Saturday, May 12, 2012

First Meal after the Challenge!

ahhhh - spices! cumin seed, turmeric
and fresh ground black paper
TWO eggs!

add beans
add lots of fresh organic spinach 
cover and finish cooking

almost there!

yum! plus, coffee with lots of lovely rice milk. and yes, that is a copy of
Barack Obama's birth certificate
on the back of my "Made in the USA" mug!

This is actually my usual three-or-four day-a-week breakfast. It now feels so luxurious. It's not that I didn't always enjoy and appreciate it, but my perspective has really changed.

Feeling much more energetic and focused, but I need to get ready for Julie's graduation tonight (MSW! yay Julie!!) and Mother's Day tomorrow, so I'm putting off trying to catalogue my thoughts on this experiment. I want to be sure to do it while my feelings about it are still so strong, though.

Oh, and I don't want to get gluten-and-dairy-free chocolate brownie deliciousness on the keyboard.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Last Day of Living Below the Line!

my last Living Below the Line meal for 2012
rice, beans, lentils, onion, broccoli, olive oil, salt
delicious. no, really. delicious!

I was so hungry for this meal that I ate it at about 5:00. I'm still not too hungry, but also not focused enough to reflect on the last incredible five days. More in the next few days.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Day 4 Living Below The Line

Julie's gluten and dairy free birthday desserts - which I didn't even taste!

Julie and Carlos came over for dinner tonight to celebrate Julie's 27th birthday! I had my beans, lentils, and rice, fried up with my broccoli. Lots of salt. Many glasses of water. Bob made (rice) pasta arrabiata for the three of them. I bought gluten and dairy free desserts for Julie and Carlos (and in my normal life I'm also gluten and dairy free) - they looked, and reportedly were, delicious. Oddly, maybe because I rarely eat dessert even though I love it, it just wasn't a problem for me at all to skip dessert. As hungry as I am, I know if I were dieting it would have been nearly impossible to resist.
BUT - the visceral experience of this challenge (even with the many advantages I have over a truly poor person in terms of ease of cooking, use of a car, refrigerator, etc.) has been worth the deprivation. Each day I get a bit hungrier and a bit more tired. And each day I think of another way that hunger affects me, and how much more it would affect an extremely poor person. My health is still good, my teeth don't hurt (so many poor people have bad teeth, certainly due at least in part to poor nutrition, and the Kenyans I know just have the bad tooth pulled, until they are often missing many teeth), I can rest or even nap if I need to. . .

I had breakfast with a friend this morning, after reassuring her that I wouldn't be at all bothered by watching her eat in the restaurant. And I wasn't. But it occurred to me that I could sit in a restaurant at a mealtime and not order a meal. This was a pretty casual place, and I'm sure that people often come in and just have a cup of coffee, but I suspect that I might have been pretty unwanted if I looked extremely poor or homeless and wasn't ordering food.

My kiwi tasted a bit odd this afternoon. Getting overripe, with a nearly fermented edge to it. I put my last one in the fridge, but I'm nervous that tomorrow's might be inedible. And my broccoli is starting to yellow a bit. I'm not really nervous about it, but I did start to feel anxious for a minute. And I wonder what it would be like to buy food on a truly tiny budget and then have it go bad, and have that mean that I don't eat.

My lips are dry and burn a bit, despite the copious quantities of water I'm drinking, since I drink half a glass or so every time I feel hungry, plus a glass or two at every meal. I think it's that I have too little fat or oil in my diet, in spite of the fact that although I budgeted for two tablespoons of olive oil a day I'm not really measuring and am probably using at least three. That isn't huge from a budgetary standpoint - about 10 cents worth - but calorically it is relatively huge. A serving of beans is 70 calories, and a tablespoon of oil is 120. So I'm giving myself more calories, and more fat, than I'm paying for, and I'm still not getting enough. And - I'm using lots of chapstick, which didn't have to come out of my $1.50.

