Posts tagged with "Below the Line Challenge"

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The Artful Dodger of Refresh PR

In line with Laura's confessional blog, I too have a confession to make. While account manager, and fellow Below the Line-r, Gemma Cannon was out of the office yesterday, I stole a packet of crisps from her desk.

I’m going to put this 'Artful Dodger' type behaviour down to a state of cup a soup related delirium because I wouldn't normally touch a packet of salt and vinegar crisps with a barge pole (I'm much more of a cheese and onion man). However, to be frank, I would've eaten anything within grabbing distance, so long as it wasn't powdered or pasta.

It just goes to show that when you have no budget to buy whatever you fancy, you'll gladly eat just about anything by any means necessary.

This week has demonstrated that when living on £5, choices become limited – I've basically spent five days eating toast or pasta and drinking water alongside a daily cup a soup. The lack of variety and absence of anything with nutritional content is startling.

I'm not going to lie; I cannot wait for the end of the challenge and to resume normal eating. I do however think this challenge will alter the way in which I shop. Sourcing bargains, thinking twice before throwing money away on unnecessary sweet snacks and hunting through the 'reduced to clear' aisle are habits I'll definitely be adopting from now on.

Because despite the jokes we’ve made this week and our whinging about a lack of coffee/sugar/alcohol etc, there is a very serious point to the challenge. Millions in the UK live below the poverty line and cannot afford to splash out on foods that many of us barely consider to be a treat at all.

I for one won't be looking the same way at my weekly shop again.

Final point: apologies to Gemma, I owe you a packet of Walker's next week.


Tagged with: Below the Line Challenge, Food & Drink, Manchester, PR Agency Manchester, Public Relations North West

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Living 'Above the Line'

When the team signed up for the Live Below the Line Challenge, apart from the initial shock (Refreshers like their food), I was left feeling a little disgruntled about the fact that I wouldn't be joining in. I was also thinking that Laura would never be able survive without caffeine for five days but I didn't say that out spirit n' all! Turns out I was right - have a read of Laura's latest blog if you don't know what I'm talking about. 

As well as it being a fantastic cause, I also love doing the big shop (weird, I know) so I knew it would be a real challenge to only spend £5. Also, with only £5 to spend then I wouldn't get the same satisfaction from organising my trolley and bags by food type and weight  in order to make packing it, then transporting it in and out of the car, and then unpacking it, as easy as possible...see, I'm weird.

The reason I decided against taking up the challenge is that I'm currently 32 weeks pregnant and I know that by only spending £1 each day on food, I would be depriving my baby of some of the nutrition it needs. The vitamins alone I take each week cost over £5 and I wasn't prepared to give these up. I know the point of the challenge is that some people are not as lucky as me and simply don't have the choice, so you might disagree with my decision but I stand by it.

Even though I've not been participating, watching the team struggle with food choice and portion rationing this week really has made me think about my weekly food bill and appreciate that I can comfortably live 'Above the Line'. I can't imagine being pregnant and not being able to give your baby all the food and nutrition it needs in order to give it the best possible start in life.

With a busy job and equally as busy social calendar, I'm a big convenience shopper - one supermarket, once a week, to get everything I need. But from now on, I'll definitely be much more cash conscious and I'll certainly be shopping around to make my budget go further.

Aside from Laura's small caffeine blip - for which by the way, after 32 weeks of no caffeine or alcohol, I have no sympathy - the team have shown great determination and support for a brilliant cause this week, so I for one will be on standby with the treats tomorrow afternoon: a Costa for Laura, Haribo for Corey and a glass of red for Gemma.


Tagged with: Below the Line Challenge, Manchester, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations North West

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I will happily sell my soul for Haribo

It's day two of the Below the Line Challenge, and safe to say I’m not finding it nearly as easy as I thought I would.  The £5 budget may have bought me just about enough food to sustain me throughout the week, although my meal plan is an unvaried selection of carbs and cup a soups, it doesn’t however allow me to buy the things I love most – snacks.

In the average working week I can easily consume three Yorkies and two bags of Haribo in snacks, alongside rounds of coffee and the occasional can of coke. Three Yorkies alone, even when on offer at Sainsbury’s at three for £1.20, cost more than a healthy proportion of a £5 allowance. I quickly realised while doing my weekly shop, that this challenge meant curbing my snacking habit. Needless to say I spend a lot of time fantasising about confectionary at the moment.

