Live Below the Line: Food for the 5-day Challenge1
I’m doing the Live Below the Line challenge, where I’ll be feeding myself for $1.75 per day. As I wrote previously, I’m buying food as though feeding my family of 3, giving us a family budget of $26.25 for five days. (While my husband will be participating in a show of solidarity, we’ll be sparing our growing, school-age son from this challenge since we are fortunate enough that this is an experiment and not our reality).
I’m following my own tips for eating healthy on an extreme poverty budget, and between April 29th and May 3rd, I’ll only be eating:
- 2 lb / 3 chicken legs with back attached (Price: On sale for $1.28/lb, sub-total =$2.56)
- 11 eggs (Price: On sale for $2.00/dozen, $0.17 per egg, sub-total =$1.87)
- 1 tin of sardines (Price: On sale for $0.89 a tin)
- 2.5 cups of cooked rice (Price: On sale for $6.99 for 8kg, about $0.13 per cooked cup, sub-total =$0.33)
- 1.3 lb / 4 potatoes (Price: $2.99 for 10 lb, about $0.10 each, sub-total = $0.39)
- 0.6 lb / 2 boiler onions (Price: $4.99 for 10 lb, about $0.15 each, sub-total = $0.30)
- 1.22 lb / 5 carrots (Price: $1.47 for 3 lb, about $0.12 each, sub-total = $0.60)
- 1 lb / 1 bunch of spinach (Price: On sale for $0.99 a bunch)
- 1 bulb of garlic (Price: $0.99 for 5 bulbs, about $0.20 per bulb)
- 4.5 tbsp butter (Price: On sale for $2.75 for 1 pound (or 2 cups), $0.08 per tbs, sub-total = $0.38)
- 2 tbsp of distilled apple cider vinegar (Price: $1.89 for 1L, or $0.03 per tbs, sub-total = $0.06)
- salt (Assume a cost of $0.01 per seasoning, plus the extra 3 cents I have, sub-total = $0.18)
- tap water, boiled or straight-up: free
Total = $8.75
Coming up with this list was much harder than I thought it would be, since the first time I attempted to budget, I was $5 over. My second attempt still had me $3.42 over budget. Aside from food quality, the main differences between this menu and my typical menu are:
- quantity: there’s no question that the amount of food is much less than what I normally have available to me for 5 days. I’ve planned meals with the above ingredients, but there are no snacks.
- lack of fruit: I normally have a piece or two of fruit per day as snacks, but at 20 or 30 cents for an apple or banana, it’s simply not in the budget to include fruit when I’ve only got 58 cents per meal to work with.
- meat: the bulk of the meat that my family eats is from the half a grass-fed beef that we bulk-purchased and have in our freezer, and it would definitely be a budget-breaker if included in the challenge.
- eggs: our usual eggs are from organically-raised, pastured chickens and, although very reasonable in price, they still cost twice the price of ‘on sale’ store-bought eggs.
- rice and potatoes: I only eat rice occasionally (usually no more than in one meal a week), so including rice and a few potatoes in the menu is atypical, but I thought it would be necessary to help stave off hunger and act as starchy filler (that doesn’t contain gluten).
- cooking fat: I normally use organic extra-virgin coconut oil, but even the bulk-purchased gallon of coconut oil I have costs twice as much as butter.
- vinegar: I’ve included a couple of tablespoons of inexpensive apple cider vinegar (ACV), that is less than half the price of the raw, unfiltered, organic ACV I usually use. In a challenge were every penny counts, I had to substitute with lesser quality.
I was feeling rather confident about doing this challenge when I saw all the food I had for the 5 days, until I input the total amount of food I had into Calorie Count: 3705 calories, or 741 calories a day. (While the chicken legs are calculated without bone, I plan on squeezing more nutrients and a few calories out of them by making bone broth, but I can’t imagine it would add that much more).
To put it in perspective, my resting metabolic rate – the energy needed to maintain breathing and organ function in my 5’0″-tall, 118 lb body while at rest – is about 1295 calories. So technically, what I’ll be eating is not enough to fuel me lying down for the day. I’m starting to second guess my food choices, but alas, I’m committed with my groceries!
The challenge officially begins today, so I’ll be posting the first day’s meals tomorrow. What do you think of what I’ve bought for my 5 days? What would you have bought if you were limited to $1.75 a day for food?
This is the third 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.
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