The Real Food Guide

Live Below the Line: Day 1


Eating Real Food on a Budget: Food for the first day of the Live Below the Line Challenge

I’ve just finished one day of the Live Below the Line challenge, and the hardest part so far is being hyper-vigilant about portions. I’m not used to counting every single piece of food, picking up a carrot peel that fell on the floor and keeping it, or carefully dividing the food I’ve got so that I’ll have enough to last me the total five days of the challenge.

Breakfast, Day 1

Eating Real Food on a Budget - Live Below the Line Challenge, Breakfast, Day 1Breakfast today was two eggs, scrambled with about a teaspoon of butter and  about 1/10th of my bunch of spinach. I drank a cup of hot water to go with it. This is certainly the first time I’ve so carefully divided a bunch of spinach. I prefer eating cooked veggies, but I’d forgotten just how little spinach there seems to be when you sauté it down.

Cost of breakfast breakdown

Two eggs: $0.34
1/10th bunch of spinach: $0.10
butter: $0.03

Breakfast sub-total: $0.47

Lunch, Day 1

Eating Real Food on a Budget - Live Below the Line Challenge, LunchAfter breakfast, I roasted my total allotment of three chicken legs over one of my onions that I sliced. I separated the meat from the bone and this meat will be part of my lunches and dinners, in one form or another for the next few days.

Lunch today was half the meat from one roasted chicken leg, along with 1/4 cup of cooked rice, 1/10th bunch of spinach (leftover from cooking it at breakfast), 1/2 a carrot, and 1/2 an onion. I peeled the carrots into long ribbons and sautéed them with some of the fat and the onion from the roasting of the chicken. I’ve reserved the rest of the roasted chicken fat and drippings for later.

Cost of lunch breakdown

1/2 of chicken leg: $0.43
1/4 cup of cooked rice: $0.03
1/10th bunch of spinach: $0.10
1/2 carrot: $0.06
1/4 onion: $0.03
salt: $0.01

Lunch sub-total: $0.66

Bone broth preparation

Eating Real Food on a Budget - Live Below the Line Challenge, Making Bone BrothFrom my meals today so far, I’ve kept all of what I normally might have just tossed in the compost. From breakfast, I’ve got all my spinach stalks and egg shells, and from the roasted chicken, I’ve got my bones. All of these things will add extra nutrients – especially minerals – to my diet, since I’ll be simmering everything down to broth. To add some much needed flavour, I’ll be adding half my bulb of garlic and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (to help draw the minerals out), and seasoning with salt. (I’ll be making broth according to my Bone Broth Basics instructions).

Cost of bone broth breakdown

Chicken bones, spinach stalks, carrot tops, onion trimmings, egg shells: $0.00 (already accounted for)
1/2 bulb of garlic: $0.05
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar: $0.03
Liberal salting: $0.05

Broth preparation subtotal: $0.13


Dinner, Day 1

Eating Real Food on a Budget - Live Below the Line Challenge - Dinner

Dinner was leftovers from lunch, but without the bit of spinach.

Cost of dinner breakdown

1/2 of chicken leg: $0.43
1/4 cup of cooked rice: $0.03
1/2 carrot: $0.06
1/4 onion: $0.03
salt: $0.01

Dinner subtotal: $0.56

Total cost of day 1: $1.82

One day in, and I’m already over by 7 cents – not bad considering I am making bone broth which will be a major part of my upcoming meals and won’t incur much in additional costs, so I do anticipate making up for being slightly over-budget today.

How I feel so far

I feel about the same as I normally do – I don’t feel unusually hungry and moody (aka hangry). My regular breakfasts are pretty similar to what I ate today, though I usually have bacon with my eggs and I’d have been much more liberal with the spinach, but I felt sated as usual after breakfast.

Lunch and dinner were a bit skimpy. I could have easily eaten at least another half-portion of what I had. But only one day in, I don’t feel too deprived. I imagine this would change drastically if I had to do this long term. There’s certainly a luxury in knowing that this isn’t my reality.

