My Money is a new series looking at how people spend their money – and the sometimes tough decisions they make. Here, Eliza Hunt from Bristol, records her spending over a week, and shares tips for saving including lots of cheap and healthy recipe suggestions.
We’re looking for more people to share what they spend their money on. If you’re interested, please email or get in touch via our My Money Facebook group and we’ll aim to contact you.
Eliza is 24 and is a chemistry PhD student at the University of Bristol, and for this she gets paid a tax-free stipend of £15,000 a year. She also does a few hours a week of teaching during term time, and the pay for this varies month to month but averages about £2,000 over the year which she tries to put in a savings account.
She pays £580 a month in rent and bills, and so is left with around £600 to pay for food, travel, clothes and anything else. Welcome to the diary of what she spent [and ate] in a week. Over to Eliza.
Eliza’s week: Making homemade sloe gin for Christmas presents and a very expensive pumpkin
Today I woke up at 7.30 to get ready for work and ate a breakfast of porridge made with hazelnut milk, and topped with banana, raspberries and a sprinkling of chia seeds (classic millennial). Porridge with banana and whatever dairy-free milk is on offer is a staple breakfast for me and costs about 40p per serving (not including the raspberries or chia seeds). While I made breakfast my boyfriend, Ben, made us both a cheese and tomato sandwich for us to take to work, along with an apple and satsuma for lunch (this lunch costs about £1). A packed lunch is a great way to save money, although I have zero self-control and usually eat my sandwich at about 10.30.
I went to Wilko’s at lunch to buy Kilner jars to make sloe gin in (Ben picked lots of sloes at the weekend), and I also bought shower gel. This came to £12.50, and I’m hoping the sloe gin will be a good Christmas gift for family and friends.
Someone at work brought in stroopwafels for everyone from her weekend in Amsterdam. I spent the afternoon snacking on these, so needed a healthy meal for dinner. I left work at 5 and walked to the Sainsbury’s near my house to do an attempt at a weekly shop. Due to lack of fridge space and no car I tend to do a few trips to the shops every week.
Today I spent £33.22 which should keep me going for a few days, £16 of this was on a litre of gin for the sloe gin (which was reduced from £20). I got home and made a red lentil dal and a sweet potato and spinach curry for dinner (this is a really cheap meal, about £1 per portion), then spent the evening watching TV, making sloe gin and helping my friend choose paint colours for the flat she’s just bought.
Today I also bought tickets for a Halloween live theatre event on the SS Great Britain called Spooky Ship, which I’m really excited for. This cost £10 for a student ticket.
Total spend: £55.72
Breakfast today was toast with butter and marmite as I had some ends of bread that needed to be used up, not the tastiest but I’m trying to reduce my food waste. I packed some of the leftover curry from last night and satsumas and an apple for lunch. I managed to wait until 12 to eat this, mid-morning curry didn’t really appeal to me!
We have a bake-off sweepstake at work, everyone who wanted to take part was assigned a contestant and when your contestant gets kicked out, you bake for the group. Today, someone had baked an apple cake for us, and I had a couple of slices of this to get me through the afternoon. Eating healthily is not easy when you work in my office.
For dinner I had leftover curry (again!), and I made some quick flatbreads to have with it. These are very easy to make from natural yoghurt, plain flour and baking powder. It is quite normal for me to eat the same meal a few times a week; I find it cheaper and easier to cook meals in bulk, but there is no freezer in my flat to store the extra portions so I have to eat them within a few days.
Total spend: £0
This morning I went on a run. I don’t pay for a gym membership, so my exercise involves running, and doing HIIT workouts and yoga at home following videos on YouTube. My favourite YouTube channels for this are Lucy Wyndham-Read (for quick workouts) and Yoga With Adriene. I enjoy all this way more than going to the gym and it’s all free!
For breakfast I had banana porridge with oat milk. At work I was given a cheque for £50 from the university for a poster prize I won a couple of months ago, and I paid this into my account through an online banking app. I had a meeting at lunchtime which provided sandwiches, so no need to take a packed lunch. For dinner I went to Ben’s house and he cooked a Cuban ropa vieja, and flan for dessert. In their house they cook for each other every Wednesday and I usually tag along for the ones when he is cooking. He asked me to buy some limes on my way to his, which cost 70p, but I didn’t pay anything else towards the meal.
I’m moving to a new house in a few weeks and have been trying to find a good broadband deal for the new place. I have found if you fill in your details on the internet providers’ websites but don’t take the form all the way through to purchase, you often get emailed with even better offers.
