South of the Poverty Line: Eating Better

Are you a newbie to poverty? A recent migrant to redundancy? A casualty of the recession?

Welcome to South of the Poverty Line! It might be a bummer that you’re here but its not the end of the world. In fact, it might be the beginning of a meaningful journey. It has been that for our family of 7. We have learned that you can still party when you’re poor. But you have to be smart and intentional, especially about what happens in your kitchen.

Here’s 5 ways to EAT BETTER when you’re south of the poverty line:

1. Make a big deal about drinking tea


All around the world, people who live in poverty love to drink tea and they make a big deal about it. You should also. Don’t spoil your tea ritual by warming a Lipton tea bag in a microwave [YUK!] THATS NOT TEA – ITS JUST BROWN WATER! Boil the water and make a pot. Enjoy it with friends. Tea only costs you a few cents a cup so you might as well buy the good stuff.

Tea drinking is more about ritual than consumption, esp. with Moroccan tea.

Same goes for coffee. Starbucks is a luxury and should not be a habit but you can make great coffee at home. Invest in the stuff to make it and buy good beans. Btw, talking about drinks, coke is a luxury, when you live south of the poverty line, not a necessity. Growing up, we would have a bottle of Coke or Fanta once a week for the whole family. And if you live in the same city for a long time, stop buying bottled water to drink and start drinking what’s on tap. Your body will get used to it and your pocketbook will thank you. And if you don’t like the water, DRINK TEA! Most of the world already does.

2. Learn to love your kitchen

You simply cannot live well under the poverty line and not know how to cook. Now’s a good time to learn. Learn to love your kitchen, your kitchen tools, your ingredients. Check out the charity shops for great pots and pans and sharp knives and a big cutting board. If you love cooking, you will go out to eat less often at restaurants and that will save you GIANT DOLLARS.

3. Cook slower and enjoy it more.

If you make some extra time to cook, you will enjoy the cooking more, save more money, eat less and better, and you will probably lose some weight rather than gain it. Investing more time means you can cook tougher and larger cuts of meat which not only cost less than sausages and steaks but are also some of the best tasting cuts of meat. You probably will not need your microwave anymore. We threw ours out years ago. And you will never need to buy those horrible microwavable meals ever again. You will also stop buying those preservative-laden pasta sauces and start making your own with real tomatoes. Slow food is good food and it will save you money.

4. Buy better meat


Unless you are vegan or vegetarian you will need to buy meat. I suggest you buy better meat but less of it. Better meat does not necessarily mean that big T-bone steak but it does mean organic, well- treated, well-fed, well-aged. If you buy rubbish meat, you will be craving meat again the next day. Buying quality meat only gets you half as much for the same price, but it will satisfy you! You will have a magical meat moment and that will do you for a few days or longer. Eat pasta the following day. Or a salad. Because it is less, you will need to be creative in how you cook it. Learn to make stews, goulashes, curries and dishes where the meat is cut up and distributed into the group pot or platter of food (see 5).

If you have a big freezer, talk to a farmer about buying a side of beef or a whole lamb or a pig. Learn to cook the various cuts. You can make it last a year and you will have some big beautiful cuts for Christmas (like that rib roast in the picture) or special occasions.

5. Make a feast for the eyes

Many people eat too much, even though they are poor. Sometimes they eat too much because they are poor. When you cook for your family or friends, make a beautiful feast and present it well on a large platter but NOT for each plate. Invite everyone to take from the platter. Many cultures do this. We learned it in North Africa and have been doing it ever since. Once I fed two large families with a single chicken and there was leftovers. The secret is to display it well to the group and let everyone feel like they are at a banquet. Make a feast for the eyes, not the stomach.

Living south of the poverty line might not be everyone’s first choice but you can still choose to party if you want to.

What have you learned that has helped you save money and eat better at the same time?

Related on TSK: The Fatkins Diet, Grace to Ewe: Our cruelty-free diet, making your own pizza.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Andrew – this goes back to your earlier thread in 2008 re the end of the Christian conference carnival. But it’s amazing how little it can cost to get together if you aren’t staying in hotels or paying some author/speaker a small fortune to give you his prepared talk. Along those lines, instead of going out to a restaurant, having picnics and potlucks really cuts down the bill. I’ve also had some killer homemade beer and wine but I’m not sure how much savings are made her given the costs to set up a home brewing or winemaking facility.

  • Andrew says:

    Hi Becky. I have also done my share of both brewing and a little of winemaking – i would say the beer brewing saved me money but the winemaking didnt
    actually, my philosophy of buying wine is the same as buying meat:
    pay more and get better quality but consume less.

  • Jason says:

    We have been slowly working on the very things you mention here. Good points all around.

  • Joanna says:

    How about growing your own. You can grow quite exotic vegetables that cost a fortune, sometimes quite easily – depending on where you live. Here in Latvia we grow peppers, tomatoes, french beans, runner beans, borlotti beans, asparagus (only the first year from seed, so two more years before we eat it but its growing well), spinach, swiss chard, beetroot, carrots, spring onions, chillis, kale, herbs of many different kinds and the list goes on. So if we can do it with our short season, I am sure others can do the same, even in pots in the garden. While your at it, share the produce, we have had free apples, goat meat, honey, cheese, chickens and I have given away tomatoes, chutneys and other things too.

  • Mike R says:

    I’d really recommend a great cookbook: Economy Gastronomy. It’s about making one big meal and then re-using what you’ve already cooked to get more meals out of it which you can freeze – plus it gives you the extra recipes to make with it – Like making a roast dinner and using the leftovers for sandwiches, risottos, etc… I’d really recommend it. Certainly helped us.

  • Tyler Priest says:

    To echo Mike R’s comments, I cut corners by cooking really big one-pot dishes and then freeze the leftovers in meal-sized plastic containers. Also, going vegetarian has helped our pocketbooks pretty well (although we never turn down someone else’s offer to eat meat!). I’ve started getting into foraging for wild local foods as well. I’ve been enjoying muscadines and wild purple-spored puffers here in Alabama lately. Excited to learn more about foraging for wild foods and dumpster diving as well.
    And brewing my own beer has proven very inexpensive (once start-up costs are covered). I’m homebrewing craft beer (saisons, porters, all kinds of ales) cheaper than I can buy PBR.

  • Caedmon says:

    Your comment about buying quality meat goes for everything else we eat. Quality ingredients are nutrient packed and our bodies can tell the difference. When we eat packaged, prepared foods, we have to keep eating more because we filled our bellies, but didn’t get the nutrients our bodies needed. When we eat quality, whole foods, it takes far less of it to give our bodies what we need.

  • Linda says:

    I would thoroughly recommend this book
    and this one Her recipes are made with items you will find in most kitchens

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