Consumerism (4) – all I need is a pound a day


(thanks paul for that one – ETA Band On The Run, suddenly realised people may not know that)

Apparently that is what is needed to live below the poverty line. A £1 a day. In US terms, it is $1.50.

I first read about the Live Below the Line project via free penny press who is taking the challenge to live on $1.50 a day for five days in May. Link here.

As she says on her blog, there are 1.4 billion people in the world who live on that every day, and not just for food – that is to include everything.

The $1.50 a day initiative is from the Global Poverty Project, and free penny press is going to donate money not spent on her normal grocery bill to the project, to help those billions of people who are starving while we all wander the supermarket aisles, choosing our daily delicacies. OK, I added that last bit.

When I first read about this, I thought it would translate to – £1.50. That would be £15 for two of us over five days, pretty doable really for us being vegetarian. No £32 a kilo fillet steak here.

Then I read the UK version of the website. Hmm, a pound a day. That tightens it up a bit. From what I see American food seems pretty cheap too, so in the UK, the cost of living is higher, and we get less than our American colleagues to spend. That’s life I guess.

So, you all want to know? Is Ms Principled Ethical Vegetarian Roughseas going to join in?


1) The whole point about all of this is raising awareness with friends, family, colleagues, people within your local community, and making people think differently. I basically have none of those. So that’s easy. Nice cop out there.

2) My Partner is working on a construction site and wandering around on scaffold boards seven or eight floors up in the air. I can not feed him to do that on £1 day. Or even my £1 as well which would mean I would eat nothing for five days. I think not. Him falling off the scaffolding would achieve nothing for anyone. I could do this £1 a day on my own? But why?

3) We do live cheaply. I suspect my food bill is a lot cheaper than most of the people who read my blog. Bought, organic veg are a luxury that I indulge in. A few years ago we were living on 40€ a week. That’s 20€ each for seven days. Oh, and that included cheap wine and cheap beer.

Eating simply, cheaply, and well is not difficult. People don’t want to do it anymore.

When I read about this challenge, my first thoughts were lentils, rice, chapattis (home made). Any home made bread. Pizza. Potatoes. Pasta. Garlic, chilli and ginger for spices. Foraging. Anything from the garden in Spain.

I read the suggested recipes. Not surprisingly, it read, lentils, rice…. etc etc. Truth is, people in Andalucía regularly live on legumes and starches, and so do we. A week’s worth of bean slop is not an unusual occurence. It is cheap, filling and nutritious.

I read the interviews with people who had lived below the line, one on the American site and one on the British one. Two very different interviews and worth a read.

American one

British one

The American one left me with a bad taste in my mouth. And it wasn’t just the bacon cheeseburger and macaroni and cheese that were ordered at the same meal.

This is a woman who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi, just spends five days living on $1.50 a day to raise awareness about poverty and then pigs out. So to speak.

Gripe Number One

This challenge is about trying to help poor people who are starving, and there are a lot of them.

It’s a great idea to focus on this for five days, and then go back to a rich affluent lifestyle where you grossly overeat.

Why anyone wants bacon and cheese together is beyond me (that’s before I even get into why anyone wants to eat dead pigs) – but why they want to combine it with macaroni cheese as well just leaves me cold. Probably with indigestion too. Remind me again why obesity is such a problem?

Gripe Number Two

Meg’s team considered eating meat. Come on!!

They bought tins instead of dried beans because they were better for portion sizes. Sigh. Does that mean they didn’t want to eat the same beans all week?? What is wrong with buying a two pound bag of dried beans and eating them all week? Well?

Then they bought a can of parmesan cheese.

At which point, I seriously switched off. There was a line in the post about not playing poor, that she wouldn’t feed anyone else by doing this, and that it was a revelatory experience.

It did however show solidarity with the poor. Yeah great.

Now if that is my reaction, what do you think Greedy Corporate Wankers Bankers and Very Rich Persons will think to this initiative? Because they are the ones who should be trying to live on $1 or £1.50 a day.

They are just going to laugh. Seriously. In fact, I know plenty of ordinary people who would laugh at it and say ‘Fuck Right Off.’

And that is the problem.

We are not going to get rid of poverty and 1.4 billion starving people until the avaricious western world starts limiting what it uses because otherwise there will be no redistribution of wealth resources. Who wants to do that?

