I am very glad that this is over, but at the same time incredibly glad that I took part. I’ve learnt far more than I expected to, and suffered far less discomfort than I feared. I haven’t made a great deal of money for the charity, but at least it’s something.
Today I had toast and marmalade for both breakfast and lunch: 18p in total, using the last of the bread. I had planned to make veggie burgers tonight, and had even composed a mental recipe of sorts (although the plan was basically to experiment optimistically), but as I was walking to the kitchen with my tubs of vegetables, I suddenly remembered that in a fit of rare packing zeal I had packed my frying pan.
I had absolutely no intention of undoing my work, especially since I still have a very large amount of packing to do before Saturday, so I just heated up the remaining vegetables and the last sausage in the microwave and ate that. A somewhat anti-climatic ending to the challenge, but it was filling and only cost 35p. I followed it with the final fromage frais for another 7p, bringing the day’s total to a frugal 60p. I considered boiling the last egg and having that as well, but I didn’t really feel I needed to, and I might fancy it in the next couple of days instead.
Tomorrow, I have quite a lot to do, but mainly what I am planning is what I’ll eat. I don’t have any milk, because there was no point buying any this week, so I will breakfast on a slice of two-week-old please-don’t-be-stale free birthday cake, and then pick up a pint of milk on the way back from an early morning appointment so that I can have my longed-for bowl of cereal (and usefully, use up the last of the cereal so that I can pack its tub). The rest of the pint of milk will doubtless be consumed in the endless cups of tea that my parents require as fuel whenever they visit, which will be doubly earned by their assistance in getting everything I own out of my room and up to my new flat. Including a larger-than-planned quantity of food in the freezer: it would be nearly empty but for this week’s challenge, but at least I’ll have some food waiting for me when I finally move in to the flat properly in August.
In the meantime, during July, I’ll be eating breakfast and dinner courtesy of my summer job, part of which actually requires me to eat in a particular place at a particular time every day. I’m not complaining about a month of free food in addition to sufficient earnings to pay my rent! But it does mean that this blog will go rather quiet for the next few weeks, unless anything interestingly food-related happens to me.
A few final reflections on Living Below the Line: it made me completely obsessed with food. I caught myself salivating over a photograph of a burger earlier today. Whenever someone near me is eating something, particularly something containing sugar, my eyes have followed the food like I was spectating at Wimbledon. As I remarked to an internet friend who commented on my other blog, so much socialising is food-based. I have felt incredibly and unexpectedly isolated for the past five days. It was made much worse because I happened to be spending most of those days with the choir. Today, of course, despite the choir commitments being ended, I found myself cutting up hot buttered toast for a small child. Normally I snaffle a couple of pieces, since she never finishes a full slice, but I ended up throwing her wasted food in the bin. It felt ridiculous to be throwing away food in order to raise money to prevent food poverty.
For myself, the realisation that I can drastically reduce my fat intake, increase my vegetable intake and cut back on my already reasonably frugal food budget has been very useful. I’ve also become much more aware of how overpriced packaged food is. In five days, I have eaten food which cost less than a cup of coffee and a chocolate biscuit. I’m not saying that I will never again go to a cafe for a drink and a snack, but I will think twice about spending £1.50 on a designer pastry when I can feed myself for two days with that money. And, more importantly, feed someone else with that money – someone for whom my experience of the last five days isn’t a one-off social experiment but a permanent fact of life.
If you’ve been following along or if you’ve only just caught up on this challenge and would like to donate to my chosen charity, Health Poverty Action, then you can do so until July 1st on my challenge page. I’m very grateful to everyone who has already donated, no matter how small the contribution. You’ve all helped to make sure that I’m not the only person to have benefited from my frugal five days!