Beauty Standards

We preen, primp and tone our bodies to conform to modern beauty standards which change as every epoch puts worth in something different. We go into the supermarkets and we are greeted with the same. Preened, primped, toned fruit and vegetables that line aisles in glorious, idealist beauty. There are strict rules which these inanimate objects must live up to, even though they eventually get chopped, cooked or left to rot in the fruit bowl or salad draw of the fridge.

Now how many times have you walked past a local store with with shelves of ‘sub par’ veg, courgettes which have started to shrink, parsley which is yellow and wilting and then thought ‘disgusting’? Have you every found a mouldy beetroot in Waitrose and taken it to customer services and given it to them with disdain that they could be so careless to let it evade them?

Don’t worry, I suffer with this too. Yet I can’t stand food waste. There’s a campaign at the moment which is looking to force supermarkets to hand over their waste which is deemed edible. I wholeheartedly stand behind this!

https://www.change.org/p/uk-supermarkets-donate-all-unsold-and-edible-food-to-charity-to-feed-our-homeless please take a moment to sign it.

Sometimes the unrealistic standards work in my favour as I claim a bag of peppers for 29p because they go out of date on the day of purchase. But I think we need to change our perceptions of what’s ‘bad’ or ‘off’ and try and salvage what we can.

In response I’ve created a piece called ‘Beauty Standards’ out of the medium of marzipan. Don’t judge the pieces by their appearance. They taste better than they look.

D

Consumer

What a difference a couple of weeks make. I’m sat in a gorgeous Lebanese cafe in London called Comptoir. I’ve polished off the delicious Halloumi man’oucha which just oozed tasty, thigh fattening goodness and I’m waiting for my tiny rolls of baklawa heaven and a strong cup of coffee. A far cry from the sustenance I was party to in my previous experiment.

I’m currently on tour with NFK (no fixed kitchen) and I’m at the mercy of convenience food, crappy hotel breakfasts and my per diems. The past day has starkly contrasted my £15 a week and I’m now aghast at my own food habit. I love good food and good coffee and when I can I will feast like a queen. Equally when choice is limited, time is short and I’ve not been allowed to book my own accommodation, I will submit.

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Day 5 – £15 a week

Breakfast

Porridge with half a mashed banana and prunes
A fried egg on toast with black pudding (I’ll explain below)

Lunch

Vegetable soup
2 slices of bread
Small portion of sweetcorn

Snacks

An apple
3 dried abricots
A few nuts

Dinner

Sourdough pizza with beetroot and goat’s cheese
1 Slice of bread rubbed with garlic and loaded with goat’s cheese

Day 5 was a good yet guilt ridden day. My lovely flat mate leaves on Sunday for 2 months to head off on tour so we decided to have a farewell breakfast. Essentially it was like she invited me around for breakfast except I brought my own eggs and toast and she supplied Ireland’s best black pudding. It was truly delicious but I felt like a fraud as it was not within my budget and I shouldn’t have really been eating things I had not bought. But isn’t it better to be sociable and be with friends? 

Then in work my energy levels and mood dropped so drastically after an intense sharing of our work that colleagues encouraged me to eat a rehearsal apple, some abricots and nuts. This should not be allowed as not everyone would be able to benefit from this luxury. 

In the evening I shared my pizza with my flatmate, I felt a little of the guilt eleviate from the morning as it was the first time I’d shared any of my food with people. I mean I’ve been very territorial about my food to the point of labelling absolutely everything. 

Labelling mad

Don’t touch my food

My thoughts have currently turned to – how can we encourage people to care about nutrition more? I’ve attached links below which describe how detrimental an excess of ‘bad’ food can be on the human body and mentality. How can people not be aware of this? Why are we not taught this at school? And how can we teach people to eat healthily within their means? I believe it can be possible but, on £15 a week, not likely.

Why I gave up sugar
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/mar/20/sugar-deadly-obesity-epidemic

Can food make you angry?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2013/apr/24/can-food-make-you-angry

If we could encourage a better sense of community then maybe neighbours could share bulk buying items and not feel trapped in their little boxes of the single lifestyle. But this seems almost utopian, even though in reality it’s a tiny gesture. I could in fact do this with my current neighbours, even when not on a £15 budget, and we’d both make great savings. You could swop recipes, ideas and tips. I started thinking back to WWII and the rations and thought of how people coped. The idea of growing something in my tenement seems bizarre but I’m sure communities banded together to have communal vegetable patches back when rationing hit them. Even space to have a tomato grow bag would see my weekly bill drop dramatically (in the summer). I’ll be looking more into this and whether nutrition was a priority. 

