So, it’s my last day of living below the line today and quite frankly living on the poverty line is boring. It’s boring and it’s unhealthy. Unlike a friend of mine who worked out calorie intake, balanced food groups and nutritional value, I went for simply buying as much food as possible. And so my shopping list was as follows: A loaf of bread (45p), three tins of beans (32p each), a packet of chocolate digestive biscuits (44p), a packet of spaghetti (20p), two tins of meatballs (2 for £1), a packet of totilla chips (46p), a jar of jam (65p), a potato (25p) and a packet of four soups (58p), bringing me to the grand total of £4.99. So I did have three square meals each day and to be honest I haven’t been that hungry but fruit and vegetables were scarce (besides the few raspberries I had grown from my own garden) and variety came when I had jam on toast instead of jam sandwiches and one baked potato instead of my usual meatballs and spaghetti each night.
So yes, living on the brink of poverty is boring and unhealthy which is not something we always associate with living in poverty. But it’s not all about quantity of food, I was even able to buy snacks of crisps and biscuits for that little energy boost, although after deciding to buy crisps, I had to return to the vegetable aisle, return my original potato and weigh a whole bunch of other ones until I could find one for 26p or less.
Also, it seems, that when living with so little food, planning is essential. If you let your soup go cold or accidentally use too many slices of bread, you can’t just go and get some more. I also found one of the big challenges I faced was temptation. Now I admit this is an incredibly first world problem, like when we complain about sweets and confectionery on our shop tills, it’s like saying “there’s just too much luxury food readily available, I simply have to buy it for my children”. But it’s true, I did suffer temptation. Wednesday evening I went to the cinema with no snacks and came home to a full roaring barbecue with a large array of snacks including my own favourite, tuna pasta salad. Saturday we were invited to play at a cream tea, just without the cream tea and on Sunday of all days we had a chocolate fountain at church and pizza, cakes and left over scones and cream in our youth group. For this reason, my friend and I decided that on the whole we weren’t going to be accepting offers of food from anyone as it was hard to draw the line and if we really wanted to, we could probably live off free food donations which wasn’t quite the point. Also, it’s unlikely that people living in genuine poverty, particularly in third world countries, would be receiving quite so many offers of food. There was however one offer we did accept. After a lot of deliberation we decided to accept holy communion, that’s one table that really is open for all, no matter what your wealth or provision and after going a few days with very little, it was good to feast, spiritually at least.
So, the things I learnt from living below the line:
1. The challenge of living in poverty is much bigger than simply finding a sufficient quantity of food
2. I was incredibly bored after just five days and yet so many people live like this every day
3. When buying cheap food, check the dates, there’s a good chance it’s that cheap for a reason (I was eating stale bread by day two)
4. It is possible to live off £1 a day, for that inevitable time as a university student when I completely blow my budget and realise I still have to buy a weeks worth of food
5 Living in poverty isn’t that fun.
I am glad I did it though, it was a good experience and if I can raise even the tiniest amount to help fight this injustice, then I’m happy 🙂