What does your weekly shop look like?

This week is the Live Below the Line challenge, and thousands of people will be sticking to a budget of £1 a day for their food. It’s to raise awareness of and raise money for global poverty, and it’s now in its third year. We’re not taking part this year, but you can see what we learned from last year’s experiences here.

One of the things that I found most striking was how we took our food shopping for granted. We could eat more or less what we wanted, in quantities that we wanted. We enjoy enormous variety of flavours and textures, in season and out of season. It’s easy to forget how different it is for others, and I thought I’d share that point in pictures.

My sister sent me this collection of images recently. They’re a few years old, so you may have seen them before. They’re by photographer Peter Menzel, who has traveled the world capturing people and their possessions, or sitting down to meals. In this series from Hungry Planet, he photographs families with their week’s groceries. Here are three, and there’s more here.


This is a family in Britain. I suspect the dog is there as part of the family, not part of the grocery shop…


This is Guatemala. What strikes me most is the ratio of fresh food to processed foods between this one and Britain. There are also large quantities of some things. With the exception of all the milk on the mantelpiece of the British home, there’s really no obvious staple.


This is Chad, in what looks like a refugee camp. I’m guessing this family don’t have a whole lot of choice in what they eat, being issued rice, oil and beans. Anything other than those bulk items are clearly luxuries.


  1. The Live Below the Line challenge is an amazing perspective into your own community and the world – it is certainly not about starving yourself but about access and opportunity as you mentioned Jeremy. For those just hearing about Live Below the Line now you can take on the challenge of eating and drinking on £1 / day for 5 days anytime before July. It’s an amazing conversation starter as well!

    Also I know the family in the Guatemala photo from the small mountain village of Todos Santos – the background behind that picture is that they are incredible agriculturalists (and weavers) but the water supply is always contaminated and I have never had as bad dysentery than in that community… so it is not quite the perfect lifestyle just yet 😉

      1. Those 5 gallon water jug things are quite common in Mexico, and (I believe, though I can’t be sure) all of South America. Tap water is not purified in the average home (in fact, even wealthy people who live in expensive areas don’t drink water directly from their sink, either), and thus the waterman comes by with his truck twice a week or so. I personally also get water bottles and jugs when in the UK, but that’s just personal choice 🙂

        1. Unfortunately bottled water is used extensively throughout Latin America by all of society – except the poorest. In my case I was in the highlands in a beautiful place and presumed the locals (as in the photo) were drinking the tap water so I did as well until a week later and I was completely infested with amoebas, giardia, worms and the rest! It is an unfortunate necessary cost for many people in the developing world…

          1. There definitely needs to be greater advocacy for the lack of clean water in poorer communities! At least here (I live in Mexico), we’ve been seeing an increase in distribution of bottled/purified water to marginalized communities, with new roads added to get to their (often REALLY hard to reach) areas, but more work definitely needs to be done.

            Mexico (and South America, in general) is such a peculiar place: Even in bigger cities throughout, the wealthy can often just walk around for a few minutes and come across the real, seriously striking poverty that people live in, and yet it’s almost like they’ve become immune to it; they don’t see it anymore. I think that is certainly an issue that needs to be worked on because, really, the more ‘lucky’ of people can certainly make a difference in these communities, as we’ve seen multiple times throughout the world.

    1. I’m always a little concerned at bottled water use in developing countries, as there are much cheaper and more environmentally friendly ways to purify water. I grew up in Madagascar, and we just had a big water filter in the kitchen. Whenever I see water being bought in large quantities, I always wonder if it’s entirely necessary. I’m sure it is sometimes, but I suspect a lot of people are wasting money on it.

      Either way, we’re very lucky in Britain, where tap water is as clean as the bottled stuff.

      1. Something great I saw last year in SE Asia and in particular China and Thailand were public water purification (and sometimes cooled) stands. 10c would get you 10 litres of water or just for my personal bottle 1c for 1l – fantastic. I can see this spilling over into other upcoming parts of the world where tap water is not safe to drink directly and to then hopefully making water bottles redundant!

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