Diary: The $10/Day Food Challenge for East Africa

This diary relates to my previous post.

I’m costing what I eat each day, including meals I make for my son, to see if we can live on $10 a day for all food and drink, (including alcohol – !). At the end of the week I will donate the balance between what I’ve lived on and what I budgeted for.

I hope to also demonstrate that you can eat nutritious and decent food on a small budget.

The costings are my rough estimates. I am costing all meals even where I have used ingredients I had already purchased, or food acquired at no cost – eg food given to me by friends, or eaten at work or other functions. The amount costed for each meal represents only what was consumed at that meal, not the total cost of making the dish.

Anyone can take up this challenge at any time that suits them.



Although on most days I went a little over my target, I felt really pleased overall with how I did. The point of the task that I set is to make the daily amount a goal – if you go a little over, it’s not failure. Look at it as a realisation of the difference in our lives, where $10 (or whatever amount you have chosen) seems so little, yet for so many it is a significant amount of money. Think about how you’ve begun to appreciate things differently. Take what you’ve learnt about living on less and try and apply it to daily life beyond the challenge. That’s what I’ve tried to do.

All up, my total for the 7 days came to nearly $77. My typical household budget is pretty frugal to start with, but if I factor in the occasional coffee, glass of wine out, or a takeaway Asian or sushi that I might have normally had in a week, a typical week’s food budget would have been about $130. So I’ll be donating the difference.

Things that were hard: trying to come up with meals that were cheap but diverse. If I do it again, I will put more planning into it. I was sick of lentils by the end of the week – and I love lentils! Also, if I’d had a social engagement during the week it would have been a blowout. If you are going to do the challenge and this happens to you, extend it by one more day to compensate. There is no point doing this and beating yourself up over it, or making it impossible to try and stick to.

Things I am proud of: realising we could have fish and chips, and pizza, for under $10 a day. It really is possible, and in fact, the fast food you make at home is not only cheaper, it’s so much better!


Breakfast: Boiled eggs, toast, an orange $2

Lunch: Cheese toasties, fruit bun $1.20

Afternoon tea: apple 70c

Dinner: Homemade pizza with fresh ricotta and roast broccoli – $3; bottle of Aldi Shiraz/Merlot $2.50

Total: $9.40

Comment: How on earth do takeaway pizza places manage to stuff it up so badly? And why do people buy it? Homemade pizza is just so much better and a fraction of the cost. I bought some fresh ricotta at La Latteria on Elgin Street in Carlton – they make it on the premises – and it was utterly divine with the roast broccoli. To make your own tomato sauce – saute an onion until golden, add the garlic, some herbs such as basil, sage or oregano, two tins of diced tomatoes and salt & pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes, puree. Freeze what you don’t use.


Breakfast – Cereal and strawberries, toast, tea $1.80

Morning tea: fruit bun 30c

Lunch: Leftover spaghetti (my son); burek from the Queen Vic Market (me) $3.30

Dinner: Beer battered leatherjacket, roasted bintje potato chips, roast broccoli $5.50

Total: $10.90

Comment:  Three cheers for the Queen Vic Market, where I was able to pick up broccoli for $2/kilo, really cheap bintje potatoes, and leatherjacket for $6.80/kilo. I felt triumphant making fish n chips for $5 for two serves, although I had to fillet my own fish to do it.  Leatherjacket is an affordable and sustainable fish – get on it. I went over my limit with my burek purchase, but I can’t resist them, and at $2.50 they are best value lunch you can get.


Breakfast: Coffee & toast – 80c

Morning tea: Fruit buns – 60c

Lunch: Lentil & vegetable soup $1

Afternoon tea: Lemon slice, apple $1

Dinner: Spaghetti with bolognaise & spinach sauce pulled out of the freezer (my son), aglio e olio (me); a few glasses of wine $13.70

Total: $17.10

Comment: So sick of lentils rice and beans! The spaghetti was a welcome change. Bit of a blowout with the wine, but a friend dropped round and it had been a tough day. Also I’m realising that other than the soup, we’ve been very light on fresh vegies. Must fix that tomorrow.


