From the BBC: how not to eat healthily for £1 a day

The BBC have published an article by one Brian Milligan, which purports to show that it is possible to eat a healthy, varied diet for less than £1 a day. The article is – and I’m being polite here – a complete farrago of nonsense from beginning to end. Let’s start with the idea that the diet Mr Milligan lived on for five days (a whole five days, imagine!) was ‘healthy’.

We’re not going to rely on my attempts to assess the quality of his meals here. Instead we’re going to avail ourselves of the opinion of a professional dietician. I should make it plain that this isn’t the result of some great feat of research on my part. I’m simply quoting the words of the dietician Mr Milligan himself contacted, and whose views he reports in his own article. Here goes:

“Those dinners looked great,” says Alison Hornby, of the British Dietetic Association. “But I would say they may have been slightly smaller than you required. You may have felt hungry at the end of a meal.”

After some quick calculations, she confirms that I am well short on my calorie intake.

“You could have done with something a bit more substantial,” she says.

In other words, the diet Mr Milligan provided for himself was not healthy, since it left him significantly undernourished. On this diet he would have lost weight – not a problem in the short term, but a significant one in the longer term. Over time he would have become underweight, and then emaciated: he would have developed a weakened immune system, putting him at risk of infection, and would eventually have ended up hospitalised. In the absence of hospital treatment he would have starved to death. So much for the claim his diet was healthy.

What of the claim that it cost him less than £1 a day? Here’s how he describes his breakfast on the first day.

Did you know you can buy an egg for just 8.7p? It may not be an ethical egg, and of course you have to buy 30 to get that price. But when you are on a real budget, it still gives you valuable protein and great vitamins. So including one piece of toast, with margarine and a cup of tea, my breakfast costs me 14p.

In other words, to get his 8.7p egg Mr Milligan actually had to spend £2.61 on eggs – that’s over half his total five day budget blown on one food item. Needless to say, if he had been doing this for real (rather than as a fun, pretendy game), Mr Milligan would have spent his 5 days eating eggs for pretty much every meal: a poached egg on toast for breakfast, a hard-boiled egg sandwich for lunch, omelette in the evening, and so on. So much for the idea of a varied diet, you might think. But, actually, having crowed over his first breakfast egg (did you see what I did there?), Mr Milligan never eats another one.

That’s how he manages to maintain the variety of his diet, but it’s also straightforwardly disingenuous. By pretending that he can simply ignore the more than £2.50 of food he bought but didn’t eat, Mr Milligan is intentionally misleading his readers. And it’s not a one-off.

On his second day, Mr Milligan prices his lunchtime BLT sandwich at 26p: that includes a single lettuce leaf at 4p. Yes, you read that right – he is asking us to swallow the idea that a person on a tight budget can buy a single lettuce leaf. You can’t, of course. You have to buy the whole lettuce, even if you never pop another morsel of it in your mouth. (Actually, Mr Milligan does eat lettuce again – but it’s a different lettuce. The second time he specifies premium quality iceberg lettuce for a garnish (garnish? on a pound-a-day budget?), and he includes that in his budget at 4p for half a single leaf: that’s twice the price of the ordinary lettuce that is sitting mostly uneaten in his fridge, and is now joined by a mostly uneaten iceberg lettuce.)

He does a similar thing with courgettes – buys a 6-pack for £1.60, uses ¼ of one courgette, then pretends that he only spent 7p. And the same thing again with sweet peppers – buys 6 for £1.51, uses ¼ of one, and pretends he only spent 6p. Potatoes costing £2.40 for 2.5kg make it into his budget as 6p for half of one potato. Celery actually bought for 89p is priced as 2p for a single stick. A 50g can of anchovies costing 79p is factored into his budget at 16p for 10g, and the remaining 40g simply vanish. Or perhaps he feeds them to a magical cat that defecates coins to the value of the food it eats – that’s one way of explaining how he doesn’t have to account for the money he spends on food he doesn’t eat.

Hypothetical felines aside, you just can’t do this. If you’re shopping on a tight budget, buying six courgettes means you have to eat six courgettes. If you only eat part of a can of anchovies one day, you have to eat the rest of the can before they go off. Doing anything else would mean that you were wasting food, and you can’t afford to do that – you can only afford to buy the absolute minimum of basic food you need to survive.

All in all, in the five day period in which he claimed to spend just £4.82 on food, I calculate that Mr Milligan spent £38.52 buying foodstuffs in supermarkets. That’s just counting those items that he provides the pack price for: when it comes to the tomatoes, cucumber, cream cheese, tea, bread, scones, margarine, jam, butter, cream, apples and bananas he also enjoys across his five-day jaunt he doesn’t reveal what he actually paid in the supermarket, so I haven’t included those items in the total. Making even a modest addition for those items would mean that Mr Milligan actually spent well over 8 times his budget – £40. And keep in mind that, even overspending by that much, the diet he ate still left him undernourished.

(What about the idea that Mr Milligan wouldn’t have had to buy everything he ate because some things would simply have been “in the cupboard”? Well, no, they wouldn’t, not if eating for a £1 a day was anything more than a very short-term exercise. Maintaining a well-stocked cupboard means buying food that you don’t have to eat right away, and if you’ve only got £1 to spend on food every single day, there is never a point at which you can afford to spend 74p on a pot of dried thyme “for the cupboard”.)

Keep in mind, as well, that the prices Mr Milligan was able to source involved mixing and matching between all four of the big supermarkets. No doubt it was important for a BBC journalist to maintain his commercial impartiality, but it only adds to the artificiality of the exercise. The major supermarkets do not just line up next to each other; even in larger towns and cities that have branches of each of them, they are in different, far-flung locations. So how was Mr Milligan travelling to buy his onions in Morrisons, his garlic in Tesco, his tinned tomatoes in Asda and his tinned kidney beans in Sainsburys? It would be reasonable to assume that a person reduced to spending £1 a day on food is acutely impoverished in other ways, and unlikely to be able to afford to travel to more than one supermarket in a week. Even if they could, would the modest savings of a few pennies here and there offset the cost of the petrol or bus fares spent schlepping to several different locations?

In reality, of course, people who are in food poverty usually live in deprived areas – high-rise estates (like the one I live on) for the urban poor; half-dead villages for the rural poor. Places with few shops, in other words, and poor transport links to the places where the shops are. Even one decent supermarket is more than many impoverished people would have access to, and smaller shops carry a smaller range of items, at a higher price. Good luck with buying the fresh kale Mr Milligan made into soup at an average Spar, let alone a village newsagent that stocks just a few non-perishable groceries.

This is the reality of food poverty in the UK: the people who are most acutely affected can’t afford the multipacks that offer the best price per item, and can’t get to the shops that sell decent food at the cheapest prices. They’re forced into expensive local shops, or alternatively the frozen food stores that offer highly processed food at prices that seem reasonable until you take into account how nutritionally poor it is. Well-to-do people who like to lecture the supposedly feckless poor on their diets always overlook this – the fact that, paradoxically, poor people can’t afford to eat cheaply. Somewhere along the line our socio-economic system got so warped that cheap food became a middle class luxury.

If Mr Milligan had just written a disingenuous article about something that didn’t matter much, I’d have let it slide – it’s a failing in a journalist, sure, but a commonplace one. But this does matter, because it fits so neatly into the coalition’s demonisation of the poor. The coalition – aided and abetted by their cheerleaders in the right-wing press – are trying to make out that benefits are paid at a level that guarantees luxury. And if it’s supposedly possible to eat a varied, healthy, nutritionally balanced diet for £1 a day then that makes Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s claim that he could live on £53 a week seem entirely plausible. In that context, it matters that Mr Milligan’s diet actually cost him more than £8 a day (£56 a week), that it could only be had for that price by travelling to widely spread supermarkets, and that it was inadequate to maintain his long-term health. It matters because it changes what seems to be evidence that supports the government’s case into evidence that undermines it.

Mr Milligan’s stunt was inspired by a campaign to highlight global food poverty, the Live Below the Line challenge. That encourages people to try and live for less than £1 a day for a period of five days, but specifically notes that

The full cost of all the items you consume must be included in your budget. This means budgeting for whole packets of food items such as rice, pasta, noodles and eggs etc.

Needless to say, a diet based on those principles would look rather different to the one enjoyed by Mr Milligan: out would go his £2.30 bag of ‘hard cheese shavings’ for a start. A diet formulated in accordance with those rules is going to involve a lot of cheap carbohydrates, tinned/ dried pulses for protein, and a few cheap veggies, either in season or tinned; you might manage to stretch to a bit of cheese or meat for flavour, but you might not. It’s also going to be a very repetitious diet. If you buy 500g of spaghetti, you can’t just use 100g and pretend the rest didn’t cost you anything, and if you use half a can of kidney beans on day 3 you’ll have to use the other half on day 4 or 5: there just won’t be room in the budget to waste food in the way Mr Milligan does.

Of course, this is the sort of thing that lots of people know first hand. For lots of people, living on a tight budget isn’t a fun game to be indulged in for five days, it’s a way of life. There are literally millions of people in the UK who know all about eking out a food budget, which is what makes Milligan’s article so bizarre. It’s not just that it involves sleight of hand (pretending that all the food he didn’t eat added nothing to his shopping bill), but that it involves a sleight of hand that will be so obvious to so many people. Anyone who’s ever shopped on a budget – or, for that matter, anyone who’s ever tried to minimise food waste in their shopping – knows that you can’t carry on like Mr Milligan does, adding large quantities of perishable items to your shopping basket, then only using a fraction of what you’ve bought.

Anyone who’s ever shopped on a budget knows that kind of thing busts the budget – and they know it because, when they take their shopping basket to the checkout, they find they’re charged for all the stuff they buy, whether they plan to use it all or not. And you know the really bizarre thing? This group of people must include Brian Milligan. He must know for a cast-iron fact that he spent at least £40 on food during his five days, because he was the one who spent it: he was there, in person, handing over the cash.

