Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I'm feeling very grateful right now.

The carrot I snacked on just before lunch was so pleasant and crisp. As I chewed, I became mindful of just how much I was enjoying it. I'm eating my lentils for lunch right now, and they really aren't that bad. I have something to eat. That is a gift.

Three more donations came in through my page - two from friends and family who have already given. I'm feeling supported and loved. And I'm feeling hopeful that there are many people in the world who care about fairness; who care about ending injustice; and who are willing to do something to make the world "more right." $385 to go to reach my goal of raising $1,000 for CARE.

I'm feeling relieved that I'm almost done with the challenge. It is exhausting to count every bite of food; to restrain yourself from eating more now, because you know you need to save something for tomorrow. And it is demoralizing to eat the same thing day in and day out. I have felt a lot of bitterness during the past few days, but having support from my friends and family has really carried me through. This challenge takes an emotional toll. Poverty takes an emotional toll.

Here's my food break down for the day so far:

Breakfast (a poor girl's version of tofu scramble) totaled $0.48
4 oz tofu = $.025
1/8 onion = $.06
1/16 cabbage = $0.6
1 Tbs oil = $0.10
salt to taste = $0.01

Snack (1 carrot) totaled $0.10

Lunch (1 cup lentils) totaled $0.27

$0.85 gone. $0.65 for the late afternoon and dinner.

I can't wait for my first meal tomorrow...

I hope you'll give if you haven't already: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/claire

-Selfish Blogger

Day five below the line

It's the final count down! I took survey of what I've got left.

8 oz tofu = $0.49
2 cups cooked lentils = $0.54
1/4 onion = $0.13
1/8 head of cabbage = $0.12
1 carrot = $0.10

For a grand total of $1.38. That leaves some space change for a bit of oil and salt. The problem is that, with the exception of the carrot perhaps, I don't want to eat any of it. I'm trying to think of ways to make my final day of food palatable, but without access of herbs and spices and some additional ingredients, there's very little I can do to hide the fact that I'm eating the same food that I've eaten for the last four days. Time to buck up and power through. That's what people in extreme poverty have to do every day.

Here we go!

I've got $475 left to raise to help people who live on less every single day of the year (ugh, I can't even imagine!). Will you chip in $50?

-Selfish Blogger

Monday, April 29, 2013

End of day four

Today was fairly uneventful. My lentil soup carried me through the day. I ate some every couple of hours, and by the end of the work day I had finished the whole thing. I left work to finish cleaning out my old place. Spent about two hours there, then drove home. It was time to eat dinner, but I started to feel sick of lentils the same way I started to feel sick of peas. I pulled some lentils out of the fridge (portion three of five). I tried to think of an ingenious way to make them into something else. Nothing I could dream up would fit into the rest of my budget for the day. I ate them cold, leaving 1/4 cup behind.

My total at the end of the day was $1.20.

I hope you'll contribute if you haven't already! https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/claire

-Selfish Blogger

Day four below the line

Soup for the day
Skipping breakfast again. I cooked up a big batch of soup to carry me through the full day at work.

1 cup peas (the last of 'em) = $0.38
1 cup lentils = $0.27
1/8 head of cabbage = $0.12
1/4 onion = $0.12
2 Tbs oil = $0.10

$0.99 total. It's my final day as Executive Director of the arts nonprofit I've been running for eight years. I need to be on my game to train the new person.

I only have two days left in the challenge, but I'm only half way to my fundraising goal! Will you help? https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/

-Selfish Blogger

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bonus lentils!

Tonight's dinner. All my meals are starting to look the same...
I've cooked up my lentils for dinner tonight and other meals tomorrow  (please don't make me eat more peas!). I paid $1.33 for 2 cups of dried lentils. I expected them to cook up to 4 cups. But lucky me: they cooked up into 5 cups! Instead of paying $0.33 per serving, I paid $0.27 per serving. That extra $0.06 will go far.

I don't have a kitchen scale, so I've been tracking my costs and volume of what I eat by portioning, and sometimes storing each portion in a separate container. For dried goods (lentils and peas in my case) I cooked the entire batch, then measured them out into cup-sized portions into individual containers. I cut my tofu into eight equal segments of approximately 2 oz. each. I quartered my cabbage and my onion. Oil, salt and sugar live in big containers, and I measure out the amount I need for a particular purpose.

