Feature - Living Off £10 For A Week

Feature – Living Off £10 For A Week

I’ll be the first to admit that I can be a snob when it comes to food. Aside from the odd alcohol-binge, I try to treat my body as a temple, a sacred temple that is full of antioxidants and superfoods. That’s right – I’m one of those types of people. The kind of person who’ll turn their nose up at white carbs, baulks at the idea of a meal without vegetables, rarely salt’s their food (scared of high blood pressure innit) and who never buys processed food.

So, why am I writing about what it’s like to live off £10 for a week?

  1. I spend a lot of money on food – whether that’s nipping to Waitrose or out at pubs, markets or restaurants. It will be a challenge to budget and only spend what I can afford.
  2. From a health perspective, I’m interested to know how I’ll fare without my usual amount of vegetables, fruit and protein. Will I lack concentration? Will I feel more tired? Will I be more moody? I expect the answer to be yes to a lot of these points.
  3. Over the past five years of Conservative government, cuts have been made and will continue to be made for the foreseeable future. These will primarily affect low-incomes households, those receiving benefits, the disabled and people already struggling to feed their families. Many, many people live off ten pounds for the week, often having to feed more than one mouth. Hopefully this project will highlight how tough this situation is to be in.

The Rules

  • No accepting freebies from anyone
  • No IOU’s
  • Salt and pepper allowed – every other herb, oil and spice I have is not allowed
  • Must eat three meals a day

Average consumption

Breakfast: Wilted spinach, half an avocado, 2 boiled eggs, 2 rashers of grilled bacon OR fillet of smoked mackerel.

Lunch: Wholemeal pasta, cherry tomatoes, spinach, red pepper, green beans, 1/4 tin of tuna, olive oil – basically, a poncey pasta salad

Dinner: Stir-fry with chicken breast, mushrooms, ginger, red chilli, green beans, broccoli, red pepper, noodles and soy sauce.

Snacks: Banana, satsuma, apple, 100g of peanuts and raisins.

Drink: Coffee in the morning, two cups of green tea in the day, 2 litres of water throughout the day.

The Last Supper

Before I could enjoy a blindingly excellent roast at Sussex Yeoman, I had to get my provisions in. The day ran away with me and by 3pm a panic had started to set in. We dashed to cheap-as-chips supermarket Aldi on London Road.

Arriving at 3.30pm, we spent until closing time examining many items, carefully checking weight against price, contemplating what products would be the most filling. If I’m honest, I felt a bit stressed out.

livingofftenpounds 2

The budget shop opened my eyes to how much I spend in various supermarkets. I wander about chucking things into my basket without figuring out the best cost and get lured into buying organic or “finest” or “gourmet” or whatever clever marketing they use to make you spend more.

livingofftenpounds 3

Aldi make you pay for plastic bags. Lucky for me I brought my own with me.

Aldi make you pay for plastic bags. Lucky for me I brought my own. Every penny counts.

Payin'.

Payin’.

£2.95 change.

£2.95 change.

At Aldi I spent a total of £7.05.

When I got home I cleared my cupboard and fridge of anything that might cause my temptation. I realised I had a lot of food in.

livingofftenpounds 15

Day one – Monday

Breakfast was two pieces of wholemeal toast and olive spread. It was horrible. So bland and like eating soggy cardboard. Washed down with a cup of hot water and a slice of lemon.

08.49 – There’s a free fruit basket at work! Promptly pick up two bananas, two satsumas, and an apple. Feel a bit immoral – do people on low incomes work jobs where free fruit is provided to get morale and health levels high? Already a bit peckish and only ate breakfast 1.5 hours ago.

9.30 – Had a cup of complimentary berry herbal tea from the work stash.

10.51 – Ate 3 rich tea biscuits. Kinda feel like this will be a walk in the park.

11.15 – Ate a free banana. Instantly felt a bit mortified and like I’d already cheated. Put all the fruit back in the basket.

11.34 – A cup of builders tea and two more biscuits.

