Priorities – taking stock after Live Below the Line

Read more about the challenge and about my reasons for taking it on.

Below is my food diary that I updated all week – comments and thoughts are at the end.

Day 1 – exactly £1

As much as anything keeping a diary will help me police myself and check that I’m not accidentally going over target day to day. I should add that I started on Tuesday 29th April 2014, because, due to poor planning, I had too many fresh things in the fridge that were going off and it would be ridiculous to start a poverty challenge by blatant food wastage.

Glass orange juice – 13p
2x breakfast biscuits – 8p
200ml milk – 9p

Hard boiled egg 15p
1 tsp mayonnaise less than 1p

Slice of garlic bread – 15p
Jacket potato – 10p
Portion of veg chilli – 30p

Depends on where and in what format you buy your jacket potato so I am taking Tom Hiddleston’s word for the cost of it (see video here). I ate a piece of the garlic bread I prepared for the children, so have to forego a banana today. I calculated the price of the chilli by adding all the ingredients together and dividing by 5. I feel fine and am actually very full from the potato and chilli, as the portion is really generous. I’ll just drink some water this evening.

photo1 (1)Day 2 – £1.11

Scrambled egg – 15p
1 slice toast – 3p
Orange juice – 13p

Cup a soup – 5p
Banana – 20p
2 cups of coffee with milk – 20p
2 biscuits – 1p

Portion of chilli – 30p
100g rice – 4p

Gone over today due to cups of coffee with milk. I am basing this on 6p for teaspoonful of instant coffee and 4p for about 50ml of milk, which I should double check. So I must keep an eye on that tomorrow. I was absolutely starving by about five o’clock so happily, the rice and chilli was a decent portion. I think I was so hungry because lunch contained no protein, as I was fine from breakfast till lunch and was also fine yesterday, so I will rectify that tomorrow as well, and hopefully pay for some of today’s coffee by going without orange juice.
Biscuits are Sainsburys Basics Rich Tea which are 15p a packet.

photo1 (2)
Toast from heaven

Day 3 – exactly £1

50g muesli – 6p
200ml milk -9p
Orange juice – 13p

Portion of chilli – 30p

Slice toast -3p
100g rice – 4p
1 egg – 15p
1 banana – 20p

Today was hard going. I’ve been preoccupied with thoughts of food most of the day. The slice of toast on the right, eaten when I got home around quarter to six, was the most delicious slice of toast I’ve ever seen, and the portion of rice (on its own with slices of mid-hard boiled egg and a little ketchup) seemed gloriously generous. I haven’t yet eaten the banana (saving it for later tonight) but I feel quite satisfied now. Plan for tomorrow is more protein early in the day.

Day 4 – £1.02

Penultimate portion of the gorgeous chilli – very pleased with this.

Scrambled egg – 15p
1 slice toast – 3p
2 biscuits – 1p
1 cup black coffee – 6p

Cup a soup – 5p
Banana – 20p
1 cup of white coffee – 10p
2 biscuits – 1p

1 cup black coffee – 6p

Portion of chilli – 30p
100g rice – 4p
2 biscuits – 1p

Today was fine, actually, hunger wise, mainly because the Basics rich tea biscuits from Sainsbury’s kept hunger at bay at tricky times like 4pm. I had normal hunger levels and energy levels. However, I went over due to the biscuits and coffee so tomorrow, the final day, I need to make up that lost 13p and achieve an 87p day.

The only thing I have to say about today is that after choir this evening, I went out for a drink with friends. I had a gin and tonic costing £3.50 and also bought one for a friend. It would be too long an introspective waffle to explain the reasons why I would decide to do this rather than telling them about the challenge and abstaining, but the short version is that it’s a rare thing for me to go out socially on my own with other adults, and from the point of view of my own life it was a valuable choice to make. It was selfish, but for many reasons, I decided it would be foolish to be dogmatic in this case. Just as on Monday I couldn’t justify starting the challenge while I had food in the fridge that was going to spoil. That said, I am determined to never again nonchalantly spend that amount without remembering this and weighing my priorities.

The other negative point is that today I threw away a whole pint of milk that had gone off in the office fridge. The only reason it went off was that I wasn’t drinking it at work, and due to my poor planning, I had allocated myself too much milk (and nobody else in the office drinks skimmed). Even as I was pouring it out I felt that it was almost criminally against the spirit of the challenge and I’m still not sure how I should have remedied this.

Day 5

Scrambled egg – 15p
2 slices toast – 6p
1 cup black coffee – 6p

Portion of chilli – 30p
1/6 piece of pizza – 32p
Half a banana – 10p


I’m stopping recording here, because I’ve failed. Day 5 already adds up to 99p when I was supposed to keep to 87, and the reason is that I refuse to waste food. My children had pizza for lunch and banana for pudding, and my daughter didn’t want to finish either, so handed them to me.

I suppose I discovered one of my own internal limits, as I strongly dislike wasting food in any circumstances, and I will not throw away perfectly good food when there are people starving. I bought the pizza from the reduced shelf for £1.89 which means that eating a sixth of it costs 32p. If I had managed to do the challenge mid week when I don’t eat with the children as often, this would not have occurred, but doing it on a Saturday was always going to be more difficult.

Do I dare conclude that keeping myself healthy leaves me more resources to help charities in the future? 😦

Also, upon re-reading the challenge following this incident I have not followed the rules anyway. The 15p packet of rich tea biscuits was at work, and according to the rules I should have budgeted for the whole packet just as I should have included the whole loaf of bread and the whole bag of rice and all 6 onions. I have to admit to finding these rules silly, as there’s no way I could have eaten a loaf of bread or a kilo of rice this week without either making myself ill, or genuinely depriving my body of nutrients. As I arranged it, I ate healthily with a good balance of fruit/veg, protein and carbohydrates (although too many carbs caused by the rice) and the chilli was particularly nutritious.

And in all this I’ve disregarded the night out last night, with the justifications I made and what they entail. Even counting that transgression, however, the single thing that has bothered me the most this week is the decision to throw away a pint of milk in order to ‘succeed’.

I’m not criticising the structure of the challenge as I think it is an excellent idea and I have found it very valuable in resetting my compass for various ethical and lifestyle issues. I’ll consider doing it again next year as I will be able to tell how much I’ve changed my habits, or not. However, I can not adhere to arbitrary rules if they entail crossing lines I simply don’t consider as reasonable, and wasting food in this context is my red line. I have found my values honed, sharpened and brought into focus by considering, indeed, these very issues of where I decided to transgress.

I would like to thank with all my heart the people who donated to Unicef on my behalf – you know who you are! – and encourage anybody else who finds this floating around in their mind for a while after reading to come back and donate. Well done to everyone who did the #BelowTheLine challenge this week.

Click to donate to Live Below the Line.

One thought on “Priorities – taking stock after Live Below the Line

Add yours

  1. Another thought from someone who lived it… you don’t waste stuff. And by that I mean fresh food in the house and anything other people aren’t eating. I’m not convinced you’re failing if you eat something off someone else’s plate. That’s what I did to get by!


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