Days 4,5 - Live Below Below the Line (food diary)

July 27, 2017 at 11:27 PM | categories: livebelowtheline, justgiving, lbtlfooddiary | View Comments

End of day 5. So here's the food diary for days 4 and 5.

Again, if this is the first time you're seeing this, some context:

    From 23-28 July, I'm Living below the line - £6 for 6 days food (total) in order to raise awareness of food poverty in the UK, and more specifically, I'm aiming to try and raise as large a proportion of £2500 as possible. (That would help 100 families in need in manchester).

    For more info, and/or to sponsor me, please visit/share this justgiving link.

    If you can't sponsor, please share the justgiving link!

Anyway, as I said, here's the food diary for todsy and yesterday. (And as before, RDA calories for me is 2327...)

As per other days, I'm using 3 flasks to take tea and hot food to work.

Day 4: Wednesday 26 July 2017 - 1898 Kcal

Morning - 510 Kcal

  • Tes
  • 3 slices toast, jam, marg (8nstead of porridge)
  • 1 budget flap jack

Afternoon - 437 Kcal

  • Tea
  • Not pot moodle - with added grsvy and mustard (to give a soy sauce effect - worked quite well)
  • Tea

Evening - 732 Kcal

  • Tesco value mash (1/3rd of a new batch)
  • Peas
  • 3 Asda smartprice sausages
  • Gravy and mustard
  • squash
  • 1 ginger nut

Night - 219 Kcal

  • Tea
  • Chocolate mousse
  • 3 ginger nuts (somethinh nice late)

(Late evening really)


Calorie Deficit: ~350 calories

The addition of mustard and gravy to the sorta pot noodle seems to have been a good idea. Skipping porridge today was a nice change. As per yesterday it's all a bit samey. Would be nice to have some variety, but that's not an option at the moment. No coffee is definitely a downside here. Super strong tea is a partial sustitute, but not the same.

Fundraising stalled today which is a bit frustrating, but breaking filter bubbles is hard, not everyone who sees this can donate, etc, and most people who see this probably donate to something, probably including foodbanks already. So thst's all good. If you read this, any suggestions for reaching £ 1000 would be great...

Day 5: Thursday 27 July 2017 - 2065 Kcal

Morning - 374 Kcal

  • Tea
  • Budget Flap Jack
  • Tea
  • Porridge

Afternoon - 467 Kcal

  • Pasta 'Not Pot Noodle', with added gravy / mustard for seasoning
  • Tea
  • Squash
  • Tea

Evening - 606 Kcal

  • Tea
  • 3 Asda smartprice sausages
  • Tesco value mash
  • Peas
  • Gravy, Mustard

Night - 618 Kcal

  • 1 Budget flap jack
  • 2 slices toast, jam, marg
  • 2 ginger nuts
  • 1 tesco value chocolate mousse

(Late evening really)


Calorie Deficit: ~300 calories

Reached 920 today, which is pretty awesome, and makes 1000 seem possible. Also, now at the stage where I now know that the food left for tomorrow is all pretty much fair game. It's all pretty much the same stuff but it is something at least.

Even a small amount more (and people banding funds together) allowing some variety, fruit, veg would've been nice.

Also, despite consistently under RDA calories by a wide margin, I've gained 0.8kg this week. That's either just 'in transit' so to speak (lack of fibre?), or due to low nutritional content. Either way, it strikes me theres an issue with low cost diets that is probably related to obesity.

Unlike many I know tomorrow this ends. For others, often demonised by politicians and media, this goes on week in, week out, relentlessly, being kicked when they're down. That's the oppressive reality of Austerity, and we meed to do better. But for now, we can at least make the job of foodbanks easier...

Please do donate

Overall though, this is worth it. At the end of Day 5, the amount raised so far is £920. That's a fantastic amount, and will help a lot of people. Reaching £1000 would be amazong though!

If you'd like to help push me towards the goal of helping 100 families, in Manchester please sponsor me on justgiving.

Either way, thanks for your interest, and please share this, or the justgiving page.

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Day 3 - Living Below the Line (Food Diary)

July 26, 2017 at 12:31 PM | categories: livebelowtheline, justgiving, lbtlfooddiary | View Comments

So, end of Day 3. So here's the food diary for today..

