Entries in Live below the line (4)


Lessons from living on $2 a day

This was my seventh year doing Live Below the Line – a fundraising and awareness initiative run by Oaktree Foundation to help end extreme poverty.  You live on (food and drink) $2 a day for a week … the equivalent of the poverty line in developing countries.  Though that includes transport, accommodation … everything ... for those people. 

The challenge never gets easier, but each time I am reminded of important lessons, which is one of the key parts of doing it.  

The first and most obvious is that we have so much more than some people, and you really don’t need as much food as you think you do.  I come from a family who would pile dinner plates high with delicious food and we’d happily devour every last piece of whatever was served  … then maybe a little bit of dessert afterwards.  When you’re faced with a half filled bowl of bad bland pasta, it’s amazing how you can still fill up – and not be wanting more.  Note to self; stop over indulging.  (Have I done this since?  Sort of. I’ve certainly tried.)  

The week of LBL was also a reminder about how much free food we get at work.  Cake for birthdays.  Cheese Platters on Fridays.   With wine.  Catering from clients.  Home made treats from the people who like baking.  There’s always something tasty and free up for offer.  A few people suggested I could just eat the food because I didn’t have to pay for it, but I reminded them that there’s no free food in Cambodia or PNG, so unfortunately I’d need to wait a week to enjoy their to-die-for brownies.

My job is quite social, so I probably took it for granted that so many clients want to meet over a coffee.  In the five days of Live Below the Line I was invited to four coffee meetings.  And a breakfast.  In previous years I’ve met people in cafés and just drank water but sometimes it makes them feel awkward so this year I moved the meetings to another week – or told them what I was doing and we made it an office catch up.  Now I’m back and my barista is loving me again. 

Catching up with friends over dinner is a huge part of my life too.  We love going to our favourite restaurants, enjoying a wine or seven, and swapping stories on what’s happening in our lives.  My gorgeous friend Dani was a trooper, hanging out with me one night when we went to a movie preview, turning down the complimentary wine, popcorn and choc tops to drink water with me.  My stomach grumbled a little, and I went home straight after the movie to ‘enjoy’ a bowl of bland pasta, but she never once complained.  Our catch ups usually involve cool new restaurants or piles of funky gourmet pizza.  I’m sure we’ll get back there soon. 

The one thing that wasn’t a surprise – but continues to humble me – was the generosity of my friends, family and workmates.  So many of them donated to my fundraising page – some quite large donations, along with a whole lot of people who are suffering tough times but still dug deep to help me with my fundraising goals.  I was hoping to raise $1,200 but, with the generosity of so many people, hit $2,542.08.  My first year of Live Below the Line saw me raise $400.  A stack of amazing people in my life donated to the cause – and also sent me beautiful words of love and support.  I have some fantastic people in my life.  But I already knew that. 

The thing I didn’t know was that you can lose 3kgs by stuffing your face with white home brand wheat filled pasta and bread three times a day.  So carbs are actually good for you?  I knew it. 


A hot new diet 

Tomorrow I start an amazing new diet.  Actually let’s not call it a diet – let’s call it an eating plan.  Everyone knows diets don’t work, you need to make lifestyle changes, dahling!

It’s called the $2 a day diet.  Basically, as the name says, you just live on $2 a day for food and drink, and after five days, you lose 3kg!  Amazing!  

Obviously on $2 a day there’s no alcohol, so it’s an instant detox for your liver as well.  You can’t drink coffee – or afford cheese or yoghurt – so it’s dairy free.  Also meat and eggs are too expensive so it’s good for vegans.  If you’re anaphylactic this is also the diet for you, as there’s no way $2 is stretching to nuts. 

There are lot of carbs and no protein, but that’s okay because you burn up all your energy by explaining to people what you’re doing and why.   Before you know it, the week is over and you’ve shed 3kgs … and you even have a flat stomach like those poor people in third world countries who don’t have enough to eat.

Best diet plan ever.

Best marketing campaign ever.   Be skinny and save cash.    Win.  Win.

Here’s the thing.  I am actually living on $2 a day this week, but it’s not to lose weight (though that’s a nice byproduct).  I’m doing it to raise funds and awareness for people living in extreme poverty.

It’s called Live Below the Line – and is based on the concept that the poverty line in third world and developing countries is just $2 a day.  For everything.  Food, water (often not clean), transport and shelter.  The challenge I’m taking covers $2 for food and drink, which in itself is hard.  I can still drive myself to work, but when I get there, there’s no snacking from the vending machine. 

