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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!

TotemPole Sun 10-Mar-13 21:08:11

It's possible but meals could get quite repetitive or boring. It depends on so many different factors.

At our nearest supermarket we can't buy a single onion or loose carrots, everything is in packs. A single person would have to have the same veg over the week to stick within budget.

Without a decent store cupboard, you'd be relying more on jars for sauces. Usually a jar is 4 servings and once opened use within 3-5 days. So you'd either waste it or have the same meal 4 days in a row.

With me and 1 DC we sometimes get the packs of chicken thighs/drumsticks, 2 packs for £6 when on offer. I can get the base of 4-5 meals out of that for the two of us. But these are use immediately, so once you've opened the pack you either need to freeze or cook what's left. It does start to smell if you don't.

Our nearest butcher and fishmongers is more expensive than the supermarket. For others it will be the other way round.

gaelicsheep Sun 10-Mar-13 19:15:01

I have not forgotten how to budget, store things or cook. But two years ago our budget for food and household goods was £300 a month. We had to up it to £400 and we often now exceed that now that I can't cook in bulk and freeze things.

serin Sun 10-Mar-13 18:49:38

The problem with our nation is that a lot of us have forgotten how to budget, store food, grow things and how to cook.

The government needs to urgently address this issue.

My friend does voluntary work with the Trussell Trust (foodbanks) and says quite often people will choose instant 'add water meals' rather than fruit and veg because they are easier to prepare.

Home economics in school is almost a joke, (except it's not funny) our DC's have brought home the most ridiculous 'meals' that have required almost no skill to prepare.

InMySpareTime Sun 10-Mar-13 08:40:20

My DS is milk allergic, and though Soya milk costs more than cow's milk, we save on cheese etc. and it's cheap to cook with tinned tomatoes.
Potatoes and rice are good fillers, and we cook from scratch a lot which saves on processed food costs too.
We're well under £18/person/week, even including toiletries etc.

CrispyHedgeHog Sat 09-Mar-13 18:06:50

What about people with allergies/intolerances.

The food that's cheap and filling tends to be the stuff that causes most problems doesn't it? Grains etc? So they're screwed in that circumstance.

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 17:20:25

Oh, and we currently don't have a freezer, just a small fridge with an ice box. That makes everything a whole lot more expensive as you can't take advantage of a lot of bulk buy offers.

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 17:19:30

We are being as meagre as we can be at the moment, and we cannot do our entire weekly shop for £18 per person. It is at least 1.5 times that by the time all other essentials are added in.

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 17:18:20

I wonder if that £18 a week includes the cost of actually getting to the shops to do the shopping? Unless you are "lucky" enough to live more or less in a supermarket car park, you need to get to a shop. For a lot of people that either means an expensive journey to a proper supermarket, or a shorter journey - perhaps on foot but not always - to a very expensive local Co-Op, or Spar or whatever.

LineRunner Sat 09-Mar-13 17:07:57

I think it would nigh on impossible if you start having to deduct essentials like toilet rolls, cleaning products, washing powder/launderette, washing up liquid.

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.

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.

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

It's a shit existence.

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.

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

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.

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!!

TwelveLeggedWalk Thu 07-Mar-13 17:04:24

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

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.

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

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

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 16:19:16

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...

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

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

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

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)

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