Live Below The Line

July 23, 2017 at 06:09 PM | categories: livebelowtheline, justgiving | View Comments

So, I've posted on facebook about this, and posted on twitter, and posted on justgiving, but I've not posted here. What am I doing?

This week - Sunday 23 July through Friday 28th July, I'm living below the line to raise funds for Manchester Central Foodbanks, and to raise awareness of the issue of food & child poverty in general. (In the UK, there are 4 million children in poverty right now, and foodbanks were accessed over 1.1 million times last year - 1.1 million times people would've literally gone hungry if foodbanks did not exist. (Which is an epic fail for our society IMO)

You can find out more about this, and how to give on the justgiving site here:

Short version is please either donate or share that page if you can, it makes a huge difference to the foodbanks. I'm aiming to raise as much of £2500 as possible, and through the generosity of others, raise £795 before gift aid is added on (bringing the total to around £900 so far). £2500 would help 100 families on our doorsteps in their time of need.

Day 1


This is the first update this week, so let's dive in.

Today I started my "Live below the line" challenge to raise funds for manchester foodbanks. This is where I have just 6 pounds for all food and drink for the next 6 days (including today). So today's first order was to go shopping so I could have breakfast (and also get food for the next 5 days).

£1/day is the world food poverty line, below which almost a billion people live. (Well, technically it was £1 in 2011, it is now about £1.40 )

Plans vs reality...

So this was the £6...

(I took cash, since it makes it representative. Also in the UK, unless you're homeless, you tend to get paid either weekly (benefits/low end wages) or monthly, so I think taking it all in one go is reasonable.)

I've taken a bunch of photos, and will summarise as I go through the week what the plan is, but I thought when I went out I'd spend £5.99 In Asda I thought I'd won back 6p, with oats costing 59p there rather than 65p in Tesco. However, I was caught out with peas in Tesco now being 76p not 69p (literally overnight). So that means my total now came in at precisely £6 - which is a bit close to the wire.

So what have I got? Some things might surprise, and some might look like odd choices. I'd always decided when doing this that rather than just scrape by, I'd try and live as well as possible doing this. There's limits, but anyone who's live on the breadline in the past (I had cuppa soups thickened with instant mash as lunch for a very extended period 20 years ago...), you'll know that you can't live at subsistence level and just have nothing nice. So this takes that into account.


Everyone who does this tends to post reciepts, so here they are... (Morrisons one is doublesided)


Also there's the issue of getting enough calories. I know currently, I'm losing weight by eating about 75-80% of RDA calories, but that's not the point here. If I'm not to lose weight, I should eat about 2300 calories for my height/weight/age/gender.

I should also aim to get a decent mix of proteins, vegetables, carbs etc. I'm not convinced it is possible to have a nutritionally balanced diet in the UK on £6 for 6 days...

What I've got is not nutritionally balanced, it's literally the maximum amount of food I can get to try and get enough calories. It's not too bad overall I guess, but it's definitely carb heavy, protein and nutrient light.

What's missing?

Dairy. Fresh fruits. Decent quality protein.

What did I get? Well, here's a photo:

Specifically in that photo:

  • 2 packs of tesco everyday value instant mash. (Theoretically 8 portions, but I don't have milk so 6 portions)
  • 40 tesco everyday value tea bags
  • 1x Morrisons M Saver loaf of brown bread (24 slices)
  • 20 Asda Smartprice Sausages
  • 900g Tesco Everyday Value peas
  • 1x Jar Morrisons M Saver Strawberry Jam
  • 500g Asda Scottish Oats
  • 1 litre Morrisons M Saver Blackcurrent Squash
  • 1 jar Morrisons M Saver Curry Sauce
  • 1 jar Morrisons M Saver Mustard
  • 1 pack Morrisons M Saver Gravy
  • 1 Pack 4 Tesco Everyday Value Chocolate Mousses
  • 1 pack Tesco Everyday Value Ginger Nuts
  • 500g Morrisons M Savers Spaghetti
  • 250g pack Asda Brilliantly Buttery Margarine

(When I found that the oats were 6p cheaper than I expected, I thought I'd be able to substitute the bisuits and mousses for some fruit, but the fact the peas were 7p more expensive scuppered that)

Breakfast Today

So, once I'd bought all this I was able to have breakfast. Since I was hungry at this point, I had a snack of 2 ginger nuts and some blackcurrent squash, while making breakfast.

Breakfast itself consisted of tea and porridge (40g). Neither made with milk. I discovered a while ago that porridge made without milk is actually OK, which surprised me a touch. I won't be making breakfast this way during the week, but it's OK for the weekend.

Anyway this was breakfast:

I got the tea that strong by:

  • Putting water in a jug with 2 tea bags. Microwaving it for about 4 minutes.
  • Then emptying 1/2 into a mug, with a tea bag and standing for a minute. Then putting rest (+tea bags) into tea pot with more hot water. I then make tea using the tea itself as hot water, with an added tea bag each time.

