The £20 food shop challenge

— Rebecca Brandreth and Lucy Bingham contributed to this report.

It’s easy to spend more than £20 on a weekly shop, whether it’s due to buying expensive ready meals or unnecessary snacks.

But as money gets tight at the end of the year, The Linc‘s Rebecca and Lucy took the challenge of spending no more than £20 on a week’s food shopping – excluding alcohol – to see how easy it is to keep to a budget. Here’s how they got on…


Many students spend over £20 on their weekly shop, could you spend less? Photo: Anneka James

Rebecca:
After spending over £23 on food shopping last week, not including alcohol or eating out, I decided it was probably a good idea to stick to my budget this week of £20, and I did myself proud! I managed to spend only £16 and that DOES include alcohol and eating out… mainly as I was too ill to actually go out anyway.

I bought quite a lot for my money and it nearly lasted me all week. The most expensive food was surprisingly fruit and vegetables; it’s no surprise that students live off take-aways and pizzas when eating healthy costs so much. The least expensive foods were milk, cheese and tinned food including spaghetti – the most essential student food.

With my food shopping costing less than usual, I was pleasantly surprised that I managed to break the ‘students-eat-pasta-and-rice’ stereotype and make some really nice, filling meals. A couple of my meals were ready-made and cooked in the microwave, but I got a lot more variety than I would normally.

My typical meal contains either some form of potato or pasta, yet this week I had cous cous and teriyaki chicken. I also made a few salads with fish and vegetables with sausages.

After nearly giving myself food poisoning a few weeks ago because of under-cooked chicken, I’ve become a lot more particular on cooking times. But I haven’t been put-off by my little incident, instead I’ve been buying a lot more chicken and I would definitely recommend Morrisons’ ‘Ready To Cook’ chicken meals.

Lucy:
The good thing is that I only spent £11 on my weekly food shop at Morrisons. The bad thing is that I thought it would be a good idea to go to Tower Bar for lunch one day and then spend a silly amount on extra food I thought I needed, but I only went £1.40 over budget.

I didn’t get off to the best start when I thought it would be a good idea to spend £0.68 on a tin of ravioli – when am I ever going to eat that? I normally cook most of my evening meals with my boyfriend to try and save money so I think I eat quite well compared to some students.

I tried to save money by buying frozen meals that were on offer, including things like chicken kievs, a roast chicken dinner and a chicken curry. With the price of meat being so high there are probably the only time I’ll eat chicken all week. I added extra frozen vegetables to them as these meals aren’t the largest portions.

I barely eat anything during the day, just a slice of toast for breakfast and occasionally a small jacket potato for lunch. With both of these being relatively cheap, I could to spend more on my dinner so I don’t have to just eat ready meals and noodles.

From my weekly shop I managed to make my signature dish spaghetti bolognese, including value range spaghetti and bolognese sauce with mince on offer.

From trying to limit myself to £20 a week on food I’ve learnt that I have to compromise on some things. No more expensive meat, unless it’s on offer, no more fresh fridge meals and definitely no more snacks that only come in handy at midnight!

4 Responses to The £20 food shop challenge

  1. Robert Randall says:

    Starving yourself to keep to a budget really isn’t good advice, plus if you’ve ever visited Lincoln’s fruit and veg market, you’ll find good quality food that is much cheaper than the supermarkets.

  2. katie says:

    Agreed with Robert. This is pants. Fruit and veg = market. Plus – “i dont really eat during the day” – more fool you, wont do you any good in the long run. Plus its much cheaper to buy and make food – rather than buy ready meals. If you make a chilli, lasagne, or even bolognese… theres a portion for that night and normally one, two or even three portions left over – to which you can eat all week.. or freeze it urself! At least you then know whats going into your food!

  3. Michelle says:

    I try not to spend more than £20 a week on food, I am a vegetarian and eat rather healthy and no problems with this what so ever. so it is most definitely not starving yourself. Why spend more money on food than you have to when you can spend that money on something else. Thanks for putting people to the challenge :)

  4. annika says:

    i would like to say also buying in bulk helps a lot and buying every two weeks will have more spending power so u can be very cleaver and buy the food like pasta rice oil flour in bulk and buy simple speads like peanut butter (which is a cheap form of protien)
    bulk buy eggs then you can bake and yes go to the market for veg and fruit and make bags of soups to freeze is very easy and also it is more better to buy a small joint of mean cook and freeze in a few bags …remember to double bag meats to stop freezer burn,and theres no harm in keeping left over pasta in the fridge as long as its sealed its cuts out the fuss of boiling more pasta and dont be scared of left overs.