Why did we eat for £1 a day?

025a09151
Fried bean tacos with guacamole and pomegranate salad • Photo by PhilAshley.com

I started this journey into low cost eating to find out how difficult it would be to only have £1 a day to spend on all of your food. This figure of a £1 a day was set by the charity ‘Live Below the Line’ to challenge individuals to exists on for 5 days to raise awareness of people living in poverty around the world .

I decided to give it a go, after my friend who helps out at our local food bank told me about people living on very little money and trying to feed their families. This could be for a variety of reasons, and everyone’s story is different.

I decided with my family to join our one pounds together and try to devise a shopping list that would feed us with a varied and healthy diet, trying to include our 5 a day of fruit and vegetables. I also decided to write a blog about our adventures so that if other people wanted to copy it they could, and since I put it online I’ve had people from all around the world looking at it, who knew?

This first menu plan led on to people asking me to try a vegetarian week, a 2 person week and a vegan week. I’m always up for a challenge so over the last six months I’ve put my family through lots of £1 weeks. I guess I’m a bit obsessed about it now, although they too are keen to try new dishes. My husband Phil, a photographer kindly took all the photos and the food you see is what we really ate, no cheating. Just after taking these pictures we sat down and had our meal.

After the first challenge where we felt there weren’t quite enough treats to sustain this food plan for very long I factored in a few cakes and desserts. I also decided to only use free range eggs even though they cost a little more.

I know in London we are very lucky to have a wide variety of supermarkets and I have used the cheapest to one of the premium ones and still managed to provide a healthy and interesting menus on one pound a day.

This blog isn’t intended to patronize anyone and everybody’s food needs are different. So none of the recipes should be too complicated, they just take a bit of effort. I myself couldn’t cook until a few years ago so I have tried to make them as simple as I can. I also work full time so I try to do as much prep work for the week ahead at the weekends as possible to save time midweek.

These recipes are ones I’ve collected from my cookbooks or online over the years and a few new ones I’ve researched for the vegetarian and vegan weeks. There should be something for everyone to help you to save money whether you’re a poor student, struggling to feed a large family, or even if you are just trying to save some money towards a holiday there should be something for everyone here. If you don’t need to save money, how about giving the money you would have spent to a charity.



84 thoughts on “Why did we eat for £1 a day?

    1. Instead of people allows firstly trying to cut their food shopping Bill,why don’t they do without many other things first which not necessarily a need.do you not realise that the first most important thing you need to do is sustain your body with good quality nutrition.thats what keeps you alive.i would rather save money somewhere else so that I could spend more on quality food.people say think of the money you could save on food and then have a extra holiday per year.really,I mean the holiday isn’t neccassery for keeping you alive but food is.people have got it the wrong way round.

      Like

      1. I agree, but if you are living on very little money, you don’t get the holiday either. My aim of this blog was to show people how to eat well on a very tight budget, and get as many vegetables as I could within the £1 a day. There is vegan and vegetarian weeks listed too. But holidays, even just camping like we do sometimes are healthy for your family too.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s great. I’m still all a bit new to this. Only started in October as an experiment. But I seem to have got a bit carried away with it. I don’t have Facebook so if it can reach more people and maybe help them, then that’s even better. So thank you.

      Like

      1. Please go on fb
        You will get so many more followers
        And yr mirror story can be linked to it
        I’ve just struggled to find where you were because the mirror story has typo on the link

        Like

      2. I saw that. I didn’t know it would explode the way it has. A journo just asked me some questions a few weeks ago and she sent it to a few papers only this morning. It must have been a slow newsday. I am on facebook under eat not spend

        Like

  1. Love love love this blog – are you planning on doing any further supermarkets……Tesco, Aldi, Sainsburys, Lidl etc? I now just need to convince my lot that we would definately benefit from a 8 day stint of economy eating….think it may help my waistine too!!!
    Well done you’re an inspiration 😃

    Like

  2. Many thanks for your Asda shop – the Normandy chicken looks delish! Going to Asda tomorrow so plan to do the challenge from Thursday. From your lovely recipes my lot won’t even know that we will be saving lots of cash! Fab as usual – well done. Oh, also tell your hubby – great photos.

