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Thursday, 23 January 2014

First thrifty post of the New Year!

I am back! Budget Momma is back with a vengeance, sooooo sorry to those of you who have been waiting for so so long for an update. My life is MANIC. Quick update on me, then I will share some new tips & hopefully some recipes if I get a chance.

As you read from previous posts, the Challenge started in October very soon become a necessity & £25 a week on groceries was actually a bit of a luxury, how dare we, a (poor) working family expect to spend £100 a month on food, & cleaning products? Well... we don't, not any more, soon after my last post I decided I would just spend as little as I possibly could on food, cleaning, & toiletries. This meant that I might go over my £25 a week one week, but then only spend £10 the next, week, you see where I am going here?

In November a lady on the Facebook group (link is to the side>>) discovered a local butchers who did AMAZING deals, & when I say amazing I really am not kidding, I got a freezer FULL of chicken & steak for £31 including delivery, we are now coming to the end of January & we still have most of it in the freezer, the portions are huge & one chicken breast is enough for all three of us, so we have managed to seriously stretch our money. I haven't bought any meat other then reduced lamb shanks & reduced mince since November 1 of each to be precise, plus we had some bits in the freezer left over. Meat is usually one of the biggest food costs for any household & had I have stuck to my original £25 per week challenge I would not have got such a great deal, so this really paid off for us £31 for effectively 3 months worth of meat. Our 8 sirloin steaks where an add on of £1, the other £30 was for a box full of chicken delights, cluck cluck. So my freezer is full, (STILL) which is great, what's also great is that I am forever forgetting to get the meat out the freezer so we are forced to have a vegi meal at least a few times a week (cheaper all around heeheehee). For the last couple months I have just needed to top up on staple foods, & toiletries. I will list them to make it a bit easier & the approximate price I have paid monthly, I don't have the receipts to back this up, but I have swapped my shopping to Lidl & more recently Approved foods (more on that later) so it's not very expensive. I will from this day forward stop binning my receipts for you all to view in my next blog posts, it's also cheap because it simply has to be!

  • Tins (beans, spaghetti, toms, kidney beans, butter beans)
  • Bread (bought weekly)
  • Butter
  • Pasta, Noodles, Spaghetti, Lentils
  • Loo Roll, Washing Powder, Shampoo, Conditioner, Shower Gel
  • Sack of Potato's
  • Fruit & Veg (frozen & fresh)
  • Cheese
  • Milk, Tea, Coffee, Squash
Approximate monthly cost £50, I am yet to buy anything other then bread, butter, Loo Roll, Milk & Cheese this month, we are running low on fruit & veg, so will be doing a top up shop on those soon, but I am really trying to hold out until Feb. 

Out of all the Above the most expensive item was the Sack of spuds bought the same day as the Meat was delivered, I still have about 6 left! A little tip, pop an apple in your sack, they will keep fresh for ages, the last week, I have been de-rooting little bits off a few spuds but that's no big deal to me these days, a few months ago, the rooted spuds would be going in the bin, not today though. 

I have so much to say I don't know where to go next!

The thrifty me, is on a mission to keep the bailiffs away, it's a scary scary thing not knowing where your next council tax money is going to come from, but somehow we are managing to stay afloat. So first off I will explain some of the new things I have learnt & done over the last few months.

