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to try and settle the 'which is cheaper, junk or cooked from scratch' debate once and for all

(643 Posts)
IceBeing Tue 27-Aug-13 13:05:54

I have seen both sides of this recently on MN and on the box.

So. submit your meal plans here.

1. Choose junk or home cooked

2. Give a shopping list plus price for a weeks worth of food for a family of 4, assuming no reliance on a 'store cupboard' and no meal sharing.

3. Give an estimated weekly cooking time plus shopping time.

4. indicate if your plan relies on a local aldi/lidl etc.

Lets sort this the JEFF out please.....

118sbigmoustache Tue 27-Aug-13 14:51:11

Thanks, chunky. I see what you mean now about variety and variety! I think that's where I get muddled though because for each of the little extra meals, the cost builds up. Like if I have a chicken with veggies the first night, and then salad the next day, and then in something else the night, there's wastage. To buy salad, it costs more than the frozen veggies (for 1.5 people anyway) so then I'd just have the veggies again but then I've taken away the variety. Does that make sense? That's where I get overloaded because I can't balance the cost and variety sad

LoopyLupo Tue 27-Aug-13 14:52:07

And your individual stories of 'free food' mean nothing.

The fact is most people are not given 'free food' on a regular basis. It would be crazy to say that the poor no longer have to cost fruit and veg into their weekly shop because everyone is givong it away.

PigOnStilts Tue 27-Aug-13 14:53:20

Well, you feed three people for under a fiver, I think it's alright, perhaps I'm just a spoilt bitch. But try that in any takeaway joint or any convenient food....

118sbigmoustache Tue 27-Aug-13 14:53:40

Whoops, didn't see your reply mrso, is it okay then to have exactly the same meal a few nights on the trot as long as the week itself has at least two maybe three different mains? And, yeah, probably, but its hard to tell if its bizarre when you're receiving it haha!

CharlotteBr0nteSaurus Tue 27-Aug-13 14:53:48

i can't be arsed to do the science

but am fairly convinced that the junk is cheaper, and this is partly due to waste - there is none. you carefully measure out your portion of basics chips/fish fingers/beans, and put the rest away.

value chips=55p/kilo
cheapest potatoes=70p/kilo, and then you lose some to peel, and some may go off.

for packed lunches - 5x value cake bars = 50p
bag of 5 granny smiths=£1.95

That's not comparing like with like, but if you are just looking for the cheapest way to feed yourself, nutrition aside, junk is the way forwards.

IceBeing Tue 27-Aug-13 14:54:56

pig that sounds lovely - but it is more expensive for a single meal than my daily spend on crap....

More work required.....<puts on teachers hat> could do better B-

badbride Tue 27-Aug-13 14:54:56

The OP has put her finger on one of the most bizarre problems of our age, namely that obesity and associated diabetes, which were once the preserve of the rich, are now diseases of (relative) poverty. It is hard for poor folk to afford healthy fruit and veg--I'm in the middle-income bracket and still find myself horrified by the prices in the supermarkets.

Yes, you can get fruit and veg more cheaply from market stalls. But a many poor people live in areas where no such markets exist. Still I'll have a stab at your challenge, OP. Here's my day's menu for 4. It's sixty pence more expensive than yours, but I would argue that it is comparable.

Doubtless I've missed something out, but here goes. Prices according to mysupermarket, costs listed for 4 people:

Breakfast: Porridge with milk: 80p
Lunch: tinned sardines in tomato sauce on toast: £1.50
Dinner: Chickpea, spinach and tomato stew, with rice: £2.09

Total: £4.39

The chickpea stew contains 2 tins chickpeas, frozen spinach, cheap passata and onion. Could be jazzed up with a spot of curry powder, buy I gather we're on "let them eat cake" mode.. grin

IceBeing Tue 27-Aug-13 14:57:05

bad ahh at last - thank you. Can you also tot up the calories in that? It looks a bit light....

IceBeing Tue 27-Aug-13 14:57:24

definitely equivalent if the calories add up.

badbride Tue 27-Aug-13 15:00:23

Ice is there a website that lists calories? If we assume the use of full-fat milk and generous helping of carbs (oats, bread and rice) I reckin it's not far off.

The stew could be made even more cheaply with dried yellow split peas, but I've factored in an element of convenience, as they takes aaaages to soak/ cook

MrsOakenshield Tue 27-Aug-13 15:00:37

118 - I'm not an expert, but yes, I think that would be fine. Presumably you're talking about your main meal, so you can have a bit of variety with lunches, different sarnies, scrambled eggs/beans/cheese on toast, soup (good for using up veg).

IceBeing Tue 27-Aug-13 15:01:52

bad the kcals are listed for all products on the websites of the supermarkets....

It must have given an amount of porridge per day?

LoopyLupo Tue 27-Aug-13 15:02:41

I think junk is cheaper. I know people on the same budget as us who buy a lot more food than us because they don't buy fresh fruit and veg.

