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Why we are not taking part in the Live Below the Line challenge this year

I was asked this week to see if we could live below the line ie £1 a day per person.  I declined.   Now I want to explain why.

Firstly the boys both have school dinners, which cost me £2 a day.  So £20 a week.  Their school dinners are fantastic.  They are varied, nutritious, well balanced and above all they love them and they eat well at school.  I know how hard the school and local authority work on provided this service and if they can not do it for any less that £2 per meal then that leaves little hope for me.

I know that low income families get free school meals, but I also know that many people do not qualfy and that finding that £10 per child per week is hard work, but know that it provides them with the ONLY hot meal they will get.

I know from experience that I can NOT provide my family with a balanced, healthy and accessible diet on £20 for five days.

I cook from scratch most days.  We eat as many fruit and vegetables as I can afford and I can make a chicken go a long way, but I can not do this challenge without resorting to beans on toast and potatoes. I am lucky in that I do not use jars and can of sauces and feel that this would be the only way I could manage.  We do not eat a lot of meat, in fact I take quality over quantity with meat and will pay £5 for an organic chicken from Aldi over a £2.50 value chicken.  I find that the "happy" meat not only tastes better, but dores further and makes better stock

My boys are encouraged to eat their five a day at school and to also eat a rainbow.  How can this be done on £1 a day?

I have produces a live Below the Line menu plan on Frugaliscious Food for 5 main meals for less than £20 which includes fruit and vegetables and it is nearly impossible.  The meal plan really does not include enough fruit and veg for my two growing boys and this made my decision for me.

I would love to know your thoughts on this.  Are you taking part?  Does this campaign highlight the real issues?


  1. I will not be taking this challenge on, although I could do it if necessary. No it would not be healthy for growing children, yes it would be plain and simple with no choice. If you live in poverty you have no choice you just hope to make the food last all week.
    I support a local charity, I sponsor a dog with the dog Trust and I bake for 2 people who would otherwise not have cakes and biscuits. I count myself very fortunate that I am able to do this.

    1. I think that it is a great way to raise awareness of poverty and that I could do it too. But I do not see the benifit from me cooking one meal for myself and then a different one from my family.

  2. I am blogging about this later in the week. I think that some of the issues have got confused - if people are 'trying to experience what it is like to live in extreme poverty' then their menu plans would not include budget foods from 4 different supermarkets [you'd need a car to get to them] and also they would have the same boring meals day after day [rice, rice, rice...] You can take that challenge yourself- but I do not think you should make your children do it
    If what you want to do is 'feed a family healthily on a very tight budget' that is a different matter altogether.Your menus on the other blog show how well you can do that, Jen.
    Watch out for my post, and then do let me know what you think! I suspect I may upset some people with my comments.
    You go on being the thoughtful caring Mum that you are - your boys are being brought up to think of others, and not to waste things - and those values are part of their daily experience,not a one-week-challenge. For that, I applaud you! xx

    1. The supermarket issue was one that I was trying to get across on Frugalicious. The menu plan I made would have actually cost over £12.50 more from the co-op in the village and £7 more from Tesco's, which is a bus ride away and then you would have to factor in bus fares. My car gives me access to cheaper food at the likes of Lidl and Aldi.

      I think that discussions like this are healthy for everyone.

      The boys are aware that there are people in the world who have much less food than we do and waste is a big issue for them. I think the fact that in the developed world that we throw away enough food to feed all the hungry is a shocking statistic and we do our bit by reducing our waste as much as possible.

    2. The car thing (driving further to "save" money) is something I did figure into my one-month "one pound per day" challenge a year ago. Even if I didn't charge myself fuel costs, it made sense that driving more than usual to save money should be considered cheating. Driving less than usual, however, earned me "free car miles", so I ended up carpooling and walking more.

      A few other gripes I have with the "live below the line" challenge rules, which I think aren't realistic:
      - A meal *any* day can't be more than one pound, even if you stayed well below that limit on previous days. In real life, people would live more frugal for a few days so they could have nicer food on occasion. Rich or poor doesn't make a difference. The challenge rules don't allow for that.
      - Donated food is not permitted. Kind of makes sense (where's the challenge otherwise?) but would people living under the poverty line say "no" to free birthday cake or someone offering them a cup of tea? I think they'd make the best of their particular situation. Technically, the challenge rules don't allow for that either. The amount of free food I've had to decline already... and it's only day 2.

    3. I am trying to see the chal;lenge as a way to highlight the issue of food poverty and anything that does that must be seen as a good thing.

      But I do feel that food waste should be tacked at the same time as people, shops and supermarkets throw away far too much food. More than enough to feed everyone that goes hungry.

  3. I think this is the most fascinating post and comments I've read in months.
    My partner is on a good wage, and we get a little Family Tax Credit, but we have 7 children (5 of whom are teenagers), so money is very tight. I do often produce main meals that cost £1 per person, but to live like that every day would be really boring and it is often dependent on me catching a bargain and stocking up, and rarely includes any 'pudding'.
    I get my shopping delivered because I can pick a cheap slot and that's cheaper than driving my van, and I buy all the bent bargains and use by's when I go into a shop. I don't meal plan until I am actually doing my shopping because then I can see what is on offer!