Again, if this is the first time you're seeing this, some context:

    From 23-28 July, I'm Living below the line - £6 for 6 days food (total) in order to raise awareness of food poverty in the UK, and more specifically, I'm aiming to try and raise as large a proportion of £2500 as possible. (That would help 100 families in need in manchester).

    For more info, and/or to sponsor me, please visit/share this justgiving link.

    If you can't sponsor, please share the justgiving link!

Anyway, as I said, here's today. (And as before, RDA calories for me is 2327...)

Day 3: Tuesday 25 July 2017 - 2101 Kcal

Much like yesterday, I'm using 3 flasks to take tea/etc to work

Morning - 388 Kcal


  • Tea - from teapot (2 teabags left in pot overnight with hot water), microwaved Remainder of tea was also microwaved/boiled, put in flask with 2 teabags. Then teaport refilled to brew during day...
  • 1 slice jam sandwich
  • 1 ginger nut


  • Tea - from flask (The topped up). Incredibly strong (since tea made from strong tea...)
  • Mid Morning - Porridge from flask

Afternoon - 563 Kcal

  • One of the "not pot noodle" pasta dishes from the food flask.
  • Tea (from flask)
  • 1 budget flap jack
  • Tea (from flask)
  • Squash (600ml)

Evening - 837 Kcal

  • 1/3 pack of value mash (Remainder from days 1 & 2) heated up in microwave
  • 3 sausages, cooked sunday, heated up with mash in microwave
  • 81g frozen peas (+4g marg to improve)
  • 15g Gravy (+140ml water)
  • 11g Mustard

Later in evening, watching film:

  • 5 Ginger nuts, broken up into small pieces to be a bit like popcorn :-)

Night - 356 Kcal

(Late evening really)

  • Tea
  • 2 slices of toast (marg, jam)
  • Tesco Value Chocolate Mousse
  • Glass squash


Calorie Deficit: ~200 calories

Overall very similar to yesterday. Little changes though. Toast late with a chocolate pot (which I'd almost forgotten about) was very welcome. The "budget" flapjack was nice too. Perhaps a little squidgy this time, but perhaps just means it needed to cooked for a bit longer ideally.

(Flapjacks are one of the earliest things I remember cooking for myself, so they're always a bit of a treat :) )

Calorie deficit is better today. But then eating a little less earlier in the week means I'm less likely to run out at the end of the week, which is the way round I'd prefer it personally...

Something sweet/treat before sleep is nice...

Only downside is knowing that tomorrow's food will be the same as today...

The other thing though is that it is still not satisfying. It's food. It's clearly close to the right amount of calories, but it's not satisfying.

The other thing is the Morrisons M Saver gravy & mustard really help. I added a dollop of mustard to the "not pot noodle" when I was heating it up and it added something. I might try adding some of the gravy tomorrow. I suspect I'll regret that, but worth trying :-)

Please do donate

Overall though, this is worth it. At the end of Day 2, the amount raised so far is £885. That's a really amazing amount from very generous sponsors. We could go higher though. It's 35% of where I'm aiming for...

If you'd like to help push me towards the goal of helping 100 families, in Manchester please sponsor me on justgiving.

Either way, thanks for your interest, and please share this, or the justgiving page.

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Days 1, 2, Living Below the Line

July 25, 2017 at 12:45 PM | categories: livebelowtheline, justgiving, lbtlfooddiary | View Comments

Day 3 of Living below the line for manchester foodbanks...

    Living below the line - £6 for 6 days food (total) in order to raise awareness of food poverty in the UK, and more specifically, I'm aiming to try and raise as large a proportion of £2500 as possible. (That would help 100 families in need in manchester).

    For more info, and/or to sponsor me, please visit/share this justgiving link.

    If you can't sponsor, please share the justgiving link!

As I start, I note I haven't put my food diary online anywhere. I've said what I've bought, and I've said what I intended to eat, but not actually posted what I have eaten. As a result, I've created a new category on this site, which means you can jump straight here:

Regarding brands, etc, please see the first day's entry

For each day/part of day, I list the calories I get those days. For reference, my RDA calories for age, weight, height, gender are 2327 at the moment. (Based on the Mifflin St Jeor equation, and sedentary activity factor )

Day 1: Sunday 23 July 2017 - 1413 Kcal

You'll note I use the microwave to make the tea stronger. I normally drink a fair amount of black coffee. Judicious use of a tea pot and microwave results in stronger tea. Not coffee strength, but coffee colour.

