Friday, 31 May 2013

Day 4 - cheapest yet and full to the top of my pinny!

A photo of my garden in March, just to remind me to be
grateful for the lovely weather we are finally having.
Day 4, the end is in sight, I'm over the hump of the hill, shooting down the other side and I confess that I can't wait for Sunday morning.  Not that I've minded most of the meals I've had so far, but I chafe against the restriction.  I would like an impulsive snack occasionally, without having to think of the consequences to my dinner.  And I would love a cup of tea - any sort, anything other than tap water.  Just one more day to go, tomorrow, and I will have made it to the end.

I wasn't feeling very imaginative today, so I stuck with tried and trusted for breakfast, porridge and peanut butter.  I rang the changes at lunch by throwing caution to the winds and having that extra slice of toast that I denied myself yesterday, so 3 slices with half a tin of mushy peas.

I felt I needed that extra, bcause I knew that this afternoon I had to do some "work" work, as opposed to other types of work such as cleaning the house (pfft!) or parceling up goodies that people have bought online, or donations to auctions etc.  Real, actual, paid work.  The sort of real, actual, paid work that I ran screaming from last August into a life of comparative penury, simply because I couldn't face doing it any longer.

Now this is a horrible self-indulgence, if I'm honest.  To leave paid work when so many others are desperate to find just that, cannot on the face of it be classed as proper grown-up behaviour.  But it had to happen because I was going slowly silly in the head - over-emotional, irrational, forgetful, sleeping long hours full of fitful, anxious dreams of fires where I couldn't dial 999 to save my life, or I'd left my purse in a public place and of course it was stolen or my cat urgently needed the vet but I kept getting delayed.  You get the picture.

So I negotiated my resignation and started a new relationship with the same company on a retainer basis, and it has worked well.  But of course now I have new interests, and it is quite hard to leave them to go back to the challenge of programming in MS Access.

One of the things that helped me cope when I had to do work that I really believed I couldn't, was food.  Program doing strange things?  Have a sandwich and think about it.  Operator pressed the wrong button - twice - get last night's leftovers out of the fridge and ponder while eating them.  At very least, a nice cup of tea and five minutes of Frasier would delay the inevitable for a while.  And here today I was facing the work knowing that I could not turn to my usual solace.  I drove myself mad sitting at my computer all afternoon, not hungry, but craving something - anything - to eat.  In the end I gave up and went downstairs and started the washing up, which frankly even I can't get wrong, and the cravings disappeared, switched off magically.  I will have to do the "work" work on Sunday now, with a gigantic bowl of popcorn by my side!

So - what to have for dinner when I have all of 78.2p left to spend - decisions, decisions.  Although by now I was actually very hungry, so when I spotted the 400g of dry spaghetti left over from lunch earlier in the week, my decision was made.  I simmered a large chopped onion (7.2p) in a stock cube (1.5p) dissolved in a little bit of water.  When that had mostly evaporated I added half a tetrapak of tomato passata (14.5p) and left to cook gently until the onion was soft and the sauce thick.  Meanwhile, I took half of the remaining veggie burger mix (30p) from last night and rolled it into 9 small balls.  These I dry-roasted in the oven to make "meat"balls.  I worked out how much this left me and decided I could easily afford 300g of pasta (11.4p).  What I didn't realise is just how much pasta that is.  I never do spaghetti by weight and of course usually I'm cooking for two, so although I realised that this was quite a good fistful of pasta, I didn't compute how much I was going to end up with, which was at least twice as much as I could possibly eat. 
First serving! 
Yes, I know what the "meat"balls look like, but I prefer not to think about it.

I confess at this point that the matter of how much I ate of the spaghetti today compared with how much is left for tomorrow is woolly at best.  I did try to weigh as I went, but Husband was trying to use the kitchen as well, and it got complicated and confusing, and the bottom line is, I may have eaten an ounce or two more or less than half of the pasta and sauce, although I definitely ate all of the meatballs!  For the sake of my sanity and your patience, I am going to assume that it was exactly half.

It was good, although I'll increase the sauce to pasta ratio if I cook this again.  Which I probably will, because the sauce comes out at about half the price of the bottle I usually buy.  The burger mix made very tasty meatballs and overall I was well pleased, especially with that wonderful full feeling I had all evening!

