How I Lived on £1 a Day for 5 Days to understand Food Poverty ~ End of Week Meal Plan & Diary

Live Below the Line

~ How I Lived on £1 a Day for 5 Days to understand Food Poverty ~

End of Week Meal Plan & Diary

Curried Scottish Carrot and Lentil Soup

Curried Scottish Carrot and Lentil Soup

On Monday I started my Live Below the Line – Live on £1 a Day…….if you click on the link you will see the meal plan that I initially posted, that plan that was taken from the Live Below the Line website.……however, I wasn’t that keen on the food that was suggested, or the meal plans, so I dumped the cheap bangers in the freezer and went shopping AND foraging too!  I know that the whole point was to live below the line and understand food poverty, but, I felt that there were some better and healthier options to go with…….so, I am now sharing MY shopping and foraging list with you, and my meal plan… well my thoughts in the form of an end of week diary…….it was hard, and I DID fall by the wayside several time, I am only human after all, plus I was fighting a very nasty head cold. You will see that soups, eggs, potatoes and pulses featured highly, as well as home-made bread…….which was GREAT news, as this week is Real Bread Maker Week. 


Luckily I am an experienced bread maker and as home-made bread is cheaper and better than most commercial bread loaves, home-made bread was a welcome part of the revised meal plan. Now, I have my own hens, and therefore my own free-range eggs; I realise that these eggs aren’t completely free, so I costed how much chicken food I feed my hens a day, which seemed fair, and they do eat a lot of kitchen scraps which made my eggs cheaper too – therefore my free-range eggs came in at a very low 40p per dozen (based on the cost of the chicken food I buy in bulk and the four days it took to be rewarded with a dozen eggs) and I also incorporated some foraged herbs and wild garlic in to my meal plan. The week was hard, and I still drank my  usual tea, which is not cheap….and I forgot to add the tea bags and loose tea in the equation, but, I DO feel that I gave this challenge a REAL go and three out of five aint bad! My shopping list and meal plan follows, with my daily diary notes…….

Meal Plan for
Live Below the Line on £1 a Day
Weekly Shopping List:

1 dozen (my own) free-range eggs – 40p

250g red lentils  from the reduced section (broken bag) – 39p

2.5 kilos potatoes from local farm shop – 80p

100g Cheddar cheese from reduced section (near sell by date) – 28p

Packet of button mushrooms from reduced section – 26p

Small bag of onions from reduced section – 18p

Packet of tomatoes – 50p

Half pack butter – 60p

Home-made Jam (Raspberry) – 50p

Bag of bread flour – 68p

50g fresh yeast – 18p

small bag carrots from reduced section – 20p

Herbs and Wild Garlic foraged from garden and hedgerows – free

Total: £4.97

Meal Plan:


Breakfast: Boiled egg with home-made bread

Lunch: Home-made Lentil and Carrot Soup

Dinner: Baked Potato with grated cheese and wild garlic


Breakfast: Scrambled eggs on toast (2 eggs)

Lunch: Out with friends (!!)

Dinner:  Potato, lentil and Carrot Casserole with home-made bread


Breakfast: Sweet Jam Omelette (2 eggs)

Lunch: Fried tomatoes with herbs on Toast

Dinner: Baked Potato with grated cheese and fried onions


Breakfast: Poached Egg

Lunch: Mushrooms on Toast

Dinner: Tomato and Carrot soup with toasted cheese sandwich


Brunch:  Tomatoes and mushrooms on toast

Dinner: Onion and Wild Herb Omelette (with remaining tomatoes and onion salad)

The End!


Home-made Baps

My thoughts…….I COULD have been a bit more adventurous with my menus; however, I was initially planning on following the Live Below the Line meal plan……but, I could not bring myself to buy cheap eggs (poor animal welfare) and cheap sausages (high salt and fat)…….so, I did not plan my meals and menus that well…..BUT, I did eat well insofar that I chose healthier  ingredients that were languishing in the reduced section – expired sell by dates and broken packages equal cheap prices. I also did a bit of foraging and used my hen’s eggs……..I did not add my tea, salt, pepper and sundry spices into the equation, so the total will be slightly more than £5, but not by much though…….and I forgot, again, to add in milk, which was ONLY taken in tea. Despite the fact that I felt I ate enough and ate healthily, I WAS hungry every day and found myself randomly picking chips of my daughter’s plate on Fish and Chip night! The conclusion, I could have done better…..but, I managed to stick to the plan on the whole. Will I try it next year? Maybe, and if I do, I will be MUCH better prepared! Thanks to all of you who have followed me throughout the week on Twitter……I’ll be back later with baking treats and photos from my day out, as well as some product and book reviews. Have a great weekend……Karen

Boiled Eggs

Boiled Eggs


  1. says

    Very interesting reading this, Karen. Like you, I struggle to economise on certain things and when you factor in all the other lovely things you enjoy every day (I drink coffee at home which is about 45p a cup and I have 4 cups a day – expensive but still cheaper and nicer than buying takeaway coffees) then you go way over the budget.

