Shopping below the Line

Shopping below the line was really hard! Every penny counted and this was a raw and if we are honest embarrassing event that has really made us think!living 2

As you will know we are used to shopping on a £50 budget and are extremely strict that we don’t exceed this amount. The truth is that for our needs £50 is more than enough. Even our £25 shopping week was fine as we knew we had a cupboard full of herbs, spices and other ingredients that can make food taste really good. This time it was different, everything we could eat for the week, including those things that we use to flavour our food needed to be purchased within our £15 budget!

Our sealed pantry door

Our sealed pantry door

Here’s how our usually enjoyable potter to the market shop went! We decided to go to our local town of Witney as there is a great fruit and vegetable stall and a lovely butcher (we also needed to do a few jobs in Witney so it was killing 2 birds with 1 stone).

So we are driving along talking about what to buy and how we will face this challenge. We decided that the best way to approach this challenge was to pretend it was actually a reality – a spot of method acting (well Ian has a drama degree so may as well make some use of it). Ok so this decided and we adopted our new reality – we have completely empty cupboards and everything we can cook and therefore eat this week must be purchased with our £15! Discussing our new reality we talked about how bland our meals would be – we then remembered as long as we do it responsibly (landowners permissions, with a guide book, or consulting someone in the know for us Grandad Gray) we could forage! We’d been discussing if we could do this before and weren’t sure (and couldn’t seem to get an answer) but with this new cloak of reality firmly on our shoulders we knew that in this reality we would (in the words of HFW) turn to ‘the wild larder’ for both animal and vegetable!

living 1Arriving at market we skipped off to look around. No rice, no pasta –  Yikes! As its been commented before we are not huge rice or pasta people but this week we need bulk foods! Now normally under our no supermarket challenge we would pay a little extra for good quality ‘whole foods’ – for us this still works out cheaper as the cost of these more expensive items is spread out over the weeks. Today however we had to purchase a bag of something and supermarket basics were not an option. It was then we remembered ‘Sues Shop’ an independent Chinese shop. This meant another discussion – the food there is lovely but it’s come along way. It is however supporting a local business and isn’t a supermarket so is ok (anyone thinking otherwise the response is ‘our blog, our rules, we are doing this event to help starving children, we need to not starve and have a serious responsibility to feed our child). So in Becksie went to scout out our best and cheapest option. Lentils 69p per bag (phew horse burgers avoided, dinner will be wholesome). It was then off to buy milk – a local independent newsagent (cr@p milk as we call it) but…. a necessity. The milk part was hard as we prefer to pay more but we had to do what we had to do. We did however come up with a clever plan to buy full fat milk and water it down (we are normally semi skimmed buyers). We were really pleased to come up with this plan but it also was the first hard hit that this was a hard challenge.

living 3Then it was off to the fruit and vegetable stall! Normally we smile at the variety and reasonable prices today…. we feel stressed by what we can’t have, responsibility weighs heavy that we chose the right option!! It also strikes us that as the man who serves us ‘knows’ us as regular customers our pride is about to take a beating. At this point we could have made a song and dance about the project we are doing – heck he probably would have chucked in some freebies but this is not the spirit  – we are method acting! We are Louis Theroux! So we stand in front of this man, in front of our fellow shoppers and we debate best prices, we debate what we can afford, we hold coins in our hand! We feel the flush if embarrassment, we feel pity coming from the pores of others and quite frankly Becksie wants to run away. We are humbled! We guess in the supermarket one can do this process with more anonymity but at this point we want that add that on reflection if this was our reality we’d still chose the market every time as it is in our opinion better. Ok this is stressful! Even writing it hurts. After our debate we make our purchases. We pop to the butcher but it’s really busy and stressful so after a bit of a debate about a ham hock we leave feeling poor and flustered.

We then head back to Faringdon to go to our local cheese shop, bakery and butcher (planning to discretely ask about cheapest but still good quality meat options). We have about £6 left to get flour, butter, meat, cheese and to purchase yeast, salt etc from our own pantry (rules state you can do this). Ian is driving, Becksie is holding our remaining money and we debating what we must prioritise. Lizzie is in the back singing unaware that we are struggling! Should we buy cheese? Yes its good for Lizzie to have some cheese, it’s also a good flavouring, hows about a whole chicken that would do a few meals but…… we can’t afford it! Then it occurred to us that being countryside folk we often get access to free meat so this week’s food could include a pheasant and a rabbit at no cost (another butchery lesson from Grandad Gray to Ian and we were away).living 6

