Can you feed your family healthily for £50 a week? That’s the question Sainsbury’s is posing in an expensive new advertising campaign which is plastered all over the papers today.
Obviously they wouldn’t be spending this kind of money if they didn’t think it would be profitable for them but could you stick to the Sainsbury’s meal plan which you can find on their website here?
I was one of three food writers The Guardian asked to contribute to the debate - in the ‘yes you can’ camp. As the comments below the posts from readers show it is doable though I have reservations as to how many families who are not already living on that kind of budget could manage. As I said in my post it’s not only a question of what you buy but whether you can persuade your family to eat it - and to eat round the table at the same time. And how used you are to cooking meals from scratch.
Now that I’ve seen the meal suggestions in detail I have to say it looks more appealing than I thought - a good deal better than the details one reader posted by mistake from a similar Sainsbury’s offer that was made several years ago which included bought meat pies and canned beef and vegetable soup.
Whoever has devised the plan has managed to cram a surprising amount of fruit and veg into the weekly budget though I haven’t scanned it in enough detail to see how they’ve worked out the costings. If they’ve costed carrots for example pro rata they must be assuming that people would by them loose which I’m not sure the majority would do. It’s managing to use up the food you buy that really saves you money.
There are also some imaginative suggestions. Whizzing up bananas with your breakfast milk to make a banana flavoured milk to pour over your cereal is a great idea as is sprinkling cheese on bread crusts and grilling them to make cheesy croutons for a tomato soup.
There are some surprisingly unfrugal suggestions though like putting on the oven just to roast some tomatoes for breakfast, using ready-made tomato and stir fry sauces rather than making your own with a can of tomatoes or using soy sauce and failing to use the carcass from Sunday’s chicken in some way to make a meal for Monday or Tuesday.
I’m not sure it stands up from a health point of view either. Recommending toast and jam as a suitable breakfast for hungry teenagers three days a week doesn’t seem particularly good advice. In fact I’m not sure how a strapping teenage boy would survive on these relatively meagre rations. And surely it would be better to serve more veggie options than dish up cheap frozen sausages twice a week?
There are also many ingredients that you could buy cheaper than the price Sainsbury’s is charging for them. Most market stalls and a fair few shops would charge less than 80p for a cucumber, for example.
Obviously the week’s plan will come in on budget if you stick to it - but that’s a big if. My guess is that Sainsbury’s is hoping that you won’t.
What do you think of Sainsbury’s menu plan? Do you reckon it’s possible to feed a family of four for £50 a week and what would be your best tips for economising?