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Live Below the Line Challenge 2015

The Live Below the Line Challenge is an annual event that's been growing in popularity. When it first came onto my radar 6-7 years ago it was almost an underground movement. The purpose of this global event is to create greater awareness of people who are living below the line, it highlights poverty across the world - which, for the purposes of the charity challenge the organisation have had to define. In the UK the target is to live on £1/day. The "line" referred to is living below the Poverty Line.

Now, the food challenge budget is for food only, it doesn't include the cost of anything else. Interestingly, the fuel cost of making some meals (e.g. a casserole in an oven) can be greater than the ingredients! But this isn't in the scope of the good challenge.

Participants have to feed themselves on £1/day for a set duration. This year it is for 5 days. But there are winners and losers and rules! In other years it's been for a full week - much better as a single person as the budget's £7/week, making it easier to get more choice into the box of groceries! Five days for £5 is harder for one person

If you live alone then you start with £5 - that's your total food budget for the week. But, you have to think about the little things that are budget busters - you don't have the chance to bulk buy at all. e.g. can you afford to use up 1/5th of your budget on a tub of cheap margarine? And how annoying it is to buy 6 eggs as they're cheaper than 12, but not such a good bargain. For those doing it as a couple, or a family, your budget at £5/person for five days means you can club together and really do quite well!

I've got a whole bunch of recipes for single people who are doing the challenge - and there's not a lentil in sight as I don't like/use lentils :)

Many people have tackled the budget and challenge in their own way - many relying on what foods they can find reduced, others using "free" produce from their garden. When I do the Live Below the Line challenge it's always by taking £5 and putting that food into a box and only eating out of that box for the duration.

For those in couples and families, the challenge is almost a luxury-fest as they can really get a good spread of groceries for their £10-£25 budget. For those in big cities, close to supermarkets, they've got the option of digging around in the supermarket and seeing what's reduced, but for most people these bargains don't exist. So my challenge budget has always been based on £5 of food at full price.

With a £5 budget you even have to question whether you can spend £0.70 on the smallest/cheapest tub of margarine or not, or how else you can spend the money better so you've more actual food! Something else that has to go is coffees - I spend under £2/month on instant coffee, but to drink coffee during the 5 day challenge would mean investing too much of the budget just on coffee, so there's no coffee for those 5 days. A family could still have their jar of coffee as each person would be putting in just 35p each or so!

It does make a lot of people think about it a little more, but they're blessed in that they know it's only for 5 days and come the 6th day they can order their favourite takeaway with all the trimmings and a fat bar of chocolate :)

As I write this I'm eating £0.04 of toast, with some margarine on it - if I were doing the Live Below the Line challenge this week I'd have probably been jam on toast instead as I might not have had margarine. What's in the shopping basket and what's excluded is something I do at the last minute as prices change from year to year for goods. Later today I'll probably have a jacket potato and cheddar cheese, these nearly always feature in my Live Below the Line menu, so we'll see this year if I try to change my old favourites and cook some new meals and snacks this year.



Image Credit » My photo of Live Below the Line menu items. My potato, my cheese, my camera!

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phoenixmaid wrote on February 10, 2015, 8:01 AM

I have read a lot of posts on various sites from brits doing this and they have quite honestly shocked me. the amount of people who ave done this for a few days then go on to say "Well I don't know what people on benefits are complaining about it's easy" well of course it's easy when that fiver just covers food when you have £5 and it has to cover everything your up poo creek without a paddle. I honestly think the campagin is doing more harm than good

bestwriter wrote on February 10, 2015, 8:05 AM

A nice way to learn to live within one's means.

UK_Writer wrote on February 10, 2015, 8:21 AM

yes, it's easy when you only do it for 5 days - and it's for "fun". Longer term it really isolates you from others and makes your life quite bleak. It's the other things that people struggle with, e.g. if you have £5 of bread and margarine to eat - and your toaster breaks and the oven broke 3 months ago. Or, what if you can't buy the cheap things you intended to and it throws the plan into disarray.
I've seen some people doing the challenge and staying in hotels - OK they are eating their cheese sandwich, but look at the luxury surroundings they're eating it in. "fun" to them. Serious to those without cash.
I think the campaign is misguided and attracts the wrong sort of attention and middle class luvvies saying it's easy/wonderful, which is annoying.
Most of the time, without thinking about it, I live below this amount - it's just what I happen to eat as I keep things cheap all the time. But, I know I can bust out a fresh £5 if I want to at any time if I spot something yummy in the shops. My diet's also not what anybody would call "healthy" though :)

UK_Writer wrote on February 10, 2015, 8:21 AM

Sadly in the UK people's trolleys have become swollen with luxury goods. Even the trolleys are 2x the size they used to be!

Hollyhocks100 wrote on February 10, 2015, 8:29 AM

If more people thought about what goes in the shopping trolley that´s not actually needed, there would be less people facing credit card debt. Food is essential and I would never skimp on that, but you need to be creative on only 5 pounds per week for sure, I doubt anyone could keep that up for long. BTW, what about store cupboard essentials that we all have such as herbs and spice, flour and that sort of thing, are you allowed to use those? It´s not something you would need to buy every week.

bestwriter wrote on February 10, 2015, 8:30 AM

There is disparity everywhere. And that's sad.

