Breadline Challenge Day 5

Hitting that mid week-slump

Okay, so it’s technically Friday but I really felt like I hit that famous mid-week slump today.  When I woke up this morning I had absolutely no energy whatsoever, and spent an hour procrastinating about getting up to make a cuppa.  I knew I had a busy day ahead of me, with two food pickups, the lunch swap at Wesley (more of that later) and various other things – but I just couldn’t make myself move.

Eventually tempted out from under the duvet by the prospect of some blue cheese at lunchtime, I still felt like I was moving 50% slower than normal.  I’ve found it really hard to concentrate over the past couple of days too (a bit tricky when you’re proofreading a friend’s PhD thesis). Imagine having to jobhunt, or work long hours, or attend DWP interviews when you feel like this – it’s hardly surprising that people living with food poverty long term can find it tough to keep going.

This week has been pretty full on, with catering and organising a couple of events, so I’ve handed over blogging duties to Jane and Amelia for the past couple of days.  But I’ve been plodding along with the challenge and still steering clear of the old porridge.

Day 3

Breakfast was berry bircher muesli (60p per portion) that would definitely have benefited from a bit of sweetness – in fact, at 6.30 that morning I’d have cheerfully sold my own grandmother for a teaspoon of honey.  Plus it was my most expensive breakfast of the week, so I felt a bit cheated.

Lunch was a good one – lentil fritters made with mashed potato left over from Tuesday’s cottage pie and Monday’s soup (42.1p for four huge fritters).  Add an egg, a bit of flour and voila! Great comfort food, and really set me up for the trip to London where we were catering for Grub Club at the ExCel.

After an evening ferrying brownies across town on the DLR and then rushing home, I was in no mood to deal with lentils – so I scarfed down the remaining two thirds of a tin of mandarins (23p).  Skipping meals on the challenge isn’t recommended, and I’ve certainly paid for it since in terms of low energy levels, but preparing and eating food this way just takes so much flipping time.  It’s easy to see why people struggle when they’ve got so many other things to worry about.

Day 4

A slow start to the day meant breakfast became brunch, but boy was it worth waiting for.  Sweetcorn and spring onion fritters (43.8p for four fritters), using up the remaining rice from Tuesday’s stuffed pepper, really hit the spot – even if there was a slight danger of fritter overload!

Lunch was the crowning glory of the week and my discovery of last year’s challenge, Jack Monroe’s mushroom bolognese recipe (28.3p per portion).  I swear, this stuff must have restorative powers because I’d perked right up by early afternoon.  Do yourselves a favour and try making it, because it’s really, really tasty – I helped run some family cookery workshops earlier this year and it was one of the things the kids there enjoyed cooking ( and eating) the most.  We make it a lot at Barnwell FoodCycle as well, and it always goes down a treat.

Unfortunately, come dinner time I was in the middle of proofreading duties again so downed another bowlful of the bolognese – no hardship, really!

Day 5 – coffee withdrawal really setting in…

After sulking in bed for an hour about the lack of coffee, I ended up having to make do with a cup of tea for breakfast.  Like I said, it was going to be a busy day though – starting with making my contribution to the lunch swap we organised.

I’d been talking to our local MP, Daniel Zeichner, at another event recently and when I mentioned the challenge to him he was keen to support us in some way.

We thought long and hard and came up with the idea of a lunch swap. The idea of the swap is that everyone brings a meal they’ve made for an absolute maximum of 83p (the daily £2.50 food budget divided by 3), and then swaps it with the person to their left.  It’s a great way of raising awareness, and confronting people with the reality of what eating on the breadline can be like (the monotony, the lack of choice, the endless planning) rather than reading a bunch of statistics.

There were some great contributions.  Courgette and tomato rice from Daniel, some butterbean and lentil slow cooker stew and my broccoli, red pepper and blue cheese spaghetti frittata (with a couple of yoghurt scones for good measure) – an idea I borrowed from Jane, our guest blogger on Day 3 (mine came in at 48.8p per portion with a second frittata left for breakfast tomorrow).
It was great to be able to actually show Daniel a bit of what it’s like for his constituents who live on the breadline – and there are plenty of them, as recent figures show.  We talked a lot about the benefit debates that have been going on in Parliament this week (the timing of the challenge couldn’t have been better, really) and I know Daniel felt that he’d got some really useful insight that he’d be able to share with colleagues, and which would help support the debate. Win win, I’d say.

Look out for us on Cambridge TV on Monday, and in the Cambridge Independent on (we think) Wednesday.

Oops – skipped dinner again!

Cups of tea (still not coffee): 3



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