Tuesday, July 07, 2015

$1.25 a Day

The "extreme poverty" rate (based on global purchasing power) is currently set at $1.25 (U.S.) per day. When I see people who complain about how much they "have" to spend on groceries per month, I want to shout at them that they have so much already just to live in this country! In one of the popular financial blogs I read, there was a very challenging post by someone wondering what he could buy for $50 a month as a grocery budget. It was a challenging thought, but I was more challenged when I realized that people living in extreme poverty live on only $37.50 per month (for everything, not just food).

That means that well over 1 billion people currently live on less than this one person's "extreme" grocery budget. (Poverty Benchmark)

So, I have a challenge for you. It doesn't have to be a week's challenge, or a month's challenge, but try to live on $1.25 per day for food. Again, this is not meant to be long-term as it will probably be unhealthy. It's also not meant to be exact, because the equipment and supplies (i.e. oven or running water) you use will be significantly different than someone living in extreme poverty.

Why do this challenge? One reason is to empathize with people across the world who do not have access to the many benefits we have in the United States. As a second reason, figure out the difference between what you spend on this "extreme" budget and your "normal" grocery budget, and contribute your "savings" to a world poverty relief organization (see below under "charities" for ideas, or support your own favorite charity).

For example, my grocery budget is about $3.65 per person per day. So if I lived on an "extreme" budget for 1 day a month, I could contribute $115 (additional) annually towards eliminating world poverty (4 people x $2.40 x 12).

What can you eat for $1.25 per person, per day? First, I would suggest looking at what you already have on hand from the list below. My reasoning is that you should not go out and purchase something "special" that you won't eat on other days, otherwise you are increasing your food budget, not decreasing it. Then plan your meals for the day around those items you have on hand. Focus mainly on starch and non-meat protein, limit portion sizes on "meat" to 2 ounces per person. Try to only eat fruits and vegetables that you already have on hand or that you've grown yourself for a more realistic $1.25 per day meal plan. Also, you should drink only water and very few processed foods.

Extreme Budget

  1. Starch (avg. cost per serving)
    • oatmeal ($0.15 per 1/2 cup dry or 1.4 oz serving)
    • flour ($0.14 per 1 cup dry)
    • cornmeal ($0.15 per 1 cup dry)
    • rice ($0.10 or so per 1/4 cup dry serving)
    • "clearance" bread (avg. $.89 per loaf, 22 slices = $0.04 per slice)
    • brown sugar (at $1.50 per 1 lb bag, this would be $0.04 per Tablespoon)
    • white sugar (approx. $0.17 per cup)
  2. Protein (avg. cost per serving)
    • eggs ($0.17 per egg)
    • peanut butter ($0.12 per 2 Tablespoons)
    • chicken ($0.35 per serving, 2 oz. boneless, 4 oz. bone-in)
    • dried beans ($0.25 per 1/4 lb dry beans)
    • fish ($3 per lb = $0.38 per 2 oz serving)
    • cheese (at $3 per lb = $0.28 per 1.5 oz serving)
    • milk ($3 per gallon = $0.19 per 8 oz serving)
  3. Other (fruits and veggies, fats, snacks)
    • carrots ($0.20 per 3 oz. serving)
    • bananas ($0.29 per large banana)
    • cantaloupe (if on sale for $1.99, 1/8 of a large cantaloupe would be $0.25)
    • juice ($2 per 1/2 gallon = $0.25 per 8 oz. serving)
    • apple (lunchbox size, approx. $0.33 at $0.99 per pound)
    • sweet potatoes ($0.89 per lb, approx. $0.30 per medium sweet potato)
    • frozen veggies ($1 per bag, approx. 5 servings = $0.20 per serving)
    • raisins ($0.25 per 1/4 cup serving)
    • celery ($0.15 per 1 large stalk)
    • romaine lettuce (1 head is $0.99, approx. 10 servings per head = $0.10 per serving)

Sample meal plans

  1. Breakfast ideas: oatmeal and brown sugar (19 cents, 32 cents w/ 1/8 cup of raisins), cornbread and milk (45 cents), toast w/ peanut  butter (20 cents), pancakes w/ butter and brown sugar or peanut butter and banana (25-35 cents).
  2. lunch ideas: bread and peanut butter sandwich (20 cents, 35 cents w/ 1/2 banana on each sandwich), homemade tortilla chips and cheese or cheese "quesadilla" (35 cents), salad (30 cents depending on toppings, dressing should be 1 tsp oil and vinegar).
  3. snack ideas: homemade tortillas with butter and sugar (approx. $0.10 for 2 homemade tortillas plus minimal butter and 1 Tablespoon white sugar), celery and peanut butter (27 cents), 1/2 apple and peanut butter (28 cents), homemade granola bars or no bake oatmeal cookies (15-20 cents), 
  4. dinner ideas: homemade pizza (40 cents per 1/8 large pizza, depending on toppings), rice and beans (35 cents), fish and rice (48 cents), chicken and rice (45 cents), 1.5 eggs and 1/2 serving cheese + bread (45 cents), rice and veggie soup (35 cents).
Now, take the sample meals (prices listed) or come up with your own low price per serving combo (if you're curious, you can select a third world country and look up their typical meals, adjusting for what's "in season" or "cheap" in our country). Add them up to make sure you stay under the $1.25. Be sure to add in any additional snacks or beverages you eat throughout the day. If nothing else, you may be hungry on a "$1.25 per day" meal plan. So, think about that the next time you are in sticker shock at the grocery store, or throw away food without eating it.

Here's a sample day...

Oatmeal with brown sugar and 1/2 cup milk. Total breakfast - 27 cents
Cheese quesadilla - 35 cents
1/2 apple and peanut butter - 28 cents
rice and beans - 35 cents
Total = $1.25

Now, after seeing the "sample menu" or coming up with your own that fits the $1.25 a day, are you a little more aware of what you eat and how much it costs? Add to that an average of a 6 k walk to fresh water (3.7 miles) and you can see why much of the world is literally starving. I'm not suggesting a long-term solution for all Americans to live on such an extreme budget, but I would suggest thinking about what you eat and making some tough decisions at the grocery store. Buy fruits and vegetables in season or grow your own. Spend time making food yourself rather than buying convenience foods. Focus on "using up" what you have in your pantry or fridge before it goes bad.

Then, take those "savings" and put it towards a project that will help reduce poverty in our world. 


"Christian" charities I support include Samaritan's Purse and World Vision.
"Non-Christian" charities to consider include The Hunger Project and Care.org.
"Local" charities for food support include - Feeding America, and "in-kind" donations to local food banks or "backpack meals" for kids.
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