Refugee Ration Challenge Week

Well it has arrived! For those of you who don’t know, I’m taking the Concern Worldwide Ration Challenge this year to raise money and support refugees all over the world living in terrible conditions. For one week I will eat only what refugees have to eat in order to experience it and better understand how it is for refugees all over the world, as well as to raise money and awareness.

Here is my meal plan and all my rations including my rewards. I have weighed out my rice into 7 portions to help make sure I don’t run out. Similarly I have divided up my flour and lentils based on the meals I have planned.

Full rations for 7 days:

  • 1.920kgs Rice
  • 400g Flour
  • 170g Dried Lentils
  • 85g Dried Chickpeas
  • 120g Tinned Sardines
  • 400g Tinned Kidney Beans
  • 330ml Vegetable Oil


  • 10 teabags (5 english breakfast, 5 herbal teabags)
  • 1 garlic clove (I infused this in the oil a few weeks ago to try and stretch it further)
  • 120g Bacon
  • 170g Spring Onions
  • 210ml Milk
  • Salt
  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Chilli Powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder

Day 1 (Sunday)

Fairly boring first day. A cup of tea with milk, and rice boiled with turmeric, salt, a little cumin and some spring onion for brunch.

Dinner was the same again, already feeling a bit bored of rice… Pictured here with the kid’s dinner for contrast….

Cup of herbal tea at bedtime in lieu of my usual glass of wine. Remembered to soak my dried chickpeas overnight.

Day 2 (Monday)

Made tea with yesterday’s teabag for breakfast and a little milk. Brunch today was homemade hummous and flatbreads. They were both surprisingly delicious! The recipe made enough for 3 flatbreads but I only ate two for lunch and kept a bit of dough back to make the last one later.

The chickpeas made enough hummous for 3 decent portions (or 4 smaller ones). Teaspoon for reference.

I also cooked today’s ration of rice with turmeric and cumin again. I kept half for my dinner and used the other half to make rice crackers for a bit of crunch and to have something to snack on. They taste ok, but don’t keep for very long I discovered (by the next morning they taste like cardboard!). Definitely best eaten fresh!

In the afternoon I had a cup of black tea re-using this morning’s tea bag.

For dinner I fried the leftover cooked rice with a little bacon and spring onion. Frying it gave it a slightly different texture which helped. I also made the remaining flatbread to have with my fried rice.

I had quite a bit of rice “dough” leftover to make more rice crackers tomorrow. Made herbal tea in the evening with a used teabag.

While sipping said tea made from yesterday’s teabag, (and wishing it was wine!), I reflected on how creative refugees need to be to stretch their rations, to make interesting meals, and make every bite count.

I thought I would be hungrier but instead I’m already pretty sick of eating rice.

I miss chocolate and wine and sugar in my tea and am feeling grateful I am only doing this for a week. It’s very humbling indeed.

Day 3 (Tuesday)

Had a cup of tea with milk for breakfast. Also someone else donated to my page last night and tipped my total over £600 in donations so I got to add a tin of tomatoes to my rations!! A very exciting last minute twist!

Today I made lentil soup (and I added in about 1/3 of my tin of tomatoes) and a kidney bean dip (also with a 1/3 of the tinned tomatoes). The dip when I blended it ended up a bit too runny for dip so it is more of a “beannaise” sauce but it was very tasty! I added spices to it as if I was making chilli so it tasted very similar. I also cooked today’s rice portion but kept it plain this time.

I got 3 decent portions of beannaise sauce out of it.

I drizzled a little of my beannaise sauce over a little rice to eat while I was cooking the rest (a late breakfast) and it was delicious.

I also got 3 decent portions of soup out of my lentils (I didn’t use them all as I need to keep some for the lentil and bean burgers later!)

Lunch was lentil soup over some rice, with a little crispy baon on top for crunch. It was surprisingly tasty!

In the afternoon the girls wanted to bake cookies so that was tough but I survived and haven’t caved and eaten any yet! I managed to get 3 cups of tea out of one bag today which I was pleased with.

For dinner I had a bowl of plain rice with some spring onion and beannaise sauce, and some rice crackers with a little hummous. It’s surprising how much you miss crunching and chewing when you just eat rice all the time!

Had another cup of herbal tea this evening. A slight headache today and I am really starting to crave sugar! The sugar withdrawal has been intense. Also missing wine but trying to keep busy in the evenings so I’m not thinking about snacks and wine too much.

Now that I have cooked up a few things my fridge has more choices for tomorrow’s meals (you can see here my hummous, beannaise sauce, lentil soup, remaining tinned tomatoes and kidney beans, and bacon.

Day 4 (Wednesday)

Woken up feeling a bit hungry. Had a cup of tea and really missed eating fruit – the girls were having watermelon and fruit/yoghurt/granola for breakfast and I was really quite jealous! It’s hard making them delicious meals and snacks and not being allowed to have even a bite!

Later in the morning I had a second cup of tea from the same teabag and a little bit of rice and beannaise sauce.

Then at lunchtime I made a couple more flabreads to have with some hummous and I had one of my sardines.

