Well I did it. My five days of Living Below the Line, on £1 a day are over and I am delighted to have raised some money for Africa’s hungriest country – Burundi. Thanks to those who supported me. You can see my shopping list and menu online and still donate at https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/janef

People have asked me what I lived on for those five days and how I found it. Well I’m not gong to fib – it was difficult and my stomach did feel empty 75% of the time. But the added pressure in developed countries is the abundance of food around us; people eat at their desks at work, the television is full of food adverts and cookery programmes and there is a shop selling something delicious to stuff in your mouth within a mile for most of us.

The Global Poverty project had loads of advice and recipes about what to eat – focussing on bread, lentils and soups. A number of my colleagues at Send a Cow got through the challenge with lots of pasta and toast but I don’t eat these much and didn’t want to start now.

So I rather ambitiously decided to create my own menu built around one main meal late in the day that would ensure a good night’s sleep. And luckily Lidl opened in Bath in the run up to Live Below the Line so I was able to buy three key ingredients there for just 93p. The tomato passata, tinned kidney beans and chickpeas were a feature across the week plus 400 grams of cheap white rice, 110 grams of cheap penne pasta, chunks from one large carrot and pieces from a stick of celery. I also allowed myself 30p towards cheap oil and tiny dashes of spices from my store cupboard, including cumin, paprika and a clove.

'Meating' my challenge

But where I wildly differed from other people doing the challenge was in my determination to get some “meat” protein during the five days. My initial plan had been to use soya mince but I soon realised this was too expensive. My saviour came in the form of Morrison’s who sell lambs kidneys cheaper than my usual supplier – a farm shop – and amazingly sold anonymous cubes of pig heart. So with one rasher of cheap smoked bacon I had meat for three meals - although I had to radically reduce the quantity I could eat to make my £5 budget work.

So first thing I had my usual porridge but with half unsweetened soya milk and half water and a stovetop espresso with cheap Aldi coffee that I am still drinking! The meal cost 12.6p a day. Lunch was a homemade vegetable juice of carrot, apple, lemon and fresh ginger, which I told myself, was like a cold soup. This cost 32.6p a day.

   Jane's lamb kidney stroganoff


My evening meals averaged out at 54.8p a day and consisted of: a lamb kidney stroganoff – no cream, a vegetarian chilli without peppers and fresh chilli, a bacon penne all’amatriciana – sort of, a curryless bean curry and lentil dhal because I had no curry powder in the cupboard (!) and a pig heart casserole which I saved until day five in the full expectation of binning it and waiting until one minute past midnight for a bacon buttie. But as it turned out after two hours in the oven earlier in the week and another hour cooking on the hob, pig heart is OK - which is just as well as I have at least two more meals of it in the freezer.

Amazingly all of it was quite edible and Wednesday’s curryless curry was too big. And white rice. Who knew? After years of chomping on brown rice it came as a pleasant surprise.

A challenge for minds and stomachs

What struck me about this challenge was how much you had to think about food and how much you needed to eat so you could function and not want to curl up in a ball all day. Also I had the privilege of doing this for just a short time in a well equipped and comfortable home where I could get lost in the radio and TV, settle down in lamplight with a good book or chat to friends on the phone. And by posting whacky photographs of my meals to friends following my challenge on Facebook, I could get words of encouragement. None of this luxury is available for Africa’s poorest who spend their days struggling to earn enough to have just one basic, meat-free meal a day and their nights sitting and sleeping on hard earth floors.

Would I do it again? No. Has it changed me? Yes.

I am more aware than ever of how lucky we are to have food security. The availability of food frees you to get on with your life. And while I know I have always worked very hard for the pound in my purse, I’m not sure I have always spent it wisely. Being less self indulgent and a little more aware is good for me and I hope that stays with me always.