Morning - 0Kcal

No breakfast in the morning because I hadn't been shopping. No tea, no coffee, no juice. Water though

That said, while doing the shopping, there was a very welcome bite/free sample of flan, so since that's free and open to everyone, I take and enjoy :-) (Since I was really hungry at that point it was welcome)

Can't afford eggs this week. Or milk. Or flour. Or pre-made flan...

Afternoon - 495Kcal

Got back with the shopping. Starving. Ate 2 giner nuts & some squash while brewing tea, and making porridge as a late breakfast. Later had toast as a late "lunch"

  • Blackcurrent squash, 1 glass
  • 2 Ginger Nuts

  • Cup of tea - Made in cup in microwave. Tea bag added to tea pot. Second tea bag added to pot, topped up with hot water, left to stew.

  • Porridge - Asda Oats, 41g (+water)

  • Tea - Made by microwaving a cup of tea from the tea pot, and adding hot water to pot (and a tea bag)

  • Toast - 2 slices bread, 9g marg, 20g Jam

Evening - 642 Kcal

Evening meal. Had earlier than I would otherwise, since hungry. Since I'm cooking for one, but have things like mash - which serves several, I cook a fair amount this evening, most of which will go in the fridge. Mash lasts 3 days. I'm planning on 3 "sausages"/meal (asda value sausages are OK if you like chip shop sausages. If you don't like those, you wouldn't like these ones). That would leave 2 "spare" sausages which I plan to use as lunch during the week, which I cooked that evening...

So I cook:

  • I pack of value mash (using more water, but no milk). Add 13g of marg to improve flavour/season
  • 17g of gravy (140ml)
  • 98g of peas (aimed for 100, being a bit under was fine)
  • 11 sausages.

And I eat:

  • 3 sausages
  • 1/3 pack of value mash
  • 17g/140ml of gravy
  • 98g gravy
  • 10g mustard

With that I have more squash

Night - 138 Kcal

Peckish in late evening

  • 3 ginger nuts
  • Cup of tea. (Again, pour from pot, microwave, add boiling water to pot)


That evening I also prepared:

  • My lunches for the week. Cooked 5, froze 3. (left 2 in fridge)
  • Some "budget flapjacks" to have as "snacks". (You'll note the low number of calories above...)

I'll cover those two in separate blog posts, as individual recipes, since they're probably quite useful to have in a separately viewable category (as well as this one - I'll update this post with links when they're added).

As summary the lunches are spaghetti, curry sauce, peas + those 2 spare sausages - which I call a "not noodle" below. The budget jacks are oats, water, margarine (less than normal) and strawberry jam.


Deficit of ~900Kcal below RDA

Calories are well below RDA for the day. I kinda expected that, but that's due to poor lunch really, and small breakfast. No milk in tea/porridge saves a lot during the week. But might look odd. I've had enough black tea in the past though...

Day 2: Monday 24 July 2017 - 1910 Kcal

First day at work while living below the line. While there is tea and coffee freely available at work, I work on the assumption that I can't have that this week, so I'm using flasks.

At home I have a number of flasks. 3 food flasks, and a couple of hot water flasks. (accumulated over years) They're important this week.

First thing I do in the morning is prepare 3 flasks:

  • One with 2 tea bags, and hot water. (To use as a tea pot) (I take two more tea bags with me to work, but don't use them)
  • One with hot water + 58g oats
  • One with the "not-noodle" lunch which I'm having, after microwaving it.

Also a water bottle filled with water with 75g of squash added.

When using a food flask, you need to fill with boiling water before using, leave for 10 minutes (helps overcome thermal inertia), and then immediately fill with overly hot food. In this case I simply pour the hot water from the flask back in the tea pot that morning...

