This morning I woke up at 6.30. By 7 am I was walking back home from the shop clutching 4 pints of milk as if they had been a piece of gold.
By 8 am I had had a bowl of cornflakes swimming in milk, a banana and two white coffees.
The rest of the day I ate panzanella that I had made with the leftover bread, onion, fresh tomatoes and fresh cucumber. I had it for both lunch and dinner but it felt really scrumptious, with the fresh salad vegetables, olive oil and vinegar I dressed it with.
I had more coffee for snacks, including a cappuccino when I met a friend at a local cafe' just after lunch, plus a couple of plums and another banana.
None of this particularly extravagant, but a luxury nevertheless.
For 5 days I lived on rice, carrots, potatoes, peas and eggs. I promise I will never say again I could eat rice every day as I used to say until last week.
I had tinned fruit whose only difference from water was its consistency (and even that...). I made my own bread because, although it probably didn't cost less than the cheapest bread I could have bought, it was certainly less revolting.
I could have eaten sausages, at £1 for a pack of 20, but seriously, £1 for 20 sausages? What exactly is in them?
Living below the line, for food, can be done. You need to put up with having no choice, sticking to pulses and root vegetables, a few eggs thrown in and tinned fruit. You need to have military planning skills to work out what your meals are going to be each day, down to the last grain of rice (not that the choice of ingredients makes for a very varied menu, anyway).
You need to spend hours trawling from one shop to the other, with pen and paper to check out the prices of each and every item you are thinking of buying, so you can get the very cheapest.
You need to pick up rolling apples by the side of the road, and to pretend not to notice the till assistant making a mistake in your favour when adding up your total.
I also had the luxury of clean, drinking water to replace my coffee. In poverty stricken areas of the world, that is a luxury they don't always (or maybe even often) have.
I am not a big spender. I do one big shop every few weeks and only ever buy what is on offer at lower prices. Even so, the food I usually buy adds up to more than £1 a day, especially because the one big shop every few weeks doesn't include many fruit and veg that I then buy according to need and regardless of offer (the quality of fruit and veg on special offer is usually, although not always, pretty dire).
My caloric intake went well below acceptable limits. However, my life isn't particularly active. Yes, I cycled and I walked during those 5 days, but I didn't have to walk to go and find some water and then carry it back for miles. At the back of my mind, there was always the thought that if I really had had enough, I could open my kitchen cupboard, or freezer, and rustle up a decent meal. It was my choice not to do so for 5 days. Some people don't do it by choice, on a permanent basis.
On top of that, the challenge allowed the whole daily pound for food and drinks. The poverty line covers food and non grocery expenses.
It's a humbling thought. I feel lucky I was born and live in the right part of the world.
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