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!

notenoughsocks Thu 07-Mar-13 15:22:32

On a more food sort of point, I found that getting my first freezer really really cut the food bills down because I could cook up double portions of things, store bargains etc. But the freezer itself cost nearly £100.

MechanicalTheatre Thu 07-Mar-13 15:32:48

Yes, it's true about money having to stretch to so much more than just food. I've never owned, so luckily I've never been responsible for anything like washing machines/freezers, and I don't have a car so that's not a problem.

But I've had many incidents where I haven't seen anyone for a month because I couldn't afford the bus/a cup of tea. Or where my only shoes let water but I can't afford new ones or where I've had to walk for 90 minutes to and from work.

It's not a nice way to live. Thankfully not doing that at the moment as I'm a student and I get a loan and a bursary, but I dread ever having to live like that again.

StrippedBear Thu 07-Mar-13 16:01:38

Moondog I am quite wasteful - we have a bulging food waste bin for recyling every week. Part of it is justifable waste, like a chicken carcass or peelings or ground coffee waste, but the more I think about it - and what a generous shopping budget I have compared to some people - the worse I feel!

DD is 20 months - we did BLW - she enjoys hurling food at the floor - I also tend to offer a variety of stuff at meal and snack times, and if she doesn't eat it, I just throw it away sad

I am a good cook, but a bad shopper (blush). If I see something I fancy, like some nice asparagus - I might well buy it, even if there is already a vegetable in the cupboard. I periodically clear out the veg boxes, and I quite frequently discard something or other. I've just thrown away half a red cabbage - I bought it to make a spiced cabbage to go with some roast pork - but I only used half of it, and it's not a dish I fancy eating that often.

If something is disappointing - like bitter oranges or dry flavourless apples - that also tends to get left and end up in the bin. Ditto stuff like homemade scones and biscuits - if they are left over from yesterday - and still perfectly eatable by shop standards, I may well bin them and bake a fresh batch.
Thinking about it - quite a bit of home baking probably finds its way to the bin.

StrippedBear Thu 07-Mar-13 16:06:35

ivykaty44 you asked - how did you get to iceland? Did you factor in the cost of your transport to the supermarket?

I don't drive. I can walk to Iceland - it's about 10 minutes. I often nip in for their cheap milk and eggs. The nearest next big supermarket is ASDA and about a mile - maybe a mile and a half - but I have a bus pass, so there is no additional cost. I suppose at a push I could walk. To be fair, I do the big shop with my husband at the weekend by car. In all honesty - I think this is probably the thing that ends up wasting money. I am a bit disorganised, and tend to buy too much - haven't those trolleys got bigger and bigger? I'm sure if I shopped more often myself, we would throw less away!

moondog Thu 07-Mar-13 16:07:20

Would you not boil up the carcass to make soup or put the odds and ends of veggies in a stirfry?
I'd not offer choices-makes people to fussy.
Also finish one lot of baking off before starting on another (unless frozen).
Tasteless fruit tastes better if cooked- even the worst apricot is a deilght when stewed. Same with apples.
I'd squeeze tasteless old oranges. Just did that into some rhubarb I was stewing.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 07-Mar-13 16:09:51

How was the '£18' arrived at? I know people who would quite happily go hungry rather than give up the cigarettes or whatever..

MrsHoarder Thu 07-Mar-13 16:10:46

StrippedBear: I was going to write a sentance in reply but instead wrote an essay. It was meant in a friendly manner rather than a lecture though...

Sounds like you need to consider vegetables in your meal plan. I go with a list and only let myself add something if I swap something else out. Could you not have just chopped up your red cabbage and used it as normal cabbage or even pickled it (red cabbage is for christmas or pickled only in this house)?

How clean is your floor? If DS flings something I fancy to the floor I apply the 3 second rule and scoff it myself blush. And we only give him a few things at once and once he starts flinging everything we assume he's full and it gets scoffed is put in the leftovers tub.

Do you not add your "extra" fruit to your home baking? I stuffed up earlier in the week and had a glut of soft fruits (forgot had ordered some in online shopping and bought more when I went for a walk in the village) so made some fruit muffins. Think I'll grate up the slightly soft apple in the fruit bowl to make more muffins tonight or tomorrow.

