To sum up my Live Below the Line experience in a single sentence: it wasn’t really hard to live on less than $1.50 a day, but it was basically impossible to enjoy it.
Perhaps you saw the picture of the 65-cent peas I posted on Instagram on Thursday night. Trust me, they tasted every bit as bad as they look. And normally I love peas!
That’s the thing about this challenge…
All the foods I bought were foods I genuinely enjoy. But knowing that my options were entirely limited to the nine items I had to last me the week (all of which were the absolute cheapest variety in any store around) left me constantly craving something – ANYTHING – other than what I had.
I’m baffled by the prospect of real people living like that every single day.
Likewise, I think I can understand now how hard it must be to set money aside or save for a rainy day when your daily budget is so incredibly tight. If someone had handed me $5 this week, I would never have considered holding on to it for a future emergency. I would have headed straight to the grocery store or McDonald’s or the ice cream shop and treated myself to a bit of fleeting satisfaction. If that’s what it’s like to live in extreme poverty in America, how does one ever escape?
I’m really glad I took this challenge, if only to get me thinking about that very question. But there are also a few other things I learned this week that I want to take a minute to share:
I am extremely fortunate to have the means to eat what I want, when I want it. I know that sometimes I may take too much leeway with this luxury, and that makes me all the more grateful. Not everyone can assume that their quality of life will remain the same whether or not they grab fast food for lunch, and I am so lucky that I can.
If I made the effort, I could be so much less wasteful with food and with money. This challenge may have resulted in the very first time I have ever used a loaf of bread in its entirety. So often, I buy what I want instead of using what I have. Things get stale, grow old, and expire…and then I throw them away. What a disgrace! This week, I spent $7.48 on 15 meals, and I still have a few ingredients left over. Clearly, I’m capable of making better use of my resources if I simply try. So whether I spend $10 or $100 on my groceries this week and every week thereafter, I’m officially resolving to use what I buy before I buy even more.
There are all kinds of things that you and I can keep doing to better comprehend and combat hunger. For example:
- Get Educated. Watch a documentary like A Place at the Table or read more about the reality behind the Live Below the Line movement. Understand the issues so that you can…
- Take Action. Contact local leaders; discuss hunger issues with your family and friends; do something to raise awareness for the causes you care about. And of course…
- Give Back. Volunteer your time at a local food bank, homeless shelter, or soup kitchen. Or make a donation to a hunger-fighting charity you believe in. (As promised, I donated my regular food budget this week to WFPUSA.) After living on $1.50 a day, trust me when I say that every single cent counts.
To sum it all up, Live Below the Line was a one-week choice for me, but living below the line is not a choice at all for 1.4 billion people worldwide. We can all choose to ignore the realities of hunger in our country and in our world, or we can pay attention and do whatever is within our means to make a difference.