In fact I was so full that I couldn't even manage my rich tea dessert tonight, which is pretty amazing when you see how much today's food cost in total.  Here goes:

Breakfast - 50g oats and 20g peanut butter - 7.5p
Lunch - 3 slices bread and half tin of mushy peas - 14.3p
Snack - 4 biscuits - 2.3p
Dinner - veggieburger mix (30p), 70g onion (3.6p), quarter-pack passata (7.2p), half a stock cube (0.8p), 150g value spaghetti (5.7p) = 47.3p

Grand total: 71.4p, or as my granny would think of it, fourteen and thruppence ha'penny in real money.

Blimey.  Not much more I can say after that, really, except to thank one of my lovely relatives who has promised me £20 in sponsorship, which completely blew me away and totally made my day.  And to show you a picture of my cat, by way of celebration.

This is Moo, who has deformed front legs and who likes to sleep folded in half at the waist, head between his knees, next to his all-black brother Charlie (the shiny bit on the right).  Judging by its similarity to a bottle-brush, I am fairly sure the tail you can see is Moo's.  The detritus on the sofa cushion is mostly pulled threads because he can't retract his claws.  My lap is similarly afflicted.

Day 3, or how I made the correct choice for once!

This is now starting to feel like normal, and I am no longer waking up in the mornings and remembering with a lurch of the stomach that I am restricted to £1's worth of food today!  Of course, I realise that I am not eating healthily and this is no way to live.  Were it permanent I would have to start scouring the reduced section of the produce aisle, but in my local supermarkets they do not mark down by much, preferring to throw stuff away rather than compromise sales of their in-date expensive, perfectly-formed vegetables.  I would need either to buy frozen, or to hope that some of their "everyday" (ie not perfectly-formed, but just as nutritious) veg went out of date so that I could afford it.  And I think that fruit would be totally out of the question unless I could grow some myself.  I would seriously struggle and 5 a day would be but a dream.  Even fresh potatoes are a luxury item on £1 a day, and they don't even count as one of the 5!

But it isn't permanent, I am lucky.  

Oats again for breakfast, but I'm not putting a banana (or part thereof) into them this time, oh no!  I remembered from a book I read years ago that fruit is better eaten alone, on an empty stomach, because it is so quickly digested that it can ferment and cause digestive problems if it hangs around too long in the stomach, waiting for other foods to be digested.  But I had three-fifths of a banana in my cupboard that was not getting any younger or more attractive (I can relate!) as time passed. I decided to eat it for elevenses, long after my porridge, and turned my thoughts to the problem of flavouring said porridge. 

I prefer it made with water, which is handy as I have no choice, but it is a little bland with nothing at all added.  Then I remembered my trusty jar of peanut butter, which is proving really useful!  Ok, so peanut-flavoured porridge might be a tad eccentric, but when that's what you've got you say a quick thank-you to the fates that you have it at all, and dig in. 

I liked it!  I'd have liked it more with a more generous serving of peanut butter, but overall not at all bad, and I think I'll have it again tomorrow.  What do I mean "think"?  Of course I'll have it tomorrow.  The price of the oats makes it the obvious choice, almost compulsory.  And relatively healthy.  Certainly oats are great for you, loads of minerals and fibre, some of it cholesterol-reducing.  And peanuts are not bad, being a legume and a rich source of various nutrients.  Bit of a shame about the refined sugar, oil and salt that is added in the manufacturing process, but I am eating it in small quantities and frankly apart from being vegan, I don't eat all that healthily normally, being inordinately fond of starch and a bit sniffy about veg.

I didn't take a photo of it, you all know what porridge looks like - beige - so here's a picture of a pretty blanket that I crocheted instead.
See, I do have colour in my life, just not in my food!
After yesterday's success with the mushy peas on toast, I decided to have it again for lunch.  I really do feel full for a long time after this "recipe" but was feeling more than usually peckish and decided to treat myself to an extra slice of toast.  Three slices, woohoo.  Then I counted the slices in the bag, and put one back. I must not rob tomorrow to gorge today, and in the event two was enough.  I didn't even feel desperately anxious about having to make this choice, which surprised me.  I think that I now trust this process enough to know that so long as I choose my foods carefully I will not at any point be ravenous and desperate.  So that was lunch.  I didn't photograph that, either, I have to leave something to your imagination!

Dinner, ah dinner.  I ummed and aahed about this for a long time.  I was trying to choose between "shepherd's pie" made with a sachet of soya mince mixture from Asda (79p) and Tescos value instant mash (20p), or (be still my heart) burgers and something, made with Asda chargrilled veggie burger mix (£1).  We had a sachet of the burger mix at the weekend (before the challenge, ah yes, I remember that!) and it was good.  The instructions tell you to make 8 burgers, but portion sizes on manufactured foods are always written for anorexic gnats, and I found that the packet actually made 5 decent-sized burgers.  20p a burger, 40p for two.  Could it be done?

