That’s all I’ve got this week.
Usually my budget is small (thanks London and Japanese employers) but not quite this minuscule. Unfortunately, due to a number of unforeseen costs (new glasses, non-zone 3-5 transport, and a few events) my usual monthly food/social budget of £280 was reduced to £150.
At the start of the month I thought that roughly £37.50 a week wouldn’t be a problem. I usually do one big shop on the weekend with a couple of extra buys when necessary which amounts to somewhere between £40-50 so cutting out the extra Tesco sandwiches on lazy days and cutting back on the ridiculous amount of dark chocolate I buy wasn’t too hard. But then this week happened. Through mostly poor planning, I opened my social calendar a bit too wide and realised at the end of last week that I would have 3 social events.
“Wow. Big Shock!”, you say.
Well, yes. That may seem few to you, reader, but I keep my social events down as low as possible since my funds can’t sustain too much social interaction (and perhaps my temperament). With social activities always comes money. Money for coffee, money for drinks, money for meals out. Although I can avoid spending sometimes, these three upcoming events will require, at least, the purchase of beverages.
So my budget of £37.50 is now £17.50 to make way for beer, cocktails and coffee. Healthy and entitled, I know.
On Sunday I started my planning. My first step was to go online and check what I could actually buy for that amount. Upon browsing the Tesco and Sainsbury websites I found that my staple diet of tuna wraps and chicken and veges could be sustained but that I would need to shop carefully and neglect breakfast. My breakfast usually consists of free coffee from work so I didn’t see this as an issue. But my weekend bacon and eggs would have to go.
Monday happened to be Easter Monday so I woke up late to avoid any hunger for the morning and headed off to Morrisons for my shop. Below was the result:
In total I managed to spend £14.89 leaving me with £2.61 for any supplemental items (I still need another bag of spinach so that will be ~90p and potentially a top up of mushrooms at £1). I think I could have saved more as it seems, from my internet planning, some items were cheaper at Tesco (although others were cheaper at Morrisons so it evened out). But I’m lazy so there we have it.
Just so you can understand my meal plan, lunches will consist of:
1 can of Tuna
2 Tortilla Wraps
3 teaspoons of Mayonnaise
1 handful of Spinach
Dinners will consist of:
1 Chicken Thigh
3 Large Button Mushrooms
1 handful of Spinach
(not mentioned: salt, pepper, oil)
Plus an additional snack of Laughing cow cheese to keep me laughing occasionally.
So that’s it. My very student-esque diet for a grown woman working minimum 50hrs a week plus post-grad 15hrs a week. Whether or not I will survive remains to be seen but I will detail below my day by day, play by play to document my demise (or success).
- Sleep in until 10am and start my first morning without food until I convince myself enough is enough and leave the house at 12pm to fetch some sustenance.
- Shopping done and ready for lunch I head back home to make my wrap. Although this is a standard meal for me during the work week it somehow feels pitiful on a day off.
- The afternoon cruises by and I enjoy a nap and marathon Girls which I haven’t seen in years. Girls speaks to me and I find myself nodding along to complaints about lack of funds and city life although I don’t understand how they can all afford their studio to 2 bedroom apartments and a change of outfits every episode. I’ve been wearing the basically same clothes for four years.
- I don’t feel too hungry until around 5pm but my flatmate is cooking so I wait until after 6pm to get in the kitchen. (Not that she minds me going in at the same time! Just that I feel a bit claustrophobic in such a small kitchen and I know she’s using the oven which I will need at a different setting)
- My dinner is a little sad. I’m sure if I ate more carbs I would feel fuller but they make my stomach feel funny so that’s not happening. A kg of potatoes is only £1 though so I may give in towards the end of the week. We shall see.
- All in all I’m not that hungry today so I would say it was a success. Mind you all I did was lay around in bed or on the sofa so it’s not like I need much energy to do that. I managed to avoid my laughing cow cheese today so that means an additional piece another day. Oh the small joys.
- It’s hard to get out of bed but that’s more to do with a Holiday Hangover than any energy depletion due to lack of sustenance.
- I wake at 5.57am with the rising sun glaring in through my broken blinds but refuse to rise until around 7.18am when I’ve pressed the snooze button too many times to count. I slap on some makeup and leave the house around 7.40am reaching work at 8.30am.
- I forgot my oyster card. Bye bye money.
- Someone has been somewhere foreign and in the true Japanese workplace tradition has mercifully brought back with them some OMIYAGE (souvenirs – usually food). I have no idea what they are but I’m pretty sure they’re edible and full of sugar so they will do for breakfast.
- I’m already hungry at 11.15am but my lunch break is always late by choice. I usually take an hour between 1.30pm and 2.30pm to hermit away in one of the spare meeting rooms with YouTube and my wraps. Late lunch means a shorter afternoon – the motto I live by.