In the afternoon I made some more rice crackers but with different spices this time – these ones are paprika and garlic flavour – this time I brushed them with a little oil before baking and they were DELICIOUS! I didn’t eat all my hummous at lunchtime so this was the perfect afternoon snack.

For dinner I stir-fried my rice with a little bacon and spring onion, paprika and garlic powder which came out really nicely.

I’ve been drinking a lot of water to try and feel less hungry, as well as having tea, so I’m having to pee constantly, though sadly eating mainly rice and almost no fruit or vegetables means I feel quite bloated and backed up a bit. Definitely need some more fibre in my diet! Also I’ve reached a level of hydration where I am basically peeing clear water mostly, so I feel like I must have flushed out my kidneys or been on a detox or something.

However I am feeling pleased that I’m halfway through, and have not yet caved and had a single thing that wasn’t allowed (part of me assumed I would have caved by now and eaten a jelly baby or something but I am very proud that I have so far resisted all temptation!).

Day 5 (Thursday)

Woke up feeling a bit tired and lethargic and hungry today.

Had a cup of tea for breakfast (almost out of milk now) and a little bit of rice and bean sauce to keep me going. Failed to take a picture of it but it was a fairly small portion just to stop me feeling too hungry.

I am feeling very proud I have made it to day 5 of the ration challenge without cheating or slipping up at all. Only 3 days to go!! Not sure when was the last time I went 5 days without any sugar at all!

I am feeling quite tired and bloated and lethargic today, and definitely looking forward having more fibre back in my diet! Fruit and veg is sorely missed! I can’t help thinking that in three days I can eat whatever I want again, but for refugees this isn’t just for a week, it’s for weeks, months, years.

This challenge has really brought home to me the realities of life as a refugee. I’m already thinking of doing it again next year…. It has been a very physical and humbling experience to really live in a refugees shoes for a week – I will probably be encouraging my friends and family to join me doing it again next year!

Despite feeling tired I went swimming to keep busy and had an early lunch of lentil soup poured over rice and a cup of black tea. Decided to save the last bit of my bacon for tomorrow or Saturday as a treat at the end of the challenge.

For dinner I tried making lentil and bean burgers, and flatbreads.

The lentil and bean burgers were nice but the recipe was somewhat confusing, so mine ended up being far too watery and sloppy to shape into burgers, more of a paste, so instead I just kind of slopped spoonfuls of it into the frying pan and I used extra oil in the pan in the hope it would hold together. It was more like a deep-fried daal patty, but still tasty. Next time I would add less water and really boil the daal down until it’s much thicker. There was also far more lentils than kidney beans so next time I would be tempted to adjust and add more kidney beans in to balance the flavours out a bit more.

My flatbreads were nice, though I could only make 2 and there was enough mixture for 4 or 5 burgers, so I made 2 patties and only had one in the flatbreads, ate the other one separately. I used a bit of my remaining tinned tomatoes as “ketchup”. I was aware I haven’t used as much of my oil as I thought I would, so I deliberately used quite a lot to fry these in, which made it very greasy. After a week of mostly plain rice, a greasy deep-fried daal burger made me feel a little queasy BUT I did feel really full for a long time after eating it so I think the oil helped make me feel much more full than just plain rice. Or maybe it just tasted really rich after so much plain food?

Feeling pleasantly full 3 hours after I ate dinner so that’s really good. No cravings for snacks tonight. Keep thinking tomorrow is the last day but there are still 2 more days to go, and I think I’ve got more rations left than I thought I would have so perhaps I was being a little too stingy in the beginning – worried I would run out!

Day 6 (Friday)

Feeling totally exhausted today, though that’s partly because I was up with the kids in the night quite a bit so didn’t get much sleep. Not terribly hungry either but that’s probably linked with the tiredness.

Had 2 cups of tea in the morning and a bowl of rice with beannaise sauce and spring onion mid-morning.

Made some more rice crackers around lunchtime and tried baking 2 mini lentil burgers in the oven to see how they came out (surprisingly nice). In the afternoon I felt a bit fuzzy-headed and was struggling to concentrate and use my brain, although again that might be the tiredness talking. Here’s my rice crackers coming into being after the cooked rice was blended into the “dough”.

Finished off the lentil soup with some rice for dinner tonight, with a bit of crispy bacon on top.

Later on I got peckish again so make some rice patties – the same mixture or dough as the crackers but I didnt squash them as flat so they were crispy on the outside and nice and soft in the middle.

Today feels like it was the hardest day for me so far, but that’s partly because I was up half the night and am just shattered.

Day 7 (Saturday)

The last day. Sadly I once again didn’t get a lot of sleep – my daughter inexplicably woke up at 4.30am and just wouldn’t go back to sleep. Felt SO exhausted after 2 rough nights in a row.

I had run out of both teabags and milk by this point but I decided after two crappy nights in a row I was going to cheat and have a cup of tea so I awarded myself 1 extra teabag and 15mls of milk. I felt as a single parent this was an ok thing to do as I have kept strictly to the challenge so far.

