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Can you live on £10 a week?

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Michelle Dignan | 13:49 UK time, Friday, 17 February 2012


By 5 live reporter Michelle Dignan

Can you survive for a week on food bought using just £10? That’s the question I have been challenged to answer next week.

On last Thursday’s Your Call (16th Feb) a heated debate began over how much it costs to live on healthy meals. There were some awful stories from callers who claimed to starve themselves at times, saying they literally don’t have a penny to do anything differently. But there were others who argued the opposite, claiming that it doesn’t cost a lot to eat at all.

So, how far will a tenner get you? I’m going to find out.

It’s just me. I have no husband or children to look after, which is why I only have £10 as my budget. When I was growing up my mum was a single parent with three children to feed, and sometimes we did just get nuggets and chips on a plate; it was cheap and easy to cook. But can cheap and healthy go together?

So far, as I try to think ahead, I have porridge on my list of items to buy. Can you help with any suggestions to add to this? What can I buy to create a healthy breakfast, lunch and tea? And maybe some snacks (will I be able to afford those?)? Any ideas that you have would be much appreciated…

Michelle Dignan is reporter for 5 live Travel


  • Comment number 1.

    As a victim of bank fraud, I have become very adept at living on peanuts (hope that will all end soon). I generally cook for 6 or 8 but the budget works out at about the same. So here's some tips I hope you'll find useful:

    1.Do your shopping at the right time of day i.e. after 6.00pm. Very often you can get a mackerel fillet or even a piece of salmon discounted to 40 or 50p in the big supermarkets. Dust in flour (40p for 1lb) with a sprinkling of salt (27p a tub in Tesco) and pan fry with a knob of what ever butter or spread is on special (£1.00). Thinly slice one large potato (30p) and stick in the oven dotted with the cheap butter or spread. A luxury would be a squeeze of lemon added to the pan fried fish – then put the fish on top of the potatoes with the lemon and putter juices from the pan.
    2.A small bottle of olive oil (£1.25) is an investment when cooking on a budget. A little goes a long way with pasta. You can get 500g of spaghetti for less than 50p. Fry one clove of garlic in a little oil, add one tin of tomatoes (chop them yourself and you can get them for about 33p), cook on a high heat for about 15 minutes. Season with salt and toss in 100g of cooked spaghetti. Simple espresso spaghetti. Alternatively (as you are cooking for one), but 50g of prawns from the fresh fish counter (after 6.00pm) and add them to the sauce about 3 minutes before serving.
    3.Tuna is a good cheap option. You can buy a tin for about 80p. Buy 1 small onion, slice into thin rings, add half a can of strained and rinsed canellini or borlotti beans (the other half can go in a soup), add the tuna, a sprinkle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Eat with a ciabatta or rustique roll (I get mine after 6.00pm in the Co-op for 20p).

    I could go on for ever but hope this helps.

  • Comment number 2.

    Thick home made vegetable soup. Make over 2 litres of soup with one chicken stock cube to tart it up, cheap vegetables, with some chilli flakes. Lasts for at least 4 days and add 2 tins of butter beans for second class protein, grated cheap cheddar on top.

    And make some flapjacks with the porridge oats for your snack.

  • Comment number 3.

    I'd suggest tinned kidney beans, mince beef, tinned tuna, 3 pack passata, dry pasta, eggs, a courgettes, sliced bread, bananas, rice, cheddar and milk. Make a ragu with the mince and passata. You can eat it with pasta, add some kidney beans and some chilli to eat with baked potatoes (grow your own) or rice. A tin of tuna with a pack of passata and onions mixed with a little cheese sauce can makes a tasty sauce to accompany pasta or a baked spud.

    Scrambled eggs on toast for the odd brekkie and courgette fritatta for a couple of dinners.

  • Comment number 4.

    Liver and Onions, cheap, nutritious and filling. Eat with mash. Yummy.

  • Comment number 5.

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

  • Comment number 6.