Midday – Four squares of chocolate. I already regret buying chocolate and biscuits. They were so cheap, 30p and 23p – a lot cheaper than apples and bananas. It’s easy to see how people spend money on total junk. Nothing feels like it’s filling me up. I don’t even really like chocolate that much.

12.45 – 1.45pm – Lunchtime. Packet of Aldi chicken noodles and one piece of wholemeal bread. I swear the bread has more flavour than the noodles. Feel like I’ve consumed a bowl of salt. Ugh. How is everything so bland?

livingofftenpounds 18

3.25 – Think my hunger is all in my head. It’s not like I’ve not eaten anything. Feel anxious.

5.10 – I’m fucking hungry and in a bad mood.

After work I went to Tesco which was pretty torturous. I kept picking up things and putting them down: cheese, meat, herbs, fruit etc. After about twenty mins I actually bought what I went in there for: a packet of frozen mixed vegetables for £1, then I walked to Taj.

The heavens really shone down on me here – the woman on the till accidentally put through some ginger as a large baking potato! So I got 6 x red chillies, a thumb sized piece of ginger and an onion for 50p, which was nice.

Made a really basic chilli and there’s enough for another dinner later in the week. Headed to bed feeling full and content.

Vegetable chilli. This cost about 80p to make.

Vegetable chilli. This cost about 80p to make.

Day two – Tuesday

09.04 – Upped my breakfast game to three slices of toast. Have also sanctioned using work as a source of tea drinking. From today I am only going to have one hot drink from the work supply.

Triple toast.

Triple toast.

10.06 – After the seven biscuit binge yesterday I feel a bit on edge about running out. Counted biscuits: I have 33 left, which means I can have five a day. How am I going to do this?

10.50 – Ate four biscuits, in a really good mood!

1pm – Lunchtime was a tin of spaghetti hoops and two slices of toast.

1.02 – Just realised I ate the whole tin of spaghetti hoops and was meant to have half so there was some for lunch tomorrow! My life might as well be over.

13.06 – Hello chocolate! Instant mood lifter.

13.17 – Ate way too much chocolate. This is tough.

17.17 – I have no willpower. Just at another two biscuits, over my daily allowance.

Not sure if I’m struggling today. I’m in a fairly good mood and this all seems very easy. Maybe I’m overindulging on snacks without much thought for later in the week?

Dinner was brilliant and made me feel good. Roasted my super-economy chicken, sautéed an onion, red chilli and ginger and mixed with rice and portion of frozen veg. Even stretched it out to be enough for lunch tomorrow. Feeling bloody lucky I can cook. Maybe I’m being too smug. But anyway, as Judi Dench said in Notes on a Scandal “A GOLD STAR DAY!”

Chicken with frozen vegetables and rice.

Chicken with frozen vegetables and rice.

Day three – Wednesday

Woke up feeling a bit grumpy. Really don’t want toast and spread for breakfast.

10.19 – Bad mood not helped by having a coffee. Caffeine sometimes makes me feel edgy, paranoid and weird. Not enjoying today so far.

11.15 – Two biscuits. I miss fruit.

Beige on beige - the joy of living on a tenner.

Beige on beige – the joy of living on a tenner.

12.30 – Lunchtime. Reheated last nights dinner, still tasted good. Have cheered up a bit.

2.10 – Ate the last of my chocolate. Quite glad it’s gone.

4.15 – I swear to God my body is having trouble regulating temperature. One minute I’m freezing, the next I’m warm.

5.25 – My breath smells rancid.

Dinner I reheated chilli and boiled some rice. Actually cheered up quite a lot since earlier today. Could murder a glass of wine but also quite enjoying the alcohol-free week so far. Could also murder some vegetables.

Day four – Thursday

Woke up feeling absolutely diabolical. Huge headache and feeling very groggy, like my body has no energy at all.

9.10 – Perked myself up with a cup of coffee.

10.30 – Not looking forward to dinner. Bored of rice.

11.45 – Hungry. Is it too early to take lunch?

11.46 – Am I being too melodramatic?

12.27 – I think my stomach has shrunk.

