How to live on $1.50 a day

How to live on $1.50 a day

extreme global poverty line
Most of my food for the next 5 days

The Live Below the Line Challenge takes lots of planning. The challenge is designed to raise funds and awareness toward ending global poverty, by asking folks to feed themselves below the extreme global poverty line of $1.50 a day.

One rule of the challenge is you cannot accept donated food. This is the reason I’m starting the challenge a few days earlier than everyone else – I’m in process of changing jobs, and my coworkers have planned goodbye lunches and parties for me. So I’ve scheduled my 5 days of modest eating between celebrations full of food.

The most common response I heard when asking friends to join me in living below the line was “let me check my schedule”. Cooking everything from scratch and carefully checking prices to stay within budget takes a lot of time. What luxury we live in, that we can choose whether or not to live frugally. Adjusting my schedule to fully participate in my goodbye celebrations means I’ll be eating on $1.50 while I move from my house to an apartment on the other side of Los Angeles. I’m going to be hungry and tired. Who wants to cook on moving day?! I can already feel my empathy growing for those people working hard labor jobs while eating very little.

So, what will I be eating for the next 5 days? Here’s my grocery list:

1 Onion – $.50
15 oz tofu – $0.98
1/2 head of cabbage from the soon-to-expire shelf – $0.45
2 carrots – $0.20
2 cups dried split peas – $1.46
2 cups lentils – $1.33

That comes to $4.92, or almost $1 a day. That leaves me with $0.50 per day for seasonings, a little oatmeal or rice for breakfast, and maybe half a piece of fruit as a snack. I’ve set aside the following for a little added flavor:

10 Tbs Canola oil (2 Tbs per day) – $.50
5 Tbs salt (1 Tbs per day) – $0.15
5 Tbs sugar (1 Tbs per day) – $0.50

That will put me at $1.22 per day. I can squeeze in 1/8 cup steel cut oats for breakfast ($0.17) with $0.11 to spare. Maybe I can indulge in 1/2 a banana.

I’m going to start cooking so I have pea soup ready to eat tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Claire Knowlton is a terrible pianist, a mediocre gardener, and a stellar vegan cook. She has been volunteering for The Life You Can Save since January 2012 and currently serves as the organization’s Board Chair.


*This post originally appeared on Selfish Blog April 25, 2013. You can read about her first meal “Below the Line” here.

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About the author:

Claire Knowlton

Claire Knowlton, President of the Board for The Life You Can Save, is an independent auditor of not-for-profit organizations in the United States. She shares her Los Angeles apartment with a physicist, a fluffy cat, and a window garden.

The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.