Live Below the Line: Day 3 Special Birthday Lunch and Tea!

Day three is drawing to a close. I am over halfway through the Live Below the Line challenge and it’s really affected me today. I’m not sure if it’s because today is my birthday, or just the monotony and blandness of the food I am eating, but I’ve been feeling quite low, thinking about food pretty much all day. 

I am living off under £1 a day for food and drink to try and experience just a little taster of what living below the global poverty line is like. It’s turned out to be hard today. It has been weird when colleagues asked me what I was going to do to celebrate my birthday this evening. I basically ended up saying “nothing”. Turns out pretty much all the things I think are fun (and easily accessible to me on a normal evening) involve eating or drinking. Or cooking. I love meeting friends in the pub, going out for dinner or cooking a nice meal, baking something new, having friends over for a BBQ… The list goes on. Without those options, I am a bit stuck and trying to think of a free alternative pastime for the evening has proved elusive. The museums, the parks, even the City Farm were closed by the time I got home from work, so I’ve done a bit of housework, a few Rosemary Conley toning videos and played with my newly fitted (competition win) washing machine. I feel a bit anti-climactic about the whole birthday thing, even though I had a lovely time with friends just last weekend.


The past 24 hours have seen an internal monologue raging about whether to have my tin of beans and sausages for a special birthday breakfast and for breakfast tomorrow, or to save them to have as pasta sauce for Day 4 dinner and Day 5 lunch! Spreading it out as a pasta sauce won, and now I’m glad, because The Boy has made the find of the day, a massive bag of mushrooms for 33p. I figure after seasoning and things I have 35p left in the kitty so I’m buying a quarter of the mushrooms off him for 8p. This will really help with my last few day’s meals and also represents REAL food!! Plus there is 27p left which I may or may not go and blow in Tesco, possibly on their value eclairs…

I’ve also had two free food dilemmas! Firstly I was sent a free bottle of Lucozade Revive to try at 3pm instead of my usual cup of tea and a biccy to see if it perked me up. Obviously, there are no biccies at the moment, so that’s a problem. But also I figured that if I was living in poverty I wouldn’t have an internet connection or a computer with which to apply for freebies, so I’m going to leave trying this until next week. I suppose that in this country everyone has free internet access via their local library, but that’s hardly true globally. Plus in order to apply for a freebie, one would have to have a fixed address and I know that’s not something everyone is privileged to have.

The second freebie on offer was an invitation to lunch by the Muslim women’s group that I am working with on Friday afternoon, doing an object handling session. I’ve not really been able to make up my mind on whether this one is “allowed” or not. I’ve been invited on the basis of my occupation and I know that having a job does not necessarily exclude you from living in poverty. However, it somehow seems wrong to have a slap up home-cooked meal on Day 5. I feel like I should see it through to the bitter end, so that’s what I’m going to do.

Day 3 Special Birthday Lunch
‘Mexican’ Rice Leftovers

100g rice – 270 calories, 0.8g fat, 4p
1/2 tin kidney beans – 120 calories, 0.8g fat, 9p
100ml passata – 34 calories, 0.2g fat, 6p
Last 1/4 tin of sweetcorn – 55 calories, 0.5g fat, 0g sat fat, 8.75p
1p worth of paprika, cumin and cayenne (all bought in bulk originally, used 1/2 tsp of each)

15g soft cheese – 25 calories, 1.7g fat, 1.1g sat fat, 3.5p 

Meal cost – 32.25p
Calories – 504 calories
Fat – 4g
Saturated fat – 1.1g

Day 3 Special Birthday Dinner
Fish, tatties and mushy peas!

Battered white fish – 225 calories, 13g fat, 2g sat fat, 17.25p
Half tin new potatoes – 80 calories, no fat, 11.5p
Tin of mushy peas – 220 calories, 1.2g fat, no sat fat, 6p
Squirt of garlic mayo – 25 calories, 2.5g fat, 0.5g sat fat, 0.5p

Meal cost = 35.25p
Total calories = 550 calories
Total fat = 16.7g
Total sat fat = 2.5g

So, what was my total intake on what has undoubtedly been the most frugal birthday of my life?

Day 3 total cost – 74.6p
Total calorie intake – 1209 calories
Total fat = 23.4g
of which saturates = 4.7

I’m back up to 60% of my recommended daily calorie intake, but I have cycled about 8 miles, walked about 3 and done some toning videos off t’interweb… I’m assuming that means I must have needed about 1000 calories more to balance out. I just hope my mood lifts tomorrow, and perhaps there’s at least an hour where I don’t obsessively think about food and ways to stretch out my pitiful remaining stash of ‘ingredients’ (without just having plain rice or pasta!!


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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