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Why I’m living off £1 a day

A hundred sounds like a lot of anything – but when you’re talking about pennies – and it’s how much you’ve got to spend on food per day, suddenly, it’s not much, says Anna Cookson

It’s funny how everyone seems to be eating when you’re Living Below the Line. In the street, on the tube, next to my desk at work, people stuffing flyers about take-aways into my reluctant palm and parading banners about tempting treats on advertising boards above my head. I’m craving foods I don’t even like. I knew things were bad when some soap got into my mouth this morning and I thought, ‘Oh, soap actually tastes quite nice!’ Then I realised why... 

I’m Living Below the Line. That means spending just £1 a day on food. It’s not just in solidarity with the 1.2 billion people who live in poverty on our planet - although, that’s part of it - it’s also to raise money for those people through sponsorship. 

I’d been thinking about signing up for the challenge for a long time and it was one of those niggly things that wouldn’t go away. I knew I should do it, but kept putting it off. Too difficult for someone living in London, I told myself. I don’t have time. I’ll be tired. I’ll be hungry. I mean, I spend £5 on lunch alone some days - so £5 for five days felt like trying to squeeze an elephant into a slipper. 

Well, here I am with the elephant and slipper - and I’m doing it! (sorry squashed elephant). I was encouraged to take the plunge after looking on the LBL website. With all their resource and information packs, I realised that with planning, ingenuity and patience it could be possible, even fun (ask me about the ‘fun’ part when it’s over). There are menus and costings and hints and tips... and, as I’m discovering, the recipes are actually delicious. 

Fortunately, I like gruel. I know, I’m strange in many ways, and this is one of them. So, my breakfast of oats and water is not a problem, it’s lovely! I put some ground ginger in too... what could be more appetising!

     

On Monday I did a big shop at a budget supermarket. I managed to pick up a load of bargains. My staples for the week were the oats, 1kg of rice and some dried beans. The beans are where the patience is required. You have to soak them in water for 12 hours, and then boil them for an hour and a half, before they’re ready to cook with... 

For someone used to grabbing food on the hoof this might seem like a bit of a palaver - but it’s actually very satisfying. When I finally cooked the beans with some frozen veg and a bit of slightly stale toasted bread it was the tastiest thing I have ever rustled up. That’s what hunger does for you! 

It’s like a low, persistent gnawing. Uncomfortable but not unbearable. When it gets too much I remember why I’m doing this. Too many people live with hunger as a daily fact of life. These feelings of dizziness and finding hard to concentrate are normal for large swathes of the population across the globe and it shouldn’t be like this. 

I’m Living Below the Line: that means spending just £1 a day on food

When you sign up for Living Below the Line, you get to choose which charity to support. I went with Positive Women, which helps women and children who are living in poverty in Swaziland, southern Africa. Swaziland has the highest HIV prevalence in the world and one of the lowest life expectancies. Positive Women was inspired by the strong ladies in the area - and they set up projects in health and education to make life better. When I’m struggling with the challenge of Living Below the Line, I think about the families that need help. 

And, of course, many people have just £1 a day for everything including food, so I’m lucky. Monday was my hardest day - because I knew how far I had to go, but now I’m adapting and I’m realising why fasting has always been a part of spiritual life. I hadn’t expected it - but I feel clear and connected. I guess it makes life very simple and you learn to trust: “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:3). 

So I know I can do it. It will be bitter sweet when I get there, because although I have this light at the end of the tunnel, for 20% of the world’s population there is no let up; there is no reprieve.

It’s like a low, persistent gnawing

If you would like to sponsor me, click this link here.

Or why not sign up to Live Below the Line yourself? You really do learn a lot about resourcefulness and just how lucky we are to be able to buy an ice cream on a sunny day. 

Find out more at: livebelowtheline or follow @LBLUK on Twitter. 

For your free copy of Premier Christianity magazine, click here.  

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