- Today is my first social event. A date. Yup, that’s right. You heard correctly. I’m going on a date. At the Clarendon Cocktail Cellar in Pimlico. The first portion of my £20 social allowance will go towards this. I hope it’s worth it. I check the menu before arriving and find the cheapest drink at £8. The Kill Bill. Eek. But cool theme.
- The date is just a little more awkward than the usual first date awkwardness. I order the Kill Bill and it turns out we have to order a plate of something too due to licencing (apparently olives, and nuts are not food). We order the Cauliflower Arancini which consists of four tiny fried balls. After two hours I see him checking his watch so I suggest we leave. He offers to get the bill but I’m all about equality (stupid stupid Clare – traditionalism is the way
forwardto financial stability) so I offer to split. He gets a bit lost getting to the station but I pretend I have no idea where the station is. I’m also fairly tipsy due to the lack of proper sustenance combined with the cocktail. An awkward hug and we leave on opposite platforms. At £12.70 it could have been better but you never know.
- I get home and eat two laughing cow cheese pieces because it’s too late and I’m too uncoordinated to cook myself some dinner at this point. More chicken for tomorrow!
- And I’m hungover. Of course. One cocktail these days and I’m destroyed. I miss the good old days when I could drink 5 beers and still stand upright.
- I realise I have a couple of bananas that Grandma gave me (I’m trying to stick only to foods I bought in my £17.50 grocery shop but hangovers are no laughing matter) so I stuff one in my bag and try to catch the early train only for it to be cancelled. Great. Still 30min early though.
- When I get to work there’s no souvenirs but I eat my banana and load myself with free coffee and filtered water. My stomach somewhat settles but my eyes still water.
- I keep remembering the awkward moments from last night and cringing – like when the table next to ours hired some rando musician to sing a god-awful rendition of ‘Congratulations and Celebrations’ that almost hits the notes but doesn’t and I can’t tell whether it’s intentional or not. And because they’re so close we are encouraged to join in which actually makes me cry with repressed laughter.
- At 11.30am I’m hungry again. Curse my life motto. I’m also growing more and more grumpy as time goes on. Jesus woman, grow some balls.
- Another awkward moment – the Kill Bill has a stripe of Vanilla paint and something else fancy down the side of it like the stripe on the Bride’s sweatsuit. This is all lovely in theory but in practice it means a very difficult and awkward glass to hold without getting covered in sticky substances. I had to constantly rub my nose clean and try to wipe it off my index finger while half giggling-half cringing. Do not recommend. Not cute.
- Lunch was fairly satisfying although I must admit this super cheap mayo has a really strange aftertaste. I’ll be pleased when I can upgrade to some Helmanns but for now I’ll have to get used to it.
- I was absolutely starving towards the end of the work day and left the office at the unusually early time of 5:30pm. I picked up some more spinach on the way home from Tesco which was slightly larger but £1.50. So I’ll try to add more spinach to my meals to see if that helps. But that leaves me with £1.11.
- Dinner did not satisfy the hunger.
- The fatigue. I’m so tired. I’m not so sure it was entirely the fault of the hangover yesterday. But if I’m drinking tonight I need my last freebie banana for tomorrow morning so coffee breakfast for me.
- But then, out of nowhere, a bit of Christmas magic. Or is it Birthday magic? As is the tradition in this office the birthday person brings something sweet and today happens to be one of my colleague’s birthdays so cupcakes for breakfast it is! They weren’t stingy so I managed not 1 but 2 cupcakes to help satiate my hunger pains. I try to look like I’m not scoffing them down but I only barely pull it off (in my head).
- I’ve checked out the invite for the NOMIKAI (read: drinking party) tonight and it looks like we are going to be buying our own drinks and then splitting the food bill…. this does not look good when I’ve only got £7.30 in my social budget remaining. Damn you London. Maybe I should practice my puppy-dog-eyes.
- The cupcakes keep me satisfied until around 1pm when I start to get fidgety. I hold on until my 1.30pm lunch as always.
- In the afternoon I get anxious about the pub tonight. I know it will probably go over £7.30 but I really don’t have the funds to pay more. I still have an event on Sunday to get through. I decide that perhaps if I don’t eat with everyone and just order a drink I can get through without suddenly cancelling my attendance altogether. I think the tiredness is making me more panicky than usual. I’m sure it will be fine.
- I run home at 17:45 and hurriedly heat up some chicken in the oven before walking down to the pub. I meet my manager on the way in who pays for my first beer.
- As people get tipsy wallets also start to appear and I’m offered another drink. Yes. Two pints of Asahi SuperDry will do for me! I nurse my second drink until the talk dies down around 10:30pm and I make my way home to quickly shower and jump into bed. I attempt to watch some Terrace House but my eyes are too heavy.
- Mercifully, there is one cupcake remaining in the kitchen so alongside my old banana and free coffee it makes for a royal breakfast.
- I think I need to learn that my body can no longer handle alcohol. I don’t remember ever having a hangover until I turned 25.
