What did we learn living on less?

Over the last couple of weeks Coralie then Larissa and Barry have lived on £1.50 a day for a week and five days respectively.

Why did we do it?

UNICEF-IF-300x246 (1)We wanted to raise awareness of the terrible plight of so many people across the world and do something to help.   This challenge perfectly combines raising awareness with taking action by raising money for Deworm the World.

Half of the world lives on less than £905 a year of which around 65% is spent on food.  That figure is adjusted for the buying power of different countries!  Can you imagine living on the small amount of food we’ve been eating all your life?

That’s why the challenge was to live on £1.50 a day for food.  65% of £905 divided by 365.   Yes that’s £1.61 but £1.50 is a nice round number.

So how was it?

I was feeling pretty relaxed about the challenge before I started it – but it was a lot harder than I was expecting!

Overall it was such a positive experience.  I was lucky Coralie went first, I had very low expectations going in so far me it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.  The food was quite bland and I really missed coffee but I’m really pleased that I did it.  All the great conversations I’ve had with people about it and the amount of money raised made it really worth it.

I honestly didn’t find this that easy.  I got hungry during the day, although I think that was more in my mind than anything physical.  I missed simple things that I had never considered, like being able to add salt and pepper to, let’s face it, ultra bland food.  However, all the negative things aside, I had a great sense of wellbeing from doing this. The money raised, the positive vibe I got from others when I told them I was doing this and the feeling of being part of a wider movement for good made it worth it.

What was the best thing about Living on Less?

Definitely the reactions from people around me! Food plays such an important social role in our day to day lives that I found

This image was taken from the Evidence Action Website

This image was taken from the Evidence Action Website

I had a lot of explaining to do, more or less describing the whole challenge to anyone who offered me a cup of tea or slice of cake. Some people seemed actively distressed that I wasn’t eating what they offered me. Many of these people went on to sponsor me. I think the challenge worked really well to put into perspective how much food we’re happy to give away just to be polite and friendly, and how much more it would mean to give it away to those who truly need it.

The conversations I had with other people. Everyone was really interested in what I was doing and, like me, shocked by how little food half the world have to live on every day. So many people were so generous, it really humbled me.

I had a few really heart warming interactions with friends that really kept me going. Half way through I was posting regularly, really trying to raise more money but worrying that I wasn’t really reaching anyone.  I then noticed one friend had unexpectedly sponsored me quite a lot which was amazing so I messaged her to say thank you.  She replied that she’d been really interested in everything I was doing and felt inspired to do more. That was a wonderful moment.

The best thing, I feel, was knowing that I was able to touch the lives of so many other people. That me, an unassuming working class boy (yes, I’m still 19 in my head and am always so disappointed when I walk past a mirror and realise I’m not!) has been able to make a difference.

What was the worst thing?

Er, probably also the reactions from people around me! Eating 14p noodles alone is easy. Eating them while your whole family surrounds you feasting on fish and chips is quite another matter, especially when they keep trying to offer you ways to cheat the challenge.  ‘I’m not going to eat all the chips if you want them?’ or ‘I can get you a free coffee if you come into the café while I’m working?’.

The worst thing about this – apart from it being infuriating to someone very irritable from lack of food – was that it was done out of kindness. Tragically, extremely poor people do not only have to go hungry themselves, but are unable to offer the type of instinctive kindness that I met with again and again. There is no one to turn to who can help you, but also no way to help your own loved ones. I wish some of the compassion I met with could have been passed on to someone who really needed it.

Missing different drinks like coffee and fizzy drinks.  Especially on Friday as we always have a team coffee and cake in the morning.  I probably had more coffee than cake envy by that point. That said I still went down and socialised with everyone which goes to show that food is not a prerequisite to spending time with people.  You can enjoy people’s company without having to spend money on food or eat the same as everyone else.

The worst thing was the boredom.  Eating bland food is tiresome.  Time drags on when you are even mildly peckish.  Not being able to pop to the vending machine to grab a can of pepsi or a packet of crisps was difficult.

