Admittedly, prep for Live Below the Line 2015 didn’t start well.
Budgeting £1 a day for five days involves serious contemplation, and a late night at work followed by a delayed train journey with a soy sauce spillage incident involving a fellow commuter’s white shirt was not a helpful contribution to focus the mind. Thankfully a sense of humour saved the day and after profuse apologies and multiple napkins, I reached my local supermarket to prepare for my living below the line challenge.
Today’s world is an expensive one. To give some context to this, the Office of National Statistics says the average family spends over £80 a week on food and (non-alcoholic) drink. So for me this week, meat was a no-go. Fish was too expensive. Chocolate? You’re joking. After an hour spent frantically scouring the aisles for bargains and quick sale items, I walked away with 11p change from my fiver, ready for Live Below the Line 2015 (LBtL).
And remember, while I have £1 a day for my meals and drinks, in reality, if I lived in extreme poverty this would need to stretch to cover transport, health, housing and even education (£1 is the amount the World Bank has calculated is the equivalent of living in extreme poverty in the UK). Day-to-day, people all over the world face the choice between feeding their family and vaccinating their children. Between surviving and thriving. That’s no choice.
My hour around the supermarket – despite my food stash looking quite promising – was not without its difficulties. Recognising limited access to transport that people face when living in poverty, I visited only one shop and made all my purchases on that night. I scored some good bargains on the quick sale aisle – four small turnips for 9p, some thyme for 9p to brighten up my meals and damaged cans of chopped tomato for 19p each. Sourcing any of my five fruits and vegetables a day was tough, and with my choices limited to bargain brands, I know my options are more than likely packed far higher with additives, salt and sugar than I would normally consume – I have high cholesterol but trying to eat healthily below the line is even harder.
Poverty, even temporarily, is severely limiting and I doubt what I have pulled together will provide anything near a balanced meal. I had to think seriously about each purchase – would the items work together for more than one dish? Would I be able to create three meals a day?
As I contemplate the week, with its inevitable pitfalls and tummy rumblings, and as I eke out my daily portions, the motivation to highlight this very important cause is keeping my mind in check. Not only am I going to be talking up the impact of poverty, I will be raising funds for a Salvation Army project that empowers people in poverty to find a way of lifting themselves and their community out of it. If a fifth of the world does this all the time, I can surely cope with five days.
Live Below the Line is running until 1 May. To follow my progress, you can track The Salvation Army’s fundraising page or pop by my personal page to cheer me on. For more information about the campaign and ways you can help, visit the website: www.livebelowtheline.com/uk