I recently published an article in the Guardian called How to Eat Like a Chef for Under £20 a Week, find the article here and please share if you like it.
I usually spend around £20 a week on shopping and wanted to look further into why this was cheaper than a lot of other people I know. Not many people cook and eat three meals a day from home, however for the sake of this article, to push myself and to analyse how much it would cost, I decided to cook all 21 meals, using simple recipes that I would make up, whilst recording the costs.
I put a lot of research into recording my shopping lists and recipes to make sure I came up with an accurate and achievable shopping list. I’d like to share those details with you here to give further depth to the article, in the hope that some people will find the tips and advice helpful.
One of the Guardian commenters very kindly calculated the nutrition from the example shopping list I put in the article and found that it came out at a low but acceptable 1568kcal. They also said that it needed more calcium and Iodine which can be achieved through eating more nuts, seaweed and milk or chickpeas. I should note, I didn’t include any eat out budget which averages at £14 per person each week. During the week I bought some snacks in-between meals which would have added some nutrition to my diet. I recommend a varied a diet as possible.
Here is what I cooked during the week I wrote the article.
|Monday||Oat, buckwheat porridge with strawberries||Roast cauliflower leaves with garlic mash (skordalia)||Beetroot leaf soup|
|Tuesday||Strawbs, kefir and cinnamon fried bread||Freekeh salad with rhubarb and toasted pumpkin seeds||Culiflower cheese with the leaves|
|Wednesday||Plain porridge||Fried egg sandwich||Red kidney bean and tomato broth|
|Thursday||Oat and buckwheat porridge with molasses||Leftovers from freezer||Homemade baked beans and baked potato|
|Friday||Marmite on toast||Carrot and beetroot top pesto pasta||Barleyotto, carrots, celery, broccoli|
|Saturday||Drop scones with roasted rhubarb, honey||Rice salad, broccoli, carrots,||Chickpea curry, potato, carrot, celery|
|Sunday||Soda bread farls with omlette||Green lentil salad, broad beans, celery, rhub||Potato and broad bean frittata, deep fried pods|
These three meals a day actually only cost £17.26 for the exact ingredients, however this list doesn’t include extras like salt, pepper and tea.
I costed each recipe gram for gram. Here is the spreadsheet and a link (in pink) to a clearer PDF version below. If anyone would like the methods for any of these recipes then please ask in the comments below or send me an email and I will put it together as soon as I can.
I then cross referenced those calculations with my actual shop and the products I’d used that week gram for gram. I then put together a general list of whole packaged products based on these ingredients as I thought it would be a more useful tool than this over complicated sheet which is made up of random percentages of ingredients.
|Monthly Cost||Weekly Cost||Weight||Store cupboard items|
|£1.76||£0.44||70ml||raw cider vinegar|
|£1.34||£0.34||100g||wholemeal flour spelt or wheat|
|£1.14||£0.29||30g||Spread for toast marmite etc. (30g week)|
|£1.14||£0.29||75g||buckwheat (25g x 3 a week)|
|£1.44||£0.36||180g||3 types dried pulses – kidney beans, chickpeas, black eyed beans etc (60g 3 x a week)|
|£1.89||£0.47||150g||shortgrain brown rice (50g 3 x a week)|
|£1.62||£0.41||225g||3 types grain week – pearl barley, spelt, bulgar (50-75g 3 x a week)|
|£3.84||£0.96||240g||dried lentils – red, green, brown (120g 2 x a week)|
|£0.79||£0.20||30g||pumpkin seeds and other (30g a week)|
|£1.73||£0.43||30g||nuts (price hazelnuts) other – almonds, walnuts (30g a week)|
|£0.96||£0.24||45g||raisins, mullberries and other dried fruit (45g week)|
|£1.30||£0.33||40g||spices – 1 x 40g box a month|
|£8.85||Weekly cost per person|
|Weekly Cost||Weight||Weekly groceries – vegetables, bread and dairy|
|£0.75||1/2 bunch||carrots with tops|
|£0.75||1/2 bunch||celery with tops|
|£0.00||125g||beetroot leaves or a leafy green|
|£0.50||1/2 head||cauliflower with leaves|
|£0.50||50g||butter (50-100g week)|
|£11.02||Weekly fresh items|
|£8.85||Weekly store cupboard items|
I’ve put this together to be a loose guide or a template to base a weekly/monthly shop on so that people can tweak it to their own needs whilst learning a few tips too be able to buy better produce when they want or can afford to. I write, learn and talk about our food system, food and cooking with a lot of people all the time and the main problem people come back to me with, no matter who they are or of what income, is that food costs too much and takes too long to prepare. I therefore focus my energy on helping people overcome these problems through my own research, knowledge and cooking skills. My hope is that this budget is lower than most peoples and flexible so that people can change it to their own needs. And for those it isn’t low enough for, they can save money if they need to through the tips.