Live Below the Line 2014

Live Below the Line 2014


Many of you will remember in 2013 when I and our three little boys took part in Live Below the Line.  The challenge was to eat and drink for £1 per day per head for 5 days.  We found it a revealing and interesting experience, and one which still shapes how we shop and eat a year on.

So it was without hesitation that I signed- up for the same challenge this year.  Running between 28th April and 2nd May 2014, the challenge remains again to eat and drink for £1 per day.

In 2013 I and the boys pooled our money so we effectively had £20, some of which we spent up-front for the week’s supplies; the remainder was saved until later in the week for top-up milk and bread.  Out of interest I compared the prices for the same menus as a start-point, and was staggered to find that for exactly the same food and drink as in 2013, we would today have to pay 6.5% more.  Without cutting the amount of food, I would be spending over the £20 allowance.  This is bearing in mind that most of the items were from the Basics range;  a telling figure, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Having to re-think the menus therefore led me to ponder on an alternative way of approaching the challenge for 2014.  I wondered how it would be were I to not HAVE the money up-front to be able to buy my provisions, and likewise would perhaps have no place to store the leftovers for the next day.  I imagined the situation of the homeless who are living from day-to-day on whatever money they can gather. 

This led me to the Whiten challenge for 2014.  The thought was that if I could only get hold of £1 per day, as long as I could make a fire, I could heat water or heat-through tinned produce.  However I will not be able to carry-over any food, as if I were homeless I wouldn’t have my nice re-sealable tubs nor my fridge to store things in.  This rules out buying a packet of rice, a bag of potatoes, and so on.  Therefore each day I will have 3 meals which will cost me a maximum of £1, and I shall allow myself to carry-over any spare money to the following days, but no food. 

I will point out at this stage that only I shall be doing the challenge this year;  I did ask our 6-year old if he wanted to do it again but he wasn’t wholly convinced (it’s a little close to Easter I think!), and if he isn’t doing it I don’t need to battle with our other children about who doesn’t like what!   But indeed what a luxury to be able to consider this, and feed them out of the usual household budget.

I shall be blogging as I go through the week, should you care to find out how it’s going and what I’ve been eating.  Please don’t be alarmed about the menu content!  Whilst I am trying to get a balanced diet through each day, I’ve already figured out that doing it the way I am is not going to achieve the 5 (or is it now 7) portions of fruit or veg recommended per day!

Any money you wonderful readers would like to sponsor me will go to Tearfund, who are partnering again with The Global Poverty Project who run Live Below the Line.  Tearfund work globally across all faiths at a community level to raise people out of poverty, through sustainable farming, teaching business skills particularly to women and girls, and providing fresh water to villages so that children can go to school instead of walking miles for a few litres of water.

If you would like to sponsor me you can do so on-line at, or give me a shout and I can take an off-line donation. 

With my heartfelt thanks, Wendy

Live Below the Line – Behind the Scenes

Live Below the Line – Behind the Scenes














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

Live Below the Line – Behind the Scenes

Day 5 – And suddenly it’s all over! – Live Below the Line

All meals have been eaten, all drinks drunk, the boys have been full of energy but slept really well all week, and we still have £0.07 in the purse.  It’s been an awesome experience on so many levels.  I’ve lost weight but have been full of energy, I’ve saved a fortune on food shopping for the week and Team Whiten have been sponsored more than double our initial fundraising target.

However, more importantly, friends have been discussing the challenge among their families and friends, I have a better understanding of what it’s like to go to the shops with money in the purse that’s gone when it’s gone and what it’s like to “manage” childrens’ expectations regarding meals, variety of food, and treats.

I could not have done it without my 5, 3 and 1 year old being such fantastic boys.  They didn’t once fuss that their remaining pre-challenge Easter eggs were in the cupboard yet they weren’t allowed to eat them, nor that they had to have the same thing for breakfast every day, nor moan about what was put in front of them at the dinner table each evening.  I could not be more proud of them.  It was a delight to have £0.37 left in the purse and be able to buy them each a packet of Haribo Starmix.  Excited is an under-statement!

