We’re on the home straight now. Yes, the end is definitely in sight and I can practically smell the eggs and bacon in tomorrow’s English breakfast. In just a few hours the Live Below the Line challenge will be over and normally eating in the Bangers & Mash house can resume.
The challenge has grown progressively harder and harder as the week has gone on. It hasn’t just been the hunger. Some days I didn’t actually feel all that hungry, as we did fairly well at stocking on up carbohydrates. It was the boredom, the lack of choice. Eating the same thing for lunch over and over again. The no getting away from the crappy sliced bread. The dirth of fresh vegetables.
Our evening meals weren’t too bad. There was a bit of variety there. But to be honest, by the evenings just about anything would have been attractive. I really wished I’d been a bit more creative with our lunches. However when you’re working full-time and taking part in the Live Below the Line challenge, one decent meal a day is hard enough to manage.
So what did I eat on the final day?
One bowl of porridge (made with cinnamon, water and a splash of milk) with half a mashed banana and strawberry jam
Sandwiches with cream cheese and cucumber. A couple of carrots.
Pasta with tomatoes, peas and Marmite.
Breakfast cost around 10p. Lunch was 27p, while dinner was 32p. Plus a two cups of redbush tea with milk for 10p and a couple of ginger nut biscuits at 4, and my total spend for the day was 83p.
So what have I learned this week?
I’ve learned that when you don’t have much to eat, you notice so much more how much the people around you are eating. How much food is advertised and promotions for buckets of chicken and happy meals are constantly in your face. The reminder that you don’t have food feels like it is being rubbed in incessantly.
I’ve learned that it’s bloody hard work feeding a family on a £20 budget. It’s doable but only if you plan ahead, work out how to use a few ingredients in a multitude of dishes, get creative, shop around for bargains and swallow your pride to ask for freebies from your butcher. I’ve learned how easy it is for parents to do without some things (like fresh fruit in our case) to make sure their children get what they need.
We managed to live on £20 for five days but only just. I don’t think we could have done it any longer.
And what if we didn’t have a car in order to drive a couple of extra miles to the cheapest supermarket? Or what if we didn’t have a fridge or freezer, or couldn’t afford to keep the oven on for a few hours to cook up chicken stock? What would we be eating then? How long would it take to break our middle class morals about eating only ‘good’ meat before we succumbed to the lure of cheap sausages or a value frozen lasagne?
Another thing I’ve learned is how wonderfully supportive people can be. Thank you to everyone that has taken the time to read these posts and send such positive messages via the blog, Twitter and Facebook and also to everyone that has donated money to Save the Children in support of our efforts. We’ve beaten our target but you can still continue to donate at www.livebelowtheline.com/me/reesfamily.