Could you eat for a week on £18 per person?

(84 Posts)
StrippedBear Thu 07-Mar-13 07:17:22

Was prompted to think about this by Helen Goodman MP, who decided to live for a week on £18 - the amount she says people will have left for food after the bedroom tax. I'm not a Tory and don't agree with leaving people on the breadline - and I'm obviously very differently resourced, as I have access to a cheap supermarket, lots of time to cook and equipment, like a breadmaker and so on... but Helen Goodman says it is HORRIBLE. She says she had to eat porridge with water, went to bed hungry etc... and it set me wondering what would be possible.

Thinking about yesterday, when we ate as we ordinarily would - our food costs for a family of 3 was as follows:
B'fast - porridge made with milk (Iceland 4 pints for £1), banana, toast - £1 for all of us.
Lunch - homemade bread made into sandwiches with smoked salmon & cream cheese, yoghurt and raisins - £2 for all of us.
Dinner - homemade mushroom and cheese tart with green salad, boiled new potatoes and coleslaw. Pudding - homemade rice pudding £4.50

Drinks - teas and coffee and tap water - 50p

So my total cost for the day was £7. So if the budget is £18 p.w., that's £2.57 per person and £7.71 for the 3 of us... so I did it - even without thinking... and no one was hungry! However, I could be cheating, as I'm not sure our child would have the same budget allocated to them?

She also says that meat and fish were impossible - yet again, I know I can buy a kilo of best quality mince for about a tenner and make a fab chilli that comes in at about 80p a portion. I think I am probably quite a careful shopper - I buy value brands a lot where I don't think it will impact quality, eg. Tesco Value bananas are just fine - I buy stuff which is on offer (like the smoked salmon, and I'm a reasonable cook - so would attempt most things - and have loads of time on my hands atm....

However - not that I want people to have their benefits cut to the bone, you understand - but am wondering if my lifestyle/meals are very different from most families - and whether more effort should be made to teach home economics, so that people can manage on less - just from the perspective of thrift and good practice - rather to shave a fiver off the benefits bill, you understand!

StrippedBear Thu 07-Mar-13 07:25:18

lol - just read that back - I might be able to cook, but I clearly can't add up - it actually cost £8 for the day - against a budget of £7.71 - but we weren't much over, and we weren't trying... so I think the argument holds...

Well our weekly food shop comes in at under £60 for two adults, a greedy toddler and a baby. This obviously includes nappies and 'treats' that we don't need so I suppose it can be done. Also we only have tesco and sainsburys near us so we don't get the choice of cheap supermarkets. And I only but bounty kitchen roll and Andrex toilet paper grin

daffsarecomingup Thu 07-Mar-13 07:33:25

£40 a week for one adult and two children. is it £18 per week per person?? yes, that could be done easily. and yes, people need educating about cooking. perhaps the glut of celebrity cookery programmes should be changed to focus on 'proper' food

We eat meat and fish, don't go hungry etc. and have a grocery bill of £200p/m for 4 of us. I see your point, but lots of people can't manage on small budgets for various reasons (education, access to cheap sources of food, fuel/time to cook, space to store food etc), so I suspect this will turn into another benefit-bashing thread. I hope to be proved wrong.

HecateWhoopass Thu 07-Mar-13 07:36:08

She was probably going on how much you can get in waitrose for £18. wink

Seriously though - it's good she highlighted it!

Years ago, I had a budget of £25 per week to feed 4 people, get all household stuff, toiletries and food for 4 cats! It was hard! But I did it because that was all I had. There WAS no more. Not unless I wanted to not pay my bills and end up getting cut off or something!

Today, my weekly budget is £60. For 4 people and all toiletries and household stuff. Take off a tenner for toiletries and household and you're left with £12.50 per person per week.

It is more than that though, because I also save to buy a lamb every so often and sacks of potatoes from the farm, so if you even that out weekly, it probably add another £5 a week on, or £1.25 per person. So £13.75 per person per week. Roughly.

What is hardest is going from one extreme to the other. Before the £25 a week, I was very fortunate and spent hundreds per week. Going from that to the £25 was a huge shock. I suspect that's what it is here with her. It is the sudden drop from what you're used to. It's not knowing HOW to manage on that because you've never had to. It's not knowing HOW to make it stretch because it's unfamiliar. When you have to live like that, you learn all the tricks. If you just drop into it - you don't know, so you try to do it how you used to and you just can't.

MrsPnut Thu 07-Mar-13 07:41:05

It's not so much about being £18 per week per person but more being on your own with only £18 to spend on food. Any thrifty shopper knows that buying in bulk is cheaper but if you only have £18 to spend then bulk buying is out. Buying a kilo of mince for £10 is completely out because it takes more then half of your weekly budget even if you had the means to freeze portions of it. The MP completed her challenge with no store cupboard reserves which made her task even more difficult and I can easily believe that she went hungry.

A kilo of minceshock.
We get a meal for 4 out of 0.75lb!

