Living Below the Line

Given that one of the three guiding principles of Permaculture, which underpins what we do in Transition, is “Fair Shares” I hope that you will allow me to post a short piece here about my experiences “Living Below the Line”.

This week I have b


seeing what it is like to live on just £1 a day for food and drink, primarily as a practical reminder for me that a fifth of the people in the world live on very very little.

I’ve just finished, so fortified with a lovely cooked breakfast and cup of tea – my first since last Sunday, I thought I’d write about my experience.
My shopping list for the five days:
- Porridge oats (500g) 55p
- Rice (1kg) 40p
- Sugar (250g) 65p
- Milk 1pt 49p
- 5 carrots, 5 small onions 80p
- 5 potatoes 32p
- Small tub marge 90p
- Small loaf bread 60p
- Salt 29p
- Total £5
- Drinks – water.

So what did I miss most? Variety – it’s very boring eating the same meals every day, without the different textures and flavours. Fruit and veg – I’m guessing my vitamin intake was low. In the long term I would certainly be lacking vitamin C. Energy

– by the end of the week I was feeling lethargic and l

azy. I couldn’t be bothered. Caffeine – well yes, I know I have a serious caffeine addiction and the headaches go to prove that. Perhaps a week without tea and coffee is a “good thing” now and again. Rewards – not being able to say to myself “I’ll just finish this task then I’ll have a coffee and cake”. Comfort food – it’s tough when you’ve had a bad day and you can’t say “Ooh let’s have a treat – a cream trifle” (or whatever). Alcohol – what, no brandy, no glass of wine?! Roll on Saturday night!

The other thing I noticed is the time it takes to shop around for bargains. I wasn't free to just nip round the supermarket, chucking anything I fancied into the trolley.

And did I cheat? Only unintentionally one day when I – almost absentmindedly – spread a bit of Marmite on my lunchtime slice of bread, thinking – well it can't be *that* expensive. I only realised my mistake when I checked the price of a jar of Marmite in the shop the next day! Argghh!

In all this reminds me of how incredibly lucky I am to have been born into a lifestyle of such relative wealth. For 1.4 billion men, women and children living below the line is a life-long reality, day in,

day out. They don’t have the luxury of going back to what we consider as a normal healthy diet on Saturday. Not very fair shares is it?

As I say, for me this was primarily an exercise in awareness. I will be donating the money I would’ve spent on food this week to the wonderful charity Results UK. If you would like to add a donation you can do so at

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