A pub landlord is living off £ 1 a day for food in a week to raise awareness of the impact of the cost of living crisis.
Craig Harker, who runs the George Pub and Grill chain across Teesside, said he wanted to prove that rising costs show how people are “not living – but surviving.” The Stockton landlord said he is used to spending £ 200 a week in total for food, but has kept to a £ 1 a day limit for this challenge.
The 35-year-old said he “feels so bad for families that have to budget like I have this week” as thousands of people are impacted by the rising costs of living. Craig was inspired to take on this challenge after hearing Tory MP Lee Anderson’s controversial comments a few weeks ago that people can make meals costing 30p, reports Wales Online.
The dad-of-three said: “The rising costs of everything has been popping up on social media and on the news everywhere. People are cutting back on everything and almost every person is feeling it. Everyone is saying we need to budget – and then the Tory MP came out with his thoughts on the matter, but I wanted to find out my own answer. “
Craig’s challenge has seen him lose a significant amount of weight in just a week, going from 15st 8lbs to 15 stone on his final day. Craig has used his experience of him to share his top tips for successful budgeting and says preparation is key.
He hopes to use his large following to “raise awareness” of the rising cost of prices and help families adopt the best methods possible to keep their costs low and not going hungry. He added: “What I’ve been doing is not a healthy diet but I’m trying to show people that you can survive on that budget.
“Everyone is struggling to get out of this difficult financial situation but if you are on a budget of feeding your family for £ 5 a week – there are ways you can eat. But luckily for me my dad was a chef and I am not in a vulnerable position. No one in the UK or western world should live like this.
“This experience has made me feel really grateful and appreciate what I’ve got and it has taught me a lot of lessons I’ll be implementing into my life moving forward.”
Craig, who initially gained following after paying for the car behind him at drive-throughs, took to his pub’s Facebook page on Monday, May 16, to share his experiment experiences and revelations with his quarter of a million followers.
On the first day of his challenge, he admitted: “After visiting the first supermarket this is already going to be a lot more difficult than I thought. I knew it was going to be hard – I knew living off a £ 1 a day, £ 5 a week for food would be a struggle and that’s why I was up for the challenge. “
An average day of eating for Craig normally would consist of a full English breakfast, a packet of biscuits with tea or coffee, a burger for lunch and dinner from a fast food chain.
Craig added: “My life is so busy – it’s always about being on the move and the drive-throughs are just easy. I eat out a lot and have several restaurant takeaways a week.”
This week, however, he left his luxuries behind and regimentally stuck to a whole new way of eating – that even included asking for spices and sauces from drive-throughs. Craig included a sachet of porridge for breakfast, which he got for 79p from Aldi, a cup of tea, rice and curry sauce and spaghetti Bolognese.
Having finished his experiment on Friday, Craig admitted a favorite meal of his was a jacket potato with hoops and grated carrot on the side.
He added: “I bought the porridge sachets because I knew I was only doing this for five days, but if I was doing it for longer I would have bought a full bag of oats, which would have lasted much longer.
“The cup of tea was 29p from Asda for 40 tea bags, I used the milk which I got from McDonald’s for free. I took the hit on buying diary and meat and went to drive-throughs where I asked them for salt, pepper, sweet curry sauce, sweet chilli sauce.
“I tried to find the cheapest options possible – everything I bought didn’t look like a meal, the nutritional value was not great, but it’s what you do with it that matters. I also got a free burger from Burger King, who were giving them out this week, and took it home, diced it up and used the ingredients to make a spag bog.
“I was being creative and using what was there at my disposal – anyone can do any of these at any point. Asda is great for budget line sauces, Morrisons do eggs for 50p and you can check out bargains online and on O2 priorities particularly. “
Craig says the “key is being prepared” and the freezer is your best friend, and his advice is to bulk cook meals and freeze them.
He said: “If you bulk cook real dishes like soups, casseroles, curries – over long periods of time that is the best option financially. There are so many little things you can change too that make a difference – like when boiling the kettle, just fill it up to one cup every time – not the whole thing. “
The father also revealed his experiment exposed not only the difficulties with food, but also maintaining a social life. He said: “There are only so many times you can go to the pub and ask for water!”
Before starting his project, Craig revealed he completed hours worth of research into supermarket costs, but found the increasing cost of budget line products a issue when shopping.
He said: “I am a big fizzy drink lover, so one of the first things I did was find the cheapest lemonade can prices – which were Tesco at 17p. But when I went to buy them, they were 23p – that was not in my budget so I couldn’t afford them and these prices are going up all the time. “
Tory MP Lee Anderson hit the headlines earlier this month after his controversial comments concerning the cost of living crisis and food banks when he said people could make meals costing 30p. Speaking in the House of Commons on May 11, Mr Anderson stated that meals could be cooked “for about 30 pence a day” – and “generation after generation” of people are unable to budget properly or make meals efficiently.
Craig responded to Mr Anderson’s comments by saying he raised a “valid point” that explores how solving this issue is all about education and teaching. However, he argues that these actions are “easier said than done” and people should not be forced to live in these conditions.
He explained: “If people were taught how to budget I think it would make a big difference. Everyone should be taught cooking lessons but the reality is £ 5 does not stretch that far at all.
“I cut back on everything I really liked this week and went into complete survival mode – no one should have to live like that. The results from this experiment show this issue is bigger than just food.
“It is more about the debate on society – we need to make sure the most vulnerable people who have the least amount of income are supported. If you have extra money you should donate to food banks, it makes such a difference and stay away from the discounted isles because you could be taking food away from someone who needs it more. “
Since finishing his experiment, Craig celebrated in style by buying a whole trolley of food and donating it to his local foodbank.
He added: “I want to help others now that I’ve experienced first hand how difficult it can be on a low budget. I’m feeling so grateful for everything I have, but know one day budgeting like this week could be a possibility and take nothing for granted. It’s been a real eye opener and no one should be forced to survive on what I’ve had. “
Craig has been flooded with messages of support, with people from all over the country thanking him for raising awareness on the subject. One person said: “I love when you share tips or offers – it’s a massive help and a good laugh to keep us going.” Another said: “You doing this has been fab. Hopefully you’ve helped some but also shown can’t do it everyday.”
You can view more of Craig’s updates on his Facebook page.