(I then promptly forget to bring the antibiotics I'm taking for the leg infection I gained last week)

Morning - 327 Kcal


  • Tea - from teapot, microwaved
  • Breakfast - Toast (while making everything else) 1 slice, marg, jam


  • Tea - from flask. Hot water added/topped up
  • Mid Morning - Porridge fro flask. (Porridge made in a flask over a period of 2 hours is much nicer than on a hob if using just water/oats)
  • Tea - from flask. Hot water added/topped up

Afternoon - 400 Kcal

  • Drink squash
  • The "not noodle" lunch - from food flask
  • Tea - remainder of tea from flask

Evening - 1045 Kcal

Get home, have to have antibiotics first. So have tea, and a single biscuit.

Wait an hour, cook dinner...

  • 1/3 pack of value mash (1/2 of what's left over from night before) heated up in microwave
  • 3 sausages, cooked last night, heated up with mash in microwave
  • 98g frozen peas (+4g marg to improve)
  • 17g Gravy (+140ml water)
  • 11g Mustard

A bit later as "dessert":

  • 2 jam sandwiches, and one of the budget flapjacks.

Night - 138 Kcal

Late evening, watching TV....

  • Tea (from pot, microwaved)
  • 3 ginger nuts


Deficit of ~500Kcal below RDA

More calories than yesterday, didn't feel massively hungry at the end of the day, but definitely felt hungry during the day/evening - more so than normal. This is a bit odd - while 1876 calories looks low relative to RDA, relative to what I've been having for the past 6 months (I've been dieting) it's actually higher than normal.

The difference I think is the fact this is unbalanced towards carbs, away from veg and away from protein. (That said, I've been quite careful to manage the foods I've had over the previous 6 months to balance/prevent hunger, none of which tricks I can do this week)

If I wanted to not feel hungry I'd've need to have more food in the early and later evening. The food I'm having tastes either OK or nice, but isn't really satisfying.

I've got photos of most of the food I've eaten which I'll add later. In part so people can see what some of this really looks like.

Please do donate

Overall though, this is worth it. At the end of Day 2, the amount raised so far is £885. That's a really amazing amount from very generous sponsors. We could go higher though. It's 35% of where I'm aiming for...

I've also heard several people wonder how it's even possible to live on £6 for 6 days, and hopefully this is of interest to them. Bear in mind though that almost any deviation from this requires more funds. Raising it to £1.50/day would make a huge difference in practice. £2/day brings it to the level which foodbanks effectively budget for (based on looking at the numbers they publish).

That's a shockingly low figure, and without donations people in need - people who aren't supported by the the safety nets we're supposed to have - including people from all walks of life.

So please donate. Or share. Or donate at your local foodbank/supermarket.

If you'd like to help push me towards the goal of helping 100 families, in Manchester please sponsor me on justgiving.

Either way, thanks for your interest, and please share this, or the justgiving page.

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Live Below The Line

July 23, 2017 at 06:09 PM | categories: livebelowtheline, justgiving | View Comments

So, I've posted on facebook about this, and posted on twitter, and posted on justgiving, but I've not posted here. What am I doing?

This week - Sunday 23 July through Friday 28th July, I'm living below the line to raise funds for Manchester Central Foodbanks, and to raise awareness of the issue of food & child poverty in general. (In the UK, there are 4 million children in poverty right now, and foodbanks were accessed over 1.1 million times last year - 1.1 million times people would've literally gone hungry if foodbanks did not exist. (Which is an epic fail for our society IMO)

You can find out more about this, and how to give on the justgiving site here:

Short version is please either donate or share that page if you can, it makes a huge difference to the foodbanks. I'm aiming to raise as much of £2500 as possible, and through the generosity of others, raise £795 before gift aid is added on (bringing the total to around £900 so far). £2500 would help 100 families on our doorsteps in their time of need.

Day 1


This is the first update this week, so let's dive in.

Today I started my "Live below the line" challenge to raise funds for manchester foodbanks. This is where I have just 6 pounds for all food and drink for the next 6 days (including today). So today's first order was to go shopping so I could have breakfast (and also get food for the next 5 days).

£1/day is the world food poverty line, below which almost a billion people live. (Well, technically it was £1 in 2011, it is now about £1.40 )

Plans vs reality...

So this was the £6...

