Friday, September 27, 2013

Living Below the Line - The Last Day

The last day of the Live Below the Line challenge is here and who knew it would go by so quickly. Yesterday, while travelling for work, went surprisingly without too much desire for unsolicited snacks despite sitting in an upmarket cafe while my work colleague ate a panini and passionfruit yo-yo across from me. I, in turn, had my dhal nacho mix and half bag of corn chips ready in tupperware, which I ate with excitement.

After almost having completed the challenge (I continue to eat lunch as I speak), it has made me realise that it is completely possible to eat well on a tight budget.  The key factors are obviously having access to a regular market, good bulk bin-style supermarkets (usually cheaper than buying pre-packaged) and probably a knack for cooking. Nutrition-wise, I think I've been doing reasonably well and quantities have been surprisingly more than decent (however, the very watered down pumpkin soup was the least palatable of my meals). Last night's dinner made so much food that I've got leftovers past the LBTL challenge and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to finish my lunch portion.

Day 5's dinner: Chickpea, pumpkin, spinach and potato 'salad'.  After soaking all of my dried chickpeas (246g, $0.74) overnight, boil for about 20-25 minutes in plenty of water until cooked.  Drain and reserve. Dice 1/2 onion ($0.10) and slice the white part of two green onions ($0.30), reserving green parts for later. Sauté in 1 tsp oil ($0.05) with 1 tsp each of cayenne pepper, oregano and cumin ($0.15) until soft.  Add roughly diced 1/2 potato ($0.08) and 1/5 peeled crown pumpkin ($0.40) with 1/2 c water to steam vegetables, covering with a lid, until tender.  Meanwhile, plunge spinach ($0.95) in water to remove all dirt and chop roughly. Add to pan and combine as spinach wilts.  Season with 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper ($0.03) and garnish with sliced green onions, reserved from earlier.  (Total = $2.80)  

Chickpea, spinach, pumpkin and potato salad - heaps of it
Day 5's dinner

Despite being a little dry (a wholegrain mustard and red wine vinegar dressing would have tied this dish together nicely) it turned out well and very filling.  The sweetness of the onions and pumpkin allowed the dish to not be too bland, however, unfortunately the heat of the cayenne pepper seemed to have disappeared by the time everything came together.

Breakfast (and snacks): flatbread with green onions (Total = $0.185) which I am only marginally bored of after the last five days.  They are best fresh, however I would like to try it with other herbs, perhaps rosemary with garlic, instead of green onion for a change.  Luckily I still have the rosemary I picked from the back of the supermarket, which I only used in my risotto.

The last meal: lunch, as per dinner above.

     TOTAL AFTER DAY 5   $10.615, about $0.63 under budget and with leftover chickpea salad, $0.35 worth of brown rice, half a carrot, the green of one green onion, a fifth of a pumpkin and some rosemary still in the fridge! Sounds like the making of another meal to me.

I've also raised $685 for Oxfam which I am completely stoked with and as fundraising can continue until November 1, I hope I might be able to brink the $800 mark.  According to Oxfam Unwrapped (their brilliant shop which enables you to buy gifts for those in poverty on behalf of your friends and family) it means my fundraising money could go towards buying 7 pairs of goats for a family to enjoy goat's milk and manure; or 12 boars to help boost a pig breeding programme that's helping to secure incomes; or simply 17 family emergency kits which helps families who might have lost everything in a disaster with the little things: soap, toothpaste, toilet rolls and sandals.  Whatever it is, thanks to everyone who donated! It is without a doubt going to a good cause.

It's a little bittersweet knowing that I can gorge myself on whatever I feel like after 5pm today when 1 in 7 people still go hungry but I guess I can only feel so lucky to be living in my place and time. I hope everyone kind enough to be reading my blog might consider taking on the Live Below the Line challenge in their region next year (register your interest here) after seeing that a complete food-obsessed always-hungry girl like me can do it.  Special thanks to my friend Peggy at work for taking on the challenge as well - nothing like a bit of moral support to get through the 3pm hunger itch!

Some tips:
- Mix up your meals!
- Allow for a bit of sauce/dressing (e.g. fresh lemon juice and olive oil)
- Luckily, I'm not a sweet tooth but I can imagine people may miss the sugar - if I was doing the challenge for longer, I'd probably mix some cinnamon and sugar together to eat with a plain version of my flatbread)
- Loose salad leaves are so cheap for a small handful and can help you feel like you're having a full meal, as if you're having mains with a side salad (fancy)
- Dried lentils/chickpeas/etc go a long way! (I wish I remembered how a small handful can become so much, I could have saved some money for salad leaves and/or sauce/dressing)
- Eat slowly
- Talk your partner or your flatmates into doing it too and share your budget to get more bang for your buck, and lastly:
- Enjoy and savour in the deliciousness that can be had with only a couple of dollars. Isn't food great?

For an enlightening infographic on "What's Wrong with Our Food System?" click here (preview below)
By Good Infographics and Oxfam Australia

To support me (and Oxfam) on the Live Below the Line challenge, please donate by clicking here - fundraising closes November 1.


  1. Awesome job! Your photos of the market and Moshims made me a little homesick, but your meals were inspiring: simple, varied, nutritious. I agree that the LBTL challenge provides some important lessons on good eating and food sovereignty. It's very interesting to compare experiences of friends across the country - for instance, I think we'd start to see an interesting profile of the nation if food miles were also taken into account. Congratulations on your 7 pairs of goats!

    1. Thanks Steph! Very true. I'd love to see the cost of the food that gets binned/wasted every day be something that could get recorded for our information too - at home, work, supermarkets and especially cafes/restaurants/food outlets in general. They reckon there is definitely more than enough food available in the world - but 1/3 to 1/2 of it gets wasted. Shocking really!!