Dietitians Week 2015 – Living on a £1 per day food budget


For Dietitians Week 2015 I have agreed to live on a £1 per day food budget. Why? Actually it is not just me, volunteers from the team are eating and drinking on just £1 per day as part of a global movement to help end extreme poverty. £1 is the UK equivalent of the extreme poverty line. Eating and drinking on so little gives a glimpse into the challenges faced by the 1.2 billion people who have no choice but to live below the line everyday for everything — that’s food, medical care, transport, education, everything.
Find out more, and take the challenge at
To donate visit:

The rules are very simple.

A £5 budget must not be exceeded for food and drink over a 5 day period.

Free food can be consumed (within reason!), eg if attending a free function where food is laid on, or going through bins, but just getting others to pay for your food or make you cups of tea all day is defeating the object.  I’m invited to the BDA Dietitians Week 2015 reception at the House of Lords on 9th June, but I think it may not be the best message to give out that I’m living below the poverty line by eating cucumber sandwiches and drinking Pino Grigio under the shadow of Big Ben, so I’m staying at home. Also, inviting drug company reps in every day to provide lunch is cheating, so we haven’t done that….yet.

The blog of my 5 days on £1 per day will appear here….

Saturday 6th June

well what fun I’ve had on various supermarket websites trying to put together a shopping basket that enables me to eat 3 meals, with some semblance of balance, that will not leave me starving, or utterly bored. My impression at this stage is that it will be almost impossible to tick all of those boxes within a £5 budget.  It has been pretty challenging to even find ways of eating 3 meals, never mind making it balanced. With cash this tight I am realising that I have to make the most of every mouthful. Some vegetables may be affordable but at the expense of something else. Will it be worse to hear my tummy rumbling than insult my digestive system for a few days with value pasta and baked beans on toast?

I’ve looked at eggs on toast for breakfast,  but have the dilemma of free range or not. I get 10 eggs for 80p in Aldi, so can have 2 eggs on toast every day, but can’t imagine they are free range.  85p for 6 free range in Asda but that leaves  me short 2 days.

Also to think about is how do I flavour things? A pack of herbs means the budget takes a hit…without them the food will be bland.  Even black pepper must be budgeted.

Aldi and lidl do tennis balls of mozzarella very cheap, this may be a good option, but……no tea! Tea appears unaffordable as I need milk too and that’s a third of my budget gone. Is it too late to back out?

Saturday 10pm

well my shopping list is just about complete.  It looks like it will be eggs on toast and a mixture of some kind of curry tbc,  pasta with soft cheese and baked beans. I just can’t wait.Q

Sunday 7th June

Well Dietitians Week 2015 starts tomorrow and my £5 budget is completely blown:

Orange juice 1 litre 49p

Passata 500g x 2 70p

Red kidney beans 1 tin 23p

Mushy peas 300g tin 16p

Greek style yoghurt 500g 69p

Bananas x 7 69p

Soft cheese with herbs 250g 49p

Long grain rice 1kg 40p

Penne pasta 500g 29p

White baguette  (yellow stickered) 10p

Cheese and onion pasty  (yellow stickered) 18p

2 medium onions 18p

3 carrots 30p

This totals £4.90

I have deliberately left a tiny amount in the budget because I am completely unable to afford cooking oil or spices, so my 10p float is to cover 2 x tbsp vegetable oil and 1 x tbsp chili powder. If anyone wants to make an issue of this, I have only 2 words to say and the second one is Clarkson.


Now you may notice a change of heart from last night. I couldn’t bring myself to buy battery eggs so have opted for Greek yoghurt and banana  instead. Seeds were too expensive so my basket had to be de seeded.

Not being able to bulk buy is a huge issue,  if I had say a £20 budget for 4 it would have been easier to some extent. Anyway, as of tomorrow I have:

No tea

No cake

No crumpets

No biscuits

Anyone that knows me will probably avoid me all week. I’m reminded of Malcolm McLaren’s quote in Sid and Nancy where he said something similar to “Is it worth it?….yes it is.” I hope this is right but at this moment in time I feel there is no future, no future, no future for me…At least I have factored in pasty and Mushy peas Friday,  my golden nugget! I will need some tartrazine by then.

Sunday 7th 5.20pm

It isn’t Dietitians Week yet…


I will see if one of our amazing Dietetic Assistants can Diet Plan my food cupboard,  I think that (a) there should be a Dietetic Assistants Week and (b) my intake may not meet my energy expenditure or protein needs (and a few other things)…

Sunday 7th 6.30pm

Living off £1 a day can bring out the worst in people. Concentrate please, or else.


Sunday 7th June 9pm

When the only vegetables your budget could accommodate are onions and carrots,  the vegetable chili is basically carrot chili. It’s kind if like spirulised chili only without the twirly bits.