I did my ‘big’ shop today, buying five days worth of food for $10. I had no idea I was such a bargain hunter.  I usually just buy the brands I want, not even checking the price.  Not today. 

I headed to Aldi (the only time I ever go and wonder why) where I secured home brand bread (as thin as a piece of paper), white pasta (my gluten sensitive stomach will love that), a tin of tomatoes and a bag of tomatoes.   A little fossicking at the chaotic Chinese grocer down the street uncovered two skinny sweet potatoes, four mushrooms, a tiny piece of pumpkin (this may become soup) and a bag of carrots (snacks). 

That’s it.  Ten days.  15 meals.   Done.  

There’ll be no lazy egg and latte breakfast for me.  It’ll be thinly slice tomato on thinly sliced bread.  Lunch won’t be a fresh salad filled with kale and fancy stuff.  It will be bland, flavourless tomato based pasta.  Oh and guess what?  Dinner will be the same.  No uber cool restaurant visits for me this week.  Don’t expect my Instagram account to be filled with my usual food porn.  Look out for the same bowl of pasta posted eight times.  Count em.  Eight. 

Feel sorry for me?  Don’t.  It’s only a week and I’ll be fine.  It’s not a lot of fun, but when you remember that there are over 1 billion people living in extreme poverty – who barely eat that much every day – you realise that whinging about tasteless food makes you sound a little bit pathetic.  

Besides, I’m going to lose 3kgs.   Jealous much?


Wanna donate to me?

I'm sure I read somewhere that generosity helps you to lose weight ..... 




Change the world ... 


My friend Hugh is one of the most amazing, inspirational people I have ever met.  Since he was a child, he has made it his mission to end extreme poverty, dedicating his life to this cause.  As a teenager he started a volunteer organization, Oaktree Foundation, run entirely by youth. When you hit 26, you have to leave, which means the staff, energy and ideas are always fresh.  Even though he started the initiative, he also had to move on when he hit that age – and now his projects are even bigger and better than anyone ever dreamed.

Global Poverty Project was launched in three different countries and has offices in London, New York and Melbourne.   Their message is simple – each and every one of us can get involved to help end extreme poverty.  Give our time in lobbying politicians or volunteering at different organisations – donating cash – buying Fairtrade products and making decisions globally, not just locally.   Their website has a stack of ways we can all get involved.  Check it out at

Whenever I catch up with Hugh I get inspired.  To do more.  To be a better person.  To make a difference.  I do a bit of charity work, but he does stuff that is huge.  His projects are game changers.   He and teams all around the world are slowly eradicating extreme poverty.   When I first met Hugh a few years ago, there were 1.6 billion people living on less than $2 a day.   Now it’s at 1.4 billion.  Sure, that’s still a massive amount of people and feels like an overwhelming number for us to fix, however if we can help two hundred million people out of extreme poverty within a few years, surely there’s a day when we can eradicate it for good?  It’s a big plan but it seems possible.

They recently launched Global Citizen and have been putting on concerts across the world with artists like John Mayer, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder … and giving away tickets to gigs by Katy Perry and other global artists. I swear that Hugh knows anybody worth knowing.  One of his closest friends is Hugh Jackman. Yes, the Hugh Jackman.  He’s helped make contacts and opened doors to build amazing new projects and advocacy programs across the world.  A good day in the office for me is leaving with my inbox empty and no one in sales hating me.  For the GPP team, it’s a meeting with someone from the World Bank or a huge donation to a campaign to eradicate polio – another success.

One of my favourite projects that Hugh’s team (Evans, not Jackman) and Oaktree run is Live Below the Line.  In essence, you live on just $2 a day for a whole week – which is the average amount of money most people living below the poverty line have to spend a day.  Total.  Just $2 to cover living expenses … food, shelter, transport, clothing … everything.

Live Below the Line encourages participants to spend $2 a day on food as we still have to work / study – and of course, we’re fortunate enough to have a roof over our heads, with running water and power.  The concept however is the same and it’s very powerful.  When you only have a few dollars to buy all your food and drink for a whole day, it hits home how intense extreme poverty is … and I have clean water that comes out of my tap, so it’s not that tough for me to do this challenge for a week.  It’s a massive reality check. 

One of the hardest things is the lack of choice in food. Shopping for a week of ingredients with just $10 doesn’t give you a lot of options … and don’t be thinking you’ll still be able to enjoy a glass of wine or skinny latte.  Those pleasures are nowhere in sight – not even if well meaning friends offer to buy them for you.  Flavour, choice, variety and fun stuff is off the menu for Live Below the Line.  But hey, it’s only a week – some people live in extreme poverty their whole lives. 

