This is my Live Below the Line challenge week. If you have not come across the challenge before the basic idea is that you spend no more than £5 for five days’ food and in anyone day you eat no more than £1 worth – the rules are fairly strict, you can read more here. Last year I bought in bulk and cheap at a big supermarket but this year I have decided to buy local and use food from the garden. My core purchases have been a litre of raw milk (£1) from Fen Farm Dairy‘s wonderful milk dispenser, four tomatoes, two carrots, two onions (£1.40) and 500g of oats (60p) from the Framlingham Market, the remainder is the cost of eggs (10p each) from my own hens, lettuces (10p each), sorrel, herbs from the garden and a few teaspoons of oil for cooking.
My day starts with water based porridge 6p; lunch is lettuce, carrot and tomato, 26p (with a few oats not used in the porridge and toasted with some cajun spice), supper is a stir up of onion, lettuce, sorrel, porridge, eggs and milk 61p. The first day I converted the milk to paneer but felt it a waste to throw the whey away, I didn’t intend to it was tidied up by others. The first day I forgot to use any onion, I now realise what a difference and onion can make to a meal. It isn’t very varied but actually seems to be doing the job, I’m sleeping for Britain due to the caffeine/alcohol detox and I will undoubtably be loosing weight so it would not be suitable for anyone who was underweight already. I am also reflecting back on my notes of last time on relative wealth, poverty, food sourcing, you can read them here .
This year I am raising money for Homeless Link. Homelessness is one of those issues that some prefer to ignore, or apportion blame for but if you spend time with homeless people or those that have been homeless it can soon become aware that there are many ‘there but for circumstances’ situations, addiction, debt, job loss, relationship breakdowns and mental health issues can all be enough to pull the rug from under the feet and the roof from over a head. Dig deep and donate if you feel able.
My final day, living below the line; I’ll be completely honest this is where my attempts at counting the pennies went awry. I started with a 5p breakfast of porridge; straightforward enough. Then decided I should make soup with everything in the fridge. I made three batches. Cauliflower and cheese, using the rest of my 60p roadside cauli, two stale tortilla wraps, leftover Shropshire blue, fabulous Brie from Yoxford Post Office , creme fraiche and Parmesan. All the cheese grazing I would normally do in a week added to one pot of souper tasty, souper high fat soup! A batch of mushroom using all the mushrooms left from my £1.50 Morrison’s, plus any others lurking, some of the 40p/kg rice and milk (lots spare because I’ve only had three cups of tea). Then a big batch of leek and potato using £1 a bag baking potatoes and Morrison’s leeks. I had a bowl for lunch which I reckon came to 25p or thereabouts. In the evening I went to a family party – nibbled some nibbles (hopefully not too many) and drank water, how to be a party bore.
What a lesson –
1) How much food was in that fridge; at the start of the process I bought way more than I needed. I should be able to live on £1 a day for a month with what I have left. As I lost 3lbs over the week it could be just the diet I need.
2) To buy cheaply I bought in bulk and from a big supermarket. I’m fortunate, I could. I still tried to avoid pal oil but local/organic/fairtrade did not feature. What if I’d gone out on Sunday with a £5 note and had to buy and live off what I bought?
3) The costs of really budgeting for one, if it’s people living alone or people catering for one in a shared house are very much skewed. Not surprising then that in the UK we are seeing an increase in the use of food banks
4) People are kind, so many offers of tea and cake (because surely that’s allowed – I refused) and everything tastes better with chilli!
5) That all of this, in the warmth and comfort of my position is as nothing compared to the situation of billions of people in other countries.
Huge thanks to all those who have donated to UNICEF and who have read the blogs.
Today was always going to be a bit tough – a big swim night. I increased the amount I had for breakfast and lunch anticipating swimming at Fritton Lake in the evening. Sadly I should have read my e-mails first because there was no swimming there and I high-tailed it back to Framlingham College a bit late for swim fit. Only managed 1280m in various guises, a lot with vertical float so heavy on the legs. I came home to a tin of Morrison’s own brand ravioli and mushy peas being a quick and easy way to fill back up. One of my lovely friends is worried that I’ll get beriberi on this diet, at least there were some grams of protein in tonight’s meal (doesn’t do to think where they came from though).
So my thoughts for today are to do with superprocessed food. If you want to see how far food processing can be from what most people would think of as growing, butchery and cooking just read a few articles on intensive food production, mechanically separated meat and extrusion.
Today’s spend 91p
Thank you so much to those who are supporting my cause, £25 raised so for for Unicef, just £25 left to go; you can donate HERE.
