Live on £10 for a week: The student challenge

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By in Student Budgeting. Updated .

Much to our disappointment, student loans don’t cater to a diet of caviar and champagne. But just how far can you make your pennies stretch?£10 a week Counting your cash and scrambling around at the bottom of your bag for that elusive 50p is just part of daily life for most students – and getting fed, watered, clothed and drunk can be a continual challenge.

However, we’ve heard definite assertions that living on a mere £10 a week for food can not only be done, but be done easily and without affecting your health. So, we gave one of our STS writers the chance to give this challange a bash.

IMPORTANT: This challenge involves the assumption that you’ll have a few of the basic kitchen essentials lurking around in the cupboards (salt and pepper, curry powder). It’s also highly probable that there are much healthier ways of doing this, but hey, you can’t knock us for trying, right?

Did you know that ‘pay as you feel’ supermarkets are now opening across the country? Plus find out how this shopping ninja mum feeds her family of four for £20/week.

What is the £10 challenge?

£10 noteWhile we’re pretty sure a lot of students will find budgeting on £10 a necessary (but horribly cruel) part of uni life, the average student spends almost £30 a week on food alone.

For the purpose of this challenge, we’ve pushed aside bigger expenses such as rent and bills, instead concentrating on how to feed yourself for less than a tenner a week (although these other factors certainly do add up too).

The good thing about giving this challenge a bash is that even just an attempt at this will save you some money, even if you don’t make the £10 mark.

Over to you, Danielle!

The £10 shopping list

buy food from marketsArmed with a few basic student cupboard essentials and a ten pound note, I am going to set about feeding myself for a week whilst resisting blowing it all in the Student Union bar.

I couldn’t do this every week… Here goes nothing!

After my lectures I went food shopping with my crisp £10 note clutched in a sweaty palm, prepped for the challenge!

With a mental plan of my meals for the week ahead, I shopped around for the best deals (and used a few of these cheeky supermarket saving tips in the process).

Here’s what I bought:

• Bag of porridge (500g): 39p
• Jar of instant coffee £1.09 (used 1/4): 28p
• Chicken breast fillets (300g): £1.79 
• Long grain rice (1kg): 40p
• 400g tin chopped tomatoes: 33p
• White loaf: 42p
• Bag of apples: 79p
• Baked beans: 29p
• Mushrooms: 49p
• 1 pepper: 42p
• Carton of soft cheese: 49p
• 3 large onions: 55p
• 1 bulb of garlic: 20p
• 1kg bag of carrots: 43p
• Bag of spinach: 89p
• 6 free range eggs: 79p

A grand total of £8.95, leaving me with a mere £1.05 for impulse buys… think I’ll be avoiding the pub then.

Here’s how the week went…

£10 challenge diary

  1. Monday

    whatiboughPorridge for breakfast, then for lunch I ate toast with half a tin of beans, carefully stowing the other half in the fridge. I snacked on apple and carrot sticks and when my flatmate asked if she can have one of my apples I didn’t give her one, feeling all protective over them.

    Dinner was chicken curry made with one of my 2 chicken breasts, plus a bit cut off the other one in the packet. I chucked onion, garlic, curry spices from the cupboard, three mushrooms, half a pepper (I’ve got plans for the rest) and a tin of chopped tomatoes into the curry then served with some boiled rice.

    I froze half the curry for later in the week, and carefully wrapped and refrigerated the veg. I can’t afford to let things go rotten.

    On the first day I’ve managed to get my five a day – this challenge is easy…(or is it?)

  2. Tuesday

    porridgePorridge for brekky again, this time with a squeeze of honey from my flatmate’s cupboard (cheeky I know).

    Lunch was the leftover beans on toast and an apple. I normally go to a Zumba fitness class on Tuesday afternoons, but I save myself the fiver and go out for a jog with my iPod on, feeling at one with nature. Gasping for water but unable to afford a bottle, I gulp tap water when I get home.

    I deliberately made too much rice last night, so tonight for dinner I make egg fried rice flavoured with garlic, some spices from the cupboard, a little onion, the other half of the pepper, some chopped carrot and some frozen peas I found in the freezer (sorry, maybe this is cheating but they were there!).

