I wonder if I will ever grow out of wanting to ask for the Lent things back? No sign of it yet…
But seriously. I have set myself a couple of fast-like challenges for Lent and this post is all about explaining the why and what of them.
The first is straightforward – I will give up all alcohol for the whole of Lent, bar two days. What are those two days? First is a day I am in Rome, at the Spring Event. The second is an afternoon watching Ebbsfleet United. So far I’m three days in, and that’s included two pub trips with the two groups of people with whom I drink. I guess I had half-expected peer pressure – but actually once people understood I really did just want water, no more was said. Mild teasing about religion, but then I take that as standard and just a good opportunity to gently correct misunderstandings about the true nature of Christianity. I’ve been pretty public about this, posting to Twitter and Facebook.
The second challenge came out of a conversation I had at Christmas about the idea of living on $1 a day. This is a widely quoted marker of absolute poverty from the World Bank (the figure’s currently $1.25/day which loses a bit of the powerful alliteration!). That’s about 78p. Given that I cost around £40 a day in train fare, rent and bills, I’m always going to be wealthy on that scale. But, this did make me think a little about what my biggest variable cost is – food. I spend around £40 a week, plus every six weeks or so a further £100 on a big buy-everything Sainsbury’s trip. My shopping list isn’t unhealthy – the largest cost is salad, fruit and vegetables and I rarely buy meat. It’s a long time, too, since I threw anything much away – I have a slightly cavalier attitude towards use-by dates. But I have stockpiled more than I need (4 packs of spaghetti?) and relied on relatively expensive fruit and vegetables as an easy way to stick with the Weightwatchers plan. So my other challenge is: Spend as close to £1 a day during the week, £2 a day at the weekend on food. That’s a week’s budget of less than a tenner on which to eat a diet that includes my 5-a-day. Hence recent tweeting about good ways to cook lentils.
I’d like to say that the money I may save is going to go to charity. And in the long run, it will – the priority for me at the moment is to reduce my overdraft. I’m not sure it’s sound to give away money that actually belongs to the bank, even if the bank charging me for the overdraft is the ethical Co-operative Bank.
Weightwatchers will have to take a back seat, but given that I’m not drinking, that will (hopefully) help.Fruit juice is a relatively cheap way of adding 1 portion of my 5, but in WW terms, it’s quite high in points compared to fresh fruit.
Yesterday I hit about £1.12. Today I’m making Quorn fajitas for lunch and dinner (same thing twice is a frequent side-effect of living alone). The big extravagance today is a 54p pot of sour cream, the wraps were 50p and everything else was in the cupboard already so I’ve not priced those. (Cheat!) The use-by Nov 2010 tin of kidney beans is going to be made into a refried beans style dip later.
On Thursday I went to Asda with just £15 in my pocket. I’m not suggesting that my shopping was reckless, done without checking prices, but I never needed to come in at an exact budget because I just paid by card. Adding things up to the nearest penny as I went along was a new experience. In the end I went over my £10 target by 13p, as I bought (reduced price) hot cross buns. How lucky I am, though, that this is a choice I make rather than a circumstance I cannot avoid.
So it’s a fast of sorts – a fast from the convenience of expensive foods; from over-buying; from using food too much as an excuse or a reward for how I feel; from the ‘I deserve the best’ school of thought.
The third is to read Maggi Dawn’s Lent book in a moment of quiet each morning. So far so good apart from Thursday when I was running late and ended up reading whilst cleaning my teeth. Already I have been challenged on my Lent challenges – what are they for? Are they too individualistic? What’s the relationship with my faith…? And this blog post is going some way to understanding the answers to the first two.
I’d be interested in people’s opinions. Particularly on the charity vs overdraft question as I’ve wrestled with it for some time. (I do give some money away to church, a sponsor child and the YMCA roomsponsor scheme – not planning to change that).