I heard about the Live Below the Line challenge today and thought it sounded interesting. The premise is that you sign up and undertake to spend less than $1.50 (US), $1.75 (CA), $2.00 (AUS) or £1.00 a day (the equivalent of living on the extreme poverty line) for five days on food (while raising funds to help combat poverty).

After half a year of finding the best way of making 500 calories fill me up in a day on an intermittent fasting diet, I was intrigued to see how it might be possible to approach this challenge and stretch the funds to get the most nutritious and filling meals possible.

I sat down this evening with my notional £5.00 for the five days and went on a virtual shopping expedition at Tesco to see how far my money would stretch. It soon became clear that I would have to cheat a little, because it’s impossible to buy certain foods in small enough quantities to last only five days (vegetable oil and spices, for example). So I’ve divided the cost of those by the quantity I’d use, on the assumption that I’d pool my resources with others and share the cost, if I were ever unlucky enough to be in this situation.

My experience with fasting tells me that legumes and brown rice would be good purchases for cheap protein and filling carbohydrates. so those were top of my list. Onions pack a lot of flavour for not a lot of cost, as do tomatoes in the form of passata. I spent the rest of my money on cheap eggs, vegetable oil and spices. Here’s the breakdown:

Quantity Food item Cost (£) No. of servings Calories per serving Total calories
500g brown rice 0.89 10 180 1,800
500g lentils 1.09 5 350 1,750
500g onions 0.32 5 40 200
15 eggs 1.34 5 190 950
1,000g passata 0.58 5 85 425
50g garam masala 0.50 5 0 0
100ml vegetable oil 0.15 10 81 810
Total cost 4.87 Total calories 5,935

It doesn’t look very exciting, does it? I think I’d be wanting to team up with three other people with slightly different choices in order to get some more variation in my meals over the five days. But at least I’d be able to fill up on the rice and make some basic soups and curries. With 1,187 calories for each day, I probably wouldn’t exactly be going hungry, but I certainly wouldn’t be eating enough to cover my total daily energy expenditure, even at a sedentary level of activity (1,600 calories for my weight and height).

How would you spend your money?