Living below the line today has certainly given me much to reflect on. D and I have eaten well today, and I got a bit creative in the kitchen.
As I expected, my breakfast of three weetbix, 100ml milk (believe me, we measured carefully) and 1 egg set me up for the morning. I felt hungry around 11:30am, but not uncomfortably so. Eggs are magic for satiety.
I turned my lunch into open peanut butter sandwiches which helped me feel like I was getting a lot to eat. Normally my lunch consists of loads of veggies with a can of tuna, so I really noticed I got hungry much earlier in the afternoon than usual. My body is obviously quite used to eating more protein. I had my half of a kiwifruit at 4pm and was quite glad I hadn’t eaten it at lunch because my tummy was rumbling.
I spent the afternoon making tortillas, and vegetable stock. Most people chuck out the green leek leaves, but they actually make excellent stock and are delicious stir-fried. The veggie stock adds flavour and nutrients to our main meals. I used a few leek leaves, a leaf of silverbeet that our friends foraged for us, the ends and peels from today’s ration of carrots (I don’t normally peel them), and some foraged parsley. Any leftover bits of vegetables from our next few meals will be used to make more stock on Thursday.
One thing I didn’t factor in when making tortillas was the amount of flour needed for kneading and rolling the dough! Thursday’s tortillas will be smaller because of this. When making tortillas I’m usually to be found raining flour in the manner of the Swedish Chef from the Muppets (love him), so it was quite weird to use it sparingly.
Dinner turned out great in D’s opinion, as he couldn’t taste the baked beans or the silverbeet (another ‘yuck’ in his books). I sautéed the leek whites in table spread and curry powder, then stir-fried them in stock with carrots, leek leaves and silverbeet, before adding the beans, an egg and a garnish of parsley. We had two tortillas each with dinner.
Our budget for today:
3 wheat biscuits: 20c
200mL milk: 32c
1 egg: 28c
share of “Table spread”: 15c
share of Peanut Butter: 20c
Half a kiwifruit: 5c
1 carrot: 14c
1/10th of a leek: 10c
100g rice: 11c
spice: 4c (‘guesstimate’)
self-seeded silverbeet: free
self-seeded parsley: free
flour for tortillas: 8c
Food security is an area where I guess I have more insight than the average middle-class New Zealander. I worked at the coal face here at Wellington’s Soup Kitchen and saw the effects of poverty every day. I know people who are forced to live on much less than $2.25 a day, people who have to bear the humiliation of going cap-in-hand to ask for food, who have to stretch a benefit (that’s if they even get one) that leaves them with $13 a week after rent and utilities is taken out to buy everything else they need – not just food.
- Living below the poverty line naturally means you have limited choices about what you eat. Fancy a steak? Too bad. You probably can’t eat one anyway because your teeth have rotted due to not being able to afford to go to the dentist. Want a chocolate bar? Nope, there’s no money for little treats. Enjoy a morning latte? If you’re on the streets, even getting water can be a struggle. At the Soup Kitchen we weren’t able to offer a choice of meals; you either liked it or lumped it. But we did our utmost to offer choices whenever we possibly could (e.g. tea or coffee, salt and pepper, type of bread roll, dessert etc.). Choices mean dignity.
- Even if you have the money for food and know how to cook, you still need a kitchen, cooking utensils and power. So many people at the Soup Kitchen slept rough, or in a shelter which they had to vacate first thing in the morning. I also know people who have housing but can’t afford the power bill. No heating, no lights, no fridge, no cooking. When these people weren’t eating at the Soup Kitchen, they ate terribly because all they can afford is fast food that needs no preparation.
- Cooking for one person can be expensive. Most of the people who came to the Soup Kitchen were alone (not in a relationship/no family around). When you don’t have anyone to share costs with, getting ingredients together can be a struggle. Even for this challenge if we hadn’t shared flour, weetbix and eggs with our friends, we couldn’t have bought them on our own.
So today I am grateful for many things. My family, that I am in a position where I am living below the line by choice, my home and my kitchen, my culinary know-how, my health, and friends who forage silverbeet for me.
Whether you feel like you are or not – you are blessed.