A $2-a-day feast

CAN I live on $2 a day? No problem, and I suspect it has never been easier to eat and eat well on a daily $2 or its equivalent. By the word live the fund-raiser called Live Below The Line means to eat, and it sets the challenge of $2 as the 2012 equivalent of the $US1.25 determined by the World Bank seven years ago as the extreme poverty line.

As a means of raising both money for the education of people in poverty and awareness of their plight it is laudable, but the fact that we in Australia can eat enough on $2 a day should not reflect on the plight of the hundreds of millions of people restricted to that budget permanently. For most of these people poverty and hunger is about a shortage of food, and therefore its relative expense, while we have wasteful surpluses of food that is extraordinarily cheap relative to our incomes. So cheap is much of our food that I say it is cheap relative even to a $2-a-day budget.

On Saturday when I returned from Aldi with an oven thermometer, for the pizza oven, I had as well a packet of crumpets. Why, my wife asked, did I buy them? Because I saw them for 99 cents while I was waiting in the check-out line, and at that price I see them as effectively free. I suppose that says more about how I see $1, and while it is half the daily food allowance the packet of crumpets would provide three breakfasts at two crumpets per serve, what I’d have whether counting the cents or not.

Thirty five cents a breakfast but we can do breakfast for less. Take two Weet-Bix, from a 1.3kg pack at $5 yesterday at Coles, 12 cents, and add 100ml of milk, 10 cents, for a total of 22 cents. No scrimping there, for me at least, because that’s what I have when I have Weet-Bix and milk, although usually I have a couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt we make at home instead of the milk. Two pieces of toast, say 10 cents from a $1 loaf of bread, with Vegemite. That’s as much as I have, and forgo, as I do, the butter.

Feel like something a little more luxurious? Go to the public day of the fruit and vegetable wholesale market – it’s Friday at Sandgate for those in the Newcastle area – and buy a box of apples or pears or stone fruit past their prime and stew them. The stewed fruit can be frozen, it is great on cereal for breakfast and with yoghurt or by itself as a dinner sweet, perhaps 20 cents a serve. We’ve just finished a big bowl of stewed plums my wife made with plums she saw for 79 cents a kilo. Special.

For morning tea a cup of tea with a couple of home-made biscuits, 10 cents each, maybe a piece of the cheapest fruit going, a pear or an apple at less than $2 a kilo, 30 or 40 cents each.

For most of the year my lunch is a salad drawn mostly from my garden – lettuce, cherry tomatoes, herbs, with a small amount of bought fetta – although today it was a slice of last night’s dinner, a frittata using eggs, vegies and herbs from the backyard, close to free and, no, we’re not trying to save money.

No garden or chooks? Then how about a tomato sandwich, 40 cents, or a Vegemite sandwich, 20 cents. Or both, 60 cents.

So far we’ve spent about a $1, leaving the same amount for dinner.

Lebanese bread pizza, spread with half a can of Italian tomatoes, a single chopped sausage, caramelised onion and grated cheese, about $1 and big enough for two. Spaghetti and a tinned tomato sauce spiced with onion and garlic and chilli, more than you could eat for $1. Such vegetables as potato, carrot and cauliflower in a white sauce and baked with grated cheese on top, about $1 per person.

Oats, lentils, frozen peas, baked beans, pasta, rice noodles, rice, bread, chicken, often such fish as mullet and luderick, flour, eggs, sausages on special, fruit, vegetable staples in season, and of course eating for $2 a day will be easier from a pooled kitty and for longer than the five days of the challenge.

When do I start?

I won’t be. And not just because my wife is going overseas for a month.

Do you agree that food is cheap? How cheap could you go each day comfortably?

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