The surprising truths I learnt living off Poundland for a week – Anna Riley

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Everyone loves a bargain, don’t they?

After all, nobody wants to spend over the odds when out shopping, and many of us look for the cheapest deal possible when pushing our trolleys down the aisle.

It’s for this very reason, along with the rise in the cost of food and essentials in supermarkets, that shoppers are now turning more and more to discount stores to make their purchases.

Poundland is one of Britain’s most popular cut-price stores and Europe’s biggest single-price discounter, with more than 500 outlets around the country.

And the fad for budget buying is as prominent as ever in Hull, where there are four Poundland shops located in the Prospect Centre, Kingston Retail Park, St Andrew’s Retail Park and North Point Shopping Centre.



We shopped at Poundland in Kingston Retail Park
We shopped at Poundland in Kingston Retail Park

Every week thousands from our city visit the stores, where a range of products including food, drink, household items, cosmetics and toiletries to name a few are on sale for £2 and £5 in addition to the mainstay £1.

And the discount store is now trying to muscle in on the supermarkets by offering multi-price clothing in their shops through adding a Pep&Co store section within Poundland shops, allowing people to stock their wardrobes as well as their kitchen shelves.

 

But does the store provide enough options to make it possible to purely live off Poundland food for a week?

Hull Live reporter Anna Riley gave the challenge a go, and this is what she found.

What I bought



My Poundland shop for the week
My Poundland shop for the week

Admittedly, I haven’t really shopped at Poundland before. Other than popping my head in there to see what it was all about when the brand of discount stores launched, I haven’t been in since.

It’s not like I want to pay over the odds for my goods – it’s just that I tend to just stick to Aldi or Lidl for my weekly shop, and have also started shopping at my local greengrocers and butchers for my fruit and veg and meat.

So when I was set the challenge of buying items wholly from Poundland for my weekly food shop, I didn’t really know what to expect and I thought I’d be forced to live off tinned goods – a prospect that I wasn’t remotely thrilled about.

 

But when I tentatively stepped through the doors of Poundland at Kingston Retail Park, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was more feasible to do a grocery shop there than I imagined.

As well a range of different products from fizzy drinks to pasta and cleaning products, there was a small amount of fresh food available including fruit, packet ham and chicken, sausages, bacon, sausage rolls, pork pies, and sandwiches as well as cheese, bread, milk, desserts and even butter.



There was a small selection of fresh produce to buy at Poundland
There was a small selection of fresh produce to buy at Poundland

As I didn’t know what food I’d be able to buy, I hadn’t really put together a shopping list so it was a case of deciding on the spot what to get for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week.

There was a range of breakfast options from Kellogg’s cereals to porridge, croissants and cereal bars. I went for granola and eggs, and also saw that golden syrup, peanut butter and marmite were also on offer as well as tea and coffee.

 

I normally try to eat quite healthily, so bagged myself as much fresh produce as possible and loaded up my small shopping cart with strawberries, grapes, milk, cheese, Warburtons bread and packet chicken. I also wanted some healthy snacks, so bought apricots, cashew nuts, mango strips, Frusili bars and wholegrain rice cakes.

I thought I could make tuna or salmon sandwiches for lunch so stocked up on the tinned fish and bought some Hellmann’s light mayo and bags of crisps and chocolate bars to go with them.



There were a range of breakfast options
There were a range of breakfast options

Looking at all the other goods on the shelf, I saw that they were mostly branded and stocked up on a four pack of Heinz soup, Bachelor’s super noodles and Ambrosia rice pudding and custard. 

I also popped energy drinks in my basket that were on offer, along with juice, and treated myself to some Bounty hot chocolate.

It wasn’t always the best value

I found that even though Poundland is among the cheapest for branded food and drink, it wasn’t always the best value.

This is because there are often cheaper deals going at the supermarket when items are on offer, such as discounts on tinned goods that mean items are cheaper than the £1 to £2 that I was spending on goods in Poundland.



A lot of branded items were for sale
A lot of branded items were for sale

I also felt a bit sucked in by the offers that were on, such as two rice puddings or packet noodles for the price of £1 or three for £2, as I would sooner have just bought the one tin for 50p, but that wasn’t an option.

So in this sense, I spent more than I wanted to, and more than I would have done at the supermarket where I could have bought the items individually.

 

One lunchtime I was also out of the office all day and couldn’t heat up the soup I brought with me anywhere, so I went to Poundland in the Prospect Centre to see if they had any meal deals on, as they do in other supermarkets.

Alas, there were only a few varieties of limp looking sandwiches to choose from, plenty of fizzy drinks to go at but not a bottle of water in sight, no fruit packs and the only option if I wanted to buy crisps was a multipack.



