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Eating on a Bangladesh budget

Save the Children sent me and four other volunteers to visit remote villages in Bangladesh as part of the ‘Build it for Babies’ appeal. One of the many things that stayed with me from the visit was just how little the villagers had to spend on food – a farm labourer can only afford 40p a day.

So with this in mind, I wanted to see what it’s like to get by with only 40p a day to spend on food.

What do I plan to eat?

The simple answer is: anything I can afford. And that’s pretty restrictive. To achieve my 2000 calories per day, I need to get at least 50 calories for penny I spend.

I had been planning a potato-based diet, but the poor crop this year has put potatoes way beyond my slim budget. So, my somewhat unappetising and far-from-balanced shopping list looks like this – all to be bought at a budget supermarket:

  • Flour (52p for 1,500g) = 106 calories per 1p
  • Rice (40p for 1,000g) = 88 calories per 1p
  • Spaghetti (24p for 500g) = 75 calories per 1p
  • Rich Tea biscuits (23p for 300g) = 58 calories per 1p
  • Sunflower oil (£1.39 for 1 litre) = 56 calories per 1p
  • Porridge oats (75p for 1kg) = 50 calories per 1p

If I eat the cheaper foods, I should have a bit left over for something fresh, but I’ll be scratching around the Autumn garden and hedgerows for anything I can eat for nothing.

I’m starting tomorrow. This could be tough!

The 40p calculation in detail…

Based on World Bank figures, the average income for Bangladesh is 700 USD per person per year. This is around $2 a day. Half of the workforce are in agriculture, but they create only 20% of GDP, hence agricultural workers will be on about 40% of the country average, i.e. 80 cents. Very poor people spend up to 75% of their income on food, which adds up to 60 cents a day – about 40p in the UK.

This ties in well with figures we were told in Bangladesh. An agricultural day labourer earns 10,000 taka per month (about £75), which for a family of four gives the same 40p figure as my World Bank calculation. Bingo!

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