Taking the frugal life to the limit
Being a student is the one time in your life when eating pizza for breakfast and Crunchy Nut for dinner is acceptable. Living on a tight budget isn't easy and sometimes you have to get "creative" with your meals.
We've all been there, student loan day is just round the corner and we find ourselves peering into the back of the cupboard trying to make a nutritious dinner out of baked beans, mustard and half an onion. So, to give you guys some kitchen inspiration, we wanted to see if students could live off a £10 food budget for a week.
One tenner, one week. Is it possible? We set the challenge to two UEA students to find out.
Monday, Day 1:
BREAKFAST- Raw porridge oats with blueberry yogurt
LUNCH- Roasted/oven baked egg in a large mushroom with potatoes and herbs
DINNER- Basic salad with two boiled eggs
Because we were told we could use things already in our cupboards I spent today using up the last few bits I had at the back of the shelves, e.g. slightly stale bread products and a few peaky looking vegetables which I blitzed to make a soup. The main problem I had was realizing that I've become far too dependent on buying food at lunchtime on campus - cue me having to dash home and give up my much coveted window seat in the library. So planning ahead I've kept some of tonight's soup for tomorrow.
If all goes well with essay submissions tomorrow then I'll do a 'proper' shop in the evening and post a breakdown of all the prices here.
AMOUNT LEFT: £10
Tuesday, Day 2:
BREAKFAST Porridge with cinnamon
LUNCH Banana, salad and and a boiled egg on the go
DINNER Curry with potatoes and aubergine
I was really hungry after having lectures today, so I actually had my dinner around 4pm. Then I fell asleep all the way until 10.30pm, as I was doing one of my assignments until late the day before. Overall, feeling full and happy
Did a small food shop today, deliberately not using the whole £10 - you never know what might come up.
So here is what I purchased on my way home:
Carrots - £0.46
Basics Mozzarella - £0.60
Bag of Orzo - £0.85
Chickpeas can x 2 - £1.20
Tinned tomatoes x 2 - £0.80
Milk 1 pint - £0.49
Pairing the orzo, tomatoes and mozzarella with an old bulb of garlic I had at the back of the cupboard I was able to make a very substantial supper which should last for at least another meal.
For lunch I had some of my soup from yesterday (which should also stretch to tomorrow).
The lowest point was when I was craving coffee this morning but all we had was a jar in which the granules had welded themselves to the bottom. Having to hack your coffee out of a jar isn't a great way to start the day. But other than that it's all going fine - just making me realise how much money I waste on food and drink on campus.
AMOUNT LEFT: £5.60
Wednesday, Day 3
BREAKFAST Pancakes* with blueberry yogurt (*extra products from my cupboard: self-raising flour and sugar)
LUNCH Banana and oats in milk with yogurt on the go
DINNER Fried mushroom with pasta sauce, salad and a boiled egg
I feel like this challenge is really pushing me to be creative with the ingredients I already bought. Also, I normally have bigger portions of food, hence I find myself drinking more water which is good. Although I feel full at the end of the day, I feel like I’m dieting.
Like Georgia, my limited ingredients list is forcing me to be a bit more creative - although with varying levels of success.
I know that breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day but I'm finding it easier to eat a slightly earlier lunch rather than bother with breakfast; it's not necessarily the best of ideas so I will try and improve on that.
Today I had the rest of the orzo I cooked the night before and then for dinner I made a chickpea and carrot curry which wasn't quite as great as I was expecting but ah well.
The most difficult thing I'm finding at the moment is having to turn down socialising with my friends - even the SU discounted prices aren't low enough to justify on my budget so instead I stayed in and watched First Dates!
Thursday, Day 4
BREAKFAST: Japanese omelette with veggies
LUNCH: Banana and oats in milk with yogurt
DINNER: Savoury oats curry with aubergine in a lettuce leaf
It was strange having savoury oats but it wasn’t bad either. I made around two portions, hence I’ll have to finish the rest tomorrow, I think. I’m running out of ideas for what else to do for the final three days.
Breakfast: I feel like I should explain this one. So in the Student Union building a few days ago some company was handing out these free cans of 'Nurishment', so I picked one up. Having had it today I can confirm that, whilst filling, I will never drink one again. It's the kind of stuff I imagine we'll be living off if nuclear war ever breaks out.
