For days, I’ve been musing over what I would write in this post to wrap up these past 30 days of eating off $1.25 a day. To tell you the truth, although I’ve undoubtedly looked forward to eating vegetables again, the thought of moving forward when I know that there are still 825+ million people starving daily feels weird. It’s kind of like that feeling you get when the weather outside is terrible and you pass by someone who is homeless while you’re on your way to take refuge from the elements. This last month has really underscored just how far removed I am from complete deprivation, and it’s been unsettling to increasingly recognize how much I take for granted.

Overall, I did stick within the $1.25/day limit every day except for one, in which a careless miscalculation resulted in going 4 cents over for the day. However, there were a few days in which I ate off $1/day, so I suppose it kind of evens out. I completely avoided gum, vitamins, cough drops, and medicine, and I factored all beverages (aside from water), spices, and candy into my daily budget as originally planned. I confess I did break the foraging rule once (figs from my backyard at home) and the no-food-donations rule once (strawberries my mom gave me from a local stand). I mainly lived off a ridiculous amount of potatoes (20 pounds – $3 total), oatmeal (4 pounds – $4.54), legumes (8 pounds – $7.77), and top ramen (around 15-20 packets – 20 cents each). Although I carefully planned everything out initially, toward the end I was just trying to derive enough energy from my diet, and it wound up being really carb-heavy. I definitely did not get enough protein, mono- and poly-unsaturated fats and omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, iron, calcium, zinc, B vitamins, vitamin C, etc. Aside from general malnutrition, physical side effects included:

  • cumulatively spending hours lying on my bed trying to muster enough energy to get stuff done
  • feeling feverish
  • nearly passing out once
  • going to bed hungry and waking up ravenous on multiple occasions
  • mildly depressed/irritable mood
  • nausea (while first getting used to eating top ramen)
  • breaking out (especially these last two weeks :/ )
  • marginal weight loss

My experience of living off $1.25/day can hardly compare to what people who genuinely fall below the global poverty line experience; I don’t have dependents to care for, and I wasn’t stretching $1.25 to meet all my needs – only food. I still had all the conveniences of a stove and microwave and refrigerator and grocery stores and electricity and {clean} running water. Yet, a friend sent me this link to a list of five case studies that Oxfam recently conducted in low- and middle-income countries to evaluate the impact of rising food prices on impoverished families’ diets. Interestingly, my diet was comparable to that of the family from Burkina Faso.

This continual reminder of just how far we have to go in alleviating disparities in health and access to basic resources has been sobering, for sure. On the one hand, it’s discouraging to think that this personal, month-long perspective reset will probably not have much (if any) impact on such a massive issue. On the other hand, I think it’s really awesome that the individual choices that you and I make can have a powerful cumulative effect. The tragedy of the commons can go the other direction, too. The success of the collective?

In moving forward, I know I’m going to be reflecting on this past month for a while. I think it was helpful to step back from just studying poverty and talking about it in abstract terms and instead ground it a little bit in personal experience. I imagine I’ll post on here again at some point for similar projects and/or follow-up studies, and perhaps for the food stamp challenge. For now, though, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Amartya Sen, an amazing and well-respected economist and philosopher.


Much love, and thanks so much for reading! ❤


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