I only ate food from the reduced section for an entire week, but would it kill me?
And I lived to tell the tale, clearly, as I’m writing this right now
You know what I love? University. Only kidding, I hate university. You know what I really love? Bargains. Bargains are irresistible. You know what’s not a bargain? University.
I spend a ludicrous amount of money on things like second-hand books with nice covers, books I won’t read because I’ve already bought books that I’m yet to work my way through. I’m just giving myself more work to do. If I walk by Topman and there’s a sale on inside, you better believe I’m in there wasting money I almost certainly do not have on tops for mans.
There is one true bargain, however, the prima bargain, the home of the bargain – the supermarket reduced section.
You know what I’m talking about, you’ve been in your local Tesco, you’ve seen it out of the corner of your eye, the little yellow sticker. “REDUCED”, it calls to you, “I AM REDUCED”. But are you reduced? Damn right you’re reduced, you’re reduced to the levels of buying reduced food, because you, like me, are a student. Unless you’re called Jonty and your Dad is called something like Jonty Snr and works in the city, you’re bloody skint. This is it for us.
Upon looking at my bank balance, I found that last week I spent around £50 on food. Like, actual food as well. I’m not including the potentially life-threatening amount of chocolate and Haribo Tangfastics I’ve bought recently. That total includes ingredients to make things like stir fry, various pasta-based meals, and lots of baguettes.
Taking this into account, I’m going to spend one week eating only food from the reduced sections of supermarkets for my tea (I say tea not dinner, feel free to not call me out on this because I am right).
My focus will be on tea. I don't eat breakfast as I'm not a real adult. I will only be a real adult when I start eating breakfast and contemplate buying a shed. Getting home at the end of a hard day revising for my BA English Literature degree at a polytechnic that will definitely not get me a job, I need something to nourish me in a way that my career prospects just wont.
I nipped into Co-Op on my way home and found that the reduced food isn’t actually in a reduced section, rather it is scattered around the shop. This meant I had to hunt for my bargains like I’m on Raven or Jungle Run or some other show I wanted to go on as a child but never had the confidence or the friends.
I eventually found some reduced garlic and herb chicken kievs and a bag of salad, which is a pretty boring start if I’m honest, but this whole thing was hardly going to be Frost/Nixon was it.
Buoyed by the nutritious success of the first night, boring or otherwise, I had high hopes for my second day of only eating food at the end of its life. Food if food was in its third year of uni, weary from successive damp-filled houses. Food that has made many failed attempts to reinvent itself, food that has absolutely no idea what it’s going to do after uni and is dreading moving back in with its food parents.
I went to my local Tesco to see what they had to offer and found some reduced chicken breasts and a Tesco Finest chicken tikka masala. I put both in my basket, fully intending to buy both, but ended up putting the curry back after remembering I don’t have a microwave and my culinary patience and skills don’t extend to working out how to put it in the oven instead. I’m doing this for an article, not Masterchef. I bought the chicken breasts and spruced them up with some spices I already owned.
I found this pizza. It was barely even reduced. There was a pizza two shelves lower than this one, it looked a lot nicer and was about half the price, but you know, it wasn’t rustic. Do you know what rustic means? IT MEANS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. IT’S JUST A SQUARE PIZZA.
Days Four and Five
There is a reason I’ve combined Saturday and Sunday, and that reason is bargains. I’d had a hard shift at work, I’d worked thirteen hours on less than an hour of sleep, and my terminal condition known as ‘being a miserable prick’ was flaring up.
I went to Sainsbury’s on my break to quickly grab something before it closed, hoping to get a sandwich or, if I’m being honest with myself, chocolate. What I found, however, was more surprising than when I found out exams are a lot easier when you actually revise.
750g of breaded chicken for 10p. Noodles for 10p. Stir fry vegetables for 10p. I could feed myself for two nights (could’ve been three, but you better believe I ate 750g of breaded chicken at 1am when I got home from work) for just 30p.
Total cost: 30 fucking pence.
Not going to lie to you guys, I forgot, what with being wrapped up in the whirlwind of only having to spend more than 30p on food for two days. You can only imagine the shock. Two meals for less than what my university charges to print out an essay. To make up for it I’m doing two meals on Wednesday, like a bloody loser with his life together or something.
Cost = my journalistic integrity.
I’ve seen it all this week – two meals for 30p, a square pizza, the trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story (unrelated to this article but still something I've seen). You know what’s even better than cheap food and Donald Glover in a Star Wars movie? Reduced garlic bread.
I imagine that when we get to heaven and walk up to the gates, St. Peter is there with his big book turning away the heathens, the sinners, the contestants that take the minus offer on The Chase. Inside there’ll be a supermarket filled with everything you could ever want; in that supermarket will be an aisle, an aisle devoted to the apple of my eye – reduced garlic bread.
There is no greater sight than reduced garlic bread. It’s garlic bread in all its glory, but it costs less than normal. All of the delight, less of the price. Easy on your desire, easier on your bank balance. There is one true God, and it is garlic bread. The garlic bread is dead, long live the reduced garlic bread.
Addendum, it was cheesy garlic bread.
In an attempt to make up for my mistake of missing out Monday, I not only had a reduced tea but a reduced lunch too. For lunch I stockpiled some reduced mini pizzas from Co-Op (I didn’t eat them all, I’m not an animal).
For tea, however, the game was up. Throughout this process I’ve been pretty lucky in that I’ve not had to buy something totally stupid and make a meal out of it, I had genuine worries that I’d be eating a meal deal sandwich, mackerel, and a block of Edam. I’d come so far without having to do so, but on my final night my luck ran out.
Not only did a pipe burst in my house causing water to pour down the walls of the living room (student living, am I right?), the only things left in the reduced section of Tesco after work were a children’s chicken and potato pie and reduced fat humous. Humous for losers. I don’t even like regular, non-loser humous.
I don’t care if this makes me a bad millennial, I’ll still never to be able to afford my own home so we’re all in it together. Why is houmous so popular? What’s the deal with avocados? Meal deals? Help me guys, I’m turning into a Telegraph reader.
Cost = £3.62
Alas, we have come to the end. Thank you for making it this far through an article, which probably isn’t as good as my last one.
As mentioned, last week I spent £50 of my debt on food. I was cooking meals from scratch like a real life adult and generally taking an interest in what was going into my stress-ravaged body.
Yet this week this was not the case. Instead I spent a grand total of £12.69, nearly £40 less than what I would normally spend, at that includes a stir fry and nearly a kilogram of chicken.
But what did I learn from this experience? Well, I’ve learnt that a) it’s really hard to actually look at what’s in the reduced section because there’s always someone with the trolley parked across the whole section, meaning you have to peer into the reduced section like it’s a crime scene until you see something you want. And b) you have to pick your moment, if you see something, grab it asap before someone else does, or you’ll have no basis for your article for The Tab.