Lunch: The final dregs of the soup I made back at the beginning of the week
Dinner: Orzo with tinned tomatoes, grated carrot + chili (shout out to the guy I lived with in second year who bought a spice rack and then left it after he graduated)
Friday, Day 5
BREAKFAST: Scrambled egg with fried mushroom and a tomato
LUNCH: Crepes with strawberry jam and a banana* (*Extra ingredients from my cupboard: self-raising flour, sugar, strawberry jam and margarine)
DINNER: Leftover curry from yesterday with a lettuce leaf
The products I have left from the shop are about half a kilo of oats, about 350 ml of milk, one tomato, a small piece of cucumber, two tins of potatoes, about 100 ml of pasta sauce, five eggs, one mushroom, half of the iceberg lettuce and two bananas. Although it’s enough to help me do the final stretch I’m out of new ideas now. I need inspiration!
Did another mini-shop today with the remaining money I had:
Apples - £1.10
Onions - £0.75
Potatoes - £1
Sainsbury's own brand cola - £0.60
Penne + leek bake - £1.34
As you can see, there are a few 'decadent' items on the list. The cola is for a party tomorrow evening (Eurovision, naturally) and the bake was on special offer. I'm currently working on my final essay which is 5,000 words and I didn't want to take any more time out from studying this evening to cook so I bought the bake as it was in the reduced section. Probably not the most cost efficient but it did save time.
The rest of the day was spent living off apples and the orzo I cooked yesterday (* pictured cheese was stuff I already had in the fridge)
REMAINING AMOUNT: £0.81
Saturday, Day 6
BREAKFAST: Porridge with cinnamon
LUNCH: two scrambled eggs with a tomato
DINNER: Potatoes curry and a banana
I'm a bit fed up with the same ingredients but, hey, only 1 day left until I can finally do a normal shop without having to plan every single meal in so much detail. My three-month placement in Critical Care begins next week, hence I'll definitely need a lot more nutrients as I'll be working full-time. Soon, I will be a student no more...sigh the final year blues are starting to kick-in. Sorry for the ramble.
Thank goodness we are nearing the end because I am so bored of living on apples, orzo and soup - which is what I had to eat today (+ a snack bar I bought with my remaining 80p)
Today was a tough one to stick with the challenge; we had friends around to watch Eurovision and as they happily tucked into their takeaway I ate my homemade potato soup. But what I am most looking forward to buying again are coffees on campus, my goodness I miss them.
What has been helpful this week though, in case anyone is interested, is a book I bought back when I first moved away from home (and was having to live on £10 a week) called 'A Girl Called Jack'. It's a cookbook designed for people living on a tight budget but it's realistic about it - unlike some student cookbooks which include 'simple' recipes with 15 or so ingredients. Jack's book helps you make dinner when all you have in the cupboard is a tin of rice and some baked beans. So I'd recommend anyone on a budget checking it out.
Sunday, Day 7
BREAKFAST: Lettuce and cucumber salad with a fried egg and mushroom
LUNCH: Fried rice* with two eggs and a banana (*extra ingredient from my cupboard: rice)
DINNER: Leftover fried rice with potatoes (sad)
Today was quite sad as I forgot to do a food shop and Aldi closed at 4 pm. All I have left is about 400g of oats and a few small potatoes from the tin. I'm so glad this challenge is over. I think that I've lost about three pounds. I can't wait to buy some fresh fruits and veggies tomorrow and eat whatever I want, as much as I want.
Overall, the challenge is manageable but you won't be consuming normal healthy amounts of food, although it might be useful if you're trying to lose weight. It's something I wouldn't recommend doing on long-term basis as you would become fed up and feel miserable quite quickly. Saving money from food should be done by buying everyday essentials, low-cost brands and discounted items, rather than restricting your food intake.
IT'S OVER (well, as of midnight)
No photos today because it's just me eating more of the same (aka pasta, apples, veggie soup). Especially now I'm in the midst of deadline hell I don't have time to be thinking of ingenious new ways of serving vegetables so I am very much looking forward to food shopping tomorrow. ALSO, being able to have a coffee whilst I work in the library - simple pleasures.
Living on £10 a week is do-able in the short term, it's not fun but you can live off pasta or toast for a while if you have to. The real problem is when there are any extra expenses, for example I've just run out of shampoo and buying new stuff would take a hefty chunk out of my budget.
This week has reminded me that I can be sharper about how I spend money but it's definitely not something I'm going to stick with if I can help it.
If you are a student and you're experiencing financial issues it is really worth finding out who in your student union can help and advise you on any steps you can take to make sure it doesn't affect your university experience/ impact your grades.
Have you been inspired by this challenge?
What are your some of your penny-pinching cooking tips?
How much do you typically spend on food per week? Have your say in the comments below.
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