One of my New Year’s resolutions was to ‘give something back’ to the community as a fitness & health blogger. Therefore I was thrilled when my friend Rachel who blogs at Healthy & Psyched, nominated me to participate in the so-called £2 challenge. This challenge is running until the end of February and it is being organised by Voucherbox which is one of the UK’s leading voucher publishers. They teamed up with a charity called Zamcog, asking people to come up with a meal plan for one day which costs no more than £2/person in total, and then write about their #2poundchallenge experience. Why £2? This is how much it costs to feed and educate a child in Zambia every day. For each published post, Voucherbox will donate £50 to Zamcog to help them continue their mission of supporting Zambia’s underprivileged children through food and education.
My first thought was that it was ‘such a worthy cause’, soon followed by a wave of panic ‘how on earth am I going to feed myself for just £2 for a day?’ I was preparing myself for living on bananas for a day. To be honest, I am not frugal when it comes to food. In fact, I am one of those health nuts who does not bat an eyelash when she forks out £2 just for a sachet of pea protein powder for her next ‘super smoothie’ concoction, some of which you may have seen on my Instagram!
However, I do love a good challenge, so I got down to work – armed with a calculator and Internet supermarket comparison sites, I began to draw up a plan.
How I prepared for the Voucherbox Challenge
As a starting point, I decided that no matter how tight my budget was, there were a couple of things I did not want to compromise on, such as:-
- Eating wholesome meals made with fresh and in-season ingredients;
- No artificial nasties and unrecognisable ingredients;
- Where possible, going with more ethical choices, such as free range eggs;
- Eating meals that have a decent nutritional value and keep me feeling full until the next meal;
- Eating vegetarian.
I have to caviat this challenge by saying that I am lucky to have free lunches at work up to a value of £3.20 a day, however, for the sake of this challenge, I made my own lunch. I did not factor into the total price my regular store cupboard ingredients which we always have at home, such as dried herbs and olive oil, as I did not want to be such a hair-splitter about these things. (Besides, if I showed up at your door, with an apologetic ‘sorry dah’ling, have you got a bit of thyme?’, you would probably not turn me down. At the end of the day, part of being British means being socially awkward and being too polite to say ‘no’.)
How I fared with my £2 meal plan for the Voucherbox Challenge
Here is what I have come up with – I have pro-rated the total cost of each ingredient to the portion one person would use:-
Breakfast – Classic Banana and Honey Porridge
80g Asda Smart Price Porridge Oats (6p)
1 tbsp Tesco Everyday Value Clear Honey (8.73p)
1 Asda banana (14p)
350ml Tesco Whole Milk used for the porridge and the tea (27.7p)
1 Tesco Everyday Value Teabag (0.625p)
Tap water for the tea (free)
I usually have breakfast around 7am during the week. Porridge is my go-to breakfast I have on most days, so I was very pleased to be able to fit it into my budget. Porridge keeps my energy levels stable due to its low GI content, so a generous portion kept me going for the next 4.5 hours until lunch time.
Total spend: 57.1p
Lunch – Split Green Pea Soup
1 Medium Tesco Carrot (6p)
1 Medium Tesco Royal Potato (12.9p)
150g (dry weight) Asda Green Split Peas (15p)
1 Small Tesco Onion (15.8p)
1 Tesco Clove of Garlic (5p)
1 Tesco Every Day Vegetable Stock Cube (3p)
Sprinkle of Dried thyme from the cupboard (free)
Pinch of Salt and pepper from the cupboard (free)
Splash of Olive oil from the cupboard (free)
1 Bay Leaf, home grown and dried (free)
I had my lunch at work at 11.30am. What I especially love about this dense soup is that it is very comforting in the winter, as well as quite filling due to peas being protein rich vegetables. You can find the recipe here.
Total spend: 57.7p
Afternoon Snack – Rice Pudding
1 Tin of Asda Rice Pudding (15p)
I went for a run at 1pm until 2pm. After an early lunch and my subsequent run, I needed something to sustain me until dinner time. This rice pudding, albeit ready-made, seemed to be an excellent ‘clean’ choice to re-fuel my body after my run, and to satisfy my sweet teeth, with plenty of carbs (which is what I go for straight after exercising to replenish my depleted energy stores). It also has a decent amount of protein, about as much as in two eggs, which promotes recovery for the tired muscles.
Total spend: 15p
Dinner – Two Egg Veggie Omelette
2 Medium Tesco Free Range Eggs (29.2p)
2 Tesco Redmere Farms Mushrooms (14.4p)
100g Asda Frozen Spinach Balls (11.5p)
½ Tesco Salad Tomato (5.75p)
1 Tesco Shallot (8p)
Salt and pepper from the cupboard (free)
Splash of olive oil from the cupboard (free)
I usually get around to eating my dinner at 7pm. This egg omelette is another great protein rich meal which you can whip up in almost no time at all. This is another one of my favourites, although I had to ration the tomato as I could not afford a whole one! ;-( Spinach is one of the healthiest super foods, and is a lot cheaper when you buy it frozen; this is usually the case with most vegetables and herbs.
Total spend: 68.85p
Liquids during the day
I drank tap water at home or from the tank at work which was free. I had no money left to drink anything else, however, this was not necessarily a bad thing as the rice pudding was quite carb dense so it was a good trade-off.
Total spend: £0
GRAND TOTAL (rounded up): £1.99
I am really chuffed (and pleasantly surprised) that I have managed to stay within budget. On the whole, I felt well-fed and well-hydrated during the day, albeit I could have done with another small-ish snack around 5pm, such as a handful of nuts or another piece of fruit. Oh, well.
What I have learnt through the Voucherbox experiment
- It was a useful exercise to compare our local supermarkets and re-evaluate if they are still the best value places to do our weekly grocery shop in.
- I honestly could not believe that I could feed myself for just £2 for a whole day. This made me think about how many different things I could do with the money I save if I lived on £2/day meals.
- It opened my eyes to see how little or how much £2 can be for different people. Whilst I can easily spend £2 for example on a Deliciously Ella energy ball without thinking too much about it, £2 is what some people have to literally survive on for another day. This has really put things into perspective and made me appreciate more what I have.
- It is virtually impossible to afford meat on this budget, it suddenly felt like a luxury item. I’m afraid it is bad news for those people who eat meat quite regularly, such as my dear Hubby.
- I do not think it is possible to thrive on a £2/day diet if you are serious about your sports performance. The best you can hope for is to get by on this budget diet. For example, a very active and sporty person needs at least 2.-2.5 times more protein than a sedentary person, and as we know, the most protein rich foods are meat, dairy, soy and sports performance supplements which all come with a relatively high price tag. It’s fair to say that getting enough protein was my biggest challenge, and looking at my macros, I got nowhere near where I needed to be. The only source I could get some decent amount of protein from was dairy, eggs and peas.
- Some ready meals, fast food items and tinned products appear to be budget-friendly options, however, it is best to avoid the regular consumption of the majority of these products for the sake of your own health. If nothing else, my experiment has proved that it is entirely possible to eat healthy on a strict food budget, it just takes a bit of maths, research, and crafty cooking skills.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article! I hope that it will encourage people to get more savvy with their spending in general.
Why not join me on the Voucherbox challenge? To find out more, head over to the Voucherbox website for more information.
Do you think YOU could feed yourself for £2 for a day? Let me know in the comments!