Thursday, 21 April 2011

Day 5 - The Last Day on the Line....for us....for now!

The day started early for Keith as usual - he went off to work at 6:30 am with his dry ham sandwiches.
Next was Thomas and me, as he had a dentist appointment and as it was Children's Day, they were giving away fruit and boxes of Raisins - aaarrrrgh!

Thomas took a box of raisins for tomorrow and they are sitting in the fridge next to the chocolate buttons and a cup cake that I was randomly given on Monday!

We went swimming this afternoon and as it was so hot , had the car windows down. Driving past McDonalds was HARSH!

Eventually we arrived at 'tea time' - jacket pot, beans and cheese 44.9p each and began to think about what it would be like tomorrow, when we could eat what we liked, when we liked.

We have not had tea, coffee, sweets.biscuits, desserts, and a whole fruit each all week - a banana is 12p and an apple an enormous 26p, so we have been sharing.

A tip for families attempting this is to buy in really cheap shops - Lidl and Aldi, and then you can certainly get more for your money.

We have all lost some weight and that has not been a bad thing for me and Keith and I don't really want to put it on again and while I have really missed the treats, I know I can go without and currently feel really guilty even thinking about eating a biscuit.

I hope that the residue of that will stay with me - the reason we have undertaken the challenge is to raise awareness of 1) the issue of extreme poverty and 2) what people can do to help i.e sponsor us and in turn help alleviate this issue where it really matters.

The brilliant thing about the Project is that lots of charities are benefitting, and not just overseas, there are some in the UK too.

It was great going to church this evening to celebrate a Love Feast and we had spared some pennies to cover us for bread and juice - our church friends wanted to know how we had got on and I think Elyse and Thomas were a little overwhelmed at the interest shown in them. We were also given some money towards our target of £150 and want to thank all the people who have sponsored us so far.

Please don't stop giving, just because the challenge is over for us. The official start date is 2nd May so you still have time to plan ( very important if you are working as a team or a family)

The main observation is that each of us has come away from this with a different outcome.

I think it will impact Elyse and Thomas, but they are currently looking forward to eating, and so cannot put their thoughts into words.

Keith has struggled all the way through, but today had a proper conversation with a couple of guys at work about it.

Joe would like to do it again, after his exams and we will actively support him, but not take part. It really enforced what he already knows and working towards a single aim has affirmed him yet again in the life choices he is making.

And me, well I now know just how far my family are prepared to go to support each other in what was a really tough task. I'm proud of that and the money we have raised and the conversations we have had with each other ,the way we have dealt with our differences of opinion and the way we have shared.

It hasn't been a blast, but it has been a wake up call.

Keep giving and thanks for sharing this journey with us. x

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Day 4 - Planning really is the key.

The thing is that you just don't know what it's like and what your reaction is going to be until you are really into it.

For a family, we have discovered that there are 3 ways of doing this - but you will find more:

1) clear out all your cupboards and just spend your money for the week and live on that
2) work out how much everything in your cupboards costs and then live on a £1 each of what you already have
3) Spend your weekly money on staples and try to live on that and soon realise that you ARE going to run out of something and begin to tweak from the pantry.

The tweaking has got more and more throughout the week - we have still lived on £1 each a day, but the lack of variety for most of us who lack the willpower has been really hard.

Reading back on Day one, we were excited and anxious. Today I was just anxious. There is no bread!

Joe seems to be continuing to cope well with the lack of food, but in his enthusiasm, he is policing the rest of us quite hard.

We are all tired and a bit grumpy with each other, so misunderstandings get big pretty quickly. Even I have raised my voice in a fight or flight situation, when normally I would have let it wash over and just walked away.

Keith has really missed out on some relationship building during his first week in a new job, when he could be socialising over a bacon butty. The team know why he is not joining them in the canteen, but he doesn't feel he knows them well enough to ask for sponsorship.

Essentially we have expected Elyse and Thomas to live in a world that they do not understand, one where there is little or no choice and definitely NO chocolate, or chips or chargrilled burgers and all the other delicious things beginning with 'ch'.

The other thing I have noticed is how we use food for entertainment( we eat when we are bored, or just because the food is there) and how much time it normally takes to prepare family meals and therefore how much time we/ I have had on our/ my hands this week. I have nearly read a whole book!

Going into Sainsburys today (to get loo roll) and fretting over whether to buy bread, I became aware of how much stuff there is to buy that just makes life feel better, but isn't really that necessary...but it does make life feel better and, again, how much of it there is - loads!