I’ve isolated myself somewhat with this diet. It’s effecting my personal relationships and it’s turning me into more of a self centered egotist than I already am. All I talk about is this diet, I say talk it’s more preaching and I’m sick of the sound of my own voice sometimes but there’s just something about it that’s compelling. Then I’m left with the question of what do I do with all my information, all the ideas, the thoughts and feelings. In all honesty probably nothing. Sad story of my life really.

Day 4 – £15 a week

Breakfast:

1 bowl of porridge made with a little milk and water
1/2 banana
1 mandarin
1/2 pear
4 prunes
1 egg on toast – who was hungover?

Lunch:

Vegetable soup
Pasta from the other night with added carrot and sweetcorn
6 prunes
1 slice of bread

Dinner:

Bruschetta with goat’s cheese and tomatoes
Roasted potatoes, parsnips and swede

I was delirious with hunger again when I arrived home hence the reason dinner was so big. A huge carb fest with very little protein or any semblance of being balanced but it tasted good.

A friend of a friend who I really like came into rehearsals today went to lunch with my team. I felt so left out that I think I regressed to the aged of 5 with a pouty, titty lip and all. It felt that when they came back they’d been discussing ideas about our piece and making social arrangements which I only learnt of when they were discussing them in more detail. Where’s my mum so I can run and say ‘I can’t play with them’ but this time it’s not a case of they won’t let me. I can’t afford to.

I work during my lunch break because I eat to function and I take no joy what so ever in what I eat. It’s sad.

I’m finding it difficult to cope with work also – I’m unbelievably busy right now and information passes to and from me at an alarming speed. The diet isn’t to blame for me not coping but it’s not helping. I don’t feel fuelled enough to burn the midnight oil and rise at the crack of dawn to finish work (well stop blogging and get working I hear you cry!). If I can eat my way well through a day I can cope with anything, maybe not physically but mentally.

Usually I look forward to my meal breaks in a day because I know I’m going to enjoy the food and also the company. I miss my breakfasts with Marcus and my lunches with the cast. So I sit alone, looking up crap, writing a blog because I don’t take the time to just eat and enjoy. Granted this cannot always happen but of late I’ve been making a concentrated effort to stop and take a breath when a break comes along. I’m more motivated to work solidly and effectively in shorter sharper bursts if I’m fuelled and I’ve got something to look forward to.  To enjoy food, chat and discuss things other than work are bliss.

If anything this experiment will encourage me to enjoy food more and not take it for granted. I will savour every mouthful of food that I have chosen to cook and create and I will be thankful. It’s also made me seek out Glasgow food banks and I’m currently looking at how I can donate my time and food to these charities and help. I want to get a better understanding of how they work and what they mean to the people who use them.

Day 3 – £15 a week (Part II)

You may not be surprised to hear that I did go out to my weekly pub quiz last night and I was not sober by the end of it. If I am being honest – which let’s face it, what’s the point of this blog if I’m not – I was hoping people would buy me a drink. Although I’ve sat in pubs before and drank only water it was a choice because I didn’t want to drink not because I couldn’t financially.

I was bought 4 or 5 drinks in total and was extremely grateful for each one and generously thanked my beverage benefactor. I did not promise my benefactors to pay them back in another week when I wasn’t on this diet, or promise them anything in return. This was a conscious decision because I wouldn’t be able to pay them back or offer them anything if I was receiving benefits. In time to come I will pay these extremely generous people back the £3.30 a bottle I have consumed but it might not be in monetary value as such. I could return the favour to them in other ways, offering to do a job for them, babysitting, anything that isn’t a direct reimbursement and has some sentimental meaning to it. This is purely for me, in times to come I will have my bank card and I will buy my round in turn and pay them back in that sense but I really felt loved last night and surrounding by good people who weren’t looking for reimbursement and I would like to express that in another way.