Breakfast: Porridge with blueberries, milk, and honey; cup of tea $1.40

Morning tea: homemade fruit buns (1 each) – 60 c

Lunch: salad of brown rice, tuna, tinned beans, herbs, 1 small child’s yoghurt, piece of dark chocolate – $3.80

Afternoon tea: half an orange, crackers, cheese and olives. $1.70

Dinner: lentil & vegetable soup. $2

Total: $9.60

Comment: A bit groundhog dayish, but it’s been a busy working week and I need to use up the soup and rice, and I’ve stayed within budget.


Breakfast: cereal, toast and 1 boiled egg (my son), cup of coffee (me) $1.80

Morning tea: homemade fruit buns (1 each) – 60 c

Lunch: salad of brown rice, tuna, tinned beans, herbs, egg and olive (both of us), 1 small child’s yoghurt  – $4.20

Afternoon tea: half an orange; 3 wholewheat crackers; small piece of dark chocolate $1.20

Dinner: lentil & vegetable soup; leftover chicken, broccoli & rice noodle stir fry; another fruit bun. $2.80

Total: $10.60

Comment: Making a batch of fruit buns on Monday night (left overnight to rise, baked on Tuesday morning in 20 minutes while getting ready for school/work) was a great cost saver. Buying them anywhere else is around $1-$2 per bun but you can make them for about 30c a piece (and they are soooo good!). The brown rice and nicoise tuna salad tossed with mayonnaise was healthy and delicious, although my son didn’t have the olives in his. Lentil soup for dinner topped off a healthy day’s eating. I could have left out a few ingredients in the salad and kept under budget, but I’m happy with our efforts today.


Breakfast: Porridge made with frozen blueberries, honey & milk; cup of coffee. $1.50

Morning tea: Apple 80 c

Lunch: White bean & vegetable soup (frozen leftovers); piece of lemon slice (thanks Karen!). $3

Pre dinner: Crackers, cheese and olives. $1.50

Dinner: Rice noodle, chicken & broccoli stir fry (using leftover chicken from soup); lentil & veg soup with cavalo nero $4

Total: $10.80

Comment:  I went a bit over today because I didn’t make it to the Vic Market to get fresh food on Sunday. But
 I made a big pot of my lentil & vegetable soup with the last of the vegetables I had in the fridge tonight. It will keep me going for the next few days, plus it’s delicious and extremely nutritious. Lentils are high in soluble fibre and protein, and low in fat. And cavalo nero is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat.


Breakfast: Porridge made with frozen blueberries, honey & milk; cup of tea. $1

Lunch: Chicken and avocado sandwich on multigrain bread; cup of coffee. $3.50

Dinner: Leftover chicken noodle soup and leftover lentil shepherd’s pie. $4

Total: $8.50

Comment: So far so good. Oats are a great cheap breakfast and are fantastically healthy (a low GI carbohydrate that lowers cholesterol). When you combine them with a few blueberries, they make a powerhouse of a start to your day. I haven’t had to cook yet as I’ve had enough leftovers in the fridge.


2 thoughts on “Diary: The $10/Day Food Challenge for East Africa

  1. amelia September 27, 2011 at 10:20 am Reply

    Nice effort. Did you find you had to forgo fresh veggies to keep under budget? and how was the Aldi vino??

    • theabbotsfordkitchen September 27, 2011 at 10:34 am Reply

      Thanks Amelia. I bought good cheap veggies from shed a and b at queen Vic market, so I didn’t go without although wasn’t necessarily able to buy what I might have wanted. The $2.50 aldi Shiraz.. You wouldn’t take it to a dinner party but it’s perfectly fine for home quaffing. Hot tip: it will improve with a few hours’ decanting. 🙂

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