Live Below the Line: It’s a Wrap!

It’s been a few days since my Live Below the Line challenge ended, and now it’s back to the usual flow of things. The same day that my challenge wrapped up I boarded an overnight bus to Baltimore, and let me tell you, following a campaign to survive off of $1.75 a day for food and drink with an out-of-town weekend vacation might not have been the best idea.

I honestly feel like a have a three-day-old food baby in my stomach. I feel sluggish, dehydrated and just plain “bleh”, if that can even be used as a descriptive term. We ate three very large meals a day while in Baltimore (as one normally tends to overdo it while on vacation), and although it’s tough to follow a strict food budget when you have to rely on restaurants for your meals, I wish that I was better able to continue to use what I’ve learned from the challenge through to the end of our vacation.

Vacations are anomalies though, so now that I’m back home I’m adamant to implement the fundamentals of LBL into my everyday menu.

To properly wrap-up my three weeks of living below the line, I’ve decided to share the biggest lessons I’ve learned:

  1. Doing the challenge on your own is extremely hard. You limit yourself to a very bland menu that becomes quite repetitive after the third day or so. The best way to organize your food and budgeting is to gather at least one other person to join you on the challenge. By doing so you expand your food options and can get more creative with your meals (such as being able to cook a pot of chili, or a stew, or other one-pot meals that can be divvied up between you and your fellow teammates). Next time I do the challenge, I’m recruiting some of my friends (and yes, dear and close friends that may be reading this, you’ve been forewarned 😉 ).
  2. Fiber is your friend. It fills up your belly and ensures that you feel satiated for longer periods of time. Make sure you include high-fiber foods in your budget. Brown rice is a perfect example of a must-have for LBL: it’s about $2.00 for a bag that can easily last one week for two people.
  3. Beans and legumes are also your friends. They’re cheap, provide you with essential nutrients and can be used in so many different ways it’s ridiculous. Buy them dried from a bulk food store and put in the little extra effort to prepare them (instead of relying on the canned versions). You can use them in salads, soups, veggie burgers, falafel…you’re options are endless.
  4. Make sure you have a strong support network during the challenge. I’ve said it before, but I am beyond happy to say it again — the organizers of Live Below the Line Canada and it’s partner charities (Cuso, Results Canada, Spread the Net and Raising the Village) offer their participants so much motivation, inspiration and support during the challenge that you never feel like you’re alone. Through their social media channels, especially Twitter, they personally connect with you and provide you with daily messages to keep you chugging along. It’s absolutely, amazingly heartwarming. Aside from the challenge organizers, also make sure that your friends are onboard with your decision to participate. Through my daily posts on this blog I have received so much great feedback and support from my friends. I didn’t go one day without feeling the lovin’.
  5. Take a week before you begin the challenge to introduce its concept to those you interact with daily. I signed up for LBL just a few days before it officially began. Because of this, I didn’t get the opportunity to better prepare my family members and friends for the limitations I’d be facing over the next few weeks. I know in the point above I stated that my friends provided me with an excellent support system, but there was still some confusion about the actual stipulations of the challenge. For example, during the first week of the challenge it was my sister’s birthday, so I went for a visit. Dinner had been prepared and of course there was a customary birthday cake, but I had to explain to her that I couldn’t eat any of it because it wasn’t included in my challenge budget. She tried reasoning with me, saying that if a needy person were offered food, they wouldn’t turn it down, which is actually quite correct if that were the situation. To this I responded with: “That’s not the point. The purpose of this challenge is to put ourselves in the position of those who actually have to survive like this daily. I’m doing this to bring awareness to the cause.” I also had to assure her that I wasn’t purposefully starving myself, that it was a fundraising challenge, and it’s only a temporary situation. The moral of my story is this: explain to your family and friends the reason why you’re participating in the challenge and that you’re only living off of what falls into your budget. Handouts are not allowed, and no theoretical situations of “what if I was a missionary or a tourist and I wanted to give you food?” Also, it’s probably best if you clear your social calendar during the challenge to avoid temptation. It’s only a week, your social life will survive.
  6. Stay engaged. Provide daily status updates through your social media pages; write a blog to document your LBL journey; interact with other participants to create a steadfast support network; produce daily “vlogs” or a small series of videos; whatever your platform may be, there’s so many things you can do to stay engaged during the challenge. Think about it — you’re bringing awareness to the cause, sharing your reasons for participating and increasing your fundraising possibilities. You become the voice for those you are fundraising for. This is, BY FAR, the most important reason of the challenge. Get engaged; stay engaged; and utilize all the tools we have at our fingertips to create and add to this movement to end global poverty.
  7. Use the challenge to reflect on your own life. In participating in LBL I’ve been forced to face the reality of just how much money I spend on a daily basis. From my morning coffee, to feeling lazy and not wanting to brown bag my meals, to feeling like splurging on a night out — there’s so much excess in my life. Thanks to LBL I feel like I’m entering a new phase. I knew what I was capable of before, but now that I’ve implemented just a fraction of that ability for the challenge, I feel inspired to better myself and continue to help others. Through small acts we conquer large feats. That is one of the most important things I’ve learned.

As this is my final post for this year’s challenge, I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who’s helped me raise my fundraising goal: Tania J., Rosanne R., Lisa C., Stacey G., Aleesha H., Ana P., Kayla W., Sarah E., Lindsay S., Glenn W., Lauren M., Leslie G., Jenn P., Sheryl M., Lisa P., Uriel M., Deb W., Jeanette C., Louise D., Annabelle S., Kevin G., Paul H., my sister and her boyfriend, my friends at Samesun Backpackers, and whomever the kind “Anonymous” person may be.

I’d also like to thank Erin Deviney, Campaign Manager of LBLCA, for her constant support; the good folks at Raising the Village for their kindness and motivation; my new friend and fellow challenge participant Eric for the daily chats and commiserating; and Ennis Esmer for taking the time to sit down and talk about his involvement in the challenge.

Congrats to all LBLers past, present and future! And don’t forget, fundraising doesn’t close until July 1st, so pick five consecutive days (or more), set a fundraising goal, and sign up!

I’m honoured to have participated in such a great fundraising cause and I look forward to continuing my involvement in the future. But for now, that’s a wrap!

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