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!
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!
Arriving 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.
Then 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).
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 pantry.
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.
We 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!