Live Below the Line – Behind the Scenes

May 9, 2013














During Live Below the Line one of my friends sent me a web-link, wherein the BBC had published an article about how it was possible to live healthily on £1 a day;  this concept was utterly berated in the web article.

My blood boiled reading the tirade of words used against the gentleman involved, and against the “stunt” which they linked with the Live Below the Line challenge, which  as you readers will all know, was for our family an eye-opening experience .  However, having re-read the web article, it seems the main objective of the gentleman who did the £1 challenge was to show that it was possible to CONSUME not more than £1 per head of food per day.  What he DIDN’T do was to follow the rules of the challenge, which clearly stated that participants should start from ground zero.  Had I, as the gentleman in the original article had done, included all the herbs, seasonings & white wine vinegar I had already sitting in my store-cupboard, we would have eaten a much more gourmet set of meals!

However, as my close friends knew as we discussed how I was preparing the menus, I was a stickler for making sure we followed the rules, even taking out an allowance for my eldest son carrying on with school dinners, even though in this country should we be on such a restricted income he would qualify for free school dinners anyway.  In essence I set out the week as-if, for example, we should be moving as a family into a bedsit, having  been able to take nothing with us, and that provided we had a stove or microwave, what could we have lived on for £1 per head per day.

The meals I chose HAD to be of interest to my children, in the sense that I have the privileged choice not to let my children go hungry, and so although we had planned the menus for the week, I could choose at any time (aside from the shame of informing my kind sponsors), to come off the challenge in an emergency or if the children became ill.  I also set-out to be as “balanced and varied” as I could within the budget, maintaining the usual fruit after every meal, but also including treats, as without the children’s buy-in it would have been easy to have given-in to pester power.    It was also essential, unlike the poor berated gentleman, that food bought from the £20 was used throughout the week – unlike him, I did not for the purposes of the challenge have a bottomless store cupboard to raid.  Hence we had mince and pasta over 2 meals, potatoes over 3 meals, and bread over 4 meals.

Having bought the final loaf I had £0.37 remaining in the purse, with which I treated the children to a bag of Haribo Starmix each.  My balance of £0.07 was an amazing call-out to me that with planning, preparation, discipline and commitment, if I HAD to feed my family on £1 per head per day I know I could do so, and they would have full tummies and be healthy.  It was hard work and I don’t wish to belittle the genuine struggle that families in the UK and around the world have every day to feed themselves on minimal income.  In our small way we did all have to compromise, and at the end of the challenge I was glad to have fresh fruit, although interestingly my middle son asked for tinned peaches at the start of the week after the challenge!  The children were glad to be allowed to choose their breakfast cereal, although when I asked my eldest whether he preferred Weetabix or the wheat biscuits we ate during the challenge, he said the challenge ones – because they were pointy (square-edged!).  Never try and second-guess kids!

The post-challenge week has been an eye-opener too.  I had a most un-satisfying shop this week, wherein I spent over £60 on not even a week’s worth of shopping.  There was a lot of fresh fruit, some ready meals, some ice-cream and some cheese – but beyond that not a lot else.  It made me appreciate that aside from the fund-raising (£527 to date!) for organisations which are working globally to try and eradicate poverty, I had got quite a buzz out of doing the challenge, coming face-to-face with some shopping demons, and realising that if I don’t spend the money in the shops, on what and with whom else could I be sharing it?

Here’s what we spent, and what food was left at the end of the 5 days.  Shopping List – Below the Line 2013What was left? Anything else to eat?

Some friends have asked about the Meatballs recipe.  I have included it as we made them during the challenge, and also highlighted the “store-cupboard” ingredients I would usually add.  Meatballs with Sauce

I hope, readers, that you have been challenged as we were by our challenge.  We can still accept sponsorship until 30th June 2013 at