Friday, April 12, 2013

Non-chicken plan - Live Below the Line

The plan I posted about yesterday was based around getting a whole chicken (a Lidl free-range one) and making the most of it in a variety of guises.

That is the idea I've had in my head, getting a few bits of different things and then making them stretch for the 5 days.

I guess that is because this tends to be the way we eat anyway, but with our normal budget we add things as the week goes along. It is kind of a rolling programme of leftovers, we start with chicken (or ham, etc) on Sunday, then we add a spanish tortilla on Tuesday, make a risotto with the stock we have made, add a flan or tart of some kind, maybe make some hummus, cook some sausages, and it just kind of grows and evolves over the week. We use the food for both lunches and teas.

It also felt more authentic. When you don't have much money to spend on food (even when it is more than £1 a day) then you don't get to make many choices. The monotony is one of the demoralising things about poverty; the reality of that lack of choice particularly in such a consumer society grinds you down. If you've bought a bag of rice, then you're having rice, you don't have the luxury of just being able to make a simple choice like swapping to pasta.

And the lack of choice isn't just food, you often don't get to choose a job, where you live, what you eat, what you wear, you just take what you can afford and hope that is in some way works. It is one of the reasons that when you have a limited income (be it benefits or with a low-income job) you buy small 'treats' even when know that you can't really afford them, just for the relief from the relentless sameness and lack of choice. For some people, and particularly in some countries outside the UK, this lack of choice may mean having to move your whole family away from the place where they have always lived, it might mean not being able to choose an education for your children, it might means having to leave your family to go and find work so that you can send a little money home to them to help them survive.

But, these thoughts aside, I thought I should maybe try looking at our Live Below the Line budget another way, so I'm going to try and plan an alternative menu which doesn't use the chicken and buys things on a more day to day basis. I'll see how it goes and keep you up to date.

As a PS, while we're talking about poverty here's a nice graphic showing how relatively few people really are on unemployment benefits as a share of total welfare spend (only 3% on Job Seeker's Allowance). The current rhetoric on benefits doesn't help anyone, and those on severely limited incomes can certainly do without the 'scrounger' stigma that is being pushed by the government and media (and those on benefits may be in or out of work - many people on welfare are on in-work top ups of their low wages) :

Image from Jon Leighton on Facebook, click on his name to check out his info on it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Meal plan - Live Below the Line

So, as I'm sat here with the children asleep, with a cup of tea and a rich tea biscuit with nutella on it (soon to be forbidden luxuries all), I thought I'd write out my meal plan.

I'm not sure I can afford to do it this way, as I think I'm a bit short on veg in my budget, but this is what I'm thinking at the moment. It may change to dhaal and pinto bean chilli before we actually get to the date, but here is where I am for now. It would be a lot more bean and pulse heavy already if it wasn't for the boys' aversion to all pulses except baked beans.

This is on a budget £20 for all 4 of us for 5 days. I'm hoping to find cheaper cooking oil than I have so far which will give us more money for veg, I only need a little bit but the Live Below the Line budget rules means I have to account for the whole bottle, the only thing you are allowed to just budget for a portion of are herbs/spices.

I've underlined the text below each time a new thing makes an appearance, for ease of reading.

As you will see it is somewhat monotonous, but we knew it wasn't going to be a gourmet experience:

Day 1
Breakfast: porage made with milk, plus fruit for the boys (kiwi, banana, blueberries).
Lunch: Split pea soup, homemade flatbread, plus cheese for the boys
Tea: Roast chicken and roast veg, flatbread, plus yoghurt for the boys.
Rice pudding
Snacks: oat and apple biscuits

Stock will be made with the chicken carcass to use for risotto on another day.

Day 2
Breakfast: porage made with milk, plus fruit for the boys (kiwi, banana, blueberries).
Lunch: Split pea soup, homemade flatbread, plus cheese for the boys
Tea: Roast chicken and roast veg wraps, rice? flatbread, sweetcorn fritters, plus yoghurt for the boys.
Rice pudding
Snacks: oat and apple biscuits

Day 3
Breakfast: porage made with milk, plus fruit for the boys (kiwi, banana, blueberries).
Lunch: Split pea soup, homemade flatbread, sweetcorn fritters, plus cheese for the boys
Tea: chicken and veg pizza, plus yoghurt for the boys.
Rice pudding
Snacks: oat and apple biscuits,

Day 4
Breakfast: porage made with milk, plus fruit for the boys (kiwi, banana, blueberries).
Lunch: Split pea soup, homemade flatbread, sweetcorn fritters, plus cheese for the boys
Tea: chicken risotto, plus yoghurt for the boys.
Rice pudding
Snacks: oat and apple biscuits

Day 5
Breakfast: porage made with milk, plus fruit for the boys (kiwi, banana, blueberries).
Lunch: Split pea soup, homemade flatbread, sweetcorn fritters, plus cheese for the boys
Tea: chicken risotto, plus yoghurt for the boys.
Rice pudding
Snacks: oat and apple biscuits

So what have I forgotten? Help me!

