Last week my girlfriend and I engaged in a challenge set forth by the Global Poverty Project in their Live Below The Line campaign:
Live Below the Line is a campaign that’s changing the way people think about poverty—and making a huge difference—by challenging everyday people to live on the equivalent of the extreme poverty line for 5 days.
They estimated that extreme poverty in America is equal to living on $1,50 a day. With the two of us that means we were allowed to spend a stunning $15 on food and drinks for 5 days. As an extra challenge on top of that I am not a huge fan of rice and beans and prefer not to eat it. After some research and planning we headed out to the Food 4 Less and came up with the following set of food for the 5 days:
The ingredients we bought. Spent no more than $15 for 2 people for 5 days!
Yes, we even managed to sneak in a pound of meat for $0.98! For getting a cheap price on certain products (spaghetti, eggs, oil, salt) we had to buy in bulk and only use part of the packages we bought. Can you image how weird it is to count the slices of bread in a loaf to see if you will have enough food for the week?
After the first day it was already pretty clear: this week would be all about ketchup. In the morning bread, eggs, salt and ketchup. Lunch the same and then a dinner which contained pasta, hot sauce and again ketchup and eggs. The worst thing about that day was the big disappointment the bread was. For $0,88 / loaf of bread we shouldn’t have expected too much to begin with but it was really horrible. After being toasted until the point it was almost burned then still it would manage to retain some of its sponginess. It was the kind of bread that is spongy and stays like that even if left in contact with air.
Day 2 has arrived. It was time to get some variation in our diet by adding half a banana to breakfast and have some ramen noodles at lunch. After a day containing three ketchup tasting meals the ramen noodles were actually a pleasant change. What really made the noodles killer food was the small package of spice that is contained within each package. It made me realize how much difference spices make. If I would have to do it over I would invest more in spices to please the taste buds.
A lot of people were asking me if we were hungry or that we were trying to lose weight. We for sure did not. We had three proper meals a day and weren’t hungry. The problem is variety (ketchup, ketchup everywhere!) and that the food that you eat is just not healthy. For a week it is okay. But what if you have to feed your whole family this crappy food for years? Bread that stays spongy and a pound of chicken/pork sausages for sure does not contain many healthy ingredients. It got me reading more about the quality of food and I stumbled across this scary article about 7 dodgy food practices banned in Europe but legal in the US. It will make me think twice next time I am doing grocery shopping!
On day 3 we had for dinner ramen noodles with eggs, cabbage and carrots. This is a meal that we actually eat from time to time. Albeit with a bit more spices then just the ones contained in a ramen noodle package. Still a decent meal.
(above) Day 4
So why did we do this challenge? The main reason for me was the change in life style. Even if it is only for a short while you will get a new experience which you would not have had otherwise. One of the things I learned was that if you’re poor it is not so easy to get out of it. Being poor will force you to eat shitty food. The lack of variety and vegetables will probably affect your health and the lack of taste will make you more miserable. And the lack of caffeine, auch!
(below) Day 5
Living below the line was something that before I started to do research I deemed impossible. After some research and doing groceries I thought it would be simple, just look at how much food we bought! But in the end I am glad it is over. The lack of variety and taste was tougher then I expected. We decided to donate $50 to UNICEF – the money we would otherwise have spent on food and drinks and through our constant updates managed a few others to also donate a total of $75 to UNICEF.
Anne Therese and Paulus: experience++, insight++
Time for the next challenge!