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Do you really think that you live on a tenner?

With food bills spiralling we give hearty eater Thomas Clarke £10 and challenge him to feed himself for one working week by any means possible … including supermarket rubbish bins.
The doldrums of February are well documented. Not enough pounds in the wallet, a few extra pounds on the body and already the exercise regime is in disarray. So I relished the chance to redistribute some of those pounds accumulated around my waist back into my pockets. And with that I was kindly set a £10 allowance for the working week and told to make do.
My culinary standards have never been high but within minutes of waking on Monday morning I sink to a new low. The tone for the week is set by polishing off my housemate's leftover rice sprinkled with a dash of (his) soy sauce.
The week's allowance is ceremoniously withdrawn outside the supermarket - I can't remember the last time a £10 note felt simultaneously so valuable and woefully inadequate.
After 45 minutes of agonising, I buy cereal, milk, bread, eggs (caged - this is no time to be sentimental), spaghetti and bolognese sauce. It comes to £4.72.
Dinner consists of a fifth of the pasta with some sauce, making a meal that comes in at around 15p. An efficient start to the week.
I leave my shopping list deliberately on the short side in anticipation of my second shop of the day, but these plans take a blow when my personal shopping guide, Jon, has to take a rain check. Jon is a "skipper" or "dumpster diver".
That evening, undeterred, but slightly less enthusiastic, I head back to the earlier supermarket alone, not with my remaining change but with an empty backpack and a torch. I walk past the shop entrance and towards the bins, which are brimming with black bags.
But I scurry on by. Although not illegal, skipping certainly feels deviant. The overhanging streetlight is enough to deter me. It's a similar story at other local shops, where reasons not to dive head-first into bins heavily outweigh the benefits: too close to a road, a late-night passer-by or a siren wailing in the distance are all enough to spook me.
When I do pluck up the courage to approach a bin I shut the lid before I can take in the contents. The smell is enough to put me off my dinner. I return home an hour later, cold and ashamed. There has to be an easier way.
The next evening I go on the hunt for something more filling than the scrambled eggs on toast I had for lunch. I find it with a group of the most effective freegans in London today: the St Paul's camp (who, sadly, are later asked to move on). I arrive just before 7pm and am handed red kidney bean soup. I must have arrived late because it is a touch cold, but gratefully mop it up with not quite oven fresh but still adequate bread.
Barely have I finished when my second course arrives - lentil broth and rice fresh off the stove. There is even a chocolate sponge cake from a member of the public and it is washed down with a cup of tea.
Camp resident Annie Taylor says: "I feel more loved in this community than I ever did in living in my middle-class area in Ealing." My stomach agrees.
I reach the halfway mark of the working week without too much toil but tonight will bring a true test of nerve. If chivalry isn't quite dead yet, tonight I plan to murder it. I have a date organised and briefly wrestle with the idea I should cancel, but, as, most men do, I think with my stomach and decide the food was too good to miss out on.
My biggest problem now is to decide when to tell her she's paying. Should I go on a charm offensive and hope that will be enough to make it forgivable when I fumble with my wallet only to find my card has "gone astray", or shall I be more honest and tell her on arrival, and so kill any potential spark before it has a chance?
Putting my shame to one side I choose the former. Fortunately my victim lives outside the Standard's circulation area. We share duck pancakes with spicy prawns and a bottle of white. The taste of meat is lip-smackingly divine.
When the £50 bill arrives I do my best Hugh Grant impression. "Blast! I took my card out of my wallet earlier and forgot to put it back."
She can't have bought it but takes the news with good grace. "Seriously? Don't worry, I can put it on my card." She is clearly disappointed and her humility only piles on my shame.
My father's disappointed face flashes before my eyes and it is barely another 20 seconds before I crumble. The only way to rectify this is the way I do everything when I know I've done the wrong thing: "I'm only joking!" I say, and I hastily pull my card out. The tension dissipates and we both breathe a sigh of relief. I go to bed with the challenge in tatters but some dignity intact.

I wake the next morning with the sense that although I have lost the battle, I have won the war. At the risk of a feminist backlash, I was taught that gentlemen should pay without fail, for the first date at least. For all this new age equality, I am yet to find a girl who has taken offence.
My frugal week is in danger of closing with a whimper. I had planned that my earlier adventures would put me in good stead but for the final two days my belly suffers.
The milk is finished, leaving dry cereal for breakfast. Lunch is the two remaining eggs on top of the measly end of the loaf. I query the speed at which the bread has gone, and my housemate sticks his hands up: "Sorry, mate, I thought it was communal!"
Only some spaghetti and sauce remains. And because of my blowout on Wednesday I refuse to spend the remaining £5 28. Minutes turn into hours before I finally allow myself dinner. It is 5pm.
Of course, while I whine about my paltry existence, this is a way of life for many. Jon Wiltshire, 22, is a postgraduate at LSE studying global politics. He spends about £15 a week on food. "I'm not living on the breadline," he says, "but paying monthly rent is a concern. "I work in a pub but still have to pass up on dinners out with friends."
Although Jon's situation doesn't sound unusual for a student, he says the people he sees adopting his way of life would surprise many. Every day he queues for lunch from Hare Krishna, a Hindu charity that serves it free on Houghton Street. "There are a lot of very wealthy-looking students lining up."
He also manages to eat a free dinner two or three times a week by foraging from skips, but says the capital's congested population and security conscious businesses make it tough.
I have developed a newfound respect for Jon and those like him. For the past week I have been living to eat. Food has consumed my thoughts and actions. The only people I have socialised with were those who could offer me food. It was draining. Needless to say, Saturday night's "feast" (a blissful chicken korma takeaway), courtesy of mum and dad, was not taken for granted.
Tom's week on a tenner
Shopping list:
Cereal  £1.18
Bolognese sauce  £0.39
Eggs  £1.25
Spaghetti  £0.25
Bread  £0.47
Milk  £1.18
Total  £4.72
Tom's chivalrous mid-week blip
Duck pancakes, spicy prawns, bottle of wine for two  £46.70
Thomas Clarke, London Evening Standard - Fly at a Smile-Price