Vas Littlecrow Wojtanowicz

WHY I'M TAKING THE CHALLENGE

I take pride in being self-sufficient and being capable of subsisting in a low-cash economy. As a forager, scavenger, hunter, gatherer and barter participant living in a part of the country where wild food and generosity is bountiful, I am able to live on less than a $1.50 a day (with most of the money going towards Internet and electricity.) However, many people do not have skills or resources necessary to make this possible. I would like to challenge others to follow in this challenge. Can you do it?

Donations

The Tarwaters donated

$20

Jenel Stelton-Holtmeier donated

$10

Vanesa Wojtanowicz donated

Leading by example time!

$20

Emily Rose donated

Much love and support from me and the furry ones, we hope you reach your goal! ^_^

$15

Someone donated

$50

Living Below the Line Aftermath

12th May 2012

Epilogue and Thank You

12th May 2012

I had hemp oil and bread with catnip tea for breakfast today. Catnip grows wild here and I love it for tea. My husband bakes amazing bread with grains that he grows. Hemp oil provides good fats and lots of omega acids. Hemp oil and bread is a regular meal here. Today’s breakfast came to a total of approximately $0.71. These beautiful truffles are going to be my first $2.00+ food item I’ve eaten all week.They arrived on the first day of the Live Below the Line challenge. Instead of yielding to temptation, I saved them for celebration. They are all the more treasured because of it. Thanks to Emily Rose and Anonymous for their donations to Malaria No More. Getting this horrible disease under control is doable, so I appreciate your support. I also would like to extend a big thanks to everyone else who cheered me on during this experiment. I learned a lot because of this experience and received many good reminders of how far I’ve come along the way. I am pleased that the donations will go towards helping people gain access to mosquito nets, education and treatment for malaria. I also hope that my experiences with foraging and living off the land have been educational to those who might need them. This was an amazing experience and I am grateful to have received the opportunity to participate via Bzzagent.

The Last Day

12th May 2012

I was so excited yesterday! I kept way below budget, so on the way to my mom's we stopped at a small discount market. I looked for some cheap chocolate, and I was totally jazzed when I saw Moon Pies, one of my favorite junk foods for $0.59 each. It was so tasty. My total for food for yesterday ended up being $1.26. Today, brought an unpleasant surprise. After eating the majority of my leftover banana pancakes and a big glass of sumac lemonade, I had to go to the hospital to rule out a stroke, tumor or hormonal problem. The right side of my body went completely numb at night for about an hour and a half and in the morning for ten minutes. The nurse at the clinic told me that this was necessary. I was diagnosed with paresthesia. The working hypothesis is that it may have been brought on by a seizure on the left hemisphere of my brain. As awful as it sounds, that was a huge relief since I get seizures every once in a while. Before my husband and I went home, my mom made us some lunch. Almost every item came from her food storage or her garden or my husband's family farm. A cup of rice of rice at $0.25 and some surullos (corn meal fritters) at about $.25 kept me incredibly satisfied. She sent us home with a few heads of bok choy and pak choy that she grew. My mom used to be an attorney, but now that she's retired she sells the things she grows at the farmers market. I ended lunch with some dehydrated kale leaves that actually made a decent substitute for chips. She works very hard on her garden, but it gives her enough food to keep her fed for the year, enough to share and enough to supplement her fixed retirement income. Mom has always been a big proponent of self-sufficiency and has been an inspiration to me during this challenge. I ended the day with an amazing treat. My husband shared a slice of an expired jelly roll with me which he bought for $2.00. I took one eight for $0.25. I shared a glass of sumac lemonade with him for $0.02. It's amazing to make my husband smile when I shared something so humble. That meant the world to me. This week has been amazing to me. It has made me so grateful for the skills and resources I have. This experience forced me to remember the lessons I learned when I was starving, and I think that is healthy. It makes me want to educate people. It makes me want to find ways to give access to healthier food to more people. I don't know how to do this, but really want to. Thank you for joining me on this journey.

