When Rev Kate Bottley agreed to spend no more than £1 a day on food and drink, she thought plain food would be no big deal. The reality of living below the breadline was much tougher.

It all seemed like such a good idea at the time. When I agreed to Live Below the Line for Send a Cow last year, April was months away. It was only as Christmas whizzed by and the New Year began that I began to think about just how tough this challenge might prove to be.

Send a cow have been in our lives as a charity for years, starting right back when our children were christened. A kind Godparent bought us a virtual gift for our firstborn’s dunking and so I was keen to help, besides April was months away.

The idea is simple enough, large parts of the developing world live on less than a pound a day for food and drink, could I do the same? I was naive, thinking ‘I’d just eat porridge or pasta or plain rice, how hard could it be?’ As it turns out it was pretty hard.



Here’s what I learned through the challenge:

I’m more addicted to caffeine than I thought
Breakfast was porridge and was fine the first morning, except for the glass of water rather than the cup of hot steaming caffeine filled Java. Lunch not too bad, a bowl of onion soup I’d prepared a massive batch of (I’m happy to never see Onion soup ever again) but quite quickly the fatigue kicked in.

I found myself grumpy and irritable, and blamed the lack of caffeine. I don’t consider myself a massive caffeine addict but I soon found out my addiction is much worse than I thought.  I’m not sure if it was the caffeine or not but I also found reading and writing tricky, I got my words mixed up and it took me about four attempts  to compose each tweet.

Plain food is really boring
The boredom was also something that took me by surprise. Plain rice is transformed by a glug of chilli or soy sauce, pasta by a sprinkle of cheese of dash of olive oil, I discovered it’s actually very rare I eat anything ‘plain’.  I found myself trying to work out how much that grind of pepper would cost me!

I love fruit and veg (and meat)

My Mum will be thrilled to hear I missed my veg and my fruit, on the Tuesday night I dreamt of pineapples and giant nectarines. I ended up eating tins of mushy peas and tomatoes as my body craved Vitamin C and something without starch.
Meat was off the menu of course, far too expensive, but it didn’t stop me looking longingly at the kids’ left-over chicken for tea on Thursday.

It’s just not fair
The injustice was also a wake up and the way that food brings our family and friends together. We were filming one of the nights with our Gogglebox team and everyone else tucking into Chicken curry while I ate onion soup (again) made this usually peaceful woman of God contemplate an act of violence (how much damage can onion soup inflict?) I ate quickly and left the room while they carried on chatting and eating, food seemed to have become a chore rather than a pleasure.

Being hungry is exhausting
I was also incredibly tired. A couple of nights I went to bed much earlier than usual just to avoid being tempted to eat. I slept well but found myself tired out quickly. I often run during the week the idea of just walking the dog was too much. The thought that people have to do back breaking farming work on an empty stomach really hit home, I didn’t want to do anything very much at all.

My husband is a funny man
Once the 5 days were over Graham, my husband promised me breakfast in bed. I had in mind coffee, bacon, white bread, fried egg and toast with butter, a little fruit salad and some yoghurt. Graham brought me porridge, he thinks he’s funny.

It was a great experience and one I would recommend, but not one I’m in a hurry to repeat! I appreciate not everyone can, or should commit to living on £1 a day, but there are other ways you can help. You can try having a “lite” day, organise a fundraising lunch or dinner or donate what you would spend on a weekly shop or your weekly treats. If you'd like to get involved, you can visit our Live Below the Line page.