Updated: Aug 22, 2019
"Spend no more than £10 per week on grocery shopping." It's another 28 day challenge.
Yer what? People do this?
The good news is that I can use whatever I already have in my cupboards (phew!). The other good news is for reasons of Health & Safety, the cat is excluded from the challenge. I don't fancy getting my eyes scratched out nor my pillow shat on.
However, it's August coming up, and I've a stock of veg nearly ready, and I've noticed that the blackcurrents and raspberries are nearly there. I shall be foraging for a lot. My herb garden is full to capacity, and next door's apples which overhang on to my garden are much bigger than my own.
The not so good news: No snacks when driving. Good for my waistline, bad for my mental health. I can see me eating a lot of crumble. I'm going to have to learn how to make home-made custard.
The bad news: it's so damned restrictive - I can't see me enjoying a coffee or meal out with friends. No sneaky treaty takeaways. And no 'bargains' that accidentally fall into my shopping trolley.
I'll start on the 31st of July as that is when I was next due to go grocery shopping.
Realised I could start this straight away, a Monday, as I'm not in need of anything as yet.
Then I discovered I needed milk. I can't bear to blow any of my £10 budget on the more expensive local shops. Herbal tea it must be.
A lovely lady saw I was doing skint shopping this week and gifted me a home-grown pineapple. Who knew such things were possible? Especially with this summer.
I can see me making Upside Down Cake next Monday once no sugar diet is over...How very exciting.
Herbal tea sucks. Have cold. Have no coffee. If you encounter me, don't make eye contact and back away slowly...
I'm off shopping later with my intact £10 note. Beware customers of my local Tesco's...
Right, I'm off shopping shortly as it's suddenly dawning on me that I don't actually know what things cost. My normal approach to shopping is to briefly scan around the place and ask myself 'what am I running low on?' followed up with a very effective strategy of 'what do I fancy eating this week' and the less effective strategy of 'what might I bother cooking this week?' and then venture off to the supermarket, sans list, and buy whatever tickles my fancy, which really is whatever the supermarket is manipulating me into thinking 'I must have' this week.
In readiness, I've decided to save myself 10p by taking a bag for "one shopping trip/one emptying of a litter tray." I suspect the one bag will be more than plenty.
Thought I'd try one of those 'doodahs' which means one can add up along the way by self-scanning stuff into the shopping trolley. I figured this was quite adventurous for me, a committed laggard, who is readily baffled by technology.
Twas an ordeal in itself just getting the damned thing out. First one must hunt around the bottom of one's handbag to find the ever decrepit clubcard. 'Why not the credit card?' I wondered - but mine is not to reason why, I just wanted to get this shop done. And then one plays an observation game, trying to find which one in the bank has been released for use. Of course, mine was at the bottom row, forcing me to stretch my pummelled muscles painfully.
I then spent the best part of the trip screeching 'How much?' at random supermarket shelves. You'd think I was a politician who'd just lost their tax-payer's spending allowance.
Having ascertained that most things were unaffordable on such a tight budget, I then tried, somewhat pathetically, to find a way to maximise the number of meals I could make. Very quickly it became evident that eating anything close to healthily was nigh-on impossible. Cheap white bread, but not cheap brown bread. Oats, white pasta, white onions and plain ready-salted crisps for snacks all struck me as a bargain. I hovered over the discounted sections but the discounts were minimal. I think they are great for trying something a bit different or new but they really don't offer much by way of savings. In the veg section a nearly out of date lettuce had been reduced by 10p, a 16% percent reduction so I didn't bother. Likewise the white mushrooms, slightly crushed, also had 10p knocked off them. Fine if you're going to eat them the same or next day. Not great for a weekly shop. Broccoli seemed to offer the best bargain. I know I have potatoes, green beans, beetroot, chard, courgettes and squash in the garden ready to eat so that's okay. Total spend £8.94
That means I've enough left over to avert another milk catastrophe if I run out this week.
I also have a friend with chickens. Lots and lots of chickens. She usually cooks me a lovely meal once a week and piles me with eggs. She's truly a marvellous friend. Only one that's going to Portugal for the next three weeks so that's her off my Christmas card list abandoning me in my hour of need like this. Still, she gave me eleven eggs to tie me over, and for that, my mushroom and broccoli quiche will be entirely grateful.
So then it was just off to pay. I returned, like a dutiful, loyal customer, my scanning gadget, expecting at some point it would ask me to swipe my credit card. Turns out that was the wrong thing to do. Apparently, one should go to the self-scan check out - that's what the manager told me who went off in search of someone capable of getting my doodah back out of the bank, and showing me how to pay like a respectable citizen.
