Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stretching the Pennies

If you remember, yesterday mentioned a comment I had read on's forum where there was a query as to whether enough food could be bought for a budget of just under £14 to keep a person fed for a week (there being only two cans of beans, some rice and other 'oddments' left in their own larder).
As you know, this is just the sort of challenge I love, so spent a few happy moments yesterday typing in what I thought would be foods I would myself choose to buy, and checked the prices on Tesco's on-line site (which may not necessarily be the cheapest prices- but saves shopping around).
It was amazing what a large amount of non-processed food could be bought within that budget, and although quality was not - this time - of prime importance, certainly enough to put enough food on the table.

As the ME forum was asking for suggestions as to what could be bought, then went onto the site with my 'findings' , but then discovered I couldn't comment without being a (free) subscriber -which I am not - so was not able to add my own comment, but if any reader of this site is an ME subscriber - feel free to 'suggest' any of the below if you feel it might be useful. In my eagerness to 'help' have to keep reminding myself of how this can sometimes be thought of as patronising, so tend to back off when perhaps I should share my experience. Please remember that many of the foods bought in the lists below will last longer than one week, almost certainly two - if not more. Prices given are as at yesterday, possibly even lower in other stores or when reduced/on offer.

Firstly I would start with breakfast. This would HAVE to be porridge (58p for 1kg), as this is very nourishing and also extremely cheap. The milk bought for the week would be (reconstituted) dried milk (£1.91 for 454g).
On alternative days would serve toast (50p an 800g loaf) with poached or scrambled eggs (15 eggs for £1 45p) . Another day could be bacon (99p for 275 pack) and eggs with fried bread. With a couple of cans of beans in the lady's larder, beans on toast - or even egg on beans on toast is another option.
The eggs, together with the bread and milk, would make a bread pudding. Also - with some vegetables and bacon - make a Spanish omelette or tortilla.
So far - £5.43p spent.

My choice of vegetables would be: carrots (45p a kg pack); a portion of white cabbage (31p for 454g); a pack of diced onion (50p for 275p); pack of frozen peas (76p); canned potatoes 28p.
Any money left over could go towards celery, salads, tomatoes or whatever was 'reduced/worth buying'.
Veg. total: £2.30p - total spent now £7.73.

It is at this point we need to work out what would actually be used of the above. Probably all the bread, but only a quarter (if that) of the porridge oats. Maybe not all the dried milk, and certainly less than half the eggs and bacon. Definitely peas, carrots and cabbage would last more than one week - probably three.

Meat to fit into the above 'budget' is more a matter of personal choice, and the amount we can buy is related to the money left in the budget (approx £6), although this amount can vary according to whether we choose to work out the cost of a week's meals by the amount that is actually used, or work out the total expenditure and not use all the food. The first suggestion 'frees' more money to be spent, so I give a small selection of meats - as with this we cannot be too selective (chops are out) and zoom in only for those that appear to give the most for our money. But as we already have animal protein by way of milk, eggs and bacon, we are hardly in need of too much more. Many are 'value packs' and usually have as much nutrition as the more expensive, but not the quality.
A 2kg bag of chicken portions can be bought for £2.79p; a 225g tub of chicken livers for 40p; a 900g pack of minced lamb for £1.99p. Some of these could also last longer than a week.

Reminding readers that most butchers freely GIVE their chicken carcases (and sometimes winglets) to their customers, we could also ask for some of these to make a good stock to supplement our meals (maybe even being able to retrieve a few ounces of cooked flesh from the bones) - and this with veggies and some pearl barley (39p for 500g) will makes a nourishing broth in its own right.

Fats (butter, marg, oil) have not been included, but with careful buying of meat, there should be some pennies left in the kitty, and myself would prefer to buy a 250g pack of cream cheese (92p) as this is just as good eaten spread on toast instead of a dearer butter, and also more nutritious (esp. if lower in fat). Possibly some oil is already in the larder which helps. Otherwise use a non-stick pan and fingers crossed. Myself would try to include at least one of the cheaper cans of chopped tomatoes - even if giving up on the pack of carrots and only buying a few loose ones.
Neither has tea/coffee been included, but when money is tight, it should go on nutrition first, and we would all be healthier if we spend a few days drinking water instead of anything more costly.

No doubt there are missing 'necessaries' in the above listings, but feel that those that have been bought would make more than a good week's supply of meals. The lady who wrote the comment already had rice, so adding half a can of Tesco's cheap curry sauce (sometimes sold as low as 4p - but at the moment is 19p) to some of the lamb (or chicken) even an inexpensive curry can be made.
As I always keep saying - it is what we do with what we've got that can make such a difference between one meal and another.
It would be good to hear your suggestions as to what you would buy and make keeping within the above budget. And for that matter - are these sort of challenges worth doing at all?

Have to leave for the clinic shortly, so another 'chat time' now curtailed, but will be back again tomorrow. See you then.