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Is it possible to live off £10 for a week? We give it a go…

The doldrums of January are well documented. Not enough pounds here, a few extra pounds there and already the exercise regime is in disarray.

So I relished the chance to redistribute some of those pounds accumulated around my waist back into my pockets. And with that I was kindly set a £10 allowance for the week and told to make do.

My culinary standards have never been of the highest order but within minutes of waking on Monday morning I sank to new lows. The tone for the week was set by polishing off my housemate’s left over rice sprinkled with a dashing of (his) soya sauce. Barely an hour passes before it makes a dramatic reappearance; I fear the bathroom may not come out of this week unharmed.

Rarely has a Monday seemed further away from a Friday. The week’s allowance is ceremoniously withdrawn outside Asda and I can’t remember the last time a ten pound note felt simultaneously so valuable and woefully inadequate.

After 45 minutes of agonising over pennies I settled on my shopping list of 6 items: cereal, milk, bread, eggs (caged – this is no time to be sentimental), spaghetti and bolognaise sauce. It came to £4.72.

Dinner consisted of a fifth of the pasta with some of the bolognaise added in making an adequate meal that comes in at around 15 pence and I’m satisfied with an efficient start to the week.

I have left my shopping list deliberately on the short side in optimistic anticipation for my second “shop” of the day but my plans took a blow whenmy personal shopping guide Jon Wiltshire has to take a rain check. Jon is a “skipper” or “dumpster diver”.

Undeterred but a slightly less enthusiastic I head back to the earlier supermarket alone armed not with my remaining change but an empty backpack and a torch. Gingerly I walked past the shop entrance and towards the bins, which were brimming with black bags.

But I scurried on by. Although not illegal, skipping certainly feels deviant. The over hanging streetlight was enough to deter me. It was a similar story at other local shops, where reasons not to dive head first into bins heavily outweighed the benefits – positioned too close to a road, a late night passer by or a siren wailing in the distance were all enough to spook me.

When I did pluck up the courage to approach a bin I would lift the lid and shut it before I could barely take in its contents. The smell was enough to put me off my dinner. I returned home an hour later cold and ashamed of my half-hearted attempt, but at least a little less hungry. There has to be an easier way…

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2…

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