I was worried by the shepherd's pie.  Sure, I still had 73.4p left to splurge, and even with carrots and onions and a stock cube, I could bring that in cheaply enough to afford half tonight, but would I have that much money left to spend on dinner tomorrow night?  No way to tell.  Tooooo risky!

So for dinner I had 2 Asda veggie burgers (40p), 170g(raw weight) jacket potato (10.2p), half a tin of mushy peas (8p), 45g grated carrot (3.6p) and 2 slices of wholemeal bread (4.2p).  Wonderful!  Best meal I've had all week and I felt so energetic and well all evening.  I oven-baked the burgers to save having to use oil (no idea how to cost it) and made a sandwich with the bread and one burger and some of the carrot and saved that to eat last, so it was bit like having a 2-course meal.  This is what it looked like:
I know, still a bit beigy, but getting better!
And now, the next morning as I type this, it is gone 9am and I am still not hungry.  Also, I slept deeply and still feel energetic and very well today. 

To be truthful I felt a little bleary the first couple of days of this challenge.  Nothing I'd worry about, just a tad under par, maybe only firing on three and a half cylinders.  I wonder whether the difference is to do with the fat content of the burgers, because I have not added fat to my food all week.  Or maybe it's something to do with having orange and green on my plate, even if the green is mainly tartrazine and turns my pee lime coloured!  Whatever, I think I've found my ideal below the line meal.  I may well have the same again tonight and possibly the shepherd's pie tomorrow, because the day after I can eat exactly as I choose and can scarf the rest of the pie for breakfast with a pint of liquid chocolate if I want!

I am very lucky.

Right, the boring bit:

Breakfast - 50g oats (3.9p) & 20g value peanut butter (3.6p)
Snack - 3/5 of a banana, yucky black end bit cut off (6.9p, not worth it)
Lunch - 2 slices bread (4.2p) and half a tin ofm ushy peas (8p)
Dinner - Asda sachet burgers (40p), jacket potato (10.2p), mushy peas (8p), bread (4.2p) carrot (3.6p) & rich tea biscuits for pudding (4.6p)

Grand total  97.2p.  I'm doing well!

Fargo, rescued from certain inhumane slaughter in the Pozega public "shelter" in Serbia.  He is now doing well too, thanks to the good people who bought (28 euros) him out of there to safety. 
He is one of the millions of reasons I am doing this, and he is looking for his forever home.  Please "comment" if you think you might be able to offer him that home.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Day 2 - Kidney bean catastrophe

Indigestion gone and breakfast decided upon, I was feeling quite chipper at the start of day 2 of my "£1 a day for food" challenge. 

I spread the half-tin of mushy peas I had left over from yesterday's lunch on two slices of very crispy wholemeal toast and ate them with a mug of hot water for breakfast.  The toast/mushy pea combination is one that I have had many times because I actually do enjoy it, although I usually garnish it with a soupcon of salad cream, being the classy eater that I am!

It's also a good breakfast, because I didn't feel in the least hungry all morning, so I think I'll be repeating it.  As I may have mentioned I have a real problem with being hungry, it makes me anxious, which is why I have been going for the maximum quantity of food and chucking quality out of the window on this challenge. 

This morning's work was taking a gentleman in his 90s shopping.  It is his pleasure to buy me a drink in the Costa cafe afterwards, to thank me.  This was a bit of a challenge, because I can only drink tap water unless I count the cost into my day, and things don't come cheap at Costa!  So I screwed up my courage and asked for a glass of plain tap water, burbling as I did so about living on £1 a day for charity etc.  The young man behind the counter turned not a hair and said, "Of course, no problem at all, would you like ice and a slice of lemon?"  I will be going there again.

Lunch was a mistake.  I reasoned that baked beans - especially value ones - usually come with too  much sauce, which I generally tip down the sink.  So if I were to cook some spaghetti and add it to a tin of baked beans, the sauce would cover the pasta too.  Well it did, but it was bland and frankly unpleasant, and guess what?  It gave me indigestion!  It seems best to avoid a combination of pasta/noodles and pulses, although my breakfast of mushy peas and (wheat) toast was fine.  Go figure!

I have not resorted to eating houseplants. My meals are so beige/orange and samey,
I thought I'd inject a bit of colour into my photos.  

I blew it at dinner time, too.  I was intending to make a sort of bean bake, with value kidney beans as the base, but after half an hour rummaging in my voluminous and very inconveniently-sited cupboard, I was forced to the conclusion that I didn't have any.  Well I did, but both tins I unearthed expired in 2011 and I'm not up for botulism.  Lesson of the day - clear out your cupboards, woman!

