For the past week my boyfriend and I have taken part in the Live Below the Line challenge, living off less than £1 worth of food per day. The challenge revealed to us the difficulties faced by the world’s poor, who live on less than $1.25US each day. It also put into harsh perspective the difficulties faced by people in the UK.
So what have we learnt?
Living off £1 per day is extremely tough
Unsurprisingly, surviving on food totalling less than £1 per day is very hard going – physically and mentally. After a while all you can think or talk about is food. Your brain feels like its functioning at half its usual capacity and you’re completely devoid of energy. And that was just for five days. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for the 1.4 billion people worldwide who survive on less than that amount day after day after day. Especially since that £1 has to cover so more than simply food – housing, health, transport and education. It has been a humbling experience, casting poverty in a very real and tangible light.
However, one of the things I didn’t expect to learn from the whole experience was just how difficult healthy living can be for people in Britain. As I mentioned in my last post, the challenge for me has been less about a lack of food (although my giant boyfriend would disagree here) – and more about a lack of nutrition. The cheapest items we could get our hands on were processed foods, white pasta and white bread. We haven’t eaten any fruit or vegetables, besides tinned tomatoes. Lean meat and fresh produce were a no go, as were beans, lentils, pulses and (surprisingly) rice.
Your diet affects your performance at work
Want to make yourself unproductive, listless, tired and grumpy at work? Eat rubbish.
The links between a nutritious, balanced diet and effective performance at work or school are well-documented. If you want to get ahead, take a good look at what you’re eating. In a recent report for AOL jobs, nutritionist David Schepp warned that processed foods and a lack of fruit and vegetables can have a huge impact on productivity at work. To boost performance, David Schepp recommended fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, blueberries, whole grains and raw carrots – all of which come with a relatively hefty price tag.
So how can you cut your food costs without cutting your productivity?
Shop around and be inventive
As I said in my last post, I was horrified that our meagre budget could extend to forty frozen sausages from Tesco but couldn’t stretch to the supermarket’s peppers.
Fruit and vegetable consumption amongst lowest income families in the UK has fallen by 30% since 2006, thanks to the recession and rising food prices. In the past year, the average household is paying a further £233 annually on food.
The ‘five a day’ recommendation is there for a reason – fruit and vegetables boost productivity, provide vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre. They can also help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Leaving fruit and vegetables out of your diet can have serious implications on your health.
Get your fruit and vegetable fix by shopping around – don’t assume that your local supermarket is the cheapest option out there. Take a look at MySupermarket to compare prices across the different supermarkets to find the lowest prices. It’s also worth considering other shopping options. Once we started the challenge, Viviana from The Lean Times told us that local street and farmers markets have much cheaper deals on fruit and vegetables. To find your nearest market, visit the local food directory.
Buy in season
Something we always recommend here at TotallyMoney – buy fresh produce in season to get the best deals. Eatseasonably is a great resource – it tells you which fruit and vegetables are in season and when. Did you know that May is the best month for cucumber and cauliflower? Nope, neither did we. They also have excellent recipe ideas.
Plan your meals
Again we can’t stress this enough – plan your meals to make sure you don’t overspend on your food shop, succumb to tempting deals in store or waste the food in your fridge.
Netmums have some great tips on how to get started with meal planning. They have downloadable meal planner charts and budget meal planner ideas alongside recipes and advice. Sainsburys also have some great meal planning ideas on their Live Well for Less site.
Be coupon and cashback savvy
Sainsburys have recently been doling out coupons like there’s no tomorrow, while a lot of brands are running their own coupon promotions. Money Saving Expert has a great section dedicated to the latest supermarket coupon finds. My Voucher Codes’ supermarket pages are also worth a look.
Take a look at sites like Quidco and TopCashBack to see if you could get some money back on your shopping. For families, consider Incahoot Plus. Although you will need to pay an upfront membership fee of £29.99, the service offers up to 10% cashback on money spent at major supermarkets, including Sainsburys and Asda. A family of four spends on average £5,096 a year on grocery shopping. With Incahoot Plus, the average family could earn over £500 in cashback.
Did you take part in Live Below the Line? Have you got any tips for slashing your food bills and staying healthy?