    My mouth waters as my flatmates tuck in to their takeaway pizzas, but I feel smug at how much healthier I am because of my financial situation.

  3. Wednesday

    studyMore porridge. I feel like Oliver Twist! It really does keep you going till lunch though – I didn’t nod off once in my 10am lecture.

    Lunch was a sorry affair with two soggy pieces of toast and cream cheese, then carrot sticks and an apple while my flatmates feast on their supermarket meal deals.

    For dinner I had an omelette with spinach, onion and mushroom. My flatmates all headed out, but as I can’t see my £1.05p stretching to taxis, drinks and a kebab, I stay in and work on an essay.

    Kill me now. I take Monday night’s leftover curry out the freezer to defrost; something to look forward to.

  4. Thursday

    sleepingI slept in till almost 1pm, handily eliminating the need for 3 square meals, so porridge will do. It’s my turn to buy milk, so I only have pennies left from my tenner.

    I buy my milk and march straight past the magazine rack. I read the celebrity gossip online for free, then fill out a form for a free shampoo sample (that I found in the student deals section).

    My flatmates are all hungover and I feel great. This challenge does have its perks.

    I have my curry for dinner with some more boiled rice, then an apple for dessert. I’m craving chocolate, but 80p for one bar just isn’t an option.

  5. Friday

    costacoffeePorridge. Again. On the way to lectures today, the smell from the £2.50-a-pop coffee shops taunted me. I made a flask of instant coffee for my afternoon classes, which warmed me up but it doesn’t exactly satisfy.

    The porridge and coffee keep me going all the way through until dinner so there was no need for lunch (although this probably wasn’t a great idea).

    For dinner I whipped up pasta with mushrooms, garlic, onion and spinach in a creamy cheese sauce made from the leftover soft cheese. I don’t really miss meat that much.

  6. Saturday

    movieBrunch is scrambled egg on toast then for dinner I fry up the remaining mushrooms (told you I was saving them!), half an onion and some garlic. I have this on toast spread with cream cheese.

    My mates go to the cinema but one stays in with me and we watch a DVD and eat carrot sticks until they get back. After popcorn, drinks, and the bus there and back, their trip to the cinema costs more than my entire week’s budget.

  7. Sunday

    successbabyLast day! Brunch is the last egg, poached, on slightly stale toast.

    For dinner I make a big stir fry with all my leftover vegetables, the chicken breast that I butchered the end off to put in Monday’s curry, and some more boiled rice.

The verdict

what is the law for internshipsFrom what I’ve learnt, the £10 challenge is do-able if you plan your meals ahead of time, write a shopping list and stick to it. It’d also be a lot easier if you plan for the whole month (so with a £40 budget) instead of just one week.

It might mean cutting down on meat, but as long as you get your iron from alternatives like spinach and beans, and protein from eggs, it won’t do you any harm.

There’s no reason you can’t eat healthily on a tenner, as raw ingredients are much cheaper than ready-made meals. I felt good about myself after the week as I couldn’t pick up a sausage roll on the way home for lunch, and having my meals planned out took the temptation out of greasy takeaways.

I may have missed out on a few nights out, but I’m sure my liver will thank me for the detox, and staying in meant more time for uni work – I got my best mark yet on that essay I stayed in to do.

I was lucky to live close enough to uni so didn’t have to factor bus fare in to my calculations, but you could always cycle (or go for a very long walk).

The £10 challenge may be a way of life for students, but it also makes you think twice about those pre-packaged curries and drinks after lectures when your loan does arrive.

Have you tried the £10 challenge? What did you do differently? Tell us about your experience, and share any survival tricks you have!

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12 Responses to “Live on £10 for a week: The student challenge”

  1. Sabi

    25. Feb, 2017

    I did something like this and managed to get my food shopping down to about £7.50 a week, including breakfast lunch and dinner and saved about £19 for any other expenses, a week.
    Porridge isn’t as appealing, but 1 egg and a coffee helps keep me going. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Lydia

    23. Jan, 2017

    i don’t like porridge and usually have two silices of eggy bread for breakfast or avocado on toast is really healthy and cheaper than cereal and makes you stop wasting bread. brown medium sliced bread fills you up faster than cheaper thin silced. But the supermarkets are always reducing bread! and you can always freeze bread if you just use it for toast.

    angel delight is really good for dessert at just 40p for four servings and means you can buy four pints of milk and use it all up before it going off.

    spaghetti is only 20p so would been good to see a pasta dish in there, as its very easy to make your own pasta sauce.

