Day 5 Living Below the Line: How to plan cheap healthy meals

Living Below The Poverty Line Day 5 How to Plan Cheap Healthy Meals

So I’ve managed to get to the end of my week living below the poverty line and I’ve actually found it very easy.  I’ve made healthy meals that have filled me up and I’ve enjoyed at least half of them very much!  My lunches got very boring but on the whole I didn’t feel deprived at all.  I realise that the poverty line of £1 ($1.50) a day for all your meals might be living below the poverty line in western societies but in actual fact a lot of the world lives on the equivalent of so much less and often don’t have any money at all per day for their meals.  This week has taught me I’m very very fortunate to be able to have such a variety of food and never need to go hungry.  I’m extremely grateful for that and will try not to ever take it for granted again.

If you feel the same then please sponsor me and donate to Tearfund to help support truly hungry people.  Thank you so much to those who have already donated.  I will be donating the remainder of my weekly food budget as I’ve saved a fortune this week.

I’m going to give you a breakdown of my meals yesterday (Friday) and then explain how you can plan your own healthy meals for a  week and stick to a much lower budget.

Friday’s Meals


Banana & Flaxseed Porridge/ Oatmeal

 Living Below The Poverty Line Day 5 Breakfast

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Yesterday I enjoyed my pancakes so much that I was going to make them again today but I didn’t want to wait for them all to cook so I thought I’d just make porridge.  I just added water to the oats, flaxseeds and some banana and cooked it in a pan.  It was fairly sweet because of the banana and tasted quite nice but there were far too many flaxseeds for my liking so I didn’t really like the texture of it.  Also last night my temporary filling had fallen out of my tooth again so I didn’t really enjoy the flaxseeds getting stuck in there all the way through my breakfast.

Here is a breakdown of the cost of my breakfast (for one person)

  • Oats £0.05
  • Flaxseeds £0.06
  • Bananas £0.06
  • Water: FREE

Total cost of breakfast: £0.17


Curried Carrot & Onion Soup with Black Pepper Flat Breads, Apple & Mixed Vegetable Salad with French Dressing

Living Below The Poverty Line Day 5 Lunch

I had a friend over for lunch today who brought her own lunch with her, so it was nice to have some adult conversation over lunch which distracted me from the boredum of eating the same lunch yet again.  It makes me realise how privileged we are having so much choice in this country and actually being able to enjoy the taste of our meals.  I’d hate to live on really plain boring food day in day out like they have to in third world countries.

My friend had brought a small homemade sandwich with her, and when I compared my lunch to hers I had actually a lot more food than she did.  Her lunch was probably pretty cheap and healthy too.  A lot of the basic meals that you make actually cost less than you think, but it’s all those luxurious extras that we add to our shopping trolleys that end up costing us a lot more than we realise.  All that snacking we do in the evenings in front of the TV costs our wallets and waistbands a fair amount.

This is the lunch breakdown:

  • Carrots: £0.04
  • Onions: £0.02
  • Kidney Beans: £0.01
  • Oil: £0.01
  • Salt & Pepper: £0.01
  • Fresh Yeast: FREE (Tesco gives this away free at the bakery)
  • Wholemeal Flour: £0.06
  • Oil: £0.01
  • Salt £0.01
  • Water: FREE
  • Apple: £0.12
  • Carrot batons: £0.01
  • Leftover Salad from dinner: FREE today

Total Cost of Lunch: £0.30


Spinach & Mixed Vegetable Wholewheat Pizza with Spicy Potato Wedges and Tomato Salsa

Living Below The Poverty Line Day 5 Dinner

I was very pleased to end the Live Below The Line week with one of my favourite meals, pizza and chips.  I love my homemade chips and I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually had spinach on a pizza but it was pretty nice.  I usually pile my pizzas high with things like artichoke, roasted pepper, pineapple, raisins, mushrooms, sweetcorn and sometimes a homemade cheesy type sauce but this did make a nice change.  The salsa was just taken from the batch of passata and onions that I made to base all my meals on.

The breakdown of my dinner is:

  • Fresh Yeast: FREE (Tesco gives this away free at the bakery)
  • Wholemeal Flour: £0.06
  • Oil: £0.01
  • Salt £0.01
  • Water: FREE
  • Spices: £0.01
  • Onion: £0.02
  • Water: FREE
  • Passata: £0.03
  • Frozen Veg: £0.03
  • Spinach: £0.08
  • Potatoes: £0.15

Total Cost of Dinner: £0.40

Total Cost for the day: £0.87

The formula for planning cheap meals

The best way to eat cheap healthy meals of course is to plan plan plan.  It takes a lot of practice but eventually you can easily get into the swing of it.  When I was younger I couldn’t cook, had no interest in food or nutrition and lived on mainly beans on toast for 2 meals a day.  I lived that way for about 10 years of my life!

Now I love cooking so I spend a lot of time reading recipes and finding out techniques, foods that go nicely together and cheaper substitutes.  It does take practice though.   I’ll let you know how I approached planning my meals for this week so you could hopefully replicate that and make some cheap meals of your own.

I planned to make everything from scratch from healthy ingredients which I think is the key to healthy eating and keeping costs down.

I separated my ingredients into a few categories which I think are essential for a healthy balanced diet.  If you eat whole foods, you will get nutrition from all your foods.