You may have noticed there is no meat on the shopping list. I couldn’t find any that qcame in under budget. Mind you,  I do have cats….

Monday 8th June 10.20am


OK, here we go, breakfast this morning (7.30am) was:

100g Greek Yoghurt

1 banana

200ml orange juice

Cost is 33.5p

20150608_073039 20150608_073901 20150608_073916

It is now less than 3 hours later any my stomach is rumbling, just before I go on a home visit…

Just to remind you why I’m doing this.  Week beginning 8th June 2015 is Dietitians Week, here is a copy of our press release:

Dietitians Week 2015, organised by the British Dietetic Association (BDA), is running over the week commencing 8th June 2015 and the South Devon Dietitians will be taking part in activities during the week and have created a display in the Bayview Restaurant at Torbay Hospital. Dietitians Week 2015 aims to highlight the work and value of the dietetic profession and to emphasise that registered Dietitians are the absolute gold standard when it comes to food and nutrition expertise.

Events include:

Volunteers from the team are eating and drinking on just £1 per day as part of a global movement to help end extreme poverty. £1 is the UK equivalent of the extreme poverty line. Eating and drinking on so little gives a glimpse into the challenges faced by the 1.2 billion people who have no choice but to live below the line everyday for everything — that’s food, medical care, transport, education, everything.

Find out more, and take the challenge at

To donate visit:

What do Dietitians eat? Members of the team have recorded and analysed their own diets and these will be on our display in the Bayview Restaurant. If you have an impression of what we eat, come and have a look at our board and see if it matches what you were expecting, you might be surprised!

Dietitians Week Torbay Hospital

Also on our display board you will find information on:

  • Fad Diets
  • ‘Celebrity’ Diets to avoid like the plague!
  • The difference between a Dietitian, Nutritionist and Nutritional Therapist
  • Nutrition myths debunked
  • The truth about so called ‘Superfoods’
  • A nutrition quiz – test your knowledge

There are lots of information sheets to take away, so why not go along to the Bayview Restaurant and have a look!

BDA members are leading well in excess of 200 individual events around the UK from the country of Devon to the Isles of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides (in addition to events happening around the globe)!

The BDA, founded in 1936, is the professional association for registered dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 8,000 members. The BDA is also an active trade union.

Speaking about Dietitians Week, BDA Chairman-elect, Dr. Fiona McCullough, said: “Following on from the tremendous success of last year’s Dietitians Week, I am extremely thrilled and delighted that we are doing it all over again in 2015. Once again, this will be an exciting and unique way in which to highlight the value and impact of the dietetic profession all around the UK. “You only have to look online, switch on the television or pick up a newspaper to see just how many people out there are claiming to be food and nutrition experts. The nutrition ‘noise’ that surrounds us is so loud, with mixed food and nutrition messaging, ranging from the indifferent, to ridiculous, to the downright dangerous. Dietitians Week is the perfect opportunity for us to shout loud and proud about our work, and the work of the wider profession, and lay claim to the accolade of being the absolute “Gold Standard” when it comes to food and nutrition professionals.”


Monday 12.50pm

Just managed to get to lunchtime without a hunger diva moment. As I’m out and about I’m on:

Baguette (from the yellowsticker zone, removed from the freezer this morning) 10p

40g soft cheese with garlic and herbs. 10p

Tap water

Cost of lunch 20p.


I appear to have miscalculated my baguette to cheese ratio


But on a more positive note. One of the amazing things about doing domiciliary visits in Devon is you often get to eat your lunch surrounded by beautiful countryside. This pheasant popped by to say happy Dietitians Week 2015, but was blissfully unaware that if it wanders beyond the gate I will take the handbrake off and have pheasant stew for tea!


Monday 7.20pm

A very busy day helped keep hunger under control,  no snacks,  and only water to drink. I had to turn down tea at a case conference which is a first.

Evening meal consists of my batch cooked pasta sauce with soft cheese and penne:

1/4 of an onion 2p

125ml Passata 9p

125g Penne pasta 7p

40g soft cheese with garlic and herbs 10p

total cost 28p ( the rest is in the freezer).


It was actually quite nice, maybe needed a pinch of sugar to bring out the flavour.  I don’t have any of that, not because it is addictive (it isn’t people, get a grip) but because the budget didn’t run to it. Of course no scope for a sprinkling of parmesan either.  It’s student grub time!

Today’s expenditure has been 81.5p, but I’m rounding it up to 82p because I just don’t care.

Monday 8th June 10pm

Rice is cooked and a portion of chili con carrot is out of the freezer. I’ve never been this organised in my life!


