Friday, May 2, 2014

LBTL 2014: Day 5

Fried potatoes with onions
Final breakfast
Challenge complete.

Today was easy. I lose my appetite when the whether gets hot, and it was hot in Los Angeles today. I started the morning with a fried potato and 1/2 onion: $0.18.

For lunch, I finished left over mashed potatoes from the night before ($0.20) and made the same salad of cabbage, onion, and tomato, but with the rest of the navy beans in place of the garbanzos ($0.60). I finished my lunch for dinner.

Total for the day: $0.98.

I very nearly ate some chocolate covered pretzels tonight, but my partner shook his head at me when I reached for them.

So that's the end. Pretty anti-climactic. I've got a fair amount of food left - enough to take me for another day or two. This year was a far cry from last year. Last year it took all my strength and will power to make it through. I was hungry and weak and tired. Amazing what a difference those extra calories made.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to my challenge. If you haven't yet, it would be great to have your support. Contributions are accepted through May 31, 2014. Every dollar goes toward helping those in extreme poverty receive health care, through a highly effective organization called Possible.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

LBTL 2014: Day 4

Garbanzo and cabbage salad
More garbanzo and cabbage salad, no complaints
My partner had a gig last night so I was up late, forgot to set an alarm, and had to rush out the door to work. No time for breakfast, but I some how managed to pack up a lunch: the same garbanzo/cabbage salad as the day before, and the last of the soup I had for lunch on Monday and Tuesday. Not bad. All that food came to $0.86.
Navy bean, cabbage, and potato soup
The last of the soup - finally!

Mashed potatoes, navy beans, and fried tomatoes
Dinner. I had seconds.
For dinner, I made mashed potatoes and navy beans and tomato. The potatoes weren't half bad. While boiling the potatoes, I sauteed some diced onions in two tablespoons of oil to mix in. I had also saved the water I cooked the garbanzo beans in, and mixed some of that in too. The mashed potatoes were fluffy and mildly flavorful. I warmed up the beans and fried up the tomatoes. $0.27 for the mashed potatoes, $0.13 for the tomato, and $0.15 for the beans brought dinner to $0.55.

Today's total: $1.41

I took stock of the food I have left for tomorrow, and I have more than enough: 6 potatoes, 4 onions, 1/4 of the cabbage, 1 tomato, a serving of navy beans, and 2 servings of garbanzos. The only reason I've made it this far without going hungry was that lucky buy of 5lbs of potatoes for $1.00. I've eaten about 1lb of potatoes each day during the challenge. What if those potatoes hadn't been there? What if I had been shopping a week earlier, when the largest bag of potatoes for $1.00 was 2lbs? Instead of 25 potatoes, I would have had only 10. And they would have cost me $0.10 a piece, instead of $0.04. This was nearly a miserable week. But fortune smiled upon me.

There's some weird irony in eating this way. My diet this week has been vegan (well, it's always vegan), gluten-free, with no refined sugar. Isn't this the diet celebrities pay tons of money to go on? I've been on it for four days, and it's only cost me $5.37. They must be doing something wrong.

I'm looking forward to saturday morning breakfast. I'll have a nice cup of earl grey with soy milk, a grapefruit, maybe a piece of toast. Begin the count down.


LBTL 2014: Day 3

Small onion, potato, and tomato next to a quarter for scale
Small foods from the dollar store
I've finally passed the halfway point in the challenge. Thank goodness! It's meant so much to me to have the support of my friends, family, and co-workers. It's kept me going strong. I'm more than 1/3 of the way to my fundraising goal of $1,500, and my team made it into the top 10 LBTL fundraisers today.

Breakfast was pretty much the same as Monday and Tuesday. Two fried potatoes, but with half an onion instead of tomato. I'm down to my final three tomatoes, and I wanted to stretch them. Breakfast came to $0.23.

Roasted potatoes on a plate with a fork
Roasted potatoes for dinner
Lunch was a repeat of Monday night's dinner, but a bit larger: a bed of cabbage with tomato, garbanzo beans, and onion on top. I kept up the same system of eating my lunch in small portions throughout the day. Lunch cost $0.60.

Dinner was five roasted potatoes and a roasted onion. Ok, it wasn't very balanced, but I was tired and didn't want to think of something clever to make out of the same six ingredients I've been eating the last three days. Not to mention, I'm running low on beans, but I've got lots of potatoes left.

Five potatoes may sound like a lot to eat at one meal, but these dollar store potatoes are quite small for russets (the label says B size). In fact, the onions and tomatoes are quite small too. This has made my calculations much simpler. I was able to count the number of items in each package and assign a standard price per item, without having to measure and divide up portions.

5lb bag of potatoes contained 25 potatoes = $0.04 per potato
2lb bag of onions contained 10 onions = $0.10 per onion
1lb package of tomatoes contained 8 tomatoes = $0.13 per tomato

Tea cup with orange and blue flower, filled with warm water.
My tea cup of warm water
Anyway, dinner of five potatoes ($0.20), one onion ($0.10), two tablespoons of oil ($0.10), salt to taste ($0.01) came to $0.41.

