I took the challenge for quite a few reasons, all of which you need to remember when someone offers you a coffee in the morning or puts grapes in front of you saying they are only small they would be OK to eat on a budget. Temptations are all around and would be so easy to indulge, but the reasons are there and it is a challenge because it is a challenge!

I didn’t take the challenge lightheartedly; my main push was to have a greater understanding of hunger and poverty issues through experience. An encouraging sideline to this is: by participating in the challenge, it is me who experiences it but also everyone I speak to about it or read about it will have an experience with it too. Through experience people have a greater connection to something and I wanted to provide an opportunity for more people to gain understanding about the poverty line and the 1.4 billion people who live under it.

5 days at NZ$2.25 a day totals to NZ$11.25 – just a small sample of the mammoth amount of maths I had to do.

Here is my final shopping list:

Live Below the Line Food

My menu for the week, costing a grand total of $10.62.

Lentils x 4 portions – $2.16
Mixed beans x 5 portions – $1.55
Oats x 5 portions – 87c
Rice x 4 portions – $1
Banana – 40c
Leek – $1
Potato – 60c
Broccoli – 50c
Spinach $1
Miso soup – 4c
Lemon – 40c
Flour – 12c
Honey – 3c
Oil – 5c
Spices & seasonings – 90c

Total: $10.62

During the five days, and the lead up, there was a lot of concern for me and how I was coping and feeling. I had great support (other than a suggestion of eating mud as it would be free and filling). I was very touched by all the concern but couldn’t help but feel guilty that I was getting so much attention when 1.4 billion people around the world weren’t. I had an end date, it was only five days and then I could choose. The main word here is choice. The 1.4 billion people who live on NZ$2.25 a day do not have that choice.

There was some tweaking throughout the week; predominantly when mid-week an unforeseen tragedy took place. I had purposely delayed lunch as I wouldn’t be home till 8 or so for dinner. So I rock on up to the fridge to get my lunch – red lentil dhal with rice – when I see a sticky note on the container. This isn’t unusual, we name and date our food with sticky notes, but this was a big one, with lots of writing. The note was explaining my container had fallen out of the fridge resulting in over half my rice pouring over the floor and eventually ending up in the bin.

Below the Line - Spilled Food

No use crying over spilled rice.

Of all the containers in all the fridges why oh why did it have to be this one?! There were a few people from my team when I discovered the note; no one really knew what to say. I was laughing although I had slight tears in my eyes, mostly out of tiredness and the situation rather than losing the rice, well kind of about losing the rice! Luckily there was enough left to accompany the dhal, which was luckily in another container. I decided not to be so hard on myself and take the hit. I subbed out 17c (one portion of rice) and so was in surplus…after some calculations and an addition to my existing surplus for emergency tea I had a grand total of 43c and only two days to go. Another alteration came when I had been rather generous with the measurements of nutmeg and cinnamon to make my porridge more appetising. Some of it needed to go (and sits in my cupboard untouched 5 weeks later) and honey was introduced.

I would love to say I have reformed my eating habits, but the reality is it takes a great deal of planning. I spend less on food and am a bit more creative with the ingredients I have, and eat out less. These are small steps but I feel it is an experience that, over time and rumination, I will gain more understanding from.

If you are interesting in the challenge here is the link to find more information. Currently you can take the official challenge in USA, UK, Australia and NZ: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/