What's it like to be a hungry, growing kid?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Day 3 Living Below The Line

Wednesday, Thursday AND Friday's rice, bean and lentil mixture 
meals for Wednesday - 3 servings of rice/bean/lentil + 1 egg for breakfast,  1 kiwi for lunch and broccoli for dinner

So last night, Tuesday, Julie, her fiance Carlos, and my nephew Matthew were over for a late dinner after Carlos's soccer game. The guys were really hungry, and I made up a big batch of rice and beans for them, while I was also preparing my lentils and rice for today. After they'd finished eating, I was packing up their leftovers for them while I put my rice/bean/lentil mix into quart jars, one each for the remaining three days of the project. Julie thought that the quart jars of food were one for each of them, to pack for their lunches today. She couldn't believe that each jar was three meals of food. For me.

I managed to go through what is for me a pretty normal day today, which basically means not much physical exertion. An hour of physio for an injured toe, some shopping for garden plants with a friend, re-potted some of the new plants, did a little watering, emails, some reading (just how luxurious IS my life?) . . .

I was so hungry I couldn't wait for dinner, and cooked my evening meal at 4:45, except for the broccoli, which I just ate a little bit ago - about 8:30 pm,  just to spread the food out over time. It's now 9:45, and I'm pretty much out of oomph.

I'm imagining how I would feel if I'd had to expend a lot of calories working, or even walking very far. Or, if I were cold - it's a chilly night, and I saw my breath a little while ago letting Spenser out in the backyard. Notice I didn't say taking Spenser for a walk.  What if I were hungry AND cold? What if I had to walk to a shelter? Or sleep outside?

Two more days.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Day 2 Living Below The LIne

Well, this morning I had to cook my rice and lentils for the day, since Sunday I cooked five days of beans and Monday's rice and lentils. Lesson learned: you will wake up hungry and not want to be cooking before you can eat! I cooked the lentils and rice together (started the lentils with all of the water, and added the rice six or seven minutes later, with 2 sliced cloves of garlic), then stirred it in with a day's worth of beans (1/2 cup!), then divided the mixture into three bowls, one each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

My day was a bit chaotic, so I needed to pace my meals. I had to run over to a friend's for a while first thing, so I ate about a third of the bean/rice/lentil mix before I left, and had the rest of it with one fried egg at about 10:00 am. I then spent the rest of the day until 3:00 doing some gardening, and stopped for my second bowl of beans/rice/lentils around 12:30, but saved the kiwi for later. I had the third bowl at about 4:30, because I promised to go to a reception at 5:30 where food would be served and wanted to be as full as possible. Just drank water at the reception, and came home at about 8:30 and had the kiwi and cooked up the broccoli.

Right now it's about 10:15 pm and I'm hungry, but doing okay. I am cooking the rice and lentils for the rest of the week as I type, so that I don't get caught hungry in the morning again with no food ready to eat. I'll add it to the beans again, and separate it into three parts for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and then each morning separate that day's food into three.

I've discovered that I like the whole mixture together, and don't mind that it's the same all three meals of the day. Having beans and rice separate from lentils and rice didn't feel like I was getting interesting variety, and mixing it together is easier and perfectly tasty. We'll see if I still agree by Friday!

I've learned from tips from friends. Thanks, everyone who's suggested ideas. So, one meal a day, at lunch, I'm adding extra water when I reheat the food, and it's a bit like having a large bowl of soup. And a nutritionist friend (thanks, Jan Schiappa!) asked if I was sure to be outside at least fifteen minutes a day for my free vitamin D, since there's no money in the budget for supplements. I haven't been very successful foraging, since I finally found some dandelion leaves in my prairie plants, but left them outside all day and they looked too limp and icky to eat. And I keep forgetting to cut some chives and add them to the rice. I don't know if I'm too hungry and therefore forgetful, or not hungry enough yet to remember every scrap of potential food!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Day 1 Living Below the Line

breakfast: beans, rice, 1 fried egg
lunch: lentil-rice soup, 1 kiwi

dinner: beans, rice, broccoli

Hoo boy! First day of "living below the line". After each meal I felt full, and I think I did an okay job maximizing calories and protein, with some fruit and vegetable, for the money. But I'm definitely used to eating between meals, and when I got in the car to do a quick errand this afternoon and saw the bag of salted almonds I always keep there - a close call. I tossed it over my shoulder into the back before it could call my name again.