Total for the day: $1.24.

Man, I could have had a cup of tea, but I never know until the end of the day! It's just not worth the risk. Besides, the warm water in my tea cup has become pretty good (I might be losing it). I planned to make something for lunch tomorrow, but I didn't have time. I suppose I'll make the same salad I had today. And I still have a serving of the navy bean and cabbage soup left.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

LBTL 2014: Day 2


Picture of moldy tomato
Moldy tomato means less food.
Yesterday for breakfast, I cooked up one potato and the tomato that was kinda squashed and moldy. After cutting away the moldy part, I only had half a tomato left. And it's not like I could get a refund for the half I threw out. It cost me as if I'd eaten the whole thing. Spoilage is a lot more upsetting when you don't have the money to replace the food you've lost.

Breakfast today was the same as yesterday, but it was twice as much food. After ending day 1 with $0.27 to spare, I figured I could beef up my breakfast. I fried up two of my baked potatoes ($0.08) and one tomato ($0.13) in a tablespoon of canola oil ($0.05). Today's breakfast cost a total of $0.26.
Three portions of soup in a reusable container
Eating soup throughout the work day, 1/3 gone.

Dinner of fried beans and potatoes with tomatoes on top
I made it through work yesterday on two portions of that yummy navy bean and cabbage soup. But I also left work an hour earlier than planned (tech issues were interfering with the day), and I was pretty hungry when I got out of there. So today I brought three portions of soup, and I was glad that I did. I ate breakfast at 8:45am, the first portion of soup at 11:30am, the second at 1:30pm, and the last around 4:00pm. Eating small portions throughout the day keeps hunger at bay. Total cost for midday soup was $0.78.

I had to plan dinner carefully, as I had only $0.45 left. Sure, dinner last night came out to $0.45, but I just threw things together and added up the cost later, since I was certain I was well below my $1.50 limit. Tonight I took a baked potato ($0.04), a small scoop of garbanzo beans ($0.04), and a small scoop of navy beans ($0.04) and mashed them up together. I added some diced onion, salt, and oil ($0.09) and the seeds/juice from the tomato I diced for the top ($0.13 for the entire tomato). I mashed it all together and formed three oval patties, then sort of deep fried them in two tablespoons of oil ($0.10). You can't really tell from the picture, but there are three crumbly patties on that plate. I topped it with the rest of the tomato and a pinch of salt. The was a good meal below the line. Having something fried and crispy on the outside felt nourishing. The patties soaked up all the oil, and that extra fat will keep me very full no doubt. Dinner came to $0.44.

Total for the day: $1.49. One penny to spare.

Thanks to my dollar store grocery shopping win, I haven't had to face hunger on this year's challenge (I feel like a cheater!). But I have felt deprived and a little annoyed. Only two days in, and I'm bored. I want a cup of tea. I want a grapefruit. I want a piece of chocolate. I've been drinking warm water from my tea cup in a pathetic attempt to make up for the tea I drink throughout the day. It sort of helps. Even though I've been pretty creative with my ingredients, I'm already getting tired of the six staples I have to keep me going: potatoes, garbanzo beans, navy beans, cabbage, tomatoes, onions. Even though they are wholesome and I should be grateful to have them, the thought of eating them again tomorrow is starting to make me nauseous. 

Ever hear of the loaf?

Monday, April 28, 2014

LBTL 2014: Day 1

$0.26 breakfast, a small fried potato and tomato
$0.26 breakfast, a small fried potato and tomato
Today wasn't nearly as hard as day 1 last year. Perhaps it is because I knew what to expect. Or maybe I was just able to buy more food this year. Probably a combination of the two. But I didn't go hungry. Breakfast was a fried potato and a fried tomato. I had planned to skip breakfast, remembering that last year it helped a lot to delay my first meal until 11am. But I was really hungry. Breakfast came to $0.26.

$0.45 dinner, chickpea onion tomato and cabbage salad
$0.45 dinner, chickpea onion tomato and cabbage salad
During the day, I ate two portions (four cups) of the navy bean and cabbage soup I had made the night before. I had one portion around 11:15am, and I second portion around 1:30pm. Lunch and second lunch cost $0.52. I remember from last year that letting myself get too hungry was a big down fall. I'm used to snacking throughout the day, so frequent munching is key.

By the time I got home for dinner, I was hungry. I cooked up the chickpeas and tossed 1/6 of them with chopped tomato, half an onion, some salt and oil. The tomato was so juicy, it made a nice dressing when mixed with the salt and oil. I poured the whole thing on top of some shredded cabbage (1/8th of the head of cabbage I started with). It was delicious. Dinner came to $0.45.

