Reflections from below the line

I’ve done it. Not once, but twice, I’ve made £5 of shopping last seven days, eaten three times a day, for the annual Live Below The Line challenge.


I’ve had some delicious surprises, like a sad wrinkly peach chopped up and steeped in boiling water for 15 minutes makes a delicious tea, and the best surprise of the week was Saturday night’s sausage and bean burgers, which I liked so much I’m going to develop them into a recipe for The Book!

I’ve also eaten some ghastly food, like the beige bland muck that I’ve christened the ‘blandwich’ – sausage and rice and stuffing in a sandwich, I won’t be making that again in a hurry…

I think because I can be light hearted and self-effacing, people forget that there’s an important message underneath the challenge. All over the world, people are surviving on £1 a day or less, for all of their outgoings, not just their food bills. To those that initially said that this challenge was impossible – its not impossible, but unthinkable to some people that that is the state of the world that we live in.

If you haven’t read it, read the post on my home page called Hunger Hurts. I took this challenge for deeply personal reasons, to take myself back to where I started when I started writing this blog, to put myself in my own shoes that I was wearing just a year ago.

The ending to my story is an exceptional one. The book deal, the Fortnum and Mason award, the success of this blog.

But the beginning of my story – the unemployment, the hunger, the skipping meals to feed my son and drinking pints of water just to feel full, endless job searching and desperation, selling everything I had to try and get back on my feet – that’s not exceptional. That’s happening in households up and down our great and developed country every single day.

People write to me every day to ask what they can do.

Well, you can donate food to a local food bank. You can be more conscious about what you throw away. You can cook from my menu for a week and donate the ‘excess’ that would normally have gone on your food shop, to a local community project, or Child Poverty Action Group, or Oxfam, or similar. You can make a sandwich for the homeless person you walk past every single day. You can do so much, with so little, but if we all did a little, the world may change a lot.

For the week’s meals in pictures, click here:

And it’s still not too late to sponsor me or donate, at

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe


  1. To my shame, I don’t even know if we have a food bank round here, but I guess we must. I will Google and find out. Thanks for the ideas, Jack, and WELL DONE!

  2. Well done on your challenge! It is good to reflect onto the rhyme and reason for taking on something not so comfortable. And you are right we waste too much and also have poverty right on our doorstep- just last week I’ve read two bloggers, with families, have become homeless, surviving in b&b.

  3. I belong to Waldron WI in East Sussex, in the Weald. It is a prosperous area, and even here, we have need of a food bank. Our WI, for the last few months, has asked members to buy an extra item or two each week and bring them to our monthly meetings. Our President then staggers off to the collection point with a couple of huge boxes.
    I am deeply uncomfortable with the need for this. WI members are the lifeblood of local volunteering, many of our ladies staff the local charity shops, of which we have an abundance, hospital shops, Red Cross etc etc.
    It is a natural extension for us to support food banks.
    However, the fact that people need them is disgusting, it makes me feel like Lady Bountiful, handing out tins of beans and toilet rolls to the deserving poor. This is the very thing that the welfare system was created for, so that no one need ever go hungry, and has the basic necessities of life to keep them going while they sort themselves out or for as long as they need it.
    No one should EVER need to go hungry in a wealthy country like Britain

    • I agree with you Leslie I could’nt have said it better, unfortunately many more people think differently about the welfare state. Benefits like crisis loans, disability living allowance and legal aid are only used by those who cheat the system, we are told, so no one thinks that someday they might just need one of these. You may be unfairly dismissed, but now you cannot get legal aid to take your employer to a tribunal to hold them to account. You did’nt hear about the change to legal aid on the bbc so you had no idea you would’nt classify for it and you thought that only the really scummy poor who drink, smoke and gamble their dole lived like this, getting help from food banks.

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