Sunday 4 May 2014

Completing Live Below the Line 2014 and the day after

I can't explain how charged the house felt on Friday evening as we neared our completion of living below the line. We danced round the kitchen, we chatted, we talked, really talked about big important issues. I felt enormously proud of the boys for being compassionate children who really care about others and seem to grasp the bigger picture.

Earlier in the day a heated discussion had broken out on my Facebook page about poverty and healthy eating. Linked but two separate issues, especially when you think there are many people with enough money who still have poor diets. It was following a BBC news article that some people can't afford to eat healthily. It left me feeling deflated for a few hours. It was our last day of living below the line. I was tired, hungry but not wanting to eat, and definitely emotional. It had been cathartic facing some buried memories of my childhood. It is an emotive subject and I understand people believing that it should be possible to eat healthily on a budget, but for people really living in poverty I think it would be exceptionally hard to eat a healthy balanced diet every day in this country. It is not just a question of teaching people to cook healthy food. Choice is extremely restricted when you live in poverty.

I can cook and thought it would be okay living on £1pppd. It wasn't. I tried to remind myself that at least we were eating. With cottonwool head, I wasn't firing on all cylinders for sure. I don't blame people for turning to the wrong sorts of foods. I found it hard, annoying even, planning and working everything out and then cooking it. I didn't enjoy cooking without the luxury of choice and I usually love cooking. I had done a lot of research before signing up for livebelowtheline and in the run up to doing it. There's a lot more to it than "you can buy food cheaply" - actually doing it/living it for those 5 days has opened our eyes even more.

The morning after...  youngest bounded in shortly after 6am, full of beans. I felt groggy. Elated and emotional I hadn't fallen asleep until nearly 2am. We went back to sleep for a while. When we woke again my husband and I both said we felt changed from our experience. We were a bit.... I'll use the word again, emotional. We couldn't help thinking about those who don't have choices.

My husband went down to make us coffee. Nice coffee, not the bitter stuff we'd been drinking through the week. The weekend before LBTL I'd bought smoked salmon to have with scrambled eggs after the challenge. As we all sat down to eat together I wasn't prepared for the guilt we would feel eating it. It was too much, too extravagant. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I bought it. I guess because we often have smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on special occasions and I'd thought it would be a fitting first breakfast. It wasn't!

It's now Sunday morning, I think this experience has made us look at how we live and think. I don't think we are wasteful as a family but we can do better and we will. Don't get me wrong with the luxury of choice we will eat what we want to and for that I am extremely grateful.

I'm so glad we did this and delighted that we raised money for Action Against Hunger which is what it was about. We are immensely grateful to our friends and family for being kind and donating. For all their messages of support too. It made it all worthwhile.

Regardless of the circumstances no child should ever go hungry.
You can read more about Action Against Hunger at
and Live Below the Line at

I need re-training in blogging! Pictures and hyperlinks all help!! :)

Friday 2 May 2014

Live Below the Line 2014 - Day Five

We're essentially there. It's 10 to 11 in the evening and I've popped round to my friend's for a cup of hot water. It's been emotional! :) So happy we've trebled our original target. We're at £600.00 and there are a couple more donations still to go on. People are kind! We've had great support from friends and family with really lovely messages spurring us on. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

What we've consumed today:
Breakfast: husband and the boys had porridge, I skipped breakfast.
Lunch: husband and the boys had the last of the flatbreads, last of the chorizo, cheese and carrots. It looked small so I filled some small plastic containers with the value cornflakes. I had meant to make cakes last night... I've found it hard to be motivated about food and cooking this week though. Youngest took an apple for breaktime. I had the two leftover chorizo and cheese croquetas.
Evening meal: We winged it and used some of the leftovers. Youngest had plain spaghetti with grated cheese and cold baked beans (he loves cold baked beans, but not these ones). Eldest, husband and I had the leftover spaghetti with sauce and some grated cheese.
The bonus: Inspired by a post on the Love Food Hate Waste Facebook page I made banana flapjacks. I didn't have half the things needed so with only 4 ingredients they really were a bonus. All leftover, 2 ripe bananas, oats, butter and sugar. They were delicious and a real treat!

Really high spirits this evening, a mixture of laughter, tears and frayed tempers but most of all there was a lot of love and pride. We danced round the kitchen to loud music before dinner. Nothing unusual for a Friday night except the missing alcohol. It has been a roller coaster and I'm looking forward to reflecting on the experience in the days to come.

