Sunday, 4 May 2014

Day 5 - the finishing line

A belated update on my final day of joining the 1.2 billion people who live below the line, just that I had to survive on £1 a day only for 5 days.

Yes, I totally welcomed the last day. While it's possible to manage on £1 a day, even after 5 days I got more than bored of beans and lentils. The titles of the recipes sound different, but it was clear that I always used an amount of some bean (and to me, they kind of all taste the same) plus an onion, a clove of garlic, some spices and one cheap vegetable, plus the obligatory starchy food. Booooring.

In addition, I could only stay below the £1 because I cooked from scratch. This does mean that I probably used more gas for the cooker and electricity for the oven than usual, so the real cost of the food may be significantly higher. Plus while I was lucky to have had food cooked for me on 2 days, it was still a massive effort to cook from scratch the other days after a long day at work. And yes, the kids did not like the meals, which in a real life living on a budget situation would be extremely stressful for the parent.

So today it was the usual porridge for breakfast, 18 p instant noodles for lunch, and dinner was bean burgers with potato wedges. No picture today because I also rushed off straight after dinner. I then made the mistake of not asking for just tap water at the bar, but had blackcurrant in it, and because I bought it with another drink, had no idea of the cost. So I didn't drink it. Which is of course a bit daft, having paid for it and all.

So here's the sums:
breakfast and milk for the day 27.5
tea 4.5p
lunch 18p
slice of bread 2p
reduced chocolate cake 7.5p (I had a choice between this or a tangerine...)
dinner (bean burgers = 3 portion):
onion 10p
garlic clove and spices
pepper 33p
tin of mixed beans 45p
 = 88p, which equals 31 per portion
potato wedges 17p per portion

Total: 108.5p

which is 8.5p over. In my defence, I had a couple of pence to spare from previous days and probably didn't use as much milk as I calculated, and also refrained from eating my full allowance of chocolate, so it's just about possible that I stayed within the £5 overall. Should have done the calculations before eating the food... Which I didn't, I kind of hoped it would be below £1. The pepper was maybe a bit of a luxury and if I had cooked the wedges from scratch, I'd have saved another 3p. I could also not have had instant noodles but 3 slices of bread instead because the bread was just such a low price, so had I done my calculations in advance, I could well have adapted my lunch.

The bean heavy food on the last two days meant I wasn't as hungry (though I was hungry during the day, esp. as I had to fit my lunch around an extremely busy working week, rather than being able to have lunch at times most conducive for my challenge).

While I didn't miss alcohol too much (I don't drink much anyway), it was quite hard to order water on my night out. It was kind of ok because this was my choice but if one actually can't afford it, it would be rather embarrassing (having been in the situation, I know how it feels having to calculate if the bank balance is enough to buy a round, leaving out one's own drink and hoping the total is not causing an overdraft). And yes, going to a gig without being able to tuck into a cider... it's just not the same thing for me.

I'm definitely glad that I'm done with doing the sums and can tuck in to my hearts delight again. My meal planning was rubbish so I still have  a lot of the food that I had bought for the challenge, again in real life this would have been a terrible waste and meal planning is essential on this kind of budget.

Please sponsor me by donating to my chosen charity. Each donation will be tripled (match funded by UK government for Action Aid, and matched by me for a local food bank).

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Day 4

I had planned to blog each day but alas what with working late, and I mean very late, I was too tired (and hungry).

In a way my task was made a bit easier because my work involved a low cost dinner on two nights (days 2 and 3), so I didn't need to cook from scratch and still had a budget meal, one of them was even costed to the penny by the kind dinner lady who prepared it.

Today though it was back to cooking.

I did a bit of thinking around the challenge and compared it to how others interpreted it. I had no qualms about buying in bulk - I do this for a number of reasons, to save money but also to reduce my waste, and I then calculate the cost by accounting for the amount actually eaten. However this assumes that one can afford the cheaper bulk purchase. I realised that I'm privileged to be able to purchase in bulk, and that the challenge would be much harder if I just had a fiver in my pocket and had to make do on it.

