Balance on a Shoestring

Enrich Hong Kong

This week I have been participating in a challenge called Balance on a Shoestring in support of a Hong Kong organization called Enrich.

Enrich provides financial literacy training and empowerment programs for migrant women working in Hong Kong.
These women are largely working as domestic helpers, earning a salary of HK$4,110 (530 USD) per month with a food allowance of HK$964 (124 USD) per month. On average domestic helpers send 50% of their salaries home to their families, which leaves them with just HK$83 (10 USD) a day to spend. Many domestic helpers are also heavily in debt due to illegal and costly employment agency fees.
Enrich empowers migrant women to take control of their finances and many of the past program participants are able to move back home, be reunited with their families and open their own businesses.
Balance on a Shoestring challenges participants to live on the same HK$83 a day as a typical domestic helper. The challenge has been running for 5 days from March 23-27 (see my blog post on the Enrich site about Day 1 of the challenge)
My coworkers and I have formed a team to participate and have been fundraising for Enrich throughout the challenge. You can show your support and sponsor us by using the Just Giving page here —
We are nearly done with the week but the challenge hasn’t been an easy process so far. It’s been much more challenging than I had expected. Meals that I used to think of as “cheap” would now blow my budget and I find myself dreaming of food constantly. Eating out is not a reasonable option since even the cheapest meals at fast food joints still cost more than cooking at home.
So how do you live and feed yourself on just HK$83 a day? Here are a few of the recipes that I planned this week (please note I estimated minimal costs for things like cooking oil and spices as those were hard to estimate)–

Spinach, Tuna Chili Pita
3 oz can of tuna in olive oil (HK$9)
1 large handful of spinach, shredded by hand into small-medium pieces ($HK 7 including chili)
1 bird’s eye chili (finely chopped)
pinch of pepper (optional)
1 medium sized pita bread (5-6 in diameter), sliced in half (HK$4.07)
Total HK$20.07 = US$2.59  
Drain oil from tuna can
In a large bowl, add tuna, spinach, and chili
Sprinkle pepper and mix well
Stuff pita halves with tuna and spinach filling

I used tuna in olive oil because I think it adds a bit more flavor. The tuna and pita bread were purchased at Park ‘N Shop in Hong Kong and the spinach and chili were from the local wet market in Central.

Red Beans & Rice
1 tsp oil (~HK$2)
2 cloves garlic, minced (~HK$7 includes spices)
1 can kidney beans, do not drain (HK$9.90)
2 bay leaves 
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 cup brown rice, cooked (HK$2.07)
hot sauce, to serve (optional)
Total: $20.97= US$2.70
*this recipe is enough for 2 servings
In a large pan heat oil over medium heat
Add garlic and stir until golden
Pour in kidney beans, bay leaves,  pepper, and paprika
Simmer over low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes
Slightly mash beans using a large spoon
Serve over rice with hot sauce

Mexican Black Beans, Corn and Rice
1 tsp oil (HK$2)
1 can of black beans, drained & rinsed (HK$16.50)
1 can of corn, drained and rinsed (HK$7.80)
1 can of crushed tomatoes (HK$12.90)
1 tsp cumin (HK$5 for all spices)
1 tsp paprika
pinch of salt
1 cup brown rice, cooked (HK$2.07)
Total: $46.27 = $5.97
*this recipe is enough for 2-3 servings
In a large pan heat oil over low-medium heat
Add black beans and corn and cook for 2-3 minutes
Add tomatoes, cumin, paprika and salt
Mix well and simmer for 5-10 minutes
Serve over rice