Saturday, January 31, 2009

Living Well Above the Poverty Line

We've had a great time living below the poverty line this month. If you joined me in this challenge, I'm sure you learned some unexpected things as well.

Here's what we learned:

1. Be prepared. It's not good to live at the very edge of your income whether you're rich or porr. You've got to have wiggle room to pay for those unexpected things. Even if you're making plenty of money, save some and keep it for a rainy day. If you're living below the poverty line, every dollar really does make a difference. Save what you can for emergencies.

2. Once the dollar is spent it can't be retrieved. While living under the poverty line I had to think about every little purchase. If I spent the money without thinking, the money was gone.

3. Solve the income crisis. Even after just one month of living under the poverty line, I was thinking of ways to save and earn more money. As Dave Ramsey says, "You have an income crisis." We could certainly feed our kids, buy clothes, and pay the mortgage--but we weren't getting anywhere financially. We would need to either gain more education or get a better job (or an additional job.)

4. Poverty in great for the environment. Our big green trash can was able to go three weeks on the garbage we produced. It was amazing--we spent less, consumed less and (wadyaknow?) we had less garbage. We also didn't go shopping for recreation, so we used less gas.

5. Get creative. I made homemade yogurt, bread, , snacks and presents. We saved a lot by making stuff that we normally would have purchased. We signed the kids up for group piano lessons at the library. We checked out movies and books. We ate out tons less. We got creative with our free time and played games that we bought at the thrift store for a couple dollars. I think I lost a little weight!

6. We have more that we thought. We budgeted money for clothes, fun, food, gas, car repairs, and other stuff. We were still able to live under the poverty line and money left over. Even the trip to ER yesterday will come out of our Health Savings Account, so we're not going to be burdened with massive hospital bills. We have money left over to maybe save or maybe spend next month. Americans are blessed to have truly abundant lives

So, now we make the transition from living well below the poverty line to living well above the poverty line.

What did you learn during your time living for one month under the poverty line?

Dinner: Friday, January 30

Saline IV
Acetaminophen & Ibuprofen
Total Cost: $100 copay

We spent the afternoon and evening in the hospital with Josh. He had severe abdominal pain starting around 2pm. After toughing out the pain (eight out of ten on the pain scale) he finally asked for a side dish of morphine. The dose was so small and the pain was so great that it had no effect. The pain went away on it's own an hour later at 6:30pm during the ultrasound.

While I was at the hospital with Josh, my dad went back home to pick up dinner that my mom had prepared for the kids. It was great. It's weird to eat in ER. It's kind of like eating in a public restroom. (I haven't tried that. I just have a good imagination.)

Then we went home. Today is the actual day of our anniversary. It was a wonderful day with an unexpected ending. We are so happy to be married...

Happy Anniversary!

Dinner: Thursday, January 29

Dining Out: Cedars of Lebanon
Total Cost: $26

We're celebrating our 10th anniversary this weekend, so we went out to eat. It was delicious, wonderful and may have given us food poisoning.

I had falafel, Josh had beef chawumba, and we both had lentil soup and salad.

From Prosperity to Poverty...and Back Again

To go from living a comfortable life of prosperity to "living well below the poverty line" hasn't been easy. Anyone who has been doing this one-month poverty experiment with me knows that there are times you just want to scream.

Our family moved to New York in 2004 for my husband to go to grad school. It was a financially tight time for our family. First, we were doing grad school without the burden of student loans. Second, we had saved up the first year of tuition before we moved to New York and worked through school to pay for the second year of tuition. Third, we had three small children. We weren't quite living under the poverty line, but we were sure close. We lived tight so that we could live without consumer debt (or "mommy and daddy debt"--we didn't want the strings that are attached to money that comes from parents.)

I remember going to ALDI, our favorite discount grocery store, and getting exactly what was on the grocery list. I scoured thrift stores to find darling clothes and house decor. We even drove the streets of Syracuse looking for fun and funky discarded furniture. (We still have one of the treasures that we found on the streets of the village of Camillus.) It was both empowering and exciting to know that our future freedom from debt was in my hands. My ability to control my spending, to be creative and to live well despite our lower income was a challenge and a blessing.

We were able to graduate without debt, without mommy and daddy strings attached and with a tremendous amount of dignity. Within a year of graduating we bought our first home and have been amazed at how much living with less has taught us.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ten Item Challenge

If you could only put ten items in your grocery cart this week and spend less than $50, what would they be? Could you make enough meals with those items to keep your family fed throughout the week? You may use what you have on hand (ketchup, mayo, oil, sugar, butter) to supplement the items on your list.

Here's what I would buy:
  1. Cabbage
  2. Eggs
  3. Oats
  4. Milk
  5. Onions
  6. Carrots
  7. Bananas
  8. Chicken or Lobster (whichever is cheapest)
  9. Rice
  10. Beans
I have stuff on that list to make decent dinners, healthy breakfasts, very boring lunches, and some snacks. If I could add one more thing to the list it would be popcorn. Just a bag of unpopped kernels. It's an incredibly cheap and healthy snack...

What ten foods would you put on your list?

Dinner: Wednesday, January 28

Herbed Chicken with Garlic
Steamed Italian Vegetables
Sliced Whole Wheat Bread
Total Cost: $6.80

My husband loves vegetables. He also loves meat. He loves my homemade wheat bread. This was a meal for him. Our aniversario numero diez is this week, so I made a meal I knew he'd like. And I promised the kids that if they ate 90% of the vegetables on their plate that I would make a batch of Supernatural Brownies.

They ate their veggies and we made the best chewy brownies ever. And my husband loves chewy brownies, too.

Dinner: Tuesday, January 27

Super Nachos
Total Cost: $3.50

When you make Super Nachos, you must remember the most important thing: The Rule of Three. Super Nachos need at least three different toppings in order for the nachos to be super. This can be cheddar cheese, refried beans, and tomatoes. Or mozzarella cheese, shredded chicken, and green chiles. You can also try pepper jack, olives, and chili con carne.

So, remember the Rule of Three, and serve your Super Nachos with the Rule of Two: sour cream and salsa.

Hint to the menfolk: This dinner is wicked easy. Just pour chips on a cookie sheet cover them with shredded cheese and two other nacho-y type toppings. Bake at 350 till the cheese is melted...about 15 minutes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dinner: Monday, January 26

Whole Wheat Spaghetti and Meatballs
Cooked Carrots
(no bread)
Total Cost: $4.35

Spaghetti and meatballs without garlic bread is a sad thing. I used up my refrigerated dough to make cinnamon rolls for the kids for an after-school snack. I also had a headache, so dinner got no creative juices from me.