My dc snack on fruit and it costs a fucking fortune. By far the biggest expense on our shopping bill each week. I buy three bags of apples, 3 bags of bananas and 2 bags of oranges. I top up with what is in season as its normally on offer.

Most weeks dh and I have to go without fruit so there is enough to last the week for the dc.

If I were to buy biscuits, crisps etc for them to snack on it would be much cheaper and last longer.

WafflyVersatile Tue 27-Aug-13 15:02:42

I trust electricity and travel costs are worked into these figures?

Wellwobbly Tue 27-Aug-13 15:07:04


the initial cost of food from scratch is huge. Poor people really aren't stupid except when they vote Labour smile they know what they are doing. They know how to get the most food for the cheapest amount of money, even if it isn't ideal.

Once you have sunk the 'capital' as it were, and think long term, then it is cheaper. But like everything the long term is such a big cost, and that can't be carried when you are poor.

One example: say you get a chicken tikka masala takeout as a treat once a week. Buying the bulk chicken, the spices marinade, yoghurt etc, the basmati those spices, cashew nuts etc -

and the foil containers?

I think you have spent a good £70.

then you have to have the freezer space so that by the end of November you have saved your dosh.

Who thinks that far ahead? Who has £70 so that they can save £40?

I think Jamie is technically correct, but a right judgypants.

IceBeing Tue 27-Aug-13 15:07:29

Your stew could be up to 2600 kcals if you are prepared to eat quite a lot of rice...500g between 4 of you...

so the rest needs to add up to about 4400 kcals.

half a loaf of sliced bread is 1000 kcals, sardines was 200 so you need to make up 3200 kcals in porridge...which is 800 per person 200g per nearly a full 1kg bag per day....

Do people really eat that much porridge? <hates porridge so doesn't know>

IceBeing Tue 27-Aug-13 15:09:07

bad it is close though...I reckon about 400kcals off per person, if you only eat a normal portion of rice and porridge...but you could probably add jam to the porridge to fix that smile

Wellwobbly Tue 27-Aug-13 15:09:39

PS obesity and poverty, obesity and malnutrition, go hand in hand. It is about the most calories for the least amount of money, and most calories are found in carbohydrates and fat.

IceBeing Tue 27-Aug-13 15:11:23

loopy I totally agree about the fruit. It broke my heart to read MNers saying how they felt telling their kids there was no more fruit left for the week. I don't understand how in the UK fruit can be so Jeffing expensive.

We don't budget or worry about money <because we are MC idiots> but every week I just feel stunned at the price of fruit.

LittleprincessinGOLDrocks Tue 27-Aug-13 15:14:59

I guess it depends what you want to eat.
Pizzas can be bought frozen for £1 each, to hand make from scratch it costs a lot more (cost me about £4 last time) - though it is cheaper than a take away.
Chilli on the other hand I can make from scratch pretty cheaply, though if I use a sauce you can add about £1 to my usual costs. If you buy a ready meal it costs about £4 (£1 each for 4 people). Mine costs about £4 (buy mince from local farm shop which is much cheaper than supermarket) and serves 8 people.
I think for us it is best to have a balance of made from scratch and some shop bought. It is all about knowing which you can do cheaper home made and which you can't.

BackforGood Tue 27-Aug-13 15:16:21

Loopy - the stories of free food balance out your claim And as for 'swap a bag of apples' nonsense, do you really think that happens in urban areas? - er, yes they do.

I never said anything about not having to cost fruit and veg in to your budget. Personally, I tend to see what's on the 'super six' at Aldi, and sometimes try to use that as a starting point.

To reply to the OP, it's cheaper to make meals from what Jamie Oliver would class as 'junk food' simply because they tend to be made with cheaper ingredients - fish fingers, sausages, the processed chicken that goes into all the frozen chicken products, the 'reformed' meat, etc., is not comparable quality as buying chicken or beef or pork from the butchers or some fish from the fishmongers but it is still an ingredient you can fill your family up with when you are on a budget.
I agree with Loopy that the whole 'choice' thing of buying 'organic' or 'farmers market' type produce only actually kicks in when your budget is high enough for that to become a realistic 'choice'. It seriously isn't an option in a lot of people's budgets.

