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Living off £1 a day

By Julia Carstairs
Living off £1 a day

You might struggle to live on £10 a day, but 1.4 billion people across the world have less than £1 for their daily survival. Julia Carstairs tells us about her week eating below the poverty line for the Live Below the Line campaign.

The campaign encourages fundraisers to take the plunge and spend no more than £1 a day on food and drink to raise money for their chosen charities. This was the second year that the campaign, founded by the Global Poverty Project, was held and it is estimated that in the UK alone, £500,000 was raised for various charities. From May 7–11, I challenged myself to live below the poverty line and even though I did struggle, the experience was extremely fulfilling and one that students could definitely learn something from. Here is the diary of my week in (relative) poverty. 


Today was special for two reasons. One, it was my birthday and two, it was the first day of my Living Below the Line week. The hunger pains have started as my body has had to make the switch from an indulgent diet to a bare necessities one.  For breakfast I ate 50g porridge with one tablespoon of jam (9p)—this was with water not with milk so unfortunately it tasted awful. For lunch I managed to stomach a ‘potato salad’ (31p) which was a horrid mixture of 1 cold boiled potato, 50g sweetcorn, 50g processed peas, half a  tomato and a third of a  carrot.

Dinner was by far the best meal. I managed to bake myself a cheese-less pizza (25p), made with 100g flour for the base, a third of a tin of plum tomatoes and a quarter of an onion for the sauce, with a topping of 40g sliced mushrooms.

For an evening treat, I had a baked banana (23p) with cinnamon and sugar.

Total: 88p


Today I ate porridge and jam for my breakfast again, vegetable and potato salad for lunch (without the tomato and peas because they were truly awful—reducing the price to 20p) and for my dinner I had chilli sin carne (47p).  My dinner was fairly enjoyable, it was a concoction of 70g rice, 50g kidney beans, another third of the plum tomatoes, 50g chickpeas, 50g sweetcorn and half a small value onion. I undercooked the kidney beans and managed to overcook the rice so it wasn’t amazing but I managed to stomach it. Because I had taken out some veg from my lunch meal I had 24p left on my budget so I purchased a well-deserved chocolate bar (23p) which gave me a brief sugar boost.

Total: 99p


Today’s breakfast was something of a giggle to create—four chapatti jam pancakes (12p). This was made by mixing 100g flour with water to knead dough discs and then these were fried and flipped until cooked.

For lunch I made a vegetable rice dish (33p) which consisted of: half a packet of golden rice; a quarter of a small value onion; 25g value mushroom and a third of a carrot with half a vegetable stock cube to add some flavour. This meal was actually quite delicious.

Tea time saw me attempt a bean burger and chips (32p): the chips were divine but there were no burgers to speak of just crumbly-burnt-kidney-bean-bits. For the chips, I used one large white potato, sliced and fried. And the burgers were half a tin of value kidney beans, breadcrumbs and coriander all mashed together with value oil.

Total: 77p


I have honestly never felt so tired in all my days! The surprising thing is my hunger pains have stopped and it has become much easier to eat smaller, less appetising meals. So much so in fact that now I no longer crave my usual treats. I think my stomach has shrunk along with my appetite. Today’s breakfast was classic porridge with jam, for lunch I had more vegetable rice and for dinner I ate chilli sin carni again, except this time everything was well cooked.

Total: 89p


Even though I have just finished my last official LBLUK meal, I feel no weight lifted off my shoulders, no sigh of relief—to be honest I am surprised at how little I feel. I think I might actually have managed to adapt.
My father said how proud he was of me today but I kind of feel undeserving of his pride. After all, billions of people live on literally £1 a day because that is all they can afford. I made the choice to live on a £1 a day but many people have no other choice. I am content with what I have achieved but there is absolutely no glory in my accomplishments.I finished off my week with chapatti pancakes for breakfast, a potato salad for lunch (good riddance) and my second attempt at a bean burger and chips for dinner. This time it actually worked, so maybe there is some glory in that. 

Total: 64p

To find out more about the Live Below the Line campaign and to pre-register for 2013, visit their website.

Tagged: university, students, saving tips, food, cooking, charity

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