Living Below the Line

One pound a day. For five long days. Last week, we undertook the challenge that seems to be sweeping the nation; we lived below the poverty line. Here’s what went […]

One pound a day. For five long days. Last week, we undertook the challenge that seems to be sweeping the nation; we lived below the poverty line. Here’s what went down.

The evening before the ordeal began, we strode into Aldi armed with a shopping list of cheap, basic goods and a £25 budget (£5 each for 5 days). Our trolley was soon filled with an unappetizing combination of porridge oats, pasta, rice, eggs and frozen veg… in other words the dullest, most fundamental products out there. There was no place for indulgent chocolate treats and flavorsome snacks, let alone basics like fruit, meat and cheese. Shop workers looked on in bemused wonder as we calculated the price each time something new was added, rationing quantities down to the penny.

At the checkout, the overall sum came to just under £21 for the five of us. When we finally returned home and tipped out our selection of budget goods it really hit home that the next five days would consist of nothing outside of this limited range. We relished the stir-fry we had that night, knowing that nothing would taste quite so good for a while.

And so the famine fest began. Here’s what you can have the pleasure of consuming on £1 a day folks…

Breakfast: Porridge. Sticky, grey porridge, 5p a serving. Forget about any milk. Splash out with a chopped banana on top and increase the price by a whopping 11p, but it needs that sweetness, and you need those vitamins. The first bite may taste alright, but wait until you’ve finished the bowl. You’ll feel like you’ve consumed a pot of gruel. It may be filling, but it sure ain’t fulfilling.

Lunch: Installed at your desk in the library, craning over your laptop, and it finally hits 1pm. At last you can allow yourself to consume the rations. The cling film-wrapped morsel of a sandwich comes out, and something so simple has never looked so good. The strong peanutty flavor is something of a treat in these tough, tasteless times and despite the thin, cardboard bread, the sandwich is a thoroughly enjoyable experience…while it lasts.

Dinner: While we managed to organize ourselves a different meal each night (what a treat under such a tight budget!), the meals were somewhat lacking in both size and relish…

Dinner for Day 1- 19p but tasteless.

Dinner for Day 1- 19p and totally tasteless.

Day 1: Rice with chilli made with tomatoes, kidney beans and mushrooms. Certainly lacking in meat, and pretty dismal with not even a small dollop of Mango Chutney to top it.

Day 2: Spaghetti pasta topped with tinned tomatoes and added chopped sausage- the meat was eagerly consumed, but the small portion sizes left us yearning for more.

Day 3: Baked potato with (no cheese and) beans. Beans were a treat, but the dish is not nearly the same without cheese and butter. A meal to be described as boring at best.

Day 4: (Economical) pasta bake, i.e. spaghetti pasta lobbed in a dish with a cheap-as-chips jar of ‘Aldi Tomato and Bacon’ pasta sauce. The bacon bits were grey- that’s all I have to say.

Day 5: Rice with frozen veg tasting of, well, nothing. This meal was crying out for Sweet Chili Sauce or something of the sort. But banned from these flavorsome condiments, we gorged the meal purely to eradicate the hunger that was, by this point, a familiar sensation.

As you can imagine, the challenge hit rock bottom at times. Taking part in an intense netball tournament while our teammates sat by scoffing crisps and coke in between matches was a tough call. Not to mention going on a night out on the tap water as our friends sipped on vodka mixers all night (do NOT recommend it).

But despite the hardships we had to endure, we have no regrets about taking on such an arduous challenge. Having initially set our goal at just £50, we’re over the moon at having raised almost £500 towards helping people for whom our hungry few days is permanent reality.

So, next time you slurp on your Jesticle, just think, that’s over four days worth of money for a lot of unfortunate people out there!

Help us get over the half-a-grand mark at