As I’ve stated previously, my husband is also doing this challenge with me in a show of solidarity. He and I are eating the same portion of food, but he’s much bigger than me, so I think he’ll feel the effects of this challenge more than I will.

What do you think of my meals so far? Could you do eat for less than $1.75 per day?

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This is the fourth post in the Live Below the Line series, where I’ll be attempting to feed myself Real Food for $1.75 per day, for five days. You can also support me in the challenge and donate to the cause – I’ll be raising money for Raising the Village. Or, you can donate to my team Bloggers Living Below the Line; make sure to check out our collective blog of our challenge experience.


Vivian is the founder of the Real Food Guide and a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) who believes that each individual needs to go on their own Real Food Journey to find what works. While she herself eats a diet of real food (aka a paleo diet), some people may find that they can flourish on a vegetarian diet instead. However, universal to optimal health and well-being is good quality, nutrient-dense, Real Food.

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April 30 |

8 thoughts on “Live Below the Line: Day 1

  1. This looks pretty good! From what I’ve seen so far you and Alexa are really rocking it. I am a little sad I’m doing it solo. If I had one other person’s budget to add to mine it’d make a huge difference in the quality of food I’m eating.

    • I think it makes a HUGE difference to be cooking for a family, for the economies of scale. (And it helps for the challenge to have Eric eating like this with me, just so I’m not too jealous of his food).

  2. I should add, that to be fair, my plates are smaller than dinner plates. I chose to eat off a smaller plate so that the meals didn’t look as sad.

  3. Vivian, your meals look delicious. Nice use of bone broth!

  4. Jessica says:

    So I just plugged all of this into MyFitnessPal and it says you consumed about 435 calories total for the day. If we were to be generous (assuming the chickens you got your legs from had extra thick skin, or your carrots were the size of a large mans forearm or something), we might be able to bump that up to 500.
    Do you honestly believe that this would be a healthy diet in the long term?
    You have not met your RDA for fat, carbs, dietary fiber, protein, vitamin C, calcium, or iron. Not even close. You have met vitamin A, though most of that is likely coming in the form of beta carotene, which if that’s your only source is not exactly complete. My assessment of this daily menu is that it is severely lacking, is likely to lead to extreme malnutrition and deficiencies, and is not doable for any one besides those who literally have no access to greater amounts of calories in the long term. I don’t want to be an ass, but are you trying to make a point about the immorality of a culture that allows this kind of poverty to persist? Because that’s all I’m getting from this.
    Oh, I do like the idea of throwing egg shells in with bone broth though. Never thought of that.

    • Hi Jessica – No. I don’t believe that this diet would be healthy in the long-term and that was the point: It’s very difficult to eat enough/eat healthy on a sub-poverty diet. One might even say impossible. In order to feel full, I had to rely on more filler-starches (e.g. rice) because it was cheap and calorie-dense. Healthy? No, especially not for me. This was just day 1 of the series that I live-blogged as it happened a few months ago.

      The other Live Below the Line posts tell the complete story and I had actually calculated the calories of the food I purchased already, and I realized that I’d come up short in terms of calories from the beginning (my total came up to 741 calories/day, still not a lot) – but, I was committed to what I bought.

      I outlined my final thoughts in last post of the series. Not only was this not enough calories (because I was hungry for the five days), it also drastically affected my eczema and other inflammation issues.

      So the take-home points of the challenge were:
      1) This is not an actual guideline of ‘how to live healthy on a sub-poverty diet’, as it didn’t actually allow me to eat enough. I do believe it’s possible to eat real food on a tight budget, but it may just be too difficult to do on $1.75/day.
      2) It was a commentary to the fact that a lot of people in the world have to make due on such a budget, and it sucks. You can read more about the Live Below The Line Challenge on their website.

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