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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!

We normally spend £50-60 a week for DH, DS1&2 and I. That includes all household goods too.

Eggs, frozen veg and looking for good value food that will last is important.

I fed the four of us for £20 for the week last week. We had lovely meals but it is so very very difficult. Fresh foods are very expensive when you have little money.

£1400 a month? That's our household post tax income.

MrsHoarder Thu 07-Mar-13 13:35:43

We spend something like £60 a week (including small top-up shops) for 3 of us. But we use a bread machine to avoid extortionate bread costs and DS and I have homemade "vegetable" soup pretty much every day. Its harder if you're out of the house during the daytime as its much harder to have a satisfying lunch cheaply.

If I slashed our fruit and biscuits blush budget and then we could easily get it down, but it would be a grim way to live.

shock at £1400 in a month. How???

Wewereherefirst would you mind telling me what meals you had on your £20 a week? I could do with a week like that every now and then.

thesnootyfox Thu 07-Mar-13 13:42:49

Our food bill is around £12-15 per person each week. Our weekly shop is around £80 per week but that includes cleaning products etc.

StrippedBear Thu 07-Mar-13 13:46:42

£1400 a month! That's £323 a week on groceries! WOW!

Love the frozen pepper tip - we already use frozen peas. Not sure that the onions would be worth the bother - I buy huge bags from Lidl and they keep for months in a cold room or shed anyway.

I agree - it can be done - and it isn't horrible, and you shouldn't be hungry. I'm not on an especially tight budget and I don't do it to save money. When people stay for supper or pop in for lunch, I usually get very positive comments about my meals. A lovely fresh loaf of homemade bread costs less than 50p and with simple fillings, pared with a homemade chocolate brownie (about 15p) can feel something of a treat, compared to the miserable looking wraps and sandwiches and processed cake you get in M&S for the best part of a fiver.

I think left-overs have a bad reputation too - they don't need to be miserable. Left over roast pork makes an instant stir fry and with rice is so far removed from the Roast Pork with all the trimings that you ate the day before, it shouldn't feel a chore to eat it. When I was a student, I would often cook a chicken one day, and make risotto the next, boiling up the bones to make the stock, and using the leftover stock for carrot and lentil soup the next day. Increasingly as food has spiralled in cost, I find myself reverting to type just so I can feel I'm getting value - and better for the environment too.

I know people don't know how to do this - but in all honesty, being able to cook this way is much nicer for a whole raft of reasons - so maybe we should advocate for better instruction!

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

£18 a week per person? um yes of course i feed a family of 4 for a fortnight on £60 including all top ups loo roll etc etc

I think the difference is that when you choose to live that way it can be a positive experience.

But when you have no choice it starts to feel like a life sentence.

CunfuddledAlways Thu 07-Mar-13 14:00:40

i dont think so - i know my budget is £60 a fortnight, i go shopping on my fornightly payday get things we need, but sometimes if i got good deals the last time all i need is fresh fruit/veg. we get milk that lasts a week or so and make our own bread. I never feel hard done by our cupboards have enough stuff in for about a weeks food maybe more if a unexpected bill or something came up and i couldn't afford shopping! i can't imagine what i would buy to spend more tbh.

but then my budget for my kids birthday present is a max of £15 and £20 for christmas presents.

so i guess it just depends where you shop how much time you have and what your used to.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Thu 07-Mar-13 14:01:25

It is cheaper to feed a family of four, than four individuals eating separately.

So while £18 for one person is hard, £72 for 4 requires planning but is very achievable.

This is probably about what we spend on food each week. It is doable but as others have said, much harder for a single person who can't bulk buy.

However, I found these figures from below one of her video blogs:

The figure of £18 a week is based on a case study in Bishop Auckland of a women living on Employment Support Allowance. Her £66 a week rent is paid by Housing Benefit. In April, her benefit will go up to £71.70. Out of that she pays £10 a week for electricity and £6 a week for water rates. She uses coal for heating (like many in Bishop Auckland) and three bags of coal will cost her £19.50 a week. Her bus fare is £4 a week (she lives in a village with no shop) and her bedroom tax will be £9.24 a week. This leaves her with £22.96 per week.

Additional non-food costs would include:
Washing powder. £1
Toothpaste 15p
Toothbrush 10p
Sanitary / shaving products 40p
Washing up liquid 5p
Bin bags 10p
Bleach 40p
Cleaning products 50p
Deodorant 25p
Shampoo 40p
Foil/cling film 10p
Saving for shoes, clothing, household items £2
Subtotal: £5.25

Leaving a remaining budget of £17.71 for food.
NB: This leaves no money for TV licence (£3.25pw) or phone/broadband (£5pw)

-----------------------------------
I think in reality, a person in such a position would not have £18 to spend on food. The £2/week to cover all clothes, shoes and household items looks particularly meagre to me. What I found when living on benefits many years ago was that I could manage ok until something broke or wore out, which, if you can't afford very good quality stuff, happens quite frequently.

