What I am I give: live below the line day three, reflections.


Sad to use up the last of the three-day-out-of-date peppers tonight, that were reduced to 30p on Sunday afternoon.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 jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe


  1. The first line of the verse is ‘What can I give him … ‘ referring, of course, to Jesus. From ‘In the bleak midwinter’. If you leave Jesus out of the song it makes little sense …

  2. Hi Jack still following you and willing you on. I volunteer with Christians Against Poverty who have a free service which could help you by renegotiating your debt with your creditors and arranging realistic payments to make them affordable. As an organisation CAP are working to break the hold of poverty in the UK and help 20,000 people just like you each year. https://capuk.org/ Perhaps you or your readers would be interested in checking out this service.

  3. Cold and hungry I don’t doubt, helpless I can understand, but useless? Never. Even in your darkest times you were helping others with your recipes and raising awareness via your blog. Well done, you’re doing great 🙂

  4. Your determination here just steams off the page. Best of luck for the last two days and then however long it takes to use everything up. I hope the lemon curd lasts out, it is clearly making a big difference to how well you can cope with it.

    • The journalist from AFP yesterday said ‘Wow, you love that lemon curd don’t you?’ And yes, it means my toast isn’t dry, my veg and rice are sweet and sticky, I’ve accidentally discovered how to make sweet and sour sauce and I might even treat myself to a rice pudding. It’s definitely been the star of the show!

  5. As always Jack, your determination and self belief continue to amaze me. I have no cause to complain by comparison

  6. I just wanted to say how inspirational I am finding your blogs each day after seeing you on the bbc. Whilst I can hear my husband watching ‘masterchef’ on the tv in the background next door, with all its excesses I have tried to be more grateful for the food I eat, which is quite simple, bit i am definately more grateful now thanks to you. I have always detested waste and often use the basics ranges often noticing no Difference in quality to better quality ranges. Your blog has helped to open my eyes to the struggles that many experience in my own country. thank you for that.

    • I agree with all this. ye s feel v grateful. To much waste. I was surprised how much food recycling we put out weekly. my shop is largely basics range & big diff in price.

  7. Hi Jack. I find your blog really inspiring. I’m also taking part in Live Below the Line and have dragged the kids along for the ride so as a household we’ve had £20 for the week. I borrowed your pizza dough recipe for tea tonight and it went down a storm. However, my youngest seems to be having a growth spurt and has eaten most of my dinner for the last 2 days! I’m heading to bed, hungrier than i remember ever being and I can’t wait for breakfast. It’s been really hard to realise that for many people this is a daily reality, to feed a child and go hungry. Doing this for 5 days is a big challenge but the fact that its normality for so many people is pretty devastating. Good luck with the last couple of days. We’re nearly there! x

  8. Just wanted to say – love your blog, and your recipes (which is how I originally found your blog).

    You statement that you find yourself going to bed earlier and getting up later and still being shattered made me think about my own eating habits -and wonder if they could do with some revision!

    Do you think it’s the abundance of starch which is making you tired, or the smaller-than-usual portions? Or the constantly having to think about how to stretch food? Sorry to ask possible really obvious questions.

  9. Caught you on bbc Sat. V interesting & checking your posts daily to see how your getting on with challenge, definately made me think & i’ve been talking to family about you. It’s v sad that people are in this position, esp children. Well done.

  10. On the slightly off tasting peppers, do you think it would help to cook(or maybe just blanch) the cut up vegetables like the peppers the day you get them on the sell by date–or the next day and freeze them to stop their further ripening? Or would eating them after they have been frozen be about the same as 3 days past sell by? Or would the answer be different for various vegetables?


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