Total spend: 70p
Money won from a poster competition: £50
Today breakfast was the usual porridge, and for lunch I packed the last portion of Monday’s curry, glad to finally finish that! I was teaching undergraduates all afternoon and was feeling quite hungry when I got back to my office at 5 to do some marking. My colleague had an open bag of coriander and lime Poppadom Sensations, which are my absolute favourite crisps. He offered me a few and before I knew it, I’d eaten pretty much the whole pack. I’ll have to buy him a new bag of them next week! Lack of self-control with crisps runs in my family on my dad’s side.
After finishing work, I went home via the Co-op and bought a few things that I needed for dinner, and ingredients to make chorizo and cheese scones to take into work on Friday. I spent £13.60. For dinner I made a salad with quinoa, tomatoes, cucumber, feta, mint and parsley. I added a squeeze of lemon juice and lots of black pepper and served this with some hummus (this cost £1.50 per serving).
After eating, I baked the scones, which turned out pretty well and tasted great with butter (obviously I had to test one out before taking them into work). The recipe for these was from BBC good food.
Total spend: £13.60
Usual porridge for breakfast again. I took my scones into work for our group potluck, and at 12.30 everyone in our research group crammed into our office armed with lots of different types of food, including a delicious curry, guacamole, falafel, and a Spanish lentil dish (plus many more things). There was also a good array of sweet items, a highlight was the raspberry and lemon Battenberg.
A potluck is a great cheap way of trying food from different cultures as the only cost is what you spend on ingredients for the food you bring along.
I avoided the pub after work, I felt run down from having a cold this week and thought alcohol wouldn’t help (I’m definitely getting old).
Although I saved money on not going to the pub, I did some online shopping when I got home and spent £24.29 on prints for the new flat from Desenio. I had been eyeing some of them up for a while and there was a deal with 30% off, so I saved £10.41 and got free delivery. For dinner I cooked pasta alla Norma following a Rick Stein recipe recommended by my friend, it had lots of feta in which is always delicious (this cost £1.30 per serving).
Total spend: £24.29
Today I got up around 9.30 (lie-in ruined by Ben waking up to watch rugby) and tidied my flat, then went on a run. Bristol has lots of good running spots, my favourite is the Downs which was looking very pretty and autumnal.
When I got home, I did a YouTube post run stretching/yoga video, I’m training for a half-marathon and don’t want any injuries and yoga seems to really help.
For lunch I had a mixture of leftovers: Thursday’s quinoa salad and hummus, and some aubergine left from last night’s pasta – minimising that food waste.
After lunch, Ben and I headed to a pumpkin patch to buy some pumpkins. We walked to the train station and got on a train to Keynsham (near to the pumpkin patch) which only took about 10 minutes and cost £3.70 for a return with a 16-25 railcard. Then it was a 30-minute walk to the pumpkins.
I paid £4 for us both to enter the field (which was taken off the cost of pumpkins at the end). We chose two smaller pumpkins and a bigger one, which I strongly regretted after carrying it all the way home. The small pumpkins were essentially ‘free’ as they were covered by our entry fee, and the bigger one cost £5.50 (Ben paid for this). They would have been much cheaper in a supermarket, but we enjoyed the experience.
On the way home we went to Sainsbury’s to buy food for dinner and some stuff I’d ran out of, I spent £11.74. I made leek and potato soup for dinner using a recipe from the Guardian which involved baking the potatoes first and adding the skins to the soup too, which worked really well and it tasted great with some nice crusty bread (the soup is about 40p per serving not including the bread).
Total spend: £19.44
I woke up quite early again (thanks to the rugby), with a craving for pastries. On Sundays the only shop nearby that opens early is an M&S simply food, so I headed there to browse their selection of pastries, which didn’t disappoint. I bought a couple of apricot twists and a chocolate and hazelnut croissant to share with Ben, and some orange juice. This all cost £4.50.
I spent the day looking all over Bristol for carpets, furniture and sofas with my friend for her new flat.
It was a very productive shopping trip; a spending diary of her week would look very different to mine! I didn’t buy anything, I was just there for a second opinion, but she bought a lot of furniture from second hand/antique shops which looked very good quality and much more affordable than buying new. This is all good practice for one day (probably very far in the future) when I buy a house.
For dinner I cooked homemade pasta with Ben. We made a sausage and butternut squash pasta from the Jamie Cooks Italy book, which was an easy recipe and just what I needed after a long day of browsing furniture. The pasta was around £2.20 per portion.
Total spend: £4.50
How does Eliza feel about her week?
This was quite an average week for me with most of my money spent at supermarkets.
Most of the meals I cooked were quite cheap, but I spent more as I ran out of some cooking things that I don’t have to buy very often – one of these was extra virgin olive oil (nightmare, reminds me of the Catherine Tate posh mum sketch), why is it so pricey?!
I didn’t go out for any meals or drinks or buy anything particularly expensive, maybe I should treat myself next week.