'I shopped for groceries with £10 in two Carlisle supermarkets'

·6-min read
LEFT: Bekah Bell in Lidl, Carlisle
LEFT: Bekah Bell in Lidl, Carlisle

50 pence per head for an evening meal - can it be done? Reporter and writer Bekah Bell went to investigate...

THE cost of living is a major concern to the vast majority of us at the moment.

The energy price cap rose by 54 per cent in April (with a further rise due in October), petrol and diesel are at a record high and food prices have risen on average by 6.7 per cent in the last 12 months.

According to data research site, Nimble Fins, the average UK family (two adults and two children) currently spend just £99 on their weekly food shop.

That’s £3.53 per person per day – not a lot when you consider it’s for three meals and incorporates all the basics like bread and milk which a family of four devours in no time at all.

But it’s not all doom and gloom as I discovered when I was given the challenge to spend £10 in two supermarkets to see how far I could make it go. Would it cover evening meals for a family of four for five nights?

'I like to think I'm pretty savvy...'

I thought VERY carefully how to spend it and decided that rather than just compare a selection of foods, I would aim to buy the core ingredients to make evening meals for a family of four for each weeknight.

I like to think I’m a pretty savvy and resourceful shopper, but I definitely felt the pressure as I desperately wanted the task to succeed.

The only way I could make £10 last for five nights worth of meals was to be resourceful with my ingredients to make the food go further and, in some cases, roll it over to a second night by adding a twist so my family wasn’t bored by the meals.

I made the assumption that staples such as cooking oil, salt, pepper, garlic, dried herbs and chilli powder were already in the kitchen cupboard – there was no way my budget would cover those too!

News and Star: Lidl shop
News and Star: Lidl shop

Lidl shop


The shop...

I walked around both shops with my calculator on my phone so that I remained within budget.

It reminded me of my student days, when you could only shop in certain budget supermarkets with cash.

On more than one occasion I had to go and put my trolley back and carry everything as I needed the £1 coin!

First was Sainsbury’s on Church Street, Carlisle.

It took me quite a while to price up my ingredients and make the choices for my basket. I kept picking things up, calculating and then putting them back on the shelves.

It was a real eye-opener too, as I just assumed buying loose jacket potatoes would be cheaper than pre-packaged ones – I was wrong.

Four loose potatoes were going to cost me 55p whereas the comparable sized pre-packed ones were 42p. Who’d have thought that!

At the checkout my shop came to £11.80, and with nothing else to compromise on I reluctantly put back the garlic bread, bringing my total spend to £11.16.

News and Star: Sainsbury's, Church Street, Carlisle
News and Star: Sainsbury's, Church Street, Carlisle

Sainsbury's, Church Street, Carlisle

My visit to Lidl on Charlotte Street, Carlisle, began with me chasing my Sainsbury’s receipt around the windy car park as it blew out of the boot when I opened it to get my bag out.

Receipt safely captured, I made my way into the store. The biggest surprise was the jacket potatoes – 42p in Sainsbury’s versus 99p in Lidl.

I also couldn’t get any tomato puree so had to settle for passata. I was thrilled to find at the checkout that I had 16p change from my £10 note, until I realised I’d forgotten the ham.

My total spend after running around the store again to get the ham was £10.63.

The next challenge was to use my decidedly basic culinary skills to fool my family into thinking that a shopping list that lacked excitement didn’t mean boring and repetitive meals.

So how did the week go?

Best thing we ate this week: I’d say chilli con carne, my daughter would say spaghetti bolognaise.

Cheapest meal of the week: Sainsbury’s jacket potato and baked beans 30.5p each (42.5p from Lidl).

Worst meal: Jacket potato – it’s so boring with no cheese (and my budget wouldn’t stretch to it!

Things I’ve learnt this week

  • It is not about going without when you’re making cheap meals, it’s just multi-tasking what you’re buying.

  • If you want to be a savvy shopper prepare to do a lot of bending... the cheaper products are generally on the bottom shelf below eye-level.

  • Bulk up meals with vegetables (fresh or frozen) to make them go further. I used loads of grated carrots and chopped onion and the family didn’t protest.

  • A freezer is your best friend. If you have made enough mince for two different meals, rather than have it for two nights running like we did, freeze one portion for the following week, it also makes for a super quick tea.

  • There are some great resources for coming up with cheap and easy recipes online, including the Facebook group Feed Your Family for £20 if you’re running low on dinner inspiration.

So, it can be done (phew!) but you really need to look carefully at what you are buying, stick to your list and take time to compare prices in whichever supermarket you choose to shop in.

The supermarkets are working extremely hard to price-match which can only be a good thing for the consumer but be wary of supermarket tricks that encourage you to impulse buy or purchase more than you need.

News and Star: Chilli Con Carne
News and Star: Chilli Con Carne

Chilli Con Carne

My menu

Day 1 – Spaghetti bolognaise

Day 2 – Chilli con carne

Day 3 – Creamy garlic spaghetti with ham & garlic bread

Day 4 – Jacket potatoes with beans

Day 5 – Crispy chicken thighs in a creamy mustard sauce with rice


Sainsburys              Lidl

Chicken thighs                                    £2.40                   £2.09

Mince (for two meals)                                £2.10                   £1.89

Onions                                                           65p                      65p

Jacket potatoes                                            42p                      99p

Carrots (to bulk up mince)                         43p                      43p

Ham                                                               79p                      79p

Rice                                                                 45p                      45p

Dried spaghetti                                            46p                      40p

Tinned tomatoes x two                               64p                      64p

Kidney beans                                                60p                      30p

Tomato puree                                              40p                      39p

Double cream                                               £1.10                   99p

Baked beans x two                                      80p                      70p

TOTAL                                                            £11.16                 £10.63

News and Star:
News and Star:

If you would like to share your experience of the cost of living crisis, if you are a charity or organisations offering support, or a businesses overcoming the odds to survive and thrive get in touch with us.

Email us on news.carlisle@cnmedia.co.uk or tweet us @newsandstar #YourMoneyMatters

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