I have been on the Live Below the Line challenge this week. My lack of autonomy and choice regarding ingredients combined with my desire to meet the five plus a day requirements for fruit and vegetables restricted my menu. People living on $2 a day across all their meals and drinks do not have the luxury of tea and coffee. An added layer of complexity exists for people living in third world countries with no access to clean water.
Over the past year I have been doing a $40 a week grocery challenge to stop myself from wasting food and give myself an income stream to give more money to charity. This article will highlight what the Live Below the Line challenge is, how I shopped and cooked for the challenge and share with you some of my reflections on the challenge.
What is Live Below the Line?
Live Below the Line is a fundraising campaign that helps Australians take action on poverty.
This year, thousands of participants will be putting change on the menu by feeding themselves on $2 a day for five days. That’s the Australian equivalent of the extreme poverty line.
By taking the Live Below the Line challenge, participants help to raise much-needed funds for work that helps end poverty.
Live Below the Line is all about creative cooking, rationing and caffeine deprivation: it’s just a glimpse into what life is like for people in poverty, not a real experience of it.
Live below the line $10 shop for 15 meals
Because I knew the challenge was coming back in March when my local green grocer had apples for $0.49 a kilogram I had to foresight to cook and preserve a couple of jars.
1.308kg of apples @ 0.49c a kilogram: $0.64
I’m allergic to corn, quinoa and artificial sweetener which somewhat limited my menu longer. The lowest cost option for fruit and vegetables were packaged items. The problem with frozen vegetables is almost all the lower cost options include corn.
- 1kg of mixed frozen vegetables (peas, broccoli stalks, cauliflower stalks and beans): $1.60
- 1kg of self raising white flour
- Chicken stock cubes: $0.80 (on special that week)
- Soup mix: $1.35 (on special that week)
- 1 litre of milk: $1.00
- Two brown onions: $0.66
There were no options for me to buy a small bottle of oil or flavouring for my food at Coles and the complexity of the challenge was starting to build up. I also really noticed the extremely high cost of fresh fruit and vegetables.
I shop at a local bulk shop and I knew I had the ability to buy a small amount oil and spices, however, I think if I was really living in poverty I would have prioritised more food for this and perhaps bought another bag of flour instead.
- Macadamia oil: $1.90
- Cumin: $0.25
- Turmeric: $0.15
- Curry $0.16
Live below the line menu and meal prep
I am the queen of meal prep and pre-preparing my meals over the past few years has not only allowed me to save money, donate money to charity, save time, keep my eating on track and balance a high pressure job.
My five days of food for Live Below the Line included:
- Breakfast: Stewed apple and two pikelets
- Lunch: Vege soup and a flat bread
- Dinner: Dahl and a flat bread
- Leftover after cooking: stewed apples, 1/2 a litre of milk, 1 stock cube and 50ml of macadamia oil.
Live below the line experience
I started off well on Monday.
Things went downhill on Tuesday night when I got a migraine, the shakes, the sweats and vomiting from the lack of caffeine in my body.
Throwing up my dinner on Tuesday evening was not the best.
The caffeine fast went out of the window on Wednesday at lunchtime and have cheated with a black coffee on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (it’s made the world of difference and made me realise just how addicted I am to coffee).
It was difficult to stomach my dinner and lunch after throwing up my dinner on Tuesday night and decided last night (Thursday) to have a stock cube and hot water and a flatbread for dinner rather than my dahl. Today (Friday) I will not eat my meal prepped dinner and lunch as I cannot stomach them. I have a little bit of stewed apple, 1/2 a litre of milk and two flat breads left for the rest of the challenge that I will survive on.
People living in poverty they cannot simply wake up out of the experience like I will tomorrow, it must be incredibly wearing to try and balance. People in poverty probably wouldn’t have the luxury of having a vehicle like me or the time to think deeply about what to cook or the ability to go to three different stores to purchase their supplies for the challenge.
Live below the line musings
For me, the hardest period of my life were the tail end of my Master of Arts research thesis. Balancing a 50,000 word research thesis, working in a low pay caring job with $25 a week left for groceries and no vehicle – all groceries were done by food for by public transport.
I shooped at the market buying almost rotten apples at $0.29c a kilogram, cook them up for my fruit and find the lowest cost vegetables to create my meals with. I got really good at budget and vegetarian cooking and this is where I learnt to bulk cook and meal prep (I still cook this way).
A chef that gave me a lot of cooking inspiration was Jack Monro, a single Mother from the UK blogging about her experiences of trying to cook for herself and her young son whilst living on welfare payments.
My option for getting out of my situation when I had really had enough and wanted to focus on completing my thesis was to uplift my life from Wellington, quit my job, move out of my flat and move in with my parents for the final three months of my thesis.
People in poverty do not have these kinds of options and it is very important that I remember my privileged position:
- I have always had a very supportive family, in fact my parents always offered me extra money and support that I have chosen freely to turn down
- I am educated and have the cultural capital and social capital to open up job and employment opportunities throughout my life, this is something that would be more difficult for people living in poverty
Donate to Live below the line and help people living in poverty
Thanks Steph, Isabella, Meg, Louisa and Mike for the support – $262 raised for people living in poverty – bless you.
The Economiss is a single, female, millennial on a mission to buy her first home in Australia. A Kiwi by birth, she jumped over the ditch in 2011 after she finished her tertiary qualifications in search of employment. Between 2011-2016 The Economiss worked, saved and travelled across ten different countries and completed another degree. In 2017 The Economiss started super charging her finances, saving over 32% of her after tax income towards her house deposit as well as cash flowing four overseas trips. In 2018 The Economiss decided to share her journey rewriting the narrative around millennial finance and saved 40.5% of her after tax income. In April 2019 she his her $80,000 house deposit goal. Do you have some tips to share or want to be featured on the blog, please get in touch!