Live below the line: An introduction – Helping you eat for just £1 a day

By Jess Wilson

They say there are four stages to culture shock.

First comes ‘excitement’ at moving to a new place; it’s that warm fuzzy holiday feeling you get when you step off a plane into Mediterranean heat.

Next comes ‘withdrawal’. After spending more than a holiday-length period in a new culture, anxiety kicks in and you start to feel disconnected to your surroundings.

Then comes ‘adjustment’ – you start to grow accustomed to the routines of your new community and regain the sense of humour you lost in the ‘withdrawal’ stage.

And finally, you enter the ‘enthusiasm’ stage, where you start to feel at home in your new culture, and may even eventually prefer it to your own.

I think I’m in the ‘adjustment stage’.

Don’t get me wrong, moving to Rusholme wasn’t like moving to the Middle East, but there have been a number of times when I’ve been hit by culture shock.

My first hurdle when I moved here was topping up the gas and electric. Having lived on the end of a tidal estuary for most of my life, I am used to lengthy power cuts and long cold winters, but it’s an entirely different experience to be taking a shower in a windowless bathroom when the water suddenly turns to ice and you’re surrounded by darkness.

Those few moments I spent fumbling around trying to unlock an already stiff door in a state of sheer panic with shampoo in my eyes were not my finest.

But during my long, soggy, midnight walk along the Curry Mile in search of a gas and electric station later that night, I decided I was probably living in a bit of bubble.

On a scale of grownupness ranging 1 to 10, I thought I was probably at about three.

It was time to get myself some serious lyfskilz.

But how?

A few days later I was checking my bank balance the when I noticed that the majority of my money was disappearing into a black hole named Tesco.

In the previous two weeks I had spent more than half my budget on food, leaving me with a pittance towards next month’s rent and the daunting prospect of a bail-out phone call.

Frustrated with my frivolity I decided it was time to cut down my food budget. Drastically.

Feeling substantially inspired and slightly naïve, I embarked upon a phone call to the DWP to find out what the minimum food budget was in the UK.

My mission ended shortly thereafter when they informed me that there wasn’t a set figure.

A couple of days later I saw in the local paper that the Global Poverty Project’s Live below the Line week was starting the following Monday.

In a mission to increase the number of people fighting extreme poverty, the GPP challenge seeks to show people just how difficult it is to live below the breadline every day, something 1.4 billion people do.

In the UK, the extreme poverty line lies at £1 a day.

I’m going to do it. Seven days: seven pounds.

And although I want to do the £1 a day challenge, I want to make sure my meals are tasty, nutritious and variant.

It’s a challenge no doubt, but I reckon it’s accomplishable.

Most people I have told about my mission are pretty pessimistic.

My brother told me I’d die; my colleges wished me luck and my grandma offered to give me a tenner.

I’m now determined.

Bring on the savvy shopping skills; my bank balance needs some rest-bite.

(please excuse the fake-tanned hand)

Today is Sunday and I have been all over Manchester, equipped with a calculator, a notepad and a bag for life – I didn’t want to waste 75p of my budget on something that will almost certainly not last me for life.


Here is what I came back with:

From Meezan, Wilmslow Road: Coriander (29p), tinned tomatoes (49p), tinned chickpeas (39p), pitas (29p), yellow pepper (36p) Onions 19p, mushrooms (38p), carrot (10p), courgette (35p), beans (14p)

From Lidl, Wilmslow Road: hummus (95p)

From Aldi, Manchester central: oats (75p)

From Quality Save, Piccadilly: wholegrain noodles (49p), soup mix (55p), red lentils (69p), long-life milk (59p)

It took a very long time and a lot of brain work to spend exactly £7.00.

Tomorrow I will be giving you my first day on £1 so be sure to find out how you can survive for a little, rather than a lot.


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