UK_Writer wrote on February 10, 2015, 9:27 AM

No, not allowed to use anything in the cupboards. Think of it as: take £5, fill the box with your chosen food. Only eat from that box for the duration of the challenge.
You will see a lot of people "cheating" as they say they've done the challenge and, say, priced up a sandwich as 2 pieces of bread at 4p, but then you spot they've not priced in the whole loaf, but simply the price of two slices of bread.

phoenixmaid wrote on February 10, 2015, 10:31 AM

The double sized trollies were brought in as one of those oh so handy mind tricks supermarkets like to use. if your usual shop looks like it takes up half the space your are inclined to think you have spent less.

UK_Writer wrote on February 10, 2015, 11:46 AM

I see people struggling to fit their purchases into the huge trolleys, years ago people bought what they went out for.

MsBiz wrote on February 10, 2015, 12:04 PM

I agree. I can't see how "pretending poverty" helps anything. I had times when I was younger and had to scrounge money for food. I remember it well and am not interesting in reliving it. I appreciate what I have and would rather focus my energy on things that help people actually in these situations.

crowntower wrote on February 10, 2015, 12:50 PM

I don't know but when it comes to I don't think we need to reduce ... we need a proper amount of healthy food in our body specially a healthy and free worries environment while eating not like as if I am deprive of food when I am working so hard for a living.

WordChazer wrote on February 10, 2015, 2:59 PM

Jackets and cheese or beans are always a staple of mine anyway. Cream cheese with anything (bread for the week at £1 or less if I find it on the reduced) and value porridge oats, which from student days are a meal at any time of the day, or mixed with strawberry jam as the Scottish cranachan, a pudding. Also cheapie noodles. My local superstore has reduced to clear at around 6pm every night. I am an afficionado, former employee and avowed bargain hunter who would rather have money than food. I HATE spending money on brands which are the same as value items. A value soup can is 25p. A pitta bread packet on the reduced is 20p for a packet of 6. That's lunch or supper - can of soup and one pitta. I am an expert at NOT spending money on food, as for many years when my husband was not working, my income was the only way we had to pay all the household bills and the food. All these people who swear they have no money had better not encounter me. I'll call out their kids, their computer games, their beer, the temperature of their homes, their dogs, cats, ciggies and satellite TV subscription. Their SUV vehicle, their brand name clothes and full price brand name (not supermarket label...) food.

WordChazer wrote on February 10, 2015, 3:06 PM

It's called a LIST, dammit. You replace what you use and hang the rest of the 'offers'. Online shopping is good for us for making us stick to a list of what we need. Thing is I need to train my husband better and get him to buy the value items I would rather eat than the 'what's on offer' that he's being sold. Sure, I appreciate the cracked black pepper oatcakes he bought me last week in the shopping order, but I asked him to get me cream crackers. I can eat cream crackers dry, or dipped in my 25p value soup. Oatcakes have to be eaten with cream cheese on, separately from soup. So I have to go and buy some cream cheese...

WordChazer wrote on February 10, 2015, 3:16 PM

Creative. That's the sound of the nail being hit on the head. I love to create meals from scratch, with meat or veggies, sauces made from stock and spices and home cooked desserts where I make them. Many people today have no clue about making meals from scratch. I often use recipes from my student cookbooks, things that are easy to size up and freeze like chilli, curry, spag bol, pasta cheese, cottage pie, slow cook or one pot meals. My ex-landlady would make a soup of the week every week which would go with bread, pasta, noodles or meat as a meal. We often have remnants in the freezer of the last chilli or curry, which are easy to defrost and reheat for use with jacket potatoes or rice. A few years ago an old church sister told me how to make rice salad. I can make a hot version for winter or a cold version for summer. It goes with everything. I also taught myself to make risotto and paella as they are also easily sized up, quick and cheap to make.

UK_Writer wrote on February 10, 2015, 4:40 PM

Yes, most deals either are poor value for money £/100g, or you wouldn't have wanted them ever if there weren't a big sign. I'm onto their games though ... they don't suck me in.

UK_Writer wrote on February 10, 2015, 4:42 PM

Some people genuinely believe that making meals from scratch means buying a box of pasta and a jar of sauce emoticon :smile: I keep things simple, to minimise the potential for waste. I only cook for me.

UK_Writer wrote on February 10, 2015, 4:46 PM

I have an abhorrence and fear of oats and lentils :)
I never see reduced food, I think that's for people that live near huge supermarkets. More people are onto it these days - I used to always get something in those sections, not nowadays.

WordChazer wrote on February 10, 2015, 5:04 PM

I'm SO onto their games. My husband isn't quite as clued in, so occasionally I am spoiled. Those oatcakes are lovely!

WordChazer wrote on February 10, 2015, 5:10 PM

'A jar of sauce'? Sorry, I don't understand that phrase. Sauce is better made from what you already have as staples in the house: tomato puree, spices and stock or flour, spices, milk and cheese. Vegetables like onions, mushrooms, peppers, mixed veg, courgettes, leeks... Anything in this house that isn't eaten is frozen or used in the next night's supper. I detest throwing food out unless it's obviously off.

WordChazer wrote on February 10, 2015, 5:18 PM

Yes, we are lucky that we have a big out of town superstore within walking distance. I can eat lentils in moderation if someone cooks them for me, but would not add them by choice to anything of mine. Oats, however, are a dietary staple for me, in breakfast biscuits, porridge, cranachan and more. I also love eggs (boiled, omelette, fried, scrambled or poached) as a cheap and easy filler.

allen0187 wrote on February 12, 2015, 12:22 AM

This is the first time I've read about such a challenge. I'm no stranger to poverty. Look up Manila and you will see the squalor that we see on a daily basis. Anyway, this is a challenge worth trying. Thanks for the share.