*meal for 4 includes leftovers for lunch, so really a meal for 5, and we all eat decent amounts.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 07-Mar-13 12:45:35

Definitely. £2.50/day gives quite a bit of scope. Nothing wrong with porridge made with mostly water... dead healthy and comes in sub 10p a serving I once calculated. Lentil/veggie soup with bread for lunch is pretty standard in our house and that costs buttons. The rest might not be very exciting and there wouldn't be much in the way of meat but I think it's pretty do-able and La Goodman wasn't trying very hard if it was 'HORRIBLE'.

More stringent is the £1/day 'Live Below the Line' campaign highlighting poverty in the Third World. That's far more of a gastric challenge.

Trills Thu 07-Mar-13 12:46:40

Yes but I most definitely wouldn't want to.

StrippedBear Thu 07-Mar-13 13:07:21

I batch cook inmysparetime - the 1kg of mince makes 20 portions!

I'm not really sure I buy the argument that it is hugely more expensive to cook for 1, because of bulk buying. The mince above is from the local butcher - it is £10 per kilo, but if you want to ask for 50g they will happily sell it to you. I think my main problem would be that I would find it hard to motivate myself to cook just for me sad But lots of foods can be frozen and used gradually.

I didn't realise she didn't have a store cupboard. That seems a bit siilly to me - if I'd had to go shopping and buy a whole bag of flour, new bottle of oil etc, it would have been much more expensive. I only allowed a few pence for their actual cost.

Anway - looks like most people agree - someone with a little skill, time and effort can serve pretty good meals for £18 per week.

undercoverhousewife Thu 07-Mar-13 13:14:48

I don't know how people begin to do it.

I could do it for one week by eating very little, but not for 2 or 3 weeks in a row. I spent £1400 last month at Waitrose to feed 4 of us, without there being anything particularly special. I think that is quite a lot more than £18pp per week......Disclaimer: that total does include toiletries, birthday cards, light bulbs, cleaning products etc.

VictorTango Thu 07-Mar-13 13:15:20

I agree about the bulk buying thing. I can do the £18 a week thing easily enough but only because I am not shopping for one person.

If I only had £18 a week then it would be a different story.

Well in our house theres 4 inc a baby on formula milk.

Last week our shopping came to £63 and that included non essentials.

We eat meat at every dinner, cook from scratch, and dont go hungry.

If it was me alone on £18 then yes I could aslong as I had a cooker and pots and pans.

It doesnt mean people should have to though. Or that its possible for everyone.

VictorTango Thu 07-Mar-13 13:20:09

It's easy undercover, if like hecate says, you are used to it.

You just turn every leftover you have into another meal. Last week leftover roast potatoes became risotto on Monday and the leftover risotto became rissoto patties on Wednesday.

I batch cooked a veg curry a few weeks that made 10 portions, so with the addition of naan bread - that's 10 meals. I freeze the leftover portions and it's an easy dinner.

I've recently discovered the joy of frozen onions, frozen peppers, frozen herbs and garlic and chilli. This has helped reduce my weekly shop by loads as I don't need to buy these weekly and they never go off.

VictorTango Thu 07-Mar-13 13:21:07

*roast chicken not roast potatoes obv! grin

Trills Thu 07-Mar-13 13:22:52

You only have leftover roast potatoes if you cook too many potatoes in the first place.

StrippedBear, sorry, I misunderstood you there.
There will always be people with the means to make good, healthy, cheap food for their families, and those who cannot. I would like to see community groups supported to pool resources and bulk-buying power to save money.
A scheme where a group of e.g. Young people, new to living independently, team up to buy spices, flour, vegetables, staple foods in bulk, which they can split the cost of and use amounts that suit them, while they learn to cook with them, would be very useful and set them up for a cheaper, healthier lifestyle.
Just a thought, I don't know if such schemes exist, or if they have been abolished by cuts when they are most needed

VictorTango Thu 07-Mar-13 13:23:14

x post trills

£1400 shock bloody hell

victor I've found the frozen peppers too! But when the three packs of fresh ones are BOGOF in Tesco I get them and chop and put in freezer bags, even cheaper that way. Definitely less waste.

gimmeanaxe Thu 07-Mar-13 13:24:54

its not a lot but my student kids manage on less (I hate saying this in case the Tories read it and say SEE). ds spends about £12 a week on food as thats all he has but doesnt make the rather bizzare food choices the MP made. He doesnt buy meat or fish but rice and pulses, vegetables, cheese, bread, butter and beer. Its a bit boring but thats how we eat at home. He doesnt drink tea or coffee so no milk needed. I think his biggest expense is bread and he has lots of beans/cheese/eggs on toast for breakfast/lunch.
I watched her video's and wanted to take her shopping!

VictorTango Thu 07-Mar-13 13:27:56

Eggs are always a winner - esp as dc will happily eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner - not on the same day though obv grin

fieldfare Thu 07-Mar-13 13:32:51

I think it's definitely manageable. I spend approx £200 a month on food, toiletries and cleaning products, oh and pet food, plus £40 approx on Dd's school dinners.
That's not far out of the £18 pp pw budget.

But then like the OP I cook from scratch, am quite thrifty, we don't eat that much meat and I understand how to eek things out.

jammietart Thu 07-Mar-13 13:33:28

We'd have to seriously change our diet and I expect we'd eat more cheap carbs and less protein. And I buy free range and fair trade normally which I would have to stop. So doable certainly in the short term but I would worry that we weren't having a balanced diet.

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