Similarly, I bought the cheapest produce I could find but overbought - i.e. bought for about £15 and I was flexible about what I'll use, leaving the rest for a later date. This is also a luxury, and not to be compared with someone who only has a limited amount in their pocket and can't afford to buy food for next week, or have the choice that I had to prepare my food from. Effectively, I didn't need to budget, I could focus on the challenge as a game, rather than a necessity.

I'm also lucky that I was able to supplement my food by using some items growing in our local community garden, where I (very) occasionally help out, and from a dish prepared from another garden crop. A colleague had bought fruit from a market stall which was incredible value, so I had the odd tangerine. I could not have afforded a tangerine from the supermarket. All of this is rather lucky, and improved the diet over the 5 days a lot.

If you take all of these privileges away, it would look rather dire. Nutritional value of the food would go down, I'd be much hungrier than I am (though I have been hungry, don't get me wrong, but I'm a big eater and it was more a case of adapting to smaller portions and no snacking in between meals).

And even in spite my luck, the Live below the Line diet isn't healthy. Someone commented on the photo of my shop that it looked quite healthy, but I beg to differ. There is no way I can get my 5 (never mind 7-9) fruit and veg a day. I have totally excluded meat and fish, my protein comes from beans and lentils. The rest is carbs.

This is today's food:

Breakfast: porridge with water and splash of milk, milk for the day and 2 teabags. 30.5p
Lunch: Instant noodle soup, 18p
snack: slice of bread with a tiny bit of butter: 2p, some tiny chocolates (I'm adding my allowance for the whole week today, which is 25p)

Dinner: Chilli sin carne, 4 portions

1 onion 10p
garlic clove, spices 4p
200 gr carrots 14 p
can of kidney beans 30p
200 gr rice (value) 8p
50 gr grated cheese: 28p

Total: 94p, each portion = 23.5p

Total for the day: 99p. Big phew.

Dinner was very tasty, my children once again did not agree. Serious coercing was involved, and what I saved on the cost of dinner was probably made up by the cost of jelly babies to entice consumption of dish containing, imagine, kidney beans.

Please sponsor me by donating to my chosen charity. Each donation will be tripled (match funded by UK government for Action Aid, and matched by me for a local food bank).

Monday, 28 April 2014

Living below the Line: Day 1


This week I'm living below the line to raise awareness of severe poverty and raise funds for Action Aid and UK food banks who are fighting severe poverty. Worldwide, 1.2 billion people have to survive on less than £1 a day for food and drink. In solidarity, I'm trying to see how I'll faire on £1 a day for 5 days.

Breakfast: Porridge with mainly water, and a good splash of milk. Tea with a little milk and a little sugar (7.5 p for the porridge and 20p for total milk used today, 4 tea bags - 6p)

Lunch: Improvised (read: couldn't resist): potato scone (12p) and a slice of bread (2p) with some peanut butter.

Dinner: Lentil shepherds pie. 4 portions, I only ate 1.

200gr red split lentils (30p, bought in bulk)
1 onion (10p)
7 potatoes (out of 18 in the pack I bought) (30p)
clove of garlic
1/3 of tomato puree (13p)
Garam Masala, about 1 Tbs  (2.5p)
splash of milk to mash tatties
Spinach, chard and purple sprouting broccoli from the local community garden (free!)
total for 4 portions: 85.5p, or one portion = 21.4


I did have 2 crips, 2 pieces of breakfast cereal and 2 sour wine gums to see me through the day, as well as a tiny leftover from free food that would have been wasted otherwise. Haven't priced the 3 teaspoons of sugar either. Cost for all of these negligible, but let's round it up to 75p total.

Sugar cravings weren't as bad as expected. But I am hungry. I haven't felt quite so hungry in a very long time. The kids didn't like the dinner which was heartbreaking a I spent much longer than usual cooking it and I thought they would like it.

I wondered also about energy costs. The preparation of dinner used 3 pots and pans, plus the oven, more than I usually use. So energy consumption wise, this was an expensive dinner and I don't know how this is measured or if indeed the energy needed for cooking is part of the £1 a day that people all over the world have to survive on.

For now, I'm just really looking forward to my porridge in the morning.

