Wednesday, May 06, 2015

That Australian life - taking the $2 a day food challenge

A friend is undertaking the $2 dollar a day challenge: "Eat on $2 a day for five days, raise funds and help end extreme poverty." I wrote this in response:
To Alison McLaren. Will give donation Wednesday, but now a few suggestions based on my own experience. I am posting here (on my personal Facebook page) rather than commenting because I can write longer. 
Two comments. First, it depends on how near to you the supermarkets are. If you have to shop at the corner store, things are harder. Second, it depends on what condiments etc that you start with.At $2 per day, you have to factor replacements in. 
So, what's cheap? Bread and milk. For $4, you can get a loaf plus a large milk container thanks to the supermarket wars. May not be good for farmers, but it helps those with no cash. Then consider rice and lentils. Boiled rice for lunch, fried rice for dinner. 
The cheapest meats are sausages and chook. Especially chook. Forget free range, a battery produced hen at eight dollars will give you five meals. Look at the discount area in the meat section. Sometimes you will find very cheap cuts there that you can cook at once. 
Baked beans are quite expensive. You can get a tin of Italian tomatoes, I think, I haven't checked today, for 99 cents. That can go on two slices of toast. Much better than baked beans, and under $2. 
If you are really poor, you have to spend a lot of time walking and choosing. No impulse buys. Often the green grocers are cheapest because they will have cut price stuff near the use buy date that the supermarkets would have thrown out. Like a large bag of carrots for $1.99. You might hate carrots, but at twenty cents a carrot it's hard to go by. Potatoes are another standby,  you will sometimes find them for less than a two dollars a kilo. Remember, the Irish survived on them.  
Hate potatoes? Add some margarine - $1.79 IGA Sunday. That can go on your toast as well. 
It's not that you can't live on $2 per day for food, but it just takes so much time that might be spent on other things, like finding some more income.It's much easier to go for cheap fast food and hang the expense.

In response Walter Adamson, an old Ndarala colleague wrote:
Chicken is a good deal as you said, and throw all the remains to make a stock into which you add use-by marked down chicken sausages and use-by marked down chopped vegetables or cold-slaw plus those carrots you mentioned and potato garlic pepper bay leaf and you have 3 or 4 more meals.
All good stuff. But I would add a few more qualifications beyond the condiments you have at home and the distance to the supermarket.

One is your existing kitchen equipment. A slow cooker helps enormously. Keep it on and just throw the stuff in. Of course, and this brings me to my second qualification, you have to be able to pay for electricity. Otherwise you are cooking outside in a pit in the garden with whatever wood you can find.

Now here is my challenge. What would be your weekly menu? What have I forgotten?


I mentioned at the start that a friend was undertaking the $2 day challenge. Her name is Alison McLaren. As I write, donations in support are still open. You can find the details here.


2 tanners said...

Dried beans, split peas, water. Bargain with the grocer for the dodgy veg - they'll often come to the party. Tofu and tempe can be very cheap protein sources, and are satisfying (i.e. satiating) fried in oil. Soups, stir fries and rice, rice, rice are the way to go. Plenty of carbs to load up, and fibre to keep hunger away. Fat is largely a luxury and protein can be minimal. And I see it being eaten that way - out of choice - every day on the streets here.

Jim Belshaw said...

Dried beans, split peas are good. And rice as indicated. Don't know tempe and tofu prices.

One of the difficulties if you are trying this for an extended period, voluntarily or otherwise, lies in getting enough cash to to take advantage of specials or bigger quantities. For example, you sometimes see larger bags of rice or very low prices. But then it depends on out many you are trying to feed. Although sometimes its actually cheaper to buy the bigger lot and throw the remaining out.

I come back to condiments using that in a very broad sense to include oils. Because they cost more than $2 an item, you have save for them out of that $2.

Relative meat prices have really changed in recent years so far as Australia is concerned. A roast used to be a very cheap option, chook still is as already noted,because they lead to multiple meals. But it's still possible to use cheaper fatty cuts to get dripping.

But the discipline involved in all this!

Anonymous said...


The other day, very much touched by the story so well described by his wife, I gave a few dollars towards a motorised wheelchair for the daughter of one of your regular contributors – Rod – by sending it EFT to an account styled something like ‘Trustee Rod’.

Now I don’t mean in any way to embarrass Rod, or his good wife, but I know that - to the last cent - my donation will be spent upon exactly what they are wishing for their daughter. Jim, you must remember, you promised to link to their efforts, and I hope you do, but just in case:

- see on the right hand side for sufficient detail for anyone to make contact.

Now here we have a $2 a day challenge, which seems like fun, and “for a good cause”, so I did my usual check-out-the-facts and I see this is the major (only?) annual fundraising effort by a very worthy young peoples’ non-profit.

And I see that last year they raised about $2.4M; spent $150k on stipends and salaries; had location costs (rent, electricity, insc etc.) of another lump.

And then contributed about $950k to their actual stated raison detre – which is not providing food as such, but providing education, training and the like. I don’t quibble with that; it’s a “teach a man to fish” sort of thing.

But what does concern me is the remarkable similarity between their website and that of another of my bedbugs – Getup! – and it gets me to wondering just who is sponsoring who, and to what purpose? As far as I can tell, my $5 to Rod’s daughter’s wheels will be spent as to $5 on that object, with no overhead; but for the starve yourself for a week, it seems to me my $5 would suffer severe depredation before “teaching them to fish” as it were?

I dunno. It’s a puzzle to me just where the value lies in some of these things.


Anonymous said...

The other thing I wanted to mention was the kerfuffle a few weeks back about Gwyneth Paltrow's attempt to live for a week on her so-called SNAP diet - see her tweet:

I actually spent some time writing what I thought might be an interesting guest post for this blog, including researching a viable diet in my valley (hint: what you pay * 2.5) but then stuff intervened.

Anyway, a couple of things I found interesting in my research was, firstly, this comment:

I spent a couple of hours on Saturday making food packets to feed the hungry in Tanzania.

Each packet contained dehydrated vegetables, fortified soy meal, rice, vitamin and mineral blend. Just add water and heat. Each packet makes six servings, and the cost is $1.50, or $0.25 per serving.

Figuring three meals per day, 30 days in a month, and I can feed one person for an entire month for $22.50.

and then also, her love of limes.

Maybe 'tanners forgot these in his purchases/thievery :)


2 tanners said...

Not thievery, kvd - with thievery you can live on $0 dollars per day, both before and after being caught.

I was more focussed on stuff that is actually eaten by $2 per day people and translating that to an Australian context. Here you can add self-grown fruit and veg, banana flowers, maize, potato, taro, cassava and all the other starchy foods, the occasional goat, roosters who failed in the cock-fights and more. And home made palm wine and brandy.

Anonymous said...

'twas but a poor joke 'tanners.

Your available dietary items sound wonderful, and it also appears to be pretty good brain food.


Jim Belshaw said...

First of all, kvd, I hadn't forgotten but am having delivery problems at the moment. Your point about costs is also taken, although in this case I would argue that my aim was to support Alison whom I regard as an all round good thing.

Mind you, looking at what Alison ate does highlight a problem with these challenges. Her high pressure job means that she does not have the time for either the buying or food preparation that someone who really has to live on $2 per person per day goes through. So its really open a tin and starve for the week.

I must say that the instant meals did not sound grand compared to 2Ts' fair.

Anonymous said...

yes I agree with KVD