Day Five – Living below the line

I finished the 5 day challenge yesterday – hoorah. I actually found it very challenging yesterday. Too many temptations when visiting my parents. We took our remaining vegetable curry round and last portion of rice. A lot of my family were there: parents, sister, 4 nieces, Sarah and my two children. My sister and Dad were mildly interested in the challenge. I’m not sure my nieces were paying any interest. My mother however kept trying to tempt Sarah with dessert.

“Do you fancy a bakewell tart Sarah?” said my mother. “No thank you, Jackie I’m still on my challenge.” “What about a chocolate eclair?” mother said. “Mum, you are not allowed to eat anything except what you have bought with your £1 a day allowance.” I said. “It’s a gift, and you shouldn’t refuse gifts it’s rude.” she said with a smile on her face. Sarah resisted.

We both found the challenge interesting more than anything. Day One as anyone will know who has dieted before is hard. A couple of times in the past Sarah and I have both detoxed for a week. This however was different. With a detox you just have to cut out certain food types depending on the detox you are following. With the £1 a day challenge you had to think ahead about what you are going to eat and stick to the food you have bought. I suppose you could purchase your food daily or more than once a week, but the economies of scale would not be in your favour.

When we complete the challenge properly in the next few weeks we will definitely be making some changes to our purchases. We had a lone potato left over and didn’t touch the pasta. Eggs will be on the shopping list. Sarah wants a pint of milk too. We’ve both agreed the vegetable curry was really lovely and something to look forward to at the end of the day.


Today and you can see from the photo I treated myself to scrambled eggs on toast. I often have this for breakfast and I nearly always have 1 egg + 2 further egg whites. This morning I felt really guilty for throwing those 2 yolks away. I also had a skinny, one shot, decaf cinnamon latte when I got to work. Yes I know. The coffee shop staff find it a challenge remembering it too. It cost me £1.75. Today I’m meeting my friend for lunch. We often meet on a Friday and go for a buffet salad on campus. It costs £4.00. It’s Friday, my family are away for the weekend, I’m sure I’ll fancy a bottle of Co-Op Fairtrade Sauvignon Blanc. That will be another £5.99. So before I’ve even eaten my evening meal I will have spent nearly £12. Puts it into perspective doesn’t it?

There are 1.4 billion people in the world living on less than £1 a day. That £1 has to cover ALL living expenses not just food. The Living below the line challenge only provides a tiny insight into extreme poverty. We were still living in a lovely detached, suburban house, with running water, sanitation and central heating.

I hope many others will join the Below the line challenge this year with the aim of beating last years £500,000 fundraising results. I also hope it will help provide awarness on the conditions that many people in the world suffer on a daily basis.

Day Four – Living below the line

Today has been the easiest day so far by a long way. No headaches, not feeling so hungry and nearing the end of the five days. Sarah and I have been wheeling and dealing with each other. She doesn’t mind porridge so she’s let me have the beans. Phew. We’ve had to ration the lemon squash.

Sandwiches again for lunch and vegetable curry again for the evening meal. Sarah accidently ate some noodles for her evening meal thinking they were from the £10 weeks shopping. Oh dear, good job this is only a practice run.

I took part in a focus group today where there was “afternoon tea”. There was a choice of delicious cookies like these new baby cookies, scones with cream and jam or muffins. There were 6 people in the session and at least 12 offerings of ‘goodies’. Only two people were tempted and indulged. What a waste of food and money. I’m sure the remaining 10 items went back to the Market Research department and were scoffed down by someone not in need of the calories. Trying to eat on £1 a day makes you appreciate food much more, and certainly makes you aware of waste.

Day Three – Living Below the Line

I couldn’t face another day of porridge, so I decided to have a treat – Baked Beans on Toast. It tasted heavenly. I’ve started to savour my food a lot more than I usually do and absolutely nothing goes to waste – that’s for sure. Even though this was value beans on value bread with no margarine it really did feel like a treat.


For lunch I had another treat – Value Tomato Soup. Yummy. In all honestly, I am really enjoying my food a lot more. I’m taking my time to eat as opposed to eating at my desk and not even thinking about it while answering emails. As I said before, nothing is going to waste. My biggest treat was eating the crusts I cut off my daughters ham sandwich. It’s ok, I won’t cheat when it comes to the official challenge in April/May.