    Reply
    • Jake Butler

      23. Jan, 2017

      Hi Lydia, as a massive fan of avos I’d love to know where you are getting them that makes them cheaper than cereal?

      Reply
  3. Lauren

    09. Jan, 2017

    Asda chosen by you washing up liquid is without a doubg the longest lasting washing up liquid I have ever used and you can get it in pretty big bottles

    Reply
  4. Ross Stewart Fisher

    07. Mar, 2016

    Buying chicken breast is probably the least economical way to buy meat if you look at the price per kilo compared to other its pretty bad (quorn is a really cheap and healthy alternative). Also you can get a 26p bag of pasta from aldi that will last you a week.

    Reply
  5. Vlad

    26. Mar, 2015

    I know the article is old but…

    Seeing as the average student spends almost £190 a week

    Really? Where on Earth do students spend £190 a week exclusive rent and bills?
    When I was in the uni (till 2013) my weekly food bill was around 5 pounds. I did not really starve of felt any discomfort whatsoever. It felt natural, I spent this little even without trying to save at all.
    What is really expensive is kebab shops, starbucks, taxis, going out, cinemas etc. It is not the food bill people should save on 🙂

    Reply
    • Meow

      19. Feb, 2016

      £190 is a high amount. Perhaps this is an average met in the middle of the two extremes. Or perhaps some weeks are more expensive than others.

      Currently I am an art student in London.

      Depending what zone you live in travel is expensive. Zone 1-2 is about £30 a week.

      Food can be around £20 a week.

      The cat costs £10.

      Printing research up to £40.

      New art materials if you ran out £100.

      Final piece if hand in is due up to £400.

      This is not inclusive of going out nor phone bill but this is a rather low outgoing for an Art Student. I’ve varied from £50 a week for everything to £500. It’s a struggle even with a job as you are graded on the quality of your piece and materials.

      Reply
  6. Lisa

    29. Jan, 2015

    I can quite often spend less than £10 a week on food, I shop at lidls and stick to a mainly pescatarian diet. Yes I do stock up at the start of term but I usually spend about £15 doing so. It’s not impossible to live on that sort of money and do it healthily, I don’t skip meals and I usually get my five a day. It takes careful planning and budgeting, no ready meals or pizzas but homemade soups and stews and salads.

    Reply
  7. Chen

    11. Dec, 2014

    Meals skipped and the magic porridge that appears without buying ir… Conclusion… Fail!
    If don’t have to buy pasta, rice this is easy… Your not going to eat the healthiest food or m&s posh nosh but 10 is enough for a weeks food.
    Admittedly it would be much easier for 4 adults to do this with a budget of 40 quid… But getting students to work together is Pretty much impossible

    Reply
    • Jake Butler

      12. Dec, 2014

      Hi Chen, as mentioned in the guide “We’ve based this challenge on already having a few kitchen essentials lurking around in the cupboards.” We included porridge in this… Skipping meals is not a crime either 😉

      Obviously there are loads of ways to do this but we just wanted to give people some ideas and show how we went about the £10 challenge for a week.

      Reply
  8. Alex

    28. Oct, 2013

    Two lunches were skipped altogether as well as one breakfast and that’s if we don’t include the weekend. Lunch was pretty paltry and not what I’d call a decent serving even as a healthy portion. In fact a lot of the meals didn’t seem particularly filling to me and on last check I had a healthy BMI. Clearly Danielle also felt the same as there were a couple of things she wanted to do but didn’t because of her budget. £10 is just unviable to feed yourself for a week. Let alone healthily. I can probably make £15 work but I’m not sure I’d say it’s particularly healthy and it doesn’t include my weekly treats or socialising.

    Reply
  9. Rosie

    04. Apr, 2012

    livebelowtheline.com/uk

    You might be interested in the Live below the Line campaign to highlight poverty – even more extreme!

    Reply

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