My relationship with food is rich. Not only in the ‘I like to buy locally sourced (and wildly expensive) produce from Sunday markets’ rich, but also in the figurative sense. Food is culture, comfort and joy. As my mum often says: “You live to eat, not eat to live.” A simple but true statement. That is why my short one-week stint at Living Below the Poverty Line (LBL), was...embarrassingly difficult.
As a LBL 2019 alumni, I recall spending my week salivating over food - real and digital. Days spent gazing at food stands thinking ‘oh, if only I could tuck into a falafel wrap right now,’ ‘dang, that Bánh mì looks neat,’ ‘Indian restaurants why do you tease me so’ and yada-yada. But it is night that proved to be my true enemy. As I lay idle, endless-scrolling through instagram where images of drunken noodles and profiles like @pastagrannies exist, I could hear the sound of my neighbours UberEats courier rustling through the bushes. **A big sniff** ohhhh what is that Thai? Turkish? Tibettan? Turture!?
As a food lover/writer/consumer, I figured it important to try my hand at LBL. To get out and obliterate my comfort zone completely (albeit, for one tiny week). I hoped it would help build gratitude for something I have taken advantage of all my life...and it did. It is a privilege to find supermarkets therapeutic, not stressful; to be careless with your measurements and to waste without regard.
For one week I spent a total of $10 on groceries and made a handful of semi-profound revelations:
- Wow, food in the western world is expensive. Thank heavens for Asian grocers;
- It takes a lot of coordination and meticulous planning to survive on $10 a week and
- There is no way doingg so is healthy or okay.
Keeping my produce vegan was surprisingly easy though. It helped me narrow down to a tee exactly what I could consume. Leading this plant-based diet for a week also helped me make the most of my $10 allotment. Instead of buying 500g of chicken I could afford a pumpkin, herbs, spices, a bag of flour and a can of coconut milk. Stretched out, these ingredients could keep me fuller and healthier. Certainly a lot more bang for my minimal buck.
Recipe developing on scant funding and ingredients causes you to think outside of the box. Recipes featured below are by no means “the best,” but they are the best I could come up with. All the ingredients had to be malleable for multi-use as well as carb-heavy to keep one full and energised. Beyond the obvious things, you need to practice control and calm so as to not burn through all your food or energy.
Though this newly adopted frugal lifestyle did challenge me, it did not spark joy (sorry Marie Kondo). I struggled to think clearly, to be pleasant and present. As I ushered out LBL with a huge celebratory meal I realised this: my week-long experiment was someone else’s inescapable daily reality and if that’s not grounding then I don’t know what is.
This one challenging week has rocked my definition of poverty, privilege and waste. For anyone thinking of undertaking LBL, I implore you to try.
- Plan your shop: I spent a day checking out Aldi, Woolworths and Coles online stores for cheap staples like salt, flour and canned goods. I did my fresh food shopping at Asian grocers where produce is wildly cheap towards the end of the week.
- Portion your food: this ensures you don’t overuse, I can’t think of anything worse!
- Drink plenty of water!!
- The lack of food will result in depleted energy levels - be conscious of this and switch up any rigorous workouts with mindful ones.
- Write down what you’re feeling. Penning my thoughts helped me release how impacted my life is by the lack of food.
Recipes are below, if you make any of them please tag us on our social media!
Your favourite LBL-er and food writer,