(I took cash, since it makes it representative. Also in the UK, unless you're homeless, you tend to get paid either weekly (benefits/low end wages) or monthly, so I think taking it all in one go is reasonable.)

I've taken a bunch of photos, and will summarise as I go through the week what the plan is, but I thought when I went out I'd spend £5.99 In Asda I thought I'd won back 6p, with oats costing 59p there rather than 65p in Tesco. However, I was caught out with peas in Tesco now being 76p not 69p (literally overnight). So that means my total now came in at precisely £6 - which is a bit close to the wire.

So what have I got? Some things might surprise, and some might look like odd choices. I'd always decided when doing this that rather than just scrape by, I'd try and live as well as possible doing this. There's limits, but anyone who's live on the breadline in the past (I had cuppa soups thickened with instant mash as lunch for a very extended period 20 years ago...), you'll know that you can't live at subsistence level and just have nothing nice. So this takes that into account.


Everyone who does this tends to post reciepts, so here they are... (Morrisons one is doublesided)


Also there's the issue of getting enough calories. I know currently, I'm losing weight by eating about 75-80% of RDA calories, but that's not the point here. If I'm not to lose weight, I should eat about 2300 calories for my height/weight/age/gender.

I should also aim to get a decent mix of proteins, vegetables, carbs etc. I'm not convinced it is possible to have a nutritionally balanced diet in the UK on £6 for 6 days...

What I've got is not nutritionally balanced, it's literally the maximum amount of food I can get to try and get enough calories. It's not too bad overall I guess, but it's definitely carb heavy, protein and nutrient light.

What's missing?

Dairy. Fresh fruits. Decent quality protein.

What did I get? Well, here's a photo:

Specifically in that photo:

  • 2 packs of tesco everyday value instant mash. (Theoretically 8 portions, but I don't have milk so 6 portions)
  • 40 tesco everyday value tea bags
  • 1x Morrisons M Saver loaf of brown bread (24 slices)
  • 20 Asda Smartprice Sausages
  • 900g Tesco Everyday Value peas
  • 1x Jar Morrisons M Saver Strawberry Jam
  • 500g Asda Scottish Oats
  • 1 litre Morrisons M Saver Blackcurrent Squash
  • 1 jar Morrisons M Saver Curry Sauce
  • 1 jar Morrisons M Saver Mustard
  • 1 pack Morrisons M Saver Gravy
  • 1 Pack 4 Tesco Everyday Value Chocolate Mousses
  • 1 pack Tesco Everyday Value Ginger Nuts
  • 500g Morrisons M Savers Spaghetti
  • 250g pack Asda Brilliantly Buttery Margarine

(When I found that the oats were 6p cheaper than I expected, I thought I'd be able to substitute the bisuits and mousses for some fruit, but the fact the peas were 7p more expensive scuppered that)

Breakfast Today

So, once I'd bought all this I was able to have breakfast. Since I was hungry at this point, I had a snack of 2 ginger nuts and some blackcurrent squash, while making breakfast.

Breakfast itself consisted of tea and porridge (40g). Neither made with milk. I discovered a while ago that porridge made without milk is actually OK, which surprised me a touch. I won't be making breakfast this way during the week, but it's OK for the weekend.

Anyway this was breakfast:

I got the tea that strong by:

  • Putting water in a jug with 2 tea bags. Microwaving it for about 4 minutes.
  • Then emptying 1/2 into a mug, with a tea bag and standing for a minute. Then putting rest (+tea bags) into tea pot with more hot water. I then make tea using the tea itself as hot water, with an added tea bag each time.

It's not the same as coffee, but it's the right colour :-)

What's with ...

As I said above, some things might look a little odd to some eyes when looking at what I've bought. Specifically things that might jump out are: jam, ginger nuts and chocolate mousses.

Thing is, we all need something nice, and I wanted to show that there are little things that can help. What you get to add to the foodbank thing at the front should include little things like this. Though each of these does actually have a specific reason.

