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Can you live on £10 a week? Day 1

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Michelle Dignan | 15:37 UK time, Tuesday, 21 February 2012

It is only Tuesday and I’ve already had problems with this – a highly embarrassing situation at the supermarket till for one!

First, thank you for all your suggestions. There have also been lots of text messages into 5 live Breakfast too. I decided to go with the whole chicken option. Many people said to cook this on day one and then use it for various meals across the week.

Michelle Dignan

I had a shopping list of consisting of potatoes, fresh veg, fruit, baked beans, a loaf of wholemeal bread, sliced cooked ham, and porridge. I ended up working until late in the evening yesterday and so the supermarket which I like near my house had closed. I know this is the cheapest place for fruit and veg, so I was gutted.

I had to go to another supermarket instead and began to shop from my list. I stayed well clear of the crisps and biscuits aisle (which I was very proud of myself for!) and managed to get a whole chicken for £2.85, which I thought was a good price.

The reduced counter was useless as items weren’t reduced enough for my budget, or they were unhelpful for what I was trying to do. Bailey’s flavour cream reduced to 20p is great, but I’m not sure it would be the most useful way to spend my money…

I managed to get most things from my list, and at a good price…the wholemeal loaf was 47p and the ham was 61p for 10 slices, so that’s sandwiches for my lunch sorted. The problem was with the fruit and veg; I picked up just a few items as I knew I could get them cheaper elsewhere, but I thought I would at least try and get a couple of days’ worth.

As I got to the self-check-out till I saw the amount going higher and higher as I bleeped the items through. I suddenly decided that I couldn’t spend so much money on one apple or one banana, knowing that I could get them cheaper at the other supermarket when it opened.

I had to rather embarrassingly ask the assistant if I could put my fruit and veg back. They were very nice about it and even offered to do it for me.

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So, with a bit of a red face, I went home and tried to cook myself some sort of evening meal. I went for a jacket potato - the only one I bought - with baked beans. It had got late and I didn’t have time to cook the whole chicken. I will do that today….and also go and buy some potatoes, fruit and veg with the £3.73 that I have left.

I’ve also decided that I don’t like porridge made without milk, which is bad considering that’s my breakfast for the rest of the week.

So, I have a whole chicken and £3.73. I need to make some evening meals with it. I will look again at your earlier suggestions. Any others would be great.

Michelle Dignan is a reporter for 5 live Breakfast and 5 live Travel


  • Comment number 1.

    This is embarrassing!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Why is it embrassing?

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Even a Year 8 Home Economics student could work this out.

  • Comment number 6.

    noodles are about 6p per pack if you look about, £10 food for a week is easily done, i have to do it every week.

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Michelle,

    What I'd suggest is this:

    1. Joint the chicken (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=If9vyVipDkA) so that you can use as much or as little for any meal as you need. You can always freeze the extra portions if you've got a freezer. Once that's done, portions can be roasted in the oven, grilled or even fried in a pan.

    2. Buy some canned chopped tomatoes, white onions and perhaps some garlic. Chop the onions finely, put them in a pan with some oil and cook gently over a low heat until they're soft. Add the garlic, cook gently for a minute or two more and then tip in the tomatoes. Let the whole thing cook gently over a low heat so it bubbles without burning. Stir occasionally. Within about 20 minutes, it'll have turned into tomato sauce. Add salt, pepper and sugar to taste.

    3. You've now got the basics of several meals. A portion of chicken with your basic sauce and a pinch of curry powder added to the sliced onions will make a basic chicken curry along with some rice. Chicken and tomato sauce plus pasta is also cheap and tasty. You could even add vinegar and sugar to make basic sweet and sour sauce.

    You can then extend it further by replacing the chicken with other ingredients. Pulses like lentils, chickpeas or beans are pretty cheap, nutritious and easy to turn into a basic curry. Similarly, if there are cheap vegetables around then mushrooms, peas, carrots and so on can all work well too.

  • Comment number 8.

    What about the price of electricity to cook the chicken or the price of gas to cook the other stuff, that stuff is not free?

  • Comment number 9.

    @8 shes living on a food budget £10 for the week also she is finding about can cheap and healthy together.

    michelle you can freeze milk and defrost it 24hrs before you need it. my parents do this and its them abit of money.

  • Comment number 10.

    Buy a ham shank, about 1.50, boil it for stock this will make 3 days worth of hearty soup with lentils, veg, onions etc, google for how to make ham broth if you don't know. The ham can be used as part of a salad, sandwiches or as a cheese and ham toastie. Its a change from the ubiquitous chicken. Also buy a tin of corned beef, about a quid, together with potatoes onion and a bit of cheese will make pan haggerty, again if you don't know how to make google it. Also make potato hash and Lancashire hot pot, both use cheap but tasty cuts of meat. Oh and make sure you shop at Liddle or aldi. Cheers

  • Comment number 11.

    Blimey, it's a recipe site! Some really good stuff on here. Where do it get a ham shank? Proper butcher I suppose? Most interesting thing I've read on here in weeks (NOT being ironic). Bet Fedster enjoys it. Come on Fed, we're enjoying ourselves!!!!