1pm – Lunch was another tin of spaghetti hoops and more toast. Bloody hate toast. I feel sluggish and like I want a nap. Why is everything so bland? Nothing has any flavour.

livingofftenpounds 30

16.28 – Painfully low on concentration today. I really miss Kate.

17.24 – Feel incapable of making decisions.

Popped to Taj and picked up an onion for 20p. Couldn’t be bothered to then walk to Aldi, so went to Waitrose and got some reduced bread for 75p. I have 50p left until Sunday.

Today has been difficult. I’ve just horribly lethargic, moody and temperamental. Zero patience for anything or anyone. Craving some food that isn’t bloody bread, biscuits or rice. Horrified people live this way on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis.

Felt disgusted in Waitrose when all the yummy mummy’s were splashing out top dollar on just… packaged nicely, overly expensive, branded bollocks. Feel a bit ashamed that I was like that only a week or two ago.

Day five – Friday

After waking up with a stomach ache at 4.30am, I’m just pleased I managed to get another hour’s kip before work. Yet more toast for breakfast.

11am – Keep thinking of what I want to do this weekend: pubs, grub, socialising, fun. None of which I feel I can do with my 50p. This is depressing.

11.24 – Gavin who sits next to me at work is eating crisps and they smell amazing.

12.33 – Curry noodles and white bread for lunch. Disgusting. I have a headache.

Instant curry noodles. Vile.

Instant curry noodles. Vile.

13.35 – Just had to turn down free sweets and cake at work. I feel sad inside.

3pm – I’m hungry.

3.05 – Had some biscuits. I feel like people in the office might be looking at me weirdly – like I have some kind of eating disorder that means I have to count out how many biscuits I’m eating then write it down in my journal.

5.28 – The weekend is so very nearly here and yet I don’t feel very excited by it.

Made more chicken, rice and vegetables for dinner. Found it incredibly difficult to not drink in the evening. A painful Friday night. Not enjoying this at all.

Day six – Saturday

Decided against journaling today. Actually want to vaguely enjoy my weekend. Or try to at least.

Saturday morning I was bought breakfast in bed… of a piece of toast and spread. But the loving gesture made it a lot more enjoyable than usual.

For lunch I made – yes, you guessed it – more chicken, rice and vegetables.

Boiled the chicken carcass with half an onion, a carrot and refrigerated chicken juices from when I roasted the animal earlier in the week to make stock. Or “bone broth” as is apparently on trend to call it nowadays.

livingofftenpounds 69

Carrot soup for dinner turned out to be a success, albeit a bit watery. Wish I had made this earlier in the week.

Final Day – Sunday

Ate three pieces of toast at 9am. Didn’t feel like getting out of bed. Dozed on and off until nearly midday.

Soup for lunch.

Feel horribly lethargic and tired, zero energy, fed up with eating horrible food. Want it to be Monday more than anything. But, need to bare in mind that for some, Monday never comes. It’s just an endless cycle of struggle.

Used the last of the chicken stock and chicken to make a rice filled chicken soup type dish. Surprisingly tasty! But longing painfully for something other than chicken and rice.

Verdict:

I’ve treated my body like it was anything but a temple. I felt like a ruin. A deteriorating, old ruin. I wouldn’t wish living off £10 a week on my worst enemy. But, on the plus side I lost 3lb! So swings and roundabouts really. Might brand this as “The Welfare Diet”, write a book and donate the proceeds to charity.

In all seriousness, this was hard. Really, really hard. A struggle.

I wasn’t expecting to feel as rubbish as I did – low energy, moody, restless and as though my brain wasn’t working properly. Work was difficult, I couldn’t concentrate or think clearly. Thank God I had the support of Kate, otherwise I wouldn’t have seen the project through until the end.

You might ask why I didn’t buy more fruit or vegetables and in all honestly, I couldn’t afford to. Biscuits were 23p, a bag of apples was way over that. The choice between biscuits that would last all week and be more filling or a few apples was a bit of a no-brainer. I am also thankful that I can cook. Otherwise I would have been absolutely stuffed – and not full of food.

A Short Film…