How A 26 Year Old Lived on $18 Worth of Healthy Food For One Week
July 11, 2013 31 Comments
Anyone else find themselves in shock after visiting the supermarket? I spent a small fortune there.
One of my readers, Daniel, e-mailed me his attempt at spending only £12 ($18) on an entire week of food. He lives in the United Kingdom and I thought what he did and how he did it was fascinating. Check out the link here: Daniel’s experiment.
What I found most revealing is that one of the hardest parts of the challenge for Daniel was not buying and eating sugary and fatty snacks. If we tried budgetary restraint versus caloric restraint we might end up thinner, no?
Snack Girl: Why did you take the BBC challenge of eating for a week on $18 (12 Pounds)?
Daniel: I really enjoy challenges - though I blame that on my overly competitive nature which I developed as a child - and I strongly believe that you don't fully know yourself until you're put into a position that's well outside of your comfort zone. The article got me hooked with the concepts of wasteful spending, thrifty eating and meal planning. The more I read about this challenge, the more it began to fascinate me - I knew I had to give it a go! After much deliberation with a colleague, I hatched a plan to document my adventures: could I really make it through a week of seriously cheap eats?
Personal curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to find out where I stood in the grand scheme of cheap eating; I was well aware that I could spend a lot less by swapping over to economy brands, but when you're not given any real reason to do so, why bother? It was this mentality, that ultimately drove me to do this challenge.
I had never considered myself lazy until that moment of realization - when had I become so lazy with my food shopping? Why was I buying expensive brands, when cheap ones were just as good? I began to wonder when this change had occurred in my life and in doing so, felt a certain obligation to complete this challenge - partly to prove a point to myself, but also because there was a mix of journalistic and personal intrigue that needed satiating with answers!
Snack Girl: How did you decide what to buy?
Daniel: I based my purchases off what I would normally buy over the course of the week, with the only difference being the brands. I did have the recommended list of food stuffs (courtesy of the BBC) to hand, but figured that not everyone would have access to this information - so for authenticity's sake, I made the decision to buy like I've always bought.
My normal diet consists of a lot of carbohydrates and I decided to keep that principle the same for my budget week; plenty of pasta, potatoes and bread. Complex carbs are great for fueling us through the day and I know I cannot survive without them. I'm also very aware that a lot of people hate carbs, but when you consider how much of our diet they actually take up - you'd be foolish not to have any at all; have some carbs by all means, just ensure they are complex ones!
Knowing that my shop was already carb heavy, I then needed to figure out where my protein would come from. I bought some cheap ham, a box of eggs and a tin of sardines, only to realize just how much of my budget they had consumed. The sardines would only make for one meal - along with the eggs - and the ham would only be used for my sandwiches at lunch, which is not great if you're accustomed to a diet that's high in protein.
One of my biggest - but at the time, least thought about - priorities should have been getting an ample supply of vegetables; maintaining your 5-a-day on a budget is surprisingly difficult with limited options. Many nutritionists argue that root vegetables should make up a large portion of your daily intakes, but it's extremely hard to achieve when you aren't budgeted for big and varying buys.
The decisions I initially made were not guided by any dietician or nutritionist. Essentially, it was my own attempt at creating a balanced menu on a small budget and I think it turned OK, but it was far from optimal! On reflection though - and having been able to speak with several registered dieticians - I think my attempt at creating a balanced menu was below par from a nutritional standpoint.
Snack Girl: How did you get enough fruits and vegetables?
Daniel: I was limited to buying different types of fruits and vegetables, but managed to get enough by sacrificing variety. I managed to get some soup, chopped tomatoes, beans, satsumas and a bunch of bananas - all of which covered my 5-a-day for the week.
When it comes to fresh produce, you cannot have the best of all worlds - hitch your bets on quantity and stock up on one or two types of fruit. The same could be applied to vegetables, however due to costs you may only be able to grab one or two portions worth of veg. A solution pointed out to me by registered dietician Laura Tilt, was to stock up on soups that were rich in vegetables - as these are generally cheaper than the main product, but equal in nutritional value.
Snack Girl: What was the hardest part about the challenge?
Daniel: Not being able to snack freely - urgh! Having set meal plans and one bar of chocolate allocated for an entire week meant that there was no leeway with regard to snacking once the chocolate was gone - and it went quickly. This is unbelievably hard if you come from an office environment - or similar - where snacks are commonplace. If you struggle making it to lunch without snacking - this challenge will really test your worth.
Snack Girl: What is your favorite snack?
Daniel: I'm a recently converted seed-a-holic. I love whole grain seeds and regularly have them as a filler between meals. Failing that, I've always enjoyed dipping carrots into some hummus!
Thanks, Daniel! I know I am inspired to think about how I spend my food dollars.
What do you think of Daniel’s experiment?
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