My main strategy in the afternoon to keep hunger at bay? I took a nap! That's right, I said it. A nap. In Kenya the poor women that I see have to walk to the river for water and carry it back on their heads, walk to the edge of the forest for wood for fuel and carry it back, walk to the "trading center" to buy a little corn meal, cook over a fire. . . Me? Napping.

So. Day 1. Yikes! Because, the other thing? I didn't go into this hungry. What will tomorrow bring? And, how early will I be in bed tonight?? 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Getting Ready for Monday

the bulk of breakfast, lunch and dinner tomorrow!
 So, maybe I'm a bit nervous. This is the basis of all three meals tomorrow. Lunch, on the top, is a serving of lentils (turns out they expand nicely when they absorb water) and half a serving of rice. Bottom is breakfast and dinner - half a serving of beans and a serving of rice each meal. Does not look like enough beans!

2 1/2 onions sauteed in olive oil
2 1/2 cooked onions turn out to be nearly 2 1/2 cups 
I haven't yet put in the onions, which I sauteed up and can have half a cup of per day. Of course, with breakfast I'll get an egg, with lunch a kiwi, and with dinner some broccoli.

Right now I'm on my second glass of a lovely Pouilly-Fuissé, which I will sorely miss!

Can I Eat On $1.50 A Day for Five Days??

Yes I Can!

Okay, it's Sunday evening, May 6, and I'm getting ready to  "Live Below the Line" for five days. As accurately as can be calculated, an American attempting to feed herself on what a "typical" person who lives in a developing country and is extremely poor would spend has about $1.50 per day to spend on food. Of course, we have a lot of advantages, not least access to information (and refrigerators), and the ability to purchase items in bulk because we actually have the cash on hand, and if necessary can drive to a store that has cheaper items.

In the photo are a tablespoon next to my big olive oil can (I'm allotting 2 T/oil/day), the rice, bean, and lentil bags from the market in Chicago, my 10 cloves of garlic, 2½ onions, the 6 kiwi, 5 eggs, 15 grinds of salt (one for each meal!) and the amount of broccoli I was able to buy for $1.00.

This takes some planning, not necessarily my strong suit. Last week I went to a neighborhood shop in Chicago with cheaper food than what is available in Evanston. I'm drawing on my work in rural Kenya, where I've both shopped and cooked, and I've decided that, as is common for poor people, I will eat a very limited menu, and the same thing all five days. Here are my self-imposed constraints:

•no gluten or dairy, as I am sensitive to both
•as nutritionally dense as possible, even though I only need to do it for 5 days
•I will buy non-organic produce
•I won't buy meat or eggs from animals treated badly. This means I can't afford meat, but have budgeted for free range eggs.
•I will cheat and call coffee "water", which is free. I freely confess to being addicted, and if I don't drink coffee I will have a headache (and be constipated!) by Tuesday evening. But - I'll drink it black rather than use my beloved rice milk.

I think this will work as a menu, but may alter quantities and ingredients as the week goes on. It will be the same every day:

½ serving beans  .08    
1 serving rice       .08    
1 egg                   .25    
1 T olive oil         .10   
l serving lentils   .12
½ serving rice     .04
1 kiwi                 .14
2 cloves garlic    .07

½ serving beans    .08
1 serving rice        .08
broccoli                 .20
½ onion                .12
1 T olive oil         .10

totals: .46 + .37 + .63 = $1.46 + .03/day salt = $1.49

I'm soaking the beans as I type, and will cook the entire 5 days worth tonight, with 2½ onions (½/day) for flavor. Tonight I'll also cook Monday's lentils (with 2 cloves of garlic) and rice, so that I can measure out the portions across the day and see what it looks like. I'm a bit worried about being full enough, but should have enough protein, since I both have one complete protein a day (the egg) and three servings of combined protein a day (the beans or lentils plus rice).

Yikes! I can't imagine doing this if I had to buy a little each day as I earned a little cash (and losing all advantages of economies of scale by buying in bulk), and expending lots of calories working, fetching water and firewood, etc.