what are we getting ourselves into

So, we are about a week away from our start date. After normalizing for rent, we have about Rs. 3000/person to spend. Time to get into the hard numbers. Here’s what we think it roughly costs one person (we plan to have exact numbers in the next day or two and further do a post fact update at the end of each day):

1. Utilities
-LPG: Rs. 100
-Electricity: Rs. 100

2. Communications
-Telephone (mobile prepaid): Rs. 300
-Internet (slowest plan, with less than 10GB/month download): Rs. 300

3. Transport (buses, and the occasional ride on motorcycle that give us about 50 kmpl):Rs. 400

4. Toiletries/household supplies: Rs. 100

5. Contingency planning (if possible): Rs. 200

All that adds upto Rs. 1500. This means we have about Rs. 1500 or Rs. 50/day for food (hungry already..) and this has to generate a 2,000 calorie diet (thats 40calories/Re. 1), ideally balanced to 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat (okay, we need to stop dreaming!)

To come up with an estimate for the costs, we went to a supermarket and outdoor vegetable/fruit market (mandi) to see the prices for ourselves. While, looking through the food items, we were also trying to put our healthy hat on. (For those unfamiliar, both of us have been trying to be eat healthy, lost weight, get fitter and have done a decent jobs so far). The biggest realization was that, until now, we never really paid much attention to the costs of many items. The disconnect between two guys walking around with a four figure (that’s in dollars) camera and asking for the cheapest bathing soap wasn’t lost on the supermarket employees. When we asked one for laundry detergent, he recommended Tide, which was many times the price of Surf Ultra – our eventual choice! It was our first field trip as part of the project – we were awkward, but we survived. We interviewed some shop owners, took a ton of photos and even managed to dance with the local crowds for the Ganpati celebrations. Here are some findings from our trip:

1. Veggies are cheap. Its a fact. Seasonal vegetables are around Rs. 20/kg that can more than easily last 2 people for the whole day. Spinach @ 3 bunches for Rs. 10 is particularly cheap, nutritious and tasty!
2. Staple food is really cheap – Potato, Onions, Tomatoes, Rice etc all typically under Rs. 20/kg and Dals (pulses) at Rs. 50 a kg.
2. Meat is expensive (duh!), BUT certain local fresh water fishes can be found at decent prices (Rs. 80 for 500 gm of filet meat).
3. Healthy eating comes at a cost. Brown rice is about 3 times more expensive than the cheapest rice available.
4. But there are ways around that. Substituting Soybean (about Rs. 80/kg) could be a good solution for balancing out our protein intake.
5. When it comes to soaps, you can’t beat Lifebuoy; for washing powder, you can’t beat surf; for deodorant, the talc powder; for washing dishes, the VIM bar; and for mosquito repellants, the coil.

Good learnings from this 1st trip. We will be doing a post fact analysis of the food we eat and try to get as close to our ideal healthy diet goal, if possible, at that price point. Stay tuned for more!
PS the photos of the field trip are on Facebook
Please feel free to comment and give us suggestions!


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