My food intake looked a little something like this yesterday:

Breakfast:

1 bowl of porridge made with a little milk and water
1/2 banana
1 mandarin
4 prunes

Lunch:

Vegetable soup from the evening before
Half a portion of rice with beetroot, sweet corn, carrot and a little goat’s cheese.
1 mandarin
2 slices of bread
5 prunes

Dinner:

Pasta with 5 plum tomatoes, garlic, 1 mushroom and goat’s cheese rinds (This was tasty)

Post beer:

The other half of my rice salad and a slice of bread

In my drunken ramblings last night my loose tongue revealed a few things. I’ve had a really strong urge to smoke of late. Luckily I don’t carry anything on me but I know I used to smoke to surpress my appetite (not that it ever really worked I was still plump) and to relieve boredom. I’ve been making a very strong effort not to explore this. But I can understand why you’d want to fill your time with extra curricular activities if food isn’t one of them.

I’ve also started to consider that maybe my experiment needs to continue for another week so I can have a better understanding of what it’s like to plan when you know you’ve already got some food in reserve. I’m also keen to find out if my body will crave what I’ve not given it this week. If anyone has any useful suggestions on how I could develop this little experiment to discover more I would be very interested to hear form you.

Day 2 – £15 a week

Today has been a lot more positive. I enjoyed my breakfast, lunch wasn’t attrocious and I even made a lovely soup tonight from some of the veggies in my stew pack. Here’s a run down of the day:

Breakfast:

1 bowl of porridge made with a little milk and water
1/2 banana
1 mandarin
4 prunes

Lunch:

Pasta with passata, garlic, dried basil
1/3 tin of sweetcorn
5 cherry tomatoes
5 prunes
2 slices of sourdough

Dinner:

2 slices of sourdough
1 bowl of vegetable soup

Misc:

A few nuts

Today I changed the way I ate and grazed on all of this throughout the day. I also blew out and drank 2 cups of tea at work (I took my own milk in out of my allowance) as they provide it and I’d be silly not to make use of free tea. I should also point out that I’m drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

I’m interested in people’s advice when I tell them about this diet. Today it was suggested I take tea from work home, I’d like to stress that my house is fully stocked with more kinds of tea than you can ever dream of, but I could not afford that in my budget and I struggle to see how a single person living alone would be able to. This is why I’ve cut it out.
Today was also great as my colleague brought in some nuts and offered me a handful, I feel this was also okay as I wouldn’t refuse something that was being offered in good will to everyone in the room.

Generally I find there’s little temptation, food wise, in work as everything seems to be cake, biscuits or sugar sugar sugar! At home it’s hardest as everyone in my flat eats a similar diet so resisting a wedge of cheese or some butter is very hard. (Especially as it’s things I’ve already bought teasing me in the fridge)

As I say though I’m feeling much more energised today. Yesterday I couldn’t function properly and I was in bed by 10pm and fast asleep. My poor flat mate saw me in such a sorry state when I got home from work, I felt physically and mentally deflated and was delusional.
The diet that was budgeted for on the BBC was for a woman consuming 2000 calories a day but I require more as my job can be quite physical and I do cycle to and from work so I’m exercising everyday. How then can a more active single person physically have the energy on such a small budget? We’re encouraged to exercise and keep fit and healthy but how could someone do this on such a deficient diet? Or a male in fact who require a whole 500 cals more?

I’m lucky I’m surrounded with such support and love in my life but yesterday was a taster at how throughly draining, mentally, a bad diet can be. I have a week of this but there is an end in sight for me. I would be a very dour faced stage manager if I didn’t know when I could next buy an avocado. I don’t even want extravagant things in my life but I would like to be able to afford the £2 it would cost for me to make yogurt for a couple of weeks and I mean a lot of yoghurt. This would be an excellent source of dairy providing me with calcium and protein. I am worried about the lack of protein in my diet and lack of fibre. Some beans or lentils wouldn’t go a miss right now.

I did make a really great soup tonight and I made a lovely egg friend rice last night so tasty dishes can be created but it’s so hard vary the dishes you can make with just potato and carrots. Hopefully I will invent a really tasty recipe and post it soon but for now food only serves a purpose and isn’t bringing me it’s usual joy.

