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I went shopping Sunday. I took $7.50 in cash... no credit card safety net in case I put too much in my basket. I felt anxious about that beforehand - the potential embarrassment of not having enough money to pay for something and having to put it back. It's definitely humbling to know this is a regular occurrence for so many people. 

Shopping with just $7.50 for one week proved difficult for CEO Pierre Ferrari.
Shopping with just $7.50 for one week proved difficult for CEO Pierre Ferrari.

I thought about coupons. I never use coupons except for Ben & Jerry's, which is a $5.50 pint of ice cream... sigh. I settled on shopping at a grocery store with a discount-card program. The argument for cheap prices for low-income folks is gaining personal clarity, but on the backs of whom? It's obviously not a clear-cut situation.  

Buying healthy was a far lower priority on my mind for the week. I need calories, and protein... cheap.  So I took my $7.50 shopping to see how far I could stretch it. Meat was obviously not affordable on $1.50 a day, so I settled on the cheapest medium eggs I could find: $1.69 for a dozen (organic is over $4).  I chose brown rice, which is a bit more expensive than white rice, but more nourishing, so worth the added cost. Rice + lentils took $3.57. Two bananas, a sweet potato, some carrots and caffeine pills took the rest. 

When I described Live Below the Line to the grocery store checkout clerk, he nodded and said I'd last two days, max. He smiled and wished me luck. The bagger looked at me as if I was nuts. Billions of people live like this every day. It was a tough moment to look at my grocery basket and realize that hundreds of millions live on this every week, and millions on less. And I was only shopping for myself. 

The raw reality of the situation is so clear once you actually do it. It must be horribly painful for the poor to be in a sea of luxury and plenty; at least for some of them. It was so very disorienting to be in a store where I could not buy most things in there. How violently depressing.

Poverty is so cruel to the human spirit.

Follow Pierre as he continues this five-day journey. 


Pierre Ferrari

Pierre Ferrari is president and CEO of Heifer International. Pierre is very passionate about empowering the families and communities with whom Heifer works: “It took me decades, but I have come to know that the only way to happiness and joy is to be of service to others.” Pierre’s other joys are his wife, Kim, his two sons and two stepdaughters. In his free time he enjoys golf, squash, reading and travel.