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Apr 13, 2012 09:20 AM

Live Below the Line


I am interested in the Live Below the Line challenge-- living for 5 days on $1.50/day (i.e. below the poverty level).

I'm getting pretty good at budget cooking but without thinkings like olive oil, flour, herbs, etc. to grab from my pantry without thought makes this much harder.

So.... how would you live below the line for 5 days? Can you help me with recipes?

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  1. "...and when there was no meat, we ate fowl and when there was no fowl, we ate crawdad and when there was no crawdad to be found, we ate sand."

    Squirrels, pigeons and raccoons are everywhere. Start sharpening some sticks.

    1. You might find the series of posts by rworange interesting, although they dealt with the luxurious budget of $3/day!

      This thread gives further links to the experiment, including weekly purchases and recipes.

      1 Reply
      1. re: meatn3

        Very luxurious! Thank you- these look great!

      2. Linda Watson set out to see if one could eat healthy and organic on a food stamp budget. Her explorations are here:

        Lots of recipes and suggestions.

        1 Reply
        1. I lived in Guatemala for an entire year on the following diet:

          Breakfast: black beans and tortillas
          Lunch: black beans, tortillas, and a cooked vegetable dish - occasionally a slice of queso fresco
          Dinner: black beans, tortillas, and an egg, or the leftover vegetable dish

          Not only did I survive, but I got used to it and felt healthy. Chili sauce is essential for the beans. Occasionally making refried beans with onions adds variety. It helped that the tortillas were made with fresh nixtamal. Maseca would at least be better than factory tortillas. For the vegetables, we ate a lot of cabbage and gusquil, aka chayote, which grows there in profusion.

          1 Reply
          1. re: CathleenH

            I tend to eat a lot of the same things on a regular basis. I need to switch to dried beans and cut out some of the add-ons though. Thanks for the ideas- and making them so accessible!

          2. The only way it would be possible to live up to this challenge is to team up as the article suggests. You could then buy the salt, pepper, cooking oil and all those things that you don't think about much. A team would also be good for pooling assets to make a stew or a soup.

            The challenge would be very different in an urban setting vs a country setting. In a country setting, you could hunt, fish, forage and in the long term could grow veggies. In an urban setting, foraging would include dumpster diving, charity food pantries and soup kitchens. In the long term veggies could be grown in containers and small lots but it would be difficult.

            To meet the challenge, I suspect CathleenH's approach would be about as good as any. Buy a pound of rice and a pound of beans and a stack of tortillas. Maybe a head of cabbage and some pasta of some sort. Maybe a couple of potatoes and onions if there is any money left.

            Cooked beans and rice would last in the fridge. I think I would be tempted to make some type of beans and rice stew about the consistency of chili. It could be spooned onto the tortillas and rolled up. The cabbage could be sauteed up for dinners.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Hank Hanover

              I'm thinking the same thing- CathleenH's approach seems very reasonable to me.

              I'm in an urban area and don't feel comfortable taking from local charities- I'm just uncomfortable taking advantage of limited resources when I don't have to. However, I'm still contemplating taking advantage of some of my company's wonderful benefits, namely an unlimited supply of milk, coffee, tea, and fresh fruit.

              1. re: wandajune6

                Wow! Free Milk and fruit. Definitely take advantage of that. Bananas are only about 10 cents a piece and so are eggs. Well, nowadays eggs are more like 15 cents. If you are strapped for cash, and can still cook and have refrigeration, steel cut oats can be bought for $1 per pound and they keep in the fridge in a sealed container for a few days. Try to have a big breakfast, some of that milk and fruit for lunch and in the afternoon before getting off work.

                A baked potato is cheap, filling and you can do things like pour canned chili or soup over one for dinner. You can do the same with rice. Also, whenever you make rice, make extra so you can stirfry it another day. It also makes a porridge if you add milk, butter and a little sugar. You can always add it to canned soups to make them more substantial.

                Finally, a can of progresso soup and a 3 or 4 slices of french bread make a very nice meal for about $2.

                A box of mac and cheese and some cut up Vienna sausages can feed you for a at least a couple of days.

                Potatoes can be cooked in the microwave. They aren't quite as good as baked but not bad. Poke them with a fork several times, wrap them in plastic wrap and nuke them on high for 5 minutes. Hey it is less time than an hour in the oven.