I think Oliver will be pretty desperate in the morning to have chocolate crispies and a fresh banana.  Dominic’s looking forward to chips at some stage fairly soon, and I’d love a Gingerbread Latte from Costa Coffee.  But I can’t help wondering if it’s just a bit wrong that I can feed a family of 4 for the price of one cup of coffee?

I’m sure a little bit of us all will change forever as we’ve taken time to think “how the other half live”.

Today’s menu and costs can be found at Meal diary FRIDAY.  It’s still possible to sponsor us at

Live Below the Line – Behind the Scenes

Day 4 – In Praise of Tinned Produce – Live Below the Line

I had a rather interesting comment from a friend today, who has not been as close as some to the preparation for this challenge.  Having asked what sort of things we’ve been eating, the question was asked, “ Oh, have you not had any fruit then?”  My response was of course, yes, just not fresh.  The friend then suggested that as fresh fruit was so cheap why hadn’t we eaten that?

Well, as many shoppers will know, fresh fruit and vegetable in general is NOT cheap.  It is very expensive compared with tinned and in some cases frozen food.  In our lives outside of the challenge, we have 3 bowls of fresh fruit on the kitchen side which the boys are free to graze their way through as they wish.  This week could not have been more different.  The fruit bowls were empty, replaced by tinned peaches and pineapple (and tinned vegetables too).

Today I considered buying 4 bananas, knowing that I only had £0.70 left in the purse and that I needed bread for tomorrow.  Needless to say, bananas were out of the question at a minimum of around £0.13 per fruit.

In addition to the amazing value of tinned produce is the 100% use-rate.  There is not a piece of the tin’s contents that can’t be consumed (even the pea juice went into last night’s cottage pie for some extra stock and seasoning!), there is no bruising, no skins that have added to the weight of the product, a tin can be bought “up-front” without guessing how much it might cost at the check-out, it does not rot, and because of the speed and process of canning, all vitamins and minerals are maintained, as is the case with freezing.  The March 5 2010 edition of discusses a study by The Institute of Food Research , noting their findings that “fresh” vegetables can lose up to 45 percent of their nutritional value between being picked and landing on a grocery shelf.  This is simply because as soon as they are picked, fruit and vegetables begin to change their composition.  Canning and freezing halt this change.

A different friend commented how she would really miss fresh fruit doing a challenge like this.  I do tend to agree, it is rather lovely to bite into a fresh strawberry and have that smell lingering on ones fingers, hear the crunch of a lovely fresh apple, or chop-up a set of fresh vegetables for a stew.

However, I do stand in praise of the tinned peach this week.  It is a good value, cost-effective way of getting a nutritionally sound product, with a sweetness with satisfies when other sweet treats are not affordable, and the whole tin can be eaten without any waste.   Don’t underestimate tinned and frozen fruit and vegetable;  you’ll never catch me too embarrassed to admit to using it.

Today’s menu and costs can be found at Meal diary THURSDAY , and please don’t forget you can still sponsor us at

Live Below the Line – Behind the Scenes

Day 3 – Hmmm……….Live Below the Line

Wednesdays are always quite an active day for the Whiten boys, as it’s PE and swimming lessons (and of course school) for the eldest, pre-school and swimming lessons for the middle one, and a busy morning for mummy and the baby gardening.  This was the first morning my tummy had rumbled, and I did notice by the end of the day that we were all walking a little slower than usual after swimming.

Needless to say, the wider aspects of this challenge have come into sharper focus today.  Day 1 and 2 were my usual fairly sedentary life.  I had not noticed being hungry or energy levels being low.  However, I have been pondering as more active Day 3 went on how in the real world people are struggling for money for food, and don’t have desk jobs or sedentary lives to be able to conserve calories; instead they are more likely to be children foraging on the rubbish dump all day, women breastfeeding their babies whilst working a field or men toiling in a copper mine.

How must it feel to do this on not enough calories to be sustainable?  What about when you have so little food you can’t even DO these things………….and so you can no longer earn the pittance to be able to buy the minimal food you did have?

A little tummy rumbling is nothing in comparison.

Today’s menu and costs can be found at Meal diary WEDNESDAY, and please don’t forget you can still sponsor us at