If you want to sponsor me (please do, to make it all worthwhile!), you can do so here.
Remember your donation will be doubled by the UK Government and I'll donate the same again to a local food bank.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Living below the line

I've taken the Live Below the Line challenge: From midnight tonight, I'll be living on £5 worth of food and drink for 5 days, to raise awareness of world poverty and raise a few quid for some worthwhile projects that combat severe poverty.

And yes, you can help me by sponsoring me or joining my challenge! Just go to

I really need some support in the form of a few donated pounds to keep me going because, you know, I luuurve my food and it's going to be a massive deal for me to say no to chocolate, sugar, cake, and basically all things tasty for 5 days. Oh and no alcohol, not even a glass of red to combat my midnight insomnia.

Today I've done the food shopping and I'm now tweaking quantities to get from £6 to £5. Not so easy because I don't just cook for myself, and I don't actually know how much of a tin of kidney beans I tend to eat when I make a vegetable chilli.

I've discovered some great bargains and I'm surprised how much food is on the table - not all part of the £5 because of tin sizes etc, but still. I think I could possibly not go hungry but everytime I think that, I realise I haven't considered the cost of something. Like spices. Like tea bags. Or butter.

So yes, on totally basic, tasteless carbs and lentils, you can live on £1 a day, but if you want some flavour, some vitamins or anything that makes things taste better (oil/butter), the budget is burst. So it'll be a choice between taste and being full.

It also helps that I can cook for 4 people, which actually keeps costs down a fair bit.

Another challenge though is that as part of my work, I will have to join in dinner that's prepared (on a budget, but the budget is a bit more than the 50p that I'm living on), so I'll have to see how to get around this.

I'm greatly helped by tips from last year's live below the liners and recipe ideas on the live below the line website. In fact, there's a few great recipes that may find their way into my staple dinners.

I'm helped by being a vegetarian, so won't miss the meat. I've included 2 luxury items, milk (kind of expensive compared to other items) and some reduced chocolates that are out of date, because I'm a chocoholic and need to be able to have at least a tiny bit. The latter still burst my budget and I decided to only allow myself half of the pack, sob.

For the fundraising, here's the deal: I've chosen Action Aid who recognise the crucial role women have in the fight against poverty. The UK government will double all donations made. And I'll double all donations again, with any money raised on my fundraising page being matched out of my own pocket to raise funds for a local food bank. So if you donate a tenner, your donation will be worth £30. C'mon, make me dig deep and get donating!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Maw Broon's

In good time for mother's day I received a selection of the Maw Broon's home and kitchen range to review. While I vaguely knew about the Broon's, I had no idea about the extent of the Maw Broon range - or that it included food items. So currently our house is not only filled with left over birthday cake and other home baking, but very tasty fudge, shortbread and caramel shortbread from Maw Broon's, all displayed in rather lovely looking tins. Yum.

There's a stylish tea cosy and shopper yute bag too, and that's literally a tiny sample of what the Maw Broon range has to offer. Admittedly, I do have a bit of a soft spot for the quirky Scottish designs.

Apart from the items I received to test, I quite like the look of the jam making kit (ok, it's not exactly jam making season) and the set of coasters and place mats, and I like the fact that there's different versions of the Maw Broon theme, all vintage in look, some more colourful than others, so that there's really something for any taste.

The price range is more than decent for very pretty and useful items. So definitely a thumbs up from the Cartside home.

Disclaimer: I received a few sample items in return for a review post. All views expressed are mine.

Sunday, 23 March 2014


It must be true, the date tells me so. My baby is seven. I look at her and can't quite fathom it, such a tall girl, my little girl is most definitely gone, she is her own personality, goofy as goofy goes, and getting into so many things. Not long now, and she'll beat me at Tetris even. I look at the photo from her birthday just 2 years ago, all princessy and pink, and wonder what happened that it's got to be a Star Wars party and that she is clear that she likes "girl things and boy things". Phew. Because, like, I had been a bit worried about that rather sticky pink princess phase.

Still a whirlwind, still very definite of how and when she'll do things, still a people's person. She's fun to be with and ever on the lookout for fun things to do. Every day she challenges me in so many ways - never a boring minute, and always a new perspective on life, love and the universe. I'm actually not sure if she keeps me young or ages me, or both. And she's growing up far too fast.