Even though I’ve had Vegetable Curry 3 days in a row it does still taste good. What would it taste like though if this was forever. Sarah is really missing her Latte’s in the morning. It’s almost a ritual for her. I’m weirdly missing my Extra Strong Mints. I’ve got into a strange habit of buying Extra Strong Mints every day. But at 65p a pack on campus, there’s no way I can afford these.

I didn’t have a headache today and I’m not as hungry as I was the previous two days. I have however lost 3 llbs in weight. I’m definitely starting to appreciate and value food more. Why oh why did I buy 2 packs of Laughing Cow Cheese for £2. Was it because they were on offer? 12.5p per triangle. Wow. Actually this is the same price as an egg – an unethical egg at that. If you want a free range egg that’s going to cost you 25p. A quarter of your budget.

Uh oh. I’m running out of lemon squash…

Day Two – Living below the line

The first mistake we made was to each so much the day before we started the challenge. We decided that we would go and have a large full English Breakfast at a new cafe that had been recommended to us. There were also some sheekh kebabs left in the fridge from our Valentine’s meal. Obviously they couldn’t go to waste!

So we started the day with a bowl of porridge and jam as recommended in the Live Below the Line Cookbook. I’ve never had porridge before and to me it was like eating school dinners at the age of 7 all over again. Sarah on the other hand loved hers. I was feeling very hungry, probably due to over eating the day before. Don’t make this mistake if you decide to take the challenge. To try and fill up my stomach I drank a lot of orange squash and hot lemon squash. Probably another mistake as I was rushing off to the toilet a lot more than usual.

Lunch came in the form of one triangle of Laughing Cow spread on two slices of cheap wholemeal bread. I enjoyed every bit haha.

That evening I made 5 days worth of vegetable curry.


It tasted fantastic. The ingredients we had bought didn’t make loads of curry but it was ample. However it was obvious that the 40p bag of rice would be plenty enough for the week to provide quite large portions for one meal a day each.

Both of us realised how much we eat the kids left overs. There were 3 fish fingers just starting at me, saying eat me. It certainly made me realise how much food we waste. I really wanted those fish fingers!

Today we more or less had the same 3 meals all over again. I could see very quickly how bland living below the line can be. I also had a headache all day, probably through lack of caffeine. At least my body had adjusted somewhat and I wasn’t feeling so hungry.

Day One – Living below the line

I came across the Live Below the Line website when I was researching for the #IF campaign and thought it was an interesting concept for both fundraising and awareness raising. In some ways it is similar to the PlumpyNut challenge which I have seen promoted a lot more on social media.

The ‘Challenge’ started in 2009 when two friends living together, both with a passion for poverty alleviation, came up with the idea and in 2012 the campaign raised over £500,000. The idea is that for 5 days you can spend no more than £1 a day on food on drink. This year the challenge takes place from 29th April to 3rd May 2103. The website outlines how the challenge works.

My wife and I have decided to take the challenge in April/May, when I will also write a blog from a social media promotion point of view. For now though, we thought we would have a practice run so that we can complete the challenge successfully in a few weeks time.

We didn’t really plan our shopping very well. So bascially went for quite a simple menu of

Porridge with Jam for Breakfast
Cream cheese sandwiches for lunch
Large vegetable curry with rice for dinner


So off I went to Sainsburys (probably my first mistake) with my £10 in hand and my 6 year old daughter (maybe another mistake haha).

The shopping list consisted of

Medium Loaf 0.80
3 x Tomato Soup 0.72
Baked Beans 0.28
Tomato Soup 0.24
Fruit Jam 0.29
Pasta Sauce 0.44
Sweet Potato 0.59
2 x Cheese Spread 2.00
Onion 0.14
Mushrooms 1.00
Pasta Shapes 0.39
Potatoes 1.31
Carrots 0.43
Orange Squash 0.29
Lemon Squash 0.29
Porridge Oats 0.60
TOTAL 9.97

I’ll tell you how we got on during our first day tomorrow….