Day 1 – £15 a week

I woke up this morning relatively positive. I was gently awakened by the delicious smell of fresh bread – bliss. It feels like it’s all gone a bit down hill from there. Tired, falling asleep in work, being generally hungry and miserable not great.

My meals today:

Breakfast

Porridge (made with a little milk and water)
1/2 Banana
3 Dried prunes
1 Mandarin
2 Slices of bread

Lunch

Rice with beetroot, carrot and w/w vinegar. I also popped three thin slices of goats cheese
1 Mandarin
5 Cherry Tomatoes
1 Slice of Bread

Dinner

Mushroom and egg friend rice
2 Slices of bread
3 Prunes
1 Mandarin

I am physically exhausted. I brought work home to do but cannot. I’m trying to write this in minutes because I need to go to bed. Pretty miserable day today, found it hard to deal with the challenges of work and for the first time in an age I was falling asleep in the rehearsal room. Very unprofessional!

I’ve also been cold most of the day and unable to get warm. I’ve only drank water so who knows maybe I’m having caffeine withdrawal.  People offered to buy my lunch today, or loan me money or encouraged me to pilfer what I can. It’s amazing how much sympathy/empathy people can have with me because they know me yet as a nation it’s easy to forget how hard it is for the millions we don’t know.

I may be more eloquent in the morning so apologies for the lack of reflection. I would love to have the entire government put on a restricted budget for a month. I’d even be generous and give the £20 a week to manage. It’s hard to eat well on so little if you’ve not spent hundreds on a great store cupboard.

Tonight as I drift off to sleep I’m going to be agonising over whether or not I allow myself a stock cube to make soup otherwise I’m eating seasoned veg water for a while.

What have I let myself in for?

Tomorrow I start my week of living on £15 worth of food.

I set out this afternoon with high hopes of discovering bargins and buying loads of cheap cheerful ingredients that I could turn into culinary masterpieces. Instead I wrestled with my basket, putting items in then removing them again, as I decided oatcakes clearly are a luxury and I should in fact buy more fruit.

This is such a demoralising process.

My haul costing £14.95

My haul costing £14.95

This is it. This is what I have to live on for a week. I’m banning any extra shopping to be bought and once it’s gone, it’s gone.

In my experiment I’m trying to re-create the food budget of a single person living alone. In reality my store cupboard is a treasure trove of ingredients which could turn this haul into many amazing suppers. However, I am going to be imposing some strict rules on what will feature in my store cupboard to try and re-create the cupboard of someone who maybe doesn’t cook a lot and have such a luxury.

Deanne’s Store cupboard items for the week:

  • Salt and Pepper
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Dried Oregano
  • White wine vinegar*
  • Garlic*

*I realise some people may find these luxury rather than essential but I’m trying to see if you can have a non processed food diet on £15 and I believe these are essential for turning dullness into flavour. I have debated these two ingredients all evening and feel guilty for not having been able to budget for them in my £15.

I have to be frank, I’m not happy. This whole afternoon of planning this has made me realise that this is not something I could sustain for a long period of time. Granted I have been drastic and started from scratch but I feel that if I was someone who didn’t cook a lot and was used to grabbing a pizza from the freezer then they might encounter a restrictive diet rather similar to this if they decided to give it a try. I’m aware that my pasta and rice could spill over to next week, which means I won’t have spent 40p on pasta. BUT I’ve certainly not got any more money in my purse this week so I can’t reap that benefit yet!

Now I grant you, I do not have to put myself in this situation. I’m not on benefits nor have I ever been. This is all my own doing but when these benefit cuts come in they will affect my family greatly. I cannot afford to help my Mum but instead I must watch her scrimp and save and watch her feed herself crap on the little money she does and will get. I also do not live alone like my Mum but it’s going to be very lonely this week as I isolate myself from those closest to me as food is such a big part of my social interaction.

I will also be interested to see how I physically cope. Can I still perform my job well if all I fill up on is carb carb carb. The tiny amount of fruit in my basket scares. There’s a minute amount of protein. Today I ate like a king as I felt it was something like my last meal.

So off to bed – already my heart heavy with how sad, lonely and distressing my week of food hell will be. My high hopes of discovering new thrifty recipes and rising to the challenge have been dashed and I’ve not even started.

Breakfast, once my favourite time of the day, I now fear as the realisation dawns that the £15 has not stretched to tea or coffee.