Simplicity in the Burbs: $2 a day for Lent (Introduction and an Opportunity for You)

Simplicity in the Burbs: $2 a day for Lent (Introduction and an Opportunity for You) March 8, 2011

I am picky.

I hate most foods that could be considered healthy.

In college, I ate Panda Express (Chinese fast food) for dinner almost every night and supplemented other meals with burgers and pizza.

As a child, I would sit at my Grandpa’s dinner table for hours because I refused to eat my veggies.

My most consumed meal during childhood: cereal.  Count Chocula was not just breakfast, but sometimes dinner.  And if I ran out of milk, no problem… water.

I didn’t like salad until I was at least 16.

I am not a big fan of beans because of the texture.

If I had it my way, every day would be a Chic fil a day.

And I only like three veggies (and I’m and adult!): carrots, broccoli, and bell peppers.  This is only because my wife use to hide them in my food and tricked me into liking them 🙂

I like comfort.

Not the kind of comfort that is simply contentedness, but feeling good.

In situations where I have gone on mission trips to other countries, for the sake of the Gospel I will ‘rough it’ but boy I really looked forward to the debrief day that would be spent in a hotel room.

And speaking of hotel rooms, I prefer these to camping and outdoorsy vacations because I will be guaranteed a shower whenever I feel like it.  And lets not forget the bed.  Rocks for pillows and dew on the face when you wake up under the sun at the butt crack of dawn, really, just not my thing.

I am picky.  I like comfort.

I have noticed that these two things have been challenging my theology.  I believe in a God who makes us uncomfortable and who gives us any daily bread that we may have even if it is not the bun from a number 2 at In & Out Burgers.  A God that calls us to give sacrificially.  To love unconditionally.  To have so we can give to the have nots.

To live simply.

The spiritual discipline of simplicity is one that I think will challenge my discipleship journey the most at this point in my life.  So, for Lent, I am going to seek to embrace simplicity in the Suburbs.

When I think of simplicity I think of monks and the desert fathers.  I think of the modern day new monastics.  But at this point in my life, well, I live in suburbia.  So I started thinking: How can a suburbanite like me embrace simplicity for Lent? Not only so, but can I do so in a way that raises awareness of those in our world who are forced to live “simply” because of poverty?

So here’s the plan.

My wife and I each get $2 per day that we can spend for 46 days ($92 each).  This number was chosen because even today, there is about 2.5 billion people in our world who are living on less that $2 per day according to World Bank.  My wife will be participating with the food portion of this experiment, whereas I will have a few other stipulations.


  • All food we eat
      • No accepting donations or food from friends
      • When invited to go out, I will take my own food with me, or not eat
      • When at a church event, if food is free, I will abstain from it

  • Regular Expenses
    • Any random expenses for entertainment and social life
    • All things that could be considered “extras”


  • Monthly bills — I will continue to pay my mortgage, utilities, and any recurring bill
  • Gas — Unfortunately, as much as I would like to include this, I can’t.  I commute 45 mins to school and my wife also commutes.  I will however explore alternatives when they present themselves
  • Health Care — Anything having to do with health related issues (except food) will not be included

Each day I will ask myself: How can I live more simply today? I have no idea where this question will take me and I am confident that my picky / comfortable nature will be a challenge enough to deal with on $2 a day.  But my goal will be to not leave it there, but to explore other small ways to embrace simplicity.

During the 46 days of Lent, starting this Ash Wednesday, I will have a daily journal entry that will discuss the previous day.  This will be every day, Monday through Friday.  Inspired in part by Becky Garrison’s recent article, on weekends I will be fasting from all forms of social media.

How can you get involved? Please offer insights and suggestions and well, at times encouragement.  This is not going to be easy.

Also, I want to invite you to ask the question: How can I live more simply today? And then, come back and tell me your stories.

Finally, I think that simplicity and generosity go hand in hand.  During Lent I am going to invite YOU to take action.  On this blog, I am setting up a fundraising campaign for Blood: Water Mission.  They are an organization seeking to do good in Africa by fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic and by providing clean water.  And why water?  Consider the following $2 stat:

“Almost two in three people lacking access to clean water survive on less than $2 a day, with one in three living on less than $1 a day.”

I am asking you to consider giving $2 to this cause by clicking here.  Our goal for Lent is going to be to raise $200, so this is going to have to be a group effort.  We have to spread the word so that we meet that goal!

Thanks for joining me in this journey into Simplicity in the Burbs!


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  • JasonAlanKinzel

    Thanks Kurt. This was the most challenging (personally life-changing, not theologically mind-changing, though often they are one in the same) blog you’ve posted for me. I might just do something similar. Thanks for the challenge.

    • Wow, Jason… I am glad this challenged you. It is challenging me too. Lets keep moving forward on living more like Jesus.

  • AmyS

    I have made soup out of all kinds of leftovers. Just chop up your leftovers (seriously, almost anything) and throw them into a pot of broth (something compatible with the leftovers–chicken bouillon, blendered stewed tomatoes + water, etc.).

    Food suggestions:
    split peas
    brown rice
    soy sauce
    hot sauce

    Ya. You can live on that.

  • $4/day for two people for entertainment and food is quite do-able. With enough creativity you may not feel the pinch. I was trying to calculate at dinner how much our meal cost. I made stir-fried rice with cabbage, green pepper, cucumber, tomato, onion, garlic, eggs, and brown rice. It quite nicely fed my teenage son and me with leftovers that would cover another meal for both of us. Most of my vegetables came from the quick sale rack so they were at least half the regular price.