By the time I got to this stage I was very hungry indeed, so I lined up my meagre store and debated combinations in my head.  I decided upon a tin of new potatoes warmed through with a tin of value spaghetti, with two sandwiches of peanut butter and grated carrot on the side.  This seemed like a good, substantial meal.  One out of two's not bad I suppose - it was substantial.  I couldn't finish the spaghetti/potato combo.  I hate wasting food with a passion, but this was not only bland, it was slimy and the sauce was so sweet it was more like dessert than dinner.  Ack.  It's very rare that I don't finish my food and I feel bad about it, but I just could not.  The peanut butter and carrot sarnies were good though, I'll definitely have them again. 

More beige and orange!  Beige good, orange BAD.

I consoled myself with 4 rich tea biscuits for pudding.

Breakdown of day 2 costs:

Breakfast:   Bread 4.2p, peas 8p
Lunch:  Baked beans 25p, 100g dry spaghetti 3.8p
Dinner:  Tin potatoes 15p, tin value spaghetti 15p, bread 8.4p, 40g peanut butter 7.2p, 90g carrot 7.2p biscuits 2.3p

A smidge over 96p, so that's 2 days down and three to go and lots of lessons learned!

I bet Mamy would have eaten the orange stuff.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Living below the line - day 1

Day 1 successfully completed and well within budget.

Something I didn't realise is that you can't carry money forward on this challenge - each day must come in at no more than £1, which is a bit of a bugger as I was hoping to keep a few pennies in reserve each day in case I *really* needed some extra one day (if I have a migraine for example).  Had I realised this at the start of the day I probably would have used up the extra.  But no matter, I know now!

Breakfast was easy - porridge made with 50g of oats (3.9p) and two-fifths of a banana (4.6p) for a grand total of 8.5p.  It wasn't bad, either, except that for some reason I got indigestion about an hour later.  I've chosen to spend my money on food rather than drink, so had a mug of hot water instead of my usual Redbush tea.  This was not as much of a deprivation as I expected.  The comfort factor of a hot drink is still here, even though the taste of course is not.

Lunch was a pack of Lidl's noodles (18p) and half a tin of mushy peas (8p), also from Lidl.  Again, enough for a satisfying meal, even for someone like me who likes to feel full.  So that's another 26p gone, total for breakfast and lunch 34.5p.  At this rate, dinner was shaping up to be a veritable feast!

Which I decided I might not be able to eat, as by half an hour after the noodles indigestion was rampaging through my chest like a baby dragon on the first day of the holidays.  I really hope that medicine does not count as food, because I could not have coped without an antacid.

Normally on Tuesdays my work consists of just one 2-hour session of cleaning, in a particularly difficult house where resides a long-haired black cat.  She is lovely, but boy does she shed, so the cleaning and vacuuming are particularly vigorous and of the on-hands-and-knees-with-an-attachment variety.  This takes a lot of energy.  Also, with it being a bank holiday week, I also had a session in the afternoon at another house that I usually do on Monday.  This all took quite a bit out of me.  I've only been a home helper for three weeks after giving up a third of a century sitting behind a desk, so as yet I am not all that fit.  You can imagine how I felt by late yesterday afternoon after all that hard work on relatively little food, so I had to have a peanut butter sandwich to start feeling remotely alive again.  It worked, but it cost me 4.2p for 2 slices of wholemeal bread and 3.6p for 20g of value peanut butter, bringing my spend up to 42.5p.  Dinner was starting to look a bit less generous, but at least by now my indigestion was gone!

I decided on soup.  I've read somewhere that soup is more filling and satisfying than the same ingredients cooked individually.  Probably something to do with the water helping to activate the stretch receptors in the stomach or somesuch.  I don't know how it works, but it does seem to.  So I cooked an onion (4.8p), a large carrot (12.8p), a stock cube (1.5p), 50g oats (3.9p) and 355g potatoes (21.3p) into a thick, hearty "scotch broth" and enjoyed this 44.3p feast very much.  I was surprised, I expected it to be bland and unexciting, but it tasted quite fresh and was very filling.  So filling that I probably didn't actually need the 8 rich tea biscuits I ate as dessert for 4.6p, but I had them anyway!

I don't know whether it was the reduced food intake or the hard work or both, but I was ready for bed very early and turned in at about 9:30.  Time spent asleep is time not spent thinking about food!

So - a grand total of just over 91p spent on my first day. I was expecting to have lost some weight as a welcome side-effect, but the scales told me this morning that I am actually a pound heavier than I was yesterday morning.  Tuh!

