Live on £1 a Day: Emma Day 5

Breakfast – Weetabix with water. It’s pretty grim but here’s no milk and I didn’t have time to go to the shops yesterday. I feel terrible about not having time to do a top up shop, but I just couldn’t fit it in between work and picking up the kids. Being on a budget makes being organised about food that much more important, and I’m feeling the strain. I top the kids up with extra milk (not in budget), and I’m not working today so I can go to the shop. I’m feeling optimistic knowing that this is the last day of the Lent appeal.

I eat the last two remaining biscuits mid morning and then go to the shop. We need milk, bread and fruit and there is £1.17 left in the budget. I don’t have enough money for all of these, so I spend ages trying to decide whether milk is more important for the kids, or fruit. I don’t know if there’s a right answer, but I decide to prioritise milk (for the kids) and bread (for lunch).
In the shop my 3 year old is hungry, and tries to convince me to buy him treats. I would normally just buy him whatever he wanted without too much thought, as I can’t bear the thought of him being hungry. When we get to the checkout he has picked up a treat, and he passes it to the cashier to scan. She does so without asking me if that’s ok, so I have to ask to put it back, and the cashier looks surprised and then embarrassed.

It’s nice to have some fresh bread and we both enjoy lunch. Its not enough for my 3 year old and he also wolfs down a yogurt, banana and a bag of hula hoops – none of which are in budget.

It’s a long afternoon with no snacks. I don’t have the energy to play and run around after my son that I usually would, maybe its because its Friday afternoon after a long week, or perhaps because we’ve been living on empty carbs all day.

Dinner is chicken fillets, sauce made with carrots and tinned tomatoes, and spaghetti with frozen veg. I am so sick of spaghetti but the food tastes good, and its’s a hit with the kids. I would rather give them fresh meat but I know they are guaranteed to eat this frozen breaded stuff, and its cheaper. My husband would normally eat at least twice as much food as he has for dinner this evening, and its hard to watch the kids finish their meal and ask for more while we are still hungry. Knowing that this is our last meal of the lent appeal lifts our spirits.

I’m relieved I won’t have to choose between feeding myself or feeding my kids tomorrow, or worry about whether they are getting enough nutrition. The kids have cereal and milk for supper, and we go to bed counting our blessings, looking forward to a good breakfast tomorrow.

END

Live on £1 a Day: Emma Day 4

It’s day 4 and I frankly can’t wait for this to be over.

I’m hungry and tired. We have run out of fruit and milk, and today will see the last of the bread. I look forward to finishing off the eggs for breakfast, and kids enjoy boiled eggs too so it’s win-win. I put spread on my toast without even thinking about it – although it’s not in budget. These apparently small things make such a difference – things I usually take for granted.

I am so grateful that we have tea bags in our shop this week. The tea and occasional biscuit (although today will finish them off) are keeping me going, and again I am so grateful to not have to worry about what the kids are eating during the day. There’d be nowhere near enough food if they weren’t eating at school.

Sandwiches (again) for lunch. I’m getting fed up of having the same thing over and over, and I think I can’t face it, but in actual fact I’m starving and eat it really quickly.

The afternoon goes quickly because I am busy with work, but everything does seem a bit harder / and I’m a bit more tired than usual.

I’m really looking forward to roasted chicken thighs for dinner. Protein and fat is just what I have been craving; the portions just aren’t big enough. The kids grumble but eat it anyway. Dividing up the food between 4 of us and deciding who gets bigger / smaller portions is by far the biggest challenge this week.

Thank goodness this will be over soon.

END

All our bloggers have got to a point within their 5 day period of living on £1 where they’re looking forward to day 6. But for many people, this is daily life with no end in sight. One issue that’s very topical currently an could help people significantly is reducing the 5 week wait between making a Universal Credit claim and receiving the first payment. The Trussell Trust have launched a campaign called #5weekstoolong and you can join in by signing the petition to call on the government to reduce if not scrap this waiting time that is built into the claim period. Details are here: https://action.trusselltrust.org/5weekstoolong

Live on £1 a Day: Emma Day 3

I’m really feeling it now.  I’m tired and hungry and fed up.

