Live Below the Line – Part 1: Roasted Veg & Chickpea Couscous

5 May

couscous 2I have been quite inspired this month hearing from friends and colleagues who are embarking on the challenge of living on £1 a day.  My initial thoughts were ‘pah… no way, I love food and I just could not do it’.  And then my mind started wandering and questioning my initial thinking…

… of the foods I make, how much do they actually cost per portion?  If I were to do this would I in effect be ‘dieting’ slightly?  Could this challenge be beneficial to my health?  I may eat more vegetables than I normally do? Other people have to do it, so why can’t I?  Could I help others who are have to live off £1 a day by providing some recipes? … and so it continued.

Having plagued myself with questions about the ‘living below the poverty line challenge’ for the last 2 weeks I have decided it may not be so bad after all and maybe, just maybe I could forgo some meals out with friends.  It would also help me save a little money on food and it would definitely be healthier, as I would not be able to eat very much cheese or cake and would need to use more vegetables and lentils.  So, when cooking dinner at home over the last week I have been pondering some of the more ‘simple’ recipes I make and really enjoy when times are getting slightly harder.  Such as my roasted vegetable couscous salad, pitta bread pizzas, quick pasta dishes and my all time favourite healthy/cheap meal in its self – soup.

I have decided to set myself the challenge of creating some healthy, meat free meals over the next few weeks, so I am going to be collecting a few of my favourite quick, easy and cheap recipes and trying them out, here, with you.  Ultimately some may not work and yes, I will be eating the resultant meal for the next week, but hey… we are living on a budget aren’t we folks?

If this all goes swimmingly and I find some lovely recipes (some will have to be desserts as I cannot live without the odd sweet treat) then I will complete the challenge myself in July and see if it is indeed possible when living in London, trying to be a sociable and seeing friends for drinks/dinner and simply enjoying life.  I think it may well be…

Without further ado, lets have a look at this little ROASTED VEGETABLE COUSCOUS recipe I love…


COOKING TIME: 30 minutes

MAKES: 5 portions

COST: 59p per portion (this is quite expensive, more so that I thought when embarking on this challenge… I am a little disappointed).


  • 250g couscous – this costs £1.25 in Tesco’s for 500g, so although you would need to buy the whole bag, you would only need half of it, which would make it 63p
  • 1 red pepper – now this cost me 80p as I bought it from my local Sainsbury’s.  Part of this challenge is definitely about where we shop, so perhaps we could shop around for this and get it for a lot cheaper in a local grocery shop?
  • 1 red onion – look through all the bags/onions and ensure you get a large one if they are all the same price, this is what I do!  30p
  • 1 courgette – I bought one as the ones it packets all seemed smaller but more expensive, buying items when they are loose is definitely best for the budget, so this cost me 33p
  • 1 tin of chickpeas – I shopped around for these a little and found them at Asda for 62p.  I think these may be cheaper to buy somewhere like Aldi or Liddle.  It is much cheaper to buy these dry and soak them yourself, though this will add some extra time to the preparation of this recipe, as they will need to be soaked overnight.
  • 1/2 a lemon – it was 30p for a whole one (again shop around and you will get this cheaper!) 15p
  • 2 cloves of garlic – the bulb was 20p so approx. 2p
  • 1 stock cube – it was £1.09 for 8 stock cubes so this makes it 14p per stock cube
  • 300ml boiling hot water – this one you can have for free as we all have the right to water and I am sure you can make it hot (there has to be some cutting of corners here)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil – this is a general store cupboard ingredient so we aren’t going to cost this one (as I am also running out of money!)
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (again a store cupboard ingredient!)


First we need to make the couscous, so make up the stock using boiling water and dissolving the stock cube in this.  Then weigh out the couscous, place in a large bowl and pour the stock over the top.  Cover with a clean tea towel and place to one side.

Wash the vegetables and then chop them into slices… they can be left quite large at this stage.  Peel the garlic cloves, peel the onion and chop into quarters and leave in its quarters (otherwise it will burn).  Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1tsp chilli flakes and rub together to ensure all the ingredients are coated in chilli and oil.

couscous 3

Roughly chopped vegetables coated in olive oil and chilli flakes.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until all the vegetables are soft, slightly brown/golden but definitely not burnt.  Allow them to cool, whilst you use a fork to break up the couscous, mix this well and then we can ‘mince’ all of the vegetables.

couscous 4

… beautifully roasted vegetables – even if I do say so myself!

Mincing is a chopping technique, so place all your vegetables (and garlic) onto a chopping board and then, using a large knife ‘rock’ the knife over the top of them in different directions, until all the vegetables are finely diced/minced.  Add these to the couscous.

couscous 5

My roasted vegetables once ‘minced’… look at those fabulous colours. YUM!

Now we are going to make the dressing, so in a small bowl zest 1/2 the lemon, then roll it on your chopping board using the palm of your hand to release the juices.  Chop in half and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon into the bowl.  To this add 1 tbsp olive oil and mix well.  Pour this over the vegetables and the couscous, then open your tin of chickpeas, drain, add to the salad and we are DONE!  Now you can enjoy this lovely hearty roasted vegetable couscous…

couscous 6

Roasted Vegetable & Chickpea Couscous… DONE!


Overall the recipe looks and tastes great.  I am not sure I felt ‘full’ after eating this, but I think that, that is a feeling I will just have to get used to on the £1 a day diet.  If I were making this normally for my lunch/dinner I would probably have a little feta cheese with it (no more than 20g) or I would serve it alongside some chicken/fish (without the chickpeas).  So, it was a little odd eating it couscous alone for my lunch, though the chickpeas bulked the recipe out, filled me up a little more than just the vegetables and couscous would have done and added some much needed protein.  The flavours from the lemon, chilli, garlic and roasted vegetables really made this recipe tasty and delicious.

The overall cost has upset me… 59p per portion really is not good, as that leaves me 41p for the rest of the day.  I would have to ensure my dinner was very cheap (I am thinking a simple soup) and that my breakfast was a porridge without fruit.  I do however think that if I shopped around a little I could make this recipe much cheaper, so tomorrow I am going to pop to a fab little grocery shop near work and see if I can beat this budget.  I will update this recipe in due course.


I shall see if I can get all these ingredients cheaper and when/if I do, I shall update the recipe costs below.

Recipe one done!  Now… what next…


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