    Interestingly enough, Tony has bought us a few ready meals recently which we have eaten on a friday night in the Cotswolds when we’re shattered. This is not something I’d ever buy. But eating them made me realise why so many people do not cook. Supper for two on the table in 10 minutes and just two plates, two knives and two forks to put in the dishwasher!

    But that brings me to my point – I do think it helps enormously to be able to cook well when living on such a tight budget. Yes, you can buy bread more cheaply than making it yourself, but it’s not the sort of bread I would EVER want to eat. I think you can live perfectly healthily on a tight budget if you can cook reasonably well and THINK about nutrition, but I do worry a lot about those who can’t. There really isn’t much alternative than to eat cheap processed rubbish, which is sad.

    Charlotte x

    • says

      Thanks Charlotte! I am sure if I had drank coffee throughout the week, as I only like GOOD and EXPENSIVE coffee, the cost would have soared WAY over the £5 total. I allowed myself my favourite tea however…..

      I TOTALLY understand about ready meals – especially the good quality ones from M and S, they are easy and are great for the end of a busy day. There would be no way that you could buy them for this plan though…..which given what you save in energy for cooking a meal and the all the hot water for washing up, is a shame!

      I agree that my cooking skills made this challenge easier for me than others, and that it’s a paradox that those people who NEED to cook in order to save money are the ones that usually have not been taught the skills…. therein lies another debate!

      Thanks for your wonderfully supportive comments, Karen

  2. says

    well done!

    I do think we’ve forgotten some of our parents’ economies. I know my mum used to keep a dripping bowl, into which all the meat fats juices would go. Bread and dripping was a real treat – a lot nicer than butter! And if mum was shallow frying it was almost always done using the dripping bowl fat. We had big jars of salt preserved beans, canned tomatoes and home made jam. If we didn’t have enough soft fruits ourselves for jam we went blackberry picking (or in my grandma’s case wortleberry picking – kind of blueberry things)…no one was posh enough to call it foraging!

    • says

      Thanks Fiona! I agree about thrift and economy; I too was raised in a home where there was a dripping jar, and just like you, a tea time or supper treat was bread and dripping. Again, my mum was a bread maker, jam maker, pickle maker and I LOVED going brambling every year, it was a family activity that involved all of us. Your whortleberries are what we call bilberries – small wild blueberries for want of a better description, and bilberry pie was a BIG treat for us. NO, foraging was not a word we used, it has become a “buzz” word nowadays, but it was just something we did without thinking!

  3. says

    I take my hat off to you, Karen, this was a difficult challenge. I think it is easy to take ‘food’ for granted and also the food that is available to anyone living on such a tight budget, moreso in actual poverty. But you have shown that is is possible to eat healthily on a budget, rather than, as you say, high salt/fat and poor quality ingredients. Better to make a bowl of lentil soup than eat sausages. My grandmother survived the war by foraging wild nettles in a forest near her labour camp and using those with a potato and some water. I also went to a Feed the 5K event and they made a curry made with lots of rejected/knobbly vegetables that would have been thrown away and a few spices and it was delicious. I think if I did this challenge I would probably eat a lot of rice, as you can buy a big bag that will last. Well done!! Inspirational stuff.

    • says

      Thanks Ren! Yes, I discovered that by buying more ingredients to make my own meals, I managed a more interesting and healthier diet. I remember that both sets of grandparents used nettles in soups and tarts, they were well known as very healthy greens, and were FREE too….but the story about your grandmother is VERY poignant, and highlights food poverty in different and very sad circumstances. I forfeited the big bag of rice, which has recently shot up in price, for smaller and more varied ingredients, but rice was on my original menu and shopping plan. GOOD for you and your 5K challenge, all this rubbish about knobbly and misshapen fruit and veg is frankly just criminal! Thanks again!

  4. says

    Excellent effort Karen, your eggs look wonderful with their deep orangey yellow yokes. I like the sound of your potato, lentil and carrot casserole, too. I was interested to read that your menu turned out to be totally vegetarian, but it goes to show how cheaply you can eat if you stick to vegetables and do your own cooking. I remember being skint myself some years ago and it’s no joke having to think about every penny spent on food, but it’s a good way of learning to appreciate the value of things and making yourself be creative with what you’ve got. I think you rose to the challenge very well!