Forget the fact that the BBC have posted an article claiming that £40+ of food can be had for less than £5, even if that is the kind of thing you might hope would be picked up in the editorial process. How did Mr Milligan, personally, suppress the massive cognitive dissonance involved in writing the article? How do you persuade yourself to write the subhead ‘Day 4: Amount spent 91p’ when you know that the items listed under it cost a total of £11.80? Even if he believed that readers wouldn’t add the figures together, how on earth did he persuade himself that no-one would spot that the day’s shopping list includes one single item priced at £2.40? I’m astonished he ever thought he could get away with it. I’m pleased to note from the comments that he hasn’t.

This entry was posted in Media commentary, Political commentary, Stuff I've read, Stupidity, The benefit system and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

183 Responses to From the BBC: how not to eat healthily for £1 a day

  1. blackberryjuniper says:

    Shared on facebook. Wonderful analysis. I struggle badly with the what money I have left for the food budget, and you sum it up perfectly.

  2. gun street girl says:

    Back in the day, in college, I went to school full time and worked full time as well at a minimum wage job. From that job I had to pay school expenses, rent, utilities, car maintenance, and any personal expenses that might come up (medical, clothes shopping, etc). Food was actually low on the list of priorities, after school, rent/utilities, and the car (which I needed to get to work and school–gas was cheaper then and $2 would get me to school/work and back for two weeks). So it often happened that once I spent my pay on the necessities I had $5 left over to spend on food to last me two weeks. You better believe I got good at shopping efficiently. Yes, I’d buy big bags of rice; rice keeps forever and it is very cheap and you can make all sorts of stuff with it. I’d buy whatever vegs were cheap that week and make stir fries. Beans: also good, cheap, last forever, very versatile. A bottle of soy sauce and some hot sauce, few other seasonings, and a little ingenuity and you can make a little bit of money go a long way. Expensive stuff like meats and cheese and the like were a dream for another day. Tofu, however…dirt cheap and an excellent source of low-fat protein and you can cook it in anything. I found that small neighborhood ethnic markets often had really good deals on veggies and specialty foods even though more common things like milk and sodas and cheese would be terribly expensive. So I bought my tortillas at the hispanic market where they were half the price of the ones at the supermarket. I could also keep a few pots of herbs growing on the landing outside my door (yay for a nice climate!) so that helped with flavor diversity some. It was really hard work making all this happen within a budget but not impossible, given that I lived in an ethnically diverse, urban neighborhood with both small markets and larger grocery stores readily to hand. Plus, $5 bought a lot more 30 years ago than it does now. Sometimes though, I failed…things would come up, the car needed fixing, or there was an unexpected bill at school, and there was no money for food that week. Those weeks, I’d eat plain rice or a bowl of beans every day. Or not eat some days.

    After a couple of years like this I finally decided to stop in to the welfare office I passed every day on my way home from school and it turned out I was poor enough to be eligible for assistance. They gave me $60 (!) a month for food. It was unimaginable. It was nice to have the money, nice to finally eat something other than beans and rice, nice to not have to worry about where and when I’d be eating next. If I needed change back from the food stamps they handed me real money so I could even occasionally buy something food stamps didn’t cover. I had them for about a year and then the eligibility rules changed but it was enough. This government largesse, which I have easily repaid in ensuing years with my taxes, probably kept me in school and made it possible for me to be the productive member of society I am today. Yet people begrudge every dollar we spend on food relief for the poor. We are suspect that the poor eat like royalty on our dime. We are convinced that the poor can make do with less or with nothing.

    This is a very long winded way of saying the guy that wrote that article is full of it. If my math is correct, £5 is about $8. That would mean about $1.60 in US money a day. I suppose, if you spent your $8 all on the first day, on stuff like rice or beans and the very cheapest vegs, you could eke out some sort of bare existence for the rest of the week but you are right, it would not be balanced or healthy and if you consider travel necessities, it is probably just not doable for the vast majority of people who would actually have to live on that sort of budget. I look at neighborhoods were there are no stores or there are only small markets that sell junk food and the only real food options are fast food places and I hear my friends go on about how much money they save buying bulk at Costco and I wonder how people with little money and no car manage. And the answer is, they don’t. I lived like this for years but I had every sort of advantage that made it *barely* doable but even then I was too thin and very tired and occasionally I’d faint from lack of food. Food stamps saved my life and gave me a future. And people still try to make me ashamed of “going on welfare”. Pssh.

  3. nihonbecca says:

    That was great! I really enjoyed reading your response to that article.

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  5. creeky says:

    Yes. To all this. “Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed and well-fed.” (Herman Melville)

    I’ve been very cynical about the “live below the line” campaign. Annoyed, angry even. It seems to me that it does absolutely nothing to help anyone. It proves nothing and solves nothing. It just strikes me as a way for rich people (and, I’m sorry if this wounds you rich people, but if you can consistently afford food and shelter you ARE rich) to slum it for a few days and claim that they understand what living in poverty is like. Just like those people who occasionally spend a few nights sleeping rough to “understand” what it’s like to be homeless. No, you don’t. And you likely never will. (Lucky you! No, really.) And nobody who is hungry and can’t afford food is going to be impressed or any less hungry because you’ve spent five whole days not eating what you want. I imagine most of those well-meaning folk who’ve taken part in the “live below the line” campaign have had their first-meal-after-the-experiment-is-over planned for weeks. Which, to me, says it all. What a pointless, useless waste of time, effort and resources.

  6. Eric Jarvis says:

    I have an experimental datapoint. I am on income support due to incapacity (not yet transferred to the new benefits). From early last year for nine months I tried to eat within my budget and pay all my bills on time. I went from 82kg at the start to just under 70kg at the end. I was beginning to get rather ill when a relative stepped in and started assisting with a monthly online grocery “red cross package”.

    Before anyone starts giving me tips on eating cheaply. I was already doing things like asking market stalls for some of the veg they were going to chuck out at the end of the day, let alone shopping around the different supermarkets.

    A neighbour of mine is a social worker who says the number of her “clients” being hospitalised for malnutrition has gone through the roof in the last two years. Having nearly been there myself I can’t say I’m surprised. Not everyone has a relative or friend who can or will take up the slack.

    In the last two years my benefits have decreased slightly, energy bills have increased by about 15%, and most of the staple food items I buy have increased in price by over 10% and many by far more than that. Limiting benefits to an increase of 1% a year is going to kill people. Literally.

  7. Tom says:

    Great article, although if you are going to accuse mr Milligan of disingenuity, it’s a little hypocritical to claim that his £56 a week diet would leave him undernourished – because you’re also pointing out he would have bought something like four times the amount of food he actually ate in the week. That’s a bit like saying people living in genuine food poverty throw out three quarters of their food. I’m sure many people in this country are perfectly well nourished on less than £56 a week.
    Other than that, I can’t agree more that the living below the line campaign is a bit of a fad, as I really can’t see what good it does anyone (except IDS). Maybe it’s better to donate the money you saved to a shelter’s kitchen etc.

  8. Freegan says:

    I’d recommend skipping/dumpster-diving to everyone out there. It’s insane how much healthy & not expired food is thrown away everyday. Just check at your local supermarket after they close.

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  11. AC says:

    Thank you Gun Street Girl, your comments are absolutely spot on. I received benefits for some years and have now paid it all back as a productive member of society. People aren’t just ‘on benefits’ they move in and out of work or claim benefits to support a low paid job. We need help for people during the hard years and most of them will pay it back ten fold over their lives.

    I am grateful I live in a society where I could get that support and I don’t want to live in a country where this is now denied to others.

    I have also been to America and there are literally whole neighbourhoods where there is no where to buy food. I didn’t hire a car so took the bus, which made me realise that in the US only poor people take the bus. The bus took me to supermarkets where it was hard not to buy massive multi packs, they just didn’t have single items of lots of things. They also had several aisles of cereals full of sugar but very little veg or cheese or stuff like that. I really don’t know how poor people survive in America and no wonder people find it impossible to stay healthy.

  12. Jacob Grey says:

    He’s not claiming you can buy a single leaf for 14p, an his calculations for eggs are spot on. Why? Because people tend to get paid monthly, and £1 a day isn’t spent day by day, but is calculated during a bulk shop for the month.

    You talk about disingenuous, then you fill your article with it.

  13. Jacob Grey says:

    And yes, much of this food will last the duration required for it not to go off. Aside from the fact sell by dates are usually over zealous, most of his items would last long enough.

    Is his particular diet a good idea? No. Is your reasoning a little skewed? Unfortunately yes.

  14. agentleaven says:

    Nicely-thorough demolition of the BBC article. What were they thinking? I can’t believe he includes wild nettles. The only thing I do like about it is the recipes.

  15. L says:

    In fairness, Milligan probably doesn’t have much of an appetite as he is already full of shit.

  16. River says:

    If Mr Milligan had formed a food cooperative with 10 other people, they could have used the whole head of celery and the whole tin of anchovies between them. They could maybe even have afforded some luxuries. Of course they’d have needed somewhere to cook store and eat this food together, maybe we should shut down Coffee chains that don’t pay taxes, and burger chains that pollute our stomachs with lethally doses of fat salt and sugar, and turn them into cooperative healthy community kitchens.

  17. A really well-written and incisive critique.

    When I started reading, I was prepared, on the basis of what you write about the original article (which I haven’t read), to give him a teeny bit of leeway on the basis that he might have made the argument that you can live more cheaply in – say – a family of 6 (so there would have been a total kitty of £30 or so from which to buy all the ingredients and divvy them up). Howver, even so, you demonstrate how this (a) still isn’t enough money to cover what he actually bought and (b) I know verry few people living in such large families or communal arrangements.

    The real nail in the analytical coffin, though, is pointing out how infeasible it is for anyone on a tight budget to “shop around” – I’m fortunate not to be poor, but we don’t own a car and I know how much time and/or money it takes to try to check several different stores to get bargains (not to mention carrying these “bulk buy bargains” home).

    Thanks for writing this piece!