Ingredients to buy on a budget

  • Carbs: Needed to fill yourself up and provide energy.  This provides the most bulk of your meal.  For the cheapest options choose from
    • Oats
    • Potatoes
    • Whole Grain Rice
    • Wholewheat Flour
    • Whole wheat Pasta
  • Protein: This will fill you up and keep you going until your next meal.  All the carbs listed above also contain a good amount of protein but you can add more and makes your meals more substantial.  Choose from the following cheap healthy sources of protein rich food:
    • Beans
    • Lentils
    • Chickpeas
    • Nuts
    • Seeds
    • Nut butters such as peanut butter
  • Vegetables: These provide a lot of your nutrients and make food much more colourful and appealing.  Frozen vegetables are often cheaper than fresh veg and can often be healthier.  Try to buy in season as this will keep costs down.  Go for big cheap bags of vegetables or large vegetables that can make many portions such as:
    • Carrots
    • Tomatoes
    • Mushrooms
    • Parsnips
    • Mushrooms
    • Cabbage
    • Cauliflower (frozen)
    • Broccoli (frozen)
    • Garden Peas (frozen)
    • Sweetcorn (frozen)
    • Green beans (frozen)
    • Swede
  • Greens: A lot of people would say these should fall under the vegetable category but I think that greens should be in a category of their own as they are so nutrient dense that it would be easy to completely ignore them and not buy any leafy greens at all.  Good cheap sources of these would include:
    • LettuceBuy a full lettuce, not a bag of salad which goes off too quickly and costs much more usually.
    • Spinach.  This can be cheaper to buy frozen.
    • Kale.  Kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods you can buy so it’s worth investing in.  It doesn’t usually cost that much either. 
  • Fruit: Fruit is also a great nutritious food but also will help to satisfy your sweet cravings in a healthy way.  Fruit can be very expensive, so it’s worth doing some calculations as to how much you are paying per item of fruit to find out which is the cheapest option.  The best options are:
    • Apples: Go for cheapest varieties
    • Bananas: Usually buying bananas loose is the cheapest option.
    • Melon/ Watermelon: Even though melons can be expensive they are quite large so you can split them into smoller portions across the week.
    • Pears: These might be cheaper if bought in season.
    • Oranges: You can sometimes get cheaper options.  In the UK supermarkets buying a value bag or loose oranges are usually cheaper.
    • Frozen fruit: You might be able to get deals on frozen fruit or value bags which are often a lot cheaper.  Just defrost them before you need to use them.
  • Flavours: Whatever you have left in your budget, I’d suggest buying some olive oil, and one herb or spice a week to build up your collection with some salt and pepper.

If you buy enough carbs for a good portion for each meal, choose 2 protein sources per week, some nuts or seeds to go with breakfast or as a snack, and some beans or lentils to go with your lunch and dinner.

Then buy enough vegetables for your lunch and dinner, enough greens for 1-2 portions a day and as much fruit as you can afford with the money you have left.

Meals to prepare on a budget

Use the ingredients above to plan some basic meals.  Here are some cheap meal suggestions:


  • Smoothies with fruit and added oats, seeds or nuts (thickies)
  • Porridge/ Oatmeal with seeds/ nuts and fruit
  • Pancakes with fruit
  • Toast topped with nut butter or grilled mashed banana/ apple
  • Granola made with fruit and seeds/ nuts

So buy some oats or wholewheat flour/ wholewheat bread for your breakfast with some fruit, nuts or seeds for a healthy filling breakfast.


  • Soup made with vegetables and beans served with toast
  • Sandwiches filled with bean/lentil spreads and salad
  • Oatcakes or wholewheat crackers served with a bean dip and crudities
  • Wholewheat tortillas/ flatbreads with dinner leftovers
  • Baked Potatoes with dinner leftovers
  • Bean salad with a potato or slices of wholewheat bread or croutons.

Use the same salad ingredients all week, and it may cost you less to eat the same lunch for a whole week. Buy whatever is in season.


  • Stews with vegetables, beans and potatoes
  • Rice with vegetables and beans
  • Pizza made with wholewheat bread topped with vegetables
  • Beanburgers with salad or homemade chips
  • Baked Potato with leftover stew
  • Bean Chilli served with rice
  • Wholewheat pasta with beans and vegetables

Try and use the same protein sources each week.  Buy one bag of dried beans and use it in all your evening and lunch meals.  Serve as many leafy greens with your lunch and dinner as you can manage.

Following on from yesterday’s post about how vegan food is cheaper, I’d like to share this short video explaining why you actually get more nutrition for your money with plant based food than eating animal products.

Well that is now the end of this challenge to Live Below The Line.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog posts as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.  And I really hope I’ve helped you in some way to reduce the cost of your food shopping and get a bit healthier in the process.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave a comment below.

I would also love it if you could sponsor me and donate to Tearfund to help support truly hungry people.  Thank you so much to those who have already donated.

If you want to catch up on my journey so far you can also read about How I’m going to live below the poverty line for 5 daysWhat food I bought to Live Below The Poverty Line and Day 1 Living Below the Line:  Finding out what true hunger really meansDay 2 Living Below the Line: Why eating unrefined food is essential on a budgetDay 3 Living Below the Line: Why eating vegan food is cheaperDay 4 Living Below The Line: Why Variety is the Key to Health.



  1. Hi Katherine

    Thank you so much for your blog. It gave me very useful ideas on how to live below the line healthily with a budget of £1 a day. I just signed up for that and was searching for ideas.
    May you be blessed beyond your imagination!

  2. Nice recipes but I think your pricing may be a little off. I cannot see how you can spend 2p on a carrot – even a single carrot costs more than that. 3p for passata – a carton costs at least 30p. You can only get exceptionally low prices like 1p for kidney beans if you buy in bulk or wholesale, Buying large packages is impossible for those people who are really living below the line as they only have small amount of money in their pocket to start off with and “stocking up” with extra food for next week means denying yourself something this week and limits the variety of food you actually buy. The spirit of living below the line means starting from nothing, not using storecupboard ingredients and not counting it as 1p for spices because a jar of say chilli powder does not cost 1p.

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