This coming week from the 24th-30th of November 2014 I am taking the FoodCycle Breadline Challenge. This challenge, designed to raise awareness of food poverty in the UK and help raise vital funds for the Food Cycle food hubs, asks us to live off of only £2-10 per day (per person) for food and drink. Although we are a family of five, I am taking this challenge on my own, with an entire shopping budget of only £14-70. I will be blogging recipes, tips and thoughts throughout the week. You can sponsor me over on my Virgin Money Giving Page.
Can I do this and eat a healthy, nutritious diet through the week?
In order to attempt to menu plan with the £2-10 per day (£14-70 for the week) budget allowed while on the #BreadlineChallenge I needed to know exactly what is considered a healthy, nutritionally balanced meal. Please note, I am not a nutritionist so I may get this week completely wrong, but I will try my best.
Twenty years ago the UK government created a policy tool defining the government’s recommendations on healthy diets: the Eatwell Plate, with a overall diet consisting of the five food groups – 33 % fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day); 12 % meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy protein; 15 % milk and dairy; 33 % bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and other starchy food and 8 % high fat and/or sugar food and drink. A recent article in the Independent highlighted how this guide needs updating because health concerns have changed as have other food issues such as environmental sustainability, animal welfare and Fair Trade.
In 2010 the World Wildlife Federation launched their own guidelines: the Livewell Plate, for a diet that will benefit both our health and our environment with similar ratios but more emphasis on healthy and sustainable (low carbon emissions) food choices. I will be using these guidelines to create my healthy diet for this week.
What constitutes a portion?
Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in a diet are ideal, but they’re expensive and perishable. In my local Tesco (This week I can’t afford the prices at my local village shop or even those from my organic vegetable box delivery) fresh fruit and vegetables are expensive, and perish quickly. It’s difficult to find anything fresh that will last longer than two or three days, maximum. This might be due to transport time to get food from its source to our remote island in the North Sea, so I’m going to rely on the more affordable and longer lasting frozen variety.
- Beans & pulses count as one portion of fruit & vegetables a day no matter how much you eat. This is because although they are full of fibre they lack as many nutrients as other fruits and vegetables. 3 tbsp = 1 portion
- 1 cup (67 grams) chopped kale
- 3 heaped tbsp cooked, or 80 grams raw carrots
- 80 grams frozen or fresh fruit & vegetables
- Dried fruit (raisins, apricots, etc.) 30 grams
- 75 grams dried rice
- 75 grams dried pasta
- 200 ml milk
- 140 grams oily fish
- 1 slice of bread
- 30 grams dried lentils (84 grams cooked)
My food shop was done at our local Tesco and I used approximately £5 fuel to get there. A bus ticket costs the same into town, or at least it was the last time I traveled on it before I got my driving license three years ago. If I didn’t have access to transport I would have no qualms about hitch hiking to town. I live on a friendly island – someone would pick me up.
For price comparison I priced up the same quantity of food for the lowest price available at our local village shop within walking distance – the total came to £30.41, over twice as much.
Real Life Reform, the people behind the research for the £2.10 daily spend per person for food and drink in this challenge, mention in their report on the effects of the welfare reform in northern England, that the lowered amount of money available for people to spend on food means that more people are shopping at supermarkets and not their local independent shops, simply because they can’t afford it. Some areas, like where I live, are called food deserts – where fresh produce is unavailable or not affordable.
You’ll notice a few things with this shop: no meat, no butter, no eggs, no sugar and…. the bit I am dreading the most: no coffee! I could have sacrificed the flavour of my main meals and bought a 50p jar of Tesco brand coffee, but I really wanted that garlic and ginger. I couldn’t afford any non-processed meat, so I opted for a pack of Shetland smoked peppered mackerel fillets equal to 1.2 portions.
The meat and protein component of my diet will be made mostly of beans, legumes and oily fish but I think I will be mostly keeping to the overall livewell plate recommendations.
This meal plan is subject to change throughout the week if I come up with any more interesting meals (or someone suggests some to me). I really don’t like menu planning. I understand a lot of families do it but I don’t like a) the time it takes to create and b) the lack of flexibility. What if, come Day 6 I don’t want leftover minestrone soup for dinner?! That recipe (slightly adapted) will come from the website A Girl Called Jack.
I was initially going to buy the main ingredients for my meals with the £14-70 budget and top up with the spices, yeast, a bit of ginger root (everyone has a bit of ginger root in their freezer, no?) I have at home until I saw this eye opening short film by the Guardian published on the 17th of November, and then I completely rewrote my menu plan, opting to buy everything from scratch.
I do have electricity because as long as something is being paid towards it the electricity board leave it switched on. We are fortunate not to have an electricity meter, although I did have one when I was a single mother living in town and I remember how difficult it was sometimes to top it up (thank goodness for £5 tokens!). I also have a deep chest freezer – something I picked up for free off a local forum. I even managed to get it picked up and delivered by a stranger for the price of a home made Victoria sponge. I’ll be using it a lot this week to keep things fresh.
No coffee. No money in the budget for it. I think this is the bit I’m going to struggle with the most. I am a caffeine junkie and haven’t started a morning for the last 12 years without my morning coffee (or two, or three).
No butter. Had planned on buying solid vegetable fat, brown sugar and white flour to make a War Cake but there is no solid vegetable fat (ie: Trex) in Tesco and sugar and white flour aren’t particularly healthy anyway. Spent that money on ginger root and garlic instead.
No sugar. Eek! I’m not sure how well the home made brown bread I plan on making will rise without sugar, but we’ll see if it’s edible.
It would have been easier to budget and menu plan if our entire family of five had agreed to participate in this challenge. At £2-10 per person, per day, this would have meant a budget of £73.50 for the week, or £294 for a month.
The whole point of me doing this is to raise awareness and money for Food Cycle. Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary with match, pound for pound, up to £200 the amount raised via Virgin Money Giving to donate to the Shetland Food Bank for their Christmas Food Parcels. Around 60 Shetland families will be supported by these food parcels this festive season.
About Food Cycle:
£50 will help them serve healthy, nutritious three course meals for 100 people. Follow @FoodCycle on Twitter using the hashtag #BreadlineChallenge to keep up to date.