    Like

    1. Oh that’s great, do let me know how you get on. try not to be too generous with the ingredients at the beginning of the week. we start running out of cheese early as hubby always adds too much to start with. But he does take great photos!

      Like

  3. Well that’s our first frugal week completed. Spent about £1.18 per person – my lot are carnivores and like their meat! – but have to say that we saved such a lot of money this week. Portion sizes were smaller than my boys are used to though so a few grumbles from them! Had to be quite organised and plan ahead and a well stocked store cupboard is hugely beneficial. Courgette cake was lovely – definately making that one again.
    Thanks to your hard work with your menu suggestions and shopping lists made this easier than I thought – so a huge thank you.
    Will definately be doing this again

    Like

    1. That’s great, did you let on they would be doing the £1 challenge? Even if it went a bit over budget you can still saved loads. I agree that a few essential stock cupboard ingredients are importants, but they’ll last and can be used in many other dishes. It’s so nice that someone else has tried these challenges, I didn’t know if anyone would even be interested when I started this in October. I know they work, as I’ve done them, but it’s lovely to have others try them too. Let me know if you’re going to try one of the others. I’m working on a meal plan for vegetarian 2 person challenge next.

      Like

  4. I did tell them. Think next time I won’t though and see if they notice! No I’m definately up for another challenge. My daughter and I could do veggie no probs – the boys on the other hand love their meat. May try to combine veggie for us and meat etc for guys – this may be too difficult though will have to see. If you’ve any tips it would be great. I have told everyone at work about your blog so hopefully more people will visit. I feel quite guilty that you do all the hard work and just knick your recipes and ideas – so yes I’m definately interested to try to save money and waste less – great job as always.

    Like

    1. Maybe you could do 2 of the 2 people challenges next time, as one is going to be vegetarian and the other isn’t, some of the meals overlap as well to make it easier, like the veggie burger. Don’t feel guilty though, as I enjoy cooking and as a designer, I love sorting out the food shots, remember we get to eat the lovely food too. Most of the recipes are from my large collection of cook books anyway, but I always credit the original chef if possible. Thanks for passing on the blog to people, If more people shopped carefully, they would save money and not create food waste. When you do these challenges, every bit of butter or cheese is precious.

      Like

  5. I roll by your blog every month when I am doing menu plans for our dinners. I like to use your recipes for money saving meals. I came across your Vegan Family Plan – looks good, but as I’ve said before mine are real carnivores so I probably wouln’t be trying this meal plan. We regularly have the Normany chicken and I make the courgette cake at least twice a month – huge success.
    Anyway just wanted to say well done on your new meal plan – you definately take the hard work out of things for us foodies!

    Like

  6. Working our way through the plans ! Great.
    It would be interesting for you to do a gluten free one. I’m coeliac and although I get some things on prescription I don’t get it all. More expensive and harder option wise – would love your input !

    Like

  7. On our last day of another ‘frugal’ week eating. We have now incorporated this into our monthly routine without too much effort (thanks to yourself!). This time we basically stuck to your student week meals with the exception that I had chicken thigh meat in the freezer so added this to the thai green curry and tonight we our having one of our favourite recipes – Normandy chicken. The carnavours kick off if they feel they are being deprived!
    Made your avacado brownies – said nothing to them about ingredients – they said they were good but they knew something was a bit different! They are really ‘fudgy’ which makes them feel really decadent. Spent about £1.07 for each person which I think is tremendous for lovely tasty food.
    Thanks again as always 😀

    Like

    1. That’s brilliant, it’s great to hear how people are getting on with the challenges. Prices go up and down so I try to stick as close as I can to the £1 knowing that there will be leftover ingredients to use another week. I love the brownies too. I guess you could count them as one of your five-a-day vegs.

      Like

  8. Stopped by again for inspiration for menus and noticed your GF menu. None of us require a GF diet but my son’s partner only eats chicken so at times I struggle to think of interesting meals when they come. Your orange chicken was a huge hit – we had it with baby charlotte pots, baby carrots and broccoli (she doesn’t do peas either!). Also made your lime cheesecake for pud too (not GF friendly version though). Successful dinner all round. Like your normandy chicken this one is a keeper.
    Many thanks as always 😀

    Like

    1. That’s great. I really enjoyed that one too. you should try the vegan bean wraps. I know your family like meat. But believe me they will love that one. It’s our favourite on non-meat days. so simple to prepare too, we even made it while camping.