Some nights you just need a boring dinner. No weird herbs or spices. No strange ingredients or labor intensive elements. You just want to sit down and eat without thinking.

I sat down for dinner and my sweet husband had accidentally grated asiago on my spaghetti and my pineapple. He said it was just like Hawaiian pizza, but I think the headache made it taste exactly like pineapple with asiago on top. If you closed your eyes and took a bite of spaghetti and pineapple with asiago, it tasted sort of like Hawaiian pizza. But you had to think about it really hard, and like I said, tonight wasn't a good night for thinking hard.

Dinner: Sunday, January 25

Total Cost: $0

I know families who do the whole "Let's Pretend Like it's Thanksgiving Again" thing for Sunday dinner. Too much work.

I love simple. Simple is good. And tonight, we had leftover lentil soup. And it was good.

We try to keep Sunday dinners simple for the simple reason that God said that Sunday is a day of rest. He's got our best interests at heart. We try to serve simple meals on Sunday, and since the whole family is home and hungry, we often serve leftovers from the week.

Keep the Sabbath Day Holy. If it involves leftover lentil soup, then this is one commandment we can all agree is both convenient and a pleasure to keep.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Purchases: Week Three

Instead of listing purchases this week, I'm going to give an update on the budget categories.

Groceries: We hit our budgeted amount for groceries for the month, so either I have to buy nothing next week, or I need to pull from another category and do without something else. The good news is that I spent the rest of our budget for groceries on long term storage that will last for months. I bought chicken at a great price.

Clothing: We're under budget in clothing. I spent about 75% of our budget, so I could spend the rest this week, but I don't need to.

Dining Out: Just bought a few ice cream cones for the kids after piano lessons (the free ones, remember?)

Gasoline: Right on budget, and we have two full tanks. Since we don't shop as much this month, we're saving tons on gas. I'm not super strict about combining my shopping trips--I went out on Saturday just to buy some paper to make cards.

Household Consumables: Right on.

Household Non-consumables: Love to buy a huge leather couch, but our lovely floral sofa will do fer now. We really didn't buy much this month.

Recreation: I bout some paper and counted part from the gift category and part from the recreation category. We really need to get babysitting and get out more. It's in the budget!

Gifts: I was able to make two batches of truffles and give gifts to my friends who had birthdays this month. I also made sure my husband (who has supported me through this month of poverty) got plenty of truffles.

We're doing all right...and just a few more days left.

Dinner: Saturday, January 24

Grilled Chicken
Penne with Alfredo, Broccoli and Mushrooms
Total Cost: $6.25

We thought my dad was coming for dinner, so we made something fancy-pantsy. He ended up driving home from his conference instead of coming over. He had to drive home in wicked fog last night, and there was a wreck the night before that. It was raining hard tonight, so we figured he just wanted to get home.

Anyway, lucky for us, we had an awesome meal. We grilled some chicken, tossed some garlicky alfredo (homemade) with some penne, broccoli and mushrooms and ate it with gusto.

I want to have a five-minute bread class at my house next month. Can you imagine? A house full of ladies making bread. It's so domestic!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Story of Strength, Courage, and Success

CNN has a great story of a family that "boot-strapped" it. It makes me proud to see hard-working American families who aren't afraid to sacrifice to make sure their family succeeds. Story below:

Donna LeBlanc gave her husband, a former restaurant manager, the stark ultimatum: become a pizza delivery man or their family "wouldn't make it."

The Lafayette, Louisiana, family of six was struggling with $45,000 of mounting medical debt from Donna LeBlanc's unexpected case of pneumonia and tonsillitis a year earlier. The family savings account had dwindled to $100.

"It's embarrassing for my husband to take a job he is overqualified for, and I know he feels ashamed at times," says Donna LeBlanc, a 35-year-old mother with four children. "But this is what we have to do and we're going to make the best out of it."

She watched her husband, Rob LeBlanc, 35, load Domino's pizza boxes into their family car and deliver orders until near dawn for $10 an hour.

Until last summer, Rob LeBlanc had worked as a manager at a truck stop restaurant, making $55,000 a year. He lost that job to the falling economy.

Rob LeBlanc says he noticed business at the truck stop getting sluggish a year ago. Then the spike in gas prices last summer exacerbated the restaurant's dire circumstances. Many penny-pinching truck drivers avoided his restaurant altogether, he says.

Rob LeBlanc filed for unemployment compensation immediately after he lost his job. More than 4.6 million Americans were collecting unemployment benefits as of early January, according to the Labor Department.

In Lafayette, a quiet city of about 114,000 tucked away in southern Louisiana, many of the jobs center around servicing the oil and gas industry, but Rob LeBlanc was unwilling to work offshore and away from his family.

When he applied for other jobs, he was told he was either under-qualified or had too much experience.

After several weeks of searching, he took the only job he could get -- a Domino's pizza delivery man, a job that would cover the family's expenses.

"I had to swallow my pride and take whatever I could get," Rob LeBlanc says. "I kept telling myself one of these days something better will come along."

He spent nearly five months delivering pizzas at Domino's. He admits he fell into depression during that time.

But the family received good news Friday, when a private security company hired Rob LeBlanc to be a security officer. He says the company offers many opportunities to move up to a managerial position.

"My first thought was to tell my wife right away," he says. "I could hear the relief in her voice."

Taking a job as a pizza man wasn't the only sacrifice he's made for his family -- he's also selling his beloved 2003 Kawasaki motorcycle.

Donna LeBlanc earns a few hundred dollars a week exterminating mosquitoes for a bug control company. Before her husband lost his job, she had talked of going back to school to pursue a biology degree at Louisiana State University.

The LeBlanc family lives lean in their five-bedroom, three-bathroom house with its $440 a month mortgage. The couple is teaching their children about budgeting and bargaining while relying on coupons and sales. They no longer eat out and no longer have cable TV. For entertainment, they attend free movies at a church. Donna LeBlanc takes pride that they have no credit card debt.

Their children Brooke, 9, Christopher, 14, and Courtney, 13, no longer receive allowances. Soon after her father's job loss, Courtney started cleaning houses and baby-sitting and earned enough money to buy a dress for her first school dance -- off the clearance rack.