    • says

      I think it will be very hard to incorporate meat into a menu that only allows £1 a day….I had to spend quite a high part of my budget on the cheese, although the lentils were also protein too. Thanks so much for your very supportive comments Lorna, I am glad I tried this and may try it again next year! Karen

  5. says

    Wow it shows how inventive you can be with cooking knowledge and good food access and basic good ingredients. Think its great that you did this to get some insight into food poverty.

    As Charlotte said – your cooking knowledge was pretty key. So many people do not know how to cook even the basics now and this is a barrier to eating a healthy diet. And yet education is not the only answer. If you are living in food poverty in a low income area with poor access to food – i.e. no access to cheap, healthy ingredients then you are forced to turn to the cheapest of processed ingredients. Also if you have been on a low income for a long period of time, then the one part of your budget which is most flexible when you have to pay bills is food.

    Your menu is great and simple, I think it would be hard muster up enthusiasm when stuck with this budget week after week. The choice of foods would become monotonous and also if you’re on a really tight budget, you wouldn’t feel able to go round friends houses for dinner because you couldn’t afford to host at your home – another way that food poverty can be isolating.

    If you have time please have a look at this storify from yesterday – @itsmotherswork asked teachers on twitter whether they have come across children coming into school hungry – upsetting answers flooded in they are all here and worth a read:

    Thanks for the opportunity to take part in this debate
    Best wishes Annie

    • says

      Hello and thanks for stopping by Annie.

      Thanks for the link you added; as a retired teacher, I have unfortunately come across hungry children in my time, and as you said, it is quite upsetting. Many thanks for your comments….I felt that I gave the £1 a day a real try, and I had to be very clever with the few basic ingredients I managed to purchase and forage.

      I agree that my cooking skills were key to the success of what I achieved – making bread and soups was the backbone of the meal plan, the bread gave me toast for breakfasts and lunch, and the soup gave me several bowls comfort food.

      I also agree that my menu multiplied by four or more weeks, would have been monotonous, and one would hope that the reduced section would yield a variety of new cheap ingredients at the start of the new week!

      It is interesting how education and poverty go hand in hand; and, it’s also an interesting fact that the lower your housekeeping is for food, the more processed foods you eat, which is a paradox, as cooking from scratch is far more economical. I would need a LOT more space in the comments section to debate that problem!

      Many thanks for stopping by and sharing your ideas and thoughts……I managed five days, bit this problem will live on unfortunately and will get harder as the double-dip recessions bites deeper.


  6. says

    Excellent – well done Karen for undertaking, and for highlighting this issue. A great lesson in gratitude. Being gluten-free, I find that bread is one of my most expensive “treats” even when homemade (considered premium, luxury items down here). A small white loaf of gluten-free bread is the equivilent of £5.50.
    Definitely would include a big bag rice and different lentils, beans, dried pulses if I was to do this. On the plus side, I have bananas, mangoes, yams, plantains, oranges, grapefruit and much more growing in abundance either in my garden or by the roadside. Thanks for sharing.

    • says

      Yes, if I had had more than £5 a week, I would have bought a bag of rice, a bag of pasta and some more pulses……and, if had been later on in the year, I would have had some apples, pears, quince and raspberries to go at too….I made my own bread with a VERY basic recipe and that filled my tummy along with the soup and baked potatoes.THANKS so much for your kind comments.

  7. says

    Wow, this is really impressive! I sometimes feel like we have such a tight budget and we don’t always get to eat what we want, but reading something like this makes me realize how blessed we are in all that we do have available to eat. You did a great job in this challenge – very inspiring!

    • says

      Thanks so much for your supportive comments Jan! It is amazing what you CAN manage on, but, shopping must be fraught with the worry of fighting for reduced items every week….thanks for stopping by!

  8. says

    Well done Karen. I would have binned the nasty sausages too. I’d rather eat gruel then nasty sausages. I would love to know where you got a dozen FREE RANGE eggs for only 40p though!!! I bought 6 (1/2 half dozen) today in Morrisons and paid £1.68 for them, and those were the cheapest free range in the store. Lancashire ones. If I could find them for 40p I’d be there like a shot! I just don’t know how family’s are managing to make ends meet these days. With Todd and I living on a fixed income (basic state pension) it gets harder and harder for us every week. Thank goodness for my food storage and garden! xxoo

    • says

      Hi Marie! If you read my first paragraph, you will see that the eggs were my own hen’s eggs that I costed into the equation by working out how much it cost me to feed them for 4 days, the time it took to be rewarded with a dozen eggs! You are SO right about nasty cheap bangers…..I am not sure what I am going to do with the ones I shoved in the freezer…..maybe take them out of their skins, add herbs to them and make meatballs….not sure yet! I WAS lucky with my own hen’s eggs……but, if you had to live like this all the time maybe the plan would be to get a couple of hens, and also turn over the flower bed to a vegetable plot too. Thanks for stopping by Marie!

