Wednesday, 18 November 2015


I'm now on day 4 out of my 5 on FoodCycle's #BreadlineChallenge. It's been an interesting journey.
I say interesting, but actually I mean frustrating.

Frustrating because of the constant temptation to break budget - whether this be by being told it would be ok to have a sip of my boyfriend's pint at the pub rather than stick to water, or by the way my stomach rumbles at 3pm when I know that, really, my lunch was sufficient.
Frustrating because I didn't realise how easily I would succumb to the need to maintain my working routine - not to mention my relationship with my colleagues - with tea I don't really need. Or a couple of biscuits from a shared pack.
Frustrating because when Tuesday's apple suffered a dent on the way in to work, I couldn't buy another one. And when my over-enthusiastic fridge froze my celery and carrot solid, my mid-afternoon snacks were no longer something to look forward to but something I had to put up with.
Frustrating because I have had to work my life around my food. This is usually a concept that would fill me with joy, but this week, food has just got in the way. I have forgotten a doctor's appointment because my mind was more concerned with what I was supposed to be cooking when I got home. I have felt like a rubbish hostess in my own home when I don't quite have enough milk to make tea for my parents when they pop over and make my porridge in the morning, so I've had to use water for my porridge instead.
Frustrating because by only doing 5 days of the challenge, I am restricting my budget further. I have enough base ingredients to get me through 7 days, and yet not quite enough money for some greens, or fish, or eggs. Or chocolate. Nutritionally, this week doesn't look great.

I have had a background headache since Sunday evening, which could of course be nothing at all to do with the challenge. But it has made me wonder if I'm a bit dependent on sugar or caffeine, and it's made things that little bit less 'fun'.

But more than anything, this experience is making me frustrated at just how much living on this food budget takes over your life. Everything is having to be made from scratch - and this is time consuming. I know how to make bread because I'm a trained chef, and while a trip to the library to use the internet would show you how, this kind of knowledge isn't something you can then perfect through through trial and error when money for raw ingredients is tight. I'm finding myself irritated at having beige food every day because all I bought in the way of herbs and spices is garam masala. Again, this is a result of my having fairly broad food horizons and being used to colourful plates. I feel cheated when I hear that someone else managed to find tinned tomatoes cheaper. We've all become a bit territorial over our food in the office - haggling with each other for teabags and the like. It's brought up debates like "if this were my usual budget, at what stage would I have decided that a stick blender is a vital part of my life?", "if I had to cook from scratch like this every day, how would it affect my gas and electricity bill?" and "how can I maintain my principles and care about the planet when my money won't allow it?"

It angers me that I have a choice to be on this challenge, and I have a passion for food which is backed up with skills and knowledge to make basic food bearable, whilst there are single parents up and down the country frantically trying to nourish their kids and maintain a stable home life whilst having to hunt down the cheapest food. If £2.86/day for food is a reality of your life, then so is stress over where to find it, how to prepare it and when to find the time.

So, to those of you now halfway through the challenge - keep going. If, like me, you feel a fire in your belly from it (and one that isn't just a result of eating lentils every day), then I hope you are getting angry too. Having to feed yourself on this budget isn't fair. I'm biased and I know that one solution is to volunteer for FoodCycle, so that more people can access a free nutritious meal, giving them a bit of a breather from their budget (and their kitchen) for the week. But there are other solutions out there. Let's get the conversations going.

You can support me, my colleagues and our wonderful volunteers through their #BreadlineChallenge week by donating here.

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