Live on £1 a Day: Imelda Day 2

Yesterday’s experience has resulted in much discussion around the wider issues of coping on low income amongst not only ourselves but also friends and family reading our blog. It has been so interesting to hear wider perspectives and to dwell on them. Our daughter raised some thoughts around the social issues and the knock on effect this has on wellbeing.

Today we have an actual example of that. We have our granddaughter here for the day and my friend and her granddaughter coming over to play and share lunch. How do we host them on our budget? In the ‘real world’ this would indeed be an issue. However, we have the luxury to decide not to involve them in our challenge. We have plenty of eggs & cheese in the ‘house’ fridge (we have set aside the other fridge as our Lent fridge… goodness, I feel so guilty having two fridges now!). We can offer them scrambled eggs on toast with grated cheese on top. Oh how I longed for grated cheese on top of my beans and jacket potato last night! We are however using our Lent loaf for their toast!

As my mind is focused on this topic, I had a discussion with my friend this afternoon about buying goods cheaper in bulk and the fact that those on a tight weekly budget can’t afford the initial outlay. For example, I talked about buying 4 tins of tuna to get a cheaper cost per can, but with my budget, I could not afford the multipack and would have to opt for the much dearer single can. My friend said she used to wonder why people on reduced income bought small packets of washing powder as it is so much cheaper to buy the larger sizes. Now she knows.

During the last two days we have learnt that keeping busy seems to be the best way to distract from the need for food. We were well ready for our evening meal today! Burgers in buns, made with crushed kidney beans, grated carrot, onion and cumin. Surprisingly yummy! See photo.

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Another good point made about quantities and prices here. Due to the labelling and related health and safety / food safety issues around splitting big quantities (all the information needs to be recreated from the original and for most foodstuffs, being airtight would be a requirement), the majority of foodbanks ask for smaller items to be donated – 500g of sugar instead of 1kg, smaller packs of washing powder rather than ‘family size’ ones – because two 500g bags can help support two families, one 1kg bag can only help one family, albeit for a longer period of time. We are genuinely grateful for all donations and we do understand that smaller quantities can cost the donor more, but hopefully this explains why we are sometimes so specific in what is needed!

Live on £1 a Day: Imelda Shop & Day 1

My husband and I accepted to undertake the foodbank’s Lent appeal of living for five days on a food budget of £1 per day each to highlight the struggle many people face on a daily basis.

The money we save this week will be used to supplement the donated food we use to provide hot meals and basics for the homeless of Norwich, as part of the Anon Street Team.

Today is the beginning of this journey. We agreed to adhere strictly to the brief if we possibly can, so no dipping into our own cupboards or using any produce from our allotment! To prepare for this, we decided to select main meals for the 5 days, as these would form the major intake each day. We could then make a shopping list and see whether it was possible with the pooled resource of £10. We would also need to buy staple food such as milk, bread, margarine and tea (we had decided to abandon coffee for the period as it’s too expensive and Chris disliked ‘cheap instant’.

The best resource here was a Jack Monroe cookbook which our daughter-in-law loaned us on hearing our plans. This book is amazing! It was written by Jack when she was struggling as a single unemployed parent and is full of healthy budget meals prepared using simple cheap ingredients. Apparently our children use some of these recipes as family favourites and particularly recommend the burgers (made from kidney beans) and the chick pea and peach curry!

So, with our five menus chosen and shopping list in hand, I am off to Aldi in the hope that I can purchase everything I need for the £10 note I have in my purse…

Well that was an interesting shopping experience! I bought ‘basic’ in everything I could and the bill came to £10.28. I was planning to add on teabags (40 for 29p – (I had previously bought a box of 160 for £1.15 & planned to take a 40 pack out). Also, I planned to split a previously bought multipack of tuna to get my can at the best price. Decisions have to be made! I have decided to dump the tuna bake, normally our cheapest meal of the week, and replace with jacket potatoes & beans. Now I could remove pasta & sweetcorn and add another tin of beans. I already had the potatoes as an extra for a lunchtime! Also, as we are only doing 5 days I decided to be more realistic with the quantities we would be using of the packets we bought and reduce costs accordingly (every penny matters when you are on such a slim budget). The adjustments made, I am left with 86p. I would love to afford some fresh salad or green veggies; let’s see how we go!

