BLOG: Day five – Could you live on £5 for five days?

Helen Burton at the Junk Food Cafe in Brighton SUS-150522-103029001
Helen Burton at the Junk Food Cafe in Brighton SUS-150522-103029001
  • Helen Burton from Pevensey Bay took on the Live Below the Line challenge recently
  • She is living on just £5 for five days, with some help from her chickens providing eggs
  • Today’s blog is Helen’s last of the five day challenge
  • You can read all five of her blogs, which started on Monday (May 22), here on this website

This morning I had an omelette for breakfast with a quarter of a tin of beans. This leaves me with a bit of chocolate spread for dinner tonight and two slices of bread that are mouldy.

Luckily today I went to Brighton to investigate a great café that serves meals made from food that would otherwise be thrown away. The intercepted waste food is turned into various dishes and then served every Friday at the ‘Real Junk Food Café’ in Gloucester Place. It operates in a church who let them use the facilities every Friday but the organisers of the café currently have a campaign to raise funds to open the café every day of the week. Pledge to their cause at

I had a lovely meal. There was lots of hot food available as well as salad, bread, a table of deserts, a table of crisps and chocolate, a table where juice was being made and also a coffee bar! Adam, one of the organisers, even gave me a donut to bring home with me. The concept of the café is that you ‘pay as you feel’ so, those that are able, pay what they think is fair and people on low incomes don’t have to pay at all. I had previously made a donation to the café’s crowdfunder appeal so today I ate for free. The café’s payment policy meant that there was a great mix of people. I spoke to someone who had a good job nearby and had lunch there every week but there were also a lot of students, people who were homeless and people who were on low incomes. It was a great atmosphere and I thought it was great that no matter people’s age or status we all ate together. 200 people were served today.

I sat and talked with two ladies, Kirsty and Natasha. Kirsty shared her story with me as we ate together and it was very moving. She had been homeless for several years when she was addicted to drugs, but she had now recovered and had her own small place to live. She told me that because she is clean and well-dressed people think she’s ok, but they don’t see the struggle going on underneath. She told me that all of her clothes were second hand and she often has to choose between paying the bills or buying food. She said she goes to places like the café because it gives her a chance to eat well and helps her to budget, but also she likes the company because she says that loneliness is the worst thing to cope with.

Natasha was also sitting with us and her situation was similar to Kirsty’s, she had a home and a small income but struggled to pay for food as well as day to day expenses. She told me that she had got a cat just before Christmas as is owner could no longer look after it, and that the cat was now the most important thing to her. She told me that her priorities were her cat, then her bills, then food for herself and it was obvious from what she was saying that sometimes her last priority didn’t get met. During our meal she ‘accidently’ knocked a piece of chicken off her plate onto the floor. She made a point of saying she couldn’t eat it now, but that perhaps she could take it home for the cat so it didn’t go to waste. I thought of my own spoilt cats at home and again I felt so lucky that my experience of poverty was only temporary.

This week has been a real eye opener for me, I’ve learnt a lot about my own eating habits, I appreciate what I have more and I have a completely new perspective on what it is like to live in poverty in the UK. To date I’ve also raised £118 in sponsorship which will go to Action Aid, but you can still add to that total if you are able at (just type Helen Burton in the participant box).

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