25 Apr, 2013
Can you live below the line?
I am fretting because I’m not sure if I have enough food to get me through next week.
I’ve never been truly poor. I was an only child raised in a suburb in a middle-class family. My mother stayed at home. My father owned a store and had a couple of employees. We had two cars, green grass, a dog, and there was always enough to eat.
Although I don’t remember wanting for anything growing up and I can’t say that money was plentiful, my parents did make a significant contribution to my university education. A scholarship made it a little easier, but still, a post-secondary education isn’t cheap. While I was away at school I worked a variety of different jobs to pay the bills. I do remember the times between paychecks when my bank account was nearly empty, and having to decide whether I could afford to buy milk that week. I also remember times when I couldn’t afford butter or margarine, and having to eat my KD with nothing but powder and a little water. But that wasn’t true poverty. In hindsight I know I could have called my parents and asked for money. But I never did.
I had options, but many people in this world do not. That’s why I’m participating in the Live Below the Line Challenge between April 29 and May 3. According to the Global Poverty Project, 1.4 billion people are living in extreme poverty. These are people who can barely afford to eat and are often faced with indescribable hardship and impossible choices. Picture yourself having to choose between purchasing food or medicine for example. Can you imagine being a mother under such circumstances? I cannot.
Live Below the Line is a way to get people thinking about those who have less, and, here’s the crux of it, as part of my participation in this project I have agreed to live on $1.75 a day for five days.
Why $1.75? I wondered about this number, and that was Mark’s first question too. Doesn’t $1.75 buy a lot of rice and beans in developing countries? Well, here’s the answer in case you’re wondering too.
I’ve already made a couple trips to the store to buy my food. I’m not supposed to do a big shop (a trip to the grocery store usually runs $100 or so) and subtract my foods from that. My cash flow has to be like their cash flow. I have $8.75 to spend, and that’s it.
Pennies are making a huge difference. I keep doing the math, again and again. I’ve already spent most of my allowance: 99 cents for a can of diced tomatoes at the Superstore and $3.94 at Bulk Barn, where I’m pretty sure the cashier overcharged me for one item. I’ve also had to return one item (well, return it to my cupboard unused) because I’ve decided to forgo the luxury of green tea in exchange for other things. I have a couple items left on my wish list and I’m hoping I will have enough for a can of peas and maybe, hopefully, an onion. I would love a potato. My saving grace will be a dozen eggs bought cheaply from a local farmer. I’m just hoping that deal works out.
This is what I’m looking at as I type this:
I will post a more complete picture complete with cost breakdowns and a “menu plan” soon.
My mind is buzzing. How am I supposed to do this while feeding my family? How am I supposed to do this while I’m supposed to be working? How can I live without fresh vegetables? AND COFFEE.
I have already given up 100 times and I haven’t even started.
I’m worried and I’m saddened and I don’t think I can do it. I’m worried because there really isn’t my much food here to sustain me, and I’m saddened that so many people have to live like this every day of their lives.
So there it is. Do you feel like joining me in this impossible challenge? Or maybe giving up a visit to Starbucks today and putting that money elsewhere? Just for today? You can do that right here.
I think the hardest part of this challenge won’t missing big, beautiful, balanced meals for five days, it will be knowing that I can go back to eating what I always do when it’s over, and knowing that so many people cannot.
More to come.