I've completed day 1 of the Live Below the Line challenge and, all things considered, it wasn't that bad. I definitely felt hungry but more importantly I found myself in a situation that taught me just how much willpower will be required this week. I expected cravings and hunger pangs. What I didn't expect was having to sit for hours in a hospital waiting room with nothing to keep my mind off how hungry I was (apart from my Twitter feed which, of course, was full of foodie references and photos) and then spending my first Live Below the Line lunch surrounded by the strong savoury aromas of the hospital food court. I had shoved my packed lunch in my bag before leaving the house so I didn't go hungry but the sight and smell of hot food, coffees, cakes and chocolate bars, none of which I could afford, was a hard test for my first day!
I'm not good at eating breakfast. Today it was a couple of slices of toasted half-rye half-wheat Polish bread from Asda, spread with a chickpea and roasted garlic dip I made last night. I chose the bread because it is cheap, lasts well, and I actually like it. I didn't miss butter at all and I was so glad that I'd gone for savoury breakfasts rather than forcing myself to do the porridge thing. People suggested economy strawberry jam or similar as a flavouring but I knew sweet stuff wouldn't fill me up. The one thing I really missed was a cup of Rooibos tea but I was happy with hot water instead. Here's how I made the chickpea and garlic dip:
I rinsed a third of a tin of chickpeas, retaining the salted water they came in to use as cooking water as I don't have salt, then boiled them briefly in a saucepan and left to cool. Meanwhile, I wrapped half of a garlic bulb in foil and roasted in the oven for about 30 minutes. Finally I mashed up the chickpeas, squeezed the roasted garlic in with them and gradually added about 100ml water to create a dip. Covered and kept in the fridge, I expect to rely on the dip for eating with toast and adding extra flavour to some evening meals. The dip could do with a squeeze of lemon juice so I'll be hunting down a cheap single lemon tomorrow.
Lunch, as I've mentioned above, was hard work. Most people around me were tucking into Burger King meals and my dining companion spent over £6 on a small chicken salad, smoothie and banana. My bulgur wheat lunch, mixed with braised red onion, garlic, chickpeas and red kidney beans, was much more substantial and took far longer to eat but it was a little dry. I had to seek out some free water as obviously I don't have the budget for buying drinks. In fact, I had a little look at what was on offer in the food court and the only thing I could afford with my remaining 70p was a tiny pat of butter, a ketchup sachet, or a chocolate bar on special offer. Way too early in the challenge to consider wasting my precious budget on such unnecessary luxuries! My lunch was fine but if I do buy a lemon I'm planning to use every last scrap of it and add some lemon zest to my bulgur wheat tomorrow. My top tip: I don't have any oil for cooking so I re-used the pan I cooked the lentils in (see below), added a tiny bit of water, and softened the onion and garlic in the bubbling water and leftover bits of lentil to add some flavour.
By mid-afternoon I was really hungry but was back at home so occupied myself by catching up with work emails and the time flew by. I decided to eat dinner as early as possible which ended up being 6.30pm. Last night I prepared a big pot of lentils to use as a base for my meals throughout the week, by adding red onion, tinned tomatoes, water, and then a few chickpeas at the end. The easiest option for this week's dinners is to simply heat the lentil, tomato and chickpea mixture to eat as a soup and, after a long and rather odd day, this is what I did for dinner today. I saved a tiny amount of the tinned tomatoes to add extra flavour so I swirled a teaspoon of the juice and ate the soup with a slice of my half-rye half-wheat bread. It was filling but a little bland so I'm hoping my 70p for extras can stretch to a red chilli, as well as the lemon!
Day 1 total: 73p
At the end of Day 1, I'm feeling a little ashamed about the amount of non-essential food and drink I usually enjoy on a daily basis. The reality that people must spend an awful lot of time thinking about being hungry, especially when they have little else to do, was something I hadn't anticipated being able to appreciate this early in the challenge. I'm in the fortunate position of being busy most days and evenings, with food conveniently slotting in as and when its required, but today showed me how hard it can be when the usual tea/coffee break, snack, lunch decisions, shopping for dinner, etc, aren't there to break up the day.
More to follow tomorrow. And if you still haven't sponsored me, please click here to donate: www.livebelowtheline.com/me/themovingfoodieblog