    I’ve been living frugally for some time now. The tips I would suggest are:

    Think beans. The poor people of the world live primarily on beans and rice. Tacos out of pinto beans. Leftovers remade into enchiladas or tamale casserole. Kidneys become chili. Add macaroni and more paprika and you have goulash. Black beans make awesome tostadas. Lentils can become dhal. Serve black-eyed peas with a little ham. Split peas with a little ham make for a delicious soup. Chick peas make hummos. Navy beans are great in a vegetable soup or as Boston baked beans. Frozen baby limas, kidney beans and corn make a quick and easy succotash.

    Potatoes make an inexpensive nutritious yet filling starch. Mashed potatoes. Baked ‘fries’. Potato pancakes. Hash browns. Potato soup. Potato au gratin. Avoid pealing if possible because there is so much nutrition in the skin.

    If you can’t get quick sale fruits or vegetables, the least expensive are usually cabbage and beets. With a link or two of hot Italian sausage, an apple with the cabbage, a couple of carrots with the beets, and these can be turned into delightful meals of cabbage and sausage and borscht. Extra fennel can add more flavor without having to add more meat. The internet is a wonderful resource for coming up with new recipes for familiar foods or finding a way to fix something you haven’t tried before.

    Homemade granola is my favorite breakfast. Rolled oats, puffed rice, an apple diced, some oil and molasses (or honey) combined and slow cooked over night is my favorite. Peanuts make a great crunchy addition. It makes for a great portable snack. Sometimes I think I could live off of just granola.

    Think stone soup. If you have never read this wonderful children’s story, now would be a great time. $4 goes a long, long way with stone soup. It is a great way to use up the leftovers, and the little bits of this and that. Peal the broccoli stems, dice, and put them in your stone soup. Add a potato. One carrot. An onion. A little garlic. Some spices. Maybe some extra beans from one of your previous meals. Wa-La! A wonderful soup you can share with friends. Have them bring over Settlers Of Catan and have a great night of fun and fellowship. You won’t feel the least bit deprived.

    My husband regularly borrows free movies from the library. The library is a great source for all kinds of free entertainment with lectures, demonstrations, and family fun activities. Take along a friend’s kids; the kids will entertain you as much as the entertainment you get from the library and your friends will be much obliged. Park districts and colleges often have free entertainment and interesting lectures. I saw a hotel which had a gallery of wonderful art, all free for the looking. There are lots of wonderful free things out there, you just have to be looking for them.

    However modest your meal, celebrate it by using your china to serve it. We often think of bottled water as something special because it comes in a special package with a fancy name, but it usually isn’t anything more than tap water. Plain water served in a goblet is much more satisfying than the same water served in a plastic disposable cup. A hard boiled egg and a couple of carrot sticks could be a simple inexpensive snack. But if you took the time, you could turn those carrots and egg into a little bunny. A simple snack turned into delight. Make your wife paper flowers out of recycled colored paper. And on those days when she might be doing without, feed her a little note of your love.

    Variety is the spice of life and creativity turns the ordinary into the extraordinary. Taking the time to be thoughtful of what and how you eat, not just what you spend turns a frugal standard of living into a meaningful quality of life.

  • Nikki B.

    Cheering you on, and wishing I could gift you food a few times a week!

    For our retreat in a couple of weeks, maybe I can work it so that everyone else has to eat for under $2.00 each, at least for the meal I’m making…


    • Well, don’t feel like you have to cater to me. but if you can keep it under about a buck, then I can eat it. If not, that would be my only meal of the day 🙂

  • Fabrienne Holley

    What a great challenge! I look forward to reading about what you learn each day!

  • Anonymous

    Nice post Kurt.

    You know, now that I think about it, living on $2 a day is a great challenge (one I will not be taking on as I am a big sissy who likes food).

    Who knows Grasshopper, maybe the living poor training you had growing up will serve you well.

    Remember the way of “Food 4 Less”, “Generic”, and “Dollar Store Food Isle” .

    May these words serve you well.

    • Love the advise dad… you so funny! ahaha

  • Kurt-

    Thanks for bringing attention to this topic. I pray as you’re walking this out that opportunities would present themselves for sharing the gospel as people ask “Why are you doing this?”

    I look forward to the updates. Thanks.

    • D-ron, thanks a ton. I pray that these chances will come my way as well.

  • Wow Kurt…that is quite a challenge…I like you am not the biggest fan of many so called “healthy foods”. Even when trying to introduce healthy foods into my diet, I find myself overpaying for what I get (pre-packaged salad mix, “baby” carrots, etc.). Part of this is laziness, part of it is “fooling myself” into eating healthier by packaging good food like unhealthy food.

    For me excepting leftovers has been a big step…I have found myself at many time unreasonably picky about eating yesterday’s meal. One step I have made is to just be aware of the waste in my own life…food that spoils because I order a pizza instead of cooking for myself, etc.

    On a separate not, the Blood: Water Mission is a great charity project to donate towards. Great job…

    • Thanks for your thoughts here James! I feel you on the left overs issue as well. Have a great weekend!

  • Anonymous

    You might want to read Living More with Less – there is a new edition out with interesting commentary by current theologians.