Breakfast is weetabix for everyone.  The kids also have yogurt (not in the budget) and we share banana.

In my rush to leave the house I forget my lunch (chicken sandwiches).  I could cry, but realise that I have always taken for granted that when that happens, I can pop out and get something else.  I count my blessings.  

Dinner looks good.  The kids love the potato wedges and spaghetti hoops, but I wish we had some protein and more veg.  I’d love a roast chicken right now. I’m hungry again very quickly after dinner and eat some biscuits.  My husband is very hungry, he could have eaten twice this amount.  I’m finding it a challenge to know how the share out the food we have.  The kids are small so should they get less, or more because they are growing?  My husband could eat more than the rest of us put together, so should he get more?  I don’t know.  How can I make these choices?

I top up the kids with fruit and milkshakes (not in the budget).

END

We know that mums often go without food and other expenses (new clothing for example) to ensure their children are fed and clothed and have their needs met and we expect that there are several partners who ensure their other half is seen to before themselves also – so they are at least 3rd in line in terms of needs being met.

In the film ‘I, Daniel Blake’, one thing that struck many viewers was when Katie (the female lead), on receipt of her food parcel, opened a tin immediately and started eating. Many were shocked, but sadly this is something we see every week at least during the foodbank session. Due to time constraints or embarrassment, people often come to the foodbank after they have exhausted all other options and sometimes haven’t eaten for days.

All of our centres offer hot and cold drinks as well as biscuits and cake for those who come for our help, but 3 centres also offer a free hot meal for foodbank clients. This not only means the 3 day parcel stretches that bit further, but a hot meal can be enjoyed immediately and we are showing that little bit more care and love to those who access our service.

Live on £1 a Day: Emma Day 2

Up and out at 5am today for work, breakfast is overnight oats (oats and milk) on the train. I have had to be more organised than usual and plan / make food the night before. The kids have boiled eggs and toast, and I am again grateful for school / nursery meals – otherwise I would have to save the eggs for lunch.

It’s a really long day and I am getting lightheaded, so I wolf down lunch at 11am before I remember to take a photo. I’m offered a coffee at work and I’ve never been more grateful – I’m not sure if my headache is tiredness or withdrawal for the coffee. I have a whole banana to myself and feel really selfish for it; I should have shared it with the rest of the family.

By mid-afternoon I’m really really hungry, and have a desperate (and unsuccessful) rummage in my handbag for stray sweets. No luck. As soon as I get home I eat several biscuits and feel rather ill.

The kids are hungry and enjoy the spaghetti (spaghetti, veg and sardines). As soon as they realise there are sardines in the food they start messing around and throwing it on the floor – its infuriating and I feel like I haven’t brought them up correctly. Then I feel guilty, they are just kids after all. I didn’t like dinner either, and I feel bad I haven’t managed to make a ‘nice’ meal.

This evening I notice that I’m not hungry, but I feel bloated and unwell with all the stodge. I just want some food that I really like. I don’t feel like I have eaten well. When I’m bathing the kids they seem so fragile – especially my 3 year old – I need to make sure they are well and taken care of, and FED. They are so small and still growing. How would it affect them if they don’t get the nutrition they need?

END

At the risk of being repetitive – again! – as part of the Trussell Trust network, Norwich foodbank supplies nutritionally balanced food parcels, with 3 days of food. A report compiled by a nutritionist was updated in April 2018 and you can read it here: https://www.trusselltrust.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2018/06/Food_Parcel_Report_April_2018.pdf

The food parcel has enough food for breakfast, lunch and dinner plus some drinks and snacks (tea / juice / chocolate / instant noodles for example) and assumes the recipient has nothing to add – so therefore 9 complete meals. As all items are non-perishable, it is a little limiting but will still meet the nutritional needs of the person during the 3 day period the food covers.