  • Comment number 12.


    I've bought ham shanks (also known as ham hocks) from Morrisons before now, but I would urge you to support your local butcher and/or farmer's market. They're often the same price as the supermarkets, and once you get talking to them will offer you a lot of help in getting the best meat for your money.

    There are lots of cheap and tasty cuts to be had - lamb breast, beef brisket, ox cheeks and so on. Be adventurous - ox cheeks may sound unpleasant, but they're on the menus of some of London's high end gastropubs, and with good reason. Cook them slowly with vegetables and submerged in beer for three to four hours, and you'll be left with beautiful beef and ale stew, or the filling for a pie.

    The other thing a good butcher can supply for you is bones. Beef or chicken bones can be made into stock, and a good stock is the basis for all sorts of beautiful soups. You can find a great deal of information on the web, or look in a charity shop for old cook books. Women's Institute or Good Housekeeping cookbooks from the 70s were full of detailed information on this kind of thing, listing all the cuts of meat and how to cook them. Best of luck with it.

  • Comment number 13.

    Stumps as a matter of fact i am enjoying reading this Blog, i do actually mean that, its quite amazing reading how much stuff you can buy for a Tenner and also what you can make,i am lucky that i have never had to live of such a low amount, its actually got me thinking the amount i spend per week on Food is quite scary considering the amount you can buy for such low sums.

    I think i need to learn how to Cook, not that i need to save Money but to give me a better idea of what Money can actually buy!! Maybe Stumps you can teach me, that would be ood wouldnt it!! Me the BBC Mole and you the talkSPORT Mole, a marriage made in Heaven!!

  • Comment number 14.

    Michelle, I find your experiment quite interesting, not because I am curious to see if you manage to eat for a week with only 10 pound, but from the morbid, perverse or perhaps wholly ignorant interest that your experiment has awaken in those who never had to go without a meal.

    This is why I also find it quite embarrassing and a bit pathetic. You see, there are already plenty people in the UK and in the world that have to go on 10 pounds a week or perhaps less. Why then not just ask them how they manage rather than taking their penury and suffering for a game?

    Even if just taken as value-free, your experiment has, I believe, some serious shortfalls: First, how did you cook that chicken? Did you use your own oven? Well, many people living on less than 10 pounds a week do not have an oven. Second: Did you drive to the supermarket? Or use the Internet to search for good prices? Well, people you are trying to imitate do not usually have the luxury of driving or browsing the Internet.

    One thing you said this morning on BBC 5 Live which struck me was that you very much wished you could have a cup of tea and a biscuit. Well, where I come from, I have seen children have only a cup of tea for breakfast: no porridge, no milk. And eat soup for dinner: no chicken, no potatoes. Imagine how it would feel to go for weeks and weeks having only tea and a biscuit for breakfast.

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    Thank you to everyone for taking the time to comment on this blog.
    I have also found it very interesting - for many different reasons.
    Thank you for all the ideas on how to do various meals on a low budget. I have used some of these ideas and will continue to do so even when this week is over.
    fedecentral - Just to answer your questions: Yes, I did use an oven to cook the chicken. I didn't drive to the supermarket but walked instead - but I am also lucky as I have an Aldi and a Tesco less than a mile from my house. I appreciate that it would be a much harder situation if that was not the case. I also appreciate that there are people in awful situations who really do have very little.

  • Comment number 17.


    Just pointing out, as the subject discusses budgeting, that the studio expensively equipped for broadcasting, had nobody there. Sorry if this offends, but it was factual. I didn't make it up.

  • Comment number 18.

    Hi RadioOn. I'm one of the blog editors. The moderators - who are third-party - review each complaint to see if it's a valid criticism. If they feel the house rules have been broken (at the top of the page) they'll remove the post. You can appeal, and the details on how to do so are here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/messageboards/popups/checking_messages.shtml


  • Comment number 19.

    Hi there, Will.

    It is irritating in these times of austerity, to see a wanton waste of investment and resources in stark reality, ie. an empty studio, whilst broadcasting is continuing elsewhere.

    I don't see the point of using our very hard-earned TV licence fee so wastefully. That's all.

    Nothing unreasonable in my observations/criticisms, and definitely not offensive.

  • Comment number 20.

    Michelle what about some tins of lovely tomato soup sprinkled with cheese and a large crusty loaf.Very filling and will last you the week.Loverly grub.

  • Comment number 21.

    ..btw I love 5live.

  • Comment number 22.

    Agree RadioOn. This will be modded for the sole reason they don't want you to hear about it. See elsewhere for this truth...

    VD, two of every five days; half of double take:Arnand, Al Murray; most sports programmes, Piennar, Goldberg, PMQ's (Ob) , Mayo/Kermode, Danny Baker, Bacon (when he feels like it - Brits etc.), some 606, most OB sport, nearly all guests, contributors etc etc..... all from London.

    Plus, no/little (16yr old work experience) local employment - but lots & lots of expenses, London weighting, moving & rental allowances for the people who don't want to be there. Nice!


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