Well. Two hours of shopping, one discount store, two supermarkets, a greengrocer, a dry-goods shop and a butcher later, and I have my groceries for the next five days! Did I mention that this whole budgeting for $2 per day is actually hard work? That $2 budget conceals a lot of hidden costs.
I actually went out with a somewhat flexible shopping list – I knew, approximately, what I was doing for breakfast, lunches and dinners, and what bulky and tinned items I needed to buy, but decided to let the market specials be my guide when it came to what fruit and vegetables would flavour these meals.
My budget for the five days is actually $19 in total. The reason for this is that, while Andrew will be sharing my cheap, cheap lifestyle this week, he is not actually signed up for the challenge, and is therefore allowed to accept an invitation to dinner on Tuesday night. I’m going to eat at home, and then head over after dinner for the company. I’ve therefore deducted $1 from our $20 budget, representing approximately the amount I would have spent on Andrew’s dinner if he had been at home.
Here’s what I bought with my $19.00
1 kg penne pasta – $1.10
1 loaf of sliced bread – $1.00
2 x 400g tins of tomatoes @ 60c each – $1.20
1 x 185g tin of tuna – $1.15
1 kg frozen mixed veg – $1.59
1 x 400g tin peaches – $0.69
6 dubiously free-range eggs – $1.75
175 g dried chickpeas – $0.80
175 g dried borlotti beans $0.60
75 g cashews (luxury item)- $1.05
1 stick celery – $0.26
1 cauliflower – $0.99
1 pumpkin – $2.38
1 beetroot with greens (bonus vegetable!!) – $0.99
1 carrot – $0.19
1 potat0 (stupid impulse buy – I didn’t check the prices properly) – $0.50
2 onions – $0.54
2 apples – $0.69
1 capsicum – $0.19
1 chilli (cheap flavour enhancer, yay!) – $0.04
1 garlic bulb (extreme luxury item)- $0.80
10 g salt – shopkeeper refused to charge me, so I’m calling it $.05
1 chicken wing – $0.40
1 sprig of rosemary from my garden – $0.05 (estimated cost)*
Yes, I really did spend every last cent. I went to the shops with a $20 note, and came back with $1.10, which was my Andrew-tax, my salt, and my rosemary.
You’ll notice that I spent an extravagant $1.34 of my weekly budget on flavour ingredients – chilli, garlic, salt, rosemary, and a chicken wing (for soup). The garlic is really the naughtiest thing on my list, being nearly half a day’s food for one person. The compromise on flavour versus bulk is one I have a lot of difficulty with, to be honest. I really hate being hungry. But I do want food that is at least slightly interesting and palatable. Otherwise Andrew won’t eat it – and already I’m feeling guilty about inflicting this on him, and making plans to eat less than my share if he is hungry. Which is frighteningly old-fashioned of me. But, in fact, I think I have enough in the way of carbohydrates and protein every day that we are not going to be too hungry as a result of this little indulgence. I think it’s worth it.
You’ll also note that I now feel the need to justify how I used my food budget. Because I feel weirdly guilty about that garlic. And those eggs! And for getting such a tiny amount of salt that the storekeeper wouldn’t charge me (I’m going to have to go back and buy lots of goodies there once this is done – though, to be fair, I tend to do that anyway). And, actually, this is quite interesting, because I suspect that this is one of the charming bits of baggage that comes with poverty, at least in first-world countries where there is a pension. One is seen to be getting ‘free money’ from the government (and never mind that most people receiving a pension have either contributed to the community in the past by paying taxes or in other less tangible ways), and therefore a certain segment of the community is just itching to police you on how you spend it.
There is a rather toxic idea out there that people living on the dole are living the high life on taxpayer money, buying luxuries that hard working people can’t afford, and so forth. And there are so many problems with this idea, ranging from the fact that pensions in Australia, at least, are far from generous, especially given current rental rates, to the fact that ‘luxuries’ like smartphones might be necessary for jobhunting (they are cheaper than a computer, after all) or for personal safety, to the rather Victorian idea that a ‘good’ poor person will be spending all their money on gruel and jobhunting and deserves no indulgences. Never mind that living in poverty is itself stressful and gruelling and full of hidden costs – or that poverty and depression often go hand in hand.
A little bit of money spent on seeing a film, or a new t-shirt, or a haircut – or a bulb of garlic that doesn’t really fit in the weekly food budget – can actually be money very well spent if it allows the person buying it to feel a bit better about themselves and others, a bit more human, a bit more like part of the community.
But even these tiny indulgences are not always possible.
Stay tuned tomorrow for – THE MENU!
* We aren’t supposed to forage or use garden items without accounting for them, and I really don’t know how best to account for the rosemary – you are supposed to go with the cost based on the seeds, but I planted the rosemary six years ago, I can’t remember what it cost (probably more than a dollar – but obviously, I’m not using the whole plant!). I think I will call that my last 5 cents. I’m hoping that isn’t cheating.
I’m also thinking about the fact that there is mint growing in my driveway. Am I allowed to use it? I never bought seeds for it, or watered it, or did anything with it – it’s effectively an edible weed. Would it be cheating to use a sprig, if appropriate?
If you are enjoying these articles, please consider sponsoring me by following this link! Yes, I’m going to be shamelessly promoting this for the next week. And updating every day, with menu plans, recipes both good and bad, and probably a lot of complaining. Because I get a little bit focused when it comes to fundraising…