This week in support of my husband, and possibly against my better judgement, I decided to spend 5 days living below the poverty line spending just £1 per day on all food and drink. This challenge to Live below the line has been set up to to support many UK and international charities who focus on helping to make a real change in the lives of the 1.4 billion people, both here and around the world, who are currently living in extreme poverty. I became aware of and hugely inspired by the blog: A Girl Called Jack and decided to take up the challenge for just 5 days.Take a look at Hugh Jackman’s invitation to take up the challenge:
I chose to spend the week living below the line in order to support the work of Progressio, an international development charity which my husband is proud to work for. There was a part of me which felt that this was a bit of an exercise in “playing at being poor” à la Marie-Antoinette who famously said about the starving masses during the French Revolution “If they can’t eat bread, let them eat cake”. In all honesty this was probably the part of me who didn’t much fancy the prospect of living on a restricted diet for a week. The other part of me, who is definitely not as out of touch with reality as Marie Antoinette was, likes a challenge and is accutely aware that those of us who do not live below the poverty line on a permanent basis are very privileged indeed. I have always believed in the concept of walking a mile in another person’s shoes, in order to understand their lives and motivations so I grasped the challenge despite my initial reluctance.
So here I am on day 5, just two meals away from a decent breakfast on Saturday morning. What have I learned from the challenge? I’ve learned a lot actually and much of it is in alignment with what positive psychology teaches us about living a meaningful life:
I have learned to be hugely grateful for what I have and I will really relish the opportunity and the possibility of choosing any food I want to eat in future.
I have learned to show more empathy with people who live in different circumstances to my own.
I have become more aware of the interconnectedness of people and how food choices we make have repercussions for others.
I have reminded myself of the importance of practising acts of kindness for others.
I have become more aware of the simple pleasures in life such as eating home-prepared food.
I have practised mindfulness and savouring which are principles of positive psychology which teach us how to enjoy the moment. (When you can only afford one carrot or one egg a day you really enjoy them.)
I have had to fall back on using my top strengths (creativity is one of mine) in order to manage on such a small budget.
I have realised that it is much easier and quicker to change a habit that I had previously thought.
What have I learned about myself?
I have realised that our household is hugely wasteful of food and this needs to change.
In order to survive on a tight budget you need to be really well organised and highly creative and these are two great skills to practice.
We need to plan our menus and food purchases more in order to cut down on waste. To use a wonderful acronym I came across on Twitter via Philippa Perry yesterday: PPPPPPP. ( Proper Pre-Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance) @Philippa-Perry
I have decided to rediscover the joys and benefits of cheap home made food next week by making my own bread, growing my own bean sprouts and drying my own fruits. I may even knit my own muesli if I’m feeling particularly creative……
I made a last minute decision to join the live below the line campaign and admittedly wasn’t as organised as I could have been for the 5 days. This meant that my diet this week has lacked variety and that has been the toughest challenge. Many people around the world and in the UK face a monotonous diet on a regular basis because that is all this is available to them. This week may have been challenging but I didn’t die, I had 3 meals a day and I had plenty of clean water to drink. That’s more than can be said for the 1.4 billion people around the world who don’t have the ability to make the same choices I can. Was I crazy to take up this challenge? Probably not. I have learned a huge amount this week and here’s the crazy part: I have decided to continue the challenge! I have decided to #liveslightlyabovetheline for the next month adding £1 a week to my weekly budget until I reach a point where I believe my diet is both healthy and sustainable for the planet. I am looking forward to more colour in my diet next week and £2 per day for 5 days will feel like absolute luxury. I think I know of 1.4 billion people to whom £2 per day would feel like absolute luxury too and that is why is has been important to live below the line this week. If you didn’t join in the challenge this week, it’s not too late you can do this on any 5 days you choose. It’s a great experience and it’s never too late to make a difference. Also blueberries for breakfast on a Saturday will never taste the same again.
Posted by Shona Lockhart on 3rd May 2013