Living Below the Poverty Line on Food and Drink for 5 Days

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Have you gone a day without buying anything? In a few of my courses back in college, we discussed the environmental impact of consumption, particularly in America. The concept of going days without purchasing anything new stuck with me and I have tried to carry it out as best I can. Which is one of the reasons why, when I was presented with the Live Below the Line challenge, I thought I could do it.

I heard about Live Below the Line through my job as a nonprofit communicator at The Hunger Project. The Global Poverty Project called upon citizens to live below the poverty line and spend $1.50 a day on food and drink for five days. From April 28-May 2, thousands of people around the world, including me, took the Live Below the Line challenge to raise funds and awareness for the 1.2 billion people in our world who live in extreme poverty.

I spent the week before Live Below the Line “preparing.” I overindulged in hopes of gaining a few pounds to help me get through the challenge. I also did some spring cleaning and donated three garbage bags full of clothes and shoes to a local charity.


Day 1: Spent $1.50 total on food and drink

The first meal of the first day I learned something surprising. The Stevia packets that I put in my tea each morning cost as much as the tea bag itself. Instead of my usual three packets per thermos of tea, I chose to only use one. I didn’t have the budget to spend 20 cents on tea.

Breakfast:
5 cents Stevia packet
5 cents Tetley tea bag
19 cents hardboiled egg
29 cents total

Our potluck

Our potluck!

A number of us in The Hunger Project global office decided to take on the challenge together under the theme “community.” I was so lucky to have such talented colleagues cook amazing meals for lunch each day! We shared them potluck style and ate together. One of my favorite things about the Live Below the Line challenge was spending time with my colleagues and offering each other support.

IMG_4944Lunch:
32 cents three-quarter serving fried rice with vegetables
20 cents half serving beans, tomato and kale recipe
52 cents total

Snack:
19 cents hardboiled egg

For my first Live Below the Line dinner I wanted to price out a meal I often ate in college: buttered noodles with grated cheese.

IMG_4947Dinner:
22 cents two servings of penne
9 cents half tablespoon melted organic butter
9 cents one serving grated cheese
10 cents tea with one Stevia packet
50 cents total


Day 2: Spent $1.50 total on food and drink

Breakfast:
5 cents Stevia packet
5 cents Tetley tea bag
19 cents hardboiled egg
29 cents total

IMG_4951Lunch:
32 cents half serving sesame noodles
20 cents half serving beans, tomato and kale
52 cents total


Snack
:
19 cents hardboiled egg

On Day 2, I thought a lot about all of the expenses I had that week that did not fit into my budget for food and drink. I paid my rent, bought feminine products, and spent $22 a day commuting to and from my job. I couldn’t imagine living on a $1.50 a day, every day, for everything.

I made more hardboiled eggs on the second evening of Live Below the Line because we all loved to snack on them in the office. I purchased America’s Choice brand because it was on sale and brought our price down to $0.11/egg. Certainly not organic or cage free, which shed light on the affordability of eating consciously.

Dinner:
22 cents two servings of penne
9 cents half tablespoon melted organic butter
9 cents one serving grated cheese
10 cents tea with one Stevia packet
50 cents total


Day 3: Spent $1.49 for food and drink

Breakfast:
5 cents Stevia packet
5 cents Tetley tea bag
11 cents hardboiled egg
21 cents total

IMG_4955Lunch:
17 cents one serving brown rice
40 cents one serving lentils, potatoes, frozen veggies
57 cents total

 

I used a lot of packets of salt during Live Below the Line and counted them on Day 3 as 10 cents total. I also had one tablespoon of peanut butter as a snack for 11 cents.

Dinner:
22 cents two servings of penne
9 cents half tablespoon melted organic butter
9 cents one serving grated cheese
10 cents tea with one Stevia packet
50 cents total

I found myself making the same dinner over and over again because I came home too tired to make anything different. On Day 3, my boyfriend came over for dinner and ate leftover penne vodka which was rather tempting. It was easier during the challenge to isolate myself socially, so that I wouldn’t be tempted to cheat.


Day 4: Spent $1.50 on food and drink

Without a doubt, Day 4 was the hardest day. I was feeling tired and had no energy to focus on projects at work. Live Below the Line was also the longest I have gone without meat. I realized I was having a tough time without Diet Pepsi too.

Because I was having a difficult time, I had a larger breakfast to experience some different flavors.

IMG_4957Breakfast:
5 cents Stevia packet
5 cents Tetley tea bag
11 cents hardboiled egg
11 cents tablespoon peanut butter
11 cents toasted bread
43 cents total

IMG_4959Lunch:
42 cents two servings spaghetti with olive oil and garlic
20 tomato, beans and kale
62 cents total

 

The smell of ocean when I arrived home in Sea Bright helped me to continue the challenge. I also took a walk on the beach and reminded myself that there was only one day left. I wasn’t too hungry throughout the challenge, just bored with what I was eating. I missed the comfort foods that I am so accustomed to; like taking a break from work and getting a Diet Pepsi in the afternoon or coming home and eating buffalo wings or chicken parm subs. I also found it so strange to be measuring out each serving of each meal during Live Below the Line. That is certainly not something I had paid much attention to before.

Dinner:
22 cents two servings of penne
9 cents half tablespoon melted organic butter
5 cents half serving grated cheese
3 cents half serving garlic powder
8 cents tea with less than one Stevia packet
47 cents total


Day 5: Spent $1.50 on food and drink

On Day 5, I forgot my iPhone at home. Not having as many distractions at work made me more aware of how ready I was to eat what I was accustomed to again.

Breakfast:

5 cents Stevia packet
5 cents Tetley tea bag
11 cents hardboiled egg
11 cents tablespoon peanut butter
11 cents toasted bread
43 cents total

IMG_4970Lunch
17 cents serving of brown rice
39 cents ladle of tomato sauce and veggies
56 cents total

 

Snacks:
7 cents one stick of Orbit gum
11 cents hardboiled egg
11 cents tablespoon of peanut butter
29 cents total

Dinner:
11 cents one serving of penne
5 cents half tablespoon melted organic butter
5 cents half serving grated cheese
22 cents total


As my colleagues and I sat around the pizza we had ordered to celebrate the end of Live Below the Line a week later, I realized what a privilege it is for me to be able to choose between a plain slice of pizza that costs $2.38, a white slice for $2.72 or a vegetable slice for $4.09. I have the privilege of choice every day.

I can choose what I want to eat, how much I spend, and what I want to drink. Clean drinking water comes right out of my faucet. Electricity fuels my stove and oven and allows for me to cook hot meals. I have the ability to spend money to commute to New York City for a good job.

Live Below the Line made me grateful for all that I have, especially the support of my friends and family. Thank you so much to everyone who invested in my Live Below the Line page, sent text messages of encouragement and asked questions about my job and hunger and poverty.

The challenge also made me realize that people living below the poverty line do not need hand outs or donations; they need opportunities to make their own income to take themselves out of poverty. I believe that everyone on the planet has the capability and resourcefulness to live well; they are only missing the opportunity to utilize their talents.

I don’t know how I would be able to live each day if I had to choose between healthcare needs or rent or food. I think that’s what Live Below the Line is all about, realizing all that you have and being grateful, empathizing with those who live in conditions of hunger and poverty, and being motivated to bring about social change so that every person has a chance to experience life above the line.

Visit my Live Below the Line page to make an investment to empower women and men to end their own hunger.

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7 thoughts on “Living Below the Poverty Line on Food and Drink for 5 Days

  1. I think most of us could benefit from doing something like this, to change our perspective and understand how lucky we are that we have the possibility to choose.

    Like

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