Thursday, May 2, 2013

Living Below the Line

Between my decision to be a stay at home mom and Maggie off at school and myself at home with the cats all day, I've had a lot of time on my hands. I'm thankful for it because it allowed me to pursue the Master Gardener certification and to spend a lot of time thinking about social justice in various forms. I've done a lot of research the last few months on different social, religious, and ethical issues.  This week I heard about a friend who tackled the Live Below the Line challenge in an effort to raise awareness about global poverty and money for charity.

Our family is going to take on the challenge and live below the poverty line for one week, while raising donations and awareness for global poverty.

If you'd like to join us on this journey, we'd be so appreciative. :)

Poverty isn't something I think about much, honestly, and I want to change that this week. 1.4 billion people in the world live impoverished lives -- and many of them live in the United States. Very possibly in my town, which is a tiny country town and not very well-to-do. This should be an issue that I'm aware of - after all, caring for the poor was one of Jesus's top social commands to His disciples.

My personal goals for this challenge are:

1. Donate the savings from our standard grocery budget ($80) to the Rainforest Foundation and raise an additional $120 for a total donation of $200 of to help indigenous people defend their lands, livelihoods, and cultures while also preserving irreplaceable rainforest land.

2. Research poverty in Alabama, particularly North Alabama.

3. Gain a greater awareness of the struggles that face people who are attempting to feed their family with only $1.50 per day to spend.

4. Teach Maggie a greater awareness of people who live differently than we do.

5. Learn a new appreciation for the luxuries I take for granted daily.

When I started looking at food prices at my local Dollar General Market with this challenge in mind, I started getting excited. $2 for a pack of cheese and $1 for a pound of pasta and $2 for a five pound bag of flour? This is going to be so simple!

When I had come up with a menu for the five days, however, $22.50 stopped looking feasible at all. I realized I was going to have to severely itemize -- even if I bought a five pound bag of potatoes for $2.25, I'd need to only use three pounds of that ($1.35) to stay under budget.

So here's the menu I came up with:


Banana bread + half an apple (2 days)
Egg + cheese + toast + margarine  (1 day)  
Toast + half an apple + peanut butter   (2 days)


Red beans and rice (2 days)
Grilled cheese + 1 carrot + 1 tbsp ranch (1 day)
Peanut butter sandwich + apple (1 day)
Dinner leftovers (1 day)


Lentil soup + grilled cheese sandwiches
Scrambled eggs with cheese + hash browns + toast + margarine
Lentil daal with carrots + rice + toast + margarine
Potato latkes + red beans + rice + roast carrots
Spaghetti + red sauce + roast carrots

Dessert (once)

Rice pudding

Grocery List


2 lb carrots  $1.58
1 lb onions  $0.75
4 lb potatoes  $0.80
2 lb apples  $2.75
2 lb bananas  $1.10

Dry Goods

2.5 lb rice  $1.95
2 lb lentils  $2.38
1 lb red kidney beans  $1.58
7.5 cups flour  $0.75
1.5 cups sugar  $0.25
2 tsp yeast  $0.10
Spices, margarine, cooking oil (at home, estimate cost)  $1


dozen eggs  $0.99
1 lb sliced processed cheese  $1
1 lb spaghetti  $0.79
24 oz pasta sauce  $0.97
16 oz diced tomatoes $0.50
8 oz peanut butter (a little over half a jar)  $1.00
.25 bottle ranch dressing  $0.23
1.5 cups milk $0.37
.25 - 5 brewed cups of coffee

For the sandwiches and toast, I'll make 2 loaves of no-knead bread, which should yield 24 slices. That'll cost me $0.80 total for both loaves; $0.60 for flour (6 cups) and $0.20 for 2 teaspoons of yeast and a half teaspoon of salt. Much more cost effective than store-bought bread, which at its cheapest is about $0.90 a loaf.

I'm also planning on just using a lot of these items that I already have at home (like rice, lentils, flour, eggs from our own chicken) and using the prices from the grocery store for them. I'll measure everything out ahead of time to make sure I don't use more than is allotted for financially.

I'm under no illusion of this being an exact simulation of what it is like to be impoverished. To me, this is partially an exercise in trying to wrap my brain around the struggles that 1.4 billion people deal with daily. Just to survive. I'm excited and nervous to give this a try.


  1. This is awesome! I admire all the challenges you and Josh make for your little family! If you would like some unsolicited advice on where to research living in poverty in North Alabama ;) , I would suggest looking into Downtown Rescue Mission (especially the women's and children's area), Inside-Out Ministries, and definitely check out the newly founded organization called Cornerstone Initiative.

    1. Ah, thank you Lee!!! I hadn't heard of most of those organizations and will have to check them out. :)