Even more than this though was the shock to the system when you are hungry and wolf your food.  The body is quite quick to object to such force feeding! I was sick.  Yeah, that was the worst bit as I was even hungrier afterwards.

What surprised you the most about the challenge?

That I was really, genuinely hungry most of the time. I know that seems obvious, but my shopping basket, while uninspiring,wpid-20150427_075006.jpg seemed an acceptable amount of food for a week, and I didn’t actually skip meals. Unfortunately this didn’t prevent me from plummeting into a physical and mental state best described as ‘slow’.

On a more positive note, I also successfully went vegan for the week, and didn’t have any longing thoughts of cheese or chocolate – for once I was more concerned with getting calories rather than what form they appeared in!

How much I missed the instant decaf coffee I normally drink every day.  It really showed me how many things I consume unthinkingly out of habit rather than taking the time to enjoy them.

I plan to try and drink mostly water moving forward and when I do have squash, fizzy drinks or coffee to enjoy it and be thankful for that and the many other luxuries in my life.

How much it plays on your mind.  Knowing that can’t just pop shop to buy another loaf of bread, bottle of pop or some snacks means that you actually think about it so much more.  On the flip side it made me mindful of what I am eating.  I will really try not to take my fortunate circumstances for granted again.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about trying Experience Poverty?

Definitely try it. It will give you a great perspective on the real value of food. Also make sure you take proper care of yourself and don’t decide to do anything too strenuous during the challenge!

It’s really worth trying.  It really made me think about some of the everyday things I really take for granted like water and painkillers.  Make sure you plan your food really well.  Try and get things high in protein and that are filling like porridge, brown rice  and pulses. You’ll thank yourself later if you lose some luxuries for the sake of nutrition.

Do it! The marvellous feeling of helping fellow humans that will have no way of knowing what you have done (however minor) is so fulfilling.

Drink plenty of water even if it’s just to take our mind off how hungry you feel.  Oh and try to factor in a small packet of salt and pepper into your budget and don’t blow a day and a half food money on a bottle of Soy Sauce!

Finally, regardless of how hungry you are in fact especially when you are that hungry, DO NOT power your food down, even rice can rebel against you!

How much did you raise?

So far I’ve raised £253, and sponsorship is still coming in. I am so grateful to everyone who was generous enough to sponsor me – the money is enough to cure literally hundreds of children of intestinal worms so we are making a massive impact.

Larissa and Barry:
Together we’ve raised £340 with Effective Altruism Brighton which is a fantastic start for the group’s fundraising. This will provide deworming tablets for over 1030 people treating them for a year.  Thank you so much to everyone who sponsored us, the support has been overwhelming and we look forward to our next fundraising event.  Watch this space!

If you’ve not sponsored us yet there’s still time.  Every extra 33p is another child dewormed.

Are there any changes you will make as a result of trying Experience Poverty?

I will definitely be thinking more carefully about the food I eat and money I spend on it – and let go of my excuse that it’s toowpid-20150501_105419.jpg expensive to go vegan!

This has really inspired me to be much more mindful of what I eat and to be thankful for the luxuries I really enjoy. I’m going to try and cut back on things like fizzy drinks and coffee so  that I really enjoy them when I have them.

I also plan to try and apply some of the same economic thinking to my shopping by buying cheaper items, more in bulk, looking for more filling and nutritious food and thinking do I really need this?

I certainly won’t be living on anywhere near £1.50 a day for food and for this I’m very grateful.  Ultimately though one big change I do want to make is to spend a bit less with the aim of soon starting to donate 10% of my income to effective charities.

I think the main thing for me is to never take things for granted.  Even though we had a reduced menu based on having just £1.50 a day, just how much worse would this be if I didn’t have so many other luxuries? A comfy bed, a telly to give me a brief distraction from hunger pangs, central heating, water literally on tap.  Plus not having to trudge five miles to get a bucket of potentially lethal water, the water that I shower under of flush my effluence away with is clean enough to drink.  What kind of luxury is that?!


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