Feckbloodypets Tue 27-Aug-13 15:16:28

Cant be arsed doing a full week but will try and do a proper price comparison and all ingredients bought in 1 shop using full prices so no halving anything that cant be bought in smaller sizes and no special offers except for the meals as they never seem to come off. for 2 adults and a 12 year old.
3x tescos bacon and mushroom pastas £6
Home made carbonnara with mushrooms and peas
1x value penne 29p use half
grated parmesan 1.25
value cooking bacon 81p use half
garlic 40p use 3 cloves
value mushrooms 75p use half
value frozen peas 89p use 2 handfuls
double cream 1.10 use half
value eggs 87p use 1
So this totals £6.36 for all the shopping but would come under the £6 if I didn't buy extra peas to make the meal healthier.
The extras left over will give the following nights dinner with the extra spend of
1x value passatta 29p
1x value tomatoe puree 35p good squeeze
Value mixed herbs 85p 1x tbsp
Cooking onions 1.00 1of
Frozen chopped chilli 50p 1 block
So extra 2.94 with the rest of the pasta, bacon, cream, mushrooms, another 2 handful of peas and another 2 cloves of garlic will give you an Arabiatta.
This leaves another approx 5 onions,5 eggs, 1/2 bag of peas, 1/2 bulb of garlic , the rest of the herbs, most of a tube of puree and another 5 blocks of chilli to go towards other meals
eg ommellete made with onions, garlic and herbs.
Sorry for my spelling mistakes.

SmiteYouWithThunderbolts Tue 27-Aug-13 15:19:08

Ok... our menu today for 2 adults and 4 children

H: bread from homemade bloomer loaf, toasted with cheese: est. 50p (the cheese is expensive but the bread costs pennies to make as we buy yeast and flour in bulk)
Me: porridge made with water, topped with sliced banana: est. 50p
Kids: 2 weetabix (Tesco brand) with milk and banana x 4: £3.60

Me and H: leftover pasta bake x 2 - £1.25 (cost just under £5 to make a massive batch with 8 servings) Half a bag of salad shared: 75p = £2
Kids: Ham sandwiches (homemade bread) £1.25, cucumber and carrot sticks 70p (bought whole and chopped at home), yoghurt (£1 for 4) = £2.95


Me and H: flat mushrooms (£1.35) stuffed with quinoa (85p), half a bag of salad (75p) and grilled pork steak (£2.50 from the butcher) £5.45
Kids: Ready meal lasagne (Tesco) £4.25 with carrots and peas est. £1 = £5.25

Plus snacks of: 4 bananas £1.20, 8 rice cakes (2 per child) £1.30, Muller light yoghurt (me!) 42p. I have no idea what H snacks on at work. £2.92 at home anyway.

Sooooo, that's a total expenditure of ..... £23.17 to feed 6 people 3 meals, with a mixture of cooking from scratch and using pre-prepared supermarket meals. I couldn't tell you if that's good or not!

SmiteYouWithThunderbolts Tue 27-Aug-13 15:22:14

I daren't factor the cost of my cups of tea into our daily meal!

FurryDogMother Tue 27-Aug-13 15:24:33

There's only 2 of us here (Dad and me) but I thought I'd have a go at listing what we cook/eat and how much it costs... assume a £10 budget for storecupboard ingredients such as red wine vinegar, black pepper etc. plus another £10 for veg and fresh herbs

1 large Tesco chicken - £4
Roasting it today with:
New potatoes (£1.80 per 2.5 kg)
Paxo sage and onion stuffing (£1 for 170g)
Fresh green beans (£1 for 220g) - will use half
Fresh tarragon (80p)

Tomorrow it's Bratwurst (£1.79 for 6)
German potato salad, using some of the aforementioned spuds, red wine vinegar from the storecupboard.
Smoked streaky bacon rashers (£2.70) - will use half of them
Remaining green beans

Thursday - cold chicken salad using the legs and thighs from today's chicken, storecupboard mayo, 1 little gem lettuce from a pack of 4 (£1.50 for the 4) and tomatoes (£2 for 5, will use 2)

Friday - luxury night!
2 Tescos Finest fillet steaks (£13.60!)
Mushrooms (£1.25 for 'finest' forestiere)
Double cream (£1.10 for 300ml, will use half)
Parmesan (£2.00 for 100g, will use half)
Little gem lettuce (from the 4 pack)

2 boneless salmon steaks (£4.00)
Watercress (£1.25)
Cream (leftover from Friday)
The last lettuce!

Sunday we'll probably go to the pub for a roast.

Dad has cereal for breakfast every day (£2.09 for 500g Kellogs + milk from the milkman)
I have a couple of duck eggs (£2.50 for 6) and either bacon (600g for £4, lasts 4 days), or Indian spiced (using spices from storecupboard) with tomatoes - if there are any left, or scrambled with smoked salmon (200g, lasts 4 days, for £5).

We don't do lunch, and I'm low carbing, so Dad gets the carb options, I pile on the veg and/or salad. I'll make chicken stock from the chicken carcass and any tired looking leftover veg - will freeze it for future use.

I consider our way of eating to be somewhat luxurious and indulgent, but it's not overwhelmingly expensive when you add it up.

Back home with my husband we eat a bit more frugally - lots of mince and eggs, and he loves pasta, which is cheap - I just put lettuce under my bolognese or carbonara sauce. I make a lot of curries too, and am a bit anal about them so have a huge collection of spices which doesn't need topping up that often.

So there ya go - if I had kids I might struggle!

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