Live below the line

Live below the line is an awareness and fundraising campaign that’s making a huge difference in the fight against poverty.

This campaign arrived in New Zealand for the first time last year.
From September 24-28, 2012 people across New Zealand will challenge themselves to live on just $2.25 worth of food and drink a day, to get a better understanding of the daily difficulties faced by people who are trapped in extreme poverty.

I decided to consider what doing the challenge would mean.  Given that there are only 2 of us at home now and our weekly grocery bill is commonly over $200, it was difficult to even begin contemplating living on just $31.50 a week, particularly if you are to meet energy and nutrient needs!

Fior this 5 day challenge I worked out a rough menu that would fit into budget (almost) of $22.50 for 2 of us.   The only way I could swing it was to have the same food each day – a concept unfamiliar to most of us given our world of food abundance.  On saying that, when trekking in Nepal last year I was intrigued by the fact that most of the population had the same meal for each meal every day.  Dhal bart,  essentially just lentils and rice is a meal they never seem to tire of!.

Nutritionally the diet I have planned is deficient in calcium but not too bad otherwise.  Lentils and split peas provide protein while the rice, oats and bread provide good quality carbohydrates. The vegetables provide vitamins and antioxidants.  It would actually stack up better than many of the diets in New Zealand, particularly those based on energy dense, nutrient poor fast and convenience foods!
A diet that is deficient in essential nutrients will not harm us for 5 days – for a lifetime however it is another story.

The menu – repeat each day

Breakfast – 1/2 cup oats made into porridge with water and served with 1/4 banana chopped finely

Lunch – pea soup made with split peas, onion and some finely chopped carrot and served with 1-2 slices toast or bread with a slice of cheese ( the ration is 2 pieces of bread and one slice of cheese per person per day )

Dinner – red lentil dhal made with onion, curry powder, canned tomato, stock and chopped carrot and cabbage. This is served with cooked rice.

I costed the food based on today’s prices at Countdown.

450g rolled oats – $1.40
500g red lentils – $3.25
2 cans chopped tomatoes – $1.70
1 bag split peas – $1.76
1 x 500g bag long grain white rice – $1.29
1 packed oxo chicken stock cubes – $2.49
1 loaf of homebrand wholemeal bread, sandwich sliced – $1.47
20g curry powder – 30c
3 bananas – $1.50
5 medium onions – $1.20
5 carrots – $1.20
1 cabbage – $2.49
Homebrand processed cheese slices (250g) – $2.59 (not my ideal choice but the only cheese that would fit into the budget)

TOTAL = $22.64

Having just priced it all, I have realised I have not included tea bags or coffee!!!  I am not sure how my head would cope without my one strong coffee a day – cheating is looking good!

Seriously, it would be a nightmare having to live like this every day of your life.  Just planning what is possible has given me insight into the daily grind of millions of people in the world.   Now its whether I could follow through with it………????





5 thoughts on “Live below the line

  1. Thanks for the eating ideas – I’m going to live below the line next week and your suggestions have more variety in them than I was anticipating I’d find for 2.25 a day.

  2. By my reckoning this diet would give you less than 5000 kJ per day. Thats not enough to maintain weight for most adults, and you definitely couldn’t afford to exercise. If you were on that budget and paying those prices long term you would have to skip the nutritious but low energy vegetables and buy more bread, rice, lentils, oats and split peas.

  3. Very true, which illustrates exactly what the challenge is trying to illustrate – that for $2.52 a day something has to give – you can aim for kilojoules (at the expense of nutrients) or aim for the most nutritious foods possible which may be at the expense of kilojoules. It is almost impossible to get enough nutrients and enough kilojoules on such a limited sum of money.

  4. Hi bronwen, I’m thinking we might do this as a a family this year, especially since tearfund have put out a recipe book for the event! I’d love to hear your thoughts about their book and how achieve able it is to live on 2.25 in NZ two years on!

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