A summary of my below the line experience. I’d love to hear from others who did the challenge – you can answer these questions on my blog, on my facebook page or on the Live Below the Line and VSA facebook pages (public).
Thing I missed most: coffee
Thing I thought I’d miss but didn’t: meat
Thing I’ll be eating again: my dal recipe, and the tomato-based “risotto”. Also I got in the habit of drinking lemon balm tea and I’ll keep drinking that.
Thing that I won’t be eating again: budget white rice. It’s so processed and bleached etc that when it is cooked, it looks like it is auditioning for a toilet cleaner commercial. I’m back to the nice basmati from the Indian shop or the organic rice thanks – despite being 5-6 times the price. Oh, and I’m glad to see the back of the budget instant coffee!
Hardest thing: the time taken to prepare food when I was really hungry. In one case, I had a few leftovers before heading out to a birthday party (not for me, a 5th birthday for a friend’s daughter). Then I was at the party not eating. Then I went home and cooked, which took nearly an hour. I had dinner after 9.
Best purchases: the budget white rice at $1.08 for a kilo. Ensured I would have sufficient calories and allowed me money for flavour in my diet. And the fresh ginger – 25 grams at $6 per kilo. It lasted the whole week and I used it every day to give flavour to my food.
Low point: a toss up between cooking for an hour and a half to make dinner when I was really hungry on day one, and eating cold rice for lunch on my birthday.
High point: no competition here – my birthday party. That was just fantastic. High points of the high point included
- nibbling on a plate of crackers and dip – it just felt so naughty and indulgent, even though there were only about 10 crackers between us
- the taste of something sweet – with Mona’s semolina cake and the dates that Barbara had saved from her ration
- the best cup of tea I’ve ever had. It was the cheapest brand, the teabag had made several cups and it had a few lumps of powdered milk in the bottom, and it was PERFECT!
- and without doubt the best of all, the sense of community formed by the shared adversity of the challenge. This team had never met before last Sunday, and nobody in the group knew everyone. And yet by Thursday we were not just a team, we were friends.
Here’s me enjoying a cracker and dip, with a bench full of our shared ingredients.
Insights into poverty I hadn’t appreciated before: the preparation time made me think about the daily grind of survival for the extremely poor. Truly cheap food is not instant. But also admiration for the sense of community and entrepreneurship that you see in some poor communities, and for people who put in a hard day’s work on an extreme poverty diet.
Way I’ll celebrate the end of the challenge: with a trim flat white and zeppola (Italian potato doughnut) from the Hill St Farmer’s Market. Honestly, they are so good that even in a normal week, I fantasise about the zeppola in particularly boring meetings just to get me through the day.
Before I sign off from the challenge – I’d like to thank everyone who sponsored me. Mum, Dad, Paul, Diana, Kate, Margaret Ann, Jim, Heather, Kevin, Christine, Lincoln, Cath, Deb, Helen, Eugene, Kirsty, anonymous and of course Barbara, Kim and Mona! I’ve raised $652 so far (including some offline donations). I’ve well exceeded my target and I’m standing at 8 on the VSA leaderboard for donations (although with the offline donations I’m actually at 6). I really do appreciate your support. (Oh, sorry if I missed anyone, the list of sponsors keeps rotating and I can’t be sure I’ve got everyone.).
And if you haven’t made it to donate yet but still want to, it’s still open for donations for a while yet!