A treat: An expired Moon Pie that I bought for $0.59

12th May 2012

Day 4 : Dinner

10th May 2012

I will be eating the same thing I ate yesterday for dinner. It was so delicious and I am hankering for leftovers. Instead of rhubarb compote, I might have some apple chips for dessert. They are made from apples that my husband picked at the farm for free. With sumac lemonade. This all comes to $0.15

Day 4: Breakfast and Lunch - So close, yet so far.

10th May 2012

I saw an advertising booklet for a grocery store in my mail. It had all manner of amazing specials on food. 8 ounces of cheese and 12 ounces of breakfast sausages for $0.98 each. A pound bag of frozen veggies for $0.77. Unfortunately, we only have one car that my husband uses for work. Even if I had one, I am still too disabled to drive more than twenty minutes a day. My husband and I aren't driving into Saint Cloud until Saturday. A twenty mile drive each way for cheap food doesn't seem worth it. This is a reality for people who live in isolated areas (like we do,) or worse, in food desserts. That promotion actually made me sad. I didn't mourn. I made due. I made enough banana pancakes for today and tomorrow. I omitted the baking soda and my husband added 1 cup of hand ground wheat that he grew himself to supplement the store bought white wheat that I mixed in with the sour dough starter. The pancakes were amazing. I drank 1/2 cup kefired powdered milk, and I used some of the excess kefir culture grains as a free and protein rich topping for my pancakes. They were really yummy. Everything came to $.33. I spent a good portion of the morning foraging. I found a tree with fallen brand full of baby oak leaves. I took a few for lunch. (Warning only eat baby oak leaves and only in very small amounts, as larger amounts may be toxic.) I gathered baby dandelion leaves and wild baby grape leaves for extra nutrition. I picked some rhubarb from my garden to make pseudo noodles -- they have a lovely floury texture when boiled soft. I picked some stinging nettle shoots and tops and accidentally touched a plant. As a result, I had to add a little bit of rubbing alcohol on my hands to prevent a rash. Stinging nettles are somewhat poisonous, can cause serious irritation, until they are properly cooked, and must only be eaten before flowering, but if you know what you're doing, they are mighty tasty. My mishap added $0.05 to my total expenditures. I made a soup with these potherbs using rabbit broth. My husband and I always make and freeze broth and stock out of carcasses from wild game that he hunts or salvages. It really comes in handy when I want to eat something quick. I added some adobo and sumac lemonade to temper the bitterness of the soup. I enjoyed the rest of my kefir for my drink. My forage soup came to $0.10 and I actually had leftovers, so I will count the entire cost of making the stuff for today. It was filling to the point of me being sleepy. I really enjoyed it. These two meals, plus $0.04 for cooking and my first aid expense, came to $0.52. Too bad I'm too far to get that bag of veggies. :-/

No syrup, no baking powder, but still delicious.

10th May 2012

5/10/2012 $0.10 Lunch

10th May 2012

5/10/2012 $0.33 Breakfast

10th May 2012

Perspectives From Someone Who Did Live Below the Line

10th May 2012

My almost freegan entree.

10th May 2012

I ate this potato after I peeled off the sprouts.

10th May 2012

Day 3: Dinner - Would you eat this?