The LeBlancs' oldest child, Sean, 16, who attends high school, still hasn't found a job. He says the competition has gotten stiff, with many older workers in the area out of jobs. "I'm trying," said Sean, who has been looking for a job since October. "There are just no openings."

The LeBlancs have found some unexpected happiness. Donna LeBlanc says her husband now spends more time at home. Not being able to leave the house for entertainment has brought the children closer together over books, games and conversation.

"This experience has given us time to reconnect with each other," Donna LeBlanc says. "And it's taught us to just keep trying and believe that things will get better."

To see actual story, go to:

Dinner: Friday, January 23

Lentil Sausage Soup with Fresh Yogurt
Crusty Peasant Bread
Total Cost: $6.35

I regret not snapping a shot of our Lentil Sausage Soup. It was beautiful...

We bought a different variety of lentil that was a little firmer and didn't mash up like the normal lentils we buy. We added garlic, onion, carrot and turkey sausage along with a little bouillon and served the soup with a dollop of fresh made yogurt.

The bread was a no-brainer, again. This time I made two loafs and sent my dad (who stopped by to drop off some goodies) with a half loaf of bread for his hour drive home.

Leftovers are my favorite part of making soup. I love soup, part II. We'll most likely have it for lunch on Sunday.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Make It From Scratch

When my husband first met me, he thought it was so cool that I knew how to make mayonnaise from scratch. Yes, well, I normally buy my mayo in a jar, but knowing how to make something that you normally buy is incredibly empowering.

I can make mayonnaise! From scratch! I AM MAYONNAISE GIRL!! (Imagine my cape with a big M flapping in the breeze and a superhero mask made of, uh, mayonnaise.)

There are lots of other things you can make from scratch. Take a looky-loo at the list below and try making something this week that you've never made from scratch. Find a link below and get started learning a new skill...

How to Make Soy Milk
How to Make Slice 'n' Bake Cookies
How to Make Salsa
How to Make Bread

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dinner: Thursday, January 22

Homemade Pizza
Total Cost: $4 to 7 (depending on toppings)

Our secret to great homemade pizza is threefold:
  1. It's gotta have a great crust. My family prefers a round-shaped pizza cooked on a pizza stone on the bottom rack. We get the perfect crispy/chewy crust by using homemade dough. Recently we started using the dough from the book "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day." It made such a huge difference that we vowed to always use the artisan dough with pizza.
  2. It's gotta have real toppings (not canned 'shrooms). Real toppings, like sliced fresh tomatoes, onions, mushrooms. make all the difference. (We made a plain pepperoni pizza for the photo shoot) Fresh is always best.
  3. It's gotta have plenty o' cheese. One time I tried to scrimp on cheese and the whole family looked at me with sad, sad faces. I've never gone light on the cheese again.
Sure, you can find pizza for under $3 at the grocery store, but this isn't about money. It's about taste. It's about quality. It's about creating something in your kitchen that makes you happy.

This is about living well.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dinner: Wednesday, January 21

Classic Pot Roast with Carrots and Potatoes
Crusty Peasant Loaf
Total Cost: $4.75

Beef was on sale this week. I'm not much of a meat eater, but I do love the flavor that meat imparts to the food it mingles with.

Rule #1 (The only beef rule) Never cook a slab of beef in the oven--it ends up dry and tough. Just ask your mother-in-law. The only way to cook beef is in a crockpot, with lots of onions, carrots, potatoes, and celery. And a squirt of ketchup. Let that cook on high for a few hours (or on low for a few more hours) and you'll have perfectly done meat, perfectly cooked veggies and a dinner that took you all of three and a half minutes to whip together.

All you need to top it off is a loaf of crusty peasant bread. Serve the bread whole at the table and rip off hunks to dip in the pot roast drippings. This isn't low fat, but who cares?

How to Recycle Food

After dinner--even a bad dinner--the table is pretty well grazed and there are just traces of evidence that your family dined together. A single baked potato. A few chunks of crumbled feta. A handful of sliced crusty peasant bread. Leftovers can be recycled, so don't throw out a thing! Here are some tips for recycling your food:

  1. Take the larger leftovers for lunch. Are there one or two slices of quiche left? Wrap it up and put it in the fridge for tomorrow. Quiche makes nice leftovers, hot or cold. Be sure to wrap it up right after dinner so that it doesn't get forgotten and then thrown out.
  2. Save small leftovers for smaller people. You may have only a quarter cup of lasagna leftovers. It's not enough to feed an adult, but it will feed a child for lunch quite nicely.
  3. Mentally catalog your leftovers. Before you start making a meal, look over what you have and see if it can be added to the meal. Can it be put on top of a pizza? Mixed into a quiche? Slapped between two slices of bread? Served as a side dish? Sneaked into a soup?
  4. Store leftovers in clear containers. When I was a kid we had little opaque storage containers that were for leftovers. We always used the containers but never used the food that inevitably spoiled in them. We couldn't see what was in them, so the food went bad. We now use the Rubbermaid Take Along containers. They're clear, sturdy, and cheap. We only buy the square and deep square so the lids are interchangeable.
  5. Package your food quickly. A lot of food goes to waste because it's left on the kitchen table overnight. You'll only be able to use your leftovers if they're not crusted, hairy or bacteriated. (What's that squiggly red line under 'bacteriated' for?)
  6. Group leftovers together. After having tacos for dinner, put the tomatoes, onion, meat and cheese all together in a container and throw them into an omelet for breakfast. Or stick them in a quesadilla for lunch. You don't need to package every little thing in a teeny-tiny plastic baggie.
  7. Recycle salads by sauteing. A side dish of lightly sauteed spinach with a clove of crushed garlic is a crowd pleaser. Next time you buy greens, buy spinach and plan to recycle your salad.
  8. Compost or feed the worms. As a last resort, food that no one wants to eat can be turned into rich compost--either in a compost pile outside, or a worm bin inside. We have a little worm bin filled with red wigglers. It sits nicely under our kitchen sink. The worms eat old broccoli, apple cores, cantaloup rinds, and other non-meat/non-dairy leftovers. They love it. Dairy and meat can be composted in an outside bin.
Wasted food is wasted money. Anything you can do to prevent waste in the kitchen will translate to cash in your pocket!

