Living (Healthily!) Below the Poverty Line With Vicki Day

OK, so you may have read a little bit about Vicki Day, in London, on this blog and may have wondered how we came to be acquainted.

Vicki discovered my blog in March of 2009, when I was freshly homeless and still anonymous.  She has followed the site since, and was one of the people instrumental in pulling strings with Walmart (Asda in the UK) and drumming up the media in order to have my trailer returned to me after it was towed.  She also sent me train tickets to London when I was in Scotland and did not have the Christmas that I was expecting, and she and her daughter Alice took me in for a couple of months at my lowest ebb, for which I am forever grateful to them.  Vicki has become a surrogate mom to me, and I couldn’t imagine a better one.

Vicki strongly supports World Homeless Day, the inaugural launch of which is coming up rapidly on 10-10-10.  A month away from today. As a lead-up, we wanted to do something which would highlight the date and also make people think about some of the issues facing homeless individuals today.  Globally, 1.4 billion people live below the poverty line, which means on average they live on $1.25 per day for food (81 pence in the UK).

As a transatlantic joint effort, from today and leading up to WHD, Vicki and I will attempt to live (healthily, no less!) on $1.25 per day or less for food.

For Vicki, who is well known at her local Pret a Manger (sort of our American equivalent of Starbucks), where a single cup of coffee costs £1.95 (two and a half days’ worth of food, according to her new daily allowance), this will make an impact.

I’m already well versed in the Tao of the 99 cent Store, so it’s a little easier for me, but the “healthy” part is the challenge.  The cheapest thing you can find is, of course, Top Ramen…just under 17 cents per packet.  However, it’s absolutely ghastly for you.  So, I’ve taken $8.75 to my local 99 cent store and stocked up on the following:

-A bag of kiwis ($1)

-Two packets  of wheat pasta ($2)

-A jar of tomato sauce ($1)

-Two bags of green apples ($2)

-A bag of red bell peppers ($1)

-A bag of roma tomatoes ($1)

This is my first week’s worth of food, so I need to budget it wisely.  As far as drinks go, I’m a water person, so I’m lucky in that regard.  Tap water is free.

If any of my readers would like to join in on this transatlantic effort, we challenge you to follow along with us in our endeavor – whether it’s for a single day living below the extreme poverty line, or for the entire month…or something in between, whatever you feel comfortable with.  You can follow Vicki’s progress at

Think about every mouthful of food that you eat or drink and its cost.  If you wish, you can even donate some of the money that you save on food to one of the many charities and organizations participating in World Homeless Day!  More details on how to do so at

As of today, with a month until launch, World Homeless Day will be marked by participating representatives, charities, and organizations on 5 continents and in over 100 countries – not bad for an idea first conceived 7 months ago, in February 2010!


  1. ~Love the project, Bri & Vicki – quite a challenge!

    For inspiration, you might want to check out the 2008 experiment of Encinitas, California teachers, Kerri Leonard & Christopher Greenslate, who wrote “On a Dollar a Day.” Here’s a link to their website:

    Will be looking forward to hearing about how you make out & what your tips are for accomplishing this!

    Blessings along the journey!!!

  2. PS~ As I’ve lived most of my adult life in genteel poverty & have experienced many periods of being down to very little food, here’s what I recommend as things that will get you by:
    - bulk oatmeal (cook w/ apples & cinnamon)
    - brown rice
    - lentils (or some sort of beans) – I mix these together with the rice, sauteed onion & garlic, & top w/ ketchup
    - potatoes
    - eggs
    - apples
    - onion
    - garlic
    You pretty much need to start out w/ spices, ketchup, honey/brown sugar & maybe vinegar & oil (flour & baking powder/soda, if you are baking). The cheapest place I’ve found for good dried herbs & spices is Trader Joe’s. As you will see, conspicuously missing from my list is anything in the way of veggies/salad/ or fruit, except for the apples. This is why people in poverty have such a horrible diet & a high rate of diabetes, as a result – we tend to live on high carbs, cuz they are cheap.

  3. The ramen noodles at WalMart are cheaper, $1.98 for a pack of twelve. I only use half a packet of the seasoning mix to save my blood pressure.

  4. Those ramen noodles seem pretty deadly (white flour & am sure the seasonings have misc. chemicals in them (not to mention the salt, which I think is why Bunnie mentioned her blood pressure).

    I want to add popcorn to my list above (the kind you pop in an airpopper). I use a small amount of vegetable oil & Trader Joe’s 21 seasoning on it, which is salt free. As mentioned earlier, you probably want to start out w/ certain staples in your pantry.

    Will you be updating us daily on what you are eating & how it is going?

    Am wishing you all the best!