  • I have discovered Approved Foods, which is a site that sells, close to or past best before dates, as well as end of line products, cleaning, animal, fresh & cupboard foods. If your funny about best before dates please do your research :) I am not at all iffy, & I rely on good old human nature to tell me if something isn't right to eat by using the senses I was born with. Best Before is exactly what it says on the label. Approved  Foods is also. 
  • I have bought a Thermos flask to reduce the amount of times I boil my kettle in the day, I drink copious amounts of coffee & tea, I could boil my kettle anything up to 30 times a day because I boil it, walk off, boil it again, walk off, make a brew drink it , & boil it again to make another brew almost instantly after I have finished the first. I like my drinks like Lava, & the Thermos 100% lives up to its name, since 6.30 tonight (or yesterday now) I have boiled my kettle once!
  • I have bought a Thermos Style cup to reduce the time it takes to cool down, as I said I like my brew HOT but my lifestyle doesn't always understand that need for a red hot cuppa, & I am forever microwaving tea & coffee. Not any more, not once since I got my special mug! 
  • That awful awful time of the month comes upon most of my readers, that one week where we turn from the fairy godmother, to an adult female Spawn of Satan, the one thing I really really HATE buying is sanitary wear, I could spend anything from £5 to £15 per month, & what's more the sanitary wear of my choice give me incredible, horrific headaches for an entire week as well as awful mood swings, feeling unclean, unkempt, & just a big un-organised sweaty mess. I did some research, new sanitary wear of choice is a mooncup, the initial price is more expensive, but it will pay itself back in two months, it has no chemicals, I have so far suffered no headaches, I am still moody, I feel clean, fresh & have very little cramping. I like it, it's not for everyone, but I will say hand on heart that its the cleanest type of sanitary wear I have every used in my 13 years of using them. 
  • I have bought but not yet tried all the ingredients to my own washing powder! This really really really really excites me, if it works & I do it correctly it has cost £2! More details on that in the coming days. 
I have so much more to tell you, including more tips, recipes & pictures but its 03.11 in the morning so I am afraid I will leave it at that for tonight.

p.s The Facebook group is doing amazingly well, all the members are loving it & we aren't to far off 11k now! My Business page is currently closed due to horrific postal errors over Christmas that I am still rectifying & catching up with. Like I said Manic lol. <3 x

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Money Saving in the Cherry Budget Household

After our shock horror financial situation I had hundred's of messages offering very helpful tips & advice, so thank you to each & every reader, & the hundreds of members on my Facebook group, I haven't had chance to thank every one of you individually but I am still reading messages today & still collecting lots of advice & tips. Here are some of the things I have done so far.

  • Contacted Citizens Advice Bureau, they told me to try again with tax credits.
  • Contacted Tax Credits regarding working &/or Child tax credits who are opening a new Claim & have said to hope for the best, according to the person on the phone it doesn't look as though we are entitled to help, but I can put a counter claim in to fight it
  • Scraped together all the pennies we have & have somehow managed to pay the water rates bill of £133, contacted them to arrange an easier payment solution of £30 per month so we aren't hit with a big bill every quarter. 
  • Stopped using the tumble dryer unless its to finish something off, & even then its after 12.30am when the cheaper rates go into place. We have used it once this week.
  • Do as much washing as I can after 12.30am
  • Limit toilet flushing, yep it is amazing how much you can save, I got the tip from Skint Dad's blog. When we have the spare cash I will be looking in to the Hippo7, our water supplier doesn't supply them, but I do think its worth the money to save in the long run.
  • Cut down on vacuuming, particularly upstairs, we don't get visitors, close the door & forget about the floor until the weekend.
  • Contacted TV Licencing, I got a tip to say that if you watch NO live TV & are not recording live TV you shouldn't have to pay a licence, I contacted TV Licencing & had this confirmed, we watch NO TV at all, we don't get coverage on freeview very well, don't own a sky or virgin box, don't have a recordable DVD player, for two years we have managed by watching things on netflix, Lovefilm & catchup apps VIA the playstation, I cancelled my direct debit for this after contacting them, but for your own peace of mind please contact them before deciding to cancel your own direct debit.
  • I cancelled any other unnecessary direct debits I had & had forgotten about, or not had use of. 
  • British Gas are looking into the electricity consumption.
  • Reduced the monthly D/D to British Gas for Gas, we are £165 in credit & only used (according to my app) £49 in gas so far this quarter, I was paying £75 per month, reduced that down to £65 per month & turned all the heating off for most of the day, it's off of an evening, knocked on in the morning for an hour or two, then on again an hour or two of an evening, its been off all day today as no toddler to heat up. 
  • Not stepped foot in a shop, not bought any food, we have lived off what we have, a trip will be needed tomorrow for bread & milk though.  
  • The landing & bathroom is being lit up with a beautiful candle holder my mom bought us last month (perfect timing), & other several candles I have lying around (note: put candles in a glass jar or holder to prevent the wax melting onto your surfaces, it also lets out more light) , scented tarts & candles are being used up which has saved on going to the shop for oust or any other air freshener type sprays. 
  • Designated a change mug for any cash we have that we may be able to spare so we can use for emergency top ups in electric, bread, milk, etc
  • Told friends we can't go to any Christmas parties, birthday parties or social events.
  • Signed up to swagbucks, which has been seen on 20-30 mins a day of surveys or watching videos, some of the ladies on the group have claimed up to £25 in Amazon vouchers just this week! Here is my referral link for anyone that would like to join, feel free to use it, of course you don't have to use my link if you would prefer not to.
  • Not one to turn away the chance of earning a few extra pence a day I have signed upto & agreed to have the use of adds on my blog, every penny helps right?! 
I should add, I didn't post that blog post for pitty, it was through anger more than anything, I am glad I did though as the advice received has been a massive help.