Dinner: Tuesday, January 20

Baked Potato Bar
Buttered Brussels Sprouts

Total Cost:

No matter how much money you have, there comes a time each day when you need to answer the question, "What's for dinner?" Last night, the answer was "Whatever is quick and easy." (Hmmm...that was the answer for the night before, as well.)

Anyway, baked potatoes are one of my favorite standby meals. They ain't never done me wrong. Here's what we did: we "baked" ten potatoes in the microwave, sliced up an onion, chopped half a bell pepper and two tomatoes, shredded some sharp cheddar, reheated a can of chili, and put out the sour cream and salsa.

We also steamed about 15-20 Brussels sprouts, and baptized them in butter with a shakey-shake of salt.

My baked potato was so loaded that I was full after just one. I loved every bite of my buttery Brussels sprouts. The whole family loved this nutrient dense meal.

Favorite dinner moment: When my six-year-old peeled the leaves off a Brussels sprout to "get to the brain". We had artichokes a while ago and he loved getting to the artichoke heart. I guess Brussels sprouts have a brain!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Documentary on Poverty

I watched a documentary this week called "Waging a Living" by Roger Weisberg. If you want to see the perfect encapsulation of the poverty mentality, then watch this movie.

Poverty is not about money. It never is. Someone with a poverty mentality will be poor and stay poor, even if a million dollars landed in their lap. In America, I hesitate to even use the word poverty because we simply don't know what true poverty is.

"Waging a Living" follows four people (and their families) over a period of two years. Each of them talk about money issues, wage and income issues, welfare, and other government assistance. As you will see when you watch the movie, money is not the answer.

Question, if money isn't the answer, what is?

Hint: Pay close attention to Barbara Brooks, 36 year old woman from Freeport, NY.

Dinner: Monday, January 19

Black Bean and Red Pepper Quesadillas
Steamed Vegetables
Total Cost: $4.65

We love a good mexi-meal, and quesadillas often enter into our menu, not only because they're economical and easy, but because they are good, good, good. Or as our mexi-friends say, "bueno, bueno, bueno."

For the filling, we mixed shredded sharp cheddar with a can of black beans, half of a chopped red pepper, a little bit of red onion, and a dash of cumin. Slap that filling between two tortillas and grill it until the filling is melted and the tortillas are toasted.

Serve with salsa and natural sour cream--seriously--read the label and make sure that your sour cream is cultured cream. You may be accustomed to lo-fat sour cream with all it's thickeners and binders, but if you're going to have sour cream, make sure that you're getting the real thing, not some lab experiment gone dairy. Stay authentic and you'll be glad you did.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dinner: Sunday, January 18

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Genoa, Red Pepper and Asiago
Total Cost: $3.30

I am not a one trick pony. I'm more like a six or seven trick pony. Asiago cheese is one of my tricks. This cheese can class up any dish from buttered popcorn to ghetto spaghetti, and because it's used in small quantities, it adds a lot of punch without the swelling and bruising.

Tonight we whipped up a simple "singleness of heart" Sunday dinner. It was a pasta salad with Genoa, red peppers, some onion, some olives, and asiago. Baptized with vinaigrette.

I ended the evening by making a small batch of divine blueberry bran muffins. They were a lot more popular than the salad--I'm not gonna lie.

Dinner: Saturday, January 17

Another Amazing Chinese Dish by Josh
Total Cost: $3.75

I went out to the craft store tonight to pick up a few pieces of paper so that I could make cards to go with my chocolates. While I was gone, Josh whipped up another one of his amazing Chinese dishes. It was pork, broccoli, rice, and ginger. I think he added peanut butter as well. (We're coming up on our 10th anniversary--and you can easily see why. Josh is amazing!) We dined very well tonight.

If you look at the post "Purchases: Week Two" you won't see pork, rice, broccoli or ginger. That's because I bought other things that will be used for meals in the future. I bought the stuff for this meal weeks ago and kept it in the freezer/pantry. This week I bought the stuff to make lentil soup. The lentils are in my pantry and the sausage is in the freezer.

Lots of women plan meals this way. I bought five pounds of beef chuck this week, and there's no way that I'm even going to use one pound of beef this week--but at least I have it on hand. And I bought it when it was on sale. (Woo hoo!)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Purchases: Week Two

25 lb black beans $17
turkey sausage $1.79
french green lentils $3.39
kale $.88
*roma tomatoes $1.21
pretzels $1.69
*organic whole wheat pasta $1.29
bananas $1.70
*fresh blueberries $.88
*fuji apples $4.05
*navel oranges $1.46
brussels sprouts $1.63
*sesame sticks $1.15
*garlic bulbs $.50
*rump roast $9.37
corn meal $3.49

Dining Out
ice cream cones (2) $2.35

**GAP Size 5 Pants $3
**Old Navy Size 7 Pants $3
**Old Navy Size 10 Pants $3
**Polo Shirt Size 7 $2
**Bass leather flats $4
socks $5.44

Household Consumables
Kiss My Face Peach Lip Balm $3.50
*V05 shampoo (4@$.88) $3.52
wood glue $1.64
dishwasher detergent $6.64
Centrum chewable vitamins $5.78
glue sticks for gun $4.97
batteries $6
halogen lightbulb $6.47
nighttime Pullups $13.97

Household Non-Consumables
**Deluxe Scrabble $2
**Mad Gab $2
**Plastic giraffe, triceratops, and camel $3
fabric (for 1930 Philco radio we're restoring) $3.97
plastic containers for lunches $2.58
spatula for chocolate-making $2

*Item on sale
**Thrift store item

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dinner: Friday, Jaunary 16

Tacos del Mar
Total Cost: $4.52

With a little planning ahead this meal can be beautiful, exciting, and exotic. We didn't quite have all the things on hand (out of cilantro and lime) that I would normally want for fish tacos, but it was still a wonderful meal. Thanks, Josh! (He made this meal while I was at piano lessons with the kids.)