I’ll be doing Live Below the Line in early May. If you’d like an interesting challenge, I’d love you to join me. Sharing is caring. If you don’t think you can live without good coffee, chocolate or pizza, maybe you’d be willing to make a donation so I can smash my $1,000 fundraising target.  Donate here:

I feel blessed that I met Hugh and he inspired me to do something to make a difference.  I may not be building organizations that mobilise millions of people for a worthwhile cause, but I’m proud to be one of those people doing what I can, in my own way. 

Last year two friends signed up to do Live Below the Line because they said I inspired them to get involved. That’s one of the best things anyone could say to me. Humbling. Imagine if each and every one of us was passionate about making a difference and encouraged others to do the same.  How amazing would the world be? 


$2 a day for food - wtf? 


I’m living on $2 a day.   When I tell people this, they assume I’ve run out of money two weeks from payday and I’m living on noodles like a Uni student.

I’m actually doing this by choice – for charity.  

It’s called Live Below the Line and is designed to raise awareness for people living in extreme poverty across the world through Oaktree Foundation and Global Poverty Project.   The average person in a third world country in extreme poverty lives on less than $2 a day.  For everything.  Food, shelter, amenities – everything.  I’m just covering food with my $2.

You’d be surprised how far $2 a day goes (or not) …  here’s what I’m eating every day:

-       Breakfast:  two pieces of toast with sliced tomato

-       One black coffee

-       Lunch: White homebrand pasta with flavourless tomato sauce (69 cents – bargain)

-       One carrot to snack on all day (cut into pieces)

-       Dinner:  fried egg and veggie sandwich (either zucchini, mushroom or sweet potato) 

Today is day three and it was hard.  Really hard.  I’ve done this challenge before – this is my fourth year and I stupidly thought it would get easier.   Today I feel like it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I woke up feeling fuzzy and exhausted.  For the first time in ages I got nearly 8 hours sleep, but felt as if I’d had only three.   I had hardly any energy.  Even after breakfast, I was still wandering around the house like the living dead.  

All day, people walked into my office and offered me food or asked if I wanted a coffee.  They’d see the look on my face, realise what they’d said and apologise profusely.   It’s fine – I think they feel worse about it than I do.   Except for Skinny Bitch who finds new ways to taunt me daily including texting me from her favourite restaurant to say “Hey, this wine is really good.  You should try eating too – it’s amazing!”   Hilarious. That’s why she’s called Skinny BITCH.

After a gentle session of personal training I’m now feeling better, but there’s an ongoing feeling of hunger in my belly.   My whole life I’ve gone to bed feeling satiated and full.   Not this week.   I wake up feeling the same.  The hunger is constant.

My social life is suffering.  I had to move a stack of work meetings because everyone wanted to do brunch or coffee.  Last night we farewelled Champagne Kezza’s hubby who is off to the US for three weeks (lucky bugger).  Our regular Steak & Tofu Night became Glass of Tap Water at the Pub night for me.  I got there late so I didn’t kill the party.     

Merman invited me to a funky new Japanese bar I love on Friday night.  I had to decline his offer of free cocktails, canapés and sushi.  I have a date with an egg sandwich.   Hello Friday Night Sads. 

I have found a funny side to this.   In a weird way.   Asha the cat’s food smells amazing.   I haven’t eaten meat for years, but when I plated up her turkey breast in gravy, I was beside myself.  Never have my nostrils danced as they did when they got a whiff of her dinner.    Lucky I’m not a cheat. 

Live Below the Line has me assessing how I feel about food and made think I could actually live more simply.  If I can live on $10 of food for a week all the time, imagine how much money I’d save.  The weight would drop off me too.  Not that what I’m eating is very nutritious or fueling my body, but there’s definitely merit in less food and a simpler life.

This challenge is hard.  I’m bored eating the same food every day.   Most of it has no flavour as herbs didn’t fit into my budget.  I have to forward plan every meal.  People don’t invite me out because I can’t drink – or eat.  I miss skinny lattes.   I feel vague, fuzzy and a bit dizzy.  I have no energy. My stomach is bloated from too many bad carbs.  I feel like crap and I’m hungry all the time.  

I only have to eat like this for a week.  There are 1.2 billion people who live like this every day.   How shit is that?    Reality check.