I bought bread ( Basics 47p for 22 slices).


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Day 3 - Choice vs No Choice

Elyse was at a Birthday party and Sleep Over last night, and we had already decided as a family that she could partake - it would have been rotten not to let her go as it was a rite of passage for her too - her first proper sleep over.I collected her this morning and she had had a wonderful time and proceeded to tell me about breakfast.......and then stopped.

I told her it was ok, but that she was back 'on the line' from now.

It was a quiet day in all as Joe was revising and has decided that he needs to eat little and often to keep concentrating, so it really now doing his own thing with the £1.

Elyse and Thomas then went off to a friends house and Thomas decided to have lunch at home before they went, whereas Elyse was going to chance it at the friends house. We had a conversation about how she would manage and she said she would stick to the line and tell her friend why - he might even sponsor her. She phoned home a little later to make sure her teaspoon of marg. was also included in the price - bless!

Keeping a track of where people are up to is pretty easy for breakfast and lunch- we have a notice board with the prices of all the foods we have bought for the event and then each person has a countdown sheet where we can mark off what we have spent and most importantly what we have left for our main meal of the day,which is where it gets harder and there are always 'issues'. We are all pretty hungry by then and it seems to take ages for everyone to tot up their food.

The thing is we are still living in the realm of ' what would you like to eat' rather than me saying 'Here's what there is - get on with it'

However, supplies are dwindling and the next couple of days might have to be like that!

Keith didn't get in till 7:15 this evening and we needed to be out again by 7:45, so he couldn't enjoy his meal as he had to eat it quickly, and therefore didn't really feel filled up by it. He and I were off to our Small Group where we had to explain why he couldn't have a coffee - no funds left, but that I had budgeted to have a cup of tea. And we couldn't have cake either, but funnily enough, no one did!

Observations from today:
We are all thinking about Friday, when we are 'off the line' - Joe will have Birthday Cake, Thomas is going to buy a Sharing pack of Doritos and not share them and I am considering what Good Friday Breakfast will be.

Keith has lost 6lbs since Sunday
Joe is loosing 1lb a day
I have no idea about me, but think I look thinner!
I am not looking forward to tomorrow, as I am bored of eating the same stuff and want to get more provisions, but we have spent our £25 and that is that.

The next two days will be tougher and I hope will open our minds to more of the issues.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Day 2 - Reality Sets In and More Questions that Answers

I woke up with a splitting headache - surely I don't drink that much tea and coffee that 1 day without leaves me cold..... turkey. ( aarggh)

The other thing generally about today is that EVERYTHING seemed to be about food.

Thomas found it really hard while we were out and about in Maldon in the sunshine as everyone was eating something and tried to find loopholes in the rules - 'Ice cream is definitely not food!'

Elyse was also under pressure and the little local sweet shops with their Easter window displays elicited little moans of despair.
Her reasoning was that surely even the poorest people can save up for treats. The conversation that followed had us going round in circles - if we were in Africa, they wouldn't really know about treats and certainly wouldn't think to save up for something that would mean they couldn't sustain themselves today.

Delayed gratification was the lesson of this day for Elyse and Thomas ' We could buy it today and not eat it until Friday!' ( Readers, this would NOT happen and therefore the answer was NO)

I found myself saying NO a lot and it made our outing slightly less enjoyable than it would have been if I had bought all the snacks they wanted. What it did mean is that we spent time talking to each other ( ok it was about food, but it was enjoyable none the less).

One conversation was about poor people in the UK, which was started by Thomas saying that he couldn't see ANYONE that wasn't eating a snack and therefore there must be no poor people in Maldon. We wondered if maybe people living in extreme poverty just become invisible - particularly families living below the line. Why would mum want to take children to a place that just reminded them of all the things they can't have. Issues of confidence and self esteem stop people ...being people?

Keith also woke with a headache and managed to survive until lunchtime - he went without breakfast! With only 3 pence left after tea, he couldn't have afforded it anyway, BUT the issue of planning is an issue. Did we plan well enough to ensure we had enough variety and range of cost?

In his mind, he is still struggling to see the relationship with our family living on £5 a day and what it really means for those who deal with it in real life. Will we really get to know what it's really like?

We have gone from being able to have what we want when we want it to this - we have suddenly hit ' hard times' and how often is life really like that?

His concern is that there are other implications to take into account, he has just started a new job - he feels tired already, he has struggled with a headache. It is tough.