Here's what you need:
flour tortillas
white fish, pan fried
black beans (seasoned with cumin)
onion, tomato, lettuce
lemon or lime wedges
sour cream

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dinner: Thursday, January 15

Chinese Chicken and Cabbage Salad
Total Cost: $3

This salad/meal can go together in minutes--and make no mistake, there's nothing Chinese about it. Thinly slice a half head of cabbage, cook a chicken breast in the microwave and dice it, mix red wine vinegar, oil, sugar and salt. Toast some almonds and chop them up. Throw in a handful of raisins. Shred two carrots. Crush a couple bags of Top Ramen (I promise, this is the only recipe we make that calls for Top Ramen) and add the noodles and MSG seasoning packets. Toss it all together, set the table, leave your family and run out the door to a dinner hosted at the church for Sunday school teachers.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dinner: Wednesday, January 14

Whole Wheat Rotini with Spinach Marinara and Meatballs
Garlic Asiago Breadsticks
Total Cost: $3.60

The spinach marinara was gorgeous! I put a half package of frozen spinach into a batch of spaghetti sauce and it looked beautiful. We already had "the talk" about frozen spinach, and you're OK with it, remember? It's fast, healthy, delicious, easy, convenient, cheap, fresher than fresh spinach, and delicious. The meatballs were added to the sauce and looked great atop the rotini. I have a friend who thinks rotini pasta is for babies. Not so. I love it! Anyway, use whatever pasta you like best.

The breadsticks came from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I just drizzled olive oil, crushed some garlic and grated some Asiago on top. The dough was actually half white, half wheat.

Easy! The perfect dinner!

How To Stick to a Budget

What 's the best way to stick to your budget once you've created it? The Budget Fairy* has five helpful tips that will help you stick to your budget:
  1. Self control means putting off something you want today for something you want even more tomorrow--and sticking to a budget requires plain old, unsexy self-control. Self control means that if you put an impulse item in your cart, you should impulsively put it right back on the shelf.
  2. Print your budget. Print out a copy of your monthly budget and keep it with you. There's no way you can remember the amounts you budgeted for everything. Print it out and keep it tucked in your bra. (Or wherever you keep important stuff.)
  3. Break it down. Break down your monthly budget into a weekly budget. If your family budgeted $200 for groceries for the month, that's $50 a week.
  4. Review your budget often. It's not only helpful to do frequent budget reviews, it's also a morale booster. When I can look at our grocery budget for the month and see that we've spent half of it and we're half way through the month, that makes me happy. (Yes, in a dorky Dave Ramsey sort of way.)
  5. Save receipts. Saving receipts and then entering them into a logbook or money program on your computer is so boring. But it helps. It holds you accountable and forces you to assign each of your purchases to a budget category (which you mentally should have done before you made the purchase.) Walmart receipts are the worst because so many budget categories are on one receipt. McDonald's will always be in the dining out budget category.
Stick to your budget, and at the end of the month you'll have a great feeling--legally, that's all I can promise you. But there's also a good chance that if you stick to your budget, you'll spend less, waste less and save more. Not bad!

*The Budget Fairy, while not as sexy as the Tooth Fairy, is very cute--in a dorky Dave Ramsey sort of way.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gifts Well Below the Poverty Line

Here is a batch of hand-dipped dark chocolate orange truffles that I made today. What does this have to do with poverty? Well, I used the money from the "gifts" budget category to pay for the ingredients. Which proves, you can live well while living well below the poverty line.

I received my chocolate training from a friend/pastry chef from Oregon. She spent the weekend teaching me the secret to tempering chocolate and creating creamy risotto. In turn, I showed her my not-so-glam granola bars, which she graciously raved about.

My pastry chef friend also enjoys living a thrifty lifestyle, so we like to trade tips, recipes and financial advice. Everyone needs a thrifty friend--a friend who will meet you in the park for a simple picnic, brag about thrift store finds, and help you create a wicked good batch of dark chocolate truffles.

Poverty Question #7

"What is Poverty: A temporary condition, an accepted lifestyle, a tragedy, a natural consequence, a rite of passage, or a strong motivator?"

What are your thoughts? Is poverty different to everyone? Without using the government's poverty line for reference, what is your definition of poverty?

Please leave your comments.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dinner: Tuesday, January 13

Italian Grinders on Crusty Peasant Bread with Genoa, Red Onion and Roma Tomatoes
Side Salad with Oranges
(Tuna on Pita for the Kids)
Total Cost: $3.80

When I was a teenager I worked in a sub shop and loved every minute--even when the onions made me cry. Now that I have a different full-time job, I don't eat nearly enough sandwiches. Why? Mostly because sliced deli meat is so expensive. When I do make subs, I use Genoa salami and make Italian Grinders. Because Genoa has such a strong flavor you can use a teeny-weeny bit and it can stretch all the way down that fresh loaf of crusty peasant bread that you just made.

My only recommendation for these sandwiches is that you serve them with lots of red wine vinegar. On it. In it. Both.

My kids don't like Italian Grinders and I don't like to waste good food on people who won't eat it. (Did that sound totally rude?) I happily made a batch of tuna on pita for them. They'll come around in a few years.

Poverty Question #6

"What Does Poverty Look Like In America?"

Ragged clothing? Plasma TV? Credit Card Debt? Starving children? Two jobs? Mental Illness/Depression?

What are your thoughts? If you were to walk into a home of an individual or family living in poverty, what would you see, smell, feel, or experience?

Please leave your comments.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dinner: Monday, January 12

Chicken Pot Pie with Butter Biscuit Topping
Side Salad
Total Cost: $4.75

This is a meal I can make in my sleep. Nudge me if I dose off during this post: two cans of cream of fill-in-the-blank soup, a bag of frozen vegetables, 2 cups diced chicken (cooked), a batch of homemade biscuit dough--I know the canned biscuits are cheaper, but I'm telling you--LISTEN!-- poverty doesn't mean nasty food. (Oh boy, here she goes...)

Poverty eats well in America! Poverty doesn't choke down little microwaved TV dinners with a spork. Poverty doesn't serve Spaghettios on weeknights and Vienna Sausage for Sunday dinner. Poverty doesn't clip stupid coupons for a six pack of overpriced, overprocessed, kid-targeted snacks. Poverty thinks smart. Poverty plans ahead and shops the fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and grains. Poverty plans meals around sales. Poverty sees that beef is cheaper than chicken this week, and poverty buys beef.

Now, make a simple side salad to accompany tonight's meal of comfort food bliss. Then, place your homemade biscuit dough on top of the soup, veggies, and chicken. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. If you have cheese in the freezer, sprinkle that on top.

Poverty does that, too.

