Living On £1 a Day For 10 Days - My Challenge Comes To An End

By day nine I'm so desperate to buy something I use a loophole and stock up on cat toys. Feel deeply ashamed.
Publish date:
December 11, 2012
money, issues, living wage, cost of living in london

Day nine: Tuesday November 13Was entertaining again tonight so whipped up a fantastic feast – baked bean pie and banana custard. For this I used two cans of beans languishing in the back of my cupboard, ready-made mashed potato reduced to 30p at Tesco, sausages (reduced down to 35p), a pack of grated cheese, frozen veg from the freezer, brown bananas donated by my housemate and a 7p packet of custard.

This made enough pie to feed myself, a very hungry boy and still have enough left overs to last the next two days. Felt sick at the thought of spending £2 on a packet of cheese – even though that's half of what I would have spent on a large, pricey coffee.

Coffee has been the only thing I've really missed these past 10 days – until I worked out that I'm spending over £800 per year on the stuff (£3.50 x 252 work days = £882). Combined with the amount I'm saving by taking my own lunch, it's like I'm giving myself a £1k pay rise.

I've found another frugal and delicious meal: polenta. If you buy packs of 'polenta' in the supermarket it'll set you back £1.50+, but 'cornmeal' which is exactly the same thing is about 65p. Soak some raisins in boiling water or fruit juice until they get all plump and fat, chop up some apple (a browning one donated to me by a housemate), and mix with the dry cornmeal. Add boiling water and stir until it gets to the consistency you like. It's a bit like semolina, and packed with vitamins and iron.

Got so desperate to buy something I used a loophole and stocked up on cat toys: 12 toy mice for £5. Was deeply ashamed.

Weight: 131lb - steady
Products bought: See below… 
Money spent: 35p sausages, two packs of 30p mash, 65p cornmeal, 17p liver, £2 cheese = £3.54
Amount of five a day I managed: Five 
Money I potentially saved: £15 on takeaway

Day 10: Wednesday November 14The last day of my challenge. Dug out the middle of the baked bean pie to have as breakfast and mixed the mash with some tinned tuna and frozen sweetcorn to make fishcakes for another day.

Feeling a bit dowdy so went online to salivate over all the pretty dresses I could buy once this challenge was over. Stopped short at filling my virtual trolley and instead decided to try what so many women's mags tells you to do and 'shop my wardrobe'. Which to be honest, sounded like a load of crap: my wardrobe isn't a portal to Narnia – it's pretty obvious what I have in there.

I've always been good at buying clothes – yes I buy clean pants when I can't be bothered to do the laundry, or a new dress if the one I am wearing is ugly, or more layers if I've left the house in a rush and I'm cold… But the stuff I do buy I tend to keep until it falls apart (I still have dresses from when I was 15) because I stick to the classic formula of dresses, jumpers and slogan tees – nothing over £30 unless I LOVE it, NEED it, or it will go with EVERYTHING.

Despite this policy, I found a jumper I'd bought in the Warehouse sale last Christmas (far too long, thick and warm for last year's weather) and a dress I'd ordered from Missguided but never even tried on because it had a band of colour on it which reminded me of baby poo. However, teamed together, with a jaunty hat, and I had a brand new outfit which actually looked GOOD.

Had (17p) liver and onions for a late lunch and savoury polenta mixed with frozen mixed veg and a stock cube for dinner. I bought nothing today, which brings my total spend these last 10 days to £8.44.

Normally, I would have spent about £300. Which explains why rent money seems so hard to come by most months…

Weight: 130lb
Products bought: 0
Money spent: 0pAmount of five a day I managed: Four
Money I potentially saved: £20 on a dress, £3 on a coffee

What have I learned from my experience?Mainly that spending money is fun, and that I treat cash like a comfort blanket – I'm definitely an 'emotional spender'. However, I learnt I get just as much joy spending £5 on bargain food in the Tesco reduced section as I would on a lipstick that I'd only wear a few times.

Not spending money is surprisingly easy once you get in to the swing of it. But it does mean you need to be a lot more organised than your spendthift friends – stock up your freezer, go to the supermarket at odd times, always wrap up warm before you leave the house…

I also learnt that eating healthily isn't as expensive as everyone says: frozen vegetables are cheap and versatile and the bargains to be had at the end of the day in the fresh veg section are beyond belief. I went to Iceland to take a look at what frozen ready meal bargains were to be had, but to be honest, none of it couldn't be made yourself just as cheaply.

For instance: instead of a £1 box of sausage rolls you could have 12 sausages in 12 actual rolls for 75p at Tesco (35p and 35p reduced), or make your own with a £1 pack of pastry and have four times the amount.

A pack of (reduced) mince freezes wonderfully and can be used to make chilli, bolognese, burgers etc. It goes a long way when padded out with frozen veg too. I also enjoyed cooking over ordering food in – not only was it quicker than waiting for a delivery, most stuff can be whacked in the oven and left to cook as you gossip over a glass of wine or two.