  9. says

    Tough challenge! I think you did well. We’re on a tight budget now but there was a time when money was even tighter for us. The food budget was minimal but we still ate well. I really think being able to cook helps, you can make something lovely from very little if you’ve got an idea what to do. I remember my aunt always used to say if you’ve got potatoes, onions and eggs you’ve always got a meal!

    • says

      I agree! If you have eggs, potatoes and onions, many meals can me made; my protein was limited to 100g of cheese….but, I did eat pulses too. What this taught me was that if you have the basic cooking skills, as you say, then it is easier to manage on a low budget.

  10. says

    Great Post! It truly saddens me when I see people toss food in the garbage or simply waste it for that matter. I think everyone should attempt to do this once. I’m sure I would be hungry as well but I’m betting we won’t see any food hit the bin. My entire family are still in the UK and prices of food seem to be getting higher and higher, especially the bread. If you can make from scratch like you did it potentially could save you more. Cheers to you for motivation on being mindful of what we have and thankful at the same time. I posted this on my Facebook page and I hope my fans take something from it as I did.

    Cheers Mate,

    • says

      THANKS so much for your wonderful comments and support…….it was hard, and yet I discovered that I COULD eat healthily and quite well for the budget set. Prices are soaring in the UK and Europe, and especially for wheat and wheat products, as well as rice too…..but, by making my own bread with a cheap bag of flour, I had lovely bread on the table, which was a boon. MANY thanks for sharing this link on your Facebook page too….Karen :-)

  11. says

    I take my hat off to you Karen – it seems a big problem today is the lack of cooking skills and imagination – although thinking about it, it’s not difficult to see how skills are lost between generations. My grandmother always pickled onions, gherkins, red cabbage and beetroots (although I prefer un-pickled beetroots) – sadly my grandmother is no longer with us, but my mother never did this herself even though she is a good cook, my grandmother would always make jars of pickled things and distribute them around the family. It only needs one generation to be uninterested in cooking and many skills are lost. A great shame.

  12. says

    I don’t know what I can add to the convo, as everyone said all I would want to say (write!), and more. But I really admire you for doing the challenge and being so honest with how difficult you found it. You, with all your skills, innate know-how and access to homegrown/foraged ingredients. I can’t imagine living on such a budget day in and day out. You would really be missing some vital nutrients unless you were extremely clever or were able to get a multivitamin/mineral on free prescription. Imagine trying to feed a family with such restrictions. Impossible for most as in urban areas there wouldn’t be the access to a lot of the doorstep finds that us more suburban and rural types can take advantage of. Anyway, I’m waffling. Today is Mother’s day in the US so I hope that you can have a little ‘me time’ with a baked treat of your choice. Washed down with a pot of finest leaf tea. Well done, Karen.

    • says

      THANKS so much for your wise and lovely comments Kellie, and Happy Mother’s Day to you for today too…..I am in Edinburgh today, so not at home, but still having a nice time and I have just been out for a wonderful curry for supper. NO baked treats today, but I plan some nice cakes when we get home on Tuesday. Karen

  13. says

    Wow, Karen I feel overwhelmed by your post and all the comments! I don’t know what to add but very well done to you for drawing attention to this subject and hats off to you for trying this.

    • says

      Thanks Jayne….I was quite proud of myself, but I did cheat on one day as I had a prior meeting with a friend….but, I am SO pleased how much interest my live on a £1 a day has received! :-)

  14. says

    What a tough challenge this must have been Karen and I am so impressed by your efforts to highlight this subject as well as all the very interesting comments you have had.
    Of course, I am in agreement with you on the bread matter. It is early a life skill that I feel should be taught to all ages as it is the most rewarding and economical food to produce. And it is so tasty!
    I have been teaching a group of young mums about food & healthy eating and I cannot believe how positive their reaction has been to what they have made. But, it is something that should be taught at a younger age so that it becomes a part daily routine.
    Living on a budget but having cookery skills and knowledge would definitely help to make for a more nutritious and well balanced diet and your bread would be such a good way to start the day!

    • says

      Thanks Laura! I agree with you, cooking and bread making are life skills and should be taught along with maths and English, as they used to be in the old Domestic Science days when I was at school…..and well done you too, for introducing young mum’s to be inspired by food and healthy eating…must be VERY rewarding for you too I imagine.

  15. Fiona Matters says

    This looks really interesting. I have to say that I don’t think I could manage £1 a day. Gluten free food is so expensive! However I do make my own bread – which is much cheaper and/or better than store bought gluten free. It’s a pity they don’t teach cooking at school anymore, so many people leave home without a clue of how to manage. Tweeted.

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