Sad to use up the last of the three-day-out-of-date peppers tonight, that were reduced to 30p on Sunday afternoon. Mixed with some chopped tomatoes and lemon curd, and folded through 75g of plain boiled rice, my 26p dinner is as good as any Chinese takeaway I’ve ever eaten.
But that’s the funny thing about being hungry – everything suddenly tastes amazing.
I tweeted earlier about how much I was actually enjoying cold rice with cold diced vegetables and a whisper of cold lemon curd stirred through, mixed with the starchy rice water to make a sweet lemon sauce.
And here, as I bite into a sliver of pepper, I can taste that it’s slightly ‘off’, but I don’t stop shovelling it into my mouth with my spoon.
It’s day three of my Live Below The Line challenge, and I’m eating my fifth portion of rice in three days.
I’m exhausted, despite four meals a day. I’m loading up on carbs just to keep my focus at work. I’m going to bed an hour earlier and dragging myself out of it reluctantly an hour later in the mornings, still utterly shattered.
I can’t begin to imagine how other people taking the challenge must feel. I’m savvy enough to know that, despite a lower than usual protein intake this week, I’m eating ‘okay’. No added sugars and chemicals and weirdness, in fact the only real ‘processed’ food I’m actually eating is this sodding lemon curd, which has become something of a miracle for 22p.
I look down as I’m typing, and my dinner has gone. This is alarmingly familiar, I’m so hungry I don’t realise how quickly I’m eating. Spoon mouth spoon mouth spoon mouth and suddenly it’s gone.
I contemplate a slice of bread, but I know I have days ahead of me yet.
These were the dark days, when Small Boy would ask for more food and the instant reaction would be one of panic- every extra meal we had would be one less further along the line.
I find myself looking at my bag of rice, counting out my slices of bread.
The 100g portions of rice have shrunk to 70g.
The snacks have gone.
I will see this thing through – having raised well over £1,000 by now, I will see this through until the whole £5 food shop is gone. This is not a five day challenge for me. This is further, deeper than a five day challenge.
The press reports that things are better for me now, since the darkest days of Hunger Hurts and the open house sale. In some ways they are. In others, not so much. I am still paying off bills from the summer of unemployment. I am still receiving bailiff demands for this and that. I am currently trying to decide whether I should pay my childcare and barter with my landlord, or pay my rent and plead with my childcare providers to give me a few weeks grace.
I may have my face all over the national media, but I have my feet on the ground and still fear in my heart. I remember only too well how it feels to be cold, to be hungry, to be helpless and useless.
If I can continue this challenge, if I can raise just one more pound, that’s one more pound towards tackling poverty in the UK through my chosen charity, Oxfam.
I am reminded here of a song I knew as a child, and it is so appropriate I cannot help but share it:
“What can I give,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb
If I were a wise man
I would do my part
Yet what I am I give,
I give my heart.”
To donate to Live Below The Line, a global poverty project, click here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack
If you are taking part in this years Live Below The Line challenge and want to share your experience, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe