ve packed up 6 to take to work, so I can have 2 as an after-work snack as well. I also bagged up 8 teabags from the packet of 40 bought for 20p. I don’t know what they’ll taste like, but they smelled like tea!

Before I made the coleslaw I peeled the outer leaves off the cabbage, but apart from a couple of spots they were perfectly fine, so I thought it’d be a shame to compost them, and instead I chopped then cooked them up with some of the onions, pickling liquid and some salt. I added a bit extra to make it up to 340g cabbage (12p) to which I added 45g pickled onions & 15g pickling juice  (4p) and 3g salt (I’m not even going to bother costing this), plus about 3 tablespoons of water. Brought it up to a simmer in a pan then turned the heat down and left to slowly cook with the lid on for about 15 minutes. The leaves were beginning to tenderise but still had plenty of crunch, and I’ve put that away in a 700ml container in the fridge. The amount almost filled the container – I’ll be able to have a good 2-3 spoonfuls per day for a total of 16p or just over 3p a day.

I drained and weighed the split peas. 500g dried made 1128g cooked, so I can eat 225g peas a day if I wish. I’m beginning to think it’s a good thing I won’t be sharing a bedroom with anyone during the week, I fear this amount of pulses, cabbage and onions may lead to some pungency! 225g cooked split peas provides 256cal, 18g protein, 2.9mg iron, 31.5mg calcium and 18g dietary fibre (according to Google’s nutrition data. I have no idea how accurate that is, but I guess it’s some idea). I decided against making a big pot of soup after all, instead I’ve refrigerated the cooked peas and will see what I feel like eating for lunch tomorrow. I spotted some nice big dandelions in the garden so thinking about using those somehow (I think weeds are fair game since I could gather these from common ground and nobody would object). I believe they’re full of calcium and other good stuff.


Prep for next week, part 3 – peanutty red cabbage slaw (recipe)

I thought it’d be a good idea to prep a lot of my food, so it’s ready to portion out as needed over the week.

I’m going to cook all of the split peas in one go after soaking them (which is happening right now), then turn half of them into soup (with tomato purée and carrots) and the other half into a hummus-type dip flavoured with mustard and pickled onion. The packets always say “no need to soak” or something similar, but then tell you they’ll take 45 minutes to cook. Well, they won’t take that long if they’re soaked, so you don’t have to steam your windows up as much or spend so much money on fuel if you can just spare a few hours to soak the dried peas in some water. I’m also going to combine soaking with my other favourite way of saving money, which is to bring them to the boil for a few minutes and then turn the heat off and leave them to finish cooking with a lid on in the residual heat. Works like a charm!

I’ve already trialled the following coleslaw recipe a couple of weeks back, except I used spirit vinegar because I’d not yet bought the pickled onions. I’m tempted to chop some onions into the slaw as well, but I might see how many I need to use elsewhere before I do that, as I don’t want to run out of one of my few strongly-flavoured ingredients.

Red cabbage slaw with peanut-butter mustard dressing:

550g grated red cabbage(19.5p)

150g grated carrot (8.1p)

2 Tablespoons (60g) chunky peanut butter (10.9p)

1 Tablespoon (15g) everyday value mustard (2p)

2 Tablespoons pickling liquid from a jar of pickled onions (2p)

1 Tablespoon water.

Method:

Put the cabbage and carrot into a storage container, mix the rest of the ingredients together in a small bowl then add to the veg and mix well. You could add another spoonful of water to the dressing bowl and use that to eke out the remains of the dressing and pour that over as well, as it’s quite thick and difficult to scrape out. Store in fridge. Leave flavours to meld for at least an hour before tasting for seasoning. Add more mustard/vinegar or a dash of salt if needed.

This is going to give me 5 servings of approximately 140g at a cost of 8.5p each, and it’ll go a long way to covering my vitamin C and A needs (I would say it’ll cover them entirely, but I’m not sure how much loss will occur over the days it’ll sit in the fridge).

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES


Prep for next week, part 2

Back from my journey to Aldi, followed by a walk into the city centre. The good news: I got a 1.27kg red cabbage (grown in the UK) for 45p! This is by far the cheapest I’ve seen red cabbage in a supermarket, they’re usually about 80p a kilo. The bad news was that there were no fresh potatoes available for less than £1. They had 500g bags of carrots for 27p, and I decided to buy one of those instead of a 1kg bag for 49p, even though it works out at 5p more a kilo, because I think 100g of carrots a day will probably be sufficient and it gave me a bit of extra cash to play with.

carrots 500g 27p Aldi

I left Aldi and walked into town via the medium-sized Sainsbury’s on Humberstone Gate. I was hoping for better potato luck there, but the only loose ones they had were bakers for £1.25 per kilo, so I didn’t get any, but what I did get was a special offer tin of tomato purée for 20p, which I think is going to make my split peas taste a whole lot better, so I’m really pleased with that! That means I have £1.17 left to spend.

tomato puree 142g 20p Sainsbury

I also dropped by one of the Tesco Express shops in town. They didn’t have any usefully-priced potatoes either, but what they did have (although I didn’t buy them) were 500g bags of oats for 68p:

oats 500g 68p Tesco

Now, you can get 1kg bags of oats for 75p in Morrisons, larger Tesco stores and Aldi (they didn’t have any today though), so these aren’t the best value around, but if I end up being desperate for oats with less than 75p left it’s worth knowing about them, as until now I thought 75p was the lowest price available for oats.


Prep for next week, part 1

I’ve already got my dry goods ready to go, and I’m just about to take a trip to Aldi for the fresh veg. I’m not a regular Aldi customer as it’s not within my usual walking area so I was a bit dismayed to read on someone else’s blog that the 39p potatoes I was hoping to buy there were part of a special offer which ended last week.

I have £2.09 left to spend, and I was aiming for a red cabbage (45p), carrots (49p) and potatoes (which I thought were going to be 39p) which would have left me with 74p for a jar of cooking sauce/tomato puree and a bulb of garlic, or some jam, or a litre of soya milk – I hadn’t quite decided yet. If I just buy cabbage and carrot that leaves me with £1.15. I could either just buy a couple of loose potatoes, or I could spend the whole lot on a big bag of potatoes, or 65p on a bag of frozen basics chips from Sainsbury’s leaving me 50p for more flavouring options. Ack, I dunno! Maybe I’ll just leave the potatoes altogether for now and see how I get on! Might be good to have some spare pennies.

I really dithered about whether to set up a fundraising page for the challenge next week or not. In the end I decided it couldn’t hurt to make a quick way for people to donate if they felt like it, so here’s a page for Unicef, partly because they say they’re already in place to help those affected by the dreadful earthquake which has just happened in Nepal. https://www.justgiving.com/dropsconelbl15

I’m also open to suggestions for other charities, preferably those that are already linked up on JustGiving or another site which offers mobile phone text message donating, because donating by text seems not to incur an admin fee so 100% of the donation goes to the charity.