Live Below the Line Meal Plans

If you’re doing the Live Below the Line Challenge, then you’ll have realised that it’s difficult to meal plan with only £5 for all food/drinks for five days.

Below are some ideas to help you think about how you will plan your own meals.  You’ll need to cover breakfast, lunch, dinner and any snacks each day – and keep it interesting, filling, tasty and in keeping with your own personal likes/dislikes of food.  Snails are free…. but we’d never eat them just because of that!  If you don’t fancy, or dislike, a food, you can’t force yourself to eat it 🙂Live Below the Line Challenge

  • You’ll find that carbs probably make up the bulk of your meal plans for the five days. Potatoes, rice and bread.  For me these are foods I eat very often, for others these are foods they’ve been avoiding!  You can add pasta into that too.  A simple packet of spaghetti or pasta shapes can cost as little as £0.20, great, but how are you going to use it?  You still need to make your food as enjoyable as possible.  Some spaghetti might, say, be “nice in a soup”, but then how will you use the rest of the packet?
  • Eggs are nutritious, filling, versatile and cheap (unless you’re going to insist on organic eggs from happy hens!).  With eggs you can make omelettes, have poached eggs, fried eggs, boiled eggs in sandwiches, boiled egg and soldiers for breakfast.  A frittata (omelette with things in it!), sometimes also called a crustless quiche, makes an easy main meal, or lunchtime snack and can be eaten hot or cold.  Similarly Spanish omelette fits the bill!
  • Tinned or frozen vegetables need to be considered carefully.  There are some cheaper choices you can make, so you’ll need to be comparing the costs to the cost of the raw vegetables and then think about how varied a tin or frozen packet could be -v- having to buy full-sized raw vegetables.
  • Soups – a good soup can go a long way towards helping to feed yourself, whether that’s as your daily lunch, or a late supper treat.  However, the cost of ingredients can add up, so, while it’s a great idea, it might not work when the £5 hits the till!
  • Flavourings – this can be the hardest part of the £5 Live Below the Line Challenge.  Over time you’ve accumulated quite a few spices, flavourings and herbs etc.  For the five days you can’t use these – you have to buy them again from the £5, which is probably where the severity of the £5 challenge hits you hardest.  You will need some form of liquids in gravies or sauces – so think how you can achieve flavour and gravy and sauce in your five days, without overspending!  Flavour costs money 🙂
  • Cheese – this can be versatile and a good source of protein, but you do have to watch the costs.  Even with cheap cheddar cheese you can find that the pack size is larger than you’d like.  Including cheese, if it can be achieved, can give some great lunches and snacks – but you might find that it simply uses too much from the £5 budget to include it, or trying to “force” it into the budget by buying smaller quantities the cost/100grams shoots up!

Live Below the Line Tips: 

  • Be aware of how much your choices are costing you, per 100g.  This can help you to make more informed choices.  The objective is to get the most food for your £1, so you need to ignore most price labels and all the pretty packaging, ignore signs in the shops that tell you “Half Price” because it might be that the item’s half price, but there’s still a cheaper brand on the next shelf!
  • Try to include some foods that are versatile, so they can be used in different ways, so you can “mix it up” a bit.  Potatoes are a good example of this.  You can make mashed potato, boiled potatoes, chips, use them in a Spanish omelette, make crisps, create hash browns, use potato cakes as a carrier for other items/flavours.  In short, potatoes are cheap and can be used to look very different on the plate!

Live Below the Line Recipe Ideas to Get You Thinking:

Your food choices are personal to you, so I’ll just give you some ideas about what I might consider buying in order to spend my £5 wisely, on food that I’ll actually find palatable.

Bread and eggs: I’d probably turn to having a poached egg on toast for breakfast each day.  One loaf of bread costs 36p at most supermarkets and you can buy 15 eggs for £1.  10 slices of bread and 5 eggs for five breakfasts still leaves you with half a loaf of bread and 10 eggs to use up in other meals.  However, if I make the poached eggs in my usual way I’d need to buy some oil/margarine to oil my poach pods, so I might have to change the way I make the poached eggs and just use a saucepan of water.  Or maybe I just created a ‘need’ for margarine – which would cost me £0.70 if I really shopped around.  So, now I’ve spent £2.06 and all I’ve got is bread, spread and eggs!  That’s not leaving a lot – and already I’d be questioning my choices.

Potatoes and baked beans are worth a thought.  A meal of a simple jacket potato and some baked beans is hot, tasty and filling – and they don’t need anything more.  My top tip for potatoes is that any potato can be used as “baked potatoes”, just think in terms of “potatoes with baked beans” and use several smaller/cheap potatoes instead of one expensive potato labelled “baking potato”.  1Kg of potatoes and two tins of baked beans should get you through, but what’s the cost?  Although you can buy 2.5Kg for, say, £1.20, you might have to opt for the more expensive pack that just gives you 1Kg for £0.80. You’re having to pay more for less, just to make that £5 stretch!  You can get two tins of baked beans for £0.50.  Potatoes & baked beans could therefore cost £1.30 of your budget.  Even cheap foods are starting to look expensive!

Supermarket own brand spaghetti bolognese.  I often slide these into my basket.  This is where shopping around really makes a difference as the Morrison’s own brand is about 65p, whereas Asda has a tin for just 20p!  Half a tin of tinned spaghetti bolognese on toast is a meal in my world!  Two pieces of bread from the loaf you’ve already bought would cost £0.04, so that’s a meal for just £0.14.  Two tins of spaghetti bolognese costing £0.40 for the two would cover you for four lunches!  Include the cost of the 8 slices of bread you’d use and that’s another £0.16, so four lunches for £0.56, or £0.14 each.  I feel that the cheap spaghetti bolognese tastes the same as plain tinned spaghetti in tomato sauce, but you at least get a few blobs of brown (is that meat?) to make it look a bit more exotic 🙂  So, the alternative here would be to just look for cheap tinned spaghetti in tomato sauce as that’s more widely available.

If I’d bought the above items, then my basket of goods would now be costing me £2.06 + £1.30 + £0.40 = £3.76.  I’d be close to having enough food for the five days, so could turn my thoughts to expanding on this cheap backbone of staples. However, that remaining £1.24 wouldn’t go far!