Last week, we completed the Live Below the Line challenge . The week before, we slowly ate down all of the perishables in the fridge, and s...

Live Below the Line: A Summary

Last week, we completed the Live Below the Line challenge. The week before, we slowly ate down all of the perishables in the fridge, and started stocking up on cheap eats. Below, see my summary of how we made it through the week, broken down day-by-day, meal-by-meal.

We were fortunate enough to have access to a car to comparison shop at a couple of local stores. 

After the initial visit to Walmart, our housemate decided to join us on our challenge. This increased our budget to $22.50, but also added another full-time athlete to the calorie budget. In need of protein and more calories, we stocked up on lentils and split peas, and another round of cheap pasta from Walmart.

We also grabbed a few cans of tomato paste—opting for the concentrated flavor over pre-made sauce.

Sunday night, we roughly sketched our a plan for the first few days of the challenge. Lots of oatmeal breakfasts and repetition from dinner to the next day's lunch.


Breakfast was a huge, huge bowl of oatmeal. 3500 calories is a lot when it's rolled into just three meals. This bowl of oats was about 800 calories, including the sugar. It was also really bland. Cheap oats taste cheap and water doesn't help.

Lunch, on the other hand, was a treat. I scavenged rosemary and fennel fronds during my Sunday morning run. We sautéed the rosemary in some oil and then added tomato paste and pasta cooking water to create a nice pasta sauce. I cooked the pasta briefly in the sauce and then tossed in some fennel fronds at the last minute. Half of this was Monday lunch; the other half we broiled to crisp up the top and then ate on Tuesday.

Dinner was rice and beans: a split pea soup made with half of a small onion, peas, water, and a few cabbage leaves pulled from the garden.

We were also fortunate enough to harvest around 20 loquats from a local tree! I think I've also spotted a cherry plum tree in the neighborhood; I'm hoping to snag a few on Friday if they're ripe.

Breakfast: boring old oats again. I eat most of the oats before practice, and replace 2nd breakfast with the remainder. For lunch, we ate a nice big helping of pasta and a small salad. The lettuce was from the garden, and we topped it with beans and a salad dressing made with foraged lemon and loquat blended with some of our oil. It definitely needed more lemon, but we only had what we had. We also came across a free cookie; it wasn't vegan, but free food is free food.

For dinner: more beans and rice! A dinner I would make again, we pan fried the leftover rice from the previous night with herbs harvested from the garden (including green onions which we previous replanted from store-bought green onions). We also purchased some dried chilies for 10 cents from the local market, and used half of them in this. We wrapped the rice up with red beans in giant steamed cabbage leaves, again from the garden.

I also managed to find two avocados from our local tree; they weren't ripe yet, but I'm hoping they'll be ready by Friday.

I never thought I would be this sick of oatmeal. Dan discovered that microwaving on half power for longer makes the oats seem a bit creamier when they are made without milk. I've decreased the amount of sugar I've added as well, because it seems so cloyingly sweet without any fat to cut it down.

Another treat this morning: a work conference had coffee (!) and pastries. I said a silent thank you to the animals whose hard work brought me two delicious muffins.

In the afternoon, it was time to restock the pantry. We'd nearly finished our oats, and a few more beans seemed in order. I decided to head up to a local store called The Food Mill—what an incredible resource. Although their beans were slightly more expensive than what was available at Walmart and Grocery Outlet, I picked up oats for 99 cents a pound, cheaper than the Great Value brand and considerably tastier. I also managed to get 8 cents worth of cinnamon and a dollar of yellow split peas.

From there, things just kept getting better. We made a lentil soup with our carrot and the other half of our onion; I made rice as well, but Dan brought home some almost stale bread free from work—so we made croutons!! Instead, we used the rice to make rice milk with cinnamon and sugar. Dan also managed to bring home some pastries, leftover hummus, salt, pepper, soy sauce and more sugar.

In the evening, we went out to pick some loquats from a local tree and came home with quite a haul. We also managed to get a $5 free coupon at the CVS, so we used it to get some candy and some jam. I've never been so excited for breakfast!

Oh incredible oatmeal!! This morning's oats were made with rice milk, salted and sweetened with raspberry jam. Yumyumyum.

Training this week has burned a lot of calories—probably more than I anticipated. I was ravenous when I got home from the three hour morning session and quickly gobbled up the rest of my oatmeal, more than my fair share of loquats, candy, a free pastry and a big bowl of rice and beans, seasoned with hummus.

Dinnertime brought a sweet potato and yellow split pea soup—absolutely incredible, although it would have been even better with sea salt and fresh pepper, and maybe a few garlic croutons tossed in at the last moment.

We were feeling in-the-clear on our budget, so we splurged on homemade bagels. We'd made a batch the week before and calculated them to be 14 cents apiece, given the price per pound of flour, yeast, salt, molasses, etc. and the amount we used. It was nice to have not just oatmeal for breakfast, although one bagel was not enough food for breakfast.

Lunch was focused on finishing up the leftovers in the fridge. I noshed on oatmeal, split pea soup, lentil soup and rice. Candy and another free pastry also made it into my lunch.

We rounded out the week with re-purposed rice and beans: fried in oil and chili peppers, we could have fed another mouth or two with this delicious crispy, creamy concoction. Satisfying, and a good sendoff for the week. Dan even threw a pinch of cumin into his bowl—a luxury we could afford.

The totals:
We ended up spending just over $20 to feed three people for five days. Two of those people are full-time athletes, mind you. We also had 2-4 portions of leftovers at the end of the week. Overall: a success!

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