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We’ve mentioned in previous blogs about our relationships with FareShare and Norwich FoodHub and we’re so glad to receive fresh fruit and veg through these collections – as Imelda says, this is something that she wishes her strict budget could allow for. The foodbank parcels are nutritionally balanced and all include tinned fruit, vegetables and beans, but it’s really nice to supplement this with extra, fresh items as supplies allow.

Lots of other charities and groups – including the Anon Street Team that Chris and Imelda volunteer with – also use donations from FareShare and FoodHub to provide meals to many in need around the city of Norwich. We’re very grateful to our volunteers who collect and distribute these donations, but also to all those who volunteer with FoodHub and those who coordinate the FareShare collections to help all those who ultimately benefit from this food.

Live on £1 a Day: Angie Day 5

It’s the last day. I can almost taste the chocolate that has been sat in the fridge since before I started this. Walked the dogs and did some more weights as I won’t be running again for a couple of days. I’m surprised how well I actually feel; I thought I would be worn down and totally fed up by today, but I’m not.

Lunch was a cheese sandwich; I was able to make the slices of bread nice and thick to fill us up.  We only had the tiniest bit of cheese left for tonight. I have been impressed with how we’ve made 1 block of cheese last the week, it does make you realise how much of the things you like that you use. I really should eat less cheese as I don’t need the extravagance of just how much I usually use.

I had to go and do some shopping after work as we have visitors tomorrow. I bought a pack of sausages to add to the pasta with tinned tomatoes and onion, as this made a lovely meal and will definitely be something that I’d do again.

Reflection: I am extremely fortunate! I haven’t always been and because of that, I don’t think I would ever take for granted the fact I am able to make choices about what and when I eat. It made me realise that although I probably eat very similarly to how I did last week, when the choice is taken away from you it feels very different. I probably missed chocolate more than anything else, but I was determined to stick to it and didn’t touch the bars of chocolate that were sat in the fridge. I also realised just how much I snack throughout the day, mostly they are healthy snacks, but not being able to graze constantly hit me hard.

I am lucky that I was able to go out and do ‘free’ things like running with friends. Even going to the pub was not traumatic and I didn’t feel embarrassed about only having water. 

It was interesting asking friends to try and do a shopping list for a week allowing a £1 per day per person.  When they actually thought about it, they realised it was much more difficult that they initially thought. It also made them think about how much they spend each week and what would they change if they didn’t have the funds available that they have now.  Hopefully it has opened their eyes a bit to the challenges that people face day to day.

Live on £1 a Day: Angie Day 2

Felt a bit woozy on my walk with the dogs first thing, I think it was likely because of the lack of sugar and salt as I was probably dehydrated after my run. Busied myself around the house changing the beds, ironing and doing a bit of tidying to try and keep my mind off the fact I had woken up hungry. Arrived at work and got myself a glass of water, was lucky enough to be made three cups of tea throughout the day, but that is way short of what I usually drink so did miss it.

Lunch was homemade broccoli and cheese soup today. This is actually my favourite and I often make this and take it to work. I did go easy on the cheese though as that little block has to last the whole week. It has made me realise just how much cheese I eat, we regularly go through 2–3 blocks of cheese a week!  Again, I had two bits of bread and spread to try and bulk up my lunch.

I do appreciate the fact that I go out to work as it kept me busy so that I wasn’t constantly thinking of food, however I did find myself hungrier than usual today and would have loved to have grabbed an apple, a bag of crisps or a bar of chocolate to fill the gap in the afternoon.

