Day 72: Living Frugal Life on £7 Per Week! 20 days to go!

Kat doodles about life:

Another day of my cold, where my brain is not exactly in its best form, I decided to cook some proper meal, which perhaps may work the magic. I have been craving minced beef chilli for a while, so right now it is on the stove together with rice simmering. I do not cook it very often. I used to. When I was living frugal life (we are talking July 2010 onwards) .Which I kind of still do anyway, just slightly upgraded. Perhaps it is a reminder of those sad times, when I felt so desperate and thought life cannot any better. I know it also could get worse, but every month I would live in a fear of losing the roof above my head. I was so skint, the only way to save money was to live on my cafe tips of about £7 (if there was a rugby on it would get to about £10) I would get once a week and the rest would go to pay rent, bills and overdraft.

If I had only known how quickly your life can turn around year after recession happened, days after I graduated and I found myself as self-employed artist with government help refused, I wish I would have been less naive about my job prospects. That is what happens when you are so honest filling the forms. Working since fifteen years of age, always being very good with money, this was my first time I applied for benefits and wish I have never even bothered after the way I was spoken to and treated. College has a great name, I was ready to do work the usual 12-15 hours days, but there was no work. I found myself in a world of unpaid or late paid invoices or only free work offered, which I could not take, because I had no way how to get to those places nor what to eat on the day, never mind being exploited and thinking how I am going to pay for my rent. Perhaps I should have taken on just a normal job, forget the art and give it a time. But then is it not something totally against the idea, which have been grown in our minds for all those years, that this what we have to do now and if you leave the industry, you will be forgotten?!

For the first time in my life I was not enjoying the life I was living. I had nothing to look for or no dream or goal to work to. For someone like me, who was always up to something, quite unbelievable. Months later I got so depressed, I could not even bring myself up to look for work and the debts were going sky-high. It was so embarrassing telling people what sort of situation I was in, never mind attending social events, because I felt like a moron not being able to pay for a drink or bring a present, so I just locked myself in a room and barely kept coming out. Never mind telling my mother, because it felt like an epic fail and I would not want to worry her, so I rather was not in touch at all. Smart price and value brand became my best fiends and the only thing to wear in winter were those Primark shoes for £1.


So I had to start living frugal life. My weekly shop would involve going around Asda with a calculator and basket and counting every single penny to make it worth. To start with I would make my own bread recipe. It tasted like a rye bread, but not very nice. It was a Jamie Oliver recipe, but I guess I compromised on the ingredients, so what would you expect. Still you would save more than eating half of the loaf in case just buying basic white. To save on any oil or butter or spread on toast, the 2 kg margarine would have to do. To jazz it up, I would go over with garlic or the cheapest brand jam. I know what are you thinking, jam tasted pretty horrible. I would also buy a big 2 kg bag of oats and with little bit of water and two full spoons of the cheapest yoghurt would have it for breakfast. In case there was a bit of money left the raisins or sugar would make up for the sweet taste. For lunch and dinner there would be probably three different meals I would swap around.

Number 1- potatoes. Buy a bag of cheapest potatoes and then you can turn them into mash ( by using milk you make up from dried version) or upgrade and cut them into wedges and cook them in the oven just with onions and garlic, salt, cumin and paprika powder. Here we are dinner solved. Number 2- minced beef chilli. Fry enough onions to make up the bulk, and then buying the cheapest minced, which does not even look like meat. Fry it long enough in a separate pot to get rid of the fat and add to onions, and then loose carrots. What I would do a lot is buy a big 2 kg bag of red kidney beans and chickpeas, soak them, cook them and add to the chilli. After add the frozen sweetcorn, which turns out to be cheaper than buying tins. Add cheapest plum tomatoes, tomato purree, paprika and enough garlic and salt and with cheap rice, job is good in. White rice is not ideal, but if your budget does not stretch to the brown option, which fills you up for longer, there is not much of a choice apart from basic pasta. Finally number 3- good old indian dhal. Literally just need rice, red lentils, onions and garlic, turmeric, cumin, coriander in powder. Don’t forget that into your £7 budget you also have to fit those basics like tea (80 bags for 27 pence, they do not taste as bad as you think, although some of my visitors would probably disagreed), toilet paper, tooth paste and soap (3 bars for 35 p. That’s what I call bargain). No need for shampoo like this. Obviously you could not buy everything on the list at the same time, so week by week as the tips would come in.


So that is it. I reckon I lived like this life for about a year. There were some light moments, when I got the occasional work and went a bit crazy with spending on better food or other essentials. After a year since graduating I decide to leave Wales and move back to Bristol, where I could at least live with my friends and get myself into better place. And it did work. I got other three jobs, where the hours are not great, but at least I am making the needs every month and this year particularly the design and decorating work has been coming more my way, but I am still keeping low and not jumping for joy. Becoming poor and living below the standards can happen to anyone of us and you do not even know how. Although I do have a bit more now and can afford the little luxuries sometimes, I still get reminded of that life. Like going to a club and buying a cocktail for £7, which starts that red flashing alarm in my head for stupidly spending money. But hey I do not do it every day. Back soon. Kat xx



2 thoughts on “Day 72: Living Frugal Life on £7 Per Week! 20 days to go!

  1. Paula says:

    Hello Kat! thank you for posting about your frugal year, I can relate to your decisions. I used to go out for lunch every day at work and decided it is not worth the money. A healthy snack satisfies me as much as a lunch in a restaurant and costs a fraction.

    Oats are something I like to come back to from time to time (it usually takes a (stomach) flu every other year to bring the oats back on my radar. I love them for breakfast, cooked with water, a pinch of salt, cinnamon and vanilla. I add a banana or other fruits or I eat the plain porridge. It costs a fraction of a bread roll and is way more satisfying. I also love rice. With potatoes it is a bit difficult because they turn green so fast or they start to grow and then I have to throw them away which happens way too often.

    It must have been a very strenuous year for your. This is the first posting I have read on your blog. I am off to discover your blog and the reasons that lead to the frugal year. 🙂

    Paula from Vienna, Austria

    PS: I found you via Bea’s Website “Zero Waste Home”

    • katdesigner says:

      Hello Paula, Thank You so much for leaving great comment! I was definitely rather forced to think how to “recycle, remake” everything I had. As a family we never had too much spare money, my parents would always have to be inventive and thankfully it got passed on to me.

      Regarding the oats, I can’t drink milk or hot milk on its own, so porridge is out of question for me, so I used it always as part of the yoghurt mix. I know people do not use potatoes, when they are green or grow, however my family did use the ones, which grew, just took the stems off, they may not taste nice, but are still fine. I do not think I ever suffered by that. Mind you I have not eaten them for so long as living on my own and with supermarkets you just buy what you need. Back home is the habit of buying big agriculture bags or growing them and keeping that batch all the way through the winter until they last.

      I really appreciate you having a look around the blog. I want to give a strength to others, who feel the same way about trying to break into their career and experiencing the same problems. ‘Just keep going’ is one thing I learnt. It will certainly happen.

      All the best, meine Oesterreichische Nachbarin,Grusse aus Bristol xx

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