The Real Food Guide

Live Below the Line: Can You Eat Nutritious, Real Food for Only $1.75 Per Day?


According to Live Below the Line, 1.4 billion people currently live in extreme poverty and have the equivalent of $1.75 to which to live – covering healthcare, shelter, food, transportation and whatever else they need. To raise awareness, Live Below the Line has issued a challenge, and I’m kicking off the Real Food Guide blog by accepting this challenge and diving into the deep end of the ‘Eating Real Food on a Budget’ pool: I’ll be living off just $1.75 per day for food and drink for 5 days (April 29th to May 3rd), which is only $8.75 for the total duration of the challenge.

Here are the rules of the challenge as stated on the Live Below the Line site:

  1. The full cost of all the items you consume must be included in your budget. This means budgeting for whole packets of rice, sugar, eggs, etc. You can share the cost of ingredients amongst a team though, as long as no participant spends more than their $8.75 budget. Of course a way to bypass this is to buy in bulk – to only buy what you need!
  2. You must include the cost of any other food you get – from the pantry, the garden, or “donated” by friends.
  3. Tap water is free!
  4. To keep track of the amount we recommend that you spend the entire amount up front. But if this is not your preference then just write down every purchase and stop when you hit $8.75. Before doing your shopping we recommend that you do a bit of research and think about a basic shopping list – think filling, basic, and cheap staples, like pasta, rice, lentils, oats etc.
  5. The most important rule – if at any point you feel unwell please stop the challenge and consult a doctor if needed.

I’m getting my calculator and my kitchen scale out and I’ll be keeping an accurate tally of what I’m eating and how much it costs. To make things slightly easier, I’ll be purchasing food as if feeding my family of 3, to take advantage of the economies of scale; obviously, buying a 10 lb bag of potatoes and feeding multiple people is more economical than buying only a handful of potatoes at a higher price per pound. It’s more realistic that someone who is actually living on a very tight food budget would be doing this for longer than 5 days and would need to plan ahead to stretch their dollar.

I’ll be striving to eat Real Food that is as nutrient-dense as possible given my very limited budget. It should be an interesting self-experiment, as I imagine that I’ll be hungrier than usual during those five days.

The only additional rules I’m imposing on this challenge are that: 1) the food consumed cannot be processed (it would not be nutrient-dense and likely be too expensive anyway) and 2) due to my food sensitivities, the menu will be gluten-free, milk-free and nut-free.

Normally, a significant amount of my family’s spending is allocated for food because we prioritize quality, Real Food as much as possible: we stock our freezer with half of an organic, grass-fed beef, we get organic, pastured eggs regularly from a farmer, and the milk my son drinks is organic, grass-fed and raw. We eat organic produce whenever it is on sale (i.e. at about the same price as conventional produce), but otherwise we eat conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables. If I were to describe our way of eating, it would best be described as being a paleo diet or primal diet: we normally don’t include any processed food, legumes or grains (though, for the sake of this challenge, I anticipate including some rice).

In some ways, this challenge might be easier for me than for others. As a petite woman who is fairly sedentary (walking is my only form of exercise), I don’t need or eat as much food as many other adults of my age-range. Because I gave up refined sugar and processed food over a year ago, I don’t experience cravings for sugar, bread or pasta. I also don’t regularly drink coffee. I tend to eat a lower amount of carbohydrates (but not a low-carb diet), at about 100-150g of carbohydrates per day, so I’m not sure how the challenge will affect my blood sugar levels and mood if I’m eating more rice and potatoes (since these foods are more filling and a lot cheaper than my usual fare of fruits, vegetables and meat). I drink water or peppermint tea, so switching to just water as my hydration won’t be a huge change for me.

If nothing else, this challenge will pose an interesting experiment to see if someone can eat a Real Food, ‘paleo’ diet for 5 days on $1.75 per day, and feel nourished.


Learn more about Live Below the Line, or maybe challenge yourself? You can also support me in the challenge and donate to the cause; I’ll be raising money for Raising the Village.

Like this article? Click here to join our newsletter and get notified about new posts. You can also download a Free Recipes eBook that includes all the recipes listed on this site as a thank you!

This is the first 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.

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 23 |

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