Living Below the Line: Day 4

I don’t understand how I did it. Seriously, how did this happen?! How did I end up with too much food. Unless I absolutely stuff my face tomorrow, which is very tempting, I will actually have leftover supplies. Although there is a sense of satisfaction in knowing that I have excess food on such a tiny budget, it is slightly annoying to know that I could have eaten more in those first couple of days! Though there wasn’t ever a time where I felt ravenous, or uncomfortable, or frustrated during this challenge. Sure there were times when I felt hungry, but not in a painful way. Would it dimish the experience to say that I found Living Below the Line quite managable? Of course I’m sure the longer I continued to do it the harder and more malnourished I would become, but for just five days it really wasn’t as tough as everyone warned me it would be. This is also down to good preparation: strategic meal planning and shopping around for the cheapest price on goods definitely helped stretch my budget, as well as the willingness to make things from scratch, like flatbread, instead of going for easier, more expensive options. My greatest weapon? Canned tomatoes. They become the holy grail of budget eating: cheap, tasty, versatile and easy to make meals out of with other cheap ingredients.

So today I finished the last of my dahl with some flatbread and then I treated myself to TWO dinners! Tomato soup, then pasta with frozen vegetables and a big knob of butter (butter test success – smashes flavour on those frozen veg!) One more day to go, and I don’t even have to worry about hoarding food for the future! Happy Thursday everyone! 🙂

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Living Below the Line – Day 3 (Stock Cubes and Macarons)

Today was the first day I had to work at the macaron shop since starting the challenge, and oh did the stakes get higher! Morning shifts are hard anyway, because even when I am not living under the poverty line, you are inevitably always ravenous by the end of it. Walking 40 minutes to work does not help, because although I feel and fit and healthy and planet saving and stuff, I am now pretty peckish before I’ve even started my 5 hour shift. Morning shifts are also notoriously quiet, which means after cleaning the entire store and rearranging everything that is not fixed to the floor, I HAVE NOTHING TO DO BUT STARE AT SWEET SUGARY DELICIOUSNESS!!! The fight was hard, guys. And I almost succeeded.

Almost.

Until my coworker came to relieve me and convinced me that the two macarons I get free with every shift does not count towards my $2 budget. Becuase they are free. And delicious. And there are new flavours, which obviously for work I should sample because what if a customer asks me about them?? As a good employee it is my DUTY to sample all the flavours….

Yeah so I ate two macarons. Forgive me I have sinned.

But then I feel I make up for it by eating nothing but soup for every other meal. I must admit I was skeptical of my $0.85 ‘chicken style’ stock cubes and their promise that one dissolved in water would make ‘a delicious consummé’, but it was actually pretty decent. BEST OF ALL IT MAKES FROZEN VEGETABLES EDIBLE!!! Imagine me running around the kitchen with my hands in the air that was basically my reaction. The butter test will have to wait…

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Living Below the Line – Day 2

Frozen vegetables are probably the most boring thing on this planet. What is worse, they seem to suck the flavour out of everything I put them in an I am left with a flavourless bowl of boring flavourless untasty boring food. Yummy spicy dahl? NO MATCH FOR FROZEN VEGETABLES! They easily transformed a flavourful dish into a boring bowl of mush. Tomato pasta sauce?? VIOLATED BY FROZEN VEGETABLES!! I added a cup of the perilous mixture and lo, pasta was made dull, and there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I have one final weapon against the terrible force that is frozen vegetables, one final trick up my sleeve that they will NEVER see coming!

Butter.

Butter is amazing. Butter makes everything better. The French understand the magical powers of butter. They make fried eggs and mushrooms taste so much better, mashed potatoes are not the same without them, croissants are practically pure butter, NEED I SAY MORE!!!! I will conquer the frozen vegetables with butter AND THERE WILL BE MUCH REJOICING!!!