It's not the same as coffee, but it's the right colour :-)

What's with ...

As I said above, some things might look a little odd to some eyes when looking at what I've bought. Specifically things that might jump out are: jam, ginger nuts and chocolate mousses.

Thing is, we all need something nice, and I wanted to show that there are little things that can help. What you get to add to the foodbank thing at the front should include little things like this. Though each of these does actually have a specific reason.

  • Jam. Gives you something to put on toast, or in a sandwich. It's cheap, and it's a source of sugar/energy. It's the closest I'll get to fruit this week too. Being over 60% sugar though also opens up some options I'll discuss in a different post, but it's the fact that Jam can be repurposed that the reason it's Jam, not (say) cheap peanut butter. It is also very cheap -- 28p

  • Ginger nuts. Starchy carb + sugar. Similar reason. Gets you through a moment of "I need something, now". (Not "I want something now", more "need something") -- 25p

  • Chocolate Mousse. Closest thing to a luxury. It's also the closest I'll get to dairy this week. Again, it's calories + a flavour. For 20p you don't actually get a lot here, but it's something. And given all I had left was 20p - I couldn't afford fruit, and there was very little that was available as an alternative, so why not?

  • Gravy. Looks like a luxury, but isn't. Gravy is essentially extra meat flavouring and helps make poor quality meats (such as cheap sausages) taste nice. It can also be added to sauces to make sauces more meaty.

  • Mustard. Similar role to gravy. Got this in part because I was surprised that anyone actually did a mustard that cheap (23p), and was partly curious. I do know though that it helps with improving flavour as I say. It is also going to be useful with the curry sauce for 2 reasons. Firstly mustard is an emulsifier, which means adding some may help thicken the sauce slightly - helping it go further. Secondly, it will help with the spicyness. Cheap curry sauces often lack any kick. (Bit like chip shop curry sauce)

  • "Buttery" Margarine? This is pure practicality. per kg, buttery margarines and their ilk are more expensive than the value (M Saver, everyday value, smartprice) alternatives. But as a unit cost 250g of this is cheaper than 1kg or 2kg of the value alternative...

ie out of these the jam, gravy, mustard (and to an extent the ginger nuts) have a dual usage.

  • Pasta & Curry Sauce? Pasta and no pasta sauce (or tomato product) looks a bit odd. The aim is to use the curry sauce with the pasta instead. This will probably taste a bit odd, but will explain later. This is sheerly down to cost. Curry sauce is cheaper that pasta sauce. I considered sweet and sour sauce instead, but figured that would be too wierd. Also, I'd need 3p which I didn't have.

What's for Dinner/etc then?

Well, clearly today I will be having Jam on Toast for lunch. (admittedly late)

For dinner I'll be having sausages, mash and peas, with gravy and mustard. I won't be having a choc pot though.

But I'll follow up on these later.

Closing thoughts...

I actually couldn't see any real alternatives than this to be frank. £6 for 6 days is so tight, it's quite painful. You wouldn't want to do this for longer.

  • Actually that's not true, I did briefly consider purely vegetarian based on rice and mixed veg, and a couple of sauces, but I'd be climbing the wall by the end of the week, and still be lacking protein. (I'm not practiced at a vegetarian diet, but that may be more practical. I'm not certain though)

I know though if I was doing £2/day for a week it would actually be an awful lot easier and varied. And that's not really that much more.

But quite frankly, the nastiest part about this is knowing that there are families in salford living right now on £1.50/day for food. In Eccles the shelves of the M Saver foods were stripped almost clear. Meanwhile next to this is all the other foods many of us take for granted were right next to them.

I think in a way, this is why places like Aldi work. They're not the cheapest (you'll note nothing I bought was from Aldi - they don't have "budget" alternatives generally), but if you're on just a touch more than £1/day (say 1.50/day/person or 2.00/day/person), most of their food comes into budget AND you're not faced with aisle upon aisle, upon aisle of food you simply can't afford.

Some of the foods I've bought this week are ones I'll happily buy the rest of the time. Some aren't. Just because it's cheap doesn't make it bad. But I do tend to pick and choose. I bought instant mash from Tesco because the Asda smartprice mash is pretty grim IMO. Same goes for value tea.

But the point is normally I can choose. Today I couldn't really. And going shopping hungry (because you've not done this week's shop) and being faced with all that "choice" you can't choose, really is in your face.

I think people talk about inequality a lot, and miss it when it's right under their faces.

Might be worth remembering the next time you see/hear of a show demonising people on benefits...

Lastly, but not least, please do sponsor me via this link or share this link...

... whether or not you think this is what you expected or whether or not you think it's worthwhile. I actually hestitated before doing this - even though the idea comes from Unicef and The Hunger Project, because I worried it was a little "gauche". I then figured "Who cares? If I can raise more money than I can personally donate, that's all that counts"

Every little helps. Every penny. Thank you.

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