But the *important* pounds are the ones that I earned yesterday by sticking within the limit.  Thanks to the people sponsoring me so far, £14 will now be going to the dogs, and that's better than losing a stone!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Done the shopping - that's the easy bit

I did most of the shopping for my challenge yesterday, leaving just a loaf of wholemeal bread for 47p at Lidl's to buy on Tuesday.  I almost splashed out 30p on a whacking great bag of value cornflakes, but then I thought of all that refined carbohydrate and how it would give me a blood sugar crash mid-morning that I would have no way of reversing, and put them back.  Besides, I can't afford 59p for a litre of value soya milk.  I started to get quite anxious at this point and had to do some deep breathing and remind myself that this is purely voluntary, I *want* to do it.  Apparently a small, worried part of my brain really doesn't.  ;o)

Fresh fruit and veg has a walk-on part, with 2 bananas (23p) to give my morning porridge some interest and carrots and onions to enliven my evening meals.  Other nutrients will be provided by pulses (kidney beans and mushy peas from Lidl's), wholemeal bread and whatever vitamins remain in tinned potatoes (at 15p per large tin, quite possibly cheaper than fresh!). 

I astonished the checkout girl in Sainsbury's with my purchase of a solitary pack of 10 value vegetable stock cubes for 15p, paid entirely in pennies.  I could have got them for 12p from Tesco, but they had milk in them.  Just what you want in a stock cube - not!  And I'm afraid that any street cred I may have had (pretty non-existent if I'm truthful) evaporated completely upon my purchase of a 20p pack of value instant mash from Tesco.  Beware bargain hunters - the exact same thing costs 48p(!) in Sainsbury's.

I also have tins of value baked beans, but they are an extravagance at 25p, so will be used in halves.  Tins of Asda spaghetti in tomato sauce are cheaper at 15p per tin, but of course nowhere near as filling.  I also bought a pack of value spaghetti for about 20p, but I may well not use that.  Refined carbs again.  Which won't stop me having a pack of Lidl's noodles for lunch each day, with half a tin of mushy peas, because I know that will stop me from being too hungry through the afternoon.

I discovered that passata is cheaper by several pence than tinned tomatoes, so I have a tetrapak of that which I may or may not use.  Likewise a pack of vegemince type stuff from Asda.  If I can use that and beans to get several meals then I might, but I don't think it's going to be affordable.  We'll see.

My one real indulgence is a packet of 40 Rich Tea biscuits from Lidl's, for 23p.  If I can have 8 biscuits a day I can weather a lot of hunger pangs.

So just today and tomorrow to go now, then it starts.  I am curiously nervous.

Friday, 24 May 2013

I've often wished I could share my food with hungry animals

Lucky dogs in a *good* shelter in Romania
I have been reading recently about the "Live Below the Line" challenge, where people try to live on £1 per day for 5 days, to see how it feels to be so poor that you can't afford proper food.

This is of course a human-oriented initiative. Participants give the money raised to the likes of Oxfam, and ask friends and relatives to sponsor them for each day achieved, up to 5.
I have become very aware lately of how well I live compared to stray dogs, cats and other animals, especially in countries such as Serbia and Romania and I would like to even the balance a little. Obviously we have to look after ourselves and I am not being over-sentimental about this, but I reckon I can do this challenge and maybe make a difference for the animals and their rescuers in the process. 

So the plan is, starting Tuesday, I will spend no more than £1 per day on food and drink for 5 days. I am not allowed to accept anything from other people (ie tea or coffee) without factoring that in, so there's no cheating. I will post here what I have eaten each day (only water to drink for me!) and how much it has cost, and perhaps a little about how it feels.

Would anyone be prepared to sponsor me for 50p for each day that I achieve, up to 5 days? My plan is to divide the money I raise (I already have some sponsorship through Facebook) between "Serbia's Forgotten Paws", "One by One Until There are None" and Irina Neblea who runs a shelter in Constanta in Romania. (These all have their own Facebook page, so please feel free to look them up and see what they are all about). Because many of the people who will read this don't actually know me, I have also asked someone who has been involved with these rescue organisations for a long time to act as treasurer and accept donations into their paypal account, so everyone can be sure that I am not up to some money-making trick!

Please don't feel in any way obliged, we are all under financial pressure these days and the last thing I want to do is make anyone feel awkward.  By the same token, I hope that you will excuse me for asking.

I will also be posting this on various
Facebook pages, so please ignore any duplication. All comments, suggestions and, of course, sponsorship offers, gratefully received!

Thank you.