I learnt that at the self-scan check out, the scanning list of items in your trolley is downloaded to the till, and then the 'I'm here to help' person comes along and scans your stuff again in order to make sure you've scanned it all in, in a non-criminal fashion. You've then got to pack the stuff up and get the hell out of dodge. Pointless, if you ask me, so much better to go to the cashiers, most of whom at my local Tescos are wonderfully friendly and chatty. That way you can pack quickly and go, having been told all about the rain/heat/school holidays or the number of hours until the end of their shift. The self-scan check out doesn't give a hoot for niceties, preferring usually to yell at me for putting something unexpected in the bagging area. Like my handbag.
I will not be venturing into the gadget section in a hurry again. The only benefit is that it does add up what you're spending as you go along so that's handy. I'm going to try Aldi next week. Bet they don't bother with expensive handheld scanning gadgets to ruin your shopping trip.
End of week one:
With four hours to go until the end of the Sugar Sadventure, and a plethora of eggs, the cheapest meal available to me today is bread and butter pudding - not least because it will use up some of the revolting bread I bought for 37p on Wednesday.
This challenge has made me much more aware of how much food I waste, and used by dates are now dictating what I will be eating, rather than what I am in the mood for. Thus mushrooms on toast will do for breakfast and lunch for the next few days! There'll also be a side of broccoli no matter what!
I've also learnt that freshly plucked potatoes straight from the ground make very bad mashed potatoes, but on the whole because I still have quite a substantial larder to pick and choose from, things haven't yet reached the hardship factor yet.
That said, I'm realising how liberal I can't afford to be. With only a £10 shopping budget, every time I squirt toilet or floor cleaner,or hair conditioner, let alone put on the dishwasher I find myself fretful that my supplies won't last the month. The last thing I want is to run out of non-food items. Never did I think that at some point in my life, I would be contemplating how long a loo roll lasts, and whether to count sheet usage. Having factored the sheets per visit quota, my head-cold has rendered that a waste of time!
Then there's the simple pleasures: I've been for a march around the garden, and a romp up and down the lane, and gathered together a lovely bunch of wild flowers. Flowering mint, poppies, thistles, some tiny yellow flowers, and an aging artichoke have made for a very nice flower display.
This week has been brilliant and terrible! A low on Monday was Nettle Soup, and getting very low on milk, that I couldn't take coffee with me on my mammoth trek. Still, the highs has been the generosity of friends - so far I've been gifted...
- 21 eggs with which I broke my sugar fast with, making bread and butter pudding. I made two portions, and then ate them both in one sitting!
- 6 eggs.
- 6 more eggs...
- a pineapple, which I turned into the most delicious pineapple meringue pie. I'm a rubbish baker, but this thing was divine.
- a dinner at a friend's house
- a luxury chocolate bar and the most divine fresh coffee were traded for a couple of courgettes, some rhubarb, a squash and some parsley. I definitely got the better deal!
- then a friend turned up with a bag of M&S shopping and so I got to play the now obsolete 'Ready, Steady, Cook...' and made halloumi kebabs with roasted veg, rice and quinoa. I've still got a wide variety of cheeses to devour. This starvation malarky has suddenly got terribly middle class.
- a banana cake - perfect for breakfast.
I think, at this rate, I shall continue doing £10 a week for life...
Thus, my shopping trip, this time to Aldi, was limited to the barest of basics - some batteries because of course this week my alarm clock and my TV remote would both decide to retire, some creme fraiche, some double cream (I plan on making a lot of custard), more bread - I went a tad more 'upmarket' this week having learnt my lesson of last, some peppers, some more sugar (yay!) and, of course, a ton of milk. Grand total: £7.89 - giving me some emergency budget for the remainder of the week. The thing with Aldi, I've learnt, is everybody is in a terrible hurry. Going shopping there is like getting a tube in rush hour - the person behind me queuing up to pay practically breathed fire down my neck, clearly anxious in case someone minded the gap and sidled in between us. I am unskilled at getting the contents of my shopping onto the conveyor belt in such a frenzy, not helped by the person behind me deciding to unload theirs into the spot between the proceeding customer and themself. And then morbidity itself arrived: trying to find one's debit card at the bottom of one's handbag whilst half a dozen customers tut. You'd think I was holding up the queue for free tickets to see Justin Bieber. Still, it's done, and unlike usual, absolutely no impulse purchases have been had - this is a radical improvement. It's rare I pop into my usual supermarket for a few bits, and then come home to discover, I've bought everything except what I went for.
Aldi - great for the budget, not so great for one's zen.
