Junior lawyer battles food waste living on a pound a day for charity

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Corporate law specialist at Trethowans in one-woman challenge against modern world laziness


Lawyers are renowned for eating well — only last September magic circle pinstripes at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer took heat for what turned out to be a non-business lunch involving a very expensive bottle of wine.

But a Southampton lawyer is currently garnering attention for her polar opposite approach to meals — Alice Biggar is nearly through a month of spending no more than a pound a day on food.

The 26-year-old corporate lawyer at law firm Trethowans embarked on the challenge to raise funds for the Trussell Trust, a charity dealing with poverty in the UK and Bulgaria.

Biggar is nearly at the finishing line after spending this month lunching and dining on a mixture of on unsold items discarded into shop skips and recycled bones from her local butcher.

Being half Scottish, Biggar publicised on her blog the special effort she made on Burns night. Having previously purchased a “huge” bag of parsnips for the princely sum of 4pence — which she told the Daily Telegraph was her best buy of the month so far–– she had the neep element of the Burns supper covered.

“Some shelf foraging in Asda … allowed me to score a mixed bag of swede, carrots and leeks for 15p and a tin of haggis for £1,” she related on line. “No tatties in the reduced section, so I make do with a tin of new potatoes for 15p.”

Those keeping tally will note that Biggar seemed to have busted the daily budget by 30p on dinner alone (indeed, she fessed up to a total of £1.34) — just to celebrate the life of the man who inflicted Auld Lang Syne on the world. Presumably, she made significant economies the next day — the price paid for a romantic attachment to Caledonia.

ITV Meridian — the commercial television franchise for the south-west — had cameras on hand to broadcast preparation of the Burns night feast.

Biggar related on her blog that the news crew wanted:

“To get some shots of me peeling the neeps, but when the cameras are on even this simple task feels alien! My hands slip and slide over the wet parsnips and I’m able to chip off scraps of skin but nothing substantial!”

The year-plus qualified solicitor told Legal Cheek that being a lawyer:

“Gives you a certain standing when it comes to raising issues and particularly with those who have the power to make a change, like the supermarket bosses and our MPs.

“I’m not saying that I will change anything just because of what I’ve done myself, but I hope it goes someway to raising awareness.

“As a profession, we solve people’s problems every day and we witness the hardships others go through. That makes us naturally curious about social problems. Lawyers need to be fairly tenacious and self-disciplined and that helps with a challenge like this.”

Biggar went on to say that elements of modern business life combine to create more waste than in the past.

“The modern working world — with it’s longer days, busy schedules and blackberries making us potentially contactable 24/7 — is pushing us all into lazier habits when it comes to food. You are naturally drawn to a quick fix on the run or a bit of a treat after a hard day and you pay the premium that attaches to that convenience or luxury.”

Ultimately, Biggar maintains that the relatively affluent in society should be much more assiduous in avoiding waste.

“We can all be better at utilising food we buy and not merely chucking it out on the basis of a sell by date. The challenge has certainly influenced some of my colleagues, who now text me pictures of their whoopsie aisle bargains. When I sit down in our staff break area and you put into context what my meal cost compared to a luxury salad, it gives you a sense of perspective.

“I see waste all around me, but this is not limited to the working environment, which pales into comparison when you consider the waste produced by supermarkets. When I visited Skipchen in Bristol — a restaurant serving only food intercepted from supermarket bins — it was a shocker to see what a feast they had created.”


Not Amused

Hmmmmm …

This is a tricky topic and I will give her the credit of assuming her words have been heavily edited.

But whenever anyone proposes telling another person how to act, behave or generally live their life, I think it is very important that the word “why” is said at an early stage.

She states, in that annoying modern way, that she wishes to “raise awareness”. To that I think the necessary accompanying words are “of what?”.

Food is a very complex topic. There are multiple, competing arguments – many of which are extremely strong and some of which contradict. I personally want to ensure UK farmers can stay in business. I want to ensure that the poor in the UK can have a good and varied diet. I suffer extremely easily from food poisoning (my father does not). Understandably he is in favour of eating food past its use by date – I am understandably not (I have thrown up meals he has managed to retain).

On waste itself, the important thing is to get the carbon and nitrogen involved back in to the ground. Once you do that the idea of waste as some per se evil is I think a puritanical hangover and not obviously right.

All of these are extremely complex issues and while I would say: ‘raising money for charity is generally a good thing’ (you do have to check out which charity you mean nowadays), I would also say ‘people should be extremely careful about telling other people how to live their lives’.



Please bear in mind the danger of understating the issue. It is one thing to try this for a week, or even a month. It is a good challenge – a laugh, even. What doing this for a month or so fails to grasp though is the relentless monotony of living on a tight budget long-term. Having one note or a few coins and knowing this is ALL you have for the rest of the week or month, day in day out is horrid (and of course, none of that can go on leisure or fun). Having to claw through the bargain bins every single time, wandering around the shops because your house is too freezing cold to face, realising you can’t even cook that cheap pasta you acquired because the meter is empty… it grounds you down after a while.

She is raising awareness, and well done her, but it is worse than it looks


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