A few years back I fundraised $635 for Live Below The Line by cooking and eating $2.25 a day worth of food for 5 days. $2.25 per day is considered the extreme poverty line in New Zealand. I came up with a bunch of simple recipes based on $11.25 worth of groceries and blogged about my experience.
I won’t lie, it was miserable. I experienced hunger and deficiencies. While I made sure I ate 3+ times a day, I felt foggy and light headed. Most days, I came home from work, ate a small, unsatisfying meal and went straight to bed. This really highlighted for me, the struggles the poor have to face daily. How can someone possibly get ahead if they feel like that constantly?
Yesterday I saw the fury of the internet unleashed on Gwyneth Paltrow when she posted her $29 SNAP challenge.
If you missed it, here it is again.
I also got swept up in the fury and I reposted it to my Facebook page. 7 limes? What planet do you live on? The exhorbant price of limes in New Zealand taunt me but maybe they’re dirt cheap where Gwyn resides. Even so, one lime a day?
I know the $11.25 haul I bought looked nothing like Gwyneth’s haul. Quite honestly, $4.15 a day seems almost luxurious compared to my paltry $2.25 a day.
So, I’ve come up with a lime free shopping list based on $29. Last time I checked, the New Zealand dollar was weaker than the US dollar giving me a disadvantage, but while putting this together, I found that the New Zealand dollar is actually stronger than the US dollar, giving me an advantage. But for intents and purposes and because the world market doesn’t effect my shopping bill, I’ll keep it at $29NZ.
If I had an extra $10 I’d add butter, flour and more vegetables.
While SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is meant as a supplemental program, and not 100% of a family’s grocery money, 20% of families on SNAP have no other source of income other than SNAP.
I love a bargain and avoid buying meat and vegetables from the supermarket where the price and quality are suspect. I always stock up when things go on sale and rarely buy things not on my list. Aside from that time for charity, I’ve never actually budgeted my list to a dollar amount. As long as I aim for what’s in season and on special for as many items as we can, I think we do OK. I feel incredibly blessed.
Have you ever had to budget? What are your tips?
What would you do with 7 limes?
This is awesome, dude. I remember your challenge well and was impressed by how resourceful your meals were. Sadly, often with poverty comes a lack of food knowledge. I think cooking on a tight budget should be taught through governments.
That’s a great idea. Mainstream society is more interested in food and cooking than they have ever been, especially in entertainment (how many cookbooks and cooking shows are there!?), but it can be uninspiring for those who don’t have much money. It would be a fun exercise to see chefs having to make meals on poverty line budgets.
I remember as part of LBTL a local chef made a dinner for $2.25 per head and charged a donation to raise funds. Something like that both highlights frugal cooking and channels money to those in need. I don’t remember what he cooked, but I think he did pull a few favours.
The Goop lady is way out of touch. Well done you for doing the Live Below the Line challenge!
I am tremendous blessed that I have never had to budget for food, for mortgage, yes. A useful tip that a financial adviser told me was to set up different accounts for essentials and ‘extras’ to keep track of what my extras were costing me. It’s way too easy to forget about the number of meals out, small purchases, etc. I’m still terrible at this, and I know I splurge on meals out way too often. It’s my favourite vice.
My favourite money saving tip when I lived in a sunny spot is to grow your own herbs. Or ask people for herbs off their gardens and freeze them where you can. Fresh herbs lift just about any dish.
Herbs are great! Which reminds me, I have seeds I’ve been meaning to sow.
Thank you so much for this post! I am actually going to use this as a resource for a project I am doing in my Nutrition Class. We have to have $15 budget for a weeks worth of meals..both healthy and unhealthy and compare and contrast health benefits.
You’re welcome. That’s a great project for nutrition class. I’m afraid my shop isn’t super nutritious. It’s not terrible, but it could be better with more fruit and vege. I’d love to see what you come up with.
Shop around. Supermarkets have some items that are cheap, others that are overpriced. For example, I can get milk and bread for $1, cauliflower $4. Our Chinese grocer sells cauliflower for $1, but bread and milk are more like $3-4.
No it was great insight. It is a group project so we are splitting up individually to different stores to get the prices for our money. Those sound like great deals!
Both of my parents are post war babies and have always budgeted with food. I am lucky as this has taught me well. I do realise that I am in the minority and I can be rather canny with our food, even though we are fortunate enough to not need to worry. We eat very little meat and the majority is bought on sale.
Shopping around is the key but that does involve having either transport or supermarkets in walking distance. I find not taking the husband shopping also saves money.
My husband is actually really good when it comes to shopping. I know he has a weak spot for certain foods, but if it’s not on the list, he’ll say he doesn’t need it. I walk to the supermarket and to the Chinese grocer a few times a week. I count it as my exercise.
Oh. Lord. The limes. My eyes went straight to them and was like.. what the fuck. Is that CORIANDER!? WAAAARGHH. You did super well on your $29 budget, I think you got the most macronutrients for your buck. Im tempted to try this, but honestly we could eat that in a day and I will puss out faster than Paltrow. I wouldnt buy limes though. $2 each in central Newfoundland!
Limes are about $2 each here too. Coriander is cheap, but I consider it a garnish. Poor people don’t buy garnishes.
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I had to do some pretty extreme budgeting when I was completing post-grad study while working part time and also working for free at two placements. I found that the Avondale vege markets were a blessing for picking up fruit and veges cheap. And getting 4 meals out of one chicken became a pretty good skill of mine lol. Nowadays I have an idea of what I would like to keep my spending to but its not the end of the world if I go over and I feel pretty lucky to have that privelege. I would say that move on Gwyneth Paltrow’s part was pretty insensitive and clearly she has no sense of what it is like to have no choice but to stick to an incredibly tight budget or even have to go without.
And I definitely facepalmed when I saw the limes. I mean really? – Jess
I also followed the uproar following Gwyneth’s SNAP post. I agree with a lot of people that her choices were less-than-realistic and glaring proof that most of us who don’t have to live on a very small food budget don’t understand the challenge of doing so. I applaud your efforts to stick to such a small budget, even for a short period of time. I, too, am blessed that I don’t need to really budget but I do watch sales, buy in-season, and grow most of my own veggies and herbs in the spring, summer and fall. I also can, freeze, dehydrate…I preserve all that we can’t eat. Even in my youth, when my budget was very tight, I still focused on non-processed foods and bought the best food I could afford, thought I assure you it wasn’t a whole bunch of limes. (which are pretty inexpensive here in the U.S., I might add.)