Thursday 1 May 2014

Live Below the Line 2014 - Day Four

Table talk this evening was a bit crazy... Foods we want to eat. Fish and meat were high up the list. Youngest wants ice cream for breakfast on Saturday and maybe pancakes. Bacon was mentioned, a full English, something simple with a salad. Oddly I would actually like a green smoothie with fresh ginger in it. I never thought I'd say anything like that... EVER! I also want some fresh chillies and to use my spices.

What we consumed today:
Breakfast: Husband and boys: porridge made with milk and water. I had a carrot and one slice of chorizo.
Lunch: Husband had leftover yellow split pea and veg soup with flatbread, boys had flatbreads, chorizo, cheese, carrot and cucumber. I had.... Err. Nothing, but I did make up for it at dinner.
Evening meal: we all had Chorizo and cheese croquetas with homemade oven chips and carrot strips. Another successful meal taste wise. I'll work out the costs and add them at a later date.

We're learning things from this experience and when it's over and we've talked again about it, I'll summarise what I can. I got fairly emotional today when I checked our fundraising page, that's why I ended up skipping lunch. We originally set a team target of £200.00 and it feels brilliant to have surpassed that by a significant amount! All thanks to very kind people making donations. A really big heartfelt thank you!

Wednesday 30 April 2014

Live Below the Line 2014 - Day Three

Today I am tired and I don't want the boys to make lots of noise. It might have something to do with getting up before 6am to make flatbreads for packed lunches. I can't think straight and yet I have had enough to eat. Lack of protein maybe? The others have all had chorizo and cheese in their lunch today and they're all positively bouncing around. My husband felt the way I do now yesterday.

How do people function when they don't have the choice to eat the right things? I can totally understand why people end up buying longlife cakes or stuff that they don't have to prepare or think about. I can't even begin to imagine how hard it would be for the people who have to walk for miles just to get water. It feels like someone put cottonwool in my head and I don't want to think about food. Which is crazy bonkers mad as I always think about food. Cooking is usually my relaxing time. I do it with love and really enjoy seeing people eat what I've made.

I wrote that at about 5pm. I felt grumpy and a bit shaky. I was starting to prepare dinner. I also boiled some eggs. The others wanted to go for a walk but I couldn't be bothered. You see... grumpy. I had a boiled egg while they were out and 20 minutes later felt a bit better. I carried on making what turned out to be the most successful dinner so far. Even better it cost .83p to feed the 4 of us. Happy!

What we consumed today...
Breakfast: Husband and the boys all had porridge made with water and milk. I had one of the flatbreads I'd made with 1 slice of chorizo.
Lunch: Husband and the boys had flatbread, chorizo, cheese, carrot and cucumber. Youngest also took a banana for break. I had the soup which I didn't finish last night with a small flatbread.
Dinner: Spaghetti with a sauce made with the cheap carton of tomatoes with grated carrot, finely chopped onion, a stock cube dissolved in a little hot water. Plus a little grated cheese. The boys had one boiled egg each after dinner. I had a boiled egg before dinner.

I wrote this earlier..... It's food and we won't be going to bed hungry. Not sure there will be any table talk today... Now in a more positive frame of mind I can report there was lots of table talk. The psychology of food and the impact it can have on moods always fascinates me. We're over halfway and we've all agreed that it's a low level hunger that we've sometimes felt but it's the lack of choice that has been the hard thing so far.

Anyway, we are really and I mean REALLY very happy that people have been kind enough to donate and we've raised almost double what we set out to. Now that makes it more than worthwhile so a big thank you from us. xx

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Live Below the Line 2014 - Day Two - Action Against Hunger

Thank you so much - with cash donations we're almost at £300.00!!! I woke up today feeling like I had a hangover. It definitely wasn't, I think I just didn't eat enough or drink enough water yesterday. I was worried we would run out of food later in the week and didn't want the boys to go hungry. It's going well so far. Apart from a small meltdown from youngest straight after school because he didn't eat his lunch and was hungry. Team talk and he's back on board.

Update: We consumed...
Breakfast: Husband and children all had porridge made with milk and water. I had a banana.
Lunch: husband had 2 savoury muffins & 2 cakes. Youngest had 1 savoury muffin (which he left), 1 cake, carrot, cucumber, apple and banana. I had porridge. Eldest had 2 savoury muffins and 3 cakes. So not healthy and wouldn't normally happen!
Dinner: we all had yellow split pea and veggie soup. I only had a small bowl as needed to go out. I was too tired to eat the rest when I got home and went straight to bed.

We were all hungry on Day 2 and some of us were a bit tetchy!

