Week two of my Empathy Challenge is now complete!

I’ve spent the past week doing a challenge called Living Below the Line, which involves me eating and drinking below the ‘poverty line’ (the minimum level of income deemed adequate in a country). This means that I had £1 a day to spend on my meals, and drank only water.

I went shopping in advance to buy the ingredients for the week. As I wouldn’t be using a whole bag of flour, a whole bottle of oil or a whole packet of oats just in seven days, I calculated my pricings by the weight of my food rather than by each purchase (so using the £x per 100g prices).

So, what on earth did I eat with only £7 to cover my week’s food? My meals looked a little like this:

Breakfast – porridge with half soya milk and half water, and two tablespoons of peanut butter. My original plan was to just save money on breakfast by having a banana, but actually porridge worked out cheaper and gave me carbs and protein to start the day. Plus, peanut butter porridge = yum. I also drank hot water with my breakfast, which I quite enjoy as a hot drink even if I can afford tea and coffee.

Lunch – so I had two different lunches across the week. The first was dahl, which I made lunch in a large batch, with two homemade chipattis (these were actually really good and were a bit of a throwback to my Bangladeshi days). On three of the days I had soup and chapattis, as I was having dahl for dinner… Again this provided me with some carbs and protein (lentils in the dahl) and so was a good choice for the week, although a little repetitive.

Dinner – Each day was a combination of rice and beans (or dahl). Two nights I had kidney beans with some carrot in a chilli sauce, and two nights I had mixed beans in a tomato sauce with some broccoli. Vegetables were so appreciated this week, I felt like my body was crying out for something fresh and full of vitamins. On three days, I also had the special treat of eating a banana. The below photo does look a little like dog food but I promise it was actually kinda nice…

So how did I find it all? Well, I was a hungry some of the time (particularly when it was  approaching a meal), but as I chose to have quite a lot of carbs I managed ok. The thing that I struggled with, mostly on the first couple of days, was the massive draining of energy that I felt. I imagine it was a combination of no caffeine (I do like a good cuppa coffee) and low sugar levels (as the only sugar I had came from the three bananas). My body felt very weak and spaced out a lot of the time, a different kind of tiredness to sleep deprivation.

The other thing was simply that I was having the same meals every few days, or everyday. I generally enjoy cooking and creating food which is rich in flavour, but all of these meals were quite bland.

I’m very blessed to live in a house where the cupboards are always full and the fridge is packed with variety. My meals can be different everyday and I have SO MANY OPTIONS. Even within my meals… The day after I finished my challenge, my dinner plate had lots of different vegetables, sauces, flavours, and textures. It was great (shout out to Mama Leach for a crackin’ vegan roast).

I think that this is a challenge that I’d like to take on once a year to remind me of my position of privilege, and I’ll need y’all to hold me to my word. It has been a test of self control (particularly when you’re in a house of people who are eating normally), a glimpse of the minimal diet that so many people have to live with and in many ways a really great preparation for my time in Ghana/being a poor student…

Thanks for reading friends, I’ve felt very encouraged by the support that I’ve received both for this challenge and for my fundraising over the past few weeks (I’m so close to my target!!). My Just Giving page is https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/RoseannaLeach if you’d like to sponsor me, I’m so grateful to everyone who has donated so far!

Next week – walking challenge (stay tuned)…

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