  18. Reblogged this on FC <3 WP and commented:
    The article quite righty shows up Mr Milligan as having his head in the clouds. He’s have been better off visiting, the brain child of some clever MSE forumites who really can feed a family of 4 for £100 per month – which works out to LESS than £1 per person per day. ;)

  19. Hattie says:

    Unfortunately a lot of supermarkets pour bleach on food being thrown away to thwart the poor. It’s certainly been a not uncommon thing since the 1970s. Some supermarkets donate to food banks and soup kitchens, but only a tiny fraction of them.

  20. Cyrille says:

    Even that is not the whole picture:
    Unless everything is to be eaten raw, and without any form of preparation, cooking adds to the cost. Granted, it’s a lot cheaper than eating out, but I do get electricity and gas bills for the utilities I’ve used, I need to replace my pans every now and then (and if you don’t use non-stick you’ll probably need extra greasing). A good knife will last you a long while but is certainly not cheap -a poor one will quickly lose its edge.
    It seems that much of the exercise ends up replacing measurable costs by less measurable ones, so that at the end of the month you have even less, but have no idea where the money went even if you tried to keep a detailed record of your spending. Not a particularly helpful outcome.

  21. Debbie says:

    So, Robin Hood’s mantra of ‘taking from the rich to give to the poor’ isn’t such a bad idea, is it? Except that it should be more a case of those more able assisting those less able. That would require a great deal of unselfish behaviour and caring…which seems to be in decline these days. The whole system doesn’t really work, and those who ‘play’ the system make it even harder. The real answer would be something that most people wouldn’t want to be part of…it would require loving our neighbour as ourself..literally.

  22. Charlie Fox says:

    Thank you for this. I’d kindly given Mr Milligan the benefit of the doubt and assumed all those courgettes, loaves of bread, jars of jam and the rest had been bought with MAGIC BEANS because the cost had been convenity left out of his calculations. If I’d been a less trusting person I might have believed he was talking complete and utter bollocks.

  23. Trialia says:

    Tom – you’re kidding, right? My little sister was living on squash, pasta and multivitamins for 3 months while her local council delayed sorting out her Housing Benefit and her landlord insisted on taking nearly all of her Income Support while they did. She was lodging in a room above his home. He ate rich, regular meals and let the smells drift up to her, knowing she could barely afford anything to eat. The only reason the poor kid didn’t end up in hospital was those multivitamins & our stepmother getting a friend to drive us the 200 miles to see her & give her bags of stew & potato stepmum had frozen for her. She had less than a pound a day to live on. Without family support I’m pretty certain she’d have starved – she was bloated with hunger when I saw her there. She’s better now – living elsewhere & on ESA – but she still struggles. I don’t know how she’ll cope with this digital-default system – she can’t afford home internet and she’s agoraphobic.

    As for myself, I live on ESA (support group) & DLA (low care/high mobility) – and I’m under-nourished in spite of people believing people “on the sick” receive a fortune. Among my other health problems, of which there are many, I have irritable bowel syndrome and iron-deficiency anaemia, the latter of which makes me liable to fainting, among other symptoms – which is also what happens if I don’t keep the levels of salt & sugar in my blood at a constant: low blood pressure & other problems from my orthostatic dysfunction, and symptomatic hypoglycaemia. I have to be very careful about what I eat, when, & THAT I eat. That’s not easy to do on benefits.

    I’m exhausted by having to fight for every scrap I am grudgingly given, despite the fact I’ve done NOTHING wrong – except, apparently, be born poor & develop a degenerative chronic illness. Oh, and I also have to pay extra in electricity to keep my wheelchair charged up – as I live alone I have to go out sometimes. Despite all the verbal & physical abuse from strangers that leaves me afraid to do so.

    This political establishment – and their media puppets – have no idea what they’re really doing, to real people. This NEEDS to STOP.

  24. King Joffrey says:

    I spend on average £5-10 a week on food.
    Over a period of time it is absolutely easy to live on small amounts if you buy packs of 4 etc and accrue items over, say, a month.
    Eggs last a few weeks, lettuce – a week, etc.
    By injecting a little cash and reigning back now and then, it’s a perfectly possible diet to maintain.
    A pack of weetabix (non branded) for breakfast is a reasonable way to start your day. There is no reason to be extravagant with margarine, toast etc. Why is it a crime to eat the same thing daily? Yes, it’s boring but beggars can’t be choosers. It’s sustenance.

    I even have money for alcohol out of my small budget too – I’m not sure what everyone else is doing with their money but living within a small budget ‘healthily’ after an initial injection of £20-30 is perfectly possible.

  25. Daibo says:

    Tom is spot on. This is a great article and points out the many flaws in Milligan’s exercise. However, you cannot claim that he spent 8 times as much as he said because he wasted 7/8ths of the food, and then claim that even spending 8 times as much he would have been malnourished (he would have eaten the extra food).

    I think what you have pointed out though is the significant fixed costs of food. Purchasing in quantity is much cheaper, as is cooking (it doesn’t take 4 times as much gas or elecricity to cook 4 servings). So whilst a single adult clearly couldn’t eat a varied diet on anything like £1 a day (I reckon £2.50 a day would adequately cover things though), a family of four or five could get much closer to £1 each per day (although £1 would still be out of reach I think). I think this reflects a problem in the way our food (especially fruit and veg) is increasingly packaged rather than loose and priced by weight.

    I think the article misses a key point. Our benefits system penalises working age adults without children. A single adult gets £71.70 (excluding any HB or CTB they are entitled to). If they have one child they get £160.90 a week – an extra £89 (again excluding HB or CTB), or two children means £226.64 a week. Thus despite the economies of scale of having more than 1 member in a family (less per person on food, heating, furnishings, electronics, etc), we give, on average more for the first two children than for the original adult. Now this could be a value judgement that we care more about children growing up poor (and I think thats a fair judgement to make). But I think the levels for the adult are lower than is required to maintain a tolerable, let alone a decent standard of living.

  26. HenryLockwood says:

    It may be worth noting that, though Mr Milligan spent £40 over his 5 days, if he’d been feeding 8 people on £1 per person per day, his model wouldn’t be too bad. Of course, he didn’t buy exactly 8 portions of everything (witness the eggs), and the malnourishment issue still exists, but it’s an argument in favour of economies of scale!

  27. Kriss Fearon says:

    The only reason he could be that ignorant, aside from wilful ignorance, is that he routinely doesn’t do the shopping himself – someone else does it for him.

  28. Rachel C says:

    Bloody marvellous article – bravo. We need more of this so people will realise how ridiculous articles such as the BBC one are – and how politically motivated and influenced too. Shared on FB.

  29. I’ve had pasta bake every day for tea since sunday (when we made it). He needs a wake up. Maybe actually realising that anchovies and lettuce are not “basic staples” etc. great post, thanks for taking the time. Excellent read.

  30. Phil says:

    Intelligent article. I couldn’t agree more – thought the BBC wasn’t even close to living on £1 a day.
    I’m trying something similar, but on an actual £1 per day.

    And yes – I’m fully aware that I’m not actually living below the poverty line. I appreciate how much I do actually have, and that it will seem like a stunt to some. But at the end of the day it’s just another means to raise money and awareness for a good cause, and keep a few people entertained along the way.

    I definitely haven’t had a varied diet though!

  31. He’ll never live like common people.

  32. cleo soron says:

    I think this is twisting what this piece was to represent. I read that and, crucially, also saw it on BBC News where it was presented with a young woman called Jack who provided most of the recipes having had to live long term on this budget, also feeding her young son. They did not attempt to hide and made clear that the 5 day thing couldn’t possibly represent what it is like to live long-term on this type of funding in any way.

    Also – this is just one of many articles written by people undergoing this annual 5 day fund-raising challenge. Again, no-one pretends that doing it for 5 days (and raising money for charity) is somehow the same as someone having to live on this kind of budget in the long-term. Which the young woman who was also prominently featured actually did – one of the few pieces of goods news about it is that she took her creativity in looking after herself and her son and managed to translate that into a job.

    I think it’s valuable, as you have done, to highlight the long-term impact of people having to live on tiny budgets for food. But it’s hugely disingenuous to not acknowledge upfront in your article that the BBC’s piece was in response to this campaign

    Although, perhaps, you didn’t know. The BBC changed it slightly by a longer term budget but even in this clearly acknowledged the basic difficulty in getting 5 a day. The dietician separately noted a concern about the lack of fish (particularly if there are children involved).

    At no point on TV or in this article is it presented as you seem to be taking it – as some kind of cunning wheeze which proves how easy it is to live on a pittance. Quite the opposite. If you wish to criticise the 5 day thing then I think your target is the charity above.

  33. Thanks for all the comments, and to everyone reading this. This is now, by a huge margin, my most-read post of all time.

    To those of you pointing out that Mr Milligan likely wouldn’t have been both undernourished and spending £40 on food in his five day period – it’s a fair point, although it’s the result of me not connecting two separate parts of my argument in my head in the way I ought to have done, not a deliberate attempt to mislead. My larger point – that you either have to spend way more than £1 a day on food, or eat a much less varied diet than Milligan implies you can – still stands.

    The suggestion that people could buy in bulk at the start of the month/ week and so save money is only possible if you have the means of transporting large amounts of food (hard to do if you don’t have a car, the bus is too expensive, and you’re reduced to buying what you can carry as you walk a long distance back home). You also have to have somewhere to store the food – if you share your accommodation, you might have, say, 1 shelf in the fridge, a quarter of a small freezer, and half a cupboard to store food. And that’s without considering the possibility that some people share with people who steal food that’s left in a shared kitchen.

    cleo soron: I link to the campaign website in my original post, and quote from it.

  34. jase says:

    Creeky, saying stuff like”I’m sorry if this wounds you rich people, but if you can consistently afford food and shelter you ARE rich” sounds a bit rich itself, considering you evidently
    a) can afford internet.
    b) own a computer.

