How much do you think it costs to feed and educate a child in Zambia every day? Alright, the clue’s in the title of this post – it’s £2. How much was that skinny latte you bought this morning, at the weekend, or last week? About £2.40? Hmmm. Summat’s not quite right here.
It’s amazing, in a scary way, how readily and easily we fritter spare change in the UK. Because that’s what £2 is now for many of us, spare change. Even though I moan about my poor state of financial affairs, I still manage to find a couple of quid somewhere for an “emergency” coffee, or something to go with dinner because I don’t have the energy to get creative with the contents of my store cupboard.
So, when I heard about the #2poundchallenge set by Voucherbox.co.uk, I was keen to get involved. I wanted to prove a point, I guess, that 200 fine pennies CAN go a long way. That’s the challenge in a nutshell – feed your family for a day, using no more than £2 per head.
Spoiler alert: I did it.
Double spoiler alert: I managed to do it in such a way that all four members of my family got their five servings of fruit and veg.
Triple spoiler alert: It’s pretty limiting, £2.
Obviously I didn’t JUST take on the challenge for shits and giggles. For every post such as this one, Voucherbox.co.uk donate £50 to Zamcog to help the charity continue their goal of supporting Zambia’s most at-risk children through food and education.
Right, so my family has four mouths – two big and two small. I’m normally a Waitrose gal, my husband prefers Aldi, so we compromised and decided to run this challenge at Asda. We did the challenge on a weekday, when randomly we all happened to be off work / pre-school / grandparent visits. Sadly (for my husband), our weekdays are almost always meat free, which admittedly made this challenge a fair bit easier. More on that in my handy tips section though.
My daily menu looked like this:
Porridge, made with a pint of semi-skimmed milk and half a pint cold water.
3 small bananas, chopped and distributed evenly between the bowls (my daughters go nuts for bananas).
One apple each for big mouths, half an apple for small mouths.
Cheese, mushroom and onion omelette, with carrot sticks on the side to munch on.
Followed by another apple split between the small mouths.
Jacket potato topped with baked beans, grated cheese, and any mushrooms left over from the omelette, lightly dry-fried. Plus steamed carrots and broccoli.
Followed by the rest of the bananas, chopped and served with custard.
Er, water. And milk for the girls before bed.
Total Fruit and Veg
Banana, Apple, Onion, Mushrooms, Carrot, Broccoli, Baked Beans. Okay, the onion is a bit small and tenuous but there was enough of the other elements to ensure we all got our daily requirement of the good stuff
This is my online Asda basket, showing a grand total spend of £7.79. Hell to the yeah, there’s enough change for a Cadbury Chomp!
That’s alright, isn’t it? Perfectly wholesome meals there, nutritious and filling. Yes – but it’s pretty difficult to get a good deal of variety on such a strict budget. Most breakfast cereals are at least £1.50 a box for an own brand, and of course meat and fish can be fairly costly. Pulses and grains are cheap and we use these as a staple in our diet anyway, but it’s the add-on elements that drive the cost up. Any cook needs a store of ingredients to hand in order to create a discernible difference between four evening meals of grains and vegetables.
Of course, you can maximise your shopping basket contents on a budget. Here are my tips:
- I cannot advocate meal planning more highly. I write a monthly plan which gives me an overview of consecutive weeks, to ensure we’re not eating the same meal often enough for it to get boring. I change it up with the seasons – summer is a dream because I know how to make salad a zillion ways! I always follow a pattern: Sunday is a “big” meal that I can utilise for leftovers once or even twice in that week. For example, the base of lasagne can be “recycled” into spaghetti bolognese, or baked inside tortilla wraps. A roast chicken will generate enough leftovers for a risotto or curry dish. In addition, I try to make one new recipe every week, and I switch up basic meals with a variation of meats and grains from one week to the next. So week one might see me make a prawn stir-fry with rice noodles, and in week two I’ll make a pork-stir fry with brown rice.
- Make a shopping list once you’ve written up your meal plan, never BUT NEVER wander around the shops list-less as you’ll end up going rogue. Ditto hungry. Always have a stealth banana in the car park.
- Buy loose – sometimes it’s far cheaper to buy smaller quantities of fruits and vegetables loose, where they’re weighed by the kilo rather than by pack size. You’ll get fantastic value by shopping in your local greengrocer, who often sell eggs and things too.
- …Or buy packs – supermarkets love an offer, and will regularly compete with each other when it comes to pricing their seasonal veg. I love the Aldi Super Six campaign.
- Consider going meat free one or two days per week. I believe this is good for your overall health, as too much meat isn’t all that great for our digestive system. It’s beneficial for the wallet too – as I’ve already mentioned, good quality animal produce isn’t particularly cheap. I’d rather eat a tin of chickpeas than a slab of cheap meat, or non-free range eggies.
- Get clever with your leftovers. If you don’t want to use all of the vegetables you’ve prepared, simply place into polythene bags and freeze for another day. They’ll keep perfectly well in the freezer for a month.
- Be streetwise with offers – sometimes supermarkets will bundle together tempting offers on the plinths (those bits at the end of each aisle), but a larger pack size may be cheaper. For example, a share bag of Maltesers might be more expensive than a multipack of treat bags, which overall has a higher weight.
- Buy own-brand. Often, products are manufactured in the same factory, whether they’re premium range, branded item, or basics / value. Own brands are sometimes lower in fat and sugar than their branded equivalent, yogurts being a good example.
- Buy local. I’m talking butcher, bakery, greengrocer – all that shizz. It’s less convenient but SO much better for your local business trade and usually the produce is made or harvested right on your doorstep.
- Don’t be a twat. Invest in a few 50p sturdy bags and stop using plastic carrier bags.
I love taking on challenges like this. It absolutely made me scrutinise every penny in terms of what I could get, and how inventive I could be. I’m sure I could develop it further to make five day’s worth of midweek menus, so I might report back at a later date to let you know how I get on. In the meantime, I’m nominating the wonderful ladies at Savings 4 Savvy Mums to have a go next!
-SJW January 2017
Disclosure: As well as donating £50 to charity for this post, Voucherbox.co.uk compensated me for my time. I plan to donate my fee to charity also. Please refer to my full Disclosure Statement for details relating to my work with brands. For a wider description of the #2poundchallenge, please follow this link.