      Like

      1. Yes, I agree totally. I should have said ‘an average of a pound a day’ – I couldn’t do it in any other way. The hardest part is costing out what I already have in because on Pound a Day (mentioned further up by Pat Parker) we also have a store cupboard/fridge/freezer challenge and it seems daft to be buying new stuff for this when I have stuff already in. 🙂
        I’m enjoying it though!
        J x

        Like

  9. Excellent advice. I found your blog through the DM article about you today. It just goes to show that you can eat well on a budget. All it takes is learning a few new tricks. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    Like

    1. That’s very kind of you. The DM got a few facts wrong though. The first challenge I did was when my sister was staying so I did it for 4 people at £1 a day not £3. Since then I’ve done budgets weeks for families or couples.

      Like

  10. This is brilliant, I am definitely going to give it a go.I am always moaning about our food bills – now is the time to take action! You have already done all the hard work (thank you) so I have no excuse not to get on with it!

    Like

  11. Do you have any clue as to how close you could get to this budget eating mainly organic? Particularly when it comes to fruit and veg, grains and cereals. Would you be up for a new challenge???

    Like

    1. Although we too try to eat organic on non challenge weeks, I don’t think I could come in at £1 a day. Although this year I’m going to grow some more veg in my garden so that’ll be organic and cheap. Also all my later challenges now only use free range eggs. I will look in to it though.

      Like

      1. I’m going to give it a go and see how close we get. May end up double, hopefully not triple. We do have chickens so may include a couple more egg recipies to keep the costs low. Not much veg in the garden at the mo (besides kale) but will try include that too.

        Like

  12. Really liked your article. We’re already living this way, shopping mainly at Aldi but other shops for whatever we can’t get there.

    For a family of 4 our shopping bill (including all non-food items) comes to around £54 per week and we still only just make it through the month with our very, very, very low incomes. We were forced to look at food banks last year when my husband didn’t get paid one month and although they are a wonderful thing, we were limited to only 3 days of food to ‘tide us over’ so we asked friends and family to bring over whatever they had in their fridge/cupboards which they were unlikely to use (or was close to the use by date) and we made some amazing meals with ingredients we’d never thought of using before.

    I totally agree that it is very possible to live well and frugally with planning and thought, but would just make one small point – my kids are great and not particularly fussy – so finding meals that everyone enjoys isn’t usually difficult, but the thing that costs the most for us is fruit – apples and bananas – can you suggest a cheaper way to satisfy the children’s fruit requirements without spending too much?

    Like

    1. It is hard out there, so well done on what you’ve achieved so far, Do you have friends or a common that has apple trees or berry bushes? Maybe forage and freeze the results. could make fruit puddings in the winter months. I often have a freezer full of cooked apples. Sometimes markets can be cheaper for fruits in season. I also regularly shop at Aldi. it’s very cheap. I hope this helps and good luck with your future.

      Like

    2. Juliette, yes, fruit is very expensive isn’t it. Vegetables are the most important things to have, and we don’t NEED fruit. Having said that, inexpensive ways to get fruit portions include – raisins (20g is a portion for dried fruit and if you can get raisins rather than sultanas, you will be having a hard to get purple portion); tinned peaches, pineapple and mandarins are in the basics ranges and cheap as fruit goes.
      You could include those things in main meals so they aren’t an extra as it were.
      Jack Monroe has done a couple of curries with peaches and mandarins in, both of which I’ve tried and enjoyed.

