Today I began my Live Below the Line challenge which asks that people give up 5 days to eat on a budget that reflects the World Bank’s poverty definition. This is a challenge near and dear to my heart because I have been poor and was considered “below the line” of poverty for many years of my life. I published two pieces today on my own blog about the beginning process of this and I’m doing it to catalog my journey to raise awareness of how we can feed the world. To do that, I’ve committed to learning how to eat on $1.50 a day.
There was a time in my high school years when Mallory and I were homeless and stayed with friends who allowed us food and shelter until we got back on our feet. When I graduated high school I went directly to college and live in the married student housing where the single moms I met there learned to pool our resources to stretch our family food budgets. My top three tricks for feeding Mallory and myself were:
1. Buying the day old French bread from Jimmy John’s for 10 cents so that we could make sandwiches.
2. Eating at a bar/pub where they had Happy Hour food. If I bought her a Coke, she could eat all the sliders and chicken wings she wanted. (I forced her to eat the carrots and celery that came on the side so she would have a vegetable in her diet.) (Also, I pointed out how not to behave drunken in public so she had teachable moments!)
3. Buying all off-brand labels and dented cans. I admit to having dented a few on purpose so I could get a 50% discount on them. (They were on to me, too, but pitied this poor single mom with an adorable toddler.)
Since I’m doing this on a week when my sons are with their dad, it’s just me and The Cuban. He hasn’t committed to it like I have, but I must give him credit for purchasing all of our food together and making some healthy sacrifices in the process. We bought the food and then broke it down per serving to add up to the total of $1.50 a day for me.
First of all, we shopped at Aldi which uses a system of pricing that allows you to see the price broken down per serving in a very clear way. We shopped for our family, but I will take mine out so that I don’t go over budget each day. For the whole week, we paid $62.75 and again, I’m only eating $7.50 worth. Each day, we’re deciding on a family menu, breaking out my costs if he cooks in bulk, and then being very strict about not going over budget.
Secondly, we broke it down per serving for me so that I could add it up. For example, I knew that per serving elbow macaroni would be 10.5 cents, peas would be 18.5 cents, beans come out to 17 cents and one egg would be 10 cents. That whole meal would end up costing me 56 cents leaving me with 94 cents for the remainder of the day. One of the really hard parts is factoring in spices and not much has come from our herb garden right now, so green onions planted in the garden will have to do.
Tune in tomorrow and I’ll share exactly how much everything costs. It’s a bit tedious to look at, but it certainly has given me perspective in how careful one must be if they truly stick to a budget. That’s not something we do except to say that we feed 2 enormous boys along with us and we average about $500 per month. It’s a choice we make to do without other things in order to make room for the organic foods, fresh vegetables, and well-planned meals. Once we shopped for this challenge our first WOW moment came when we couldn’t remember the last time we bought canned foods!
Check out my fellow Babble poster, Dresden, as she talks about how Ben Affleck is joining us on this journey.
Read more from Kelly at her personal blog, Mocha Momma and follow her journey of Living Below the Line
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