  35. You’re all missing the point. The point is not to demonstrate that it’s possible to live on a fiver a week, but to demonstrate how bloody hard it is. Milligan does that very well.

  36. wicca303 says:

    Reblogged this on Wicca303's Blog and commented:
    Brilliant blog post on the BBC’s attempt at the Live Below the Line Challenge. Something that has been annoying me for weeks. Put much more eloquently here than I could ever hope to do.

  37. Lelapaletute says:

    @Freegan: Except that most supermarkets now lock up their dumpsters in the car park, meaning to do that you need to break and enter and then steal. I think this is a victimless crime and therefore perfectly legitimate, but security personnel/the police/the courts may not see it that way. Personally, I think they should make it illegal for supermarkets to throw food out – they should be forced to donate it to local food banks or charitable orgs like the Hare Krishnas Kitchen to avoid waste.

  38. Yes, yes, yes and yes! Very well said.

  39. Robin Brown says:

    A friend of mine successfully completed the Live Below The Line challenge and clearly lost weight, to the point where he looked unwell. Quite clearly spending a legitimate £1 per day on food can’t be done if you intend to remain fit.

  40. Heather says:

    Freegan, I love the concept of skipping / dumpster-diving. I hate how much healthy food gets thrown out too, and I have no qualms about eating it, if I can get it. However, skipping assumes that:
    1. You can physically get to the location of a useful skip (how do you get there if you’re mobility-impaired? What if you don’t have a car, or can’t physically deal with the 20-minute ride on the bus, or can’t afford the bus fare? What if you can’t actually walk far enough to get to a suitable skip?)
    2. You can get access to the skip. Many shops are now locking up their skips, to stop this kind of thing (arseholes, the lot of them). What if you need to jump a fence, or shimmy under one?
    3. Get into a skip, dig through rubbish, find good stuff, get out of the skip with it, and somehow get it home.
    4. Do all these things on a regular enough basis to have healthy food most days.

    I used to be incredibly athletic. Then I hurt my back. Now I’m disabled. Three to four days a week I can’t even get out of the house. Sometimes I can’t leave the house for 8-10 days at a time. While I *might* be able to successfully complete steps 1-4 above once, it would land me in bed on some serious medications for anywhere from hours to days afterwards. An awful lot of people who don’t have enough money to eat are in that situation because of some kind of illness or injury. I’m jealous that you can do the Freegan thing, but a lot of us can’t. Besides, in a developed country, we shouldn’t HAVE to do so to live, just because we’re on benefits.

  41. Nicola says:

    Really great article can I suggest to talk about it on The Pod Delusion Podcast, think it would make an interesting piece!

  42. A friend posted this on facebook so I thought would share the thread I sent

    As a person well versed in bottom lines with regard food, I note there is no mention of energy needed to prepare these gourmet £1 meals and to store bulk buys , will not bore you with thermal energy costs etc but will remind you, listen to gormless out of touch Tory twits at your peril “grin”

    Just finished reading the comments underneath the article, and there is a darker side to his stunt, that being so many trying to outdo him by saying they could do better , where the slant should be “why should we even be considering this as a life choice when there are those who have too much and equitable sharing is the way forwards” instead the status quo is accepted and now its who can live on £1 a day the best, rat experiments comes to mind.

  43. Love this – thanks so much for writing it.

  44. cakeandfinewine says:

    Thanks for a brilliant piece. So important that this was written.

  45. Elettaria says:

    Excellent article. The BBC wrote a similar article about how to live cheaply, strongly implying that this was how you lived on £53 a week, and it actually came to over £150 when I totted it up. I wrote a blog post about it here. We’ve been talking about both of these BBC articles in a disability community, where we’ve also pointed out that if you’re disabled, you may not have the strength to chop up vegetables, you may end up wasting food due to memory problems (e.g. forgetting when items will go out of date, forgetting to take a pan off the hob), and you may need to be on a more expensive special diet. A lot of us have to use ready meals a great deal of the time. I personally am reliant on support workers provided by social services to cook for me. They don’t come in as often as they’re meant to, and some of them can’t cook, so the rest of the time I get leftovers or I have to use a ready meal. This is not £1 a day material.

  46. F0ul says:

    It would be interesting to see if it is actually possible to live for £1 a day – but using the idea that you have £5 and no dietician to impress! So, That would be a bag of potatoes, some baked beans, marg, eggs and 2 loaves of bread – and some cheap coffee and sugar stolen from a cafe!

  47. Ian Perryman says:

    Brilliant article. Make sure you send a copy to the BBC complaints department and insist on a reply.

  48. Pingback: The Cost of Food | Potato Skin Belt

  49. Glen says:

    He seems to have missed out the cost of fuel for cooking food and heating water for tea, to be fair that’s not obvious to someone who’s not done it for real for an extended period of time or has it pointed out to them. eg a 3Kw kettle costs close to 1p per minute to use, a 2Kw cooker ring over 1/2p per minute and obvious;y that adds up if using more than one ring
    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this diet cost a £1 a day on fuel cost without even counting the cost of the food. nettle soup is only free if you don’t have to pay to cook it.

  50. ronagrieve says:

    i think this article does talk a lot of sense in a lot of ways i spend a lot of money on eating not so much healthy but properly i like your article very much thanks for sharing :P

  51. sykobee says:

    I wonder if it would be easier to live for a month on £1/day for food (i.e., £30 up front) than just for a week? That way you could at least buy the dried rice, pasta, beans, pulses and lentils in a large enough quantity up front and get some variety. That’s still not enough money to get free delivery from a supermarket however, and you also miss out on attacking the reduced to clear sections. If you’re lucky there will be a nearby ethnic corner shop with cheap lentils, rice, spices and herbs in packets, rather than the overpriced supermarket offerings.

    Also where can you buy a celery with ~40 stalks?

  52. normob says:

    Reblogged this on ceedee's posts and commented:
    A brilliant take-down of the BBC’s ‘eat healthily for £1 a day’ propaganda.

  53. He also doesn’t figure in the cost of the washing up and cost of electricity/gas to cook some of his extras as well as the transport costs. Those don’t just take care of themselves.

  54. Cog says:

    One thing your rebuttal misses is that the expensive ‘waste’ could well go to feeding other members of the family. On his own, Milligan was not really eating for £1 a day as you rightly point out, but if there were a wife and two children, it’s possible that economies of scale could come into play and 4 people might well be able to eat on about £1 a day.

    Of course the whole thing is academic anyway… the £1 a day exercise doesn’t relate to the diets that we in the West are used to. In third world countries people do, indeed, get by on a dollar a day (about 66p). It isn’t pleasant and there are all sorts of problems that arise from living on that poverty line, but they don’t have the overheads or, indeed, the luxuries that we consider necessities that end up costing us lots of money – even down to fancy packaging, labour saving appliances, etc.

    The whole thing – Milligan’s article and your rebuttal – is artificial. You response is at the opposite end of the spectrum to Milligan’s article, and you both are choosing only the aspects of the situation to fit your arguments. The truth is in the wider picture of the world.

  55. Renee says:

    This whole LBL comes off as a self congratulatory side project. It’s a “look at me aren’t I great’ idea. Bonnie Wright promotes herself in the Metro and talks how being poor for a week will affect her social life then goes to a Beyonce concert last night. I guess tickets and travel there don’t count on her bottom line. Now this morning she’s going on about having the blues and eating only a hard boiled egg for lunch. There is no reality.

  56. Caítríona says:

    I’ve only just spotted this & I’m delighted to read such a great analysis of the piece. Completely agree with you on budgeting and how you don’t just spend under 7p on an egg unless you buy 30.

  57. deadtrax says:

    Cog, you seem to be arguing that because we aren’t quite at third world food poverty levels yet, that everything’s ok? Or did I miss some nuance of your argument?

    Milligan didn’t mention anything about having a family to factor into the exercise. And what about single people? Your rebuttal of his rebuttal is artificial too.

  58. philippa1967 says:

    Brilliant blog. I am doing Live Below the Line and had to buy really poor quality value food as I didn’t “cheat” and only spent the £5 (well £10 as my husband is doing it too). The fact I have a headache, feel hungry and feel tired is bad enough but I can’t imagine what this would be like after a month, 2 months, a year?

    But it is much more than that. The fact I can’t go and have a coffee, so can’t socialise or feel part of my community. The fact that people in the UK have posted on my facebook page to say they have £10 per week for food as their benefits have been cut. The man who lives on a tin of beans a day. This is all without considering the 1.2 billion people who only have a £1 a day for everything and no access to clean water.

    I found the BBC coverage exactly what Live Below the Line could become if we let it be turned into a middle class circus act. “oh, poor me I’m going to survive on £1 a day for 5 days” but I will have fresh water, a home, a job, money, access to the internet and after 5 days I can go back to consuming like a pig…………….Wow, that’s a real sacrifice. If it really highlights how hard it is, not just to eat, but to be a part of your community then it would be going a long way to reducing inequality.

    It has inspired me to get suspended coffees and meals in Plymouth shops and cafes though so hopefully I won’t just have learned something, I will have done something

  59. Niamh Thecla says:

    This is phenomenal – well done!

  60. Teesside Solidarity Movement says:

    Reblogged this on Teesside Solidarity Movement.

  61. Reblogged this on Media Darlings and commented:
    A thorough debunking of BBC economics reporter Brian Milligan’s idiotic, dangerous and disingenuous experiment to “prove” people in Britain can live comfortably on a food budget of £1 a day.

  62. Bethany Aston says:

    The maths behind all of this simply cannot be fully considered, as I think there are some things that people living below the poverty line purchase that cannot be taken into account in the long-term. Throughout my childhood we lived a lot off of “yellow sticker” foods, i.e. foods that would be pennies but would go off on the day (so every now and again we’d have something ostentatious like pate and toast for dinner for 10p). And grouping the “poor” into one group is somewhat reductive, as, for example, I am a student, so have the time and the lack of familial responsibilities, so I can take the hour walk to and from the shops, whereas a family with children do not have the time to sacrifice. The time it takes to go to shops, to prepare food and to cook it, are things often overlooked, so when my single-parent friends shove frozen chicken nuggets and chips in the oven, people see it as lazy rather than simply not having the time to do all of these things.