My second quick realisation was how extravagant I am with my food shopping. The spending habits of a World Cup WAG do truly pale in comparison to the money I throw away on sugary snacks. Looking back at my usual eating habits, it didn’t take a mathematician to realise that I spend more than the challenge’s budget on sweet treats on a regular basis.

This is where the guilt set in. After just 24 hours I was moaning that I’d sell my soul for a bag of Haribo, meanwhile others, for whom a £5 budget isn’t a challenge but in fact their reality, do without all the time. Or rather they don’t go without because there is no going with. The Below the Line experience has taught me very quickly how fortunate I am that I can buy food without a second thought.

Therefore I am going to try (but not promise) to not complain about the food I’m eating this week. Five days of instant soups for lunch and pasta for dinner doesn’t seem like that much of a big deal when you consider that there are many in the UK for whom the challenge never ends.


Tagged with: Below the Line Challenge, Food & Drink, Manchester, PR Agency Manchester, Public Relations, Public Relations North West

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Let the caffeine withdrawal begin

When I took a call from One Ark on Wednesday last week asking us to join the team taking part in the Below the Line Challenge, I had two initial thoughts: what is it, and how am I going to persuade the team to take part?  Fortunately the latter wasn't a problem as we like both a challenge and to support a good cause here at Refresh PR - phew!


The former was more of a quandary as I'd not heard of the campaign before.  However after taking a good look round the campaign website, and with famous faces like Hugh Jackman spurring me on, how could I say no?


The rules mean each person taking part can only spend £5 during the week on food and drink. Accepting donations or 'free' food from others isn't allowed either. So, being organised, my instinct was to sit down and look at the week ahead, I've badminton training on Monday evening and golf on Wednesday - both of which mean I need to eat carbs.  Then I've a morning YouTube event at MediaCity UK on Tuesday and the all-day/ evening CIPR Northern Conference and AGM on Thursday - both of which involve temptations like a buffet and coffee.  An evening out on Tuesday was promptly cancelled!  


So I pretty much knew what I was dealing with, yes? No! I sat down and realised I didn't have a clue how much some items cost - a banana, an apple, cheese, and so on.  I know roughly how much our food bill is each week, but absolutely no idea how that breaks down.  Bad, isn't it?  Should I be admitting this? So Sunday was a learning curve and a half - but I'm glad that the challenge has already made me think.


I've never planned meals in advance before, and with no time over the weekend to plan or shop around for the best bargains due to family commitments, I certainly couldn't start now.  Instead a rushed trip to Tesco to stock up on its Everyday range of products had to suffice.  And because of this plus my new found appreciation of the value of an apple (one apple = three bananas fyi), I had to make the quick decision in the fruit and veg aisle to sacrifice drink in the name of food - a tough decision as it is going to mean a whole week without caffeine.  For anyone who doesn't know me, that means I'm going from around eight cups of coffee and two diet cokes pFooder day down to absolutely zero.  But as water is 'free' I'll be making the most off it for five days. 


Needless to say I already feel like I have travelled back in time to my University days, particularly when I actually read down my shopping list when I got home:


Wholemeal loaf - 47p

3 x tomatoes - 35p

2 tins of tomatoes -68p

Pasta - 29p

3 x free range eggs - 50p

Butter - 20p

3 bananas - 33p

2 apples - 68p

2 tins of baked beans - 48p

Cheese - 50p

1 x potato - 32p

6 paracetamol (for the caffeine withdrawal) - 12p

Total spend - £4.92


So yes, the above list looks like the items in a fresher's shopping bag! But it does (I think) give me everything that is in a balanced diet: fruit/veg, carbs, protein, calcium and fat/sugar.


So, let's see how I get on with test number one on Monday morning - remembering to take my pre-made lunch into work rather than leaving it in the fridge as usual...


Oh, and you may have noticed that I have 8p spare.  At this moment in time it fees like a lot of money, so does anyone know what I can buy with this please?  Answers below would be gratefully received...




Tagged with: Below the Line Challenge, North West , PR, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations, Public Relations North West