    The German discount supermarkets are great for offers on fruit and vegetables. Their tinned goods are great value and their frozen products very reasonable. The bread isn't great though. You can live on £10 a week, but you will need to bulk up on cheap carbs: chips, potatoes, bread and pasta. Do not buy pre-packed meals and be prepared to make meals from scratch. Chilli, soy sauce and dry herbs all add flavour to bland meals and are cheap to buy.

  • Comment number 7.

    It occurred to me after my first post, that actually we need to eat different things at different times of the day. In the South of England you could have some toast for your tea. Cheap. In many areas you would just drink tea for your tea. Even cheaper. In northern areas you would have a meal for your tea and in southern areas you would want a full meal for your dinner. Whereas in many areas, having supper could either mean a full meal, or a snack before bed. Hence my question, because depending on what 'tea' is, you could overspend your budget or you could easily get by on a tenner for one person. But some mod thought I was breaking the House rules, not that I can see any that I could have broken by just asking a simple question.

  • Comment number 8.

    Sorry but these folk who whinge that they need hundreds of pounds a week to live or to feed their families are just manifestations of the pathetic way that self-help and ingenuity have been dulled in our society, principally by govts which have created the nanny state. We won't say which those were!
    There's a HUGE amount of dirt-cheap food available in supermarkets at the moment precisely because of the slow-down. That means that these stores are regularly putting reduced items out for quick sale. I personally never pay more than 15p for my loaves of bread in Tesco simply by going in at the right time. Chickens and steaks are frequently available for a pound or two, fish even more so because it reaches its sell-by date more quickly and there's unlimited amounts of other good-quality perishables such as fruit and veg going for a song. Its utter nonsense that one cant feed a family for £10 a day. Example menus (and lets forget the bargain stuff just for now): BREAKFAST - get yourself a full-sized loaf of bread (20 slices) for £1.20, 6 eggs for £1, litre of milk 80p, olive spread 50p total £3.50
    DINNER: Packet of decent sphagetti £1.50 (feeds 4 very generously) bottle of Lloyd Grossman sauce £1.80. 4 apples £1 total £4.30. That's £7.80 grand total, leaving £2.20 for a good bowl of soup either home made or purchased for lunch. So, stop the moaning and get on your bikes!

  • Comment number 9.

    Unfortunately she was talking about feeding one person on a tenner a week. But I agree there is a vast swathe of people who have no idea that one chicken can actually do the job of several meals. Nearly everyone interviewed about not affording food seems unable to see that ready prepared stuff is far and away the most expensive way of feeding a family. Sorry but it is a generational thing and if you speak to anyone born before 1960 you will hear how to do this task. Before anyone is daft enough to say things were cheaper then, please just don't for obvious reasons.

  • Comment number 10.

    Morrisons Basics do 5 Chicken leg quarters fo £1.78

  • Comment number 11.

    I'm a student, and week in, week out i live on £10 a week. I don't find it a struggle, i don't feel like i'm deprived of anything. It's all down to good planning. I make a menu at the start of the week, including meals like soup, shepherd's pie, roast chicken, lasagne etc, and then work out what ingredients i need for each. As long as you're sensible, buy own-brand products and think of meals to make with leftovers it is easy to buy all food and drink for £10. I also buy biscuits and chocolate etc within my £10 as treats, but again i buy own-brand stuff. I think the important things are: plan ahead, buy in bulk, make food from scratch, and eat what's in season.

  • Comment number 12.

    Thank you for all your replies. They have been a big help and given me ideas to use even when this week is over!
    I must admit, I have struggled to eat my five fruit and veg a day, but I've not been hungry. You may have heard on 5Live breakfast that I went for the whole chicken option, so it will be chicken (again!) for my evening meal tonight! I also miss a cup of tea and a biscuit. I have just over £1 left to spend and maybe I could buy some own brand biscuits, but I think I might feel guilty, thinking I should really buy some more fruit.
    I'll let you know how I get on... Thank you again.


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