My life below the poverty line, 7th-11th May 2012
Earlier on this year, I signed up for Live Below the Line 2012, which we reported about last month here. Like in 2011 – when Australia launched it and the US and UK soon joined in – this year’s challenge was to eat ‘below the line’ for five days, to raise funds and awareness for those 1.4 billion people around the world who currently live in condition of extreme poverty. Here is how I spent the £5 allowance for my five-day shopping, how I coped with hunger and, more generally, with my experience below the poverty line.
On the weekend that preceded the challenge, I could not wait to start planning my meals and calculate my shopping in minute detail. A couple of days before, I went around the shops to get an idea of what the most convenient food to buy was. Some of the big supermarkets’ basics are great for some products, such as spices and condiments, tomato tins, and cereals, but small local groceries are the best when it comes to fruit and veggies. Plus, I was absolutely sure that I’d rather have pasta without salt than salt without pasta. So I hunted for those one-pound-bowls that I am now so grateful for. Here’s my shopping (right).
I used a scale to measure how much items would cost me by their weight.
Monday. I feel enthusiastic about the challenge and I’m ready to kick it off by having lunch. I woke up rather late so I skipped breakfast, which is something I had taken into consideration – in fact I measured two/three portions of oats only. I prepared a very simple pasta with tomato sauce, onion, garlic, chilli and olive oil, which is pretty much what I would usually cook on a regular day. The main difference is that now I had to watch the amount of sauce on it, because I will need it for at least another two meals.
Between lunch and dinner I’m allowed one or two bananas as a snack. Dinner time comes quite fast and I start cooking a dish of lentils, potatoes and carrots. It’s around this time I find myself torn between carrying on with what I have or swapping something for the peas that are soon expiring in my fridge. After all – I think – what’s the point of living below the line if I let food go off? So eventually I had to part, rather reluctantly, from the tomato sauce and take a little detour for dinner. However, I came up with a delicious, and most importantly, cheap meal (below).
It is only the first day and I’ve already had to make a difficult decision about my food. My awareness about poverty is already increasing compared to yesterday and I believe this is really what LBL is about. Our difficult decisions hardly ever concern petty things like a tin of tomato sauce and half a pack of defrosted peas. Yet it is what 1.4 billion people have to struggle with everyday, without ever choosing to sign up for it or not.
Tuesday. The enthusiasm of having joined LBL has faded considerably. I am hungry, grumpy and weak. While working on a translation, I can’t get past the second page. All I can focus on are questions like, what’s the time? Can I start cooking? Do I have enough food? How long will it keep me full for? I ate and hated my porridge for breakfast; it certainly wasn’t wise of me to experiment with oats for the first time in my life. All I can do now is hope that it is a case of my taste buds getting acquainted and tomorrow morning will be better. For lunch I’ve had whatever I could spare of last night’s lentils. I wouldn’t call it leftovers, as I would have definitely ate it all, on a non-LBL evening. I’ve placed all my hopes on dinner, before going to sleep: a decent plate of pasta – the same as yesterday.
I’ve been trying to be cheerful and create some funny pictures to post on my LBL blog, but the truth is, today I just cannot wait to go to bed. I’m moody – and hungry again.
Wednesday. When I woke up this morning, the first thing I saw was that several people among friends and family had made a donation. I could not thank them enough, because this has really given me the drive to carry on. They can’t even imagine how grateful I am; I’ve raised £51 so far, and my target for UNICEF is £100. Even porridge tasted OK today and I also enjoyed lunch very much, although it was, once again, pasta with a little tomato sauce. Dinner was nice and so cheap I could hardly believe it when I calculated the total.
Thursday. The worst has passed. Porridge tastes lovely and I am less hungry in between my meals: I think by now my stomach has shrunk to half of its usual size. My donations have risen to £62 and I can even work with less stress than these past days. However, my thoughts and heart are with the many starving people who unfortunately cannot count the days left to the end of their battle. For them, for instance, this £1 allowance is to cover so much more than food and drink. If I think about what I’ve used myself, I can list:
- Toilet paper
- Daily vitamins
- Washing-up liquid
- Shower gel
- Gas, water and electricity
- Phone and Internet
And probably more than that. May be I’m not even aware of using some – that’s how robotically I do it, and how much it is taken for granted everyday. Whatever else 1.4 billion people on £1 per day may need, well, that’s warring with food.
I had the last of the tomato sauce – yes, I made one tin last for four days – and I’m having potatoes for dinner.
Friday. My personal crusade is almost over. I’ve had the last of my oats mixed, as always, with half soya milk and half water. I didn’t have a proper lunch – only two small potatoes left from last night – and the last banana, so I virtually starved my way to dinner. This was a big and cheap feast: chilli and garlic oil pasta to start, and then, what was left of my potatoes, with basically everything else, mixed in the pan.
I loved this past week. I would recommend anyone to take part in this sensational challenge and hope that, in 2013, more Western countries will participate. Joining forces, Australia, the US and the UK, so far were able to raise over £1million for charities such as UNICEF, Positive Women, and The Global Poverty Project among many others – with ever-growing figures. In Australia, the Live Below the Line community has reached $1,000,000 so quickly that they have already announced a second project to take place in the near future in Papua New Guinea.
As for me, I’ve reached my target of £100, but most importantly, I’m proud of myself for being one of the hundreds of thousands of people who have made a tangible difference in the fight against poverty. I truly cannot wait for next year’s challenge.