Thanks again all! x


Monday, 4 November 2013

Budget Fun for the Kids at Christmas

It's been a whirlwind the past couple of days so I am sorry for those waiting a new post, it's been a bit busy here with work & finances so we have been living off the food I bulk cooked, no real recipes to show, I made some more butter in a bigger scale this time (you can see the recipe for that in my previous blog post), separated so I could make garlic butter and salted butter total cost was £1.40 for both, as oppose to £5.00 for the same amount in lurpak (if its on offer otherwise it would be £6)

I made some fudge, Pecan fudge to be exact, this was a tester for Christmas hampers as it can be made pretty much out of the items I have in the cupboard I don't really have to buy a lot other than the chocolate which is 0.35 per 100g from Lidl, its delicious & creamy with the crunch of the pecan, It's pretty quick to make so I can make them up a couple of days before Christmas. The tester went well in the end and its almost all gone already. I need to stop this testing of sweets I am on a diet! You can find the recipe here,  just adjust to your own taste I forgot to get marshmallows so missed them out, I haven't priced it up yet but it really is pence to make. The full pricing will be in my final hamper blog.
Christmas Cardi

Open Staircase
Cosy Christmas
Being as we have had a crappy couple of days here, I wanted to write something that brings a smile to my face, for me that's Christmas, we may not have a lot to give this year but the whole season is about family, comfort, Christmas cardigans, fleecy throw overs, family movies & just being happy with what you have, even if that is very little. My house always looks its absolute best through December so I found out some photos from last year, our house is really tiny, Christmas is the only time I am grateful for the enclosed living room, & open staircase, it gives the ultimate cosy feeling we all crave. My tree was bought 2 years ago from an ex catalogue shop for £25 with all the trimmings, we had to buy extra lights & we where given lights for our garlands, we have some "special" baubles & tree hangings that we have received from grandparents/ parents over the years, I love them, every single one of them get specially wrapped & unwrapped with the ultimate care, hopefully in a few years we will have enough specials to be able to get rid of the others that come with the tree, our Christmas tree will then become a memory tree.

Christmas Fun Ideas for the kids 

Salt dough fun 

Evans Tree
Recipe - 
2 cups plain flour
1 Cup Salt
1 Cup Water 
Mix all in a mixing bowl & play! Make up your shapes using a cutter or anything you have to hand, line a baking tray with grease proof paper, in the oven gas mark 6 for half hour to an hour, allow to cool then decorate, finish with PVA glue, but I would recommend 48 hours drying time before PVA is added. I have seen some posts recently with children doing their hand prints in salt dough, its a great idea & we will all be doing one this year to hang off our tree along with making Santa's cookie dish & Rudolf's carrot dish. Here is what I made last year with the help of a then 2 year old, I don't have any pictures of them painted though.
Snowman Tealight Holder

Snow Globe Fun 

1 Old Jar
Plastic figurines from £land, wilkos or even a charity shop
Super Glue or Glue Gun (parents are obviously to do this part)
Glycerine (optional)

Picture was sourced off google images. 
Glue your figuring to the lid of the Jar, make an entire scene if you wish, fill your Jar with water, empty glitter into the water, add glue to the rim of the lid (optional but I would suggest doing this if you don't want small hands opening  it), screw your lid back on, wait to dry add a festive ribbon if you have one lying about. Then just shake & watch. These are dead fun & great for the kids at little or no cost if you have an old Santa lying about in your loft.

