What has been really refining in our lifestyle is learning how to better stick to certain lifestyle convictions we share but are, individually, oftentimes too weak to stick to. If you've ever had a conversation with me about Wal-Mart, you know my feelings on the place (if you haven't, I'll spare you the lecture -- instead, pick up this movie from Netflix, Blockbuster, Amazon, or your own local video store). This has, from time to time, been a particularly sticky point when shopping for certain items. 5' x 7' area rug at a local fair-trade home furnishings center: $159.99. Similar rug made with child labor in overseas sweatshops sold at Wal-mart: $39.99.
For every one of my stubborn points like this, January has been able to show me how we can take things a step further. Most recently, she passed along this little gem: Did you know that over 1.1 billion people on this planet live on $1 per day? According to 2dollars.org, more than twice that number and fully one-third of the world's population live on $2 per day for their total expenses. Can you imagine living on $2 worth of food per day? What if the McDonald's dollar menu was off the table?
January and I have decided to take the $2 a day challenge over the next week, with the goal of trying to get a better understanding of what poverty is like. We are allotting ourselves $2 per day per person for food from Monday, March 5th through the 11th. I'm going to clean out the kitchen of any leftovers? so we can start from scratch for the week. If you're interested in trying it out for yourself, 2dollars.org has some resources for getting through the week, such as recipes, sponsor forms, and flyer templates. January and I will continue to post updates on our progress and success with various meal attempts here, so check back in. Personally, I'm interested to see how quickly the novelty wears off and this experiment starts to really get uncomfortable.
I spent 30% of our weekly food budget this morning. That's not so unusual, but what is unusual is that I was able to carry all of them in one bag.
The flour and shortening get us pretty close to several dozen tortillas and the 2lb back of pinto beans, along with some yet-to-be-purchased onion, is all we need to make a metric ton of refried beans. Bean burrito lunches for a week!
With the essentials out of the way, and $8.65 gone, that leaves us with just under $20 to pick up the details.
Not that I'm a complete master of restraint myself; My ever-present battle with the Dark Lord of Colombia reared its head first thing Monday morning when I made the executive decision that beverages, and specifically coffee, "don't count" in this challenge. What can I say? I'm a weak, grumpy man in the morning.
Our second trip to the magnificent, cost-cutting Aldi netted us some more essentials for the week: bread, potatoes, onion, and beef. We found some recipes for shepherd's pie and tacos that should give us a couple meals out of what we've purchased so far. That puts our remaining balance for the week at $11.39.
It's also amazing to see how creative you can get when you have a limited set of ingredients to work with and that early-evening sugar craving kicks in. After a good hour of scouring the internet for a cake or cookie recipe we could work with, we settled on this spritz cookies recipe. We also decided that we would deduct $1 for our allowable budget in exchange for small amounts of certain ingredients, such as baking powder, sugar, and salt, that over time would last months and could usually be factored into a long-term budget.
So with our tasty, crumbly little bites of goodness baked and rationed for the week, we should be able to stave off the sugar cravings. We're looking to be in pretty decent shape, despite the fact that we've already had the conversation discussing what the first thing we will eat at midnight on Sunday will be.
We're down to the wire, and looking pretty good on the budget. January and I took a lunchtime trip back to Aldi on Wednesday with a meal plan for the week and finished up with our collection of essentials.
January whipped together some great "homemade" pasta sauce from the tomato sauce, onions, and a few spices. Mix that together with some elbow macaroni and bread and butter and that made for a welcome change from the daily bean burritos. We were also able to make some cheese pizza using a recipe that we've been using over the last several weeks that's really easy. If it doesn't seem greasy enough to quality as a substitute for your Papa John's, you can always brush on some garlic butter to add a lot of flavor.
So we're down to our last $2.62, and it's looking like we might be able to swing for a little milk to make some crepes with Sunday morning. I'll check back in Monday with the final balance and some recipes that got us through the week. And since you asked, here's the recipe I used for the homemade tortillas. If you have anything more authentic, maybe something that requires a few more ingredients but turns out better, I'd love to hear.