I must be missing something glaringly obvious and this lot takes me up to £19.97!

As I say I'm a bit light on veg at the moment, but I hope I'll be able to either find some cheap almost best before date veg/fruit bargains, or find some cheaper oil so I can get more veg.

I also think I might need more milk, I've put a 4 pint big bottle in the budget but I'm note sure that will see my milk guzzling boys through (as well as the rice pudding and all the porage making). Although they do usually leave quite a bit in the glass, so I guess it will just be a case of giving them less and then topping up if they want more to try and eke it out further.

I also need to look at my flour usage, I've not looked at my flatbread/pizza base/wrap/fritter recipes to double check how big a bag I'll need.

That's it for now.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Live Below The Line

I haven't posted on this blog for a VERY long while as we don't have the allotment anymore, and for the last nearly 2 years we haven't even had a bit of garden.

But we're planning on taking part in Live Below the Line this year and this seemed like the place to write about it, as it is all to do with food and eking out as much as you can from as little as possible.

So that is £1 per person each day for 5 days, for all food and drink. We'll give the difference between that and our normal food budget to charity, and hopefully it'll focus our minds on food waste, and food poverty here in the UK and in other places too. Some kind people might also sponsor us!

At the moment we're plotting and planning to see if we can do it as a family, without the kids losing out too much. They are way too young to understand (not quite 3 years and 1.5 years) and don't really do lentils/split peas/beans/chick peas, so the options we would take just for ourselves are out of the window!

I'm not sure if it will really work if we're trying to cook like normal for them but on on £1 a day for ourselves, so that is our focus just now.

Our plan just now is to try and buy a whole chicken, rice, veg, split peas, oats, milk, sugar, flour, frozen sweetcorn, oil, (maybe yeast too) and a few spices with our budget to feed us all, and the spend the boys' £10 on fruit, cheese, macaroni, and yoghurt to top them up.

Today's experiment was trying to make biscuits. If I have biscuits for morning and afternoon snacks alongside a bit of cheese, then they probably won't even notice anything has changed!

My Live Below the Line experimental recipe is 2 glasses of oats, 2 glasses of milk (not quite as full), 1 apple, 1tbsp sugar, 1tbsp water, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon.

I cooked the chopped apple in a pan with the sugar and water until soft. Then added the cinnamon.

In another bowl I mixed the oats and milk left them for a bit, then microwaved them to thicken them a bit.

Then I mixed them both together and split the mixture into 24 dollops onto oiled baking trays. 15mins in a 150C oven saw them brown nicely on top, and they are now cooling.

They look OK, but we'll have to wait for the taste test to be sure!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

All Over

Well, we have given up the allotment, finally.

We had done almost nothing on it last year, and humphing a baby over there with all the associated accoutrements was meaning I ended up never going. A 10 minute job of watering things became too big a task, even though it is only a 15min walk away.

So we decided that if we weren't making good use of it, then someone else should have it and get enjoyment out of it.

We took out a few prized tools and locked up for the last time a fortnight ago.

We hope to find somewhere with a garden at some point, having all your plants growing outside your own door seems like a much easier option! Or maybe we will get an allotment again when the baby is a bit bigger.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Signed up for another year!

Well I went and signed my missives and handed over my association fees this Saturday just gone, so we are signed up for another year.

I didn't really do anything at the plot, apart from empty the green house of some mouldy dead plants, re-attach a downpipe on the shed guttering, and tie our shade fabric canopy back up.

Oh and brought home mouldy leather gloves to wash. It has been very cold in that shed, it is all going to need a really good clean now that it is warming back up again.

But the plot didn't look as disheartening as I expected. It is a big mess, but all that work in previous years to put some structure into it means I can still see hope under all the weeds!

It is do-able - one bed at a time.