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Editor’s blog: can I live for five days on £5?

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During this ongoing recession, we’ve seen food prices soar while wages have stayed fairly similiar. A lot of people are cutting back and cutting back – but could you live on just £5 for five days? 

It’s a challenge from the Live Below The Line people. Several Xn friends have tried this before, including the Bishop of Reading, the Rt Revd Andrew Proud. 

It sounds so tough and I’ve admired those taking part in it. Could Xn do it this year? And is it possible to create a budget that allows you to dine like a king? 

Lidl's oats are just 39p - but can I live on them for a week?

Lidl’s oats are just 39p – but can I live on them for a week?

The rules are tough: you can’t buy a big pack of rice and then divide the price into five days’ worth. It has to be the whole pack and nothing else. No cheeky snacks from the cupboard – that 60p chocolate bar? Yep, coming out of the bill. 

No meals can cost more than £1 a day. 

No donations from friends or family – so no doughnuts if it’s someone’s birthday at work. 

Even the salt and pepper has to be costed. No nicking sachets from the pub. 

 That’s a real challenge, not least as our weekly food bill – pared and trimmed to cut off all excess fat – is currently around £80 for a family of four. So my weekly consumption is around four times that fiver. And that doesn’t even include beer.

 Now, you can pool together – so our family of four could try living on £20 – but whether my two fussy eaters would live on lentils and chickpeas is another matter! But if I can persaude Mrs Xn to join in, we’ll have a better chance of eating more healthily…

I’ve been looking at a possible shopping list – ways of making great meals but without blowing the budget. 

Here’s my starting list. 

  • Rice
  • Lentils
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Chocolate bar
  • Teabags
  • Oats
  • Milk
  • Chicken thighs
  • Herbs
  • Pasta
  • Biscuits
  • Loaf of bread
  • Mushrooms
  • Eggs
  • Margarine


That’s a big list and obviously budget busting. My thinking was a packet of chicken thighs will help make big meals and chicken sandwiches. But meat is expensive. 

A quick visit to Lidl in Woodley last night brought some figures back. 

Rich teas are 23p a packet

A loaf can be bought for 45p

Mushrooms are 85p for a punnet

Carrots are 75p a kilo

Onions are 79p a packet

Eggs can be 95p for 6 free rage or £1.15 for 10 barn, £1.35 for 15  – that’s a lot of scrambled egg!

Spread is 69p

Pasta can be bought for 29p

A 1kg of rice can be had for 40p

Milk? £1

Wholegran oats at 39p

And 10 chicken thighs are £2.65 


Just buying that list alone comes in at £9.84 – nearly double what’s allowed.  Even taking the meat out, we’re still looking at a figure over and above the magic £5 mark. 


Clearly this is a challenge that’s going to take some careful planning. 


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