My friend was about to dump some bits in the compost which included 2 broccoli stems and quarter of a white cabbage which was past it's best. It was offered as a joke... I peeled the broccoli stems and cut the bit inside into chunks, I cut off the black bits of white cabbage and took off the outside bits, chopped the rest and added it to our soup. I would not have done this before and I did not tell the rest of the family they were eating other people's rubbish. :) 

Monday 28 April 2014

Live Below the Line 2014 - Day One

WOW! I've just spent two hours working out a per gram/ml unit costs of everything we've eaten today and the total came to. £2.97 and a half pence.

Husband had cornflakes and a coffee
Youngest son had cornflakes and water
Eldest son had porridge and water
I had a savoury muffin and water. I needed to taste them... and I don't usually eat breakfast. I thought they needed seasoning and if I made them again, I would probably add mustard or paprika. Link to where I found the recipe at the bottom.

Youngest took a banana for breaktime. I saved my coffee for a school meeting I had. I whispered an   expletive or two when the milk boiled over in the microwave. I'd only allowed myself a piddly amount as it was. It didn't taste good with such a small amount of milk and I ended up having sugar... Which is a pisser because I recently had acupuncture to give up my sugar cravings. Haha... Think I might have to avoid coffee until Saturday. No biggie!

Husband: 2 savoury muffins and 2 cakes, carrot and cucumber
Youngest: 1 savoury muffin and 1 cake, carrot and cucumber, water (instead of their normal juice)
Eldest: 2 savoury muffins and 1 cake, carrot and cucumber, water
I had 1 savoury muffin and water. I didn't feel able to eat the carrot and cucumber as I don't want us to run out. My youngest loves lots of fresh stuff and as much as I think this will be a good life lesson for them both, alongside raising money. I don't want him to be worried or upset by it. He's only young. The cakes were just an old fashioned 4,4,4,2 recipe (4oz of s/r flour, sugar and butter and 2 eggs).

Evening meal:
Huevos rancheros (kind of) and homemade oven chips (eggs baked in a spicy sauce, though it wasn't spicy today) and water to drink!

The boys still felt hungry, they had one cake each.

Table talk: The first day wasn't as hard as they'd thought. Heading straight to the park after school was a good idea as it stopped any of us from wanting to snack. The savoury muffins were a hit! Youngest didn't want to eat the sauce with the baked eggs as he said it didn't taste like it usually does. I told him there was nothing else so it would be better if he ate it all, which he did. I think we all need an early night!

Live Below the Line 2014 - planning and preparation

Right then, enough of the :( stuff, moving swiftly on.... Here's our shopping list. Oops! Sorry. It's been a long time since I blogged and I can't get the pic to come up. I'll sort it and have it up for later. (Mon evening now... Still can't load pic. Will add the list when I can.)

On Saturday, eldest son and I went shopping for our live below the line supplies. I've spent many hours planning what we could all eat that we'd all feel okay with. It meant visiting three supermarkets but we planned it in a round trip. For some reason I felt emotional in the first supermarket, Asda, when I thought about all the people who struggle daily. I got over that and just felt panicked when they didn't have the cheese I'd planned on getting. We then went to Sainsburys, again they didn't have some of their basics range in stock... Gutted, we got what we could and went on to Tesco, where I almost had a full on tearfest when one of the fruit and veg team told me they'd just discontinued the value potatoes and onions that I'd based most of our meals around.

We headed home, did some more quick research and headed out to get some shopping for my Dad and see if we could get some cheap potatoes and onions. We did and even better... Result 1. Cheap cartons of chopped tomatoes with chilli and basil. I could have kissed the nearest employee. Result 2. Ground coffee in Lidl. We needn't have withdrawal symptoms. I apologise to the man I met who was buying this coffee and got a full on quiz as to why he liked it.

Our planned meals include -
Breakfast: choice of porridge or cornflakes.
Lunch: Savoury muffins (baked bean and cheese plus chorizo and cheese) batons of carrot and cucumber, a piece of fruit, a sweet treat and water to drink.
Evening meals: not 100% but will probably be as follows. Spaghetti with chilli, tomato sauce. Yellow split pea and veg soup (twice). Huevos Rancheros (eggs in spicy sauce) with homemade potato wedges. Our butcher has kindly agreed to give us a free chicken carcass so I'll make a chicken stock broth too.

