Living below the line- the first 2 days

I must confess my Saturday night excursion to the local megastore  was not as bargainful as I had hoped. I may have peaked too early in the week when I found my 20p squished kingsmill (usually reduced bread near its sell by date is still around 80p, and Kingsmill is one of the few widely available breads that is also stamped kosher).
I had planned to buy up cheap veggies that were reduced, but a bag of REDUCED cauliflower and broccoli was still well over £1 and it was enough to make maybe 2 bowls of soup. I also couldn't bring myself to buy battery eggs and non fairtrade hot drinks, though I still have £1.20 to play with.
What I ended up with was:
A bag of value onions, red lentils, value spaghetti, red cabbage, value tinned tomatoes, a head of garlic and value butter (my big splurge for the week as will make toast yum and frying for sauces etc accessible). Plus my kingsmill in the freezer.
Breakfast has been the same both days; buttered toast. Not so different to my usual! What was immediately different was Sunday morning, as we planned a day of visiting grandparents and playing in the park, I realised we couldn't just 'pop in' somewhere, so everyone (even those not living below the line at home) needed a packed lunch prepared. So my spaghetti with sautéed onions and garlic needed to be prepped (and baby and hubbies pasta salad thrown together) before we could think about getting on with our day. 
The social contracts and impacts around food continued to strike me today. As I passed St Paul's cathedral, site of Occupy protests, the steps were all occupied by people munching on sarnies, sushi and coffees that largely cost more than I (and of course many others) will spend on food all week. No socializing in restaurants, no 'meeting for a coffee'. And of course for most people really living below the line, traveling to such social occasions isn't an option. Food is for many something we totally take for granted, and revolve much of our day and socialising around.
Many friends have had wonderful suggestions for making this week work, but many of them serve to demonstrate how difficult negotiating a healthy diet can be in the west and on a tight budget - they range from growing your own (a challenge if you don't have your own garden, or are moving around a lot) to heading to certain areas of town to bulk buy certain ingredients, to foraging and benefitting from food freebies around London. All of which would constitute a full time job and requires a travel budget. As one wise discusser pointed out, this stuff is all much easier in a community, and food poverty (poverty generally) is certainly an isolating experience for many.
So for dinner last night I enjoyed a tasty red lentil soup, with bread and butter. Tonight's dinner is the same mostly because I'm too tired to cook my exciting pasta sauce ingredients and red lentil soup is soo easy. Lunch was an experiment that thankfully worked- left over lentil soup on spaghetti. Cold. I was at a meeting and I must thank the organiser who in solidarity with me didn't buy the gathered clergy any biscuits! I thank them all for their sacrifice!
Not snacking has been something I've noticed the lack of, but going without nosh and squash will certainly do me no harm. Taking all my protein from lentils is more challenging, and I do think I will need to use some of my leftover money for fresh fruit/ veg. 
But of course on Friday I can also return to my usual intake, which many cannot. I don't expect what I am doing to massively change anything, though I am thankful to all of you engaging in conversations and attempting to understand the issues more... and to those of you I know struggling to make money go as far as it can for sharing your wisdom and struggles - it is your voices that can bring this reality to the fore. And to all of you inspired to help make a difference for those living in extreme poverty through the work of Tzedek, it's not too late to give! 


  1. brilliant to bring this to the public's attention. Some people living in cramped or inadequate housing also have no where to cook or store the food. Or they lack the physical ability to chop , grate, cook ect safely . Since my neurological injury has stopped my ability to cook safely on my own I live on cold food completely. I have gotten so used to it that its not a problem for me at all. But when talking to people in the community and at all the regular assessments disabled people like myself the discussion of "hot meals" often comes up as well. Not everyone has a community or group of friends that is lucky enough to invite round for or deliver hot meals . One of my friends (who I won't name ) is OBSESSED about me having "hot meals" that we often tease her about it. All joking aside although its possible to survive on cold food (cereal , milk , fruit , veg ect) A rotisserie chicken from Greenspans tastes nicer than weetabix with milk or water


Post a Comment

Popular Posts