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Can you feed yourself for under £20 a week?

publication date: Nov 15, 2011
author/source: Nicola Mirams
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Impressed by one of our regular contributors Nicola Mirams' budgeting skills we asked her to keep a food diary for a week just to show how far you can make your budget stretch. She says that although she sets herself a limit of £25 she rarely spends more than £16 which is truly impressive. Here’s how she did it - and survived a series of domestic disasters in the process.

Dinner time – first meal used with the things I bought today. Made Shepherds Pie using mince, onion, yellow pepper, gravy granules, water, tomato puree, herbs, potatoes (given to me by a friend) - enough for a large portion and two freezable portions. I bought 300g mince which was £2.07 from the market. Am unsure about the cost of onion and yellow pepper – they were already in my storecupboard (bought from the greengrocers). The leftovers will be made into a spaghetti bolognaise and possibly a filling for a jacket potato later in the week.

Tonight’s dinner was leek and potato soup using leeks, potatoes, stock cube, garlic and onions. It was a success in that it tasted good and hardly cost anything (got given potatoes again), but half went to waste as I managed to smash the blender when putting the soup in. Whoops! Safety note: hot soup and glass do not mix!

Am feeling a bit more cheerful now after the leek and potato soup incident. I managed to salvage and freeze two portions which will be useful. In fact, I had one for lunch. I hadn’t planned to, but I think it is important to recognise that you can be flexible whilst on a meal plan. Am getting cooked for tonight so a no-cooking day really. I think my frozen items will be a lifesaver when either I can’t be bothered to cook or am going out.

Wasn’t really in the mood to make lunch today so had some cheese on toast with salad. I’m going out tonight for someone’s birthday. I’ll probably have something which would be too expensive to buy and cook usually but will try not to go overboard. Loan comes through tomorrow which is useful. I have plenty of choice for the rest of the week. I have two portions of bolognaise sauce and a portion of leek and potato soup as well as the tuna fishcakes and calzone I had planned.

What hasn’t come through in this diary so far is my love of baking – I really enjoy making cakes. Although some ingredients are expensive, I have managed to find a bulk buy shop which should keep the cost down. It is worth looking around your local area – I now do my shopping in a variety of places: markets, major supermarket, bulk buy shop, and am always on the look out for new shops or good value items.

Batching freezing only works when there isn’t a power cut. We have had a number recently. Thankfully I didn’t have to throw out any of the food I’d frozen this time but it is a problem which hopefully will get resolved.

My friend came round yesterday and ate two of the portions of mince I had leftover, so I made a tomato sauce to go with the pasta. It was very quick and easy: tinned tomatoes, garlic, onions, sweetcorn, a pinch of sugar (to take the bitterness of the tomatoes away) which some cheese sprinkled on top. Cheap and healthy.

Seriously lacking motivation on the “what to eat for lunch” front. Will have to try and find some inspiration. For dinner tonight I think I am going to have to have soup, as I am going out tonight and it just needs defrosting. Have also run out of milk.

Thinking of ideas of what to make next week – can’t decide at the moment whether to buy a whole chicken or whether to buy fish and make fish pie instead.

Oh, the perils of living in a student house! We have just had a small fire which wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I guess it just pays to be careful and to check as soon as you move in that your smoke alarms are working and where the fire extinguishers/blankets are. It could have been a lot worse . . .

Well, the damage doesn’t seem too bad in the kitchen and the plastic (of a melted chopping board) has been scraped off the cooker. We’re a bit wary of using it, but I think that is just the shock of having had a fire.

Tomorrow I am baking with a friend – cinnamon rolls. I think I am slowly spreading my baking obsession in this house. My housemates also seem to be becoming more thrifty.

On Fridays, I generally start thinking what I’d like to eat the next week as I go shopping on Saturday mornings. I think I am going to get some haddock from the market, which should be interesting as I have never cooked fish before. But I am always open to trying new things.


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