When I got home from work we made a pizza base and, while the dough was proving, we took the dogs for a walk.  My other half said he’d not been feeling well all day and while we were walking, he had to sit down as he was feeling so dizzy. All I could think about was getting home and making the pizza. This was where I said I was going to cheat: I had a pepper, a few tomatoes and mushrooms that were already out of date and needed to be used up and I couldn’t wait. When shopping they had sold out of tomato puree and I toyed with getting passata, but didn’t buy it as it would have meant I had to go without something else.  Instead I pureed some of the tinned tomatoes to make the base layer to build everything on.

The pizza was amazing! I usually chop chillies and then dip it in mayonnaise so had to miss out on that, but it was still great.  We just watched telly in the evening and would usually have had a bottle of beer, but stuck to water.

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Angie’s pizza reminded us of our FISH clubs (Food (and Fun) In School Holidays) for low income families and one of the children’s favourite activities, which is DIY pizzas with the Morrisons Community Champion. We have done this on several occasions, thanks to Geoff at Morrisons Riverside, and he brings all the foodstuffs needed and the children can add wahtever toppings they fancy. Something we’ve always noticed, and we have had shop-bought pizza for lunch on a few occasions – the meals the children make themselves (and we’ve done DIY wraps too!), always result in fewer leftovers.

We think this could be the same for the parents too as we trialled the Joy of Food cookery course alongside FISH last year and the adults who took part were so chuffed with the meals they created and enjoyed them for their tea each week.

We’re currently trialling recipe kits at the foodbank, giving clients the opportunity to take a bag of specific ingredients and a recipe home, alongside their food parcel to try.

Those of us who enjoy baking and cooking for ourselves and / or for friends may do so just for fun and if it goes wrong, it doesn’t really matter. But trying a new recipe while on a tight budget can be risky – what if it goes wrong – what will we eat instead and I’ve now wasted that meal’s money. If the children or family members don’t like it, what do we eat instead; there’s no backup. The recipes are going down well so far, watch this space for..!

Live on £1 a Day: Angie Day 1

Got up, walked the dogs and got ready for work. When I arrived, there was a cup of tea on my desk waiting for me – I have some lovely colleagues!  I started to feel hungry around 11:30am, but as I said before I am trying not to eat until 12pm; I left my lunch where it was and sat it out.

Lunch was homemade tomato, onion and butterbean soup. I also added a handful of pasta to try and make sure that it was as filling as possible. I’d used potatoes to thicken it up and myself and my partner had two slices of bread and olive oil spread. I have to say that I didn’t notice the difference in the bread even though we had omitted the sugar from the dough. It was very nice and I am extremely glad that I had bought stock cubes in my shop as I think it would have been pretty bland without.

The afternoon went well and I had several cups of tea made for me and I drank plenty of water. I usually graze throughout the afternoon, even if it is healthy grazing that I do and I missed this a lot. I found an apple on my desk and gave it to a colleague although I would have loved to have eaten it myself. By about 4:30pm I was getting really hungry; I started thinking a lot about food and what I could make with all the potatoes we bought. 

I didn’t leave work until 6pm as I was meeting some friends to go for a run. I am lucky that I have a hobby that, once you have the kit, it’s free, but it does make you think about what you would do if you needed new trainers and had to choose between new trainers to allow you to continue doing something that you enjoy and is good for your mental wellbeing, or having food to give you the fuel to do it.

