Below The Line Day 2: Why Aren’t Our MPs Joining In?

So, it’s the end of day two, of my Live Below The Line challenge. For those just catching up, I, along with 5,000 people in the UK, am living on £5 for five days to raise money for charity. My chosen charity is Oxfam UK, as I am involved with their Enough Food If campaign, tackling four major causes of food poverty in the world.

Today’s meals:

Breakfast: two slices of white bread, toasted, with lemon curd, 6p.

Lunch: 70g white rice with 100g mixed vegetables (frozen broccoli, carrot, cauliflower and peas), and a sauce made with water and lemon curd, 12p.

Afternoon snack: 30g corn flakes with 100ml unsweetened soya, 8p

Dinner: 1 bean and vegetable burger, 70g rice, 50g mixed veg: 14p

Today, my food has cost me forty pence in total. Added to yesterday’s sixty one pence, I have consumed £1.01 of my £5.00 worth of food bought on Sunday.

I have left:

Bread: 16 slices
Lemon curd: 3/4 of a jar?
Cornflakes: 420g
Unsweetened soya drink: 750ml
Plain white rice: 760g
Mixed peppers: 150g
Chopped tomatoes: 600g
Kidney beans: 300g
Mixed vegetables (carrot, broccoli, sweetcorn): 750g
Spaghetti: 500g
1 onion
Broccoli, Courgette, carrot and green beans: 240g
Mixed herbs.

Observations from the day: Firstly, I am much hungrier than usual, and although this sounds obvious, I didn’t expect it, as I have had four meals, all heavy in carbohydrates. My usual diet would factor in far more protein than this one does, but although it looks quite protein-sparse, my nutrition calculations put me at around 30g a day. That isn’t ideal, but it’s certainly better than nothing.

I’m also a lot more dehydrated than usual, despite drinking the same amount of water as I normally would. I don’t know the science behind this – perhaps a lack of foods that have naturally occurring water, like fresh fruit, would answer that.

Finally – I’m exhausted. I know I picked a bad week for this, off the back of hours of travelling to London and Salford for BBC appearances this weekend, I wasn’t in my finest fettle to start with. But I find myself out of focus at work, and obsessive about the amount of food I am consuming. I spilled some rice on the work surface of my kitchen earlier, and laboriously picked it up grain by grain and put it back into the bag. I recognise this ‘me’, the obsession over the cost of meals, the inset panic about what I can possibly make with the ingredients that I have. I’m back and it’s July again, i’m eating slightly less to eat more often, to stave away the hunger pains.

I go to my food cupboard, the one that is out of bounds until I complete this challenge, and I look. I’ve never been so glad to see a can of chickpeas, some cumin, and a bag of value mandarin segments. I know this isn’t forever, but still it chips away.

In an interview with Agent France-Press today, I referred to allegations people had made to me that this ‘living below the line’ for five days is a spurious exercise, an insult to poverty. People have asked me how it can possibly help or change anything?

I said yes – people like Ben Affleck, will be doing this from their large and comfortable homes. You can’t expect to understand poverty as a lifestyle, the day to say degrading and erosion of your being, by living off monotonous and basic food stuff for five days.

But the feedback I have had, and the comments I read from friends taking the challenge, is that they are suddenly extremely aware of how much food costs. How much nutrition costs. How mentally draining it is to toil around a supermarket with such a limited amount of money. How the panic sets in when their child asks for more food, because that’s one less meal left in the cupboard. I remember it well. I remember having to tell Small Boy that there is no bread or jam.

Aside from raising money for charities dedicated to tackling poverty in the UK – we’re talking about it. Thinking about it. People who have never gone to bed hungry in their lives are now consumed by the thought of where their next meal is coming from.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I hope this is a movement for change. I wish every MP across the land took the Live Below The Line challenge. I wish I could say to them: “Here are my shoes: how do they fit you? Not comfortable to walk in, are they?”

To donate to Live Below The Line, a global poverty project, click here:

If you are taking part in this years Live Below The Line challenge and want to share your experience, get in touch at

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

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