Seven essential tips from Ration Challenge pros

Hannah and Robbie, who took part in this year's Ration Challenge.
Hannah and Robbie, who took part in this year's Ration Challenge.
News7 May 2021Darren Vaughan

Thousands of people across the UK have already signed up to take part in this year’s Ration Challenge, joining a growing community of people around the world raising money and awareness in support of refugees.

Since it began seven years ago, more than 100,000 people worldwide have taken the challenge to live on refugee rations for a week, making a huge practical difference to the lives of people who have fled disaster and conflict.

To help this year’s participants, some Ration Challenge pros share their essential tips on how to make it through the week.

1. Talk it over with the kids (or your housemates)

Talk the challenge over with the kids. Photo Unsplash
Talk the challenge over with the kids. Photo Unsplash

You’ll come to dread meal times, especially if you share your house with someone else. If your other half is cooking, the smells coming from the kitchen will drive you crazy.

And how will you feed the kids? Sam is on hand with some sound advice: batch cook and freeze meals for them in advance, so that all you have to do is reheat dinner each evening.

And here’s another of her genius suggestions. Why not use your meal times to kick start meaningful conversations - to explain to your household, including the kids, what you’re doing, and more importantly, WHY you’re doing it.

Last year, by the end of the week...I felt physically tired, but because we’d had a long talk about it with the kids, they understood that we just needed them to help out a bit more and that it was only for a while...They understood how important it was for us to take part.

Sam

2. Consider a change of environment

Try cooking outdoors to give you room to think away from distractions. Photo Unsplash
Try cooking outdoors to give you room to think away from distractions. Photo Unsplash

If it’s hot in the kitchen, why not change your surroundings to avoid distractions? Last year, Helen cooked one meal a day outdoors – a move that gave her plenty of room to think. Doing something similar might give you space to consider why you’re doing the challenge, and what more you could do to help. This year, Helen’s going a step further and sleeping out to raise awareness.

I help run a homeless street kitchen and have done a sleep-out before. Like this challenge, it really helps increase awareness. I cooked under canopy last year for this challenge as it separated me from my family for a meal, and allowed me to think about what I was doing it for. I’ve decided to camp out for the week too this time.

Helen

3. Lift your mood mid-way through

Bowl of falafels. Credit: Unsplash
Do not hold off on best meal - maybe falafels - to the end but eat it half way through the week as a good pick-me-up. Credit: Unsplash

You might think it’s a good idea to hold off to the final day before eating your favourite Ration Challenge meal. But Jenny’s wisdom is not to leave it to the very end. Revitalise your mood mid-way through the week by eating the meal you most look forward to – a good pick-me-up at the week‘s low point.

Another word of advice from Jenny is to treat yourself to some healthy fruit and veg before the challenge begins. If they’re part of your normal daily diet, you’ll miss them loads. So while it’s recommended to cut back in advance on caffeine-heavy drinks or food with added sugar, why not boost your vitamin, mineral and antioxidant intake before the challenge.

Last year, I didn’t save my best Ration Challenge meal for the last day. I ate it somewhere towards the middle of the week, when I felt really hungry. Also, I followed my grandson’s advice and ate my favourite food (especially fruit and veg) the week before...I had good ‘food memories’ in my head.

Jenny

4. Spread the word

Share your story more widely in your local paper or on the radio. Photo Unslash
Share your story more widely in your local paper or on the radio. Photo Unslash

Don’t be shy! Your friends, family and colleagues might know what you’re doing. But why stop there? Spread the word near and far.

Hannah suggests that sharing your story more widely - in your local newspaper or on the radio - not only helps to encourage more people to take part, it may just lead to sponsorships from kind strangers.

More importantly, it sends out a message of solidarity and helps to counter the negative narrative around refugees. Don’t know where to start? We’ve a step-by-step guide to help.

Sharing what you’re doing and why you’re doing it can have a powerful impact. Telling your story in your local paper will help reach a wider audience and could inspire others to support you or sign up to do the challenge. As well as that, it helps keep the focus on refugees and the challenges they face every day.

Hannah

5. Pimp up your veg

Try fermenting your earned veg - like cabbage - to pimp up your meals. Photo Colleen Hopkins
Try fermenting your earned veg - like cabbage - to pimp up your meals. Photo Colleen Hopkins

Is fermenting a fad you’ve been missing out on? If you do well enough to earn salt and a vegetable reward, you could try your hand at fermenting your veg in brine – a sure way to pimp up your meals. Colleen lives off the stuff. Not only is fermented veg good for your digestive and immune systems, but it will pack much-needed flavour into your otherwise drab carb-rich meals.

I make fermented veg, eat them daily and will miss them hugely! Although most have some flavouring, I can make a simple one which is just veg and salt. Most people when they taste it think it is pickled because it has a sharp and tart flavour. I think it could be a very useful veg to really make the carbs exciting.

Colleen

6. Your water bottle is precious

Keep a dedicated water bottle to make clear that it is the only thing you will drink for the week. Photo Unsplash
Keep a dedicated water bottle to make clear that it is the only thing you will drink for the week. Photo Unsplash

Dan is the man with another great hack: carry a water bottle with you at all times. Thinking it’s uniquely yours and no one else’s makes your only drink for the week - water - seem special. It’s a bit of a mind trick and will help you focus on it being the only thing to quench your thirst for seven days.

It helps to have a dedicated water bottle that you make clear to yourself is the ONLY thing you are going to drink from for one week.

Dan

7. Earn your rewards now

Earn your rewards - like curry spice - before the challenge begins. Photo Unsplash
Earn your rewards - like curry spice - before the challenge begins. Photo Unsplash

Believe us, it will be tough. One – whole – week. The lowdown from Connor is to prepare in advance and earn your rewards BEFORE the challenge begins. Going into the week with some extras like salt, a spice or a vegetable makes a big difference.

Don’t leave your fundraising to the last minute. If you earn your rewards earlier, you can plan your meals ahead of time. You know what items you’ll have to work with and anything else you earn during the week will be a bonus.

Connor

Only a glimpse

Of course, our ration week experience can’t be compared to the lived experience of refugees and people who have been displaced by conflict and disaster. But it does provide a small glimpse into just one of the many challenges such vulnerable communities encounter every day. It is an opportunity for us to help provide practical support, deepen people’s understanding of the acute struggles they face and send a powerful message of solidarity.

Take the Ration Challenge. Eat the same rations as a Syrian refugee from 13-19 June, raise money and save lives.

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