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Preparing for next week’s Live Below The Line challenge was blimmin’ tough.  We  spent hours nutting out a grocery list; debating whether we should buy lentils or rice, or what would be a filling and cost-effective breakfast.  I am awfully glad to be married to a Maths whiz who can work out the cost per serve in his head in seconds, because all those careful calculations were making my head spin.

Not only that, but planning what to eat required two reconnaissance missions to two different supermarkets before we’d even bought anything, to see how much things actually cost, and which supermarket would give us the best deal.  I did point out to D that poor people can’t just hop in their cars to check out different supermarkets (although having worked at a Soup Kitchen, I do personally know plenty of people who will spend all day walking around doing just that to save money).  We got our fruit, veg and eggs from our local farmer’s market, which is something we normally do anyway.

Meat was out of the question, although our friends who are also doing the challenge have managed to squeak in some cheap sausages.  They have two small children who a) don’t eat much, and b) give their parents more money to budget with.  I currently eat a High Fat, Low Carb diet (HFLC), but that isn’t an option on this kind of budget.  My butter has been replaced with ‘table spread’ (I don’t want to know what’s in it), and I am going to be filling up on bread, rice and tortillas this week.

I’m so glad I don’t have sugar or coffee in my usual diet, otherwise I’m quite sure I would be going through a horrible withdrawal next week.  I reckon there will be lots of cranky Live Below The Liners around!

I think before we made our meal plan I had envisaged eating lots of lentils and canned tomatoes, but our meals have turned out to be something completely different.

Here’s what we got for our budget of $2.25 per person, per day:

Our food for the week!

Our food for the week!

  • 2 loaves whole grain bread @ $1.47 each
  • 15 eggs @ .28c per egg ( $8.50pk of 30 shared with our friends)
  • 30 ‘weetbix’ @ $2.00 ($4.39 pack of 66 shared with our friends)
  • 2 tins baked beans @ .67c each
  • 1 jar crunchy peanut butter @ $1.98
  • 750g flour @.84c ($1.68, 1.5kg pack shared with friends)
  • table spread @ $1.49
  • 1kg rice @ $1.08
  • 2L milk @ $3.15
  • 5 kiwifruit @ .53c
  • 10 carrots @ $1.30
  • 1 leek @ $1.00
  • 1 onion @ .30c
  • some foraged parsley that had self-seeded in our friend’s garden (not in picture)

There are a few Live Below The Line recipe books out there which are great resources, but make sure that ingredients you get for one dish can be used in other dishes.  If you don’t, your budget just won’t work.  For instance, our peanut butter will be used in our lunches, to add flavour to dinner, and to dip carrots in if we get peckish.  The table spread will be used for peanut butter sandwiches, and to be teamed with flour and water to make tortillas.

Our meals for the week will be very repetitive, but we have at least got some wiggle room in the budget for spices and for using celery from our garden (you must factor in the cost of production when using your own produce).

Our daily meals will look something like this:

Breakfast: 3 weetbix with 100ml milk, one boiled egg.

Lunch: 2 peanut butter sandwiches, 1/2 a kiwifruit each.

Dinner: 100g rice each, 1/4 can baked beans each, 1/2 egg each, a splash of onion and leek, carrots, celery, spices and tortillas.

We’re not gonna starve.  

We were very disappointed at the lack of green vegetables that our money got us at the market.  Three weeks ago we could get broccoli for 50c each, but now they are up to $2.50.  We’re lucky we left some room in the budget for celery from our own garden.  D and I typically spend more than our LBTL budget of $22.50 just on vegetables alone, so the lack of veg feels quite wrong to us.  We could have bought fewer eggs to get more vegetables, but since switching to a HFLC way of eating I find a breakfast with plenty of protein does me until lunchtime.  I often go until 1 or 2pm before I feel hungry, so I’m hoping that having an egg at breakfast will help us make it through to lunch without needing a snack (carrot sticks and peanut butter).

We’ve both had to make compromises for the challenge, like the table spread (read Big Fat Lies, by David Gillespie if you want to know why that stuff is incredibly bad for you.  If we could have stretched the budget to at least include olive oil I would feel much better, but alas no).  D HATES baked beans with a passion, but they were 32c cheaper than dried lentils/chickpeas/couscous per 100g, plus they come with a sauce that I can at least disguise as something nicer by using spices.  We don’t normally eat such highly processed bread, or white rice, but our usual alternatives are way too expensive.

I’ve already learnt some lessons on what it’s like to live below the poverty line, but I will share them throughout the coming week.