Is it possible to eat healthily on $1.50 a day for 5 days?
My sister Johanna texted me last week, ‘I want to do Live Below the Line but you have to help me do it healthily’. I’m always up for a challenge and I love my sister so of course I said yes, but I also love and believe in what the Live Below the Line campaign is doing worldwide to raise awareness of extreme poverty. Their idea is that to fight poverty you have to understand it, so they are challenging people to live for 5 days eating and drinking for just $1.50 a day. Yes, that’s just $7.50 for the week and yes, it’s tough.
Most of the people I’ve seen do it will understandably turn to white rice, cheap bread, packet soup, noodles and foods like that. We wanted to see if it can be done at all healthily so I set out to build my sister a meal plan. Armed with a calculator and a basket (no need for a cart when you’re working with $7.50) I embarked on a frugal shopping trip at our local store.
Basically, you can bypass the produce section. Too expensive. I took one banana and one carrot per day, an onion for the week, and moved on.
Bananas: $0.79, Carrots: $0.55, Onion: $0.36 (Total $1.70)
I headed into the bulk section where yes, all the refined stuff is cheaper but I spend a few extra cents and got a pound of whole rolled oats, a pound of lentils and a pound of brown rice.
Oats: $0.53, Lentils: $0.83, Rice: $0.64 (New total: $3.70)
I usually make my own nut butter and while that could actually be cheaper than store bought, I thought requiring a $100+ blender for the meal plan was missing the point so I added in peanut butter from the store grinder, 1/3lb or about 5 tbsp, and two tablespoons of garlic salt.
Peanut butter: $0.61, Garlic Salt: $0.08 (New total: $4.39… $3.11 left eek)
To help flavor the lentils and rice I added a small can of tomato puree and a small bottle of soy sauce to my basket. We’ll only get to use half of the soy sauce bottle, max.
Tomato paste: $0.48, Soy sauce: $1.48/$0.74 (New total: $5.61)
Forget pastured, organic or even free range, if you choose those that’s all you’re eating all week, but I got a dozen of the cheapest eggs bringing me to $7.29 with just $0.21 left. I went back to the bulk section and added in 3 tbsp dark chocolate chips to keep the week happy, taking me over my budget by 3 cents.
Eggs: $1.86, Chocolate Chips: $0.24
GRAND TOTAL $7.53
I came home and sat everything on the table and planned it out, then divided it up between days and came up with a meal plan. It’s very simple and you’re not going to be eating diverse flavorful food, but with a combination of oatmeal, bananas, and simple pancakes for breakfast and lots of lentils, rice and egg fried rice combinations for lunch and dinner, it’s possible. We even managed to sneak in some 3 ingredient chocolate chip cookies at the end of the week.
Yu can read Johanna’s fun and honest journal of each day, as well as see meal plans and pictures at by clicking below!
Day 1: A hungry gym trip and happy lentils.
Day 2: Fruit cravings and a yummy burger fail.
Day 3: Burned rice and the reality sets in.
Day 5: Cookies and a round up of the week