The recent press surrounding the Live Below the Line challenge has gotten my attention. Food is near and dear to my heart, and I have a dee...

Live Below the Line

The recent press surrounding the Live Below the Line challenge has gotten my attention. Food is near and dear to my heart, and I have a deep appreciation for what I can afford and have access to, as well as for how that nourishment affects my body.

Dan and I make an extraordinary effort to eat well. We focus on whole, organic, locally sourced foods. And, although we eat vegan meals for a number of reasons, much of our original motivation was financial—we sacrificed meats in order to afford fruit and vegetables. And, when moving and additional income allowed us to increase our food budget, we allocated that money to organic produce rather than meats or animal products.

Still, we are fortunate. Nothing has taught me that more than travelling.

Our local grocery store just re-organized its extensive produce section, expanding the organic section and relegating convention produce to the back corner. An area equivalent to most stores' organic section is dedicated to produce sourced from a single farm. When I was travelling, I was lucky to find any organics, let alone three different types of organic kale.

Even more fortunate, we have the resources to start our own garden. The SF Bay Area certainly makes it easy. Our local public library has an open seed library, we have a farm and garden store around the corner, and Oakland boasts the best weather in the nation. Still, nothing cuts a food budget down like growing your own herbs and salad greens.

We definitely put some money into building our raised beds and purchasing some of our trees and plants, but many of our most productive plants cost very little. From the orange tree that came with the yard to the peas that are producing as many pods as we can eat, if money were tight, we could coax a lot of food from our small plot of land.

And so, I'd like to take the challenge. Being the analytical person that I am, I needed to test feasibility of ingesting sufficient calories for training on $1.50/day, and so I did some math.

I eat 3000-3500 calories per day. To be conservative, I'll stick with the upper end of that range. Dan eats 2000 calories per day. That means we have $3 to spend on 5500 calories.

Things we can forage from the local cityscape:
Rosemary bushes are abundant, as are fennel plants. There is also a secret avocado tree near the boathouse that occasionally drops its fatty fruits, and the local loquat trees are bursting with fruits. Perhaps we will get lucky. Nasturtium is also plentiful, and I will keep my eye out for easily pluckable plants.
There's also a chance Dan will get lunch at work one day, and I know of a few places to get free samples in San Francisco that might fill in a few hundred calories.

Things we can use from our yard:
Our spring mix is thriving. A packet of 1000 seeds cost me $3.50. I will very generously assume that enough lettuce for the week was 10% of that packet, or 35 cents. The radishes and peas are in full swing and need harvesting; I'm not sure how much those cost to produce. Perhaps we can leave them for 5 days?

Where that leaves us:
That leaves us $2.93 to spend on 5500 calories. That means every 100 calories has to cost less than 5.32 cents. Obviously, the bulk of this will have to come from high caloric density, inexpensive foods. Beans and rice are probably the most cost effective options.

A pound of dry rice has 1600 calories. That means it has to be less than 85 cents a pound to fit into our budget.
A pound of dry black beans has 835 calories. That means it has to be less than 45 cents a pound.
Dry chickpeas? 1100 calories per pound; they'd need to be less than 58 cents a pound.

Is that reasonable? At 60 cents a pound, this rice is definitely affordable. And every bit of calorie we can add for under 5.3 cents/100 calories eases our budget elsewhere.

Before we embark on this challenge, we'll need to use up the supplies in the fridge. We have very little food wasting away in our cupboards and fridge, so this should take more than a week or two. I will keep you updated. In the meantime, if any of you have taken part in a similar challenge and have any advice, please let me know!

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