Live on £10 for a week: The student challenge
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?
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 challenge a bash.
IMPORTANT: This challenge assumes 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?
While we're pretty sure that 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 trying it will save you some money, even if you don't make the £10 mark.
Over to you, Danielle!
Armed 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 the urge to blow 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:
NOTE: Danielle completed this challenge a few years ago, so just to prove that it's still possible, we've put the cheapest modern day prices (without offers) in brackets.
- Bag of porridge (500g): 39p (59p)
- Jar of instant coffee £1.09 (used 1/4): 28p (78p, or 19p for a quarter)
- Chicken breast fillets (300g): £1.79 (£1.69)
- Long grain rice (1kg): 40p (45p)
- 400g tin chopped tomatoes: 33p (29p)
- White loaf: 42p (40p)
- Bag of apples: 79p (80p)
- Baked beans: 29p (25p)
- Mushrooms: 49p (68p)
- 1 pepper: 42p (45p)
- Carton of soft cheese: 49p (49p)
- 3 large onions: 55p (55p)
- 1 bulb of garlic: 20p (25p)
- 1kg bag of carrots: 43p (45p)
- Bag of spinach: 89p (75p)
- 6 free range eggs: 79p (89p)
A grand total of £8.95 (or £9.17 in today's money... bloody inflation), leaving me with a mere £1.05 for impulse buys... think I'll be avoiding the pub then.
Here's how the week went...
Porridge 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 could 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 so easy... or is it?
Porridge 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 knowing how much healthier I am because of my financial situation.
More 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 £1.05 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.
I 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.
Porridge. 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 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.
Brunch 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.
Last 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.
From what I've learned, the £10 challenge is doable 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 wasn't picking up a sausage roll on the way home for lunch, and having my meals planned removed the temptation to plop for a 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 the essay I stayed in to do.
I was lucky to live close enough to uni so I didn't have to factor bus fares 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!