Living On Air

“Today I went shopping, calculator in hand, and I found it quite a profound experience. Wandering the aisles of LIDL with my list and calculator, picking things up, putting things back when I found a better option.” Amos Communities Engagement Manager Katie Hagley shares her experience of living on £5 for 5 days. Read how she got on and whether her family is still talking to her!


On Monday my family and I will start Amos Trust’s £5 For 5 Days challenge to raise money and awareness for street-connected children. And it is proving challenging before we have even started.

I have spent the last week planning our shopping list, searching out cheap recipes online, discussing how we will make it work with the kids, thinking about what we just cannot do without, comparing supermarket prices – to be honest it has become all-consuming. Already I can see what it means to live on only a £1 a day or in the case of my family of 5, £5 a day.

One day to go

Today I went shopping, calculator in hand, and I found it quite a profound experience. Wandering the aisles of LIDL with my list and calculator, picking things up, putting things back when I found a better option, I quickly realised I was going to have to go to somewhere else as they did not sell individual items and the 50p bag was going to be too much.

I realised pretty quickly that the couple next to me in the vegetable aisle were doing this for real. I count the pennies, I do check prices but they were really having to work things out, painstakingly putting vegetables back, swapping things around and discussing which bits they would get in other supermarkets and I knew this was no week-long challenge for them but a harsh reality.

Shopping done with 24p to spare (and 2 onions to buy), I headed home for a feast of curry before we start tomorrow – clearly not an option for those people around the world and in the UK actually living on £1 a day but definitely the only way I could sell this to my family.


Things I have learned so far:

  • it is pretty daunting not knowing if the food you have bought will last 5 days when you only have 24p left for the week
  • opening a bag of potatoes to divide up for 2 meals and finding that 2 are rotten really matters when there was only just enough anyway
 – I actually felt like crying
  • it costs a lot more to be hospitable when it means you may not have enough food at the end of the week and I am reminded of our partners around the world who are so quick to offer food and drink at the cost of their own families and communities when we visit.


They say that variety is the spice of life and so far variety has been in short supply – as indeed have any herbs and spices. The last four days have gone soooo slowly and we are all pretty hungry most of the time yet bored by the food we are eating. Everyone in the family would agree that we are looking forward to a lot more fresh food and more variety in our diet. To be honest, we are looking forward to a lot more of everything. Not that we are counting the days or anything.


Well, we made it! Day 5 of the '£5 For 5 Days' challenge and we are all pretty pleased it is over but really glad we did it. And here are just a few more of the things we have learned over the last few days: 

  • we could not have managed without the children having free school meals

  • the way to my eldest son’s heart is through his stomach and I have quite a lot of making up to do
  • living on so little takes away choice – there is no option to buy free range, organic or Fair Trade
 and certainly no popping to our local corner shop which needs supporting (apparently I was missed)
  • a mum naturally holds back to ensure the kids have enough food but of course we are doing this for street children and often there is no mum around
  • the harsh reality for street children is far worse than anything we were doing, far worse than many of the families in the UK that I found myself thinking about throughout the week – those on free school meals or those using the food banks
  • this week my children kept remembering Lucky, a young man who stayed with us a few years ago. His parents died when he was really young. He would tell us how before getting involved with Umthombo, he would spend much of his time looking in the bins searching for anything he could eat
  • my family are really good sports for joining me on this but I am not sure I will persuade them to do it again in a hurry.

The money we have saved this week, plus a couple of donations, is enough to run a shelter for girls who were formally on the streets for one month.

Please consider taking the £5 For 5 Day challenge – it really will make a huge difference.

Note to the reader:
The writer of this article was not so much living on air as mainly rice and pasta. A whole lot of rice and pasta.


Amos Trust
7 Bell Yard, London
United Kingdom

+44 (0) 203 725 3493
[email protected]
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