day 1 – choices – (living below the line diaries)

It’s  only half-way through day 1 and already there’s so much to say… what should we talk about first? Choices, choices, choices…


Worship time this morning looked a little different to normal for the Sanctuary… we went to the supermarket to honour God and our neighbour by taking part in an unusual sacrament – trying to experience in some small way what life is like for those living below the global poverty line .

Jill and I are shopping and cooking together so we got to pool resources – £10 for two of you always goes further than £5 for one of you so that was our first win…

Our second was a basic pre-planned strategy of having the same food every day…  porridge with water for breakfast; bread and cheap spread for lunch; a giant slow-cooker pot of lentil, bean and tomato stew that could be paired with a different carbohydrate for supper each evening; and a mutual assurance that there would have to be a lot of tea bags… in the end we were also able to add the luxuries of six eggs and a packet of biscuits…

We bought:

1 loaf of reduced wholmeal value bread – 39p
2 pints of semi-skimmed milk – 89p
500g scottish porridge oats – 55p
1 box of 80 value teabags – 27p (seriously, that’s all they were…)
4 jacket potatoes – 70p
1 500g bag of rice – 75p
1 500g bag of wholmeal pasta – 47p (on offer, at almost half price)
3 tins of tomatoes – 93p
1 tin of mixed beans – 62p (on offer)
1 tin of butter beans – 69p
1 tin of value kidney beans – 18p
1 500g bag of split red lentils – 83p
1 pack of 10 value veggie stock cubes – 10p
1 pot of value mixed herbs – 19p
6 large free-range eggs – £1.45
1 small tub of value garlic and herb soft cheese – 50p
1 pack of value bourbons – 45p
Total spent… £9.96

Compared to the normal weekly shop (budget £30 each) it was cheap, and the list was short, but it took a long time to make our choices… why?

There were too many

We don’t need to remark here on the overwhelming choice available in our supermarkets… we all know that. But actually that wasn’t our main focus… we didn’t even bother walking down half of the aisles… luxuries like alcohol and confectionary were straight off the list and we’d done enough thinking in advance to know there wouldn’t be money for fruit, meat or fish either…

But even at our below basics level there were so many choices – should we stick to our normal ethical principles, or abandon them in the hope of a vaguely normal week? Should we have nicer bread or another variety of beans for our main meal? Which would be harder – making sacrifices at lunch, or at dinner? Could we justify sugar for the porridge, or might we regret only having one variety of carbohydrate for our dinners?

There was not enough

Of course the stark reality was there often wasn’t really a choice. And so we’d deliberate for a while trying to deny that, and avoid the inevitable. The cheapest option just had to be the winner… whatever the quality…

We just didn’t have enough money to make the choices we wanted… and if we wanted to have enough for breakfast, lunch and dinner for all five days, we just couldn’t afford to make any of the choices we deliberated about at first… so back onto the shelf went the nicer bread, and the Fairtrade tea…

There were some dilemnas

When we were thinking about things in advance of course we really struggled with the possibility that we might have to abandon Fairtrade tea. (We knew we wouldn’t have enough for any other items it might be an issue with…) But stood in front of the shelves with a dwindling amount of spare change, the choice made itself – even reduced on special offer to £2, it just felt too much of a sacrifice to choose a better deal for producers over £1.73 extra available for the week’s other necessities.

Thank goodness the battery hen eggs came in such large quantities that they were more expensive than six free range ones and so we didn’t have to agnoise over that ethical dilemma too.

There were some disagreements

Shopping for two was definitely an advantage over one… apart from when we disagreed. The loss of all fruit teas and other varieties of hot drink besides value tea seemed to me to be the most concerning element of the sacrifice… and so I wanted to spend 41p on some lemon juice to have in hot water…

But I lost the battle to the bourbons and Jill’s lower blood sugar levels… and it will take grace not to remind her of this during the week!

But one choice haunts me

And that’s the fact that we got to choose to take part in this exercise. Unlike the 1.4 billion people that this week is all about.

It’s making us think, but it’s quite fun… and come Saturday, everything will go back to normal. Or will it?

Will any of our lifestyle choices actually change? Will we choose to be different?

Liz Baddaley

Choosing to pray

It’s hard to know what to pray today Lord.
I sat down to lunch and grace felt trite –
I’m almost embarrassed, ashamed
For I know I am not living below the line.
I wanted to be inspired by this temporary sacrifice
To feel more, understand more… care more…
But it’s been too easy – too interesting –
Too diverting
To make me anything but thankful.
Thankful that I have so much
And thankful that you keep showing me more of you
So that I’m beginning to be open to having less –
Though I wrestle and fight and resist
And half long to return to ignorance
Or deny and justify myself out of what my heart says loud and clear –
That I’m hungrier for change in the world,
And transformation in me
Than this food before me.
Teach me your heart Saviour, Provider, Friend,
For I would choose you, and others, over me.
But I need your help.
So I choose your help
Even when I’m half-afraid of where it might lead.

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