Portioned lentils for the next two days
It looks like more work than it is. I'm surprised at how easy this part of the challenge has been.

For dinner, I'm frying up my lentils with salt, oil, crumbled tofu, and onion. I really want to fat from the oil. The cost is as follows:

1 cup cooked lentils = $0.27
2 oz tofu = $0.12
1/4 onion (less 3 Tbs from my snack) = $0.10
2 Tbs oil = $0.10
Salt to taste = $0.01

Dinner tonight will cost $0.60, which means I'll have $0.30 left over!!! Watch out $0.33 cookie - I will eat most of you.

The one thing that would make me happier than a cookie is reaching my $1,000 fundraising goal to help people living in extreme poverty. Donate here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/claire

-Selfish Blogger

Day three snack

Fresh cabbage snack
I took a nap this afternoon. I never take naps.

I woke up ready for a snack. I shredded 1/4 of my half cabbage (so that's 1/8 of a head of cabbage, about 1 cup chopped). I wanted to toss the cabbage with some seasoned rice vinegar, but did the calculation and found that 1 Tbs would cost me $0.15. I don't think so! I could get a carrot or another portion of cabbage for less.

Instead, I mixed up a $0.03 dressing of 1Tbs white vinegar, a pinch of salt and 1/4 tsp of sugar. Boom! My very own seasoned "rice" vinegar. Oh man did it feel good to eat something fresh and crunchy. Even though I ate a raw carrot yesterday, I feel like I haven't eaten fresh food for a week.

My snack cost a total of $0.14, and it was bright and satisfying. At first anyway.

A few bites in and that cabbage started to feel pretty hard on my stomach. I thought about eating something else, but I'd still have to eat the cabbage later, or go without. I stared at the cabbage. I waited. I ate a few more bites. My stomach hurt more. I walked away and washed dishes. My stomach settled. I came back. I stared at the cabbage again. I ate some more. Two bites in and my stomach was upset. I did this three more times over the next few hours.

Cooked down with some onions, much better
Finally, I cooked the cabbage with 1/4 of a 1/4 of my onion (about 1 Tbs) and 1 Tbs of oil. That was the solution. My stomach was able to handle the cabbage and I finished off my snack around 5:30pm. The Tbs of onion cost $0.03, the oil $0.05. Bringing my snack to a grand total of $0.22. Add that to my peas earlier and I've spent $0.60. $0.90 left for the day.

Hoping to reach my fundraising goal of $1,000 soon. Will you help me get there? https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/claire

-Selfish Blogger

Day three below the line

Look how many boxes I unpacked in two hours,
and on an empty stomach! I'm proud of me :)
My strategy of skipping breakfast yesterday worked well, so I used it again today. Even though I was a little hungry when I woke up, I spent two hours unpacking before I ate. Around 10:30am I heated another 1 cup portion of peas (#3 out of 4, in case you are keeping track ) with 1 cup of water to make soup. I ate about 2/3s of it and saved the rest for later in the day. The peas that were unbelievably delicious just yesterday have lost their appeal. I didn't have to remind myself to save some of them for later - this time I just stopped eating and was surprised to see so much left in the bowl.

Yesterday I ate peas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and second dinner. I'm sick of peas. But I don't have much choice, and there's only 1/3 of a cup left in my bowl...

I summoned my will power and told my stomach to STFU and ate the rest of the peas around 1:45pm. They were getting hard to swallow. I cannot imagine eating my last portion of peas for dinner tonight. The thought makes me feel sick. I'll save my fourth and final cup of peas for the last day of the challenge. I'll cook up lentils tonight.

Breakfast and lunch - no more peas please
So I've learned I can't make it two days on the same food. I have new found empathy for those who may have enough to eat, but not enough variety to eat. I did my best to "mix things up" with my peas (see my previous post), but apparently that wasn't enough to fool my stomach. Eating the same thing meal after meal sucks. It's not even that you get tired of the flavor. It's just… nauseating, like my best friend told me on the first night of the challenge.

