Life below the line

by workshyscrounger

While googling cheap meals, I came across the Live Below the Line campaign. It’s all about “challenging the way people in the UK think about poverty and making a huge difference”. Extreme poverty affects 1.4 billion people in the world. Translated to the UK conditions, it means that they have less than one pound a day to spend on everything. The campaign asks us to survive five days spending up to £5 on all food and drink.

Pretend you’ve got no money
The recipes suggested by the campaign are ridiculous: traditional jam and porridge – 50g of oats and one tablespoon of jam. It’s only nine pence! Only you cannot buy three pence worth of jam or a third of a carrot. The problem is having to buy all the basic kitchen ingredients in one go so that then you don’t end up eating jammy porridge on water for every meal. Yes, a bottle of oil will last you quite a while. However, every week we spend £3.18 under the broad “cooking” category – oil, flour, tin foil, tomato puree, spices – cupboard staples that you cannot do without if you are cooking everything from scratch.

You’re so funny
There are some more “money-saving” ideas. However, replacing ketchup with a home-made concoction based on canned tomatoes is bad economy – a bottle of value ketchup is cheaper than a tin of tomatoes. Pizza base without yeast? Haven’t you just call it chapattis a few pages ago?

I can’t see anyone else smiling in here
The full menus are even worse – value sausages with 40% meat content. Stock cubes used liberally. Hardly any fish. Hardly any fresh vegetables. Hardly any dairy. Breakfast is bread. Dinner is rice or pasta with frozen veg or a jar of sauce. Or a home made pizza. How uninventive, how tedious, how unviable in the long run.

You’ll never live like common people
I thought that the blogs of people who took part in similar “experiments” would be more worthy. Not a chance. It’s all about the joys of bargain hunting at supermarket closing times and free canapés at art gallery soirees. Or bumping foodstuffs of well meaning housemates and using stuff already in the cupboard. Or going hungry. It just five days so who cares.

If you call your dad he could stop it all
To me, this looks more like governmental propaganda than an awareness raising campaign. All the posh folk foregoing their daily grande skinny vanilla latte with soy and a blueberry muffin for five days thinking it makes any bit of difference or that now they “know” what it’s like to be poor (with the perspective of a huge blow-out at the weekend because, of course, they deserve it after all the deprivations you’ve suffered).

Common people like me
I didn’t know how much we actually spend on food and drink. Our weekly budget of £45 includes toiletries, cleaning stuff, small household items, stationery and the like. It was quite sobering to see that the average from the last eight weeks is £1.9 per day each. Every week the prices are going up and we can buy less and less for that amount.

The campaign has raised £71k so far. Why does the British public have more empathy towards poverty in far away countries than to what is happening on their own doorstep?