This is why foodbanks so often say ‘we really need X’ (see yesterday’s post – pasta sauce and sponge puddings!) or sometimes ‘we don’t need X’ (for example we’re really well stocked with baked beans, soup, pasta and cereal) because we need to include a variety of items including, but not limited to, the foodstuffs we have in abundance.

We hope this helps to explain what goes in a parcel and why we are sometimes so prescriptive!

Live on £1 a Day: Emma Day 1

Porridge for breakfast (made with water for the grown ups, and milk for the kids – I’m already worried the milk won’t last all week). The kids are hungry and hoover up today’s banana allowance for all of us between them.  Well, I’ll miss the fruit later but right now I’d rather they were well fed.  

Preparing the sandwiches for lunch, my husband is embarrassed that I’ve given him two sandwiches but only one for me.  Well, he’s bigger and uses more energy!  The kids steal some of the sliced chicken – they are hungry, growing children.  I’m relieved I don’t need to worry about lunch or dinner for them, as they will be at school and nursery.

Mid morning and I’m starving and have a headache from coffee withdrawal.  I drink lots of water and look forward to my sandwich.  It’s not very filling and I really notice that the budget bread and meat seems less substantial. The afternoon drags, I’d usually have something sweet after lunch.  I can’t wait for dinner.  The afternoon drags and it’s hard to concentrate on work.

As soon as I get home we have some apple slices (I realised that chopping fruit up makes it go further) and I really appreciate the fresh crunchy fruit after a day of beige food.

I’m pleased with the chicken stew I made for dinner (chicken, veg and oats) – some salt would help but it’s good anyway.  I am really craving coffee and sugar and it’s making me grumpy. The kids want dessert so I top them up with yogurt, grapes and milk (not in the budget!) and have a biscuit myself.  I don’t want to think about how it would feel if I didn’t have the extra food to give them.  How do you explain to a hungry 3 year old that you can’t feed them?

END

We’ve mentioned about our FISH clubs previously – Food (and Fun) In School Holidays – where we invite local families who struggle during the holidays (when free school meals aren’t available) to enjoy a free hot meal and free fun activities. We know this is a lifeline to many of the families who attend and the only meal some of the children will get that day. In spite of this, we have heard from local schools that free school meal take up is low and people who are eligible, haven’t signed up. Part of this is lack of awareness of this service and how to sign up, but some is definitely embarrassment of needing this support and, as with foodbank, the potential stigma of using this service. More information is here: http://www.schools.norfolk.gov.uk/school-administration/free-school-meals/index.htm

We know also that there is low take up from eligible families of Healthy Start vouchers – support with buying milk and fresh fruit and vegetables for pregnant women and mums of those under 4 years old. More info about eligibility and how to claim is here: https://www.healthystart.nhs.uk/

Live on £1 a Day: Hannah Day 5

Another lie-in for similar reasons as yesterday, but an evening later night out! I had two glasses of soda water while out with friends yesterday – I honestly didn’t feel jealous or miss having a drink as I’m often the driver, but despite my drink looking like lemonade or a spirit and mixer, I did feel like I was being a martyr (they knew what I was doing and so offered to buy me a drink but I politely refused because not everyone has people who could or would do that) and also like I stood out as not being able to afford a drink.

As I said yesterday, having a limited income doesn’t just impact your diet but your social activities as well and being isolated because you can’t afford to take part, can have a major impact on a person’s mental health, existing friendships because if you have to keep saying ‘no’ when invited out you may stop getting invites and on making new friendships.

Breakfast

Porridge with blackcurrant and carrot sticks later in the morning for a snack.

Lunch

As I’d run out of soup, I had pasta with baked beans. I realised at the start of this 5-day period that I would need to ration my pasta – usually when I cook pasta, I put in a couple of handfuls but because I needed it to last 6 meals (5 dinners and 1 lunch), I have been having 85g per meal; probably a similar amount to my handfuls but I didn’t want to run out on day 4.

