Lethargic and grumpy. Embarrassingly even my boss has noted a cattier edge to my voice. In meetings my mind is drifting off into fuzzy oblivion. I’m slow and unproductive. On my way home yesterday, I went the wrong way on the tube.
Why am I like this? Well it might have something to do with the fact I’m surviving on less than £1 worth of food every day for five days.
Since Monday morning, I’ve been taking part in the Live Below the Line challenge. Highlighting the plight of 1.4 billion people worldwide, the campaign encourages people to spurn the biscuit tin and survive on less than US $1.25 worth of food a day. Why $1.25? It’s the World Bank’s definition of extreme poverty.
And it’s tough. It’s tough even in a country where considerable competition in the grocery sector has led to a race to the bottom in price. I can only imagine how hard it must be in a society where vendor options are few, competition is scarce and prices are high.
Surprisingly, the challenge for me so far has been less about a lack of food, and more about a lack of nutrition. That said, my six foot four boyfriend, who has also heroically stepped up to the plate (excuse the pun), has been hungry for the past three days.
It was my boyfriend who chose and bought all of our items for this challenge. Pooling our resources, he took on the Tesco Everyday Value range with just a tenner to cover fifteen meals.
I must admit that I was a little taken back with his choices. I’d envisaged a week of beans, lentils, pulses and rice – a week of healthiness and hungriness in equal measure. When he came bearing a bag of frozen sausages, my heart sank through the floor.
‘Where are the beans?’
‘They’re too expensive.’
‘Where’s the rice?’
‘It’s too expensive.’
‘I take it we’re not eating any vegetables for the next five days.’
‘Harri – do sod off.’
He had a fair point. A tin of mixed beans, a packet of lentils and a bag of rice will cost you £2.81 at Tesco. A pack of 20 frozen sausages, tinned tomatoes and a packet of penne pasta will cost you £1.61. A quick look at the price of vegetables on MySupermarket and I soon realised why we would be forgoing our five a day this week. Just two peppers will cost you £1.56. Is it any wonder that he eschewed the healthier options?
So we’re currently surviving off porridge, sausage sandwiches and sausages with tinned tomatoes and pasta. Plenty of carbs – I’m seeing away more calories now than during a normal week – but nothing in the way of decent protein, fruit or vegetables. And it’s taking its toll on our concentration and energy.
This challenge for me highlights both the difficulties faced by the world’s poor, as well as issues in our own country, where healthy living comes at considerable cost. There’s clearly something wrong when a pack of oven chips costs the same as just one pepper.
As one of my colleagues said, ‘I’m guessing you’ll want a massive burger at the end of all this.’ Oh hell no. I want a chicken salad. And a cup of tea.