Last but not least in photos, Elf On a shelf was mentioned by one of the ladies in the Facebook group, its a great Idea, & it literally consists of one of Santa's elves sitting on your shelf for the entire month of December, Elf reports back to father Christmas every day to tell him if the children have been Naughty or Nice. Every so often Elf will act up a little & go astray from his usual spot on the fireplace or shelf, he might get trapped in a curtain pole or fall to sleep in the washing basket, Elf also has a cheeky side, he works his magic to do funny, mischievous things like turning your food a different colour or moving a toy to somewhere else, he might mute on the tv, because he thinks that's quite funny when daddy is trying to watch something, or unravel the toilet roll, you get the idea right? I picked my Elf up from Ikea for £4, 1 euro of that goes to a children's charity. If your nifty with a needle & thread though you could make one yourself. My Mom bought this calender (also from Ikea), I will fill it with a little treat bag for every day of December (probably use up his Halloween goodies actually), I think this was £3.50 (but I may be wrong) & it will last him forever, its a really lovely alternative to your usually Christmas chocolate filled advent calender

On top of the listed activities, you could get the children to make Christmas cards for the grandparents, they will keep it forever & you have not wasted money on a card likely to go in the bin, make a Christmas tree advent calendar using the cardboard rolls from loo roll, make a glittery Christmas tree using yours & your children's hand-prints, sprinkle with glitter to give some extra effect. Paper chains, papers snow flakes, paper baubles. The list is endless, the fun factor is off the charts & the prices are next to nothing.

Friday, 1 November 2013

The life shattering truth of being a working class family & surviving the winter on a budget...

I have wrote this blog post out a few times over the last few days & deleted it. But it's bugging me, & I don't think I am going to be the only one who's family is working class & are basically on their arse looking for a way out, so this time I am going to write it up, & its going to be a long one.

My car, it's playing up, It needs a new catalytic converter which as it happens isn't actually an expensive repair maybe £100 at the very most. Could be less, I decided to have a look at my finances & bank account before I buy the new cat & book it into a garage.

What I found, well it was heartbreaking, I haven't taken any money from my business since September when I closed my books for Christmas orders, I presume I wont take any money in November either, any money I had saved has gone on bills, not luxuries, not nice fancy new clothes or the odd Christmas present, just bills & food (budget food at that), & not all the bills either, I still have council tax, £185, water bill £133, Gas £85, & rent, £525 to pay, I have enough money in the bank to cover the rent, & a small amount of the council tax, leaving the council tax balance & the water rates to be paid. Its worked out that our bills are costing us more then our income, £383 more in fact for the month of october. I don't own a credit card or loans I don't have a contract phone, or a car on finance. 

Well don't I feel like a failure, it's my job to provide for my family but by the looks of things we are going to end up either in court for council tax arrears, & water rates or homeless because I cant afford to pay all of them, we aren't entitled to help from the government either yet I pay myself less than minimum wage for the hours I put in to each Item I produce, I don't even on a normal month earn a lot on top of my Day Job salary (which is £570pm). For one reason or another that I won't go into the other half pays an allowance to me.

Total household money for october £870 for a working family of 3.

Outgoings £1253
Rent 525 pm
Electric 40pw or 160pm (I have actually reduced this in the outgoings a little if I compare it to this week which has been odd it would be 60pw)
Gas 85pm
Television Licence £12
Petrol 30pw or 120pm
Groceries 100pm or 25pw
Child Savings 10pm
Internet 30pm (used for work & in a new contract)
Water bill for october (quarterly bill) £133
Car insurance £78 

It doesn't take a mathematician to work out we are  £383 short, I work my arse off until 3 & 4 in the morning 7 days a week, I don't sleep & this entire month I have worked for what feels like free, I am disgusted that I am entitled to no help, & angry that its me who deals with the pressure of it. How has it got to this! Imagine the months the Car Tax is due, & the MOT, how am I going to cope then. Of course some might say get a full time day job, I had one, it crippled me 600per month in nursery fees, I was working purely to pay for my son being looked after by another person, now he is old enough to go to public nursey 5 half days a week, I had quotes locally from childminders for 5 half days a week, taking son to nursery & picking him up having him for a few hours until I collected him, it was £150 per week or £600 per month. It seems the taking & collecting from real nursery has bumped the bill back up, so no there is no point in me going back into a full time day job.

