According to the World Bank and the United Nations:
“…people in developing countries can be defined as living in poverty when they have to live on less than US$2 a day on average, spread out over the course of a year. Below this amount of money, most people cannot afford basic essentials such as adequate food and shelter and are therefore truly impoverished.”
Sadly, it would defeat the UN and the WB to live a self-respecting life in the UK on anything like that little money, though the $2 a day challenge will certainly make for resourceful approaches to living. However, there are very many people living in relative poverty and finding difficulty making ends meet on more than that. Between housing, transport, food and the staples of living, it can be very tough – but with a touch of creativity, not impossible. Given that hospitals, which admittedly do gain economies of scale, provide a meal at approximately 27p a time, it should be easy to spend less without suffering.
I will be starting my own challenge soon. This arose when a friend mentioned that her son, his pregnant girlfriend and young child have to survive on £30 a week, including food and luxuries. I suggested that while it would never be comfortable, this is achievable – and furthermore, that you can do so by eating real food and without buying convenience foods. Granted it would require more inventiveness and more time, this way, but as a means of reducing my expenditure well worth the effort.
The reason why this is such a good idea is that government ministers and many more people in a position of influence are in complete denial about this issue. Many refuse to accept that poverty is real, or that people have a choice between heating and eating, among them Edwina Currie, whose comments on Five Live earned her a furious reaction from listeners whose issues are very real.
Given that I have a taste for the finer things in life this is no small undertaking, though there are plenty of other precedents – like this $31 a week challenge in Chicago, and inspirational ideas aplenty for eking out the pennies can be found online. But I thought myself capable of doing this without recipes or outside assistance, relying mostly on my own ingenuity.
True, the rules of the game have to be agreed, as indeed will my reward for succeeding (I think a charity of my choice should benefit), but here are the basics:
- Storecupboard resources like salt and spices are allowed, so long as the budget includes a few from time to time.
- Main courses must be bought and made from purchased items.
- Home grown foods can be used on occasions, but sparingly.
- Pulses, rice, pasta etc. must be bought, as must cat food.
- Ditto toiletries, loo rolls and other household essentials must also be bought during this month.
- “Going without” is not an option.
- The occasional bottle of wine or beer is required.
- Mortgage, gas, electricity, diesel etc. are excluded.
- Entertaining comes from the same budget!
- Detailed accounts to be maintained, though as a scholar and a gentleman I will of course refrain from cheating!
- Where possible, I will plan out meals and cost them accurately, excluding the more extravagant meat and fish ingredients I would often prefer to employ.
- Regulate meals and exclude snacks and grazing is beneficial to health and well-being as well as budget!
- Ditto, minimising my addiction to luxury coffee, strong as tar, and also weaning myself off the very best OJ.
- Clearly, some use will be made of reductions in the supermarket, but not all the time and sometimes to buy occasional meaty treats.
- Baking my own bread from flour works out more economical than buying it, so that’s what I’ll do.
- While meals already in my freezer are strictly verboten, it is a good idea to make batches and freeze some meals in advance, bearing in mind that cooking for two is almost as economical as cooking for one – some economies of scale, at least!
- Vegetarian dishes will come to the fore, with good use made of pulses.
- I will use farmer’s markets, farm shops and other goods sold at people’s doors where possible.
- A few trips to the pound shop will probably be advantageous.
- The cats will not suffer, but I may try to lure them into eating cheaper foods.
The start date for this challenge has yet to be agreed, but this journal will be maintained throughout. You, dear reader, will not miss a thing! 🙂