Coping without tea and cake has been easier than I expected, but it is only day one…

Tuesday 9th June 7.15am

The end of my banana is black! Life can be so cruel…


1pm very foggy brain all morning….chili con carrot and rice didn’t come soon enough (cost 30p). Headaches as well…..but my lunch was actually pretty nice, the spices made a huge difference.  I have to say that most of today I have not been myself. If anyone else asks me if I want a cup of tea….

Tuesday 9th June 9pm

Evening meal was the same as yesterday so the cost is the same.  I remember that I do have 2 bananas spare as snacks, so I’m saving them until tomorrow when I’m giving a talk to carers and patients on dementia and eating and I cannot do it if I feel like I did today.

Tuesday 9th June 10.20pm

I’ve cracked and eaten one of my 2 spare Bananas.  I’m on a slippery slope…

Wednesday 10th June 7.30am


Here we go again….[takes deep breath….] Actually I’m slightly regretting not going more down the value bread, crumpets and peanut butter route, just to fill up. I felt obligated to try and eat 3 meals a day just to see if it could be done, but the reality is that snacking on cheap bulk would have met my energy needs at least even if I ended up protein deficient, which I am anyway.

Wednesday 10th June 10.00am

Am I hungry? Hell yeah!

hank marvin__17728

I’m Hank Marvin! (Does anyone know how Hank expresses hunger?)

Wednesday 10th June 8.25pm

Well my lunch was eaten early today,  not just due to hunger,  but also as I had to go and give a talk on dementia and eating for the Alzheimers Society so had to leave early.  Lunch was my penne pasta meal just as I had on Monday and Tuesday evening,  this time I shoved as much pasta as I could fit into my tuppaware mug, which with hindsight was an error as it was challenging to stir,  but to be honest,  I would probably have eaten toilet paper if someone had put cheese on it.

Then off to my talk…


A big thank you to the Alzheimer’s Society Memory Cafe in Brixham for making me feel so welcome and letting me talk to you about eating well with dementia.


This evenings delight was yet more chili con carrot. If I’m being brutally honest,  chili con carrot was nice once,  but twice? I think the biggest problem with it is….the carrots. Carrots as a main ingredient in a chili is, I’m afraid,  just wrong. I’ve decided to cook as much rice as I can possibly eat, the 1kg bag of rice is the only thing on the list that will likely not all be eaten, and I need everything I can get.


Chili con carrot? Yer ‘avin a giraffe me old china!

Thursday 11th June 7.30am

It’s day 4, well over half way now, but even so I really don’t need this flipping monkey business!


Thursday 11th June 9.50pm

Well what else is there to say about my food today? Chili con carrot (again) for lunch and pasta in soft cheese sauce for my din dins (again).


It isn’t very exciting folks, but at least tomorrow is Friday…

The final chili con carrot is out of the freezer!


Time for some bunting!


Friday 12th June 7.25am


Dear Aldi,

I, the undersigned, heretofore and notwithstanding, would like to complain that your 500g pot of Greek style yoghurt only yields 467g. I have meticulously measured out 100g per day for 4 days only to discover that today I can only exhume 67g, even after scraping the dried out bits around the lid with a teaspoon. I would therefore like to politely request that you relabel it “500g (if you cut the pot in half and lick it)”.

Yours with the deepest respect etc….

Now then. Where are my scissors? “I’m a trained Dietitian reduced to the status of a bum…”


Some you lose, some you win! #backofthenet

Friday 12th June 1.30pm

My final chili con carrot….


Do you recognise my plate…….?

It’s our special friend! Normally I eat cakes or crumpets off this.


Finally, chili con carrot is no more. It is an ex chili con carrot. It has ceased to be. And there was much rejoicing.


On my return to my desk I discover a colleague taunting me….this is going to be a long afternoon.


Friday 12th June 7pm

I’ve waited 5 days for a different meal, and I went and burnt my cheese and onion pasty! Man, that’s gotta hurt!


Your half moon of cheese and onion parcel with a dome of rice and a sneeze of mushy peas sir! Enjoy your meal…

They say the first taste is with the eyes. So I ate this with my woolly hat pulled over my face. The 18p yellow stickered value pasty didn’t do well cooked from the freezer, and had that strange cheese taste that you get with theme park quiche. I had no choice but to have rice AGAIN as this was all I had left. It was that or nothing.  I’ve eaten it, but right now, nothing may have been a better option.

This is my fully deserved punishment for being grumpy for 5 days:


Well that is my last food of the 5 days on £1 a day,  unless I decide to cook some of the 240g of remaining rice. There is really very little chance of that. I still have to get through until midnight, but actually I am so not enjoying eating now that this will not be a struggle. Normally by the way I have a very good appetite, I eat almost anything,  except marzipan, but after 5 days I don’t feel hungry despite a huge calorie defect.

