Lessons learned

Here are some thoughts and lessons I’ve learned from my one pound per day challenge.

  • It’s possible to buy ready-done meals at one pound per day, but if you want to eat anywhere near nutritious, you must cook from scratch. Because of this, in low-budget cooking, you trade off money for time.
  • Almost everything is cheaper when you make it yourself (Chipped potatoes, however, can be cheaper than fresh potatoes). A pack of instant noodles may cost 11 pence but you can make your own fresh noodles, from flour, for less.
  • No money means having to partially or completely drop bad habits such as:
    • wasting food
    • sugar
    • drinking alcohol
    • drinking coffee (you’ll find out about that one in the weekend if you keep drinking it during the week!)
  • Especially in the beginning, meat intake will be reduced. Organ meat such as liver is the cheapest kind, if you can’t get discounted.
  • If travel costs are taken in consideration (even if left outside the food budget), more good habits are implied or follow, such as:
    • More exercise
    • carpooling
    • thinking twice before driving the extra mile.
  • Ginger is a cheap spice for the amount of flavour it gives. Apart from those herbs that can be foraged easily, most other herbs and spices are hard to afford.
  • Extreme budgeting may force you to use the same ingredients and flavours over and over again. You can keep things more interesting by varying preparation methods, textures and combinations.
  • According to Google, five a day is 5.78703704 × 10-5 hertz and one pound per day is 5.24991169 × 10-6 kg / s. Thank you, Google.
  • Your five a day are actually based on five portions of 80 grams of fruit and/or vegetables.
  • Bulk may be unaffordable on a tight budget. As a result, you may be forced to buy more expensive items. On a larger scale, this implies that one of the causes of poverty is poverty.
  • It’s easier to (pretend to) be ethical when you have money. Simple questions about right and wrong (“is it all right to bring salt or pepper from McDonalds?”) suddenly are more complex to answer if money is tight or unavailable. In low budget living or survival, sometimes you don’t have the luxury to be ethical (e.g. if you must eat eggs, you’ll have to go for the cheaper caged hen eggs as opposed to free range). Taken to an extreme, it makes sense that poor economy makes ethics unaffordable and therefore can lead to violence or even war.
  • The discount shelves can be small not because of brilliant logistics, but because they’re being raided all the time. Check back if the first time nothing interesting is to be found. Sunday afternoon is pandemonium at the discount shelves at ASDA and the worst time to hunt for bargains. A lot of elderly and presumedly low income groups seem to live on these bargains – which raises questions about how ethical it is to bargain-hunt if you’re not in those groups.
  • The cheapest products at ADSA for some reason often seem to be placed on the LEFT on a shelf compartment, often with their price tag half obscured by other products hanging in front of them. This is the case for their smart price batter mix, instant noodles, rice porridge, mushy peas, instant mash… Coincidence? Done on purpose because more people are right-handed?

5 Responses to “Lessons learned”

  1. sarah March 11, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    The discount shelves are small because otherwise the supermarkets would only sell the reduced produce (OK, a bit exaggerated but…) The amount of produce they throw away is unbeliavable. Either they do not have enough staff to deal with such things or (obvious choice), such activity is not profitable. Plus rules and regulations.

    Sunday bargain-hunting is bad, because, for example, elderly people don’t go shopping after 8-9pm, all supermarkets close at 4pm on Sunday, the best discounts – before 4pm, here you go…. plus many more people generally shop during the weekends.

    It is hard to buy some of the cheapest products after 3-4pm, for example, ASDA in Lower Earley (whatever the reason) had no cheap porrige (ASDA value) or eggs for ages, on some ocasions – baked beans, value bread, butter and other essentials. If you happen to be going shopping around 7-9pm, it is very likely that the milk and other products have gone already.

    • Arno Brevoort March 12, 2012 at 1:20 am #

      My slightly paranoid brain seems to be detecting some patterns.

      Tesco seems to have different restocking rules for budget products and premium/branded products. As one example, I’ve seen the Tesco Value porridge oats “shelf” empty for a week, but anything else around it was being restocked.

      The game of the ever changing price tags is also interesting. Prices change all the time, even daily for some items.

      There’s two waves, a long term / monthly wave and a shorter day-by-day wave. I mostly buy the same small set of products, i.e. there’s a packet of juice which I’ve paid anything between £1 and £1.47 for. To some extend you can try to stock up when price is low and hope that tides you over for when the price comes up — but it forces you to buy more.

      The shorter wave seems to be the midweek/weekend wave. Wednesday/thursday seem to be cheap days to shop, Saturday the most expensive. There’s a few midweek specials that suddenly disappear come Saturday.

      Another one is tactically missing price-tags — when, say, Tesco’s own-brand tuna is on buy-one-get-one-free offer, suddenly the Tesco-Value-tuna will not have a price-tag. Curiously if you *do* scan the unpriced cans, the per-can price is actually still cheaper than the offer price — but you wouldn’t have known it just looking at the prices on the shelf.

      • sarah March 13, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

        I thought is was just me :), obviously there is something going on….

  2. Steve January 12, 2014 at 9:29 pm #


    I’ve just stumbled across your blog – perhaps I should have searched for “£1 per day” before getting this far into my £1 per day month as I wish I’d have seen it earlier – I had never thought of trying to pull my own noodles!

    Hope you don’t mind me link dropping as I think it is relevant to your audience:


    Any moral support or guidance on how I should spend my last £4 gratefully received.

    • kleinebre January 13, 2014 at 10:50 am #

      Hello Steve,

      Thank you for your link! I’ll be reading the whole thing for sure!
      How to spend the last 4 pounds? Take a look at what sort of foods you have in stock. Starchy? Veg? Protein? Get whatever you are lacking in most! In my case, at the end of my one-month challenge, I had plenty of starchy foods available so I could focus on vegetables and protein instead. Whatever happens to be heavily discounted, of course 😉

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