This case is someone on ESA - a disability benefit. People can be on this for years, it's not a short term thing.

moondog Thu 07-Mar-13 14:03:56

Stripped Bear,the Telegraph, in relation to that MP's effort, did an interveiw last week with this very interesting girl who is managinig to feed two people on £10.
A Girl called Jack

MechanicalTheatre Thu 07-Mar-13 14:07:55

Like wannabe says, it's doable, but it is really horrible after a while if it's a necessity.

The price of food is rising so much, it's unbelievable. I spent £40 last week and £40 this week and I'm on my own. I really don't know where the money goes because I certainly don't eat extravegantly.

LineRunner Thu 07-Mar-13 14:21:00

I have discovered lately the art of making incredibly cheap but nice vegetarian home-made pizzas, but I suspect I am spending a fortune on cooking them in the oven - so fuel costs have to be factored in.

I also cook macaroni cheese and lots of pasta and tuna dishes with vegetables from scratch. They are really cheap if you know how to make your own sauces, I think.

LineRunner Thu 07-Mar-13 14:23:04

Plenty That woman would also have to find maybe £4 a week from April towards council tax?

ivykaty44 Thu 07-Mar-13 14:36:07

strippedbear - how did you get to iceland? Did you factor in the cost of your transport to the supermarket?

I don't see any transport costs in your post, you have to get to the supermarket and you have to get back - of you have a car you need to factor in the tax and insurance as well as the cost of petrol

StrippedBear Thu 07-Mar-13 14:39:59

Had a look at that moondog See - it can be done! grin

I have to say - this has made me think about how much food I waste sad

qo Thu 07-Mar-13 14:44:33

Wasnt there a meal planner on here once for this type of situation? Anyone remember that or did I dream it?

lisad123everybodydancenow Thu 07-Mar-13 14:45:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

StrippedBear Thu 07-Mar-13 14:46:18

Here you go - she says:
The secret of cheap but healthy eating is to cook from scratch, she tells me. “Most of my recipes take 15 or 20 minutes. It’s easy to do and it’s significantly cheaper than picking up a ready meal that you have to cook for 30 minutes in the oven anyway.” But with some ready meals selling for £1, surely they are cheaper? “No. My chickpea tagine is 24p a portion. Besides, I don’t know what’s in that lasagne or whatever. This way I know exactly what my son is eating.”

Very, very true grin

DewDr0p Thu 07-Mar-13 14:50:52

A Girl Called Jack's menu is interesting but it's not a very balanced diet is it? A jam sandwich is hardly a nutritious lunch. What struck me is the very small amount of protein in the menu.

I agree with the point that it would be easier to do the £18 pw thing if you already had a decent storecupboard to call on - much much harder without.

OhMyNoReally Thu 07-Mar-13 14:53:20

There are 6 in our family. This weeks we are eating, cereal, porridge or toast for breakfast. Lunch will be split pea or carrot and corriander soup and a tuna or cheese sandwich. Supper will be lentil and vegetable cobbler, meat free cottage pie, broccoli and cauliflower gratin with garlic bread, chicken chow mein, Linda mc cartney saugage with Yorkshires and ratatouille, pasta with pancatte and olive tomato sauce. I also need cat food, wipes and nappies. I might make a pudding or two and I might buy biscuits if I have any money left.

I have £40 hopefully. I will shop in Morrisons and farm foods and I have to say morrisons value nappies for under £2 for 20 are amazing.

moondog Thu 07-Mar-13 15:01:33

Stripped, out of interest what do you waste and why?
I am always perplexed at the concept of food wastage.
I don't waste anything. It helps that we all are greedy. grin
If there's food left over though, it's eaten at the next meal.

duchesse Thu 07-Mar-13 15:09:18

The Girl called Jack is amazing- so resilient! I think she is going to do very well in life- she is already doing brilliantly with so few resources.

moondog Thu 07-Mar-13 15:16:07

Mind you Duchesse, her interview in the Telegraph said she gave up her £27000 job with the fire service to look after her child as she didn't want others to look after him so I was a bit hmm about that.

notenoughsocks Thu 07-Mar-13 15:18:47

I think in reality, a person in such a position would not have £18 to spend on food. The £2/week to cover all clothes, shoes and household items looks particularly meagre to me. What I found when living on benefits many years ago was that I could manage ok until something broke or wore out, which, if you can't afford very good quality stuff, happens quite frequently

I think this is a key point. I could, and do, quite easily, and often do feed us on that much. But to do it week in week out with no treats, no phone, very limited transport, no funds for any social outing that might risk involving a visit to a cafe for a cup of tea, no clothes, no presents for your family or for when your DC's got invited to a party, would be terrible prospect for me (I have some expereince of living on benefits, happily pre-family days). It was DS's birthday yesterday. I liked getting him presents. I like the the thought that he will enjoy the party that I will throw for him and his friends. If my washing machine dies, or I need some new shoes for an interview it is not a financial disaster for me. It is all very well saying 'yes, I we could eat like kings for £18' but I worry that discussions like this one rather miss the point.

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