I thought today, as I ate my 5th portion of rice and dahl for lunch (filling but getting very boring) how much I like cooking for other people. Pre-lockdown, we often have friends over for dinner at the weekend and I love this. How would I do this on this budget? I couldn’t, no matter how many “cook dinner for a fiver!” articles I read. Cooking for others would be out and how could I go to other peoples for dinner with no gift? (wine is obviously out – “make something” said a friend – with what?? How could I afford to make a cake or biscuits on this budget?). This is really really horrible. I am not hungry but my diet this week has been very limited and there has been none of the usual pleasure in cooking – imagine if this was forever rather than just a week?
I think I thought I was aware, but I realise how many aspects of food poverty I had not understood. The anxiety that would go with an empty cupboard, the endless worry about children eating enough (and the guilt), the distress at not being able to reciprocate with friends and the shame this causes. I start to see the connection between poverty and mental health – the distress that hunger and anxiety about food can cause, the relentless, grinding misery of it all. How can we allow this to happen?
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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?
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!
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?
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/
Years of meal planning and budgeting with a young family (two grown ups,
a 7 year old and a toddler) have left me feeling well-equipped for this
challenge. Although £4 per day for a family is a smaller budget than I’ve
had in the past, I am interested to see what is achievable with some thought
I confess that after half an hour browsing online grocery shopping my
enthusiasm was waning a little. I don’t know what sort of food to
prioritise – pasta, bread and porridge to keep us full, but we need
fruit, veg and protein too and I’m surprised at how expensive this is. We
definitely can’t afford tea, coffee or chocolate, puddings or yogurts. I
realise we will also miss stock cubes, herbs, salt and cooking oil a lot this
I find room in the shopping basket for a packet of biscuits, and think about how much money we spend on food we like rather than the food we actually need. I can’t find a way for us all to have enough veg and a piece of fruit every day, and I’m not sure whether the kids will eat some of the dishes I have planned. (What if they don’t? They’ll be hungry without snacks to keep them going. I realise what a privilege it is to have options and how awful the pressure to feed your kids must be if you don’t). Its stressful trying to balance all these priorities and I don’t know what the right answer is. Feeling like a bad mother I pack the shopping basket with tinned tomatoes and pasta, and hope it will all fall into place somehow.
I thought about ‘click and collect’ but this would cost £2 – I never really thought about the hidden costs around our weekly shop! I spent £18.74, leaving £1.26 to spare.
We are so grateful to all those who support us with donations. This blog reminded me that we have really incredible donors and some of them will do a food shop and have it delivered directly to the foodbank warehouse! Sometimes this is done anonymously and sometimes we have the donor’s details so we can thank them which is great and we’ve had deliveries from all the major supermarkets. Just remember to switch the address back to your home address for the next shop… we received someone’s shopping once because of this! If you are thinking of donating, check with your local foodbank as to what they need most – Norwich foodbank currently needs long life sponge puddings and pasta sauce please.
Last night’s meal was another tasty recipe from the Jack Monroe cookbook – mixed bean goulash with rice. Lunch was an indulgent vanilla filled doughnut which tasted incredible since I had nothing fancy or sweet all week ‘til then. I was visiting a friend’s house and didn’t want to turn up empty- handed so found this doughnut bargain – 5 for 50p (I managed to bring one home as a treat for Chris!). Little things mean a lot on a budget and he was extremely grateful! I spent the remaining 36p of the budget on knock down bananas to put on toast for breakfast today and make a sandwich for lunch – they were actually 40p but I was desperate!
Tonight’s meal is a simple ‘spaghetti Arrabbiato’ from a recipe given to us by an Italian friend – one of our favourite light supper dishes. However, best served with a glass or two of red wine! We are surprised we have not missed alcohol too much this week (so far… tonight will be a big test!).
As we come to the close of the 5 day timeframe, our evening meal was a fiery spaghetti dish with half an apple each to follow. Our provisions have lasted and we have been successful in maintaining a varied and sustaining diet (although we would have liked more fresh fruit and veg). It has been an interesting and rewarding experience from which we have grown in our understanding of the issues involved in managing life on a low income. Our involvement in this project has stimulated much discussion amongst our family and friends around the day-to-day struggles of low income individuals & families.
