Princess and the ‘Value’ Peas

November 24, 2011

Years ago, when I was at School I had a home economics homework to feed a family of four, for a week on £20.  Although giving away my age – I am proud to say, that whilst I didn’t have a clue my Mother was able to do it, not only that, but she was the only parent who did manage it and I shared my homework with lots of friends.  A bizarre homework given that we were never taught to roast lamb bones and make stock, structure a balanced menu or calculate the cost of things we made.

There is definitely an art to shopping and cooking on a budget, and in these days of ready meals and fast food it is becoming a dying craft.  If Home Economics or Food Technology is no-longer a compulsory element of the school curriculum – how will the next generation learn?

Like many I often wonder how my ‘$5 dollar shake princess’ would survive in the ‘real’ world:  I’ve been that parent in the supermarket saying, “Do you think money grows on trees?”

After recently becoming a volunteer at FareShare South West, and one final flip comment of “Oh, lets just go to Wagamma’s for lunch. . . .” I challenged my 13-year-old daughter to feed our family of four, a three-course dinner for £5.00.  Undaunted – and thinking this would be very easy, she accepted.

I allowed her a fully stocked kitchen cupboard (salt, pepper, oil, spices etc), and did not charge her for electricity etc, but everything else had to come out of the £5.00.

She decided upon the following menu:


Melon with Parma Ham
Pasta al tonno


Basket and £5 note in hand, and armed with her mobile phone for quick calculations she braved Morrison’s in Newquay on a Saturday morning on her own.  (I chose Morrison’s because Sainsbury’s have recently produced a brochure to enable you to feed a family of 4 on £50 a week – didn’t want to make it that easy!).

The entire process took her around an hour, this is what she bought:

1 Onion 0.15
1 Pack Morrisons Organic whole grain Pasta twists 0.82
1 Tin Morrisons Plum Tomatoes 0.45
2 Tins Dolphin Friendly Tuna Chunks 1.76
1 Morrisons Value Melon 1.00
1 Pack 5 Morrisons doughnuts 0.55
1 Pack ocean mini sweets 0.26


She thoroughly enjoyed the challenge, and her menu revised somewhat from what she assumed she could buy and what she could indeed buy for £5.00.  The most nerve wracking moment came when the onion was weighed at the checkout – as they were not individually priced, however she did learn that there is usually a set of scales in the fruit and veg section so that you can calculate reasonably safely how much your produce will cost.

However, the comment of the day has to have been “OMG I can’t believe ice-cream is SO expensive”.

She knew that Parma Ham was not cheap, but was hoping that Morrison’s might have a ‘value’ version . . . . . . they do not!

There were a couple of things she was not prepared to compromise on – organic whole wheat pasta, and dolphin friendly tuna so in order to stay true to her values she had to compromise in another area.

I did not help her at all – you’ll have to take my word for that, but she can cook and she does know how to put a meal together, so she had that in her favour.

Her final menu was:
Pasta al tonno (aka tuna pasta)
Jam Doughnuts with side accompaniment of Natural Sweet Company Jellies. (She is only 13!)

She shopped, cooked and cleared up, the dinner was tasty and filling – if a little heavy on the carb front and she came away with a greater appreciation for what food costs and how hard it can be to eat what you want on a budget.  She’s a great fan of FareShare and the work we do, and for her next challenge wants to do Christmas dinner for £10! Watch this space.


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