    1. I dread to think what it will be like then the boys are larger, they are pretty bottomless at the moment.

      I want the boys to eat healthily and really wish that rather than focussing on trying to eat a meal for £1 per person that they was a great push on tackling food waste.

      People, shops etc throw away more than enough to feed everyone who goes hungry.

  4. Hi, I think this is my first visit here, I came over from my make do and mend year. Thanks for this post, it's interesting to read the other side of this challenge. For the past few days it's pretty much all I've read about on all the blogs and I love to see someone who isn't doing it talk about it.

    I'm not doing it either for a few reasons but mainly because I've been without food in my life and I don't want to do it again! I agree with lots of the other points raised here about not eating donated food, driving around to get cheaper deals. Being in a situation where you can prepare and store food rather than not having decent cooking facilities and running the risk of your food being nicked or going off etc.

    I think my fundamental issue with anything like this is that I'm not sure what long lasting effect "awareness" has- does awareness lead to anything long term? But that's probably a totally different issue!

    1. Nice to meet you and will be off for a good read after this!

      I feel that this is just the same people raising awareness and that it might be wider ranging if a focus on food waste was highlighted.

  5. I've done this challenge for the past two years and am just highlighting it for others this year on my Blog, as it really catches folks imagination.

    And THAT is exactly what it is supposed to do, simply highlight that there is still lots of poverty in this country and overseas and make as many people as possible aware of this and if lots of people pushing themselvles and throwing themselves headlong into a challenge like this raises some much needed money for the charities that are struggling to help those in need at the same time, then I think it's brilliant.

    Good luck to all those that are taking part especially those that are involving their children, what better education can they get in this consumer driven society than a moment or two's hunger.

    And even though you are not taking part by raising the issue you have helped highlight the challenge in a thought provoking and very interesting way.

    Well done :-)

    1. You are right Sue, anything that raises awareness is good. I agree it must be really hard doing this with children. I would be really concerned about the lack of nutrition etc

  6. Hi there,

    Restless Development is a major charity partner in the Live Below the Line campaign, and has been one for the past three years.

    We take part because it is a great way for people to connect with challenges that 1.2 billion people and more face around the world. It's commonly stated by most who do live below the line that they realize that the challenge is not an accurate reproduction of the diverse and incredibly nuanced experiences of those living in extreme poverty. However, it is a valuable tool to stimulate conversation. It's really great to see that people are engaging critically with extreme poverty and food (in)security.

    thrift budget asks "does awareness lead to anything long term?" Well turn that question on its head, "How can anything long-term be achieved without awareness?" (Note that the number has recently dropped from 1.4 to 1.2 billion people in extreme poverty)

    It is important to see the connections between the decisions we make about food here in the UK and elsewhere. (Interesting video that explores the issue And, of course, it is essential to draw attention and action to the challenges many people in the UK face in getting healthy meals on the table. We target our efforts to Nepal, India, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, focusing on young people, but fully support important work being done by other individuals and organizations in the UK and elsewhere.

    I think the one thing to really highlight from this conversation is the choice that you all have been able to enact. You've chosen for many valid reasons to take part or to not take part.

    Unfortunately, too many people do not have the same range of choice available, but that does not mean they are without agency. We work with young people who are making positive change in their lives and the lives of their communities despite a lot of choices that have been curtailed due to poverty and inequality.

    Please do take a look at our blog { (comment is welcome :))and website (

    1. My point about legacy and long term effect was about the people taking part in the Live Below The Line week. People will have fun, or not, this week doing the experiment, some will donate some money but these blogs will be back to cupcakes and feltmaking next week. Will the rest of the year be altered by the "awareness" raised by this week? Or will people believe they've done their bit and treat themselves to a nice bit of chicken as a reward for scrimping all week?

      It's like Christmas, or other celebrations where people promise to keep that happy feeling all year but by the second week of January we're once again complaining about the queue at the post office or the fact that the delivery man squidged the loaf of bread under a tin of beans. Intentions are good but they're generally short lived.

  7. Fair point.

    We fervently hope that awareness turns into intention and then action (whether that's fundraising or major life changes!) and will partner this with other advocacy and campaigning.

    Perhaps one can view the campaign, which raises such thoughts and discussion as planting seeds of change.

    Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

  8. We missed the boat on joining the challenge but inspired, I've done our entire weekly shop on £28, so £1 per person per day for a family of 4. Here's what that shopping looks like all laid out.
    We are going to have to eat a lot of carrots and peas to reach our 5 a day and the only meat we have is a bag of frozen mince. There is 2 bags of apples and a bag of oranges hiding at the back of the pic. What I think will happen with the fruit is us adults will be going without so the children don't have to.


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