That £1/$1.50 a day is a token gesture because it doesn’t include fuel, electricity, transport, clothing, internet access and everything else we all take for granted.

So what is Ms Perfect doing to save the world apart from appearing to criticise other initiatives?

    1) I try and walk or cycle wherever I can. Next I take public transport. After that, the vehicle is the last option.

    2) I don’t eat meat, fish or chicken. Yes, there is an environmental impact to eating those and if you don’t believe it/aren’t aware of it you are living in prehistoric times. You also happen to be causing an awful lot of animal cruelty and abuse to have a dainty steak on your plate, but this post isn’t about that. Just thought I would remind you all though.

    3) I recycle what I can, don’t throw out unless something is beyond repair, and give old clothes to charities. I rescue stuff (ok Partner does that one). I avoid shopping apart from food.

    4) I haven’t eaten out for X years, or bought take-away food. Mainly cost, but also quality. Just, why bother?

    5) I don’t believe everything I read. I don’t believe what governments tell me (I can say that, I used to work for one), and I certainly don’t believe what money-grabbing global companies tell me.

So, my helpful conclusion to all this is, that, Global Poverty Project needs a second stage.

And that should be:

How I have changed/improved my life to help me/the world/the environment/the 1.4 billion starving people. Not just for five days, but for maybe a year or so? Or longer?

Because no-one wants to be told they have to give up the bacon cheeseburger and macaroni cheese do they? So we need to focus on improvements and good things and not – losing our luxuries of life. Maybe we need to change our ideas of luxuries too. Greasy bacon cheeseburger with equally greasy macaroni cheese full of saturated fats and dairy products perhaps isn’t such a luxury.

Wise up GPP and improve your PR. Still, you have got me writing about it, so that can’t be bad.

ETA – This post isn’t about deriding people who are taking part in the challenge. It is about pointing out to those who aren’t interested in poverty, globalisation, someone else’s life – that you do impact on it and that you too can take part, by spending less and consuming less every day of your life.

About roughseasinthemed

I write about my life as an English person living in Spain and Gibraltar, on Roughseas, subjects range from politics and current developments in Gib to book reviews, cooking and getting on with life. My views and thoughts on a variety of topics - depending on my mood of the day - can be found over on Clouds. A few pix are over on Everypic - although it is not a photoblog. And of course my dog had his own blog, but most of you knew that anyway. Pippadogblog etc
This entry was posted in animal rights, blogging, consumerism, environment, environmentalism, health, internet, life, musings, politics, poverty, public relations, shopping, vegan, vegetarian, vegetarianism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Consumerism (4) – all I need is a pound a day

  1. free penny press says:

    Wow.. you definitely broke this all the way open.. I agree with much you say and will be breaking my own views open as I blog about my “5 day experiment”. That is how I am looking at this. An experiment on ways we ALL collectively worldwide can improve our eating habits, reduce waste and bring awareness (many turn a blind eye to ugliness) to a problem that does not even need to exist.
    I thank you for reblogging/posting on this subject..
    More to come 🙂


    • Thanks. I have thought for days about how to write that one, but still couldn’t change my original thoughts. So I figured I might as well write it as it came.

      You know that I have an issue about the people who are doing it, aren’t the ones who need to be. You, and everyone else, who genuinely participates, aren’t earning millions of pounds/dollars a year, and ripping people off.

      And as I said in my last point – it’s great to raise awareness for five days. What about the other 360(1)? It’s rather like International Women’s Day. Great for the odd day or so, and then forget about it and go back to the norm. What we all need to do, is to generate permanent change. But how?


  2. I think it could be done if you get to the supermarket at the right time for the knock-downs. On Saturday (from Morrisons) I had a three course meal of beef patties in tomato sauce with chunky chips and roasted Mediterranean vegetables for £1.64 down from the original marked price of £7.90. I could easily have stretched it out over two days by adding some more vegetables or some rice. I also got some chicken goujons for .29p and I had them for lunch today! Not sure how I am going to fund the alcohol though on that sort of budget!


  3. Vicky says:

    Hmm, I don’t see how trying to live on £1 a day for a week helps anyone, apart from probably the conscience of the person who’s doing it. Even if you have been sponsored, and raised loads of dosh, does it actually get to the people who need it, or is it filtered out by the greed of that country’s government.
    It’s the root of the problem that needs tackling, not what can be seen above the surface.