However I did own up to my “cheat” on my social media and in the ration challenge group, and not only did I get 2 last minute donations but I also got offered teabags and milk from other people doing the challenge (if you have rations leftover or that you won’t use you can “gift” them to other people doing the challenge (virtually of course), much as real refugees share and help each other out in camps. So thanks to the kindness of several other people on the challenge I was gifted the extra teabags and milk and it therefore didn’t count as cheating. I was so tired and the response was so overwhelmingly generous that I may have cried a little bit.

After my restorative cup of tea, I made the last of my lentil burgers and flatbreads for lunch. Then took the kids to a school fair and watched them eat lots of sweets and crisps.

Final dinner – Stir-fried rice with bacon and spring onion, my remaining sardine and the rest of the beannaise sauce.

I still have a little bit of rice left, maybe one portion, plus some of my rice cracker dough which I’ll cook tomorrow.

What have I learned?

This challenge was tough and it taught me a lot about food waste, the challenges facing refugees and the kindness of strangers.

As hard as it was to give up sugar completely for 7 days, and eek out every drop from each teabag, and try to be creative with the ingredients we were given, I know that after 7 days, I can eat whatever I like. They can’t, and have to continue doing the ration challenge for weeks, months, years.

I had the benefit of a blender and a fridge and an oven, but I cannot imagine how much harder it would be if I had to pound the rice into dough by hand, if I couldn’t stretch my tasty hummous so far as it just wouldn’t keep outside of a fridge in the heat. If I could only cook everything on a fire.

It was amazing to be able to do something so tangible to reconnect with the people I work with and for in my job, and remind myself why I work in this sector.

I will definitely aim to do this challenge again next year, and am hoping to convince a few friends to join me next time!

What would I do differently next time?

(These notes are mainly for myself as I will probably do this again next year)

  • Practice the bean burgers in advance to try and get the consistency right – I’d use fewer lentils in the burgers and more in the soup or in a curry instead.
  • Definitely try and fundraise enough for all of the rewards – they massively helped with this challenge
  • I would probably make the hummous and bean dip and burgers and soup earlier in the week next time so I have more choice in the earlier days of the challenge (although to be fair saving the treats for later in the week is not a bad idea).
  • Next time I think I would try chorizo as my protein (loads of flavour) and I would go for something a bit greener than spring onions for my vegetable – maybe kale or spinach or cabbage so I can feel like I’m having more greens (something lightweight so you feel like it will stretch further).
  • Paprika and Garlic Powder and Salt were the 3 spices I used the most, so I would definitely use them next time, followed by turmeric and chilli powder. I didn’t use the cinnamon at all really, and I used the cumin a little but not much.
  • Next time instead of 5 normal tea bags and 5 herbal teabags I would have 7 normal ones to ensure I had one cup a day, and they also stetch further (I can just about get 3 cups out of one english breakfast teabag, but the herbal teas aren’t as good by the second cup).
  • Next time I might try leaving my used herbal tea bags soaking overnight in a thermos of hot water and see if it makes a nice fruity cold drink the next day or something as a treat.
  • The rice crackers and rice patties were delicious and great to snack on – next time I would make up a big batch of dough in advance to keep in the fridge ready to bake whenever I get peckish. Adding in oil and salt and spices was a game-changer for these.
  • As well as infusing my oil with garlic in advance, I would also next time pour a little oil into a bowl and add some chilli powder/garlic powder/paprika to infuse so I have some flavoured oil to brush onto my rice patties and use in stir-frying rice. Having maximum flavour through spices is the easiest way to make this challenge more bearable.

Recipes: (for those of you who want to try any of these out for yourself!)

Flatbreads (makes about 3 – size depends on how thin you roll them)

Hummous (makes 3 portions)

This hummous was really delicious but bear in mind I added garlic powder, salt and a little paprika to mine. I also added a little oil to it while blending it.

Beannaise Sauce (makes 3-4 portions)

  • 1/2 tin of kidney beans, plus half the juice in the can
  • 1/3 tin of tomatoes
  • Cinnamon
  • Paprika
  • Chilli Powder
  • Cumin
  • Salt
  • Oil

Put the beans and tomatoes in a saucepan on a medium-low heat and simmer for about 20 mins, add spices little by little until it tastes good, add a little water if it looks too dry.

If it is thicker and drier, you can then blend it into a dip, or if it’s runnier, use as a sauce.

Lentil Soup (makes 3 small portions or two large ones)

You may want to add more water if it gets too dry or make a thicker/thinner soup depending on how you feel. I found that whizzing the soup in a blender helped improve the texture and flavours as it made it taste more lentilly.

Rice Crackers

This is great for using up leftover rice. I used salt and spices (eg a little turmeric or paprika). My favourite combo so far is with salt, garlic powder and paprika (or a little chilli powder) and brushed with oil before they go into the oven – makes them really delicious and crispy and moreish!

I usually flip them over 20 mins in to crisp them up on both sides.

Lentil and Bean Burgers

This recipe was a little misleading – I would use slightly less water and cook it for much longer until you get a really thick daal. I added salt and turmeric to my daal and paprika and garlic powder to my kidney beans, plus a little chilli powder.

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