This weekend I have but a ban on the heating, & tried to prepare for a fuel free winter, but why should I have to do that! Fuel prices are going up 10.8% how is that even justified? We are going to end up having to decide which one to use, Gas OR Electric, again why? I do not allow luxuries because we simply can't afford them, our son has never been on holiday. I work so hard to provide for my family yet I am thinking about stopping my direct debit into my sons shareholder account (his first car or uni fees) because its a tenner I could use for another bill, I will be walking the nursery run (5mins in car 40minute walk with 3 year old legs), & telling everyone not to flush the toilet if they have only had a wee, its ridiculous. I feel like a failure, yet at the same time I know there is nothing I can physically do to get the money to pay these bills straight up & NOW I also know I am not in this situation because I have been a silly idiot with my money. In about 10 days time I will receive a letter from the council tax to say I have defaulted & that I am to pay the entire bill (up to march) immediately then on the bottom of that will be a little extra of if not paid immediately you will incur court fees, yes because that makes sense to add more money on a bill your already struggling to pay, the same will happen with the rest of the suppliers, all wanting money I don't have.
Right this second 01.17 am November 02 2013 I can't see a way out, I cant see a Christmas, I quite literally have no idea how I am going to get around it. I have started off by turning the heating off completely, putting the washing machine on at 12.30am & airing the clothes to cut down on electric, to try store heat I have put curtains up the patio doors & a curtain up the kitchen walk through to try keep any heat we have IN. I have found out 3 hot water bottles, one microwaveable bagpuss a slanket, electric blanket & several throws/ fleeces, luckily our freezer, fridge & cupboards are pretty stocked up so food won't be an issue BUT if the electric goes we are fucked, because I probably won't have any money to replace it. It was only yesterday I was reading Jack Monroes blog about people sending food back to the food banks because they couldn't afford to cook it, I said on a post on my group "I couldn't imagine". By the end of next week I wont have to imagine I will have run out of every last penny I have in my bank with household suppliers chasing me for money, with gas but no electric OR electric but no gas.

I can't see the fairness in it at all, I can't stand the fact I have lost control of the finances.

But despite feeling like I would like to crawl into a corner & cry or go out get very drunk & make a fool out of myself, I cant, because its not going to get things sorted. I still need to find ways of cutting back, have already said I will only use the car 2 times a week, that should reduce petrol bill to £30pm, have turned gas central heating off so I would like to see a reduction in that soon, electric I am doing laundry through the early hours & trying to dismiss my dryer all together, I even cleaned the carpet today WITHOUT a hoover & that's hard work when we have two dogs two cats, all lights off unless we are in the room, curtains closed to keep heat in from the cooker, but mostly be using my slow cooker to cut down even more. 

Anyone else have any Ideas? Tips? Been in this position, working or not? 

Edited - To say this post might shock those readers that know me personally, I am naturally VERY private about this kind of thing, but tonight I am at the end of my tether, I can pretty much guarantee we are not the only ones going through this.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Handmade Frugal Christmas - Part one - Truffle Shuffle

Sorry I haven't updated in a few days. I have no real food recipes to share as we have been using up all the food I cooked up in bulk from previous posts.

But tonight I decided to share something I have made up to go into Christmas hampers for loved ones. We are not buying gifts as such this year for obvious financial reasons, but I just cant go empty handed even though I know they don't expect anything. So I am putting together a food hamper for the three most important couples in our life. We have my parents, Ben's parents, & my brother & sister in law who are just going through the process of buying a house, they will be moving I expect just after Christmas in the January. 

Hamper 1 - My Parents - Will be "Eat Me, Drink Me Christmas", theme, Alice in wonderland of course, they are both pretty young & alternative for parents/ grandparents so it will fit well. - Hamper will be presented in a traditional wicker basket - Budget £15-£20 for whole thing, That's £80 below my usual budget for my parents.

