Thursday, 10 May 2012

Live Below The Line - Roundup

As promised, here is my round up of my Live Below The Line week. For 5 days I lived on £1 a day. Why? Because 1.4 billion people around the world live on this amount, and I wanted to join the hundreds of people around the world raising awareness and money to fight extreme poverty.

First order of business. There are only two days left for you to sponsor my Live Below The Line week! Please sponsor if you can. I'm £40 shy of my target, so it won't take much to get me there. Just go here:

All money goes to UNICEF. And as a reward for helping me reach my target, here's a medley of my LBL breakfasts. Yum. (not yum)


In no particular order, here's what I noticed during that week:

1. Coffee. I drink a lot of it. It provides a warm, delicious punctuation mark during my day. Great. But grabbing a latte from a coffee shop costs at least £2. Twice my daily budget. Nope. Just a water for me, please.

2. Snacking. I snack a lot. All day long in fact. When I can't snack, I feel... weird. Unsettled. Irritated. Saying 'no' to yourself all day is unpleasant.

3. Porridge. Plain porridge. Made with half milk, half water. Everyday.

4. Some stuff I made, was really quite delicious. Like this chickpea and broccoli cooked in chorizo, garlic and lemon:

Very tasty. Just a handful of ingredients. Quick to make. Cheap. What more can you ask for in dinner?

5. Eating when out and about is not possible. There's no 'I'll just grab a sandwich from Pret...' no, sir. Tupperware was necessary. And a microwave. And frankly, that's no fun. Especially when the contents are as dull as my daily rice and vegetable mush.

6. I work at a restaurant. We get free food. I had to say no to pancakes, burgers, burritos, fajitas, taco salads. That sucked. And made me think, holy cow how lucky am I to get FREE FOOD. EVERY. DAY.

7. On my one night out, I was super conscious of how my friends felt. There was an elephant in the room. Conversation kept going back to my diet, how I felt, could I cheat, etc. It made me feel for my friends with severe food allergies or intolerances. They are always having to say no to food, question ingredients, grill waitresses. For a week it was a pain. For life - that really blows.

8. You know that feeling when you start a diet? The first few days when your stomach is adjusting. It felt like that every day. A bit fluttery in the stomach. Not even hunger, more just a niggling feeling that I needed something. And I did. I needed more nutrients. Millions of people live with this feeling every day.

9. Protein is expensive. A couple of very sweet followers commented that I wasn't getting enough protein in my diet which is why I was feeling unsatisfied and weird. I had the luxury of being able to 'buy' an egg and a piece of chorizo from my fridge but that's just not an option for people who actually live on this little.

10. Flavour is important. Life is flatter, duller, less alive without flavour. It's so basic.

11. I wanted to make the photos look pretty. I'm not sure why. Maybe blog-vanity. Maybe habit. I think I wanted to maintain the tone of my blog, even during the challenge. Because the point is that it is possible to live, to survive, on very little, and ultimately I am very lucky that I only have to live like this for 5 day. I didn't want my blogposts to become maudlin or self-indulgent or self-pitying. Even a bowl of porridge can be pretty when you have an iPhone.

12. Waste. When you have very little, you waste very little. I really noticed how much I would have normally chucked in the bin, unused. The big broccoli stem - chopped it up and used it in the vegetable rice. The outer cabbage leaves that were a bit manky - I would have chucked them normally but they just needed a little sprucing, picking off the brown edges. Using the zest as well as the juice of the lemon on the chickpea dish - I was determined to cram as much flavour into my food as I could, and waste as little food as possible.

13. I don't like having to plan. Don't me wrong. I love planning meals in advance, thinking about ingredients, plotting when to try a new recipe. But I don't like HAVING to plan. I like to be able to stick my head in the fridge and know that there will be enough nice ingredients to cobble together something tasty for dinner. I like being able to call out for chinese. I like being able to nip into a sandwich shop or noodle bar. And the reality is that all of those things I take for granted are a luxury, globally speaking. When you only have this to last you for a week: have to plan. Or you'll end up hungry.

14. The main thing is choice. Not having any. I take for granted the amount of choice I have in my daily life. Choice of what I eat. Where I live. What I do for a job. Education. The clothes I wear. Who I marry. When to have children. Amazingly, I sometimes get annoyed at all that choice, saying it's too hard to make a decision when there are so many options. Isn't that ridiculous, really? Kind of gross.

So, I guess the main thing I've taken away from this challenge is to be more aware of the choice that fate has afforded me. Not just choice regarding what I eat. Everything. And that is something to be humble and grateful for.

I've got it good. Really good. I'm lucky.

Thank you UNICEF, for asking me to be part of this initiative. It has been an honour and I've learnt a lot. Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me, sent me a message, left a comment. Thank you for reading and supporting.



  1. An absolutely brilliant round up post - well done on Living Below the Line. You did it well, very well.

    Now it's back to normal, but a slightly different normal because this really does open your eyes doesn't it.

    Again, well done.

    Sue xx

  2. effie,

    apologies for not reading this earlier but it was inspiring to read and you are soooo right about so many things. Knowing you were doing this recently i have started to put less food on my plate and save some for lunch the next day, stop buying starbucks and just make a good old cup of tea at work.

    a million miles away from what you achieved over the week which is quite remarkable so a big well done to you and i promise i will sponsor you very soon so please remind me!

    Joel x

  3. i just found your blog on photograzing, i did live below the line, too and i can really understand just how eye-opening it is (i know, sounds like a cliche, but it's hard to describe it otherwise). Well done!
    xx love all the way from Australia

    1. That's so sweet, thank you for reading! xx