General ramblings

Live Below the Line-Day 5

Go on, one last time in that Geordie accent…Day 5 in the Live Below the Line Make Do and Mend house…


  • Porridge-as per Days 1 and 3 but with the addition of a spoon of jam in each bowl to hold off a tantrum from BigSmall about the lack of toast…55p
  • Milk for the Smalls-20p


  • 1x apple-12p
  • 4x bananas-at the new more expensive banana price of 10p each-40p
  • Sunshine bun with butter and jam x2-12p
  • Banana muffin x1-9p
  • Milk for the Smalls-20p


  • 4x egg rolls, using 2 eggs-40p
  • Banana muffins x 3-27p


  • The other half of the bag of pasta (15p), the rest of the tomato sauce from Day 2 (44p), 2 onions (10p) and the rest of the cheese (85p)=£1.54 And we had my mother in law round for tea-so that served 3 Bigs and 2 Smalls!
  • Banana muffins x2-18p

Total cost £3.95

So there we go. We did it. A bit of a wobble part way through about whether or not it was fair to inlcude the Smalls, and a couple of minor tantrums along the way, but I think we did ok. I have to say that I think it is far easier doing it as a family on a £20 budget, than it would have been as a single person on a £5 budget, and I was possibly a bit more relaxed in my interpreation of the rules in that we used a few bits from the storecupboard (although I did account for these in my sums). And I really don’t think we could have done it if the Smalls had been teenagers…

It has highlighted to me just how hard it must be for people who have no choice in the matter, and have to live hand to mouth EVERY DAY. I felt the worry each time the Smalls asked for snacks or another helping of food and trying to work out whether or not that would leave us short by the end of the week, and I had the safety net of knowing that if it really came to it, I wouldn’t let the Smalls go hungry and we could stop at any time. I can’t imagine how it must feel to have NO safety net, and to be accompanied by that nagging fear all day, every day. To know that if the kids eat more one day, then you yourself will be going hungry by the end of the week.
As a family, we are very lucky. We are not rolling in money, but we can afford to pay our bills, and feed ourselves well, and we have never really had to budget our food shop so strictly. It has been a learning curve, and an eye-opener, and I will be counting our blessings when I go to bed tonight.

I chose to take part in Live Below the Line, not only to highlight the issues around global poverty and hunger, but also to raise money for Save The Children, who work around the world to give millions of children nutritious food, life-saving healthcare, protection from abuse, and the chance to go to school. This is massively important work, and we decided that we would donate the rest of our usual shopping budget to the charity. If you too would like to support the work that they are doing, then you can dontate here on my Live Below the Line page.

Thankyou for all your support and kind words this week-you have kept me going and reassured me when it has got a bit sticky with the Smalls!

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  • Reply Thrifty Thursday | My Make Do and Mend Year September 19, 2013 at 7:29 am

    […] Day 5-saw us reduced to pasta and tomato sauce with cheese, but the Smalls were more than happy with that […]

  • Reply Fiona (@bikelightsfiona) May 8, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Very thought provoking – thanks for sharing your experiences. I have similar age children so can appreciate your dilemma about involving them. I’m sure the milk bill for the week would take a big chunk of the budget! The thought of having to ration milk, even without thinking about the other consequences of living on that budget, makes me really appreciate how lucky I am to not be living on such a tight budget. I try not to waste food but I’ve definitely been more aware of the value of even small amounts of wasted food since reading about your week.

    • Reply Jen May 8, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      Hi Fiona. Thanks for your comments. It is quite scary how much milk 2 small people can drink/eat/consume in a week isn’t it? I didn’t intentionally ration it, but I did use a 50:50 mix of milk and water in the porridge, and I certainly didn’t offer it if they didn’t ask for it…!

  • Reply Heather May 6, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Well done Jen! You made it through to the end and your blog about it has been great reading. It’s a real eye opener to think about people who have to live like this all the time. And as others have said, the way food is viewed here in the West is probably too skewed in the way of variety, availability (strawberries all year round) etc. It’s not good for our planet, or our pocket, to be living this way. The live below the line campaign highlights the need for change in terms of poverty but also the need for more affluent people to really think about their own diets.

    • Reply Jen May 6, 2013 at 7:16 pm

      Thanks Heather. We do indeed need to rewind a bit and go back to shopping locally, eating the seasons and making sure we eat every last bit of what we have forked out our hard-earned cash for.

  • Reply kneehighmum May 5, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Well done to all four of you! Thank you for highlighting the campaign.

    • Reply Jen May 5, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      Thankyou. It was hard work but ultimately worthwhile!