      Like

  13. Thanks for all the hard work you have done and I’m sure many families will benefit. However this is a very high carb diet and as my husband is Diabetic it would not be good for him. We eat a lot of fish, which is expensive, chicken/turkey and lots of fruit and veg. Wish I could find a low carb menu for 2 at a low price

    Like

    1. A few people have asked if I can do a low carb one. So I’ll have to do a bit of research and see what I can do. Thanks for the lovely comment. The reason I did it as a blog was to let people whatever their income see it without having to buy expensive cookbooks

      Like

      1. Lesley if you can’t get these prices down I’m not sure I can. Thanks for the chat last year about not looking at Daily Mail comments. I love living in bliss of not interacting with trolls

        Like

      2. In the case of the Mail, ignorance is bliss!
        I sort of have a look at a LCHF one every now and then. I’ve made a dhal today using leftover veg from the fridge and plenty of coconut oil, but the red lentils bring the carbs up too high 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Where do you live in london, just the area, I have a few tips ideas , like if I lived near new Spitalfields market I always wanted to go and get to know some of the traders as they sell stuff of cheap or possibly free , I wanted to go go weekly for free fruit for
    Juicing and next time I went take them some , could end up goof friends and get more free stuff

    Like

    1. West London so lots of independent supermarkets as well as the big stores. Sounds like a plan, but I think Spitalfields a bit too hipster for that. Too any tourists there now days as it’s such a great venue.

      Like

    1. Under each of the photos will be it’s recipe after the daily menu and maybe a bit of copy about what we cooked. Also there is a search button at the bottom of each page, or a recipe contents in the drop down menu.

      Like

  15. Such a great information you have on this blog. I think this is a good example of how to save more money everyday. Also, this is good for all people that in a diet progress right now. Such a useful blog.

    Like

  16. Firstly thanks for a very interesting and useful site. I had to give up work to become my brothers full time carer, following my dads death, so as someone now dependent on benefits the help to cook cheap healthy meals is very much appreciated.

    I’ve only just started trying your recipes, starting for no particular reason the ‘students’ list. However my cooking skills/knowledge are quite basic so I’ve a couple of questions if thats ok.

    In the Thai green curry recipe you list “3/4 tinned peas (drained and washed)”. Am I right that thats three to four tins of peas not three quarters of a tin?

    In the Butter bean with Tomatoes & spinich recipe After you’ve combined the onion, garlic,paprika, tomato purée, chopped tomatoes & water, salt and pepper you say to bring to the boil & cook for 30mins. Is this to reduce the liquid as I can’t see what needs half hour cooking, as the butter beans are cooked in the second stage in the oven.

    Thanks again for your hard work in adapting recipes etc.

    Like

    1. Hi Mark, thanks you for your kind comments, It’s great that you are giving these meals a go and learning to cook new recipes. The main reason the shopping is so cheap on these meal plans, is that some of the ingredients are used in more than one meal. For example the peas are really only in the Thia curry to bulk out the vegetable count and as they are nice to have in the rice to add colour. So it’s only 3/4 of one tin that is needed. just make sure you don’t leave food in the tin once you open it, as the metal can effect the taste. If you have frozen peas, feel free to use them instead. I would normally use them anyway. With the butterbean dish. You are right as the butterbeans are already cooked they don’t need as long, but the onions and tomatoes are better to be cooked for longer, as this strengthens the tomato flavour. You could cook for a little less time with less water, but just check for flavour as you go along. Good luck with these meals and please let me know what you think of them and how you got on. I hope your brother gets to enjoy them too.

      Like

  17. Hi. Thanks for the reply.

    I cooked the Thai curry earlier, before I wondered whether I’d read the recipe right, so I overdid the peas. However it was very tasty and I was surprised at how much there was (although two extra tins of peas would have helped)

    Anthony, my brother, is disabled so as I do all the cooking he’ll definitely be getting to enjoy them. He isn’t the most effusive of people but he said “that was nice, I enjoyed that” which is enthusiastic for him lol.

    Thanks for the info on the butter bean recipe. I’ll cook it exactly as written, I was just curious as to the reasoning. I’m probably going to cook that on Saturday and I’m looking forward to seeing how it comes out. I’m sure we’ll both love it.

    Like

    1. Well at least you’ll know for next time, although I’m sure more veg would be nice in this. I’m glad Anthony enjoyed the Thai curry. I hope he likes the next dish you try. Most of the meals on my blog are from my favourite cookbooks, But I do test them out first as you can see. I find Jamie Oliver has lots of easy recipes, It’s how I learnt to cook. and you can easily swap some of his ingredients for cheaper versions. He has loads online too for free.

