Dinner money: Could you live on £20 a week?


A while ago I read this fascinating article by David Cohen from the Evening Standard (@cohenstandard) on living on the tight food budget that far too many people face now a days. For seven days he lived off a £20 food budget. Total. That’s seven breakfasts, seven lunches, seven dinners, snacks, drinks, anything.

To summarise: it was hard.

He lost two kilos in seven days, and was only really managing one ‘full’ meal per day. By the end of the week he was out of money and out of food. £20 does not go far. To stretch the budget, quality goes down, so not only was he not getting enough food, what he did get wasn’t giving his body everything it needed.

It was a frightfully interesting experiment, highlighting the struggles many people are going through, and has made me feel very grateful for having a normal (plentiful!) food budget. It struck a chord how even in a few days, once Cohen ‘couldn’t’ have all the food he wanted how all consuming his thoughts about food become. Go read it and see how fabulous the next meal will feel. Read it and buy someone hungry a sandwich.

It has got me to be more aware of how much I spend on food in a week, and to appreciate the food I’m eating and buying. Though I don’t have to count the pennies, I think I’m pretty sensible; I love to cook so most of our meals are home cooked, we plan the week ahead so don’t waste food we buy, and I rarely buy over-priced London lunches, preferring to get my salad from the office subsidised cafe or make my own (weekday lunches are eaten at my desk nine times out of ten any way!). I go out to eat with friends or the fella once or twice a week on average, which is my biggest food splurge.

It’s been an interesting few weeks taking note of what I’m spending on food, and I have definitely appreciated the relative comfort I live in. It’s sad to realise living on £20 a week is common for far too many people in the country. It’s a small gesture, but I’ve started to buy an extra a tin or two in my shop that I can add to the Food Bank donation boxes in the supermarket. The ES article highlighted the added pressures being hungry can give to a person; low concentration, sickness, heightened stress levels, and it was frightening how much weight was lost in just a week from malnutrition. Lots of little gestures could really help many families in trouble, so I’m going to keep doing it. If anything, it’s made me appreciate everything I eat. Food for thought.



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