  63. Bethany Aston says:

    Incidentally, for people who give up meat to save money and are worried about the effect on their health, give blood. Free iron checks.

  64. trefrosk says:

    Very nicely expressed. Actually, it made me think someone should do a legitimate series of “how to spend less than £X on Y for duration T” articles where the specific points around the retail indivisability of courgette portions and so forth are addressed: i.e. let’s say you have 5 pounds and you spend 1 on a courgette, how many different types of things could you do with said courgette? would you have to set yourself up in some sort of commune, whereby P spends £1 on a courgette and feeds 5 people, and the next day, Q spends £1 on a head of lettuce and garnishes the pain away… etc. Cos you probably COULD do this successfully if you had a large enough group of people. (Btw, I read your about, and thoroughly sympathise with your point re depression. I eat a fuckload of ice cream. The hell like it helps.)

  65. Laura Marcus says:

    I’m a diet blogger, doing Paleo which is high protein. I chose Paleo because I had a Diabetes scare and Paleo is great for stabilising blood sugar, staving off Diabetes and losing weight.

    I saw this item on BBC Breakfast on Saturday so thought I’d see if was possible to do Paleo on a pound a day. It isn’t. Not even remotely. Even if you can find a dozen large free-range eggs for £1.45 as I did: Plus as you’ve pointed out, you can’t use what you already have in. So my little list of Paleo items would have to be dry fried or boiled. Has anyone included butter or oil for frying in their fiver for five days?

    I applaud the sentiment behind Below the Line’s campaign but fear it may be hijacked by the £53-a-week see we told you benefits are too generous life of luxury brigade. Also there’s a risk of poverty tourism.

    Being on a diet at all in the Western world is a privilege. I do recognise that. And BTL is an interesting exercise in illustrating how little protein those on very low budgets can afford. You can keep going, just about, on a diet made up almost entirely of highly-processed carb. But you’ll likely get sick. People need protein. Benefit levels in this country are shockingly low. Luxury? Crap!

  66. Pingback: Home Economics | thefilthycomma

  67. Vicki says:

    Yes, giving blood gets you a free iron check; it also depletes your energy reserves, which is why the blood centers ask ‘Are you feeling well today?’ along with the more specific questions. (If you either have a job that runs blood drives, or can easily get to a blood drive location, you likely aren’t in the group that needs to live on this budget.)

    Give blood if you can, because people need it. Nor for the iron level check, or HIV test, or whatever you’re thinking of in that direction.

  68. bradfonseca says:

    Reblogged this on The Emporium of Lost Thoughts and commented:
    Excellent analysis of a disingenuous article published by the BBC purporting that it is possible to eat healthily for £1 a day.

  69. A brilliant blog post, I enloyed it alot .. linked from my FB Page

  70. “Because people tend to get paid monthly, and £1 a day isn’t spent day by day, but is calculated during a bulk shop for the month”

    Jacob, this isn’t quite the case. People who are relatively well off and in secure jobs get paid monthly. Benefits are paid fortnightly at the moment, though that will change as the universal credit scheme is rolled out further. Many people in temporary jobs are still on a weekly wage packet. It’s these people, the ones on benefits and in insecure jobs, who are most likely to be on a tight budget.

    So Aethelread is right, if you buy a lettuce you need to include the cost of the entire lettuce. The eggs I’ll grant you will last longer but that still leaves you eating 30 eggs over the course of around 21 days so you do need to think of recipes that last include at least one egg a day.

    Say you were paid monthly, that would give you £30 of food to live on for a month. Mr Milligan spent more even that that. And with all that he bought, could he have lasted 30 days rather than just five? In the long run, it’s immensely difficult, not to say downright impossible, to feed yourself for £1 a day in the UK.

  71. When you give blood you also get free juice and biscuits.

  72. Pingback: BBC article on ‘Eat for under £1 a day’ exposed | Dunc Greenwood - Below the line

  73. Barney Wolfram says:

    What about the cost of cooking fuel and washing-up (liquid and hot water)? Or did eat raw and off a dirty plate?

  74. Barney Wolfram says:

    How anyone who can be bothered can become a millionaire just by making the effort to plant some special beans that only cost £5.

  75. Pingback: Anyone who tells you sustainable living is ‘Cheap’ – lies.. well kind of. | The Plan®

  76. rachelsolly1 says:

    Good article.myself and my partner took the Live Below the Line Challenge and spent £10 between us for all our meals over 5 took a long time to plan how we w ould make the most of every penny.Check out my blog detailing how i spent the money&what we ate-definately no BLTs or lettuce!

  77. Excellent takedown! x

  78. Garry Abbott says:

    Yet another BBC attempt at offering us ways to cope with the government of the day’s audacious and morally repugnant policies, rather than challenging them with proper journalism. Did you ever see this wonderful feature they ran a year or so back? – How to make a sandwich out of bread, with a bread filling. Thanks for the tip BBC!

    Great article. Keep it up.

  79. Laura Marcus says:

    Should’ve said in my earlier comment that I too will be linking to this on my blog.

  80. Pingback: Sorry BBC, you can’t actually live on £1 of food per day »

  81. becky says:

    great article, I’ve not read the original yet, but I imagine it’ll just get me rather annoyed. I lived on a £10 week food budget about 11 years ago, but I was underweight, tired, and often ill, and that was with the added bonus of being able to have 1 healthy decent sized meal at a family friends every now and then. I’m lucky that now I can shop for food without having to give too much thought to how much it’s costing me, but even I feel the price increases and have to be careful sometimes.
    I think the only thing which could be added to this well written article, is that even if some out there might try and argue that some food doesn’t go off quickly (dried) and others can be frozen, that not everything can be frozen, my freezer certainly isn’t large enough to try and fill it with everything I would like to, and when I lived on a budget I was lucky if I had a fridge with one of those tiny little freezer compartments at the top.

    I really hope that there aren’t too many out that who end up believing that you can eat healthily for less than £1 a day, maybe if you have the space, resources and weather to grow your own??

  82. kellie says:

    Great article – also please look at the blog – somone who genuinely has had to live on that and shows how difficult it can be

  83. Carolan says:

    I am suprised that people are suprised that this utter tory twot has completely shot himself in the foot. This crap falls out of their mouths non stop. Duncan Brown is is prize bollock as is his boss cam-moron. Its as if they are impulsive infants suddenly in charge of a sweetshop. Non of their statements are ever thought through to the logical conclusion.
    Totes obvs that even our enviroment minister is not the man for the job as hes the only one who voted AGAINST saving the worlds bees!!!
    How did we get lumbered with this pathetic bunch of fuck wits in the first place?
    Long live the revolution.

  84. Anna Hayward says:

    You can eat reasonably healthily for £1 per day – millions of people do just that. But it involves an incredibly monotonous diet. Like a documentary I saw about Cuba – they had beans and rice for breakfast, beans and rice for lunch and for dinner, some vegetables with beans and rice. In the UK, I suppose the equivalent would be beans, potatoes, carrots and cabbage, with a bit of bread and maybe a bit of cheese like the peasants ate in medieval times (only with cheese spread or ‘cheese food slices’ instead of actual cheese). I don’t know why instead of this ridiculous exercise, they didn’t just ask some poor people what they ate and maybe celebrate the fact that some clever people do actually survive on that kind of money. They’re generally skinny and maybe lacking in a few essential vitamins, but I suppose that doesn’t really support the “Healthy eating for a pound a day”, or reinforce the myth of the feckless poor.

  85. livingdeadoll says:

    I’ve been living in Naples (a fairly cheap place AND poor place to live in Italy) for a couple of years and since January, after hearing what my college roommates told me was their budget for a month (less than 200 euros excluding rent) I tried as an “experiment” – having been born in a very priviledged family and having had all the support, also economic that I alwas needed – to put myself in their shoes. I wasn’t trying to be smug or prove my roommates “wrong” I just thought It would be a humbling experience to try and pretend I had much more less money in my life while trying to mantain a good and healthy diet. Spoiler alert: it’s really impossible and mostly it is not as “controllable” as people would like you to believe (prices on fruits and vegetables for example vary from season to season, I am having a less hard time now in spring than when I started in January).

    Let me tell you that living for 40 euros a week (which is a little more than 5 euros per day) is EXTREMELY hard. I had to start shopping really smart and prices dictated what I would’ve eaten, not what I wanted (you were right on your analysis for canned food and pasta), I started “wishing” for vedgetables and fruits. I started going less and less out and wondering when I was out “can I afford having a second beer knowing I only have a small amount of cash until the end of the week”? I stopped looking at clothes or other unneccessary accessories.

    I feel wery ashamed that while this “experiment” I’m doing is only for myself I still and always will have money on my bank account whenever I need it (who am I kidding, it is very different living on a budget knowing you can “go back” to living a luxurious life rather than having no choice but sticking to it) but would advice any other person who lives a lucky and wealthy life as I do to at least try it. I will never ever put in question again how though it is to live with 500 euros a month and having to pay for rent, taxes, bills… Of course food becomes the “last” thing you spend your money into because while you might eat pasta for weeks the electricity company might cut your power out.

    So, in other words, thank you for putting in such a smart, clever – and funny – way this analysis on how the “richer conservateurs” should stop pretending it is easy living “for 1 pound a day!” “for 30 pounds a month!” it is not and they should be ashamed of themselves!

  86. Pingback: Can’t eat on £1 a day? Cheat! | Indigo Jo Blogs

  87. angalmond says:

    Thank you for your post. Lots of good points made.

  88. Pingback: Reality check | JHND NOTES: The Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics Editor's Blog

  89. Meghan says:

    If you go to the instructions for how to get started, you ARE actually encouraged to get into a group of people and pool your money together at the beginning of the week… almost every one of your gripes with the article is answered if you assume he did it this way.