Day 3 and my food choices were not that different to day one. I had couscous for lunch with carrot, radish and mushroom but supper was my black pudding style risotto but with some chilli added for a bit of oomph. 86p for the day so far but it felt odd just having water at WI tonight when everyone else was tucking into wine and biscuits, not helped by winning a pack of mint chocolate matchmakers in the draw, which I will save until the weekend.
But today’s reflections…. yesterday I focused on UK poverty today its time to think about the global picture. I accept that the £1 challenge is highly artificial; I have unlimited water, access to power, a wide choice of foods, only really limited by the budget and it is only for a short time. Also the £1 figure in many countries would not just have to cover food but all living expenses, yes costs may be lower for some aspects but the reality is accommodation and diet may be very basic indeed.
Poverty is of course relative but also immensely complex. Take a look at the topics on the pages of Global Poverty Project, from corruption to health, education, gender, war and weather, so many factors impact on the well-being of individuals. Then I start to think how at the moment I can’t afford a ‘basics’ bananas most days this week – does my preference for fairtrade bananas the rest of the time make a real difference to people at the receiving end of the few pence that end up with them? That’s just the bananas what about all the other choices I make in my purchasing every day, how I use my vote, what activities I support, this world is both so small and so huge at the same time. In a world of global markets we are both so distant and so close to those in poverty, barely an action we make is without consequences elsewhere. If you are interested in reading more on the issues the articles on the One World site are worth a read.
My participation in Below the Line is in support of Unicef – please donate HERE
My second day of living below the line and my first one where I was also at work. Breakfast was my 4p bargain porridge routine again. I’ve learnt not to cook it for so long – less fuel and less like gruel. For lunch I had salad of lettuce from the garden, radish and mushroom, with polenta (which I had bought reduced as past sell by date), I added fennel from the garden to the polenta to give it flavour – total 13p! I had boiled up some Morrisons country soup mix before I left for work and then cooked it in the slow cooker with vecon and water. My original plan had been to add mushrooms and curry powder to make a dahl but I was so hungry when I got home I just ate it as it was, tasty and filling 28p so just 45p spent. It meant I could go mad on a banana, kiwi and a cup of tea and still come in under the £1.
But what of the reflective side of all of this…… I had to look at a box of chocolates that someone had brought back from a trip abroad and not dip in, refused cups of tea that were kindly offered. I am looking at a few things in the fridge which really need using up or will be thrown away, which is counter-intuitive to the process and probably says more about my waist and waste than anything else. I am missing the chunks of cheese I normally pinch from the fridge as I go past too. So I am aware that the exercise of Living Below the Line is hugely artificial, but it does make me stop and think.
Mostly though I am conscious that it is very difficult to have a balanced diet including 5-a-day, omega oils, all the other essentials that the dietitians would approve of on £1 a day. The £1 figure used in the Living Below The Line challenge is meant to be representative of poverty figures globally. Then we start getting into the difficult business of defining poverty in absolute and relative terms. In the UK children growing up in households who are unable (through lack of income or because of their lifestyle choices) to spend a reasonable amount on food are likely to be disadvantaged in so many ways; obesity, greater risk of cancers and heart disease, inability to focus and poor co-ordination. I could spend hours pouring over the data behind the news headlines, goodness knows enough pages of public health data have been written on the topic. One thing is clear though, for those living in poverty here in the UK or elsewhere in the world maintaining true health and vitality on less than £1 a day will always be a struggle.
I am very grateful to those who have already donated to my Unicef page; if you feel able to join them you can do so here
Today was my first in the live below the line challenge. The aim is to spend no more than £1 a day on food, with the intention that by undergoing the experience, talking and tweeting about it will bring attention to the billions of people across the globe who live in extreme poverty.
I am also hoping to raise money for Unicef; you can donate to my Live Below the Line page here.
Today my food has cost me 98p
Breakfast: Water porridge with two year old hedgerow jelly cost 4p. Actually this is not far different from my normal winter breakfast just the oats were Morrisons quick and easy so the consistency was quite gluey.
Lunch: Carrot soup, with flour and water doughballs cost 28p – not the same with no stock or decent seasoning, so felt a bit cheated. Another time I would forgo a carrot to add some potato and give it a bit more body.
Supper: Poor man’s paella black pudding, rice, cauliflower and mushrooms – sounds gruesome but actually quite tasty, warming and filling – 58p
Just back from badminton and had a kiwi at 8p
This is not going to be easy, I miss having cups of tea, I realise that milk and dairy products generally allow me to top up throughout the day. It seems very odd counting and weighing everything and calculating the cost, but it is making me look after the food very carefully indeed, re-wrapping things ready for tomorrow.
I have some country soup mix soaking for tomorrow and hope to make some sort of dahl; I’ll need the energy as it’s a swimming night.