Next week, my family and I, including my two children aged nine and 14, will embark on what has become an annual challenge for us: to live on £1 per day to raise funds for Barnsley Churches Drop-in Project.
The charity, which I volunteer for every week, provides meals for the homeless in Barnsley so, when I first heard about the Live Below the Line challenge in 2013, it seemed like a great way to support this important work and raise some much needed funds.
That first year I think I romanticised the challenge. I pictured us eating baked squash and tuna fishcakes. I shop frugally, and hate food waste. To be honest, I thought I would walk it. The reality check was swift and hard. We couldn’t afford cheese. Or tuna. The basics for making a ‘quick and cheap’ meal were beyond our reach. I didn’t do that much planning, which meant that several times I misjudged the amount of food. One evening, after eating her own tea, my daughter, then aged six, asked to try my soup. Then she ate it. All. And there was nothing left for me. It was overwhelming to realise that many people make that sacrifice every day.
In subsequent years I have planned the challenge meticulously. Gathering food prices, comparing shops, checking recipes. But it hasn’t made it any easier. Every time I forget how hard it is, until it’s too late. Around Day 3, I’m demotivated, exhausted and, above all else, completely overwhelmed and obsessed about our next meal and how best to stretch the small amount of food we have. It is relentless. The mental strain, along with the lack of a healthy varied diet, makes for a difficult combination. I can see how hard it would be to be motivated and optimistic while living like this over a sustained period.
One of the hardest things to live without is fruit and vegetables. I try each year to keep our diet relatively healthy. But every time, my children do and I do not. Outside of the challenge I have a milkman, and buy free range eggs. I consider animal welfare and food miles. But during the challenge those kind of things are not even on my radar. We need to eat something cheap. I don’t have the luxury of caring where it came from.
But despite all this, we’re doing it again. My family and I are choosing to live this way for one week to raise awareness for those who have no other choice, but also to help us to value what we do have. If you would like to donate to BCDP we would be so grateful. https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/livebelowtheline2016