The Rules – or, Step Away from the Store Cupboard

Many budget recipes have a sting in the tail.

They start off all chick peas and cheap cuts of meat before sneakily asking you to chuck in a spoonful of truffle oil or ground gold dust, that somehow just happens to be lurking at the back of your cupboard.

Live Below the Line is having none of it.

The official rules here are quite clear that you have a total of £5 to buy all ingredients for the five days, and the full cost must be included in the budget. So you can’t allocate the cost of a quarter of a pack of pasta, or a single egg from the box, but have to stump up for the whole lot.

You are allowed to use salt, pepper, herbs and spices so long as you work out a cost per gram, and deduct it from your budget. However, I suspect this doesn’t really apply to many of the ingredients I’ll really miss, like oil, butter, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, chutney and so on.

If you’re lucky enough to grow food in your garden, you can only use it if you “account for the price of production”. This just made my head hurt, so I reckon our scraggly mint plant and miraculously surviving basil are safe for the week ahead. There’s no reference to foraging for food elsewhere, but it’s unlikely I’ll be scavenging for dandelion leaves behind the bus stop.

I still have vivid memories of a meal years ago when the host announced that the rice was flavoured with saffron which he had “picked from the saffron fields of Northern Iran”, and then looked a bit aggrieved when I duly snorted said rice out of my nose. I reckon shoehorning the return air fares into a Live Below the Line budget might be a tad tricky.

The good news for me was that ingredients can be shared between a team, and it was a great relief when my husband volunteered to Live Below the Line too. Relative to a fiver, all of a sudden a £10 budget seemed
enormous. Right up until I started working out what it could actually buy.

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