Ok so apparently the empty feeling in my stomach has started to affect my brain. But actually I still feel fairly cognizant – I can even use words like cognizant – and it’s more the lack of flavour and limitation of ingredients that is bothering me. Breakfast is probably one of my most satisfying meals flavourwise – because I can slather my flatbread in butter (the flatbread I have mastered now!) and I have a newfound love of bananas. Things are coming up Milhouse.

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Living Below the Line – Day 1

Started the day off trying and failing terribly at making flatbread. My dough was waaaaay to sticky and I realised I didn’t have a griddle pan or even a big enough sandwich press to cook it in, so the end result was rather raw. Tasted alright though! I thought that would fill me but no, an hour later I was hungry and I found myself constantly looking at the clock waiting until I could make lunch!

Today was my cooking day: I made tomato pasta sauce with frozen veggies and a pot of dahl to keep me going over the next couple of days. The pasta was nice, and about the same portion size as I would usually eat. Somehow though I still found myself hungry on my way to work a few hours later. Everyone kept telling me to drink water as that would fill me up, and it does temporarily, but man cannot live on water alone and I like to snack! Snacks are good! To top things off, the dahl did not make nearly as much as I would have hoped! I am at least one serve down, which I did prepare for, but it means I will be living off mostly soup for the last two days.

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Live Below the Line – Finding Food for $2 a day

I have a few friends who do great things with the Oaktree Foundation and have done the Live Below the Line challenge in recent years. Oaktree works in some of the world’s poorest countries, including Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and Cambodia. They believe that education is key to breaking the poverty cycle, so money raised goes directly to building schools, buying textbooks, training teachers and providing scholarships to students. If $35 can buy a whole shelf of books, imagine what even $10 could do!

The Live Below the Line challenge is to experience what it is to live below the poverty line – about AU$2 a day – for five days. I have always wanted to do it, but in the past either I was running away overseas or writing a thesis at the time, so it never really happened – but not this year! I’m looking forward to challenging myself to do something difficult. It’s difficult for me but this is a reality for so many people. While travelling through Southeast Asia I have been confronted with poverty often. I’ve walked through shanty towns, been harried by hawkers, been followed by rickshaw drivers and street children asking for coins, seen Agent Orange victims begging on the side of the road and visited hilltribe villages where women with babies strapped to their backs try to sell us tourists scarves and trinkets. However, seeing it and living it are two very different things, and although my living on $2 a day for a week certainly won’t come close to how they live everyday, I can think of those people I met in Southeast Asia and hope that I’m a little bit closer to understanding what life for them is like.

$10 for a weeks worth of food is really very little, particularly with the ever increasing cost of food. Many end up eating a lot of oats and bread and frozen vegetables, one of my friends went very hardcore and spent the entire five days eating nothing but rice! Striking a balance is really the key so I have spent the last week trying to get together a meal plan which is not only cheap, but is also tasty and includes some protein and vitamins so I don’t keel over from malnutrition before this is over! This is what I decided on:

Meal Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Breakfast Flat bread w. butter

Banana

Flat bread w. butter

Banana

Flat bread w. butter

Banana

Flat bread w. butter

Banana

Flat bread w. butter

Banana

Lunch Tomato pasta

 

Tomato soup

 

Tibetan noodle soup Tomato pasta

 

Tomato soup

 

Dinner Dahl w. flat bread and boiled veg. Dahl w. flat bread and boiled veg.

 

Tomato pasta

 

Dahl w. flat bread and boiled veg.

 

Dahl w. flat bread and boiled veg.

 

So much flatbread! But with 1kg of plain flour being as little as $0.75 it is really the best value food I can get my hands on!

I start tomorrow, so today is being spent eating as much comfort food as possible, washed down with cup after cup of tea! If you want more information about what Live Below the Line is about please look up their website: https://www.livebelowtheline.com.au/ Or even better if you want to support this cause you can go to my page and make a tax deductable donation! https://www.livebelowtheline.com.au/me/zoeallen