  • Jam. Gives you something to put on toast, or in a sandwich. It's cheap, and it's a source of sugar/energy. It's the closest I'll get to fruit this week too. Being over 60% sugar though also opens up some options I'll discuss in a different post, but it's the fact that Jam can be repurposed that the reason it's Jam, not (say) cheap peanut butter. It is also very cheap -- 28p

  • Ginger nuts. Starchy carb + sugar. Similar reason. Gets you through a moment of "I need something, now". (Not "I want something now", more "need something") -- 25p

  • Chocolate Mousse. Closest thing to a luxury. It's also the closest I'll get to dairy this week. Again, it's calories + a flavour. For 20p you don't actually get a lot here, but it's something. And given all I had left was 20p - I couldn't afford fruit, and there was very little that was available as an alternative, so why not?

  • Gravy. Looks like a luxury, but isn't. Gravy is essentially extra meat flavouring and helps make poor quality meats (such as cheap sausages) taste nice. It can also be added to sauces to make sauces more meaty.

  • Mustard. Similar role to gravy. Got this in part because I was surprised that anyone actually did a mustard that cheap (23p), and was partly curious. I do know though that it helps with improving flavour as I say. It is also going to be useful with the curry sauce for 2 reasons. Firstly mustard is an emulsifier, which means adding some may help thicken the sauce slightly - helping it go further. Secondly, it will help with the spicyness. Cheap curry sauces often lack any kick. (Bit like chip shop curry sauce)

  • "Buttery" Margarine? This is pure practicality. per kg, buttery margarines and their ilk are more expensive than the value (M Saver, everyday value, smartprice) alternatives. But as a unit cost 250g of this is cheaper than 1kg or 2kg of the value alternative...

ie out of these the jam, gravy, mustard (and to an extent the ginger nuts) have a dual usage.

  • Pasta & Curry Sauce? Pasta and no pasta sauce (or tomato product) looks a bit odd. The aim is to use the curry sauce with the pasta instead. This will probably taste a bit odd, but will explain later. This is sheerly down to cost. Curry sauce is cheaper that pasta sauce. I considered sweet and sour sauce instead, but figured that would be too wierd. Also, I'd need 3p which I didn't have.

What's for Dinner/etc then?

Well, clearly today I will be having Jam on Toast for lunch. (admittedly late)

For dinner I'll be having sausages, mash and peas, with gravy and mustard. I won't be having a choc pot though.

But I'll follow up on these later.

Closing thoughts...

I actually couldn't see any real alternatives than this to be frank. £6 for 6 days is so tight, it's quite painful. You wouldn't want to do this for longer.

  • Actually that's not true, I did briefly consider purely vegetarian based on rice and mixed veg, and a couple of sauces, but I'd be climbing the wall by the end of the week, and still be lacking protein. (I'm not practiced at a vegetarian diet, but that may be more practical. I'm not certain though)

I know though if I was doing £2/day for a week it would actually be an awful lot easier and varied. And that's not really that much more.

But quite frankly, the nastiest part about this is knowing that there are families in salford living right now on £1.50/day for food. In Eccles the shelves of the M Saver foods were stripped almost clear. Meanwhile next to this is all the other foods many of us take for granted were right next to them.

I think in a way, this is why places like Aldi work. They're not the cheapest (you'll note nothing I bought was from Aldi - they don't have "budget" alternatives generally), but if you're on just a touch more than £1/day (say 1.50/day/person or 2.00/day/person), most of their food comes into budget AND you're not faced with aisle upon aisle, upon aisle of food you simply can't afford.

Some of the foods I've bought this week are ones I'll happily buy the rest of the time. Some aren't. Just because it's cheap doesn't make it bad. But I do tend to pick and choose. I bought instant mash from Tesco because the Asda smartprice mash is pretty grim IMO. Same goes for value tea.

But the point is normally I can choose. Today I couldn't really. And going shopping hungry (because you've not done this week's shop) and being faced with all that "choice" you can't choose, really is in your face.

I think people talk about inequality a lot, and miss it when it's right under their faces.

Might be worth remembering the next time you see/hear of a show demonising people on benefits...

Lastly, but not least, please do sponsor me via this link or share this link...

... whether or not you think this is what you expected or whether or not you think it's worthwhile. I actually hestitated before doing this - even though the idea comes from Unicef and The Hunger Project, because I worried it was a little "gauche". I then figured "Who cares? If I can raise more money than I can personally donate, that's all that counts"

Every little helps. Every penny. Thank you.

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