Check back on Sunday when we’ll be sharing Emma’s experience as her family of 4 will be living on £1 a day each for all food and drink next week.
We are managing OK – not waking up feeling hungry, but missing fresh fruit and veg which we normally eat SO much of with Chris having an allotment.
We have had several discussions this week about the economy of growing your own food when living on a tight budget: how accessible is growing space for those in households with low incomes? Whilst flats offer little, most council houses have gardens, and tubs and window sill pots are great for herbs. The issue is more about education and knowledge both in terms of growing and using homegrown produce, especially herbs to flavour potentially bland food. The recipes we have been using in Jack Monroe’s cookbook rely heavily on herbs & spices. Many call for fresh coriander which we couldn’t afford on our budget so had to omit! Growing herbs on window sills seems a ‘middle class’ notion when this actually provides an excellent means of adding flavour to budget meals.
At Chris’ allotment site there is a community project called ‘Grow your Own’, providing smaller individual plots inside raised wooden boxes areas. Help and support is provided to get started in the process. This initiative was set up by an man who was himself living on a low income and who recognised the importance of enabling others to include fresh produce in their diets. The project is a great success and has developed over the years into a social & well-being vehicle too. A communal hut and picnic tables have been added and a harvest swap and share is in operation.
Perhaps as an add-on provision at distribution centres there could be a ‘seed’ bank where people could collect donated seeds…? Where does this education start? Many schools today are great at this and some even have school allotments; the message needs to be continued through. Maybe by having seeds to grow yourself available alongside your foodbox, this would prompt & remind people that grow your own is an option…? Anyone out there willing to take this on…?
We had support from allotment sites when they have gluts of various fruit and vegetables, especially in the summer, which has gone to support both foodbank parcels and also our FISH clubs – contributing to the meals but also being given out to families to take home for tea.
We love the idea of helping people to grow their own – it would be much more sustainable if it were kept up, but as Imelda says, where does it need to start – when people come to foodbank, things have got pretty desperate and to think about the future in terms of planting, growing and nurturing produce, would seem like a bit of a way down the list of things to do. But getting involved in projects that are already up and running like the one at Chris’ allotment mentioned above, and also TCV in Lakenham –
https://www.tcv.org.uk/eastern/tcv-norfolk/tuckswood-food-growing-project – the results would come a lot quicker and hopefully literally plant a seed in people’s minds to keep going and keep coming back for the many benefits this kind of activity provides. Definitely food for thought and something to signpost people onto when they come to foodbank!
Morning observations – cheap loaf of bread has more slices as cut thinner, therefore goes further!
Tea is definitely a diuretic, particularly effective with no dehydrating alcohol or coffee!
We were just thinking about the shopping we did this week and how much of the stuff is available in the foodbank boxes that Chris helps put together in his volunteering role within the warehouse. It made us realise even more how helpful – no, essential – the foodbank support is and how sad it is in this day and age that so many people need this kind of support.
Another thought… We know the importance of education and knowledge to healthy living and good budgeting, so would it be helpful to put a photocopy sheet with a Jack Monroe recipe or two in the foodboxes as meal suggestions? I believe Norwich foodbank has been donated a complementary copy of the book from the author who sounds like she would allow copyright for this purpose?? I am sure funding could be found for this. [see notes at the end for an update…]
Wow! Chick pea and peach curry is going to be on our menu again! It was quite delicious! I was feeling hungry as I had done Pilates today and over 4 hours working in the garden and needed something both filling & tasty!
Well Imelda, great minds think alike! Norwich foodbank did indeed receive a donation and, like many foodbanks across the UK, are the proud owners of Jack Monroe’s ‘Cooking on a Bootstrap’ cookbook! Many of the recipes included can be made using foodbank donations (i.e. tinned / long life items), with only a few cheap additions in some cases – just an onion and some garlic in many of the recipes.
With permission from Jack, we have been trialling recipe kit bags at one of our busiest centre, with really positive feedback! We’ve mentioned previously, and it’s echoed in this blog, that tight budgets can lead to limited choices and trying a new recipe with different foodstuffs to what you would normally buy / choose, can be very high risk. The recipe kits give the opportunity to try new dishes with all the items and instructions, so very low risk.
following these blogs to find out more and check out Norwich foodbank on social
media (facebook, twitter and instagram) to see more of what Norwich foodbank is