10th May 2012

The things people throw away. All of these things look like delicious and chives, don't they? Venison sausage, tomato sauce, onions, chives and asparagus are foods fit for a king in this challenge. But, look closer: 1- That beautiful sausage was salvaged from a hunter who was planning going to throw it away. He felt thought that this frozen meat item was too old, six months after the hunt. I thought it looked fine. The deer used for that sausage was killed in November 2009. The sausage is severely frost bitten, so I boiled it prior to cooking in order to make it serviceable. It was amazing! I used some of the greasy water for frying the veggies. 2- The tomato sauce is a wonderful low-sodium spaghetti sauce that I found in a box next to a dumpster in the back of my friend's apartment building last year. That box had five other cans of the sauce (which do not expire until December 2012.) The box also had four 8 ounce packages of low-fat shredded Mozzarella cheese that was supposed to expire the day I found it. I froze it. I also found a loaf of whole wheat gourmet bread and a bag of bun; both a day old. There eight chicken that were going to expire that day, but I did not take it because it didn't feel cold enough to eat safely. Everything was delicious and good eating. The only flaw was that it came from a dumpster. 3- Some insect attacked the chives in my garden. As a result they had fallen and were limp by the time I had gotten to them. The didn't have mold or decay, so I called my limp chives good and used them for dinner. 4- I checked my asparagus. Two stalks were ready. One of them was absolutely perfect. It was tall, straight and beautiful. I decided to let it grow and go to seed. This is the stalk that needs to fern up and reproduce. The other stalk was infested with asparagus beetle eggs and suffered a deformity from shepherds crook damage. Had I left it standing, the eggs might have hatched into larva that would destroy the rest of the crop. I decided that a little extra protein wouldn't hurt. I chopped up the stalk, took out the woody bits and put it into the stir fry. 3- I took a slice from a spectacularly perfect and well-stored organic onion. I purchased it in the fall of last year. That added $0.12 to the meal. 4- My husband gets lots of free potatoes at his farming job. Some of the ones in our storage buckets had sprouts already. I shrugged it off, snapped the sprouting eyes and went on my cooking business as usual. I added dry basil that I grew last year to all of these ingredients. Sliced or cubed everything and cooked in in the tomato sauce. Adding $0.02 for cooking, my total came to $0.14 for the entire meal. I had rhubarb compote (without the raisins) for dessert and sumac lemonade to wash it all down to add an extra $0.02 for the meal.

Day 3: Lunch

9th May 2012

Today's lunch consisted of a frozen soup that I made using a squash that I grew and broth made from a salvaged venison bone. A sprinkle of adobo added $0.02 and a single bay leaf added a whopping $0.15. I added a half cup of cooked rice for $0.13. Sumac lemonade added $0.01. Cooking added $0.02 more cents, plus I am adding $0.02 that I forgot to tally yesterday. Between this and breakfast I had enough energy to move furniture on my own, without low-blood sugar. I have never been so anxious about the possibility of running out of bananas. This fruit, grain and protein combo has been a real lifesaver. I was also grateful for the bone from scavenged meat. My husband and I always make it a habit to make broth and stock out of leftover bones, skin and gristle. Bones for soup are a treasure that can transform random leftovers into a nourishing meal. Unfortunately, people don't necessarily know that. When people buy pre-trimmed and deboned meats, they might be economizing on work, but the "waste" could potentially be more of a benefit than the convenience a low-income family can receive in exchange for the extra expense.

Day 3: Breakfast - The Skinny Elvis Sandwich

9th May 2012

I decided to have this for breakfast again. It was filling yesterday, so I figured that I should enjoy it while there are still some bananas left. Total for breakfast: $0.47

Day 2: Dinner for a Penny

9th May 2012

Dinner consisted of bartered eggs that we got from our neighbor and potatoes that my husband grew. My husband fried it using the sample oil. I drank my penny sumac lemonade, which my husband actually tried and enjoyed it. During this experiment and from reading other blogs at Live Below the Line, I've become very aware of how access to resources or skills can make a huge difference between hunger and satisfaction. Because my husband can grow potatoes, and my neighbors need them, we are able to get eggs for protein. A woman on this site is able to feed herself and her children because she is extremely adept at couponing. People who don't have access or the skill set required to successfully forage, are already starting to suffer the ill-effects of a diet based upon simple carbohydrates and little else. Even access to water can be the difference between making hunger more tolerable and potential death.