Purchases: Week One

*Applesauce $1.68
*Applesauce $1.68
*1 lb. Butter $2.00
*Dannon Plain Yogurt (32 oz) $2.00
*Large Eggs $1.29
*Large Eggs $1.29
*Gallon Milk $2.00
*Gallon Milk $2.00
*Gala Apples $5.11 (overcharged item)
*Navel Oranges $1.68 (overcharged item)
*Frozen Broccoli $1.00
Frozen Spinach $ FREE (overcharged item)
Frozen Spinach $ FREE (overcharged item)
*Chicken Leg Quarters $3.20
Whole Carrots (2lbs.) $1.29
*Green Cabbage $.94
*Cauliflower $1.91
*Celery $.99
*Butter $1.50
*Butter $1.50
Feta $4.19
Romaine Lettuce $1.49

Gifts (ingredients to make handmade chocolate truffles)
*Heavy Whipping Cream $2.69
*Hershey's Chocolate Chips $4

Auto: Gasoline:
$11.26 (8.534 gal/$1.319)

*Asterisk indicates sale item.

Poverty Question #5

"What Makes It Possible To Get Out of Poverty Without Government or Family Assistance?"

Strong Desire? Luck? Education? Discipline? Hard work? Karma?

What are your thoughts? What helps individuals and families cross over from poverty to prosperity?

Please leave your comments.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Arts: Are They Out of Reach for the Poor?

This week my children started piano lessons. Our local library offers group piano in six week sessions--for free. They also offer dance, art, pottery, acting, community theater, guitar, animation, and bookbinding.

These classes are offered through a community organization called YouthCity Artways. The classes are small, the instructors are incredible and the experiences our family has had as we've participated in these programs are phenomenal.

Exposure to the arts (dance lessons, piano lessons, or visual arts) doesn't need to be expensive. If you're interested in the arts, in whatever form you choose, make sure that the cost of the class fits within your budget.

Look in your community for programs similar to YouthCity Artways. See if your child's school offers an orchestra program or dance team. Go on family art walks through your community. Or for Pete's sake, just buy a tray of watercolors and have your child paint til the tray is empty.

Arts don't need to be expensive to be refining.

Dinner: Sunday, January 11

Greek Gyros and Salad
Total Cost: $7.25

Living well means being able to entertain guests. What's the fun of living in poverty if you have to be all alone?

Tonight we had a delightful couple over for dinner. When they asked if there was anything they could bring I suggested salad.

I prepared a large batch of whole wheat pita bread using my artisan ways, cut up three chicken breasts (seasoned with cumin, garlic, salt and olive oil), crumbled the feta, and cut up an onion. I also brought out a homemade batch of yogurt to drizzle on the gyros. We also used part of the salad, that our guests brought, to put in the gyros.

May I say one thing about yogurt? A gallon of milk costs about $2.25. That's about $.14/cup. That means that a 32 oz. homemade batch of yogurt costs about $.56 compared with the 32 oz. container of Mountain High All-Natural Yoghurt that runs about $3.50. That three dollars is going to buy me a nice slender slice of Cambozola to go with my crusty peasant bread. Soon.

Poverty Question #4

"What is Our Role in Helping Individuals and Families Get Out of Poverty?"

Volunteering? Making Small Donations? Offering Help and Encouragement? Literacy training?

What are your thoughts? What is our role in helping individuals and families get out of poverty?

Please leave your comments.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dinner: Saturday, January 10

Shrimp Stir Fry with Asian Noodles
Total Cost:$4.75

While I was with my daughter at the library, I gave my husband the task of creating something wonderful for dinner. He spend two years in Taiwan and ten weeks in Japan. He's at his best in the kitchen when he cooks anything using bottles with Chinese characters on the label.

He cooked a bag of stir fry veggies, threw in a couple handfuls of frozen shrimp, created a sauce using aforementioned bottles of Chinese mystery sauces, and added some cooked noodles.

When we sat down to eat, it was heaven. It's such a simple meal: noodles, vegetables, sauce (made with garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil.) Most of us ate with forks, but Josh at with chopsticks.

P.S. Chinese mystery sauces can be found at your local Asian market. We love to buy authentic Chinese ingredients there, including noodles, soy sauce, sesame oil, hoisin sauce,and Josh's favorite: Chinese broccoli.

How to Create a Budget for Household Non-Consumables

How much should a family plan to spend for Household Non-Consumables? You know, the stuff that you buy but don't plan on throwing away any time soon. A clock for the kids' bedroom? Sure. A new set of sheets for the master bedroom. Perhaps.

This budget category is for purchases that are going to be around for a while, so choose well. Poor-quality will end up costing more in the long run. If there is nothing to buy this month, you may want to save unspent budget money for a larger purchase next month.

(Budget for family of six- $75)

Small Appliances
hand mixer



Home Decor
picture frames


scrub brush
storage bin

bike and helmet
bike lock
train set
board games

What else should go on the list?

Poverty Question #3

"What is The Government's Role in Helping People Extricate Themselves From Poverty?"

Work Programs? Scholarships? Temporary Needs Assistance? Small Business Loans? Low Income Housing Projects?

What are your thoughts? What role should the government have in helping people to get out of poverty?

Please leave your comments.

How to Create a Budget for Household Consumables

How much does your family spend on Household Consumables? You know, things like toilet paper, toothpaste, paper towels, detergent and soap...things you use up and throw away.

When creating a budget for Household Consumables for your family budget, it helps to look at what you actually need. Toilet paper? Yes! Hair dye? Maybe Purple hair dye? Maybe not.

As you go through these categories, your family may have different needs. Be sure to factor those into your budget. Also, don't be afraid to reassess items that you may be accustomed to, but aren't necessarily "essential." Can you live without contact solution? You can if you wear your glasses. Can you live without hairspray? Try it for a week and see. Do you need batteries for your smoke alarm (yes!) or kids' toys? Hint: The toys that take batteries are usually the loud, annoying ones...

(Budget for family of six- $50)

Toiletries/Health & Beauty
diapers and wipes
toilet paper
feminine hygiene
contact solution
deodorant/baking soda
lip balm

all-purpose cleaner
trash bags

printer paper
printer cartridge/toner
mailing supplies
postage stamps

liquid dish soap
dishwasher detergent
sponges or dish cloths
paper towels
waxed paper/foil/plastic wrap

laundry detergent

What else would you add to this list of Household Consumables? What would you take off the list?

How to Tighten a Tight Budget

Oh, that we all had a family budget as tight as a dish (as watertight as a ship). Throughout this experiment in living well below the poverty line, we've had a chance to reassess our budget, check for leaks and make improvements.