Next it is time for the stats…my diet has been through Diet Plan so I have a full nutritional breakdown.  I will upload it and write up some thoughts and reflection on this experience over the weekend.

Saturday 13th June 8.45am

Aaaahhhhh! Tea!


Saturday 13th June 9.10am

Scrambled eggs, toast and a squirt of ketchup! I’ve earned this!


Saturday 13th June 9.15am

All gone….


Saturday 13th June 1.30pm



On this dietary regimen I have lost 3.4kg (7 1/2lb) in 5 days which may explain why I was so grumpy and couldn’t concentrate.  Thoughts and dietary analysis to follow….

Saturday 13th June 3.00pm

Here is the analysis from Diet Plan calculated on 9th June, so I’ve actually known since Tuesday that I was living effectively on a low calorie diet of just over 1000kcal a day (my estimated energy expenditure is 2700kcal/day).  This would go some way to explaining the weight loss, although I know this will not be genuine losses, my reserves will soon replenish themselves I’m sure! There is also the huge protein deficit to worry about.  This was based on me eating everything, except for all of the rice.  I allowed for 500g of the 1kg bag being eaten.  When I saw the analysis I made sure I ate more rice, so had 240g left instead of 500g, even so this only meet approximately half of my daily requirements of calories at most.  More thoughts later when I have time to write them up….


Saturday 13th June 4.30pm

Aaaah that’s better…..


Monday 15th June 9.20pm 

One of the things that stood out for me about this experience was that it only took a couple of days for me to partly lose my appetite.  Although I was hungry,  I also didn’t really want to eat anywhere near as much as if I was eating on my normal budget. Normally I wouldn’t be able to help craving snacks, but I really didn’t struggle keeping off them. They were there if I wanted to crack and give up, but I kept on with it with less difficulty that I expected. Knowing that what food awaited me was dull will have had something to do with it, but I was surprised just how functional my food became. I love my food,  so this was not a nice feeling. It made me wonder how difficult it must be for people who have to live like this every day.  I cannot imagine not looking forward to my grub, yet if I had to live only off cheap staple food, life would lose something so important.

I can see more now why some people with poor appetites really struggle with motivation.  The effort it must take, for example, for a bedbound patient with no appetite who needs assisted feeding to manage even a small meal must be huge where motivation may not be there because they may feel deep inside that things for them may not ever get any better.  Imagine having to put that huge effort in several times a day, every day, when all food may taste of cardboard. It made me wonder how a patient must feel who cannot communicate and only eats tiny amounts when I turn up and start suggesting “small frequent meals,  snacks,  favourite foods regularly, nourishing drinks, food fortification…” all under my perception that it is in their best interests.  I wonder if there are any of my patients who if they could, would screw up my care plan and stick it up my nose because there is no way they are able to eat any more and actually they don’t want to and who do I think I am turning up and sticking my oar in?

In the UK I actually think it is nearly impossible to live on £1 a day if all food had to be paid for. Hence the rise of food banks. A nice big allotment would help, but then it is still what you do with it that counts. Would I change my shopping list if I turned back the clock?  As Johnny Cash said, “if I could start again, a million miles away…I would go down the calories and protein route, I would find a way…” I can visualise a shopping basket of bread, crumpets, peanut butter and chocolate spread, but imagine how dull that would be for 5 days, and of course balanced diet goes out the window.  I cannot imagine ever having carrot chili again, but at least I would rather say that than say how I have gone off peanut butter and crumpets, those words are unthinkable.

Whatever route anyone chooses, it is almost impossible to tick every box. Unless of course,  you know different…

Tuesday 16th June 9.35pm

Here are some thoughts, Diet Plan, shopping lists etc from colleagues who took part:

Colleague 1

Have been living below the line since monday, friday now. Caffiene withdrawal headache gradually subsiding! I found the challenge really useful as a Dietitian I think it will help me appreciate what it is we ask of patients every day when we prescribe a regime – no matter how far we negotiate change it is still a massive change for a patient to have their food choices restricted – even if it is for essential management of their clinical condition. This week gave us a glimpse of what it means to have little choice in what and when you eat, and to realise that if there is no money there is only hunger. It did not give us a glimpse into the misery of cold, debt, and desperation that millions of the world’s hungry – whether in our local area or internationally – experience every day of their lives.

My Shopping List

My Food Diary



Colleague 2

Living Below The Line – Thoughts and Reflection

Excel shopping list



As well as being an amazing experience for us all, our team has raised £120 to date, so a very big thanks from all of us to those who donated.

Bring on Dietitians Week 2016! Several of us, including me, are already talking about doing this again next year, why not join us?

The material posted on this blog or anywhere on my site is entirely my own opinion and does not neccessarily represent the opinion of my employer or professional body, just so you know!

Dietitians Week 2015 – Living on a £1 per day food budget