Day 2: Lunch - Chili Revisted

8th May 2012

For lunch I ate another serving of my $0.12 chili, a spoonful of rice for about $.02 and a potato that my husband grew and picked. In severe poverty, the humble tuber can provide vital ingredients as long as it is unpeeled. The peel holds the majority of a potato's nutrients. Keeping it on could mean the difference between scurvy and health when fruits and other vegetable are not available. I drank some sumac lemonade for a penny. Add two cents for electricity. My lunch came to $0.16.

Day 2: Breakfast - The Skinny Elvis Sandwich

8th May 2012

It's not fried in bacon grease, but this peanut butter and banana sandwich is just the thing to keep a person going all morning and it's really affordable. My husband baked the bread using eggs that he bartered from the neighbor and wheat flour that he grew and ground himself. Paid ingredients and electricity brings the total price for a loaf to about a dollar. Divided by 14 slices, each comes out to $.07. So I spent a total of $0.14 for my bread. The organic bananas were not cheap at $1.26 per pound. However, Loki and I always look for smaller fruit to get the maximum number of servings. Each banana in the bunch came out to $0.16 each. We buy peanut butter in massive bulk packages of 6 lbs each. There are 80 servings in each package, at about $0.12 each. Buying in bulk and community can make a huge difference when a person is poor. When I lived in Fargo, I was lucky to connect with an artists commune within the low-cost apartment building I lived in. We were all poor, so we would often pool our resources together to feed everyone in our group. It was a great time to share meals and conversation. Now that we are well-off, my husband still enjoy the benefits of having good neighbors. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to friendly neighbors willing to pool resources, let alone a single individual to help with lowering costs. The more isolated and disconnected poor people are, the more they suffer. For drinks, I had sumac lemonade for a penny. For another penny I had hot water with a bag of an "herbal" tea that was given to me for Christmas. The tea is awful tasting and full of artificial ingredients, but beggars can't be choosers. When I was poor, I would often plan my grocery trips for sample day. Sometimes, there would be enough samples to provide me with a full lunch. I didn't care what they tasted like, as long as they were foods. Likewise, the kindness of strangers really mattered when it meant being able to have a meal for the day. As for the rest of the money. It went towards a single frozen cranberry for sumac lemonade garnish. It came from a package bought after Thanksgiving at a discount. It blows my mind that one lousy berry costs three times as much as a whole glass of delicious sumac lemonade. Total for breakfast: $0.47

5/8/2012 $0.47 Breakfast

8th May 2012

What Malaria No More is all about and why you should help.

