On living below the line

One of the biggest things I have learnt over the last few months is how incredibly blessed Brett and I have been when one or both of us have had a fixed salary.  In December, Brett resigned from his job and soon after my bursary money came to an end. Since the beginning of the year we have not had any regular income and have had to trust God sometimes from day to day for our needs. This has taught me firstly, how many of the things I used to think of as “needs” are really just “wants” or “nice to haves”.  Secondly, it has taught me how little we can get by on without really actually struggling. We never ate or lived lavishly before, but our grocery bill has almost halved during this time and we are still eating healthily. Thirdly, it has taught me that living on less is not easy and comes with a whole set of  stresses, pressures, and relational challenges.

Earlier this month, I stopped writing out shopping lists and instead started writing what I called “wish lists”. I would put on there all the things I thought we needed and some things we just would have liked (like coffee and cheese) and hoped that by the time we had used the last eggs and milk, there would be money to take the wish list to the shops. There always was because our God is faithful and always came through. But waiting was not easy. Neither was counting out and making the difficult decisions on how to allocate our money towards petrol, electricity and food.

From May 2-6,  I will be taking the Live Below the Line challenge. I will be living on the equivalent of 1 Pound a day, or  R12.  I am doing this to raise awareness for and to better understand the challenges faced by the 1.4 billion people who live in extreme poverty. The money that I would have spent on food during the week (check out the rules), I will donate to a poverty alleviation project. This is not a warm-fuzzy-feeling initiative though. The truth is that most of us have absolutely no idea what it is like to live below the poverty line. Conversely, we lose sight of the abundance we enjoy daily. Yes, I will be limiting my food and drink costs to R12 per day while the truth is that for those 1.4 billion people living below the poverty line, their R12 or $1.25 or 1 pound has to cover far more than food. It is all they have to cover their health, housing, transport, food, education, hygiene, electricity and other needs. I cannot even begin to fathom such living.

“Almost a quarter of the world’s population face challenges that are varied and complex, and which prevent people from developing financial safety nets – ensuring they are unable to escape the cycle of extreme poverty. ” (Live Below the Line, on Extreme Poverty)

Redistribution of wealth must start with those who have. And what better way to begin than by realising what wealth we really possess.

(Here is my proposed menu and here is the shopping list for our week)


16 thoughts on “On living below the line

  1. Sounds like such a challenge – well done Val for being brave enough to do it.

    God is with you lady 🙂

    1. stoked, Sheralyn. Would love if you could share your R12 a day shopping list plan with us when you have one. I will do the same and then others who want to join can at least have a starting point.

  2. You can do it if you go to fruit n veg city. Fruit, noodles, potatoes, rice, tomatoes, gems, butternut, beans. Works best if 2 or more people combine the money allocated.

    1. Thanks for the input Amanda. Veg is definitely the way to go although even then it is tight (with two people’s money pooled). I worked out an approximate menu/shopping list yesterday which I will share here in a bit. It really is not as easy as it looks once you start adding it all up. But that’s part of the challenge. Are you going to be joining us?

    1. Thanks, Ross. i just checked out those sites and there are some good tips and also some interesting thoughts on how (im)possible it is to maintain a healthy, longterm, balanced diet on such a budget. Which I guess is the point – certainly we can make healthier choices on this amount BUT even there our choices are severely limited. Those who actually live on R12 a day (including all the other “necessities” mentioned in this blog) cannot maintain a healthy eating regime, leading to increased susceptibility to disease and early death.

      1. Also for others checking out this blog and taking the challenge, go check out the links Ross shared cos there are some good tips (like beans, lentils, broccoli and sweet potato). Thanks for the links, again, Ross.

  3. It also becomes alot more viable if you grow the majority of your food Next season I want to be growing most of my veg and herbs. My cousin used to teach perma culture to impoverished communities, so hopefully she can help me out.

  4. It’s def the way of the future. I do follow a similar diet, vegetarian since I was a teenager. But it still comes to more than R12 per day. Probably about R30 per day. It would be a challenge but not impossible to get it down to say R360 per month if I buy lots of foods in bulk from say Makro and fruit n veg. Can be done especially if you combine turn you get more variety.

  5. Sometimes a wealthy diet can lead to poor health. Simple is better, and berries are also good to eat.

  6. Hey Val. I am so challenged by this. I’m really keen to take up the challenge and get a bunch of peeps involved too.

    1. woops forgot to approve your comment! I really think it was a great time of reflection for us and we learnt a bunch of stuff through it. Highly recommended. the reflections are going up in a short bit…

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