After grocery shopping this week, I looked over my receipt and noticed--I'd been robbed!! Smith's Food and Drug had overcharged me on four separate items. I returned to the store and took full advantage of their company policy: "Free if the item is under $3, and $3 off regular price if it's over $3." Patched a hole! At Albertson's today, I bought a package of beef. When I returned home I opened the package to find the beef was blue on the bottom (goodbye beef!). Patched another hole!

A tight budget, like a tight ship, means that the money goes where you want it to go. There are no leaks or gaping holes. Are there places where your budget is leaking? Are there holes you can patch up? Is your budget tight? Could it be tighter?

Dining Out
Prepared Foods
Poor Quality Merchandise
Dollar Store
Infant Formula (versus nursing)
Magazine Subscriptions
Nutritional Supplements
Cable TV
Credit Card Interest
New Car
Car Payments
First Run Movies
Plastic Junk Toys
Impulse Purchases
Forgotten Expenses

Friday, January 9, 2009

Dinner: Friday, January 9

Roasted Red Pepper Chili
White Corn Tortilla Chips
Total Cost:

Note: Insert picture of be-aproned housewife stirring pot of homemade chili.

No secrets here among friends--I opened three cans of chili, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of beans and then cut up a roasted red pepper. Heck, I'll even confess about the roasted red pepper--it wasn't really roasted. If you want to roast your red pepper in the oven, it involves charring the skin and peeling off the black stuff. Sounds delicious. And I'm sure it is.

Then we put half a bag of white corn tortilla chips in the oven and heated them up. Then we served the whole mess to a crowd of restless natives. Help me Rhonda, the whole dinner disappeared in the time it took to make it.

We're going to watch a John Wayne movie tonight, so I'll probably pop a batch of popcorn and call it a night.

What did you have for dinner tonight? How much did it cost?

Poverty Question #2

"What Does It Take To Get Out Of Poverty in America?"

Luck? Government assistance? A million dollars? A college degree? Cooking skills? Budgeting skills? Grandma's inheritance? A better job? A more reliable car?

What are your thoughts? What does it take to get out of poverty in America?

Please leave your comments.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Dinner: Thursday, January 8

Polenta with Asiago-Dusted Marinara
Crusty Peasant Micro-loaf
Romaine with Vinaigrette
Total Cost: $2.95

Polenta is a simple cornmeal wedge, patty or square that somehow satisfies in a way that no semolina noodle can (no matter how al dente). For dinner we're going to make polenta and serve it in squares (since we had the wedge shape last night...) Look in any Jane-Bag-of-Doughnuts recipe book and you'll find a satisfactory recipe.

For the marinara, pop open a can of some spaghetti sauce that you have on hand. Any flavor. Just heat it. Oh, and if you have any veggies in the fridge that are ready to meet their maker, do them a favor and grant their last wish: "I want to be added to a batch of Veggie Marinara." You'll make that hairy green pepper so happy. Cut off the hair. Serve the polenta and marinara with a good dusting of Asiago (or Romano).

Now that you've balanced the universe, throw a loaf of Five Minute Artisan Bread in the oven. Since it's just for tonight you can pull off a chunk the size of a grapefruit--one pound of dough. Let it rise for 40 minutes, bake for 30 at 450 degrees. You did remember to let the bread rise while you were making the polenta and sauce, right? Good for you.

Remember the Romaine from yesterday? There's a little more left, so wash it, cut it, grate some cheese on top, and do the sprinkle-sprinkle, Amen thing with the vinaigrette.

What did you have for dinner? How much did it cost?

Poverty Question #1

"Why Do We Have Poverty in America?"

Lack of skills? Underemployment? High Cost of Living? Pride? Lack of Ambition? Family tradition? Bad luck?

What are your thoughts? Why do we have poverty in a land full of opportunity, freedom and prosperity?

Please leave your comments.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dinner: Wednesday, January 7

Bacon and Spinach Quiche with Baked Potato Crust
Romaine Salad with Roma Tomatoes and Asiago
Total Cost: $3.65

For the quiche, slice up a half pound of bacon and cook it. If you're an onion-lover, then dice up a half onion and throw it in after the bacon is mostly cooked. Defrost half a 10 oz package of frozen spinach and squeeze out the liquid. In a bowl, mix 8 eggs, a cup of milk, the drained bacon, and spinach. Pour it into the--whoops! You make the crust by shredding a couple baked potatoes (quick nuke them in the 'wave) then shred them with a cheese grater, add a little bacon grease, a few Tbs. of flour and a bit of salt, then mix lightly and press into tart pan. Phew! Now you can pour the filling into the crust and bake for about 30-35 minutes at 350.

This salad is a quick classic. Cut up some lettuce. Cut up some tomatoes. Grate some mighty powerful cheese on top (Parmesan, Asiago, or Romano--these cheeses were meant to me used in small quantities). Microbrew a batch of vinaigrette and baptize your salad.

What are you having for dinner tonight? How much did it cost?

Cost of Dinner

Pantry staples are foods most American kitchens have on hand.

Just a few examples of pantry staples are: flour, sugar, rice, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, canola oil, spices, salt and pepper. Pantry staples are depleted throughout the week through normal meal preparation. For the integrity of this project I have made four decisions regarding the preparation of food.

1. I will not rely heavily on our food storage. Our food storage contains foods that were purchased in bulk. We have long term food storage such as grains, dried milk, sugar, dried beans, and frozen meats. The foods that we use throughout the month will be foods that we purchase for this project, or are part of our basic pantry staples. I have boneless, skinless chicken in our deep freezer, but for the integrity of this project I purchased chicken quarters at $.89/lb.

2. It is assumed that a family living in poverty will have basic pantry staples. Therefore, in order to prepare a tuna sandwich during the week, I will have to purchase the canned tuna using our food budget, but not the mayonnaise or flour for bread since they are considered pantry staples.

3. The estimated cost of the pantry staple will be factored into the cost of the meal, since the pantry staple will eventually need to be replenished.

4. If a pantry staple is depleted, it will be replaced. Because pantry staples are the building blocks of the food we eat, we cannot simply "go without." Therefore, if we need flour to make bread, we will buy it with money from our grocery budget.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dinner: Tuesday, January 6

BBQ Chicken with Black Bean BBQ Sauce
Coriander Carrot Slaw
Cast Iron Sourdough Loaf
Total Cost: $6.20

The BBQ Chicken is cooked with a simple black bean BBQ sauce. Reserve some sauce for after the chicken is done cooking and spoon it over the top of the cooked chicken. To make the BBQ sauce, just drain and rinse a can of black beans and blend in the blender with two cloves garlic, a half cup of BBQ sauce, a little sugar, a little vinegar, a little water and a lotta love.

