Epilogue and final thoughts

2 Apr
Now that the challenge itself is over, it’s time to take care of the aftermath and some final thoughts.

Health

First of all, how was my health impacted by all this? Overall, I’d say positively. I’ve had to watch my nutrition a bit more closely than usual, especially in the beginning. During the challenge, alcohol was basically unaffordable so I’ve dropped that entirely, and although I could have coffee at the office, the withdrawal was a problem in the weekend, which led me to drop that as well. I went a month without buying refined sugar. I’d say these changes made it easier to listen to my body. Better nutrition and I noticed I needed less sleep, and vice versa. Normally, I’d simply drink an extra cup of coffee and remain oblivious.

I’m fairly certain I did not hit my five-a-day every day (do you?) As I almost expected, I did drop some weight during the challenge (1.9 kilos or roughly 4 pounds closer to my ideal weight). Nothing too shocking and definitely not in the realms of dangerous weight loss. My lowest weight was however not at the end of the challenge, but about three weeks in. I gained back about a pound in the last week. Overall, my muscle-to-fat ratio has improved slightly. Meanwhile, during the month, I’ve had pizza. Pasta. Croissants. Warka pie. Cream. Butter chicken. Easiest weight loss ever.There have been no significant changes in my blood pressure between start and end of challenge, where I expected to see a bit of an improvement. I guess a bit more rigorous exercise would be needed for that.

Waste

Waste has been very low this month. I did discard a small crust of bread of the “failed ravioli” and I’ve had to discard 2 little snack packs (8p each) of discounted carrot which I could, in hindsight, have frozen. Total value wasted: under 20p. That is, unless you count all the food leftover after the challenge; it will still find its way into my meals, but I could probably have bought less.

Sustainability

I’ve managed to do this mostly by choosing discounted items. Which means, it doesn’t scale up. In the bigger picture, not everybody can live on discounted items only; there simply aren’t enough discounted items available for that. Are you listening, government? Just because one person managed to live on a pound a day for a month, that doesn’t mean you can cut pensions now!

Things I did and didn’t do

During this challenge, I haven’t gone bin-diving. I haven’t gone fishing. I haven’t hunted for animals. I haven’t eaten any road kill. I haven’t taken any food with at the very least the implied permission that I could have it (such as was the case with the company breakfasts).

I have done a small amount of foraging, but I could probably have left any foraged foods out of the picture and done mostly the same, as all I’ve gathered was a handful of hazelnuts and some dandelion greens.

All in all, I’ve remained a fairy normal member of society during the month. I haven’t gone into full blown ultra-poverty post-apocalyptic survival mode. Point being, a normal person could live on a budget like this during normal, albeit financially depressed times, as long as not everyone is doing it.

Rather than planning my meals and then go shopping, I often ended up going shopping and then planned my meals around what happened to be available, making up my mind both on what to cook and on what to buy as I was strolling through the supermarket. Creativity and cooking know-how have definitely helped in keeping the budget down and the meals varied.

I havetried making this a worst-case scenario from a few perspectives. First of all, there was the empty pantry to start me off. I could have made things easier by allowing myself herbs, spices, salt, etc. which cost-wise can just about be ignored; I’ve used about a third of the 28p jar of mixed herbs or about 1/3 penny per day. Salt, vinegar etc. aren’t going to make anyone poor. Doing the challenge as a single person is considerably more limiting than having twice the budget for two or four times the budget for four people. Having only a days’ worth of money available at a time is more limiting than having a single amount available at the beginning of the month. However, this also meant that I couldn’t possibly overspend my budget regardless of how luxurious any single meal would be.

On communities

Others have correctly pointed out that buying in bulk would have been cheaper and that larger groups could obviously live more cost-effectively than a single person. Moreover, the time demands could be shared in that case, to the extreme where a community is entirely self-sufficient. This would ultimately make money play a much less important role between a closed community and the “outside world”, although I’d expect to start seeing some trading and/or bartering going on within that community.

Recipe ideas for things I didn’t cook

There are a number of things which I thought I might possibly cook on a budget, but which haven’t quite made it.
I just thought I’d mention them, because all of these could have been on the menu.

  • Steamed pork bun
  • Cottage pie
  • Dumplings
  • Potato salad / egg salad
  • Onion soup
  • Tea smoked chicken (would have required tea, rice and sugar as smoking agent – might have worked without sugar)
  • Spring rolls/samosas (deep frying was an issue without oil)
  • Chips
  • Risotto
  • “Office coffee creme brulee” (no sugar)
  • Biscuits (no sugar)
  • Sourdough bread (no yeast)

On charity

Partway through the challenge, I stopped accepting any charity. It made things too easy. I had done nothing to deserve any charity, nor did I actually need it. Natural disasters are a legitimate cause for needing charity, and there’s no shame in accepting help when in a situation like that. But when charity goes beyond need, it can end up doing more harm than good.

Permanent changes

At this moment it’s obviously a bit too early to tell if any lifestyle changes of the past month will be permanent, so I can’t give any definitive answers here. I think I’ll be more moderate with sugar. I may watch my nutrition more closely now that I’ve noticed so clearly that better nutrition equals needing less sleep.

I’ll probably be asking myself “Do I need this?” a bit more often than before. Without being limited to one pound, I’ll probably have certain vegetables a bit more often than during the challenge – think salad vegetables that can equally well be eaten raw as well as cooked, such as tomatoes, spring onions, Chinese leaf and bell peppers. And spices. I’ll be using lots of them again. Spices just open up a world of flavours and variation at minimal cost.In terms of waste management, I haven’t done anything much different from my usual, so I’m fairly sure that I’ll be able to keep that up. There’s always dishes such as pizza, stir fries, fried rice or soup which will work with just about any ingredient you choose to put in there.

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7 Responses to “Epilogue and final thoughts”

  1. Arno Brevoort April 8, 2012 at 1:36 am #

    Well done.

    The “what would happen if everybody tried to do this” question did pass my mind too. I make a point of checking for bargains at the local supermarket — but do realize equally well that the supermarket isn’t the *only* place of getting food.

    My village is quite small, and besides a post-office with bacon, sausage and frozen peas there’s not really any food for sale locally. Until… you actually start to look for it. There’s eggs that can be bought, blackberries that can be picked, tea, cake, home grown vegetables.

  2. Mr. Fed Up April 26, 2012 at 2:43 am #

    You mention “spring rolls” as something you would have considered making except for the issue with the oil… Have you ever thought about “fresh” spring rolls. They are just wrapped in a rice/tapioca paper and NOT fried. We stuff ours with mango, shrimp, cucumbers, etc and use a peanut dipping sauce sometimes. THEY ARE REALLY GOOD! Anyway, just a thought… Great post and great way to sum everything up.

    • kleinebre May 1, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

      In hindsight, yes- I could have done the “fresh” version. Though I must say I really appreciate that crispy finish!

      • Mr. Fed Up May 2, 2012 at 2:24 am #

        crispy is always nice!

  3. ournewlifeinthecountry April 30, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    This has been a brilliant read, yes I have just read it (over a couple of days) from start to finish and I congratulate you on a Challenge well done.

    • kleinebre April 30, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

      Thanks for the moral support! As you may have picked up, it’s not completely over yet for me… Still doing a five-day one on top for charity. The “About” page will tell you more about it.

  4. Debra King May 2, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    Excellent read!! I just found you yesterday over at ournewlifeinthecountry and have read completely through. It’s just so facinating and makes a person really think about what we truly “need” in our lives. Thank you so much for opening our eyes on how we can live on so much less! Would love to see some more “experiments” like this one!! Good luck to you!!

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