- Almost immediately after my lunch I started thinking about my next meal. The diet for this week has definitely been lacking calories and being able to both concentrate and stay awake has been a major issue (alcohol and late nights probably contribute to that). With the thought of my post-grad report due on Sunday I will have to find something of substance to keep me on my game. I do have £7.30 still left after not having to spend last night but at least £2 of that will go to the cheapest drink I can get at the event on Sunday. That leaves me with £6.41 to try to fill the void.
- I resist the urge to buy rice or potatoes on my way home and resign myself to chicken and veges. I’m not happy about it but I remind myself that there’s only a few days left and at least I have a bunch of cheese.
- Even though I’m awake by 7.30am I don’t get out of bed until 10am and when I finally get out of bed I just drag my duvet to the sofa. I’ve got the house to myself this weekend so I’m spreading out. I’m also procrastinating writing the last 1000 words of my post-grad report.
- I eat a bit of cheese to tide me over until lunch before finding some chewing gum in my drawer to help.
- I have some lunch part way through studying but it disappears somehow while I’m concentrating on figuring out Harvard referencing.
- Academia is so much harder than I remember. I thought I only had a little more to do on my report but instead of getting closer to completion after 3 hours it feels like I’ve gotten farther away from it. I’m panicking already. With the event in the middle of the day tomorrow and an hour to get there and back it’s going to take a huge chunk out of my day so I’d really like to get everything submitted today but gah. Why did I choose to do this to myself again?!
- At 5pm I take dinner but am feeling absolutely useless about the report still.
- By 10pm I’ve wrapped up as much writing as I can do today. I plan out 2.5hrs to finish things tomorrow ideally before I have to leave the house at 1pm. Time to switch off and go to bed.
- Well, here’s an anti-climactic ending; I’m sick.
- I wake at 6am feeling like my throat is on fire. Swallowing hurts, breathing hurts, everything hurts.
- At 7.30am nothings better and I can’t get back to sleep to I text my friend to see if they can take over book club hosting duties (today’s event).
- Dad skypes me and we talk about his upcoming trip (Vancouver, UK, US) – very exciting but also my voice is doing strange things and the ibuprofen doesn’t seem to be helping much. I manage to eat a couple of tuna wraps though.
- My friend is also sick so I try to gear myself up to go to the book club but my throat does not want to play game and my body is aching. I turn to facebook and cancel the event although I know some people may turn up who haven’t signed up on facebook… nothing to be done I suppose – no one else is available. Gahhh, why me?
- Luckily my brain is functional so I sit at the table and finish up my report. I’m not proud of it but here’s hoping it will at least get me a pass.
- At 4pm, after I hit the submit button on the report, I crawl
back into bed and try to close my eyes but the hell fire in my throat doesn’t like that. More ibuprofen and expired lozenges it is. Thank god I had those already because I certainly wouldn’t have the funds to buy more.
- At 6:45pm Grandma calls to tell me she’s feeling a lot better. Maybe someone decided that her sickness be transferred to me. In which case, I’m more than happy to deal with a stuffy nose and burning throat for a while.
- At 7pm I’ve booked in a skype with Maxine in Canada. This is why friends are so important. The more I talk to her the better I feel both mentally and physically. The cold can go screw itself because, for the 2 hours we spend on skype, all I can focus on is catching up with her. I almost forget I’m sick! Thanks bro. Much needed session – see you in 3 weeks.
- I realise after skype that I haven’t had food in a while but my appetite is gone. I can’t even convince myself to eat the last laughing cow cheese slice. I jump in the shower and take a few more ibuprofen before crawling under the sheets.
Initial Morrisons Shop = £14.89
Supplemental Tesco Shop = £1.50
*Leftovers: 2 chicken thighs, half a bag of spinach, half a jar of mayonnaise, 1 slice of laughing cow cheese, a bunch of onions and mushrooms
Drinks and Appetiser at Clarendon Cocktail Cellar = £12.70
So I survived but there were a number of things I learnt:
- I never spent the last £1.11 of grocery budget so technically it was a £16.39 grocery spend this week. Nor did I spend the last £7.30 of my social budget.
- The only reason I stayed under budget was due to the generosity of others. Cupcakes, coffee, bananas, beer, whatever it was it helped.
- It possibly made me sick? (more likely the coworker who came into the office ill on Thursday and the stress of the report on Saturday)
- I still have an additional day until my paycheck to get through…
So yeah, it’s doable but it is not, in any way, pleasurable. It’s stupidly stressful and not at all satisfying. There’s things I would shop differently next time but dear god please let there not be a next time. I certainly think I should be able to lower my current grocery spend to around £25 a week which would be a massive help and might make it possible to put some money in my savings so that next time there are some emergency payments to be made I will be able to pay them without getting myself into another situation like this one.
What do you spend on groceries per week? Am I just being ridiculous and there’s some incredible life hack out there I have yet to discover?