Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Low-Down

Have you seen this logo recently?


It is the 2012 ‘Live Below the Line’ campaign, to encourage people to think about what it really means to live in extreme poverty. Fostermummy, over at My Beautiful Life posted about LBTL recently, and the website is here. Christian Aid, Unicef, The Salvation Army and many other charities are behind this venture. The basic idea is that for just five days from 7th – 11th May, you spend no more than £1 a day on food and drink. This puts you in the same position as someone living ‘below the Extreme Poverty Line’ as defined by the World Bank.

You can then send the remainder of your usual food budget to charity, and get friends to sponsor you for doing it, and generally spend time improving your own awareness [and that of your friends] of just how great is the gap between rich and poor.

imageThe website is full of helpful tips, and a selection of £5 shopping lists, with accompanying menus.

If we did do ‘Live below the Line’, it would have to be later in that week, as we’ll be at the Baptist Assembly and staying with Liz from May 4th-8th” I said to Bob.

“If WE did it?” he responded!

Oops! Even in a happy relationship like ours, where budgeting is a shared activity and we both regard giving and stewardship as an important part of our marriage, I have no right to presume Bob will agree with me. Ultimately, giving is a personal thing between God and the believer.

I am posting about LBTL now because I am still in discussion [with myself and God] about whether or not to take part.

I have no problems with

  • the basic premise behind the scheme
  • living on a low food budget for 5 days
  • doing it from 9th-13th May instead
  • preparing separate meals for Bob if he chooses not to join me
  • having a very restricted choice of foods [rice every day]


  • all the menus rely on buying ‘basics’ range products
  • free range eggs cost more than £1.25 for 15!
  • they suggest you drink nothing except water
  • I normally eat more fruit and veg than this

Whilst I already buy many ‘basics’ products, do I really want to eat Sodium Triphosphate, Tetrasodium Diphosphate, Disodium Diphosphate, and Sodium Sulphite in my sausages?

Is it right to abandon one principle in support of another? [I believe chickens should be happy and free to roam, so prefer to buy free range eggs]

enamel potIf I only drink water, I know I shall get caffeine withdrawal headaches. So that would mean weaning myself off tea and coffee well beforehand – and I do not think I could survive the Assembly without a cup of tea now and then!

If I do not eat enough fibre, I know my IBS will flare up.

Now I am fully aware of the fact that this whole exercise is to help me to understand that people in Extreme Poverty do not have any of these choices.

  • They have to eat whatever food they can afford.
  • Their drink isn’t ‘tea or coffee’ it is usually dirty water
  • IBS is nothing compared to the griping pains of real hunger

So I am dithering here.

rich christians hunger

Perhaps I should put Josephine Tey aside for a while, and dig out this book to read instead? We bought it in 1978 when we were engaged, and were both deeply affected by it.

It might help clarify my thoughts and help me decide whether participating in the LBTL challenge is something I should do.

Are you planning to LBTL in May?

How do you think it will work out in practice for you?


  1. I think you're right to consider the health implications this will have for you. When I read about LBTL on blogs I decided that I would calculate my household spending over the last 3 months - as you know it covers not just food but loo roll, bun cases, foil, sanitary products etc. It averaged out at £1.26 per person per day - and I refuse to buy 'value' meat too. I did buy cheaper eggs a couple of times but have now found that Aldi sell free range at a good price so I'm back to buying those. I may not be living on £1 per day, but considering I live in 21st century Britain I'm living on a low income every day, not just for 5. For that reason I've decided not to take part.

  2. I am interested by this, but I don't think I will be taking part. Like you, I don't want to eat chemicals, and eggs from battery hens, but also because our budget for food is £1.40 per day each and I am confident that we could eat well on £1.00 a day. I have looked at the suggested menus and shopping lists and I think some of the target prices are unrealistic and the menus unhealthy and repetitive. As an alternative I think I will consider severely restricting the amount of water we use over those 5 days, as that WOULD be a hardship, and I would feel the impact much more.

    If anyone is interested in how to eat well on £1.00 a day, there is a thread on this forum (this is not my thread), in the food section.

  3. i think it's a really provocative idea, which in itself is good. I don't think I could do it. I'm thinking of the price of everything here in NI and we would be living like malnourished, sickly-prone folk if we did it. If I did it, as you so wisely say!! And the folk we're empathising with, isn't the healthy plenty of ours just what they would love? I think we can appreciate what we have while still working very hard to help- and if this provokes us out of our complacency to help, then the end is achieved.

  4. I am unsure as a veggie it is so difficult might sound weak at least I have the choice so we will see.

  5. This post is already generating lots of comments on [and off] blog
    I shall do a follow up post next week I think, when I've thought more about what people have said.
    Thanks for putting in your two-penn'orth!

  6. I would normally be raring to join in with this. but I am 22 weeks pregnant so I doubt it would be very healthy not only for me but also the bump. I'm also not sure I could give my DD the milk, fruit and veg she needs on that amount. Leaving my poor hubby to go it alone :(
    I might have a go at planning it out though for the challenge and the mind expansion.

  7. It's very thought-provoking indeed. Do you have to start with nothing and buy everything with the (oh dear, I don't have a pound sterling sign on my keyboard - just a minute whilst I skip over to the html site)...

    ... must you start with nothing, and buy everything for those 5 days with the £5? Or are you allowed to use things you already have and pro-rate the price? (If so you might be able to have your tea after all.) The lack of veggies is a real problem - as it obviously must be for the truly poor.

    Our food budget is so much higher than it used to be, because I've learned the value of good food -and we choose to spend more on food and less on other things. We don't have a lot of money, but we do eat very well, and often when I sit down to a plate of well-cooked, healthy food, I realize how very rich I am despite the low cash flow. (As Maria von Trapp tells an American friend in the book "The Sound of Music": "We aren't poor. We just don't have any money.")

    A knotty problem. I face something similar with regards to fasting - would love to do it on occasion but have a medical condition that would make it dangerous for me to do so.

  8. I've linked to this from my blog, Ang - I'm sure you won't mind. It is interesting to read people's comments on this - and to read the experiences of sopme who took part last year on the site. I don't think I'll be taking part - because I'm too lazy, I'm afraid...but I will try to consider my approach to spending money on food a little more carefully.


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