  90. Excellent blog. Many interesting and true comments.

  91. Laura Marcus says:

    George Orwell did this for real in the 30s resulting in Down and Out in London and Paris. For my money, that’s what embedded genuine journalism and reportage is. Once when he had just a few centimes left he bought a stale loaf of bread and a garlic clove. Sounds odd doesn’t it? But he said if you rub the garlic into the bread the post-prandial burps are a way of convincing your brain that you’ve had a proper meal.

    Such is the ingenuity of those who have hardly anything to live on. I never would’ve thought of that and I imagine it was a fellow pauper who gave him the idea.

    Funnily enough Orwell was employed quite a bit by the BBC. Back in the day when the BBC cared about journalistic integrity instead of government-sponsored propaganda for which I believe they will pay a heavy price with an attendant loss of credibility. Heck even ITV is better for news these days

  92. FeralGirl says:

    Very interesting post and especially the point that those who really HAVE to eat on £1 a day will not be flitting out to waitrose for cavolo nero but relying on basic (shite?) tinned and processed food which is lamentably the cheapest available. For a sense of what it’d actually be like, see This is my sister in law’s (somewhat hard core) book on eating for a genuine £1 or less per day. The keen might remember her living for a year on £1 a day. Personally I’m just grateful I don’t have to…

  93. Sally baker says:

    Thanks for taking the time to dissect this inaccurate rubbish. Clearly he hasn’t stuck to the restrictions. I can remember being very poor and everything you said about no store cupboard of herbs, stock cubes, seasonings etc is so true as the cupboard was totally bare.

  94. Hev says:

    I thought ‘a girl called Jack ‘ might have something to say re this bbc guff, as she seemed to be advising him ?

  95. Lady Writer says:

    While I accept that doing Live Below the Line isn’t going to really show anyone what it’s like to live in food poverty, there are some serious points to it:
    – to highlight the difficulties faced by so many people around the world to just get food on the table.
    – to encourage debates like the one going on right here in the hope that enough people will become outraged about food poverty in a world where there really is enough for everyone and no one should go to bed hungry.
    – to raise money which can make a direct impact on people living in poverty – yes, folks, it’s not just about saving yourself some money and feeling good by living on £1 a day. The idea behind Live Below the Line is that you will donate the money you have ‘saved’ from your usual food bill, and also get people to sponsor you.
    So please don’t knock people who Live Below the Line. They genuinely care about the issue and want to help create a better world. Instead, add your voices – and each of you has a powerful story to tell – to the IF campaign. Go to for more information, and join us to make a real difference.
    Just in case you’re wondering, no I don’t Live Below the Line; yes I do know it’s like to be poor and dependent on welfare; and I now work for an organisation whose mission is to fight against poverty and the causes of poverty.

  96. Pingback: From the BBC: how not to eat healthily for £1 a day | doltd

  97. Skip Mailer says:

    You do make telling points but I would say Milligan acknowledged the shortcomings:

    QUOTE While I end up feeling a little virtuous, this has, of course, been an entirely artificial exercise. “You’re doing this as an experiment for five days,” says Jack Monroe. “But when it is your way of life, and you haven’t got any choice over it, it’s not a fun experiment.” UNQUOTE

    He did however (a) produce some interesting recipes and (b) above all, get us thinking about the issue.

  98. Daniel Wood says:

    Brilliant analysis. His article struck me was woefully inaccurate and frankly ridiculous (garnish? what?).

    I tried a similar experiment myself last year, going on £37.27 for the 29 days of february.. unlike Mr Milligan, my diet was far from varied, consisting mostly of pasta and cheese, every day for most meals. I also took pains to use only what I actually bought. I was able to take in just enough calories, but it was far from a healthy diet in other respects, and I began to feel ill towards the end.

    It opened my eyes to the difficulties many face when living on a tight budget, and I wish those currently labelling them scroungers and reducing benefits had the slightest idea of what it’s like (and no, IDS experiences do not count).

    Thanks again for pointing out a piece of lazy, misguiding journalism.

  99. Of course, the way to get round this, is to go to a food bank and stock up. The presence of food banks ( we have 3 here in affluent St Albans) is a greater condemnation of the crass, publicity seeking drivel that comes out of our current crop of self satisfied smug politicians and their ‘advisers’ than the monstrous ‘live well on fresh air’ rubbish you so eloquently attack. All these food banks are run by charities (getting their funding withdrawn) or local churches (slagged off in the media for being ‘bigots). It’s a mad, and for some a hungry old world…..

  100. albertoandjeff says:

    Reblogged this on Well, It Amuses Me.

  101. Doug says:

    On hearing about this well meaning awareness raiser I did similar maths . You would have to do a weekly £7 shop. And you wouldn’t get much or a variety. It hasn’t inspired to do the challenge, but to buy fresh fruit and veg from a grocer rather than supermarket.

  102. Fiona says:

    Did not see the program. But judging by your article and the resulting comments it seemed to be a rather stupid and biased one.
    When my 3 children were young, I quite often had £20 a week to feed five of us. We were living in a small rural village and their fathers work was often low paid. I was lucky enough to have a large garden and grew a lot of vegetables, herbs and soft fruit. Kept chickens for eggs and did a weekly trip on the bus costing £3.50 to Plymouth for basics and supermarket purchases. I pickled, bottled, preserved and froze the produce I grew as well. I made bread, cheese and foraged for wild food.
    It was a struggle to feed a growing family on such a small amount and when we occasionally did have more money I stocked up store cupboards and freezer in anticipation of sausage weeks as we called them.
    I don’t think it is possible to live healthily in the long term on this ridiculously small amount. I take it no fuel or electricity was included. Bet things like soap, washing up liquid, shampoo and heaven forbid toilet roll was not included.
    Please stop demonizing people on benefits and this fad of the well off appearing to live on small amount, they don’t.

  103. Vicky Ellis says:

    Terrific article highlighting the harmful erroneous codswallop put out by the BBC. Thank you for writing this.

  104. sudassouda says:

    What a great analysis of these nonsense “experiments” which prove absolutely nothing. I recently read a similar article by a woman who tried it for a year, but her tactics involved scrounging off her (rich) firends, eating all the free samples in shops (rather than taking just one), and hitchiking with strangers – hardly values we want to instil in our children!

  105. This matches my thoughts on the flawed experiment that he conducted. If he’d been isolated in a one room home with a fiver in his pocket to live, I’d have been more supportive of the article he wrote.

  106. Sue Henderson says:

    I’m glad to find I’m not the only one who found this pledge to live on £1 a day for five days something of an insult. In fact I refused to participate, on the basis that I’m struggling badly enough as it is.

    Thank you for the excellent analysis of Milligan’s article. Unfortunately journalists seem to think their readers are complete idiots and I suspect that’s why the piece was allowed to be published.

  107. shoegirl says:

    Absolutely agreed on this “Somewhere along the line our socio-economic system got so warped that cheap food became a middle class luxury” – alongside with cheaper housing too, as far more subsidises (many hidden) exist to make housing costs lower for middle class people. Same for transport, and typically “middle class” consumables.

    I know when I was well below the poverty line in London, eating and electricity became a real struggle (paying the rent and keeping myself off the street was the biggest one). I recall buying tins of potato from Tesco for 10p. I also recall living on a lot of “add hot water” instant stuff because we also needed to save electricity for heating. Of course this itself cost more because the flat was not insulated and we’d only an electric heater. I do remember walking miles to get to shops that sold cheaper food that the local ones. It was slightly easier in London, but still had to walk miles. Even then, you need a tin opener for tins, etc. If you’ve been living in any kind of transient way, you might not even have that.

    As for freezer, as renters we were at the mercy of our landlady (who in fairness wasn’t bad) providing the ultra cheapo cheapo kind of fridge that doesn’t have a proper freezer so we couldn’t freeze cheap food either.

    My life did turn around, and I not only pulled myself out of poverty but into what eventually became well paid work. To this day I hate throwing out food because of exactly the reasons above. I seriously shuddered when I read this article in the same way I shudder when I hear a certain ringtone because it reminds me of my landlady ringing looking for the rent, knowing I didn’t have it.

  108. I’m doing the challenge and was relieved to see this article as I bought 4 cans of beans, 2 potatoes 1 tin of sardines, 10 eggs, 3 bananas, 4 tomatoes, 1 loaf and I’ve got 20p to splash out with on Friday. I’ve not been hungry but the foods repetitive and I’ve not had a cup of tea or marg on my bread and there’s very little choice. I saw the Millican article and was amazed at his variety .. this explains it.

  109. Theo says:

    In a more realistic approach, I live in a student house of 6. We spend an average of £3 on food per day per person by shopping, cooking and eating together. We could make it cheaper if we were feeling really skint, but even when you are buying and eating in bulk like that I can’t imagine spending less than £2 would be possible, unless you have unlimited time to prepare very cheap materials into edible lunches (we don’t).

  110. All so true, when I briefly lived alone, on benefits, in a bedsit I used the window ledge to keep milk cold (no fridge) and practically lived off of instant mash (just add hot water – electric cooker WAY too pricey to use) and tins of tuna (it was cheap then) Buying small amounts of food that keeps AND is cheap to cook was really difficult!

    Toast and tea was sometimes all I’d eat in a day. £1 a day! pish!

  111. segmation says:

    It is interesting how food, diet and money can get so much traffic. What is this saying about our world?

  112. yosephvera says:

    poverty and hunger are not funny games. Agree with you, anyone who really poor never do what he did.

  113. ohh..this is brilliant…and am zapped at BBC promoting or even saying so.
    you have brought out the grim situation so well. amazing post. congrats

  114. Nicola says:

    What a pity you didn’t click on the link to the blog of a girl called Jack when you had finished reading the bbc article. And what a pity all your commenters didn’t bother to read the article for themselves either. The recipes that the reporter used were created by a girl who has been living on £10 a week with her son for over a year, not as some stunt, but rather because she has to. When I read the article, I clicked on the link and I read, open mouthed, for several hours. If you want to read something truly inspiring, you and all your commenters, would do well to go and read about Jack. Instead of attacking the bbc for trying to highlight what her life has been like for the last year or so, you could try finding out how she has coped and survived and done so with the most amazing heroism and determination and absolute conviction that people have to know how awful it is. It is not impossible to live on £5 a week – it is just ghastly. That is what you should be highlighting!