If you haven't had a chance to donate, I'd really appreciate your support: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/claire

-Selfish Blogger

Saturday, April 27, 2013

End of day two below the line

A filling dinner, this is bowl 1 of 2

I made it to the end of the day with $1.02 left to spend. So I made myself a nice big dinner. I fried up 1/4 of my onion in 2 Tbs of oil, added 4 oz. of tofu, 1/4 of my half-head of cabbage, 1 cup of my delicious cooked peas, and a cup of water to make a hearty soup. It was very tasty, and wow did it hit the spot . The salt from the peas was enough to season the whole dish, so I didn't have to add any additional salt. I ate half my soup around 5:30pm and the second half around 8:00pm. It reminded me of colcannon. I definitely had enough to eat. I think it's safe to say that I was full.

Here's the break down of costs:

1 portion cooked peas = $0.38 (see Day two: Moving day)
4 oz. tofu = $0.25
1 portion cabbage (about 1 cup) = $0.11
1/4 onion = $0.13
2 Tbs oil = $0.10

For a total cost of $0.97

Without question, day two went much better than day one. My tricks were to skip breakfast and spread out my eating. I'll use these tricks again tomorrow.

I do miss tea. And sweets. I ended the day with $0.05 to spare and I thought I might be able to eat 1/4 of a cookie. But I did the math and the cookies in our pantry cost $0.33 each. 1/4 of a cookie would cost more than $0.08. I just couldn't afford it today. Maybe when I start eating lentils instead of peas ($0.06 cheaper per cup) I'll have enough left over for a bite of a cookie? Here's hoping.

If you'd like to help poor people get their hands on 1/4 of a cookie, give to CARE and support my journey: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/claire

-Selfish Blogger

P.S. For those of you concerned for my kitty cat, you'll be pleased to know that she LOVES the new place. She's done lots of exploring, has found an opportunity to sit in every window (her favorite activity), and chowed down on her food like no one's business. She's snuggled up on the couch with us watching TV now.

What the world eats

Check out these images of a weeks worth of groceries for families in various countries. Fascinating. I assume that when the image shows a family of four, the groceries are for four people. And when the image shows a family of eight, the groceries are for eight people. Not sure if that's the case or not, but interesting to see anyway. Pay attention to the food available for the African countries. Easy to guess who is living below the global poverty line.

-Selfish Blogger


One carrot for a snack, un-peeled

 On day one, I made the terrible mistake of portioning my food budget into three meals, with no snacks. Today, I'm spreading out my food so I can graze throughout the day. That's how I typically eat. Oh how I miss grabbing a handful of almonds in the mid-morning! Almonds are much too expensive for my budget.

So it's 2:30pm and I'm eating a carrot. An un-peeled carrot. Because seriously, I am not throwing away those carrot peels. Yes, they are bitter. But they are calories. They are vitamins. No way are those carrot peels going in the trash. They are going in my belly where they belong. Carrot skin is food my friends!!!

We waste so much food in this country. There's the big wasting - the over-buying that lets food spoil in the fridge, the huge portions that cause half your meal to end up in the trash, the over-eating that makes us to shit out more food than we need. But I'm reminded that we waste in little ways too. Carrot, potato, and apple peels are thrown out, but they are food. Cooking quickly is chosen over careful preparation, so large edible parts of veggies end up in the trash with their roots or tough ends. I don't advocate for anyone to eat dead animals - but for goodness sake, boil your bones meat-eaters! All those bones you think of as trash boil down into a nutrient rich broth. We can thrown these things away because we live in abundance. But if you're living in extreme poverty, that food you throw out as "trash" could make all the difference.

We use so much more than we need, and leave not enough for others. It's unfair. It's selfish.

Anywho, add $0.10 for my carrot snack, and I have $1.02 left for food for the rest of the day. I will be grateful for every tiny bit of it.

I am also grateful for any support you can give to women living in extreme poverty. Give today, and give generously: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/claire

-Selfish Blogger

Day two: Moving day

The most delicious peas in the world
Two movers arrived almost 20 minutes early. There was no time for breakfast, but I woke up without hunger and didn't want to make the same mistake I had made on day one by jump-starting my metabolism with a few bites of food.