Hamper 2 - Ben's Parents - "Very Cherry Christmas" theme, No I wont be overloading the whole thing with cherry flavoured food (maybe a cherry scented candle at the most), its a short cut of their surname :) Not quite sure what I will be presenting the hamper in yet, but Momma in law is a huge crafter so I will find something to suit that she can use after for storage - Budget £15-20 for whole thing, £30 below usual budget for in-laws. 

Hamper 3 - Brother & Sister in law - "Shut up & watch the film" movie night theme, they are both early 20's no kids & are complete house hermits, they love nothing more than sitting in watching films & arguing with each other to shut up & watch, they both have a sweet tooth, I am going to enjoy making this one, I will pop a classic movie into this one along with the food, & maybe a couple of cans of coke to feed their habit. Budget on this will be a bit more as I will be adding things in that can be used in their new home, total basics really like a cutlery set or tin opener, you know the things you forget to buy & remember them when trying to open up a can of beans. Budget £20-£25 for whole thing £75 below the usual budget! Will be presented in a box they can re-use for storage of some sort. 

This is what I made tonight - Milk Chocolate Budget Truffles the recipe I used is here I used milk chocolate instead of plain.

Makes 60 truffles which is more than enough for 6 people. I did a bit of research into storing truffles, they can be frozen for 6months, & kept for 4-6 weeks at room temperature or in the fridge, these are so dreamy though I think they will be all gone by boxing day.

I got all my ingredients from Lidl total recipe cost £2.80 for 60 truffles. That's 0.47 per person or 0.94 per couple :) 

200g tub Soft cheese - 0.53
Icing sugar - 0.50 (you don't use a full bag so it works out to about 0.50 but cost 0.95 to buy)
100g Milk Chocolate 0.35 x 5 = 1.75
Vanilla Essence - 0.02 (you only use a splash so it works out to about 0.02 pence in this recipe but cost 0.79 to buy a full bottle)

These will be wrapped in parchment paper & finished off with parcel string & a tag. 

Keep following to see the follow up recipes for each hamper, along with total price at the end! Hoping I can stay below budget.

Elf On a shelf was mentioned on my Facebook group as a cheap, easy fun game to play all season I had never heard of it before but it sounded fun, & I have a feeling Evan will be a good boy all of December if he knows a cheeky little elf will be watching over him all over the holiday. I purchased my little Elf from Ikea for £4, £1 of that goes to charity. 

The idea of Elf on a shelf is to make, or buy a little Elf who only comes out through December, he sits quietly on your shelf in the day just silently watching over the monsters, if the monsters are naughty Elf will tell father Christmas. Elf comes to life when the little girls & boys go to bed to make a bit of mischief of his own, he finds himself in the most peculiar of places & uses his magic to make your food go funny colours or move a toy, when the kids wake up they find the mischief Mr Elf has gotten into & it becomes a game :) There are lots of posts on Pinterest for ideas & I have been told some Facebook pages/groups too. I can't wait to get Mr Elf out now, here's to a tantrum free, dry all day???? December!


Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Wednesday quick tips.

Never go shopping hungry.
Always write a list of the things you already have.
Always go with a list of things to buy.
Compare prices -mysupermarket are great for this!  
Meal plan for the week ahead using only the items you have in your home... 
Experimant with substitutes you might have instead of buying the real thing I.e my example of having no sugar I used icing sugar & the last bit of golden syrup. 

Monday, 28 October 2013

Thieving from the fridge to feed to poor...

...Or the Elderly....


Whilst I was making my gigantic stew this morning I had a light bulb Idea.... Feed A Granny, Or grandpa for that matter. I went to my group with a picture of my stew & posted this

:- Stew/ casserole (never know the difference) on the stove in my 6.5ltr pot!!! I could feed the estate! Love to know if there are any lonely elderly around here I could take a meal to a week! There should be a website "feed a granny" where you can put your postcode in & find your local lonely elderly person.    