My Poundland grab and go lunch
My Poundland grab and go lunch

I ended up spending £3 on my grab and go lunch from there, but I was disappointed with the egg and bacon sandwich I went for, which lacked in filling and was mainly crust, but couldn’t complain about the drink and crisps I went for.

However, I did yearn for the wider meal deals on offer at supermarkets such as Tesco, where pasta, salad, wraps and even sushi are on offer along with crisps, fruit, chocolate and a drink for the same price that I paid at Poundland, showing that the value again wasn’t that great.

I resisted the grip of poundmania…JUST

Wandering around, it was hard not to be gripped with the ‘it’s only a pound’ mania and come out with half a ton of plastic tat as well as the food shop, along with enough surplus tinned goods to keep me going through the zombie apocalypse if it ever happens. But I just about managed to resist.

Along with the food, there were plenty of affordable toiletries and cleaning products, along with garden supplies and cute homewares including fake plants, trinkets and even mirrors to adorn your house with.

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There was also LOADS of chocolate in the run up to Easter, with a section of an isle dedicated to the holiday and filled with crafts and porcelain bunnies and baskets for a proper egg hunt.

The food didn’t stay fresh for long



The strawberries soon went off
The strawberries soon went off

Sadly the fruit that I bought didn’t stay fresh for long at all. I tried to eat my strawberries a day after I ate them, but alas, I only managed to scoff around four from the whole punnet as the others had stared to go squishy and were on the turn, so I had to throw them in the bin.

The grapes didn’t fare well either, and the chicken that I bought had a very short best before date, so I had to eat it the next day before it went off as well.

Happily at least the eggs, milk and cheese had a longer shelf life and I froze the bread to keep it fresh.

Meal planning was a challenge

The challenge of what to cook, without being able to use fresh vegetables, little meat, and tinned fish was all too apparent when I tried to plan my meals for the week.

I decided to have cereal every morning for breakfast and tuna, cheese and salmon sandwiches, soup or noodles for lunch along with chicken, and had a combination of eggs with toast and either soup or noodles for tea, with a variety of chocolate, crisps, dried fruits, cereal bars, rice pudding and rice cakes to accompany the meals.



I tried to eat a balanced diet but struggled
I tried to eat a balanced diet but struggled

It’s not like I really like cooking that much, but I do prefer to eat something wholesome, and I found opening tins and adding hot water to my noodles unfulfilling and oddly depressing and missed having a proper meal.

Due to the lack of variety in the tinned meals, I also got quite bored with what I was eating and actually missed veg.

It wasn’t healthy

As the fruit I had soon went off, and because I wasn’t in the position to keep going back to Poundland on a daily basis to buy fresh produce throughout the week, my diet was mainly based on tinned food and canned fish or eggs with bread, which wasn’t conducive to healthy living.



There wasn't much fresh food to make meals from
There wasn’t much fresh food to make meals from

I also bought chocolate and crisps that I wouldn’t normally purchase, just because they were so cheap (who could resist a Twix, M&Ms and a Bounty all for £1?) so I was eating extra unwanted calories, and despite eating dried fruit and nuts and some fruit to try and get some vitamins in me, I still felt hungry, sluggish and unfulfilled.

There wasn’t any alcohol

Completely contradicting myself when talking about trying to be healthy, I noticed that I couldn’t buy any alcohol on the cheap in Poundland, which was a bit disappointing.

But then again I suppose if it was on offer there it may encourage excess alcoholism, which is something that should be discouraged.

Final thoughts?

The experience of purely eating Poundland food for a week was a bit lacking for me, due to the lack of fruit, veg and meat that I’m normally used to eating.

The canned produce that I had was rather uninspiring, unhealthy, and wasn’t always as much of a bargain as I initially anticipated.

And even though there was some fresh food available, it soon went off.



I don't want to look at tinned soup again for a while
I don’t want to look at tinned soup again for a while

So before Poundland truly tries to compare itself to supermarkets and encourage more food shoppers through its doors, it needs to offer a better variety of fruit and add vegetables and more meat to its repertoire, as well as offering more goods for under £1 in order to better compete.

But after this experiment, if I’m in need of branded items such as ketchup at a cheap price, or cleaning items and even toiletries, I’ll certainly consider popping into Poundland for a couple of bits, but not for the food shop.

Follow all the latest news by Anna Riley

The author of this article, Anna Riley, has been a reporter at Hull Live since May 2018.

You can follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter here or on the Hull Live website here.

You can also call Anna on 01482 315 311 or email anna.riley@reachplc.com

anna riley.jpg

 

I never thought I’d say it, but now the challenge is over, I can’t wait to gobble back some broccoli, aubergine and spinach accompanied by fresh fish or cooked meat, and I certainly don’t want to look at a packet of super noodles or tin of soup for a long while. 

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