Sunday, 27 April 2014

Off the scale

The point of Live Below The Line is to empathise with, and support, people in the poorest countries on earth. Of course, the UK is clearly not one of the poorest countries on earth.

This is abundantly clear to me as I plan my meals for next week. You see, the food in the shops is packaged to match our relative riches. Rice, for example, is only available in the local supermarkets in 1kg bags. I imagine that in poorer countries, where the population has less money, smaller portions are more readily available.

If I have to buy 1 kg of rice, in order to get 300g, the challenge acquires a whole new level of difficulty. I’ve been musing on this and have formulated some rules keep the spirit of the challenge.

When I shop for groceries I buy large amounts of food to be consumed over several weeks. I’m sure you do the same. It’s a better use of time and money, isn’t it? I would follow the same regardless of the budget that constrained me.

However, this ability to bulk buy is constrained by cashflow. You have to earn enough to buy a month’s worth of a particular item. You also need to have the ability to store what you’ve bought. For example, we regularly freeze bread. But in the poorer parts of the world would the electricity supply be reliable enough to run a freezer?

Part of this approach to shopping is driven by the monthly pace of my pay. In other jobs, or other parts of the world, pay may arrive weekly or daily. It may arrive in an adhoc fashion as items are sold to buyers. So, it’s within the spirit of the challenge to place some boundaries on bulk buying.

  1. I can’t freeze food in order to make it last longer. For example, any bread I buy can’t have the cost spread over multiple weeks, as it’ll go stale.
  2. For items that are measured in teaspoons or tablespoons, I can spread the cost over many weeks. For example, I can use oil at a rate of 5p for 1 tablespoon with no need to buy larger amounts.
  3. For items that are measured in larger amounts I can spread the cost over two weeks. So I can buy 1kg of rice for 40p, and use 500g this week at a cost of 20p.
  4. I can only spread the cost of items that will keep for two weeks. Once I’ve opened a tin then I’ll have to use it within the week, so the cost can’t be spread.

Let buying commence.

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