      Like

    1. Hi Suzanne, If you look at the beginning of week challenge week under the heading shopping list, there is a photo of all the food laid out with a price list and quantity. All this shopping is used in the recipes for the following week. There might be a few extra stock cupboard ingredients to check on first in case you have run out. Eg. stock cubes, Cumin etc. Read through the recipes first as some ingredients might be used for more than one meal. I hope this is helpful.

      Like

  18. Hi. I was going to try a few recipes before getting back to you but we’ve just had the butter beans with tomatoes & spinich, and I had to say …… wow. That was really superb.

    It will definitely become a regular dish.

    Like

    1. That’s great, It’s a Rick Stein dish that I’ve made cheaper. we’re having the Greek potato dish tonight. another meal that can be cooked very cheaply, especially if using the supermarket own brand feta and tinned tomatoes

      Like

  19. I too love your blog and have shared the article on a local group and mentioned the typo.

    I wonder if the local food banks offer info or links to blogs such as yours as I feel it would be great for families with low incomes although I am not sure how the food banks work (I will try to find out).

    Best wishes

    Like

    1. Which Typo, from the Mirror paper? Thank you for sharing, I did send a link to the trussel trust when I first did the blog and they wished me luck, but nothing much since then. Maybe I should approach them again now it’s a bit bigger. The reason I did the blog was to help low income families, which was the only reason I agreed to appear in the papers. I really don’t court fame, especially being called a frugal £1 mum! my family thought that was very funny!

      Like

  20. On the vegan week (day 7 I think?) you mention Apple and Cinnamon pancakes however I can’t find a recipe, were they bought? Great recipes and ideas btw!

    Like

    1. Thanks, the pancakes are used on vegan day 2 with berries. If you’re having trouble finding recipes I have made a contents page that links to the correct page under why we did it home page. Or sometimes the search button works.

      Like

  21. I love this challenge! I’ve never heard of it before today. Now I want to try it! I just have to convert pounds to dollars!

    I try to limit our spending to $150 a month on groceries.

    How My Family Buys Groceries for under $150 a month… and still eats healthy!
    My husband and I got really tired of only having a small amount of money leftover to put into our savings each month, so we started a budget. Now, …

    http://www.fosteringloveandfrugality.com/how-my-family-buys-groceries-for-under-150-a-month-and-still-eats-healthy/

    I would love more tips on your frugal eating plans!

    Like

    1. Thanks, I did a covert on google and it works out at about £1.24 dollars to UK pound. So at about £120 pounds a month it’s pretty close. I think for the 2 of you it’s just £15 a week. That’s great. I loved your tips too. they make a lot of sense. Like I say if you cook from scratch as much as you can, you can save loads.

      Like

  22. Really love your blog
    Just discovered it this evening
    And have quickly scribbled down Five of the weekly shopping lists to try
    I find having a plan and a shopping list is the key to keeping our costs down
    The recipies all look great

    The hardest sell to my family is cutting down on meat
    I love vegetarian food but it’s a lot more labour intensive

    Would love to know your background e.g. How do u fit all this into life And work full time ?
    The blog is so detailed and well linked

    My only fault would be
    In the drop down list it took me ages to realise that I could click on the heading and thereby find the shopping list ! Oh joy !!

    i look forward to trying many of these weekly challenges

    Like

    1. So glad you like it. Yes shopping list there so you don’t need to write it down if you have a smart phone, just shop using it.
      I wasn’t very tech savvy until I started the blog less than 2 years ago. So I just picked a template that worked at the time although I think I’ve out grown it now. Luckily I am writing a cook book with loads of new recipes designed in the same style which will be out in January 2018. So it could be more convenient but the blog will still stay up to use for free.
      Yes I do work full time so don’t get home until 7.30pm. Knowing what we’re eating in the evening takes the guess work out of meal times. I also try to make any sauces and put them in the fridge at the weekend. We don’t eat this extreme every week but doing it regularly does save lots of money. It also makes you more aware of food waste.
      Let me know how you get on and which dishes you liked best.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s