  5. Good luck! I WISH we had a store like that around here where I could get fruits and veggies! I may join, since I am pretty much living on that much now.

  6. Well this has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
    I now feel my day is consumed with thinking about food and the lack of food and not in a diet way but just I can’t eat way.
    In essence I’m living on porridge and trying to avoid jamming up on carbs so I crash and burn as I’ve got to work.
    I have come to my parents to stay and so the temptation to raid cupboards etc or walk to Starbucks has been removed.

  7. ~Vicki, I’ve found that when there is less food around, I seem to consume more. I have a feeling that my body gets the message from my brain that it is about to starve & then freaks out. What is porridge made of? Is it oats or some other grain? Sadly, carbs seem to be what is cheapest.

    Am sending good vibes your way.

  8. ~Bri, am responding to your message under Zach’s article:
    Be sure you’ve got protein in your diet. And “complementing” is good (beans & rice/p-nut butter or cheese on whole grain bread). According to the Vegetarian Society, Good sources of protein are:
    Chick peas (garbanzo beans), brown rice, beans, lentils, Tofu, Cow’s milk, Porridge (? what’s that? Oatmeal?), Soy milk, Muesli, Eggs,Peanuts,and Hard cheese.

    Trader Joe’s has a dozen eggs for $1.50. The dollar store might have those, as well as peanut butter, for a buck (just be sure to check for sugar content on the p-nut butter). You can eat that on your apple slices. Seems like you might be able to find cans of beans for 50cents each (dried are most likely cheaper, but then there’s the cost & hassle of cooking them) & just add those to your pasta or rice. I usually cook the lentils w/ my rice (1.5 cups of brown rice & 1 cup of lentils to 4.5 cups of water – boil, then reduce to simmer & cook covered for about 50 minutes)

    Do be careful w/ your metabolism. If you start to starve yourself, your body will go into freakout mode & slow way down on burning calories. I’ve yo-yo’d so much in my life that my metabolism no longer works (I also don’t have a thyroid anymore, so that doesn’t help).

    Am looking forward to seeing what you managed to find for food this week…

  9. Have a direct link to the blog/article at Fab 40 site?

    fantastic initiative.. have posted via social networks

  10. Devils Advoclart says:

    People are controlled by food throughout the world.

    This is just another symptom of a larger and more undefined disease. Unearned untaxed profit on land and labour and capital unfairly distributed.

    Way to be part of the problem. :)

  11. Yawn.

    I’m all for social/political issues and green-ness and organic food and making the world a better place and etc. But you’re gonna come here and try to tell off homeless people for trying to afford at least quasi-healthy food?

    Gee. So sorry that we’re “part of the problem” by “being controlled by food”. I apologize for needing to eat, asshole.

    Fuck off.

  12. ~D.A. – sorry, but I don’t get your point. Personally, I’d appreciate some clarification & perhaps your ideas as to solutions.

    ~Bri, having been to India & several other developing countries, and living in poverty in the U.S. over the course of much of my adult life, I greatly appreciate your act of solidarity. Could you please post how you made out w/ your food list this week? I’m interested in seeing how it is going.

  13. I’m lucky enough to have a roof over my head, but my food budget isn’t that great. So me and my fiance do our food shopping mostly at Lidl’s, a German supermarket chain that has shops (from what I know) in Germany, Holland and the UK. We get bags of frozen vegetables for £1 each, a bag of minced beef with onions for £1, pasta and rice for cheap (depending on what’s on offer), and if you add a baggy of already mixed herbs (by Knorr or Colmann’s or another brand) you can make all kinds of different dishes without breaking the bank.

    Supermarket’s own band products are usually made by the big name companies, and ‘best before’ dates don’t always mean that you can’t possibly eat something a day or two after.

    Enjoy your dinners!

  14. Eyup Firdevsi says:

    Hey I’m homeless myself and don’t have access to a stove or anything like that, just my local library. When my money’s real tight, I have few options because any food I buy has to be pre-packaged because I never have a microwave or toaster or oven or whatever around. Any recommendations? Sometimes I get really mad because i feel like i eat all my money. Sometimes i get so mad that i go out and eat at a restaurant, because i’m tired of eating cold canned soup. But when i do that, i spend too much money and end up regretting it for the rest of the month.

    • Hi Eyup,

      Are you living out of a vehicle? If so, one option would be to heat food on your car radiator. There’s actually a whole book about it, amazingly enough!


  15. Eyup Firdevsi says:

    No, I’m not. I wish i had that luxury. any other options? I think jail would be an okay option, at least there’s a place to sleep and food

    • I know where your comming from with that. I’ve seid that for yrs. I jail you get a roof over your head, 3 meal a day and some times a collage education. however that would be the highest up on the PROs list of jail I would think!

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