8th May 2012

A short Africare Malaria Documentary - I had to share

8th May 2012

Below The Line Challenge: Day 1 Video Report

8th May 2012

Day 1: Dinner

8th May 2012

I was really busy doing a ton of work today. Mostly hanging and folding laundry, but a lot of other stuff as well. By the time I was done, my blood sugar was low, so I went to my food storage and snacked on some popcorn. I made it with 1/8 teaspoon of organic sunflower oil ($0.02 worth) that Loki and I bought in bulk and on sale in an old fashioned crank popcorn maker. The secret to making popcorn with so little oil is to crank like crazy. I added a pinch of salt, sugar and cinnamon for $0.01 of flavoring. I used two tablespoon of popcorn, which I initially bought in bulk earlier this year. That added $0.08 to the bill for a snack grand total of $0.11. Two hours later, I had dinner. The Jasmine rice I bought at an Asian market five years ago, $25 for a 50lbs bag. When my friends ask about starting food storage, I always suggest getting a bag of white rice. I ate a cup of cooked rice for dinner, which set me back about $0.25. It's not the healthiest stuff around, but it has a decent amount of calories, it fills you up and it keeps forever, since it's mostly simple carbohydrates. The other thing I suggest as a minimum essential for food storage is a bag of beans. They also keep for a very long time when properly stored and are full of protein. I used my beans for an amazing $0.12 chili that is one of my favorites. I make my chili in gigantic batches, and freeze them in four-serving containers. A few weeks I made a crockpot that filled four of these containers for a total of sixteen servings. This batch contained sweet corn that my husband's mother had us pick in her field at no cost that I canned with my mom's help. I grew the tomatoes and canned them myself without using plant food, fertilizers or too much water. Paid item included part of celery bunch that I bought for $.88, a spoonful of baking chocolate I back when it was cheap (the stuff keeps for years and when stored well, cocoa ages beautifully,) spices, and a tiny bit of cornmeal. Amazingly, this chili had meat -- venison to be exact. In Central Minnesota, there is a lot of hunting and many hunters that harvest more deer than they can use. Some donate the excess venison to food shelves or meat raffle fundraisers. Some hunters keep their game in the refrigerator until they grow tired of it. My husband knows one of these types of hunters. A few years ago hunter complained about his family being sick of venison and expressed his thoughts about throwing the rest of it out, my husband volunteered to take it off his hands. We ended up with 50 pounds of frozen meat that would've ended up in the landfill. Think about that: 50 pounds (800 ounces) of perfectly edible meat -- that's enough to feed someone a 2 ounce serving of premium wild game meat for over a year! My husband has gained a reputation for taking excess wild game, including frost-bitten meat and fresh road kill, so people pass it along. We've gotten sausages, canned Northern pike, trout, catfish, buffalo, rabbit, pheasant, elk, bear sausages, moose and other delicious animal proteins. We often share this bounty with friends who are in need, or family looking for something interesting to eat (with full disclosure, of course.) My husband used to hunt, but he hasn't needed to in over six years. Why kill animals needlessly when people discard them needlessly? Our freegan-inspired wild meat acquisitions have really paid off for us. In the last two years, hunting has been absolutely abysmal for everyone, because of the crazy weather is affecting wild life in adverse ways. We've received very little salvage meat in 2010, even less in 2011 and nothing this year thus far. Thankfully, our storage freezer STILL has plenty of wild game too keep us and those we love satisfied. Since my husband hasn't had to hunt at all, and we've taken it upon ourselves to take care of our ecosystem. We feed the deer any leftover apples that we might have in the fall, let our plants stand in the winter and maintain a deer-friendly grassland and wild flower area in our septic field. Our deer-friendly grassland also attracts many songbirds, woodchucks, wild turkeys and rabbits. Our deer population has grown to a small, but healthy herd of adult deer that we aim to nurture, until the sad time comes when we'll need to harvest to ensure that these majestic creatures will continue to thrive without the threat of starvation or diseases related to over population. Finally, dessert was the crowning jewel of dinner. I made a simple microwave rhubarb compote. Rhubarb has been growing in my garden for years, and it always come back. I sweetened it with as little granulated sugar as I could get away with and a pinch of cinnamon. This brought the total for this dish to one red penny. For extra deliciousness, I added a small amount of raisins. These sweet luxuries added a full $0.18 to an otherwise inexpensive dish. $0.19 were spent on this treat. Throw $.02 in for electricity and you have a $0.69 banquet. Today's total food expenditure: $1.50 on the button!

5/7/2012 $0.69 Snack and Dinner (Pictured: Chili and Rice)

8th May 2012

Day 1: Lunch

7th May 2012

My Friend, Ramen When I was poor, I used to be able to buy ramen noodles on sale at 5 packages for $0.25. It was a staple that I could afford, and every nickle I could find on the street felt like a treasure. The ramen pictured here, was purchased on sale over a decade later at $0.25 for a single package. That rate of inflation for food is crazy, but unfortunately, not atypical. Ramen is something that you eat to fill your belly, not because it's nutritious. Thankfully, ramen noodles taste better when you add veggies to it. I discovered the benefits of dandelions when I was poor. They are full of vitamins and they grow everywhere in the United States. I picked some older leaves, since those work well enough for salty soup. In my garden, I found asparagus and chives that returned from their winter slumber. To help add a special flavor to my ramen soup, I picked some baby black raspberry leaves. Yes, they are edible and when cooked the greens are pleasant to eat. The most expensive part of my lunch by weight was a single green onion. I bought the bunch of seven for $0.77. That single green onion was a total luxury at $0.11. For my beverage, I drank some ice cold sumac lemonade. All it needed was a tiny bit of sale sugar from my food storage which was probably worth less than $0.01 and frozen sumac concentrate that I made from sumac that I gathered a field next to my garden. In case you are wondering, sumac is not the same thing as poison sumac. It's full of vitamins and it tastes just like lemonade.