Change your batch sizes for home baking or freeze your excess and get it out the night before for lunches.

StrippedBear Thu 07-Mar-13 16:12:38

Mechanicalthreatre yep - I remember that - having no warm dry shoes in winter... possibly Dickensian, isn't it? I also remember the joy of buying a new pair and having warm feet again!

I think my conclusion is, it can be done, but it is easy to slip up - imagine if you burn something and you can't afford to buy anything else to eat? How can that be a civilised way to treat people? I also think that things like an internet connection and a tv licence (or at least one or other of those - your choice) is a necessity in this day and age.

How sad that we have come to this - a world where we want to limit some of the most vulnerable in our community to save a pin prick of public money sad

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 07-Mar-13 16:14:43

But the deal with the reduction in council tax benefit is that, if the person downsizes to a smaller property freeing up the larger property for a bigger family, they don't have the problem any more.

LadyIsabellaWrotham Thu 07-Mar-13 16:15:54

You bin home baking shock

Could DH not take it into work? (assuming you're an SAHM)

Or un-iced cakes freeze really well (as does raw cookie dough so you can make a big batch and only cook what the three of you will eat)

Trills Thu 07-Mar-13 16:16:55

You throw away things that you have baked that are ONE day old? shock

StrippedBear Thu 07-Mar-13 16:17:39

Moondog Yes, I would make stock from a carcass - but you'd still fill the bin with the veggies and bones from the stock - that's what I meant.

The other stuff - no - would just throw it away - bit naughty I know.

I just bought some Bramleys in ASDA today - 5 cost £1.71, then came home and whilst the pie was in the oven, I threw out some unappetising looking old apples from the bowl sad and filled it with fresh plums and pears.

More money than sense - as yer mother would say... but I am thinking on it... I am

StrippedBear Thu 07-Mar-13 16:19:16

I was talking about scones Trills
I wouldn't throw a day old fruit cake away smile or a coffee and walnut cake either smile

Freshly baked scones are much nicer, and you can have them in the oven in about 7 minutes, and they bake in 15 mins...

MrsHoarder Thu 07-Mar-13 16:21:28

Once you've boiled the carcass and veggies there's no goodness left in them! Its like fretting about throwing away the banana peel or the "vine" from grapes.

I'm baffled by your pie thing though. You mean you had some slightly soft apples and a fresh bunch and you decided to bin the soft ones and cook with the fresh? Rather than cook with the soft (doesn't matter if they're eating apples, just use less sugar) and save the fresh for another day?

StrippedBear Thu 07-Mar-13 16:25:00

Hi MrsHoarder - don't feel lectured at all....

I don't consider vegetables in my meal plan. TBH... sshhhh... I don't meal plan at all... I just go to the supermarket and buy whatever I fancy... that's the problem.... I think because of that, I over-buy and so if I don't fancy something later, it goes to the bin (blush)

>How clean is your floor? If DS flings something I fancy to the floor I apply the 3 second rule and scoff it myself . And we only give him a few things at once and once he starts flinging everything we assume he's full and it gets scoffed is put in the leftovers tub.

Yeah - but if you've cooked enough risotto for 3... you would save his uneaten meal as a lefover

.Do you not add your "extra" fruit to your home baking? I stuffed up earlier in the week and had a glut of soft fruits (forgot had ordered some in online shopping and bought more when I went for a walk in the village) so made some fruit muffins. Think I'll grate up the slightly soft apple in the fruit bowl to make more muffins tonight or tomorrow.

Change your batch sizes for home baking or freeze your excess and get it out the night before for lunches.

Good ideas - I do this a bit, but not as much as I should

StrippedBear Thu 07-Mar-13 16:55:09

LadyIsabella DH has a desk job - part of the reason we have so much home baking over is because he is calorie conscious and won't eat it...