  115. angryoldwoman says:

    well said, Creeky, and so many others. This whole exercise is such a patronising waste of time, and is just another way for wealthy people to smugly carry on as before, but this time with less feeling. 5 days on a quid a day, woop de doo. They need to think more along the lines of ‘what would happen to me if I lost my job/inheritance/massive pension, and my family were not able to rally round? How would I keep my big comfortable house? My car, my kids in private schools, my pets? How long before my house was repossessed? How long do I have to live on nothing before I can register as unemployed?’ Wealthy people forget that their wealth may have cushioned them forever from the raw nastiness of life, by buying them insurance policies (which premiums poor people cannot afford), pension plans etc, so that whatever happens they will never be in the real shit with the rest of us. ‘You wanna live like common people? You wanna do whatever common people do? You’ll never live like common people, you’ll never watch your life slide out of view’. You only have to have a mistake on your payslip as I have on several occasions, once with a big £0.00 as my total for the month, and watch the incomprehension on your boss’s face when you insist that you can’t wait for it to be added on to next month’s pay, and the horrible feeling of humiliation when they end up writing you a cheque from their own account to sub you – yeah they can afford to pay you your whole month’s wages out of their own pocket. Do I sound bitter? I am a bit. I’m sick of hearing about these smug rich idiots ‘proving’ how easy it is to be poor, while at the same time other people are actually dying, committing suicide because they can’t see any way of existing any more. Try being disabled for a month on NO benefits because some heartless jobsworth has decided you should be working because you can reach up to shoulder height with one arm, but you live in Bristol where thousands of people applied for a shop job in Tesco, who, equal opps notwithstanding, are not about to hire someone in a wheelchair who can only use one arm when they’ve got 4,300 other applicants who are perfectly able. I’m ranting I’m ranting…but I’m so angry and so sad. (ps I do have a job and don’t live in Bristol – I’m just using that as an example).

  116. What a great analytic job you’ve done! This journalist — Milligan — was really writing a piece that would be interesting to read, but in the process he’s misinformed people and promoted ideas that as you state are dangerous to impoverished individuals.

    I really laughed at the part about the cat that defecates coins for the uneaten food! What great humour you have!

    All in all, I’ve talked to some people in Canada (where I live), and it seems that hospitals and long term care facilities attempt to make the average meal cost $6. I use this as a guide when I look at recipes. I don’t have a lot of money but one doesn’t need a lot of money once the pantry is full and a person learns how to be a creative cook!

    Thanks for your post!

  117. Nice analysis! I lived in England for a year and found it very difficult to eat healthy for low cost. I had to forge my own way and learn how to eat healthy on a budget because it certainly isn’t easy. But with effort, it’s possible. Not for one quid a day though!!

  118. Grace says:

    If a head of celery costs 89p, and a stick was calculated to be 2p, does that mean that there were 45 sticks in the head? I’ve never seen that in all my years of grocery shopping! Maybe in those giant veg competitions! Anyway, great critique of the stupid stunt. Apart from anything else, living on very little for one week is very different from doing it month after month, year after year. Look at the typical food eaten by the poor in the global south- something like a plate of rice and a very small amount of sauce, day after day.

  119. This made me laugh out loud whilst simultaneously bringing up feelings of disgust and to be frank, embarrassment on behalf of this Mr Millighan. Well written, pithy and poignant.

  120. richard says:

    just one question with all the inaccuracies in this report how the hell were the B.B.C..allowed to broadcast it …???

  121. life of the hand - life of the mind says:

    garden. you need to bloody learn how to garden

  122. D Jones says:

    I suppose he eat everything raw.. it cost money to heat up the food GAS/Electric, 5p for bag when shopping, the Oink hasn’t a clue

  123. pete thomas says:

    i read the pros and cons here with great interest,it shows to me the people who care and the downright narcissists.
    it seems what is often forgotten is human rights and the right no to suffer, for gods sake, we live in a country with seven trillion, yes you heard me, seven bloody trillion is the banks of the 1%
    no one should have to eat a load of shit day after day or have to go doing the rounds of skips risking serious harm or death.
    we are not in south america, we are in britain (notice i deliberately omitted the great) no one should have to feel second class and go without or be unhappy, thats the simple answer.
    but, we let the the minority believe we are unworthy scum and we should scrape the bottom of the barrel…….no way…
    its about time someone equalised things, got rid of the narcissistic toffs and created a fairer system that does not exist on the lies that say our country is skint, it is not!
    and as generally information, if any of the born with a silver spoon in their mouth types want to have a go, dont bloody bother, i’m not listening and i wouldn’t wipe the shit off my shoe on you.

  124. Gill says:

    I had also rumbled his lack of logic. I’m glad to read such a wonderfully-well-written deconstruction of his ‘experiment’. I have a friend who is struggling so much that if I didn’t buy fruit, her kids woudn’t have any. I am disgusted by our current attitude to poverty. Especially as it could literally be any of us.

  125. dmchale says:

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. I read your blog like’s grabs my soul and infuses me with the talents of your writing. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next. Enjoy your newfound fame…you’ve certainly earned it.
    ~Dennis McHale

  126. Tom says:

    To be fair, reading the article I don’t think Mr Milligan wrote this article from the point of view of ridiculing the £1 a day challenge – in fact, I’d even argue he wrote it to HELP people budgeting for it by suggesting some (admittedly not-bad looking) recipies. However the comments section alone show many people who have just read it and gone to the “See? Benefits are way too generous!” approach. So I think this article was very necessary – mainly because it highlighted the big problem of food wastage. Some commentors have tried to protest that you CAN buy in bulk because you get paid at the start of the week/month. True, but you are then going to be eating that same meal all week to use up ALL the ingredients you bought and your diet will look very different to that varied, multi-flavoured, multi-nutritional one in Mr Milligan’s article.

  127. alexswallow says:

    Reblogged this on one swallow makes a summer and commented:
    A fascinating article about food poverty, one of the most scandalous things in the modern UK

  128. Miriam Joy says:

    Brilliant post — it continues to get on my nerves that the government don’t even recognise how hypocritical and out of touch they are, though they continue to prove it every single day.

    (Also, can I just say that the main reason I clicked on this from Freshly Pressed is because of your BRILLIANT blog name. Aethelread the Unread … ha! I giggled for a good couple of minutes … I guess being a medieval history nerd shows sometimes.)

  129. Fantastic post! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Its a shame that something so basic such as fresh, non packaged food has become a luxury. It pains me that this Mr. Milligian is mocking the poor by stating that they could buy one leaf of lettuce and still eat well and spend less money on food. One a side note, buying in bulk is not cheap. Yes the items may be cheeper, but in the end you spend so much on things like laundry detergent that little money is left to buy basics like milk. Shopping in bulk is a marketing gimmick to empty more of your wallet. Duping the poor and the middle class into thinking they have found bargain.

  130. sparksmcgee says:

    I’ve been poor and now am middle class. I have definitely found cheap/healthy groceries to be more of a middle class luxury. They take planning time and easy mobility (and international passports and Costco memberships) that I simply didn’t have available during those days. Sometimes it was rice until the rice ran out, then it was water…

  131. wildthing666 says:

    In 2008 I needed nearly £2 per day for food and that didn’t include extras like herbs and spices to make the cheap bland meats palatable. The only way to get even close to this amount is buy in very large quantities, I learnt to do without things like milk in tea & coffee.
    IMO when someone says they can live on a set amount per day I always challenge with the following question! “So for £1 per day you can pay for all the gas and electric you will use in preparing the meals and for any water used in cooking and rinsing ingredients?” they soon look puzzled.

  132. River says:

    Has anyone tried going to a supermarket to purchase one lettuce leaf and half a stick of celery?

  133. karves88 says:

    Reblogged this on karvefit and commented:
    More evidence that it costs to be healthy. Fatty food is always cheaper and more accessible.

  134. This is the blog of someone who did this for a month in the USA, on a dollar a day.

    It is possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good way to live. I am at a bit of a loss to know why so many LBTLers used rice as a staple, for example. For the same money (40p in a supermarket) they could have bought deeply unfashionable yellow split peas with three times the protein content and lots more fill-you-up fibre. But this is semantics really.

    Is it time that we, as a society, starte to call things what they are?
    Not low-income, but POOR.
    Not hard pressed, but POVERTY.
    Not challenged, but HUNGRY.

    These are words with which the Victorians with their workhouses were very familiar. By continuing to dress up “poor” as some kind of feckless life-choice we do people a disservice.
    Poor is in the homes of our neighbours, and Poverty is in the hungry tummies of some of the children we see walking to school in the morning.

  135. Mellchie says:

    Is it just me, or did Miliband not fail on day 1? How much did that apple cost?

  136. toffer99 says:

    Now the damned BBC have closed the comments on the Milligan piece. They really are becoming government lackeys, what with this and the hushing up of any news on the NHS sell-off.

  137. I did the live below the line, not because I think it solves anything but because I wanted to know if I could. I have given what I would have spent to a food bank. I only spent £5 and had a diet consisting mainly of porridge, lentils and rice. It was doable but repetitive. I had to forage for green stuff (ground elder mainly) and could not afford any fruit. I was annoyed at the Milligan article because I thought it misrepresented what you would have to do. Thanks for your analysis..

  138. To give some other perspective, I spend at least £10 a week on litter, that’s just for my two cats to shit in. Probably £15ish for their food, a week. They’re trying to starve the poor away.

  139. EAJ says:

    Nice article. The original is ridiculous. It should be obvious to anyone that buying food in bulk only saves you money if you actually eat the food.