Joe wanted to postpone celebrating his birthday until after his exams anyway, but it would have been tough to make it different from any other day - I am reminded of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but in our case, the token Chocolate Buttons and any Golden Ticket are remaining resolutely in the fridge. ( 4p each).

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Sunday, 17 April 2011

Day 1 - The New Normal?

So many observations to make from day one of our challenge:

1) Cereal is too expensive and I will be having toast for breakfast tomorrow.
2) Taking time to prepare a cheese sandwich made it much more delicious, as did eating every crumb.
3) Sharing an apple between 4 of us ( one member of the family declined a community fruit)
4) Meal times are controversial.

Actually meal times generally are controversial in the Hall Household and I guess that springs from a) mum not being a domestic goddess and not having the weekly meals planned out and b) being a family cursed by post modernity where there is no absolute and everyone has a preference. There are other reasons too, but not relevant to this challenge.

I think that for a family of individuals, living on £1 a day is easy, but the challenge surrounding it is not.

Bad planning has lead to issues of people doing their own thing meaning the our main meal this evening was a bit of a mess and even this morning, we began to divert from the 'basics' menu - Can I have Nutella instead of Butter? How much is a tea bag and does a splash of milk count? etc

The other issue is that the rules of the challenge to Live on £1 do not reflect the reality of extreme poverty on the UK, in our experience, while recognising that we have very little experience.

People living on the streets in Romford only relating to the issue of food, often get bought cups of tea and coffee by members of the public and can pop into the SA for a meal and on Sunday Mornings, for a coffee and slice of cake. The rules forbid us accepting food from anyone, and this has been mentioned more than once today. I think that this suggests that we are already missing our tea, coffee and cake!

So we wondered if we were replicating the dilemmas of those living in Africa for example - the families that Joe met in Zambia who eat Sheema every day. Are we prepared to eat the same meal everyday?

We reasoned though that communities might pool their resources and do they measure and cost it out to the last .4 of a penny as we have done today? The fact is, we don't know.

Also, are we working as a team of as a group of individuals and does my need for everyone to 'eat something' mean that I am constantly going to be worried about food and everyone else be just getting on with it?

Then there was conversation about the way we use language and how that reflects 'power'. Who is powerful in my family, and if it's not me, how do I feel about it?

Tomorrow is Joe's 17th Birthday ( but that's on hold anyway owing to exam/ revision pressure, Elyse is off out in the evening for a sleep over and I have holiday time. We are planning to pop down to Maldon and......not go into the lovely Deli for lunch :(

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Saturday, 16 April 2011

Preparation for Living Below the Line

Extreme poverty is something that I see on TV, read about in the newspapers and think I have got my head around, but it seems far away from where I am....because it is.

How can you get your head around the fact that people live/ survive on the equivalent of £1 a day and that £1 has to cover everything, not just their food. We could say that it's ok for them because they can grow their own food, but they have to start somewhere and that costs too.

So my family have been challenged to go a little way towards understanding the issues faced and try and raise some money to go towards projects that are working full on to help communities move out of extreme poverty.
For about a week, we have been trying to have a family get together to decide how we will pool our £1 each a day, giving us a food budget for the week of £25.

Live Below the Line have loads of suggestions and recipes to help make the money go further and fortunately I have a week off work, so I can give head space to deciding what the meals will include and look like, but if I was at work I can't see that it would happen.
Keith will be going to work and he has said that he will need lots of help and support to stick to the challenge;
3pm cakes breaks and a subsidised canteen will be tempting him away from his meagre lunch of a sandwich, half and apple and some tap water. Tea and coffee are included in the £1 and have to be budgeted for!

Today, after rummaging through the cupboards and seeing what we already have to inform our 'big shop', we set off to Sainsburys.

Armed with calculator ( on my ipod touch), we were comparing and contrasting the cost and nutritional content of Beans - Heinz, Supermarket brand and Basics range, bread, eggs, orange juice,cereal, fruit and veg.

I suggested going to the market for veg, but even Joe was really fed up by then, and he loves a locally produced bargain. It was stressful!

For Joe there are other issues at stake too - ethical shopping has to be put to one side as Fairtrade and/ or Organic are completely out of our range now. Mind you, we are all going to have to be veggies this week, as, on the face of it, so is meat!

We will be donating the rest of the money we would have spent on our weekly shop to The Salvation Army Generation Project.

If you'd like to sponsor us, you can do the same and we are just getting our donation page sorted on the LBTL website. so watch this space.