At the end of each day I'll post what we've had and maybe recipes. If you can then please donate. #livebelowtheline

Sunday 27 April 2014

Live Below The Line 2014 - why we're doing it

I didn't mean to give up blogging, it just happened. We're re-instating the blog while we do Live Below the Line 2014. I love cooking for my family and friends. I love food full stop, which probably explains the size of my ample bottom... Sigh! I started this food blog years ago, it was mainly about the food we ate and also a little project we started to learn about other cultures around the world. We’d try making food from other countries and learn a little about that country and their people while we did it. The boys loved it. I loved it! It got them interested in food, in people, in different cultures, in different languages, a geography lesson on a plate. They still speak fondly of all the things we did. When I stopped writing the blog we continued with our kitchen travels. Instead of blogging about it, I wrote about it just for me.
We’re in the fortunate position not to have to worry about putting food on the table. I do know what hunger feels like though and I know that you can go from being in a fortunate position where you don’t have to worry about money to being poor in a remarkably short space of time.
What I'm about to write is a small part of my childhood where I learned what it was to not have a choice what you eat or if you eat at all and why I would do everything in my power to make sure my children don’t ever go hungry. I get insecure now when the cupboards, fridge and freezer get low. I am thankful every day for my life now.
I understand being poor, I’ve experienced being poor. Not for long admittedly, but long enough for me to not look down on anybody going through a hard time, down on their luck, be it through bad choices made or otherwise. I also try really hard not to judge people ever! That's sometimes easier said than done but it's usually people who have a great deal to be thankful for and who don't seem to get it that I find hard not to judge.
My mum left home when I was nine years old, she left because my Dad is an alcoholic and was an abusive husband. I don’t blame her for that. I don’t suppose I’ll ever totally understand her leaving me behind but I do really. I know that I absolutely loved my Dad in a way only a child can, overlooking all faults, loving unconditionally in that childlike way that doesn’t see the damage and everything falling apart around them. I know that if my mum had insisted I go with her I wouldn’t have done and therefore she wouldn’t have gone. That would have been really bad for her and as it turned out it wasn’t a bad thing for me. I got to live with my lovely Nan, gorgeous woman that she was. It also plays a part in who I am now and I’m happy with me. It took me awhile to like who I am but I’m content with the person I became and still am.
Anyway...... After my mum left the gas and electricity were quite quickly cut off. My dad tried to make it into an adventure, buying a camping stove, camping light and a calor gas heater. The lounge became our camp. It was cheaper to try and keep the one room warm. To this day I have very mixed feelings when I see or smell one of those old fashioned heaters. Dad cooked our dinners on the camping stove, often stews, which would last us a few days. No electricity, so no fridge to ensure what we were eating was safe but I don’t remember ever getting ill from anything we ate.
My dad of course continued to drink. We were living in Highbury at the time. A proper latch key kid I would walk home from school, let myself in, greeted by my lovely dog Prince (a cross between a Great Dane and a German Shepherd, he was huge) and my cat Stumpy (a Persian who I saw being born. Stumpy because his mum bit his tail off when he was born). I don’t ever remember feeding them. I guess Dad must have fed them. The cat eventually went to my mum and the dog was given away to another family. Heartbroken doesn't really cover how that felt.
There was definitely no comfort eating, there was never any spare food or drink in the house. I don’t remember ever getting in from school and making myself a drink or helping myself to a biscuit, or a piece of fruit, there wasn’t any.
Most days dad would come home to get dinner before going to the pub. It was after the dog and cat had gone that I learned what being lonely really feels like. As an only child I didn’t have any siblings to share the load with. Dad would leave for the pub and I’d be on my own. No electricity so no TV to keep me company, just me, myself and I. I’d read until the gas would run out in the camping light. I’d then try and keep warm under a sheet and some blankets, willing myself to sleep. I remember feeling a bit scared, no Prince dog to keep me safe. Eventually dad would come home, I’d pretend to be asleep and eventually, feeling safer, I would fall asleep. I went from being an exceptionally bright child to average. Something which I can see now as an adult was quite a natural chain reaction.
After some months of existing like this I went to live with my grandparents and Dad joined us some time later. I loved it. It was like someone had released the pressure valve. Nan was just a joy to be around. As for food, it was plentiful. The pleasure of choice, from a roast dinner to a pot noodle. :) I had the freedom of choosing what I wanted to eat. Going swimming and being able to buy a bag of chips and a chocolate bar afterwards, pure bliss! A few years back I rediscovered pot noodles. They are my guilty pleasure! 
In my mum's defence she didn't know how things were for me and I will just say that after forty years of wetting the babies head my Dad stopped drinking. Almost three years ago now and just after it almost killed him. He's now bed bound and catheterised AND I still love him. I love my Mum too, maybe even more as it's with her blessing that I'm posting this publicly. I hope they both always know that.
This wasn’t extreme poverty, but extreme poverty is happening right now, in the UK and elsewhere. Maybe through some poor choices being made and maybe through no fault of anyone in particular but this is never a child’s fault. No child should ever go hungry. There are so many factors to poverty. It impacts on everything and it can happen to anybody. 

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Meat Free Monday, one year old already

Well done the McCartney's... We're not a meat free household, just making small changes where we can.


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