    Could you feed yourself on less than £1 per day? Yes. But you probably won’t be eating much besides porridge. You can’t keep that up long term without getting nutritional deficiencies.

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  141. Mica says:

    What a stinking cheat!
    Our Ulla lived for 28 days on £1 a day and she did it properly. Here’s her blog (and she did it for a good cause which if you’re interested is sponsoring the clean water project in Meru, Kenya

  142. kalicet says:

    I’m glad someone has said this – will be reposting you, the demonisation of the poor is horrible to say the least and we should get better than this article from the beeb – I mean, how hard would it have been to write a proper shopping list and tell the truth?

  143. To the person who said many people are “perfectly well nourished on less than £56 a week”, way to miss the point. For the people (under 25) on Job Seeker’s Allowance of £56.25, that has to cover EVERYTHING except rent, council tax and prescriptions. Water, electricity, gas, clothes, toilet paper, travel, phone/internet, postage stamps, soap and so much more.

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  145. A brilliant post that has re-awoken the political animal in me. Thank you for taking this patronising, even dangerous, piece of journalism apart. Poverty is no game. Inspiring in a ‘now how do I turn what I”m feeling into action’ kind of way.

  146. sick cats says:

    I was curious if you ever thought of changing the page layout of your blog?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or two images.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

  147. Amy Peters says:

    What he did is ridiculous and entirely dishonest. It makes me very angry as it completely undermines anybody who has to live on an actual £1 a day budget. I took part in the ‘live below the line’ challenge and took it very seriously. Everything I ate was accounted for and for 5 days I spent £4.99. It was difficult and boring. And I’m really glad I did it. There is a very cynical comment written here which made me feel I had to respond. I have raised money for a charity trying to tackle global poverty – is that pointless? A person doesn’t have to live in desperate poverty to want to erase it and sympathise with those who do. They just need to have awareness and understanding.

  148. Zharok says:

    What a fantastic, insightful and elegent summary of the utter ridiculousness of campaigns such as you mention. Campaigns such as this only exist in form so that those of higher means/assets in society are able to feel they are doing their bit to ‘help’ the poor/underprivilaged etc.

    Whilst there are countless issues regarding benefit and welfare dependency; sending a message such as this does nothing but make those in the situation feel worse and imprison them further by placing further unreal expectations on them.

  149. Pingback: Live Below The Line : Recapped | Weight Wars

  150. Ginny Lewis says:

    Loving the turn of phrase ‘How did Mr Milligan, personally, suppress the massive cognitive dissonance involved in writing the article?’ – sums it up really! It should be said that many Westerners have been raising money with ‘living below the line’ in a more genuine way, using their budget to buy food in its entirety and not ‘cheating’ by counting a gherkin from a jar as 4p… Action Against Hunger / ACF is merely trying to highlight the huge problem of malnourishment / raise awareness of the difficulties faced by millions in this predicament globally. The money raised helps keep children alive so it’s hardly a gimmick to be dismissed as a game for rich people? In my view it is an innovative way for the charity to raise the funds it needs to help improve things. We mustn’t let one smug cheater sully this excellent work :)

  151. Tom (iow) says:

    Great piece. Milligan’s nutritional advice is even worse than this really, as the figures commonly given of calorie need i.e. 2000 or 2500 per day, are wildly misleading. These are the baseline amounts needed for a person of minimal size to survive without doing any activity.

    The actual calorie intakes per country are quite surprising:

    This obviously includes people who are very overweight in the average but it’s obvious that the only people who eat under 2000 are people who are dying of starvation.

  152. theraggedwagon says:

    Reblogged this on The Ragged Wagon and commented:
    Brilliant riposte to Milligan’s exercise.

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  154. Heidi says:

    Great piece. I also read Milligan’s article and couldn’t believe he so blatantly missed the point of the whole exercise. I found it particularly infuriating as I was embarking on the Live Below the Line challenge myself last week but I did it PROPERLY. No olive oil, no herbs, spices, no salt and pepper to flavour my rations of lentils, chickpeas, tinned tomatoes, bulgur wheat (even that was a massive extravagance that ended up getting me through lunchtime for 5 days), and red kidney beans. THAT is actually what you can buy and eat for 5 days on £1 a day. And it’s not enough, it doesn’t taste great, and you are hungry after every meal. No treats, no snacks, no knocking up a quick supper of middle-class ingredients. Perhaps Milligan ought to take the challenge himself and then try to write a convincing article about living healthily for less.

    You can read how I got on here – it was very tough but I raised £600 for charity so it was all worth it:

    Heidi, The Moving Foodie Blog

  155. Susan Young says:

    I love this article, excellent writing. One thing I noticed was no mention of storing the food nor cooking the food – both cost money. Articles like Milligan’s are only there to support the goverments stance on benefits and minimum wage.

  156. Ed#1 says:

    Bit pofaced aren’t you? Sure, he could’ve made one or two points clearer but I think most of your criticisms would’ve been solved if he had simply said that he wasn’t literally spending £1 a day, but was rather eating £1 worth of food a day.

    You fairly point out that some of his examples would be impossible, like the eggs one because they’d go off before you could finish them, but I don’t really see the problem with the courgettes. They’ll keep for a reasonable length of time so it is feasible you’d get full value from them.

    Additionally, while accusing him of being disingenuous, you fail to mention that you could be feeding more than one person, therefore the items that have to be bought in larger quantities in order to achieve the stated value could be consumed by several people – making it more realistic to achieve that value.

    It was a hypothetical question that you’ve decided to treat entirely literally so that you can lecture people about ‘well-to-do people who like to lecture the supposedly feckless poor’, as if that is what Mr Milligan’s article was doing.

  157. chris sivewright says:

    A reasonable article but it criticises the false costings of a single person buying in bulk then averaging the cost. That’s fine but the target market for this kind of article is families. Families are more likely to buy in bulk and thus the economies of scale are more applicable. So 30 eggs does not cost five times as much as 6 eggs; a 2 ltr soup not twice as much as 1 ltr etc.The BBC article would have been much better if aimed at a family. From what I hear there are plenty of Host Families in Oxford who take in foreign students and manage to keep the feeding costs down – at least that must be the assumption by the language schools who pay £13 a day for bed, breakfast and dinner!

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  159. flatpeaches says:

    When I was at Uni, living on a VERY minimal allowance which is actually below the poverty line, I basically lived on two minute noodles from the local asian store – this was all I could afford. I was chubby, shiny and sick. It is not possible to live healthily without variety and in order to have variety, you need some money. Nice article! Governments need to take more responsibility for subsidising good, affordable food!

  160. LucyBre says:

    Reblogged this on Being Weirdly Awesome and commented:
    The stupidity of some people. This is an absolute joke (and a huge waste of food may I add) to the people who are currently starving all around the world!

  161. LucyBre says:

    This interested me so much that I had to reblog it. You make a very valid point here. This is unfair to the people who are starving in the world. The extra £35 he spent could’ve gone to helping the people that have to live on £1 a day!!

  162. roskeeter says:

    Reblogged this on romelhicks.

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  164. Richie B says:

    I’d gladly starve for five days on Milligan’s salary.

  165. Pingback: Poverty in Europe – contributions on what it is like to be poor in the UK, in response to BBC article on living for less than GBP 1/day. | europaquovadis

  166. petedavies66 says:

    Just sounds like usual BBC propaganda to me, they need to stop being paid for by the taxpayer.

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  172. Billy bolux says:

    Calm down for f’s sake. Let people work this out for themselves. It’s not rocket science. I think that 99.9% of people who read this, spotted the flaws in his calculations, without you jumping on your high horse.

  173. Kalilileth says:

    It is well possible to live well on this…and on even less! porridge is the healthiest and cheapest start to the day. Free bones from butchers and free fish heads and trimmings from fishmongers make the basis of the stocks used for soup for lunches. Meat and fish trimmings after stock is strained provide protein boost for evening meal – (you can get about 1lb of meat from a salmon head and carcass at no cost – great for fish pie, fish cakes, mixed through pasta or rice). Chicken skin trimmings from butchers can be got at no cost if you know your butcher – fried off and chopped with a scissors into shreds resembling fried onion, they can be added to a fried rice dish – fried in the fat from the process – providing a roast chicken flavoured dish without cost. Protein can be boosted by use of lentils in meals – both soups and evening meals. Vegetables can be picked up at the close of markets and and knock down prices in supermarkets when they hit their sell-by dates. salads can be grown for pennies in all sorts of free containers on windowsills allowing use of a couple of leaves of lettuce at a time. by trimming green tops of scallions for use, they will carry on sprouting for quite a while. In winter milk puddings and bread puddings can be made very cheaply. It’s just a matter of working meals around what is available at the time. A second daily serving of soup before the evening meal can ensure no one leaves the table hungry. Offal is still relatively cheap too. It is a matter of exercising good portion control and ensuring that at least 2/3 of the plate is vegetables, with a little meat or other protein and a portion of good filling carbs. Rationing in WW2 produced an incredibly healthy population. There were far fewer snacks between meals, limits on sugar and a ban on waste food. It’s not so difficult. The only investment I would recommend for those who aren’t getting their heating/hotwater and cooking from a range, would be to buy a slow cooker. This takes a lot of the work out of soup making and breaking down small offcuts of meat and offal into extremely appetising meals. And on the subject of snacks, crisps and biscuits….if you dont buy them, they wont be in the press when you are hungry, and if they are not in reach, you can’t eat them, can you? Yes, it does involve a bit of discipline, but we have a lot to learn from our parents and greandparents who were not brought up to throw away valuable resources! ,,,And they were not worrying about bringing up a generation of obese kids!

  174. Kalilileth says:

    Regarding the egg issue – if you get together with friends in the same situation, you can buy such things together and split between you, keeping weekly cost affordable. You can also learn to shop for each other. Some supermarkets drop their prices on meat and veg perishables to about 10%. If one of us sees something we all use, we buy and immediately share it out. It’s called being part of a community – another lost art :)

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