Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Living Below The Line: Guest blog - the ethics of Living Below The Line

Very thought provoking, thank you, Beth.
The ethics of eating below the line
I’ve been having Deep Thoughts. I don’t think it’s hallucinations from the food deprivation, but if I start seeing flying elephants I’ll let you know...
But to be serious for a moment. Thought 1 is this. Joy and I have sourced most of our food from the economy ranges at the supermarkets- Value, Smart Price and so on. They seem to be terrific value, but are they? The supermarkets always, ALWAYS make their cut, so I can’t help thinking the person bearing the brunt of economy must in some way be the producer. The very people, in fact, we are trying to help this week.
Thing is, we don’t actually KNOW how much the workers are getting, with economy or any other brands, other than it isn’t nearly enough, which is why 1 in 8 people go to bed hungry every day. There’s so much uncertainty isn’t there? So many people WANT to do the right thing, but it isn’t always obvious what ‘right’ is. If workers were assured a living wage, if multinationals paid their taxes, if Governments got together to tackle poverty, if everyone was just a bit FAIRER about things, then we could well find there were no value ranges, that the cheapest tin of pineapple available was 50p a tin and not 20p and chocolate might be £1 a bar. And I’d be OK with that.  I’d have to eat more simply, and make better choices but I think most people in this country would benefit from that.
The fair-trade label is only part of the solution, because often these are only applied to luxury goods. A box of delicious fair-trade chocolates are all well and good but they don’t help me put a chickpea curry on the table. We need to know about basic produce, staple goods. Bananas are a start but there’s a long way to go.
On another train of thought, I’m thinking about poverty in this country, and how ethical shopping is very much a privileged standpoint. This week we bought free range eggs, as we usually do. We paid a pound for six, but only because Joy has an egg producing friend- or rather, her chickens lay the eggs! It would have cost us double otherwise, and we wouldn’t have had the money. Eggs would have been off the menu which would have been a shame, because they are nutritious and versatile but I could do without them for a week.
But what if I had a tiny budget to buy food every week? What if I had three hungry children and limited funds with which to feed us, would I? Of course I jolly well would.  And I’d hate it. I’d know it was wrong, I’d know all about the horrible treatment in those factories, but I’d still buy them, and the sawdust-filled sausages , and the slightly gone off bread from the whoopsie counter and the bendy, dubious vegetables that no-one else thought were fit to eat and I’d feed them to my kids regardless, because I wouldn’t have a choice.
But I do. I do have a choice, and I don’t appreciate it nearly as much as I ought to.
(I still want that Mexicana cheese though...)
Yesterday the boy and I ate as follows:
Breakfast: Porridge and jam, cup of tea.
Lunch for Alex: Ham and salad sandwich, plain crisps, digestives
Lunch for me: Leftover vegetable chilli with a dollop of yoghurt, , LOTS of cups of tea and several biscuits (I went to the allotment to dig, and was fending off the hunger pangs with tea!)
Dinner: Pasta, sauce, broccoli leaves, carrot, with meatballs for Alex and the leftover carrot, cumin and kidney bean burger for me. Tinned pineapple.
Later on I had a slice of toast and marmalade, and because of my tea drinking my budget came out just at the limit of £1! Alex’s was a more moderate 95p


  1. Greeetings from Oz again. I have followed your adventures all week and admire what you have done. A lot of ethical dilemma's there. You are right. It is all right to buy the free range, local, organic stuff when you have enough money to do it. I try to do the right thing. I also try not to feel sanctimonious when I see shopping trolley's full of coke and rubbish too (but don't always succeed). Some good things are being done, vege swaps etc. Sometimes it is only knowing what to do. Education and sharing, where to start?

  2. Hi again. What shall I call you? Your name doesn't show, you see.
    I know what you mean about being sanctimonious - I've had to work hard at this - or not being this - as colleagues have munched on things from the shop over the road that cost my whole week's food!!!
    J x