5/7/2012 $0.37 Lunch

7th May 2012

Day 1: Breakfast

7th May 2012

How I made my $0.44 Breakfast 1 cup Kefired Powdered Milk - Ingredient Breakdown I purchased skim powdered milk for my food storage at $11.00. This makes a total of 88 1 cup servings. The water used in the preparation of this meal came from a well. The kefir cultures were passed down from my mother at no cost. I used a recycled jar with a clean washcloth for the overnight fermentation process. Total cost $0.13 - Why kefir? My system cannot handle milk very well. Kefir helps breakdown the gluten. The sour yogurt-like flavor helps add some interest for the taste buds and the fermentation process adds extra nutritional value. I also like to eat some of the excess grains on the side for extra protein. More information http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kefir Grits with olive oil and ketchup. - Ingredient Breakdown The grits were the most expensive item at a $0.17 per prepared 1 cup serving. The water used in the preparation of this meal came from a well. The olive oil was a complimentary product. The organic ketchup was $0.07 for a half tablespoon serving.Total cost $0.24. Why grits? I eat grits now because I can afford to buy it for my food storage, however if I wanted to save a ton of money, I could switch to corn meal and make corn mush. When I was extremely poor, it was extremely easy to grab a mess of extra condiment and butter packets when a friend would take me out to a restaurant or when I bought a cheap hot dog at a convenience store. A single container of corn meal for corn must would keep me fed in the morning, and these condiments helped with calories and flavor. When I didn't have condiments, I would simply add salt. In the last several years, corn prices have soared because of demand for animal feed, government-subsidized sweeteners and government-subsidized ethanol. As a result, corn-based staples that the poor rely on such as grits, corn mush, tortillas and fry breads, face the threat of becoming too prohibitively expensive. When more people have less access to affordable corn, the possibility of mass starvation or increased hunger looms as greater threats to global stability. Food for thought: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-quick-fix-to-the-food-crisis Leftover Apple Sourdough Pancakes We once again used some of the sample olive oil, so that cost nothing. We picked excess apples from an old tree at my husband's family's farm at no cost to us, last fall. We dehydrated them in huge batches. The flour was purchased as a loss leader item at a significant item during a sale last year, so that will add another $.01 to our total. We bartered some potatoes that my husband grew for eggs that the neighbor's chickens provided. The sugar was purchased in 2006 at $.99 per five pound bag, (sugar is an item that stores indefinitely,) so the cost is less than a cent. My mother pass the sourdough to us, so our leavening could have been free. Since my husband boosted the leavening with baking soda, which also was less than a cent. We also added a pinch of salt, which again was less than a cent. Together these cheap ingredients almost raise our total by another $.01. Adding 1/4 cup of prepared powdered milk from our food storage adds $.03 to our grand total of $0.05. Why pancakes and where's the syrup? Pancakes are often an important part of people's diets in poverty situations. When I was poor, a lunch of pancakes, blini or ladkes made with potatoes and/or wheat with onions and butter, would keep me full. They were a lot of fun for a weekend breakfast too. In case you're wondering why I didn't use syrup for my pancakes, it's because maple syrup is too much of a luxury for this experiment. At an astronomical $0.87 per serving, I would've blown the majority of my food budget for the day on empty calories. The apples were plenty sweet, as far as I was concerned. However, for those individuals who prefer a sweet syrup, here is a recipe for golden syrup made with just water and sugar: http://www.ehow.com/how_6172188_make-golden-syrup.html Approximate electricity used: $0.02

5/7/2012 $0.44 Breakfast

7th May 2012