At this point you’re probably noticing a trend with me for right now…that’s right, I’m going to talk about my challenge/assignment. So a bit of background information about me and why this is important to me and why I feel like I must share it with you. I grew up in Australia, I emigrated here with my mother who raised me as a single parent. Like most small kids, I never really noticed exactly how much my mom went through to put food on the table, clothes on my back and keep me happy. Now that I’m an adult, I’m starting to have an idea, I don’t think I’d ever be able to fully comprehend how hard it was for her simply because I know that it will never be that hard for me. I was able to receive all my formal education in Australia and so even if I were to migrate, finding a job would be easier, technological advancements make shopping, living, everything easier. I remember the old days of dial up internet, the next generation probably won’t know what a modem is or the distinct dial-up tone it made. Life for everyone at this point in time is better than a hundred years ago with the advancement of medicine and technology.
The point of the assignment is to teach empathy, empathy for those who are unable to afford the basic necessities, empathy that most just don’t really understand. I say most, but I include myself in that statement “we can’t truly understand anything that we ourselves haven’t experienced” however that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try. I used to think that people who struggled with their diet just weren’t motivated, but now I see that while it’s true for some, it isn’t the case for all, the fact of the matter is eating healthy is expensive and time consuming depending on where you live and sometimes just to be able to afford the basics to live, you have to compromise with your diet. As a university student who isn’t working and isn’t living at home, I’m kind of an expert now on how to save money, well as much of an expert as every other university student in the same position.
I save money by buying in bulk, love buying in bulk, just love the word bulk in general, I usually buy enough groceries to last 8 days. Now before you get the wrong idea about me and think “Hey, you shouldn’t have a problem with the challenge if you know how to save”, you should hear the rest of the facts. I have a loving family that helps me, which basically means that I can always ensure that I eat well and healthy regardless of the cost. I don’t have to survive on instant ramen and I am able to easily travel to and from my university. My current idea of budgeting is essentially buying everything on sale and giving up biscuits and popcorn….. Even with those drastic measures (you don’t know how addicted to biscuits and popcorn I was) my budget is still drastically over $70AUD per week or $10AUD per day.
As my name suggests, I’m from Sierra Leone, most of my family is still over there and the quality of their lives is vastly different from mine in Australia and I don’t mean different as in like the UNICEF commercials (not all African’s live like they’ve come out of those commercials), but the cost of living and wage is vastly lower than here in Australia, so the idea that I can make a wonderful diet plan that is doable on less than $10AUD is kind of a dream. Even outside of Africa, I have friends both here and overseas who could greatly benefit from such nutrition advice. Actually everyone and anyone who wants to save and be healthy would benefit.
Now the first step is identifying what I currently spend my money on in order of biggest expense: Food, Transport, study supplements (drinks that keep you up all night). Focussing only on food, I’m able to indulge in my own home cooking when I have time and takeout (meals that cost $10 AUD roughly). Realistically up until this point in time, If a meal cost me $10-20 per person, I’d think of it as cheap and affordable; now I think of those meals as a needless expense. We have a vegetable garden at home which is where I can get delicious fresh vegetables and herbs, so that actually lets me save at the supermarket because of what was previously spent on landscaping and frequent gardening. It should also be said that nutritional supplements are one of the things that I take frequently because lets face it, our nutrition wanes when we’re busy and we need all the help we can get.
Without the cheat (yes, gardens count as cheats if not everyone has one), I currently spend on average roughly $100 AUD a week on food and drinks (includes supplements because you technically have to eat them), that number is for when I’m in study mode and have to budget. The rest of the time I spend around $150 AUD – $200 AUD a week when I’m working and have the time and money to go out and sample new restaurants, café’s and buy better quality food from the supermarket. As you can already begin to see I’ll have to make drastic changes. When I first told my family about it, they laughed because I’m kind of spoiled. Not in the way where I get to go to Paris just to shop every season (I wish), but in the way where I can afford to buy at least one dessert after every meal. We probably don’t think about it, but a lot of people can’t actually afford to take advantage of the “Tea + Cake” special at the coffee shop.
The more that I’ve been thinking about it, the more I’ve felt a deep appreciation for my mom and all the other people out there who make it work. I may not have always been able to have a slice of cake and I know now that there were times in the early stages where she worried about keeping me healthy and safe. But she never let me see how hard she worked, she’d treat me when she could. I know that one of the most important things for any parent is being able to give your kids the kind of life you never had and often that’s hard when you have to worry about money and somehow know how to save at the supermarket, make balanced meals and come under budget, just so you can possibly give them a treat afterschool. The things you need to do to keep up appearances, so no-one knows how much you’re really struggling.
I have a deep appreciation for you who try hard to be healthy and take care of yourselves and your families because it isn’t easy. Even If other people don’t say it, because they don’t know how hard you work just to get by, I’ll say it. You are incredible, you always find a way to do so much with so little, and If I can learn to be more like you, even just a little, I know that I’ll be a better person for it. So don’t lose heart when it’s tough and don’t give up because you feel underappreciated and inadequate because you are truly amazing.
(some of the things that I like to eat in a normal week, some of which I make myself)