    • I think some charities actually do get the money to where it is meant to go. *some*.

      It’s a bit like jesus and the fish though isn’t it? Making stuff go round when there isn’t enough. Ooops, no, not jesus and the fish at all (rubbish on religion me), I meant it’s the one about teaching people to fish rather than giving them the fish. Or I suppose I would say teaching people to make bread, grow stuff, etc etc. Roy had a great vid about growing fruit trees in the desert. Now that sort of thing IS useful. And sensible. And practical. And non-damaging.

      The root of the problem though, to me, lies with us. Not with the people who are living on $1.50 a day. It’s the west continually wanting more – of everything – for less, and trying to control the world, and impose our ‘values’ on everywhere else (I used the word values loosely). We’re not interested in finding effective and simple solutions to someone else’s problem.


  4. EllaDee says:

    Your wrote that post well (as usual). I get so worked up sometimes about gross over-consumption all I want to do it get on my soap box & rant. Great that you, free penny press, et al are putting your [coherent] thoughts out there. Your last words summed it up best for me. I have a favourite quotation by Julia Cameron “Wherever you are is always the right place. There is never a need to fix anything, to hitch up the bootstraps of the soul and start at some higher place. Start right where you are. ” which I think applies perfectly to how to effectively address over-consumption. We didn’t try to adopt big/sudden lifestyle changes but took small steps initially mainly for our own ends, and reviewing our progress it’s resulted in long term benefits & effects. Both the G.O. & I consume less than ever, have more $$ and feel better about reducing our footprint, and the sense of accomplishment inspires us to go further.


    • I think your comment is summed up in one word – responsibility. You could elaborate, and say, social, environmental and other types of responsibility, but the crux of it is that we should be aware of how we live our lives impacts on others. That when we buy something cheap – we may well be contributing to sweat shop labour and oppressive regimes. Great for our pocket? Maybe. Not so great for anything else. Not so great for the local manufacturers who can’t make a living because their costs are higher (they would probably run a sweat shop if they could) and we are all buying from abroad. Not so great for the environment when there are no pollution regulations where the cheap sweat shops are situated, or when stuff has to travel thousands of miles around the world…. You get the idea 😦


  5. Well, (short pause for applause).
    First off bacon cheeseburger and macaroni cheese, I think this could be a solution. All the over consumers could be given this diet everyday for every meal, they would drop dead after a month or two thereby wiping them out of the over consumption equation.
    I have never understood why the West (predominantly) continue, year after year, to provide food aid. Is it merely to create dependence?
    In the UK we had a spate of programs that took wealthy / public figures and they tried to live on whatever the benefit system provides for single people. Reality TV with a point? Not really as the vast majority of British people seem to relish watching reality TV but nothing seems to pause on its travel between the ears. It was just funny watching X struggle at the end of the week when they couldn’t afford their triple latte with extra cram and sprinkles or whatever.
    I have some hope in the younger generation as they do seem politically / environmentally aware in greater numbers than in my day.
    You have given me an idea for a blog as well so well done you.


    • Short pause here for snorting and sniggering at your first point. Wicked!! Although ethically, i think the bacon and cheeseburgers could possibly be a genetically modified overprocessed soy product 🙂 thereby saving piggywigs, and letting people be the victims of their own desire for technology and eating garbage. Maybe make the cheese soy too – so looking after the nice cows as well.

      I don’t understand food aid either. I don’t have an issue with supporting poor countries, it’s the way it is done that is the problem. To my totally unknowledgeable mind.

      I remember that series about rich politician living on dole money, or something like that, yes? Not sure I ever watched it though. Digressing slightly, wasn’t the first go at ‘reality’ that thing called ‘The Family’? That was boring too!!

