My sister Johanna texted me a few weeks ago, ‘I want to do Live Below the Line but you have to help me do it healthily’. I’m always up for a challenge and I love my sister so of course I said yes, but I also love what the Live Below the Line campaign is doing worldwide to raise awareness of extreme poverty. Their idea is that to fight poverty you have to understand it, so they are challenging people to live for 5 days eating and drinking for just $1.50 a day. Yes, that’s just $7.50 for the week and yes, it’s tough.
The Shopping List:
Most of the people I’ve seen do the challenge will understandably turn to white rice, cheap bread, packet soup, noodles and foods like that. Those foods make it much easier but we wanted to see if it can be done at all healthily so I set out to build my sister a meal plan. Armed with a calculator and a basket (no need for a cart when you’re working with $7.50) I embarked on a frugal shopping trip at our local store.
Basically, you can bypass the produce section; too expensive. I took one banana and one carrot per day, an onion for the week, and moved on. A few staples from the bulk section brought me the bulk of the calories for the week: brown rice, oats and lentils and as to not eat completely bland food, the next few dollars went on a few things for flavor: soy sauce, garlic salt and tomato puree. Usually our nut butters are homemade but I didn’t want to require a blender so I added some peanut butter to my cart spice up breakfast and snacking, a dozen eggs for protein (don’t even think about free range), and finally with the last few cents, 3 tbsp chocolate chips! Done! This is what $7.50’s worth of food looks like when you stretch it.
5 Bananas: $0.79
5 Carrots: $0.55
Whole Oats: $0.53
Brown Rice: $0.64
Peanut butter: $0.61
Garlic Salt: $0.08
Tomato paste: $0.48
Soy sauce: $1.48/$0.74 (1/2 bottle)
A dozen eggs: $1.86
3 tbsp chocolate chips: $0.24
GRAND TOTAL $7.53
The Meal Plan:
I came home and sat everything on the table and planned it out, then divided it up between days and came up with a meal plan (you can find it at the start of each day’s journal entry). It’s very simple and you’re not going to be eating diverse hugely flavorful food, but with a combination of oatmeal, bananas, and simple pancakes for breakfast and lots of lentils, rice and egg fried rice combinations for lunch and dinner, it’s possible. We even managed to sneak in some 3 ingredient chocolate chip cookies at the end of the week!
So is it actually possible to feel healthy on $1.50 a day? My sister Johanna, a photographer and social media manager in New York City, test drove our meal plan for the 5 days and told us what she thought! With some extra hungry gym trips, brown rice fatigue, cravings, and a few cooking mishaps, below are her fun journal entries from each day.