Wednesday, 1 February 2012

February's Frugal Grocery Challenge

Cheap Meals for £1 or Less per Person per Day

With a grocery budget of £1 per person per day, it is getting more and more difficult to afford too much meat in the diets, but it isn't impossible, so long as you aren't expecting steak or roast beef too often.

I've been carrying out my own version of frugal grocery shopping for more years than I care to mention. Originally, during the 80's, it began with keeping hens for eggs, baking bread by hand and cooking whatever I could from scratch, making the most of a slow cooker.

Times have changed slightly, with the emergence of the huge supermarkets. By the late 90s, we had the bread wars, where it was possible to buy a cheap loaf for as little as 4p, rendering it a complete waste of time and energy even contemplating self-baking it. But again the times have changed and the cheapest loaf (of questionable quality) is now approaching 50p. So how does a household manage to survive on a tiny food budget?

From today, 1st February, I am going to cost up each of the meals we eat in a day. I'll try to do this for the full month - time permitting - and see how far off the £1 per person per day we really are.

Breakfast is usually porridge during the colder months and let's face it, that's most likely to be about seven months out of the twelve if you live in Scotland. (There's a section of the Frugaldom Forum dedicated to cheap meals and how to help keep the cost of grocery shopping within a tight budget.)


Porridge oats currently cost me £1 per kilo and one kilo makes approximately 20 to 22 portions.
  • 1 x small cup (45-50g) of porridge oats
  • 2.5 x small cups of water
  • Good pinch of salt
I cook mine in the microwave, it takes about 6 to 8 minutes, depending on how powerful the microwave is. Don't forget to stir it halfway through and let it stand for a minute before serving. Serve with milk and a sprinkle of sugar (if prefered).

Allowing 8p for the salt, milk and sugar, this costs approximately 18p per serving in grocery costs. My microwave is 700w, so a 5 minute blast with this costs approx 1p, making the REAL cost of a bowl of porridge each morning 19p per serving.

If you have a handful of dried fruit with your porridge, you can easily add on another 10p, so maybe best save the fruit for mid-morning snacks. (The recommended amount of porridge oats per serving is 45g.)


I very rarely buy pizzas, nor do I specially bake pizza bases. I find that using homemade bread works equally well and is a great way of using up the end slices. These taste more like French Bread Pizzas.

My breadmaker does 2 x 450g loaves at a time, so they cost around 35p for wholegrain by the time I factor in the electricity. Assuming each loaf slices into 8-10 slices, I allow 4p per slice.

Getting your minimum 5-a-day fruit and vegetable servings each and every day can sem expensive, so it's a case of making the most of what's available at the right price. Tinned tomatoes, whenever you can bulk buy them on offer, will always be your friend. They don't really go out of date or go off as long as the cans aren't dented, so no need to pay too much attention to the BBE dates stamped on the end.

Today's pizza lunch included 2 of our 5-a-day by way of chopped red pepper, onions and tomatoes. I keep bags of chopped peppers in the freezer after buying them whenever I see them cheap. At the moment, I am buying peppers with my ROSSPA orders, at a cost of 80p for 3.


80g diced onions (5p)
40g chopped peppers (7.5p)
Tin of tomatoes (33p)
Salt, pepper, pinch of mixed herbs (1p)
Bread - 12p
20g finely grated cheese (11.5p)

Total cost = 70p, that's less than 24p per pizza, plus leftovers for the freezer.

While the grill is heating, I give the veggies a couple of minutes cooking on full power in the microwave to soften them up, then I add the tin of tomatoes and seasoning. This all then gets microwaved on full power for a further couple of minutes to make sure it is all properly heated. This is your basic pizza sauce mix.

Lay your bread out on the grill tray and slightly toast one side before turning it over and covering each slice with the sauce, followed by a sprinkling of your grated cheese.

20g of mature cheddar

Grate the cheese as finely as you can, using the smallest side of the grater. This enables you to stretch the 20g cube of cheese much further. I use mature cheddar cheese, as we all prefer the flavour, but I'm sure there are cheaper options. To give you an idea of quantity, here is what 20g of cheddar looks like. It is a tiny amount, but that's the price of cheese nowadays, it's extortionate! We need to be economical in that department!

Freeze any extra sauce
 Surprisingly, the above sauce is enough for 4 pizzas. I made only 3, so the extra tomato, pepper and onion topping has gone into a margarine tub for freezing. If you don't use it for a quick pizza, it's fine for adding to bolognese or chilli con carne. Is also nice with a little chilli added and served with fajitas in place of shop bought salsa.

If all your ingredients are costed now, it's like having free ingredients when the time comes to use them in your next meal.

NYK Media


  1. Excellent post - depending on what you like the taste of, I supposed the canned tomatoes could also be cheaper if using value ones? We also only use mature cheese as a little goes a long way - never thought of using the ends of my home made bread this way - another idea to try.

  2. Data, those are the value tomatoes here - 3 cans for £1 was the best offer i could get last time and now I'm down to my last couple of tins. They seem to be leaping in price, so I'm about to stock up on the 800g tins at 2 for £1 from ROSSPA.

  3. I've often bought the catering sized tins and divided it up into the freezer. It worked out cheaper that way for me - special offer. HTHS

  4. well done I hope you succeed in your goals.

    Gill in Canada

  5. I make potato cakes at least once a week. They are cheap and incredibly filling. You can even mix them together with pre-cooked bacon!

    You have some great ideas.

    Take on the take away Frugaldom!

  6. Catering packs are brilliant when we can get them online. There's nowhere locally stocks anything like that here, so the likes of Approved Food, Food Bargains, Big Brands For Less and ROSSPA are virtual life savers. I have a couple of catering packs of pickled celeriac and boiled beetroot needing used up - the celeriac cost 1p and the beetroot, I think, about 20p. It's preserving these things once they're opened that's the problem now. LOL

    Dave, the only place I see takeaways is when on holiday visiting family. If you take a look in the 'Frugal Food' section of the forums, we have a thread about homemade 'takeaway', which includes Kentucky-style fried chicken and an assortment of curries. I seldom make potato cakes but I make potatoe & veggie cakes and fish cakes so I can count them in with the 5-a-day and protein. They freeze really well, too! :) (Must make a batch up sometime soon, thank you for reminding me - I love them with cheese, too!)

    If you keep a bag or tub in the freezer, save all your breadcrumbs and it saves from having to buy any when needed.

    I wish we could edit our comments here, apologies if this one appears twice.

  7. Great post, as always. I've been keeping an eye on what our meals cost - they are more than that unfortunately.

  8. You are such an inspiration Nyk, keep meaning to try the pizza idea!

    Love our bread maker now.

    Sft x


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