Out of all my newly adopted habits I'll certainly be shopping the reduced aisle for the rest of my days, and am also going to start portioning out my spending money for the week and leaving my cards at home. I've even started as I mean to go on… 

In conclusion…The amount I spent in the last 10 days: £8.44The amount I saved in the last 10 days: £311Weight: 130lbs (5lbs lighter than when I started)

On a money-saving drive? Here's what I learnt. I'd love to hear your money saving tips and frugal recipes in the comments section below as well…

Store cupboard staples - these are the things I'm always going to have on hand to help me live as frugally as possible:Own brand tinned tomatoes – 31p: Stock up on chopped for cooking and whole to eat on toast Own brand kidney beans – 18p: Perfect for salads, fried or for bulking out chili Cornmeal – 60p: Polenta by another name. Make it firm and you can slice it and fry it as slabs or chips. Make it in to porridge with hot water and fruit or use it as a pizza or brushetta base. Not other grain works harder. Couscous – 75p: So good they named it twice. Another quick and easy option. Crumble in a stock cube and some frozen veg and feta cheese for a quick snack Tinned tuna: Goes with everything from salads to potatoes to pasta. Stock cubes - 10p: Own brand is fine Cheap noodles – 11p: Just cook them for slightly less time than their pricier cousins. Tasty mix in to a salad too. Tortilla wraps – 70p: Can fill with just about anything Chickpeas – 70p: I buy tinned but dried is a lot cheaper. Perfect for salads and curries or made in to falafel patties. Baked beans – 30p: Enough said Angel Delight - 30p: Good for sweet treat fix. Cheaper than a chocolate bar. Custard powder – 7p: See above

Fridge:Seafood sticks - £1: can be snacked on or chopped up and added to salad, noodles or stir fries. Eggs - £1.50: Hard boil and leave in the fridge as a snack or add to salad. Mix raw egg with noodles or veg and str fry Smoked salmon trimmings: Scraps of smoked salmon – perfect for salads or to scramble with eggsSalad cheese – 75p: The same as feta but cheaper if you buy it under this nameSalad: Buy at the supermarket at the end of the day for the best bargains

Freezer:Sausages and bacon: buy cheap at the end of the day and freeze Turkey and chicken: again, buy at the end of the day and freeze, or go for thighs or legs for cheaper meat Frozen vegetables: I keep green beans, sweetcorn, mixed Mediterranean veg, peas, chopped onion, casserole veg and edamame beans to hand. None of these bags cost more than £1.50. Edamame beans: Have already mentioned these, but with a bag costing around £1.50 at most asian grocers (or shelled from Tesco), they're a really versatile snack and five times cheaper than the little pots you buy in Itsu. Bread: Always split your loaf of bread in half and put half in the freezer to make it last longer. You can pick up a loaf for as little as 9p at the supermarket at closing time. Mince: Goes with EVERYTHING Mashed potato: Buy when reduced and freeze. Can be used as a topping for mice, bakes beans or chilli

Really cheap, nutritious, quick and easy recipes anyone can makeBaked bean pie – mix chopped up sausages with baked beans. Stick in a casserole dish. Top with mash. Add cheese.

Polenta porridge – stir fruit and boiling water in to polenta. Add cinnamon and brown sugar if required.

Banana custard - mix chopped brown bananas with half a packet of custard power. Add boiling water. Stir.

Turkey noodles – stir-fry 11p noodles with frozen veg and turkey strips. Add soy sauce to taste.

Poverty soup – Cook up some chicken on the bone in a big cooking dish. Peel the chicken off and put aside. Put the skin, bones etc. in a slow cooker. Cover the dish with boiling water, pour in the pot. Cover with more water and cook, maybe overnight. Take out all the bones then add quarter of a bag of casserole veg. Put some chicken back in. Cook then blend. Add extra stock cubes, salt, pepper and seasoning to taste.

Chicken casserole – add quarter of a bag of casserole veg to a slow cooker full of chicken portions. Add a pack of casserole mix. Can add any left over white wine (ha!) you have kicking around too. Add extra stock cubes, salt, pepper and seasoning to taste.

Chilli – 50% mince to 50% mixed frozen veg. Stick on slow cooker with chili packet mix.

Super Japanese salad – salad leaves, fishsticks, boiled egg, edamame beans, salmon trimmings, noodles and any other salad items you like (radish, raw broccoli, cucumber, peppers etc.). Toss with soy sauce and olive oil.

Mexican shepherd's pie – top leftover chili with mashed potato and cheese. Bake in over until golden brown.

Tinned tomatoes on toast – tinned tomatoes. Toast.

[AND AS AN ADDED BONUS: Check out the rest of Periwinkle's epic odyssey below... --Rebecca]

My £1 a day challenge, days 1-2

My £1 a day challenge, days 3-5

My £1 a day challenge, days 6-8

Periwinkle Jones is on Twitter discussing the respective merits of seafood sticks and salad cheese @peachesanscream.