Retirement and me: Pensioner shares frugal food recipes – how to live off 50p a day

Eat Well For Less – Tasty Meat Free Bolognese using lentils

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Lesley Negus, 70, has more than 18,000 social media followers who love her really useful recipe ideas because, not only are they tasty, but they also help them survive off 50p a day.  As living costs soar, more and more Britons are turning to blogs like Thrifty Lesley for inspiration.

When it comes to living on a shoestring, frugality is in Lesley’s nature.

Although Lesley lives a more comfortable life now, her thriftiness was borne from growing up with very little money.

Lesley recalls: “My family was poor when I was growing up and I was always aware that we had to make the most of every penny.

She remembers a childhood holiday in Hastings, when aged just 10, she was given a bit of money to spend on the arcades but was reluctant to spend it because she knew how tight money was.

“I came off that pier with a profit,” she laughs. “And that sums up my lifelong approach to money.”

It’s an approach that has served her well – much later when Lesley had young mouths of her own to feed she found herself struggling to make ends meet.

“One of the worst times was when the children were very young and we had nowhere to live, and barely any income at all – just family allowance,” she remembers.

“We sofa surfed for four years, never knowing if benefit payments would be made, or not.”

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Having experienced it herself, Lesley knows only too well what others are going through.

“I don’t live that way now, and haven’t for a long time, but it has left a permanent scar,” she says. “I have been destitute myself and know how painful that can be.”

Now she’s keen to help others live well for less and, although she says living off 50p a day per person isn’t recommended in the long term, with a bit of forward planning it doesn’t have to be boring.

“Feeding yourself with the minimum isn’t all about watery porridge, baked beans every day or overly processed rubbish,” she enthuses.

She must be doing something right – she picked up the Best Frugal Food Blog accolade in 2019 and again in 2020 in the annual SHOMO awards that recognise the best money bloggers in the UK.

Anyone who is looking to benefit from her advice should first of all look at their food waste – the average household throws away a staggering day’s worth of food every week.

“If you can eliminate that, by using every scrap, you wouldn’t need to spend anything for the equivalent of two months of the year,” she advises.

“Use all your leftovers – dishes that can use lots of bits and bobs include soups, risotto, pies and pizza toppings.”

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Before starting a meal plan, she says it’s really important to go through the cupboards, fridge and the freezer and make a note of what’s already in there.

There are hundreds of recipes on her website – affordable breakfast ideas include Raisin Pancakes at just eight pence a serving or Cinnamon Toast at four pence a slice.

For lunch, soup is always a good option as it works out at about 20p or why not try a hummus and grated carrot sandwich at just nine pence a serving.

Exciting evening meals that work out at 30p per serving include her pea crumb fritters recipe using mushy peas.

Or there’s stuffed potato cakes, peanut butter noodles or a bacon and sweetcorn pie with mash and peas – proving that living on a budget doesn’t have to be boring.

Retirement and me is the weekly series which looks at how people are spending and saving their money as they enter retirement. If you want to share your story, please email personal.finance@reachplc.com. Sadly, we cannot respond to every email.

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