I often find that running dulls my appetite and when I got home I wasn’t that hungry. At around 8pm, we had beans on toast as that was something simple and quick. I missed adding some chopped chilli to my beans – I grow my own and have a freezer with lots of varieties – but I was determined to stick to what I bought so they stayed in the freezer. I often grate some cheese on top as well, but left that off as I need enough for my pizza, broccoli and cheese soup and for any pasta I will be making later in the week.  It does make you think about the things you take for granted…

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We’ve mentioned before during these blogs about the nutritionally balanced food parcels, as set out by the Trussell Trust, but it’s worth mentioning again! Today, we had a school visit from a year 5 class who came with a large donation of items and lots of well thought out questions. One student asked ‘how much money do you [the foodbank] spend on food each week?’ and the answer is not very much at all, thanks to our amazing supporters, listening to our needs and responding. We send out a monthly ‘most / least needed’ list to those who have requested it (around 80 recipients, several who represent groups), highlighting the items that we really need, but also the items we don’t need due to high stock levels.

If you’re local to Norwich and would like to support us, look at our website and social media pages to see updates on what we do and don’t currently need. If Norwich isn’t your local foodbank, get in touch with them as we know they would really appreciate giving you up to date info on how best you can help.

Live on £1 a Day: Kathryn Day 4

The weekend is here – 48 hours stretch out in front of me with no specific plans.

Breakfast – cornflakes and milk

Lunch – pasta, vegetables with soft cheese

Tea – beans & cheesy mash potato ‘pie’

Very tired today – that could be due to the previous evening activities – but I admit that the thought of cornflakes was not welcoming as they don’t fill me up.

This is going to be a boring blog day – I really didn’t do much apart from housework, washing and knitting. Normally a day to myself without the pressure of work is welcome but the day dragged as I was just focused on when I could eat next.

One good thing was (due to an inspired tip from my sister) I made ‘crisps’ from my potato peelings.   To think I was going to throw them away – but baked in the oven they came out crispy and were a welcome snack during Saturday evening .

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Norwich foodbank is part of the Trussell Trust and follows their model of providing 3 days of nutritionally balanced food in each of the parcels given out. Because of this, the mixture of items is really important and so when we ask for certain foods, it’s to ensure we have a good stock of ALL required items. Baked beans, pasta and cereal are donated the most as they basically cover the main meal staples, but this also means many foodbanks are extremely well stocked with these items. Therefore, things like milk, fruit juice and sponge puddings (all long life of course!) are in shorter supply and are even more gratefully received.

Norwich foodbank currently needs sponge puddings if you’re in a position to donate and if you’re in need yourself, do get in touch with the office on 0103 251733 or via the email admin@norwich.foodbank.org.uk

Live on £1 a Day: Kathryn Day 3

I’m tired and weary today.   Could that just be a Friday feeling or there are other factors at play…?

There have been a number of interesting conversations in my office – for those staff who have heard what I’m doing and understanding why I’m more grumpy than usual.  It is great to hear the debates and making people think about what they take for granted and what they are (genuinely) grateful for.

Breakfast – cornflakes and milk

Lunch – pasta, vegetables with soft cheese

Late afternoon snack – small amount of spaghetti hoops

Tea –  NONE!

Food planning has been a challenge again today.   Due to knowing I’m out volunteering straight from work this evening, I’ve brought some of my spaghetti hoops for a snack to help me last the evening.

The relief that a cup of tea was offered first thing prompted a spontaneous hug for one of my colleagues.   Never been this emotional over a cup of tea before!

I will say here that it was noted at work that I was far more irritable and snappy than normal during the day.   I was asked a number of times ‘are you Ok?’

I was very glad for my late afternoon snack as my evening plans were a lot longer than expected and didn’t get home until past 9pm.   I’ll be honest, I was beyond being hungry and I didn’t have any tea.

The weekend is looming and I’m not looking forward to it.

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One myth about those who use the foodbank is that everyone who comes, is on benefits and not in work. Well many people are in employment AND need our support – this may be due to zero hours contracts which mean income is unstable and budgeting is near-on impossible, or it may due to low wages / low hours due to childcare or other commitments.

Some of you may read this blog and be thinking about food choices and shopping and hunger, but another point to sharing these experiences is to help better understand and therefore empathise with those who struggle day in, day out to make ends meet.