I'm at $1.23 for the day. I could have squeezed in a cup of tea!

Though I haven't had to face hunger like I did last year (yet), I am keenly aware of the stress. There is a deep, almost primal fear of scarcity that the challenge brings out in me. All day, I worry that I will not have enough.

If you would like to help those who actually do not have enough, please give and support my Live Below the Line challenge. https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/claire

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Prepping for Live Below the Line, 2014

Image of lentils, peas, tofu, cabbage, onion, and carrot to be eaten over 5 days.
5 days of food, 2013
I decided to take on the Live Below the Line challenge again this year. Since going through the challenge last year, I've been paying much closer attention to what I eat and how much it costs. In fact, I've dedicated one credit card to only food purchases, so I can more easily track how much I spend on dining in and dining out. Dining out has become far less frequent for me. My food bill averages $6.00 or $7.00 per day.

I'm feeling optimistic about this year's challenge. I've discovered that I can get good deals on food from the dollar store, and I've been watching food prices and availability there closely over the last few months. The available produce can be hit or miss, and the quantity you get for $1.00 fluctuates greatly from week to week. Even on off days, the dollar store prices beat any traditional grocery store in my area. When I headed to the dollar store to shop for my meals for the next five days, I was hoping to get lucky. Thankfully, they had a 5lb bag of potatoes for only $1.00. That isn't always the case, and I could have found myself with less than 2lbs for that price. The extra potatoes will help significantly with my challenge. Perhaps I won't be hungry. I was hoping to get 2lbs of tomatoes for $1.00, like I saw a few weeks ago. They only had 1lb packages, but I decided to get them anyway. They did have 2lb bags of onions for $1.00, which is was very pleased about. This exercise in watching food prices fluctuate has made me think about how a small change in the price of rice or wheat or corn can have a huge impact on the food security of those living in extreme poverty.
Image of potatoes, cabbage, beans, tomatoes, and onions that will be eaten over 5 days.
5 days of food, 2014

My grocery list this year consists of all dollar store buys totaling $6.00:

5lbs small russet baker potatoes (B size)
2lbs small white onions
1lb tomatoes
1 head of cabbage
1lb dried chickpeas
3/4lb navy beans

I was sad to realize when I got home that the package of navy beans I'd grabbed wasn't a full pound, like the chickpeas. I'll be alright with all those potatoes though! I was also sad to find that one of the eight tomatoes in my packages was smashed and moldy. I sliced off the bad part and threw it away.

So with $6.00 spent, I have $1.50 left for seasoning: canola oil ($0.05 per tablespoon) and salt ($0.03 per tablespoon). Maybe I can even manage a little vinegar to make a salad with my tomatoes and cabbage.

I baked some of my potatoes today so I can easily fry them up as hash browns. I soaked the navy beans and cooked them up. Half of them went into a soup I prepared with 1/4 of the cabbage, two onions, and five potatoes. The navy bean and cabbage soup will give me five 2-cup portions during the challenge. The ingredients for the soup came to $1.28, or $0.26 per portion. I will have some of the soup for lunch at work tomorrow... probably two portions.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Conspicuous consumption

My hero Peter Singer just wrote a nice little piece about conspicuous consumption called Why Pay More.

I often blog about conspicuous consumption, but rarely name it. To me, it is perhaps the most disgusting and most damaging way of being selfish. In a nut shell, conspicuous consumption is "keeping up with the Jones's" - spending resources on unnecessary or luxury items as a way of signaling status. Examples of conspicuous consumption include purchases of designer clothing/accessories/furniture, oversized living spaces/cars, pedigree companion animals, weddings, lavish vacations, and any purchase you'd want to brag about or that would impress your peer group. Think about purchases or experiences you post on Facebook. Think about your boards on Pinterest. Can you see conspicuous consumption at work in your own life?

The reason that I believe conspicuous consumption is worse than private indulgence is conspicuous consumption places social pressure on others to spend as you spend. Not only do you use your own resources selfishly, but you encourage others to do the same. Even worse, there's a "one-upping" that's expected - you spent 5 days in London, but I spent 5 days in London AND 3 days in Rome. And all that unnecessary spending could have saved lives.

Extremely large, public gifts to charity are also considered conspicuous consumption, as they raise the status of those making the gift. This is the one form of conspicuous consumption I support and applaud, for exactly the reason I stated above: it encourages others to do the same. The charitable gifts made by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet have made way for other billionaires to follow suit.

Conspicuous consumption is deeply embedded in American culture, self-identity, and group-identity. It is extremely important to recognize the way in which conspicuous consumption directs our spending habits, and thus "ties up" money that we should be free to give away.

To change our culture, to value compassion over selfishness and altruistic actions over "stuff", we must celebrate and elevate those who defy conspicuous consumption, like Uruguay's 'poor' president Jose Mujica. And we should feel disgusted and outraged by public displays of luxury and indulgence, not envious.


-Selfish Blogger