Money freed up we purchased butter, a huge compromise we’ve got used to lovely locally produced best butter but we have still spent our £1 in the local economy! It’s then flour from the bakery, cheese from the cheese shop and home to buy the others bits from our 4


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Look away date conscious folk

Eggs, salt, oats, sugar, baking powder, yeast. We also had 1 apple, 2 satsumas and 2 tomatoes from last weeks shop (and some out of date yogurt) so we factored the cost of these items into the budget as we are not about to commit food waste.

living 8We are all sorted! We then remembered 2 free stock cubes we got sent from some baby food company so we agreed to add this box of stock to our allowed list as it was free and would provide some flavour!

So there you have it – our shopping trip – our experience – our feelings – and how we plan to live below the line!

Yikes! Let’s hope we can do it! And remember if you have a few spare pennies you could always sponsor us – it all goes to a really good cause! We are donating the rest of our shopping budget!


25 thoughts on “Shopping below the Line

  1. I love this post, especially that you didn’t just go ahead and tell the stall owner and other shoppers what you were doing. Sometimes it’s worse having to admit you can’t afford to buy something most other people see as an every day essential.
    I get “Healthy Start” vouchers from the government – £3.20 a week to buy milk, fruit and vegetables – but as far as I know it’s only the supermarkets who will take them.
    Also – you’re so lucky, you seem to have so many local shops available to you! A cheese shop! If I were doing this, my only option would be to go to the charter market on a Saturday and hope the stalls I wanted were there this week. It’s sad all the specialist shops are being driven out of business by large corporations.

    • Our shopping trip was a really sobering experience and it has really made us think how fortunate we are. That’s interesting about the healthy start vouchers, it would be great if the government could issue them for markets too as we really believe that they can be cheaper! We are indeed really luck to have lots of choice of local shops and since starting this experiment we have found loads that we didn’t know existed before.

  2. You seem to have bought a very sensible amount of a variety of food for your challenge. I didn’t look away at the date conscious point, we frequently eat things that are past their sbd. I don’t know how people like my mum and gran lived without being poisoned in the past when there was no sbd you just used your senses to decide if something was ok! And no fridge either! I remember milk kept in a metal bucket of cold water in the cellar. One day down now 4 to go.

  3. That looks a good selection Becksie, well done I am sure you will make some lovely meals
    You might like to try spicy lentil burgers..they are very tasty …I usually do 4oz Lentils to make 6 burgers and freeze some so half all the ingredients unless you want to eat it more than once although you could just use the rest of the mix as a base for a stew or curry with veg,(sqaush,carrot cauli) stock and spices added to give you another main meal
    Cook 4oz lentils for 20 mins (till cooked) Finely chop and saute an onion and some grated carrot and celery stick (you could use some of your cabbage) a handful of breadcrumbs 1tsp cumin 1 tsp ground coriander (or use any herbs/spices you have) …mix all together and shape into burgers, refridgerate to firm up then fry …I make a chilli tomato sauce with a fresh tomato, onion (all chopped) tbsp sugar ,chilli powder to taste…cook all in a saucepan till thick and sticky add water to thin if wanted. Serve with homemade Potato wedges and maybe some foraged greenery such as dandylion leaves!
    Im really looking forward to see what you make this week ,,Good Luck!

  4. I have no doubt that you’ll rise to the challenge and do brilliantly. Your shopping looks good and the milk idea is inspired. Well done!

  5. Well done Team Pugh. You got a good selection of food in and made it through the first day. A great read and I felt your pain. 1 day down and 4 to go. 🙂

  6. Good luck! It’s a brave thing you’re doing but I’m sure you’ll rise to the challenge.

  7. Well done, as you know weve been trying to eek out the pennies in a big way over the last 12 weeks (£25 per week for 2x people to include food and extras like toilet paper, etc), so I really know where you are coming from. Ive had to forgo the ethical shopping a bit and opt for supermarket bargin ranges (100g coffee for 49p,- not really that bad) and have pretty much given up on fresh veg for me. Oh still gets a decent meal in the evening, but Im pretty much living off carbs (pasta and potatoes are cheap and filling) at the moment. I recommend the foraging, weve got loads of wild garlic near us so thats a real bonus) I reckon youve done really well to get what you have for your money. Im looking forward to seeing the way you put your meals together.
    Best of luck
    :o) xx

  8. That’s harsh! Just imagine having to live like that day in day out, year in year out, with no hope of it ever getting better. Yikes!

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