  • Reply KnitNell May 4, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Well done Jen – probably writing a blog about the 5 days must have helped but I can imagine it was not easy. And 5 days can seem a very long time. I remember the days of no money and the strongest memory is the boredom of it. Life just reduces to thinking about money and how to cope. However since then I really appreciate the food I have now and I think it is very healthy to have a wake-up call about our relationship with food and our life-styles in general.

    • Reply Jen May 4, 2013 at 7:23 pm

      Well said! As Hazel said, we are so used to such a variety in our diets. The monotony of the diet, and the nagging fear about money, and the constant grind of it all must really drag you down. We are very fortunate, and this has highlighted that for me, and made me so much more aware of it.

  • Reply Ann Battye May 4, 2013 at 8:36 am

    I don’t know if it would agree that it would be harder with teenagers, they can have a better understanding of the issues. I heard about the challenge from my 19yr old (admittedly only just still a teenager) who decided to do the week off her own bat. It really makes you think – made me think and I wasn’t even taking part, although I will next year. As for the smalls, someone once said children should be allowed to be as hungry as possible and as cold as possible at least once. I think you have done a great thing in raising their awareness of global issues at an early age. You are wonderful people and I wish there were more like you 🙂

    • Reply Jen May 4, 2013 at 7:19 pm

      Thankyou so much Ann. You are very kind. I agree with you that you can explain the issues much more clearly to teenagers, I was more thinking about teenage boys and their ravenous appetites…!

  • Reply Hazel May 4, 2013 at 6:53 am

    Well done Jen, you made it!
    I know you were worried about having enough to keep the boys full and happy, and you did a good job, but I don’t think ‘That’s what there is’ sometimes does children any harm at all.

    Reading about you and TeamP doing this challenge has really made me think about the variety we expect in our diet now, and I suspect that’s part of the problem with food waste- we (the western population generally) expect to eat something different everyday.
    We buy a huge range of ingredients to be able to cook from around the world and they sit in cupboards waiting for the next Thai/Japanese/Indian/Madagascan meal to be cooked.
    Magazines etc, when they do focus on leftovers, condition us to think they should be unrecognisable from the previous meal- no eating stew for 4 days in a row anymore. So things sit in the fridge or just get binned immediately.

    One commenter (not sure which blog) pointed out 5 days was a bit artificial, and it is, but I think it’s enough to make people think. The limited amount of cash means it’s hard to buy anything in amounts that give value for money which makes it difficult, as we agreed before. I wonder if I could persuade the family to do rice and lentils a different way every day for 5 days…

    • Reply Jen May 4, 2013 at 7:18 pm

      You are right Hazel. We are used to expecting a huge variety of food. I worry if I serve pasta up 2 days in a row, or more than 3 times a week say. We are very very fortunate to be able to live like this, and so many others aren’t. Living Below the Line has helped to highlight this for me, and has made me much more aware of the difficulties many people face everyday, just trying to feed themselves and their kids.

  • Reply Vivienne Downes (@VivienneDownes) May 4, 2013 at 5:47 am

    I had forgotten just how restricting it was to have to keep within such a tight budget although I did it for years when my children were small. Tantrums were not a problem as they knew there was no peanut butter in the cupboard. We ate lots of casseroles (they got most of the meat) so we sat down & ate the same meal together. When their friends came for tea I’d make a special effort for them & I would eat the leftover casserole stock over chunks of bread. They grew up happy healthy kids with lots of energy, not the overfed kind you see today who moan about walking anywhere !
    I had not reckoned on using store cupboard ingredients I spent the full £5 on food to last me the five days. My only sin was a recent birthday gift of a set of mini pots of preserves & chutneys which (as they cost me nothing) I allowed myself one pot each day to tart up my rather meager diet. It was hard for one person but at least I didn’t have anyone else having tantrums.
    Giving up coffee, tea, & odd glass of wine (or two!) was the hardest part but my glowing complexion shows how good water (hot or cold) with a slice of lemon is for you. The bathroom scales also tell me I lost a couple of pounds too !
    My garden was my free store cupboard it gave me rhubarb, sorrel & chives galore. I plan on expanding the grow your own part to teach my Grandkids how food is produced & the joy of eating raw peas straight out of the pod :o)

    • Reply Jen May 4, 2013 at 7:16 pm

      You did AMAZINGLY Vivienne! Truly inspirational. Have a great weekend 🙂

  • Reply Hayley May 3, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Well done! We are so very fortunate to have as much as we do. It made me think not only about the food we have available but also how well educated and knowledgable the Internet makes us. One search or tweet and you have hundreds of recipes ideas and advice about budget cooking. Many people just don’t have that.

    Save the children is a great charity to support too.

    • Reply Jen May 4, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      Thanks Hayley. And thanks again for letting me know about it!

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