Day 14 - so far so good. Managed to have enough milk to get me through the week, but then the best thing happened - someone swapped me three meals a day if I do their garden in return. Not quite sure this is in the spirit of the Sadventure, but who cares - I don't have to cook, and it frees up my budget for the bare essentials: toilet roll, sanpro and shampoo.
The garden is now kicking out some seriously good veg - new potatoes, and this year's delightful surprise: patty pans. I'm sure I've had them before, in fact, I know I have, but somehow I was a bit 'meh' about them. Olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper, whack it in the oven for a while: buttery heaven. I will never grow any other squash again now.
A friend suggested lunch as she wanted a chat and a catch up. There's no such thing as a free lunch - unless your friend is paying! My pearls of wisdom cost her a cheese and onion sandwich and several coffees.
Next up: gardening netted me a mint, pea and courgette quiche and salad, a vegetable chilli, a cheese and pickle sandwich and some carrot cake. Fab!
That said, household supplies are running dangerously low. I've contemplated dock leaves as a loo roll substitute, but realised it wouldn't be a good idea: dock leaves aren't especially flushable.
I also ran out of painkillers. The household cleaning substance are depleted. On the other hand, I've realised that I've been living in readiness for Armageddon. Whenever I've stayed in a hotel, I've swiped the shampoo, soaps, and conditioners. Why, I know not - they've been gathering dust ever since. It's not like they are great stuff. they have now been deployed. My hair is a frizz-fest but it's cost nothing to de-grease.
Thus today's shop was:
- cleaning clothes
- dishwasher tabs
- loo roll
That's it! And it amounted to £8.64. It's occurred to me that those living on a tight weekly budget are disadvantaged because buying in bulk, the ultimate cost saving, is simply not possible. For example, I bought the smallest amount of dishwasher tabs (40) even though buying a box of 70 works out cheaper per tabs. Had I bought the box of 70, I'd have had to forego the painkillers.
Thus again, I'm left with just enough to buy one more milk. Guess I'm making my own bread this week. And I've still cupboards of food that is most likely out of date. Seems like a good time to start giving myself a good dose of food poisoning - I've weight I can shed.
Yay! Friend is back from Portugal so that was a free dinner. Otherwise, I've gotten creative with my cooking - a nice biryani, rhubarb crumble, broccoli pasta (twice), red pepper and chilli soup, and because of my garden, a really therapeutic homemade chinese meal with proper egg friend rice, garlic swiss chard and stir-fried veg. That was in fact, ace. Not so ace was porridge made with cranberries and water when I ran out of milk, which happens with alarming regularity.
And I still haven't really made a a dent in my food cupboard - and I don't even consider myself a prepper. Still with Brexit on the horizon, I am unsure whether to keep going on the eat-ups, or go back to old habits.
So for my last week's shopping, I changed the habit of a lifetime and took a list - the ultimate symbol that one has arrived in the middle-ages. My list was:
1) A lightbulb with good wattage for futility room
2) Birthday present for friend
I spent 1/5th of my shopping budget of friend. I'm probably an ex-friend now as it was a very naff present, leaving me with just £8 to spend. At which point I discovered that lightbulbs cost in excess of £4.50. What the bleeding hell? Surely not. So I've decided that futility is best explored in darkness.
Instead I came home with milk, cheese, creme fraiche, bread, marmalade and tomatoes, because my tomatoes are stubbornly refusing to go red anytime this summer. Then, to my horror, I've discovered that my lovingly grown lettuce has spontaneously died. I've a couple of baby beetroot but cucumber hasn't fruited either. Salads are to going to be a bit naff. I've some purple spouting broccoli ready to eat even though now I'm sick of the stuff. And shit ton of courgettes.
I spent 9:40 and completely forgot baking soda.
Things I've learnt from this Sadventure:
I have way too much food in my cupboards. I have finally turned into my mother.
I need to take the sodding bags for life from my car into the actual supermarket - In fact, I've only once remembered to take any with me into the jeffing car.
Unloading the car after a shopping trip and unpacking is a doddle rather than a subtantial household task.
I am supremely forgetful but my brain has not once failed to remind me I can't have a stimulating coffee before shopping.
I spend too much money on food I don't necessarily eat.
People who have a very tight budget are penalised twice over.
Having homegrown veg is great when I remember to eat it, and when it doesn't die without permission.
I'm more creative when I'm on a budget, and less lazy about cooking.
I spend more on the cat than I do myself. This is surely wrong.
I cannot manage my milk intake very well.
People who prone to road-rage go to Aldi
I have ace friends.