My name is Rob Brown. I am a mathematics teacher in West Cumbria. ‘The budget dieter’ is an experiment with spending only £10 on my grocery shopping each week for a year. I am no professional cook but I am a keen amateur. My mother taught me basic British staples such as lasagne, thai green curry and chilli con carne. Unfortunately, I have become lazy and resorted to more and more convenience foods and takeaways. This has caused me to become overweight and tired constantly.
I want to make one thing abundantly clear. I am not actually in poverty. The salary of a teacher is not a large one, but my rent and bills are low and I live a modest but comfortable existence. Please don’t take pity on the meagre offerings of my shopping basket, I am doing this purely by choice.
Neither do I seek to undermine those in genuine food poverty in the UK. Just because it may be possible to live on £10 a week (and I am highly sceptical that it is) does not imply we should subject people to this existence. It is much easier for me to play at poverty than to actually live with it. I have savings, a support network, a car to drive to the cheapest shops and a full-time job to keep me busy. Many people live in fear of a washing machine breaking, for example, or suffer under the threat of punitive benefit sanctions. I am fortunate that I do not live with these fears. The challenge I face is no more than the purchasing and cooking of groceries for £10 per week.
This project was inspired by Jack Monroe @bootstrapcook, she has long been one of my most admired characters. We were friends in Southend at a time when she was living this for real. I remember Jack struggling for money, moving house constantly, selling her possessions and still being able to cook five of us a curry with plenty of leftovers. Anybody who still hasn’t bought her books should. I hope she sees this project not as a copycat or rival but as a supportive and complementary voice. I lack her expertise in cooking and writing. But I hope to make up for this with excruciatingly boring details of receipts and nutritional values.