I corralled my angry, angry cat into her harness and carrier. I pulled all my carefully measured "challenge food" together. We packed up odds and ends, directed the movers, and helped load things up. I don't think I could have done it on my own. My brain was too foggy and I was distracted by the cries of my cat. Even though I wasn't hungry, I was noticeably weak. Boxes I had packed myself and carted from room to room a few days prior were too heavy for me to lift. My boyfriend was invaluable. He jumped in and took charge. An hour later we were on the road. Saturday morning traffic in Los Angeles was very kind, and I made it to my new place in only 35 minutes, with my cat howling and crying the entire car ride. Eating so little has brought my emotions very close to the surface. Listening to my cat cry made me cry, twice. Hunger started to kick in at the end of the car ride.

Another hour and a half, and our stuff was in the new place. At 10:45am I sat on the floor of my new bedroom, with my (now quiet) cat hiding under the bed, and I ate: one portion of peas cooked with salt and oil. The portion is 1 cup and costs $0.38. I planned to eat the whole thing, but felt sated halfway through. I saved the second half and ate it a few hours later. This is clearly the hunger talking, but these are the most delicious peas I have ever eaten! I planned to heat them up with carrot, onion, and water for a soup, but I was so hungry and tired, that I ate them cold on their own. And they were DELICIOUS! Someone try this recipe and tell me if I'm crazy:

2 C dried green split peas
1 Tbs salt
1 Tbs canola oil
water for cooking

Cook until peas are tender but not mushy, about 2 hours.

Because I've only eaten one portion of peas for $0.38, I've got $1.12 available for the rest of the day. I think my stomach shrunk, because I'm handling today much better than yesterday.

No internet at my new place though, so I'll have to post when I can!

I hope the next time I log in, I find I've reach my goal of raising $1,000 to help lift women out of extreme poverty. If you haven't already, I hope you'll help my get there by forking over some cash: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/claire

-Selfish Blogger

End of day one

Here's I how I ended my first day of the Live Below the Line challenge:

I finished the second half of my lunch (brown rice and tofu vegetable soup) around 6:30pm. I felt energized, ready to take on the world. Though not full, I wasn't hungry, and It was a glorious feeling. But I knew it wouldn't last. The last of my food for the day was gone, and I had a Dodger game and night of packing ahead of me.

When we got to the stadium, my boyfriend suggested we take the escalator instead of the stairs so I could conserve my energy. I agreed. Once we met up with our friends and found our seats, I declined offers of food and used the opportunity to talk about the challenge - many of them had already read my blog. My best friend took the challenge earlier this month. The hardest thing for her was the monotony - eating the same food over and over. It made her feel nauseous, and at some meals she chose to eat more-expensive variety and experience hunger, rather than eat the same beans again. We talked about the comfort of knowing that the lack of proper nutrition will only last for five days, and how unfair that is. What if you had no end date?
Dodger tickets are $5, but this meal cost $17.50

My boyfriend bought a veggie dog, pretzel, and bottle of water for the totally reasonable price of $17.50. I would have loved to indulge with him, but I refrained.

$17.50. 35 meals.

Midway through the game I started to feel hunger creep back in. By 10:30pm my stomach was growling and I was feeling weak. Once we got home, it was time to pack. By the time we went to bed after 1:00am, I was passed hunger - in that place where I had been so hungry for so long that the physical feeling of wanting to eat wasn't there. The movers would arrive first thing in the morning. A day of hard work and hunger ahead…

I think the only thing that kept me going today was my sponsors. Friends and family have all chipped in to move me toward my fundraising goal - and almost half the money I've raised so far came in today - on day one of the challenge. I couldn't have imagined how much inner strength I'd need to get through this, and the support of friends and family has made the difference.

Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for helping end extreme poverty in our generation. And thank you to everyone who will join us: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/claire

-Selfish Blogger

Friday, April 26, 2013

Lunch Fail!

Lunch and dinner from my fav Thai place
Well, my plans were foiled when my lovely staff decided to buy me lunch for our last day in the office all together. I would have used it as an outreach opportunity, by refusing the lunch and explaining why I'm "living below the line", then asking for financial contributions instead of a lunch out. But one of my staff had an extreme, violent tragedy in her family 36 hours ago, and this just didn't feel like the best time to discuss "the less fortunate."