Favourite song: Ghostbusters
Favourite movie: Lego Movie and Frozen
Favourite food: Eggs, beans and toast
Favourite book: Frozen
Favourite animal: baby deer
Favourite game:Snap and Operation
Favourite place: Glasgow
Favourite present: bicycle, tweeting blue tit, crystal stone, mini build-a-bear, bratz doll, Frozen soundtrack (which we've been singing and dancing too ad nauseam)

Happy birthday Cubling, I love you to the end of the universe. And there may not be one.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

The last walk of the year

2013 has probably be the year with the least blogging since I started blogging 8 or 9 years ago (I don't remember exactly when it was). And that's ok, I've been working more hours than ever after having kids, and juggling work, kids and trying to fit in some hobbies means that the choice is between blogging and knitting/reading. While in years past, I went for the former, the balance just needs to be redressed a little. So this little blog may look a bit abandoned, but it isn't really, it's just turned from main focus of my little spare time to one amongst others.

For the first time in a long while, I'm off for more than 2 weeks in a row, it's even a bit more than 3 weeks. So we're spending the holidays with family, friends and holidaying, and what seemed like an eternity of course is now looking like it's running out of our hands far far too quickly.

And in between the torrential rainfalls, whenever there's a bit of reprieve (or not, as was the case today), we venture out for those little walks. Our last walk of 2013 took us to Chatelhearault Park, a gem of a park in Hamilton. The Avon water, or on another walk, the White Cart waterfall, all look rather impressive after the heavy rains.

There's tons of other stuff I could mention, but in all the year's hustle and bustle, the most important moments are those spent without the clock in mind, just being and listening, and taking baby steps at the kids' pace.

So here's to 2014 and many more walks, adventures, making, doing, creating, imagining, seeing, feeling, experiencing, exploring and discovering.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Scottish Ballet's Hansel and Gretel

A good while ago, we were offered tickets to review Hansel and Gretel, a Scottish Ballet production, and considering that Cubling hasn't been to a ballet yet and in fact, I've only ever been to one before (which was a very modern production that, well, was maybe not the best introduction to the genre), it was great opportunity.

From the above you can also tell that I'm no expert and it would seem presumptious to pretend I am and give Hansel and Gretel an expert review.

What I can say that it was a wonderful afternoon out. I was worried that Snowflake wouldn't be able to sit through it at her tender age of just 3, and that it may be aimed at adult ballet goers and not be suitable for children in general, especially as there was a different production aimed at children available too.

So I was prepared for having to nip out to keep a 3 year old happy, of it being a visit fraught with unsettled kids and not much enjoyment.

Much to my surprise this was not the case at all. Cubling was very much following every move on stage and simply got it. In fact, I could ask her what each dancer was impersonating when I didn't get it. Snowflake was also following the basics of the story, but got a bit confused by the changing set and didn't quite understand that the door that lead in was now a door that led out so that we were now looking at the inside of a house rather than the outside. Other than that I was more than surprised how much both children got out of the performance.

I suppose it was classic ballet, an orchestra underneath playing a very nice score, the dancers dancing pretty much as you'd expect a ballerinas to dance, the set design was magical, and both children sat for the full duration (ok, towards the end, Snowflake struggled a little bit, but nothing too serious).

It was dark enough to create serious suspense for Cubling (6 years old) but her fears (of the witch) never materialised because the production team was rather clever by making the actual witch a little bit comic and giving her a light grey outfit rather than the obvious choice of dark clothes. In fact, I was rather relieved because Cubling was so worried about the witch making an appearance that a scary looking witch may have sent her imagination out of the roof.

There were also pleasant minor departures from the traditional storyline which made the story more believable, and less dark. Yes, the witch was thrown into the oven eventually (Snowflake was not happy about this, even though the witch was a bad person, bless) but it was so close to the end that the witch almost instantly came out to the applause, clearly alive and unburned.

There was nothing to fault the production, it was simply beautiful in all aspects, music, dancing, costumes, set (oh the set... I just loved it).

All in all, it was magic on a dreich and dark December afternoon, there was hardly a better way to spend the day.

Hansel and Gretel is still touring until February throughout Scotland.

Full disclaimer: we were given tickets to see the ballet in return for a review post.



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