I am quite organised when it comes to food – not a lot else, but definitely food. My mum always made a menu plan for the week, wrote a shopping list based on this and what’s in the cupboard and then went to the supermarket. Since I’ve lived independently, I’ve done the same – and I still get twitchy when the plan goes to pot because of a spontaneous meal out!
When we were planning this year’s Lent appeal, I immediately knew which one I would do – I don’t want to call it a ‘challenge’ as this suggests that those who do it will succeed or fail and it’s not about that. It’s about encouraging empathy for those who are living this on a daily basis, being grateful for the choices we have and also increasing the awareness of food waste – if you don’t have much to begin with, you absolutely don’t want to waste any of it.
I had a think about breakfast, lunch and dinner and the sorts of items I might be able to get and in the interest of research, costed out these items at Lidl, Aldi, Sainsburys, Morrisons, and Asda. With a little bit of juggling – sardines instead of tuna for example – I found I could get all the items on my list for under £5. Despite my comment about not calling it a ‘challenge’, I have to admit that I did feel a little excited at the prospect of doing this shop – I have a weekly budget for my own food shopping and generally stick to it (!) but this is so much more limiting, I did feel that I would be achieving something if I could manage to get 5 days worth of food and drink for £5.
I went into Lidl with my list of food items and put fresh onions and carrots, tinned chickpeas, tomatoes and sardines, cuppa soups, a bottle of squash (I don’t like ‘normal’ tea and there’s no way I could afford Earl Grey, Rooibos or even coffee during this period), porridge oats, soya milk (I don’t have any allergies or intolerances but thought I’d try and do a dairy free version for variety) and a bag of pasta. All items were own brand and in most cases, the cheapest one possible.
At the checkout, I was confident that I had spent just under £5, but the total came to £5.13. I hesitated for a moment – when I do my food shop, if I go over my budget even by a few pounds I just pay – and though 13p is not much, I wanted to do it properly, so decided the only item that wasn’t really essential was onions. I said ‘I’m so sorry, I only have £5 so could I please return these?’ The checkout operator smiled and said ‘We’ve all been there love, don’t worry’ and I left with my goods and change (47p). I checked the receipt and my list – I had noted that the squash on my list was 65p but it had come out at 99p. I checked the shelf and the label I’d seen was for another product so it was my mistake, but it made me think that I don’t always look at prices – it costs what it costs. In order to use my money to it’s extent, I bought a tin of baked beans for 30p so my total 5 days cost £4.83. If I’d bought ‘normal’ milk and teabags instead of squash, I would have spent less and could have had the onions. I also could just have water as a drink but I thought that was one step too far for me; someone else may make this choice.
I thought about those who have food allergies such as gluten – I guess potatoes would be a good replacement for the pasta – or those with diabetes for whom the food I’d chosen may not be terribly helpful for their condition.
I also thought about those people who live nearest to a smaller store (I couldn’t get all the items listed for under £5 from the Coop or Waitrose for example) where the costs are more than at other shops. Spending a couple of pounds on a bus ticket might not save you any more in the shopping bill and it would also be quite a bit more time to do this which might not be an option. I have a car and there’s 4 major supermarkets all within a 10 minute or less drive. Something I’ve never really been grateful for, but I am today.
Norwich foodbank gave out almost 1,000 food parcels in January 2019 alone. A third of these went to children aged 16 or under. Each food parcel contains enough food to last the recipient for 3 days and the items are nutritionally balanced, in line with the Trussell Trust model. All items in the parcel are long life / non-perishable so we can make up parcels in advance and store large quantities ready for packing. If you would like to support us, our current needs are instant mash, tinned fruit, tinned meat (high meat content please), tinned fish and Easter treats. Or get involved this Lent and take part in one of our 3 appeals – Live on £1 a Day, Give up and Give (give up something during Lent and donate what you would have spent), or #40for40 (put aside 40p every day of Lent and donate this, along with gift aid if possible, and we’ll get £20).