I tried to live under the poverty line for a week

So you think you can budget


Ever had that end of term feel, when you’re counting every penny, or giving up completely and revelling in the minus numbers of your overdraft?

For five days last week I endeavoured to try and prove that you can survive on just a pound a day for food.

Maintenance loans come out at just under £1,200 a term – £70 budget on food for the whole term would then leave you with over a grand for everything else.

Believe it or not, my £6.49 shop

Believe it or not, my £6.49 shop

With dreams of simultaneously losing weight and saving a ton of money, my extreme-budget Tesco shop even allowed me cookies, and eight 40p tinned meals seemed like a genius idea when patrolling the extra value aisles.

My whole shop came to a minuscule £6.79.

Even the first day wasn’t too bad – a reasonably healthy, if slightly bland, lunch of noodles and frozen veg, apart from not realising that with these kind of noodles you don’t strain off the water as that’s what brings all the flavour to the meal.

My dinner of tinned spaghetti bolognaise tasted just like the tomato pasta I normally make, although the promised mince beef was nowhere to be found.

First cooked meal of the week

First cooked meal of the week

Tasty 20p noodles 

Coming to dinner on Tuesday, I was then met with a luconegenic tinned of meatballs.The sauce glowed luminous orange and the meat smelt like something left over from the horse meat scandal. I’m still unsure a week later as to what was in those meatballs

The infamous radioactive meatballs

The infamous radioactive meatballs

They claimed chicken, but according to the label, only 30% was actual meat, the rest was largely water and salt – the key ingredients, as everyone knows, to a good meatball.

Endless noodles for lunch also became a depressing affair, particularly when I realised that there is no real difference between chicken flavoured seasoning and my more adventurous choice of spicy curry. Both only serve to make the noodles a slightly darker shade of beige and the water a slightly thicker consistency of soup.

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The meal that finally cracked me

Coming home from a particularly cold and grey English day, I opened my fourth can of radioactive meatballs on a Thursday evening with more trepidation than if it were a can of actual nuclear waste.

And now I have a confession to make: feeling simultaneously guilty and triumphant, I made myself Nutella on toast, with a healthy side portion of chips.

It’s not for nothing that Oxfam named this week a challenge. While it’s easy to get your hands on bargain food, turns out it’s much harder to stomach it for a whole week.

Maybe I just depend on food way too much for my own happiness, but days of questionable meat and tasteless noodles really start to get to you.

Starting to lose my mind

Starting to lose my mind

Despite failing to do the full five days, my experience at extreme budgeting taught me how to overcome the pitying judgement of a Tesco cashier when you put £6.79 worth of food on her desk, and how to keep going when your friends are all tucking into food that hasn’t come out of a tin.

Piece of advice from me to you: if you’re paying less than 50p for meat that is 70% liquid, it’s not worth your time or the very literal belly-ache.