For the Coriander Carrot Slaw, shred a couple carrots along with half an apple. Add a couple Tbs. of mayonnaise, along with a couple Tbs. of sugar and a sprinkle of coriander. Add a handful of chopped walnuts. Squeeze a section of lemon over the whole dish and serve.

Again, I'm finding another use for the dough recipe found in "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day." You can throw this loaf together in under five minutes. Preheat the cast iron skillet and throw in the dough that has rested for 40 minutes. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Serve with honey and butter. And please don't slice this bread like a sissy. Rip chunks of it off and slather that butter on.

This dinner makes me beam with cowgirl pride.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Dinner: Monday, January 5

Greek Gyros served in Artisan Whole Wheat Pita brushed with Olive Oil
Total Cost: $6.80

I can get away with saying my bread is artisan because the recipe it came from is from the book "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day." So, we have artisan pita tonight. I took a dough ball about 1/4 cup and rolled it out very thinly (under 1/8 inch) on a counter dusted with flour. Each pita was cooked in a pan (don't forget to flip it!) that had a drizzle of olive oil. These divine pitas will make you curse the discs of ca-ca sold by the bagful in your grocer's deli.

Before we go further, please go to your library and check out the book "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day." It will revolutionize the way you do bread. Your family will shed tears of gratitude. (Um, maybe.)

Now, all you need for the gyros are: small patties of ground meat mixed with cumin and garlic, a sliced tomato, a sliced red onion, sliced romaine, crumbled feta, and plain yogurt. (Perhaps we'll make homemade yogurt together soon!)

Save the extra uncrumbled feta for when we do pizza. It actually lasts for a long time in the fridge.

What are you eating for dinner tonight? How much did it cost?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dinner: Sunday, January 4

Salmon Cakes on a bed of Sauteed Spinach
Cumin-Dill Oven Fries with Aioli (Garlic Mayonnaise)
Total Cost: $5.25

The salmon cakes were made with canned salmon using the recipe on the can, and the sauteed spinach was made with boxed frozen spinach. Now before you turn up your nose at this, try this: defrost the spinach in the microwave and squeeze a lot of the liquid. Saute a wee bit of garlic with some soy sauce and sugar. Add the spinach and heat gently. To class up the salmon cakes, add anything green--green onions, parsley, basil.

The Cumin-Dill Oven Fries with Aioli are a blissful retreat from traditional fast food garbage. Simply slice potatoes (any variety) pour a little oil to coat them, shake on some cumin, dill and salt. Then turn the broiler on high. Go for 15 minutes, then turn potatoes. Go another 15 minutes or so.

We classed it up with garlic mayonnaise, which was delicious with the salmon cakes as well as the oven fries.

What are you eating for dinner tonight--and how much does it cost?

Poverty Meal Plan

Our goal is to spend about $7 a day on food--to feed six people. Can it be done? Can we eat well? What's the secret to eating well on $7 a day?

Breakfast: Our plan is to have a simple low cost breakfast each morning--homemade granola and home cultured yogurt with brown sugar on top. Josh usually eats an egg sandwich (on homemade bread--and I can't wait to tell you my secret to lucious, simple artisan bread).

Lunch: The kids take their lunch to school--usually a sandwich or cheese and crackers, a cut up piece of fruit, and some nuts or cookies. Josh takes leftovers to work for lunch (bless his Scottish heart!)

Dinner: Dinner is where a bulk of our food budget will go. The cost will be between $5-$7. We have a lot of pantry staples on hand, so whatever we need for the meal, we'll buy at the beginning of the week.

I love creating in the kitchen, and it pains me greatly to spend $3.75 for a loaf of whole grain bread that I know I can make in minutes for 59 cents. If I can make it instead of buy it, I will. And as I go on this journey of poverty with you this month, I'll post as many of my favorite make-it-not-buy-it** recipes.

**When I was about seven, my mom had a cooking segment on a local TV station in Summerville, S.C. On live TV I showed the world how to make mayo from scratch using a food processor. Maybe that explains my make-it-not-buy-it tendencies.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Our Poverty Budget

Every family needs a budget.

Before we embarked on the Poverty Project we had a budget. When my husband was in grad school, we had a budget. When we were first married (and actually
were living in poverty), we had a budget.

Budgets hold you and your money accountable. Here's our budget for the Poverty Project:

Income $2,416
Mortgage $1,000
Utilities (water, gas, electric, trash) $190
Auto: Gasoline $85
Groceries $200
Dining Out $20
Clothing $50
Student Loans $135
Household Consumables $50
Household Nonconsumables $75
Household Repairs $30
Tithing (10% + $10 donation) $251
Gifts $10
Short Term Savings* $220
Internet $55
Recreation $30
Long Term Savings $15

TOTAL $2,416

*Short Term Savings is for items that we pay for yearly. The idea is to save a little each month, so that when the lump sum comes due, we have enough to pay for it. The five items in Short Term Savings are : $15 for auto licensing, $85 for car repair, $25 for Vonage phone service paid in advance, $20 for vacation fund, and $50 for insuring two vehicles.

Do you think this budget is realistic? What's in your budget?

Poverty Project

"Can a family of six live comfortably in poverty without government or family assistance?"

Our family of six is going to live below the poverty line for one month--without any kind of government or family assistance.

The catch?

We're going to try to live well below the poverty line while living well below the poverty line. We'll try to eat whole foods, have fun, purchase high quality clothing, save a little and spend a little. We budgeted for recreation and savings.

The rules for the Poverty Project:
  1. We must live on $2416 a month ($29,000 a year, for a family of six)
  2. We must pay mortgage, bills, debts and expenses from our "poverty budget"
  3. We will post the receipts for any purchases we make
  4. We will not put our children at risk in any way (We'll provide adequate clothing, food and health care)
Want to join us in this project?

Projected 2009 Poverty Guidelines

in Family or Household
48 Contiguous
States and D.C.
1 $10,730
2 14,450
3 18,170
4 21,890
5 25,610
6 29,330
7 33,050
8 36,770
For each additional
person, add