So I graciously accepted lunch, but said I felt like a light meal. I ordered a cup of tofu vegetable soup and side of brown rice to stay as true to the challenge as possible. I decided to eat half and save the second half for dinner. This would absorb the remaining $1.15 budget for the day. The actual meal cost almost $7.

By 12:30pm when we ate, I was so so hungry. Breakfast didn't fill me up, and I drank lots of water in the hours leading up to lunch to stave off hunger as much as I could. I probably could have finished my entire lunch, but I ate until my hunger was sated and set the second half aside.

By 4:00pm when I left work, I was experiencing all the terrible-ness that comes with hunger: stomach pains, light-headedness, lack of focus, weakness, and a less-than-chipper attitude toward the world. I told myself I could eat when I got home. I left work two hours early.  Driving home I kept thinking "I'm doing this wrong. I shouldn't be hungry. I'm doing this wrong." But then another voice in my head said "No, you're doing this right. This is what it feels like to go without."

It is easy to forget how painful hunger can be when you never experience it yourself, and my closest experience to real hunger is through fiction. Katniss Everdeen talks about "hollow days" in The Hunger Games - days when, no matter how much you eat, you can never get full. Harry, Hermione, and Ron quickly learn that a good meal means good spirits, and hunger means bickering and worse in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I have fasted before, but during time off when I would rest and read and take long baths and enjoy the garden - not in the middle of moving and changing jobs! I need all the energy I can muster.

Even in this challenge, I'll never know true hunger. I'm nibbling on the second half of my lunch/dinner as I type (it's how I'm managing to spit our mostly-coherent sentences). Tomorrow, I will have more to eat. One day of being sort of hungry and I'm falling apart. Pathetic. To people who live on less every single day of their lives, I am a spoiled, pampered girl who has never faced hardship.

Help those who do face hardship, every day of their lives: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/claire

-Selfish Blogger

Second breakfast

Bonus tofu, you were surprisingly tasty
That 1/8 cup of oatmeal didn't come close to filling me up. I was actively hungry after finishing my meager breakfast. So rather than head to work hungry, I fried up some tofu - about 2 oz - with a tablespoon of oil and a pinch of salt. The tofu, oil and salt cost $0.18. Add to that my $0.17 oatmeal, and breakfast cost $0.35. I wouldn't call myself full, but I'm not as hungry. $1.15 left for snacks and meals the rest of the day.

I understand now why so many people in extreme poverty go without breakfast. I wasn't terribly hungry before I ate my oatmeal. I probably could have made it through a few hours without needing to eat. But once I ate that little bit of grain, my stomach started working and it wanted much more than I had to feed it. I suck at being poor. Being poor sucks.

Help end extreme poverty. Donate: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/claire

-Selfish Blogger

Meal one below the line

Breakfast for 17 cents: 1/8 C dry steal cut oats, cooked.
Breakfast is 1/8 cup dry steel cut oats and a sprinkling of sugar. Well, the plan was to add sugar. I left out the sugar because I'm worried I'll need those few pennies to buy extra food. The steel cut oats cook up to about 1/4 cup of grain. My goodness that looks like a small amount of food! What if I didn't set aside enough food for the challenge? For ten meals, I only planned on four cups dried lentils/peas, a pound of tofu, and a few veggies. Is that enough? I have no idea!

My colleague asked "Is there a way to do this challenge without going hungry?" I thought there was - I still think there is - but my first breakfast is making me worry that I wasn't smart enough to make sure I have adequate food.

In the months leading up to Live Below the Line I was careful to track my food spending, but I never paid attention to how much I actually eat! I guess we'll see how the first day goes. I left a little wiggle room in my daily budget: $0.11. I was hoping to spend it on half a piece of fruit. I might need to spend it on something a little heartier...

Remember: Live Below the Line is a fundraiser to end extreme poverty. Do your part and contribute today. https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/claire

-Selfish Blogger

Thursday, April 25, 2013

How to live on $1.50 a day

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!

-Selfish Blogger