Yep - naughty about the apples MrsHoarder - it didn't even occur to me to use the old apples... I was wandering round the supermarket and fancied making a pie, and knew I didn't have cooking apples so I went and got some... insane... I must stop doing that grin

LadyIsabellaWrotham Thu 07-Mar-13 17:03:59

No no no, he doesn't take it in to eat himself, he takes it in to share with his lovely colleagues and express his appreciation of their skills / bribe them to help him with proofreading tomorrow's Powerpoint.

Hmm. It depends on how that number is reached doesn't it. I'm very confident I could feed a family of four, 2 adults 2 children, on £72 a week without particularly economising. I feel like our £400 a month at the moment is quite luxurious - some organic produce, some top end brands, includes nappies and formula and prepared snacks etc.

However I couldn't feed myself and buy all other supermarket essentials on £18 a week without really really struggling.

Depends whether it includes cleaning products, batteries, toiletries etc etc

StrippedBear Thu 07-Mar-13 17:54:31

it's meant to be just food twelveleggedwalk

ladyisabella At one point DH had a team of 80... that'd be a lot of cupcakes smile

Thinking about it- when I was young and single, we had a boss who had a SAH wife - I think they had 5 kids. She used to bake and send things in for coffee mornings. Nice, they were too... but we all used to talk in hushed tones about X's wife who DIDN@T WORK - shock - horror!! Funny - I couldn't imagine then not having a job, and found it all hugely alien!!

VictorTango Fri 08-Mar-13 11:46:30

I make a batch of biscuit mix, shape them into biscuit shapes and freeze on a tray and then put into a freezer bag. Oat and Rasin works well for this. Means I can pull out enough individual biscuits and have warm cookies when I need them without any waste.

I freeze everything. If you have bananas which are turning you can freeze them and just thaw them when you have the time to make banana bread etc.

I wouldn't save an uneaten meal though. If there are leftovers left over in the pan/serving dishes then fine but once it's touched a plate then it goes in the bin.

Everyone should try the downshift challenge that Martin Lewis advocates. Just drop a down a brand and see if you can tell the difference. On most things I haven't.

I would disagree we eat less protein because we eat on a budget. Our meat has to go further but I don't think we eat less than we would if we had money. A roast chicken can do three dinners. And we eat a lot of eggs which are a good source of protein.

The one thing I would like to do but can't is to shop at closing time to get bargains on reduced bakery goods which I could freeze. But it's just not convenient as a single parent of two small dc.

ivykaty44 Fri 08-Mar-13 12:08:20

scones can be frozen rather than binned sad or made into trifle, or scone pudding - similar to bread and butter pudding but replacing the bread with scones

stubbornstains Fri 08-Mar-13 12:28:53

But the deal with the reduction in council tax benefit is that, if the person downsizes to a smaller property freeing up the larger property for a bigger family, they don't have the problem any more.

I think you're getting your benefits cuts mixed up, Cogito. You must be thinking of the so-called "bedroom tax"- a reduction in Housing Benefir for people with a perceived extra bedroom.

Most people now receiving full council tax benefit will have to pay some percentage of their council tax from April- this could be £5 a week, it could be more, it could be less. £5 when you only have £18 a week for food- and many other things- is pretty devastating.

One thing I notice about the MP's budget breakdown is that it allows nothing for the means to get out of this pit- no transport or phone costs, which are pretty essential if you're looking for a job. So yes, it's unlikely that anyone in this position would actually get to spend the whole £18 on food.

VictorTango Fri 08-Mar-13 12:34:50

It's a shit existence.

LineRunner Fri 08-Mar-13 15:10:43

What stubbornstains said.

Where I live the contribution to council tax for those on benefits will be I think about £3 a week, and £4 for the low paid.

I also agree that it is incredibly difficult to secure work and stay in work these days without a phone and broadband access - many employers expect to be able to phone and email about shifts and changes to hours and availability etc so 'library internet access' is just not enough.

So that £18 becomes £7 a week pretty quickly.

racingheart Sat 09-Mar-13 14:49:29

it's much harder for a single person, but for a family of four, £18 per person for food per week is pretty easy - you don't even have to try hard. And that's assuming all three meals each day come out of that budget. You just meal plan and don't buy anything not on the plan. But if that budget is also supposed to include all household cleaning stuff, toiletries,nappies, pet food etc, it starts to look tight.

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