Friday 3 May 2013

Living Below The Line

This isn't one of my usual posts - there are pictures, but they're not of paintings, they're of the food I've eaten over the last 5 days.

I've been a bit busy recently, making some bridesmaid dresses - time I'd normally spend painting has been taken up sewing. I'm hoping to start painting soon.

In the mean time, I've been doing the #livebelowtheline challenge this week - simply, buy all your food for each day spending less than £1/$1.50, that's a budget of £5 for 5 days. I've pooled my resources with my husband, and batch cooked. Here's what I've spent:

2x500g split yellow peas                                  98p
9 onions                                                        90p
4 basics carrots                                              40p
5 tins of basic chopped tomatoes 31p each =  £1.55
1 reduced price small loaf                                 20p
4 basic eggs from a box of 6                             80p
4 bags 500g basic white pasta 31p each         £1.50
9 basic apples                                             £1.00
800g from a 1kg basic porridge                          80p
1/2 Jar of basic jam from a jar costing 29p          15p
Bag of basic frozen mixed vegetables             £1.00
12 Basic chocolate mousses                             62p

Total                                                          £9.90 

Meal breakdown:

Breakfasts: Porridge made with water with a spoonful of jam, glass of water.

I didn't like it with jam, so I didn't bother for the rest of the week.

Lunch: Split pea soup made from 2 onions, 1kg split peas, 4 carrots, water - that made 10 portions, which I bagged and froze. Apple. Day 1 and 5 1 slice of toast.

Dinner: Pasta with mixed vegetables in onion and tomato sauce. Chocolate mousse.

Day 2 dinner was poached eggs on 2 slices of toast.

Day 5 lunch - there was some bread left, so my husband had 2 slices to take to work with his lunch, I had 1.

Why have I done this?

To raise awareness about global poverty, and poverty in the UK.

For 4 years, while my children were very small, I lived in financial poverty. I say financial poverty, as we were living on income support - after paying my housing costs, I had £37/week to live on. I paid my gas and electricity bills fortnightly, but sometimes had to skip a week if something unexpected happened. We didn't look poor, I can sew, and so made lots of our clothes, and bought the rest from charity shops. Our children ate well, sometimes we didn't. I know how hard it is to make ends meet, and wanted to challenge myself to see if I could do it again.

The money I've saved by only spending £10 on food for both of us I'm donating to Oxfam. If you'd like to contribute as well, you can here.

Has it changed anything?
For me, yes. I've remembered how hard it is to feed your family when living on next to nothing. I've remembered how restricted your diet is. I've remembered how blessed I am - I've only done this for 5 days; millions of other people have no choice. I've remembered I can turn my tap on, and clean, fresh water comes out.

Will I do anything differently?
Yes. I've decided to look at how I shop, at the things I buy that I don't need to, and alternatives - both from the shops I buy from, and the produce I buy. I  buy Fair Trade products where they're available, I'm also going to be buying locally sourced produce as well.

As a family, we already raise money for Oxfam - that's the main purpose of this blog. We also work with homeless people on the streets of Manchester on Friday nights - running a soup kitchen and taking hot food and clothing out on the streets (this done through our church). We are also investigating setting up a food bank - absolutely repugnant to me politically, but an unfortunate moral necessity in the UK.

Our meals this week have been nutritionally inadequate - I'm not a dietician, but even I know that you need calcium in your diet. Although I did have vegetables, there was very little fruit, and the only protein came form the eggs and split peas. There weren't enough calories, either. Men need 2,500 calories a day, my husband had little over 1,200. Women need 2,000 calories a day, I had between 800 and 1,000.

This is a challenge coordinated every year by Unicef. This is the UK site, this is the USA site, this is the Canada site, this is the Australia site, this is the New Zealand site. Why not join in next year, and see what you learn.

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