A Healthy Meal for 35 Cents?!

The other day, during our averagely delicious family lunch, I asked myself: how much did it actually cost?

This is what we had:

  • Barbecued chicken
  • Barbecued eggplant slices
  • Garlic sauce
  • French fries
  • Mixed salad (tomatoes, pepper, lettuce, spring onions)

I love barbecued eggplant with garlic. If you’ve never tried it, drop everything, run out to the next supermarket and try it now. It’s amazing! Cost for two big eggplants at the market: €0.85.

The chicken was one that was raised by my parents. We use most of the parts. The feet (yes, with the toes and everything….yummy!), neck, head, back, breast, heart, liver is used for soups. We freeze those parts separately. On this occasion, we only barbecued the drumsticks and wings. According to my Dad (from whom I probably inherited the habit of tracking expenses) the cost of a chicken he raises (not counting the labour) is about €1.65. We used, let’s say 2/3 of it for this meal, so €1.10.

The garlic, everything we used for the salad, and the potatoes were basically free. I’m not counting the labour here. With my hourly rate as an (ex)consultant, this number would be funny anyway. To be fair, over my life I’ve worked very little in my parents’ garden. Luckily, I started doing it for fun and for sport and not out of necessity or because somebody made me do it. However, things were very different 15 years ago when I hated every minute in the garden. I’ve made a change and it feels good.

My work in the new office, right after Excel told me that our net worth had increased by >20K MoM

My parents don’t work in the garden out of necessity either. Even with their tiny pensions, they could easily afford to buy stuff from the market (and they do buy many things from there). They would go absolutely crazy if they didn’t have the garden. And I’m starting to understand that more and more.

But, back to our numbers.

We used some spices, olive oil, and stuff like that. Let’s assume a generous €0.20 for that.

The total cost of the meal was: €0.85+€1.10+€0.20: €2.15

Of which we ate about 66% for lunch, so all in all, the meal cost us about €1.40 for four adults and two kids. We ate the leftovers for dinner.

Since the kids ate mostly (free) potatoes, let’s divide the meal price by four only, which takes us to: 35 cents per person for a mostly organic, high-quality, delicious and healthy lunch.

This number made me think. Assuming all meals cost the same as our lunch, the monthly food bill for one person would be €0.35 x 3 x 30 = €31.50. For a family with two small kids, that would be €63 a month.That’s how a family can live off a monthly salary of €300 in Romania.

A family like that would eat much more healthily than an average family in Stuttgart, London or any other city in western Europe who buys their averagely-priced meat and veggies.

Here in rural Romania, organic food is the norm. It’s just not called organic. It’s called pepper, tomato, eggplant or simply chicken.

I’m not suggesting that everybody should move to rural Romania forever. These decisions are much more complicated…

But I still can’t not reflect on it…

During our years in Stuttgart we ate far less healthily for far more money. And healthy food is something we should all care about, I think. From this point of view, our life has improved massively.

As far as I can tell, Eastern Europe generally has a relatively poor reputation in the West. I wish that more people would come here and have a look around. See all these amazing places, taste what a tomato, chicken or pepper really tastes like (sorry Holland) and maybe even settle down for a few months or years. Hey programmers, hey online marketers, hey freelancers…I think you should have a think about this.

While many of you could earn the same money working online (or simply not working), you could enjoy nature and healthy organic food all day, every day. At the same time you could massively improve your savings rate for a while. With a net income of €3000 and monthly expenses of €700 (which would allow you to live very very nicely here), that would mean a savings rate of about 75%.

I also can’t stop dreaming of building up an international community here where we share a garden, some animals, tools, and cars while enjoying life and improve the lives of the local community too.

Who’s up for it? Can you imagine living in Romania for a bit? Why or why not?