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LJUBLJANA (Reuters Life!) - Is it possible to live in central Europe and eat healthy food on a budget of only 1 euro ($1.37) a day? A Slovenian pharmacologist has done it and now urges the world to learn from his example.
Ales Cerin, a father of four who wants to promote a simple and modest lifestyle, raise awareness of global poverty and over-consumption in the West, discovered he could do it but only if he grew his own vegetables and fruit.
"I have been spending 1.01 euro a day on average for food over the past two months. But I eat apples that grow in my garden, while we also have leek, chicory, beans, salad and pepper in the garden," Cerin, 48, told Reuters in an interview.
The main lesson he learned during his experiment, which ends this week, was that it was possible to reduce food costs several times and at the same time eat healthier if he made use of his garden on the outskirts of Ljubljana.
"Consumerism in Western society is exaggerated, particularly if we compare it to the undeveloped world... I want to change that consumer orientation and show how much is enough," Cerin said.
"It is perverse that the whole Western world is counting calories so as to reduce them while the rest of the world is counting calories so as to increase them!"
He drinks water, herbal tea and milk he buys at a nearby farm, while green tea is too expensive for the tight budget, as is cheese -- one of the rare foods he really misses.
He has lost four 4 kg (9 lb) in the last two months, mainly because he continued an active lifestyle of cycling daily and running three times a week.
"But I have no health problems, I feel great and I think I've never eaten healthier in my life."
He makes his own yoghurt, muesli and bread. Chestnuts, gathered in a forest near his family house, were an important part of his autumn diet.
He plans to continue eating moderate and healthy meals after his experiment ends and hopes others will follow his path.
He said figures show families in developed countries spend 400 times as much on food as those in non-developed countries.
If all the people were to consume as much as the Western world does, the Earth would have to be six times bigger to produce enough food, he said.
"This global crisis shows that the world cannot go on like this. We have problems with terrorism also because a large part of the world does not like us because of our greed."
Slovenia became the first former communist state to join the euro zone in 2007. Its gross domestic product (GDP) per capita amounts to 86 percent of the EU average. The average gross monthly wage in the country stands at some 1,500 euros.
Reporting by Marja Novak; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Paul Casciato