      I am glad you have some hope, I certainly don’t. The few people I mix with are clearly the wrong ones. But I am pleased I have been your creative muse, and shall wait excitedly and expectantly. What seeds did you sow? (literal ones not metaphorical)


      • I agree, the more saturated genetically modified fat and salt etc the better. My first thought was to solve the problem with a 9mm equalizer, but that actually would go against my new found inner pacifist!
        I have no issue with the west (or east or anyone else) redistributing their wealth among the poorer nations. Indeed I believe it is a moral obligation. At the same time as immediate food aid to stop people dying, their should be training (in permaculture, it is my thing after all) and investment in infrastructure, not roads, but solar, wind, wave, water. Countries need to be sustainably serviced.
        Sorry I can’t help on the reality TV, never watched any. In fact watch hardly any TV apart from the rash of Danish / Swedish detective things currently on BBC 4.
        I have hope but then I don’t mix with anyone, maybe that’s the answer. All become self reliant recluses! I work in an office of mainly young women. Just the kind of environment for an old git like me. I am involved in conversations with young people who do have hope and expectation and some of it must have rubbed off. Huzzah, I have just discovered a benefit of work.
        Floral climbers, a mix not specified, along the fences to hide the awful panelling, squash, cucumber, sweet pepper, a salad leaf mix and open pollinating insect friendly wild flower mixes. Off to the allotment later to get some more seed in the ground, but only after I have finished the blog. These things seem to take me a long time, the brain must be getting soft.
        Sorry, long response.


        • No worries, any comments that make me smile/laugh are more than welcome.

          I don’t watch TV as we never replaced the last ones on their demise.

          Love salad leaf mixes. When my rocket starts flowering it seems to attract half the bees of Andalucía. And then it goes to seed, and re-seeds itself. All without me doing a thing. Such a clever and simple cycle. There is no need for me to interfere. A good parallel for life wouldn’t you say?


  6. Blu says:

    I have to say, I’m not that in favour of this living off $1.50 a day for a week thing, it smacks to me of an acceptance that it is alright for people to live off that amount of money and we can do it in the west to if we really want to.

    The issue for me in all this is fair trade. We should all pay a fair price for our coffee, chocolate, bananas etc. that allows both the farmers and the farm workers a better life style. We need to dismantle the trade barriers that prevent poorer countries trading with blocks like America and the EU on a level playing field, hey, why not even slant the field a little in their direction for a few years.

    I don’t want people in the west to try living off $1.50 a day and feeling proud they managed it, to me that is dumbing down, I want farm workers and others in the poorer nations to be able to live off $25 per day.

    Apologies if this offends anyone ….. Blu


    • I think there are a number of issues around it and it is important to separate them if we want to seriously examine the concept.

      1) I see it as a publicity campaign (some would say stunt). If it raises awareness then that is a start, but if there is no follow-through action, it’s not much use. And, if it gains negative comments about the actual method of doing so, ie £1/$1.50 a day for five days, then that isn’t a good result either.

      2) I thought the difference in the experiences of the British person and the American ex-Peace Corps volunteer were fascinating. The American one (as you can tell from my post) really switched me off. It’s probably one of the things that started me off on my consumerism series!! The British one was a lot more low-key, far more sensible in approach, and realistic. Interesting catering for the different psyches of the nationalities. I suppose I should look at the Aus one as I didn’t check that out. But why are only three countries doing it? If this is a global project, surely this campaign should be global?

      3) Agree about fair trade – and I do buy fair trade, when available. I am threatening a post about ethical shopping, but I need a bit of time to put that one together. But this is just a farming example – you could say we should pay a fair price for everything that avoids sweat shops. And then where would the global corporations earn their profits? Where would the western world source their cheap goods? Would people have to stop buying whatever they wanted because they couldn’t afford the prices?

      As for your last point, I suspect it’s not so much a feeling of achievement for doing it, more a realisation of how hard people’s lives are elsewhere. After all, living on £1/$1.50 a day in the comfort of your own home, with electricity and water on tap (!), a warm bed to go to, a vehicle and or public transport outside, isn’t exactly comparable. i think it is about the contrast in affluent western lives and poverty elsewhere (I’ve lost track of what Third World/underdeveloped/developing countries are currently called, those are the only three I can remember).

      But I disagree about living on $25 a day, for two people that’s $350 a week or approx £230. More than we live on. More than state benefits. I can’t see that one going down too well in the UK!

      I don’t think you need to apologise for what you have said. After all, I raised the topic in the first place, and I did realise it could be controversial, and that people would most likely question the value of the initiative, while being sympathetic to the starving billions.


I appreciate any comments you leave, so long as they are relatively polite. And thanks for reading.

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