From 12th-16th April I will Live Below The Line. The challenge – to raise awareness and funds for world poverty by living below the line, like 1 in 7 people who live in poverty. I will live on just £5 for 5 days. That’s £1 a day, just 33p per meal.
Yesterday I showed you what I’ll be spending my £5 on. In today’s post I’ll be talking about exactly why I decided to spend my pennies on which foods, AND revealing my 5 day live below the line healthy meal plan.
Why I Choose My Ingredients
I want to get in a range of fat, protein and carbohydrate sources. When I started planning, my initial concern was that there just wasn’t going to be enough fat in this meal plan. I’ve tried my hardest to get it in there. Though, it pains me that there are no omega 3 fats, an essential fatty acid – essential being the key word here. These are usually found in oily fish, or also walnuts and flax for plant sources. If I were brave enough to get some fish heads (free) from my fishmonger as suggested by a friend of mine this would have been a huge benefit to the meal plan. I have chosen a few different fat sources for some variety; homemade rendered chicken fat for cooking stews and soups, coconut oil for cooking pancakes and flatbreads, then olive oil for drizzling on top or very low heat sautéing. The coconut oil is not the extra virgin pure variety I usually use, but given the challenge it will do. You may notice I have not opted for the cheapest oil of all – vegetable oil. There is a reason for this, it’s far to high in the wrong fats, and oxidises / goes rancid when cooked, which can be very damaging. I think it’s worth making the budget balance to use better quality oils. I would have loved to include pure butter too.
Then comes protein. I had initially thought I’d be cooking lentils till they came out of my ears but I just couldn’t make the £1 a packet cost fit into my meal plan – crazy huh? Instead I opt for; plant based chickpeas & cannellini bean, a super inclusion of chicken stock (which is the base for all soups & stews), yoghurt (sadly the cheapest pot – a bargain at 45p – was low-fat but I hope still contains some probiotics), and then finally eggs. Oh, eggs, you tormented my environmental conscience. 6 free-range super market eggs for 97p or 10-12 caged eggs for £1. 12 would give me an allowance of 2-3 a day, a fantastic source of protein, and fat and nutrients from the yolks. 6 eggs, would not allow me the luxury of this variety of meals. I have chosen 12. I still don’t know if that is the right decision. If I lived near a farm or had my own chickens then I may have been able to buy eggs with a conscience. Oh London.
Then comes carbs, glorious carbs. A former high carb / low fat junkie, I think the former version of me is excited that I’m allowed to wallow in 5 days of rice, porridge oats and potatoes. I can’t wait to find out what it does to my energy levels. Rice is incredibly cheap. White rice – that’s rice without the germ and the bran which essentially contain all the nutrients – was all I could afford. I’ve tried not to place it in my meal plan more than once a day. Then, oats which are wheat-free but they are not gluten-free. This is because they can often get contaminated with gluten in the manufacturing process. Gluten free oats are available, but as you may have guessed they were out of my budget. I eat gluten free 99% of the time, because I choose to, and also to ease my IBS flare ups. I’m lucky I don’t have an allergy like coeliac disease, but I do strongly believe there are links between gluten, gut & brain health (just read Wheat Belly or Grain Brain) and that’s enough for me to stay clear. I guess this will be the 1% of my time rolled into one 5-day period. I agonised over this about this as much as the eggs. For oats, I have included options to soak them in whey (strained from the yoghurt) prior to cooking. This should help with digestion. This is a technique borrowed from traditional cultures and is especially promoted by the work of the Weston A. Price Foundation (well worth a follow up read).
For fruit & veggies I have managed to squeeze in 1kg of mixed frozen veg which I will laboriously separate for some of my recipes, a tin of tomatoes and 2 bananas. Not really getting to 5 (or 7…) a day is it? If it were blackberry season I’d definitely be foraging for a delicious porridge-topping treat. If I didn’t live in London I may even think about foraging for wild garlic or nutritious nettles, which are in season right now and excellent when cooked. I apologise now for the appearance of the tin of boiled new potatoes. It was 15p. A real potato of the same weight, or my favorite sweet potato was so much more. At least they were preserved solely in water.
And then there are the aromatics and spices. My favorite bit. The bit us Natural Chefs call our culinary apothecary. Herbs and spices have an important function in cooking that isn’t just about flavour. I’ve kept my list quite short and quantities tiny for obvious reasons but here is why I’ve included them. I wish I could have used more.
- Cinnamon – helps to balance blood sugar levels. Important when you’re downing a huge bowl of porridge carbs.
- Fresh ginger – anti-inflammatory, calming to the digestive system.
- Cumin – my favourite spice. Packs a lot of flavor. Also, is an anti-inflammatory and can sooth the digestive tract.
- Turmeric – a powerful anti-inflammatory can also relieve pain, a super spice!
- Curry powder – a cheap way of getting a range of spices in without having to buy loads, just make sure your mix has no added preservatives. Usually loaded with turmeric.
- Garlic – anti-microbial, lowers cholesterol. I couldn’t seem to afford an onion so a touch of garlic in each recipe helps to lift the flavours of these cheaper ingredients.
- Dried herbs – not a great deal of benefit since fresh herbs carry more flavour (fresh is always best with herbs) but worth mentioning the oregano which is anti-bacterial, and rosemary which can help aid memory.
- Salt – always use Sea salt. Never table salt. No matter how cheap. You don’t need that much anyway, though when you’re not consuming processed foods you needn’t be worried about adding salt to your cooking. It really helps bring out the flavor. Use your 2 Tbs for the week wisely!
Finally, I added in a cheeky 5 bags of green tea, because I ashamedly can’t start my day without a bit of caffeine. I may even re-use the bag for a second (weaker) cup. I choose green tea for its antioxidant (catechin) benefits, the fact it stimulates metabolism, maintains cardiovascular health and may balance blood glucose levels. It’s worth 2p a bag for sure. Also, I don’t like black tea. I’m a fake British person.
My 5 Day Living Below The Line Healthy Meal Plan
Have you ever hear that phrase “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen, dine like a pauper”? There is so much sensibility in this statement. Start your day well with a filling, sustaining protein breakfast and you won’t start crying for the biscuit tin come 10am. Helpful if you don’t want to spend all day thinking about all the food you can’t afford to eat. There is actually no reason not to eat curry or soup for breakfast but I’ve kept my meal plans fairly standard to modern British perceptions. I’ve tried to balance out my protein and carb sources so that I’m not eating rice or oats for every meal, and spread my egg allowance to 2-3 a day. There are of course a thousand ways of doing this challenge, and even with these same ingredients, someone else’s menu could differ hugely. I spent long and hard debating whether to put chickpeas in my stew, or use them for a sort of hummus, whether to add chicken scraps from my carcass to the curry or enjoy it as a burger. Potatoes – all in the stew, or some in the soup? Just goes to prove you can be inventive with little ingredients, and have some cooking fun along the way.
I’ll be taking part in the challenge from this Saturday April 12th to Wednesday April 16th, and I’ll be blogging my recipes and a diary each day as well as sharing photos on instagram. If you think all these blog posts and recipes I’ve spent time working hard on in my spare time are worth a bit of sponsorship then my chosen charity Christian Aid will I’m sure put the funds to great use. You can sponsor me here. If you want to join in with the rest of the county the official dates for the challenge are April 28th to May 2nd. Feel free to use my shopping list, meal plan and recipes to help you through.
Check back tomorrow as I’ll be guiding you through my preparation recipes. This includes instructions on turning a chicken carcass into the nutritious backbone of your eats, and explaining exactly how labne and flatbreads are featured in my meal plan given that labne, or flour are not on my shopping list.0