Friday, 1 February 2013

The Tenner Challenge: day one - frugal food

As I blogged on Thursday, I've challenged myself to live on just 10GBP this week. To put this in perspective, that's the same as a Tesco Finest dinner for two, a cinema ticket and (almost) a half, or half a ticket to see Bradford City play at home. It really doesn't seem a lot - but with half of the world living on less than a dollar a day and 4.4 million jobs in the UK paying less than £7 per hour, it's substantially more in the way of weekly disposable income than many others experience.

Although I've been at home today and therefore out of the grips of most forms of temptation, I've really started to realise how difficult this week is going to be. My inbox is completely cluttered by daily 'offer' deals, all tempting me to buy a meal for two for £20, or this season's new trends, or a weekend break in the Lake District for a price that's really hard to refuse. Email marketing is all about capturing attention and bringing about a feeling of urgency -get this deal now or you'll regret it forever. I fall for this sort of stuff all of the time, when in reality, will I regret it if I don't buy straight away and wait for a time when I actually seriously want the stuff? Probably not. There's always going to be another deal tomorrow.

Let's talk about food, baby.

Anyway, I digress. Apart from avoiding the perils of my inbox, I've spent some time working out exactly what I'm going to eat this week. As I explained in my last post, we budget for food, cleaning products and toilet roll etc on a monthly basis (spending £80 each for the month, or £160 to feed two people - in theory including breakfast, lunches and dinners - for 31 days). As such, food isn't included in my £10 challenge - although snacks, alcohol, toiletries and any extra food not bought during the weekly shop is, so this was a week to be extra careful with what went in the trolley.

Bad habits die hard.

I've a really awful habit of buying lunch when I'm at work. I try my best to bring in leftovers or a homemade sandwich, but sometimes it just doesn't quite cut the mustard. I often find a pub lunch with colleagues at the Midnight Bell or a brownie from the brilliant Out of the Woods calling my name ever so loudly, and when food calls my name I find it super hard to refuse. As much as it pains me, I must not listen to any talking food this week unless I want to be admitted to the nearest psychiatric ward, or even more worryingly, break my £10 rule.

As my blog probably foretells, we also have a bit of a habit of going out to eat. A lot. I really love eating out - I'd probably even go so far as to class it as a hobby. However, when I think about it properly, I'd say we average going out for tasty noms at least once, if not twice a week. Eating out 4-6 times a month has stopped it from feeling like a real, well deserved treat and it's a lot of money spent on eating other people's food, quite often when we have perfectly good food in our own cupboards that wouldn't take too long to cook. So perhaps it's a good thing that £10 a week won't stretch to a meal out - I'm sorry restaurants of Leeds. But hopefully I'll be back soon, and I'll really appreciate you on my return.

The secrets of food budgeting

Apart from the bad habits and the eating out addiction, I think Ash and I have the whole food budget thing pretty much sorted.  Although we budget for £40 a week between us, on average we spend between £25-35.  Our friends are often surprised when we tell them how little we spend on food per month - quite often there's enough left over at the end of the month to treat ourselves to a nice meal or a day out somewhere. We always try to eat healthy, fresh meals every day. I'm a big fan of the whole five a day, and that doesn't have to come with an expensive price tag. So, what are our food budgeting secrets?

  • The power of the pot - We have a food money pot that sits in our kitchen that we both put £80 into at the beginning of the month. Although I'm sure at some point we'll move towards a joint account, at the moment I quite like physically withdrawing the money each month. It means there are never any arguments about who's spent what - we just take it out of the pot. It also means that we can't over spend - when it's gone, it's gone.
  • Planning, planning, planning - Every week I sit down, go through my recipe books and work out exactly what I'm going to cook that week, taking into account nights when we know we're out or we've got friends coming round. This means that there's always food in the house and that both of us know what's planned so whoever gets in first (in theory) starts dinner. It also means that we use up any leftover bits and bobs we have from the week before, cutting down our weekly spend.
  • One weekly shop - We go shopping together, pretty much without fail, every week. We walk up to our local Morrisons together, avoiding delivery charges associated with online grocery shopping. Actually going to a shop means that we always do our best to make sure that we buy everything we need, avoiding mid-week dashes to the over priced Co-op across the street. 
  • Supermarket bargains- I have an ongoing love affair with Waitrose. I love their yellow sticker goods. I know exactly the right time to go in to get the best cut-price bargains - times that only my friend Anna will (hopefully) ever know too. I almost had an aisle argument with her once over some bargain mussels without knowing it was her. We're both big believers in buying cheap stuff and freezing it. Simples. 
  • Poundland - Don't ever buy cleaning stuff / toothpaste / toilet roll / kitchen roll etc from supermarkets. It's all about those pound stores.  
  • Eating veggie- I'd say that a third of our meals don't contain meat or fish. Being a carnivore is expensive. Being a veggie isn't, and an animal-friendly based meal bulked up with some carbs, beans or other legumes is just as filling. I don't really miss meat, and I reckon I could probably go the whole hog to full on animal lover if I really had the desire. Or actually liked animals.
  • If you can make it at home, do it -We've got into a bit of a habit of making fresh pasta, and we're planning on making lots more fresh bread at home too. Although the initial outlay might be a tad on the expensive side (good pasta makers retail at about £40 upwards), it works out super cheap in the long run. Nothing beats fresh, homemade stuff. And homemade stuff that's a bargain tastes even better.

So, there we have it. This week we spent a pretty good £33.13 on weekly shopping that will feed us for breakfast, lunch and dinner for seven days. I've no doubt that we could probably do it on much less than that, but fresh fruit and veg is important to us and we stocked up on a few bits and bobs - a big bag of onions, mustard etc that will see us through for the coming weeks too. We're also trying some new recipes - so I'll attempt to blog about the results!

Tenner Challenge day one
Total spent: £0.00p
Total food money spent (for a weekly shop per person): £16.57

1 comment:

  1. I saw the "survive on £5 a week!" thing on This Morning a while ago and I've been incredibly tempted to try it out. So much respect for you! (Luckily, living in Bradford means I practically trip over pound shops. :')!) x