I sometimes (!) get cross with my husband for eating something that I had plans for – either something that was going to be the next day’s lunch or tea or eating too much to leave a whole portion for another day. If this happens, I’ll be annoyed, but there’s always something else in the cupboard / fridge / freezer that can replace the eaten item. This weighing and rationing out of my food supplies hasn’t been stressful for me because I know they won’t be eaten by accident (labelled in tubs in the fridge or just not appealing to hubby!), but I can’t help thinking of families with hungry children or adults in the household who innocently eat something needed for another meal and the cook or breadwinner worrying what can be done, having to give smaller portions to everyone or having to go without so others can eat.

I didn’t have much on today and I usually love a lazy day, but today I was more restless and felt hungry and it just demonstrated how much snacking I do during the day and how many times food punctuates my time. A cup of tea here, a piece or fruit or crisps there, another cup of tea or other drink, pop out to do errands and have a coffee out, invite people over or go round their’s for a drink / something to eat / take some chocolates round. I have been more and more aware how much food and drink is linked to social activities and if you can’t afford it, it can be tough. ‘Shall we get a coffee? Shall we get a takeaway?’ etc. I know I’ve said this kind of thing before, but this has been one of my ‘takeaway’ (no pun intended) lessons.

I roasted the remaining chickpeas as an afternoon snack and they were nice, but I usually put garlic salt on and that would have been tastier… Throughout this 5 days, I haven’t thought about the cost of the gas or electric to cook the food I have been eating, although this would be a concern for many of those who are on a limited income.

This winter (November til March), foodbanks across Norfolk have been partnering with agencies to enable clients using the service to access emergency payments towards gas and electric to help them cook the food we give them and / or heat their home during the colder weather. I’m fortunate that I don’t have to choose which I spend my money on, but many do and it’s a very hard decision.

Tea

My last meal of the 5 days was the remaining pasta, tomatoes and sardines. I’m left with 17p, 2 carrots, a glass of soya milk, most of the bag of porridge oats and half a bottle of squash. If I did this again, I would buy different things as I got in a muddle about value for money (hence the big bag of oats when 8 instant sachets would have been tastier and the same price), but at the same time if I was spending £5 tomorrow for 5 days, I’d have an ‘extra’ £1.70 ish to spend, as I’d have oats and squash left from this week. I’m thinking I could have done £40 for the whole 40 days of Lent, so that’s an idea for next year maybe.

I did find that I felt full before I’d finished my bowl of food. I don’t know if this is because I’m getting used to smaller portions, or because I was bored of the same things and just didn’t want any more (I finished it, I don’t like waste) and I’m already thinking about tomorrow and whether I’ll feel ill eating a ‘normal’ 3 meals which will be bigger portions, even if just more fruit and vegetables. I do need to think more about portion control as I haven’t felt bad at all on this ‘diet’, despite my working out that if I had a portion of all my food items (and it was only today that I had a little of everything I bought), I have had between 500-600 calories a day. I don’t have a particularly physical job, but for those that do, I don’t think this is anywhere near enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle on.

I’ve also realised that I eat what I want, not necessarily because I’m hungry – ‘I fancy some chocolate or crisps’ – but I could have had a bowl of porridge if I was actually hungry and I didn’t. Therefore I can’t really have needed anything. Something a mum always says…!

Norwich foodbank – and multiple foodbanks and other charities across the UK – run holiday clubs for low income families to attend for a free hot meal and free fun activities. Part of this is to help provide a meal when free school meals aren’t an option, but the activities side can be just as important, as outlined above – for the children to socialise during the school holidays, but also for the parents. Norwich foodbank’s project FISH (Food (and Fun) In School Holidays) has been running since 2014 and has helped to support 11 clubs, seeing hundreds of children and serving over 6,000 meals (not including seconds, thirds or puddings!). Some of the clubs welcome the whole family, others provide activities for the children and space for parents to relax and meet other families in their community and some allow the parents to have a break while the children are entertained for a couple of hours. Have a look at the facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/FISHfoodbank) for more information or email fish@norwich.foodbank.org.uk if you would like to know how to receive this support in the holidays or are able to help in some way.