Living Below the Line: What $15 buys

From April 28 to May 2, my husband and I, along with 25,000 other people, are living on $1.50 each per day for the Global Poverty Project’s “Live Below The Line” challenge. The purpose of the challenge is to raise awareness for the 1 billion people in poor countries who live in extreme poverty, under $1.50 – the poverty line – each day. Read Part 1 here

Photo My Shopping Cart

My trip to the grocery store proved challenging as I stretched $15 to feed two people for five days.

Shopping on a $15 budget this week humbled me, bringing me back to when my husband and I were first married.  Nearly 20 years ago, we managed on a $30 to $40 weekly grocery budget; a budget twice the current poverty line for two people. I just completed my college degree and my husband attended university full-time.  We hoped for better days.  We knew there was a way out.

We thought we were struggling by American standards. I realize now, for many in the developing world, poverty is extreme, cyclical, with no immediate end. Worldwide, 1.2 billion people live below the line.  842 million people do not have enough to eat; 98 percent of which live in developing countries.

As I grocery shop on $15, I can see why malnourishment is a constant struggle living below the line. Temporarily, I sacrifice sound nutrition as I fill my shopping cart with low-cost staple foods. I cannot meet the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans; a major goal of which is to ensure Americans:

Consume more of certain foods and nutrients such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood.

Fruit?  Not so much.  I am able to afford bananas at $.20 each, but that “apple a day that keeps the doctor away” is too expensive.

Photo Grocery Receipt

Individually, apples cost $.83 each.  An apple a day for two costs $8.30 at this rate.  Bulk apples cost $3.99 for a bag of nine, or about 26 percent of my $15 budget.  By the pound or in bulk, math is math.  There is no way to win here.

Vegetables? A minor score: Sweet potatoes are loaded with beta-carotene; A nutritious bargain at $2.49 for a bag of seven.  Carrots are $.89 for two pounds and three squash are $1.29.

Dairy Products? Eggs make the cut at $1.29 per dozen.  Milk is too costly at $2.99 per gallon.  Tap water is our default beverage of choice.

Whole grains?  Yes, we are eating grains, just not whole grains such as brown rice.  These cost double the price of white rice and noodles.  I can’t spare the extra cost.  White rice, wins, Like it or not.

Seafood or Meat? Forget about it.  At an average of $4 to $7 per pound at the low end, neither is in the budget this week.  Our major protein source: Beans.

My total grocery bill of $15.35 was slightly above the line.  I should feel a small sense of victory.  Instead, as a mother, I am sad because living below the line spells malnourishment for so many families.  My children are not participating this week by choice.  My heart goes out to parents that have no choice for their children.

Photo Fruit

Stay tuned for our next episode: How is our week going?