As it is quite a few people feel the same, I did a google search, there is hardly anything on the subject, you have websites for meals on wheels where a family member would have to pay for someone to deliver 1 weeks worth of cooked dinners to an elderly relative, & you have Age Uk, I have emailed Age UK to see of any restrictions about helping out with meals delivered to there door, I am going to assume there will be. But what a shame if there are! I, as of yet have never poisoned anyone with my cooking. I almost always have extra to freeze up, in the case of today's stew, well I could feed another entire family! 

So here is was thinking of doing, when the schools go back next week I was going to put a post up in the school where people could nominate a grandparent who may be struggling, I was also going to put a post up asking for other willing participants who would be willing to make a little extra in there Sunday lunch or stew/casseroles/soups etc, If deliverey is not preferred a family member can collect. But either way it is to be free of charge, no money at all should be exchanged AT ALL. This is about helping, the winter months are coming in, the cold weather does KILL & we all read the death rate of the elderly in the winter because they have a choice, eat or stay warm.... Someone explain to me why in a supposedly rich county in the 21st century we have elderly in the UK dying over winter. Its sickening, but I might be able to help one or two, & I would hope that by writing this it encourages others to help in some way. 

Food Banks

They are amazing resources run by very generous people who rely on the generosity of others. They are there for a reason, to be used in desperate times. But wouldn't you agree you would like to see less of them? I took a look on my local food bank page today just a very quick browse to see the types of foods they are asking for.  I actually ended up reading almost the whole page. It made me sad, angry, pretty effin pissed off at times, & also humbled that I have what I have, which I should add is not a lot at all.

The first thing that shocked me is this statement .....

There are more empty boxes in our, that’s your community’s, storehouse than there are full ones!

Because of the 146% increase in the number of people we need to feed and a finite pool of donations this is the dire situation we find ourselves in today 3rd September 2013.
What a predicament; there are people who need feeding, 240+ agencies referring them to us for food and the shelves are like this.

Really! 146% increase in the Sandwell area ALONE Then I read this it really hit home...

The Black Country Foodbank fed some 15915 people during the past year a third of which are children.

I went on to read the list of things they need at the food bank

  • Breakfast Cereals
  • Tinned MEAT
  • Tinned or Dried POTATOES
  • Crackers or Crispbreads
  • sweet BISCUITS
  • Tinned FRUIT ***** there’s none on the shelves
  • UHT FRUIT JUICE ***** there’s only 4 cartons left
  • UHT MILK ***** Lidle have a deal fom Thurs 09/05 only 45p/litre (there’s none left on our shelves)
  • Dried RICE 500g / 1kg
  • COOKING SAUCES  any as there’s none left …curry, chilli, pasta, sweet ‘n’ sour etc
  • Tinned TOMATOES
  • and if you wouldn’t mind; JAM as a treat
  • Adult & Children’s TOOTHPASTE

  • Now as you can see its all tinned, I presume they will take tinned beans, spaghetti, etc & I read further down they will also accept ready meals, & food was going out as quickly as it was coming in. What the page doesn't state is how many of the people using the food banks are regulars, they only provide 3 days worth of emergency food, what does a family do for the other four days a week? Lots of questions going around my head, do you provide proof you are in such poverty, or are they taking your word for it? Is this a system for people only on benefits or can a working family go to? Working families struggle A LOT too, just a question I found myself asking. 
I am going to cause a stir now, I have no doubt in my mind I will have people complaining or correcting me, but surely TINNED foods are not going to go very far? Yes they are great, every little helps, BUT why can we not send fresh produce? Local farmers are more likely to get involved, general people who buy a big sack of spuds, carrots, & the like are more likely to donate. The families are eating healthier, the children are still getting there 5 per day, they are all full, the fresher foods are going stretch to many more meals. O.k I can kind of see the tinned meat reasoning but personally I think  there is a way around that to. So here is what I would like to see given at a local foodbank based on a family of four. 2 adults 2 children. A pre-made hamper with a weeks meal plan, & instructions on how to make the food stretch including freezing bread & meals, a recipe or two using the ingredients provided in the hamper. I absolutely do not agree with providing ready meals to those in need, you would not go to a soup house & be served with a ready meal, equally you would not go to a soup house & refuse the food because you didn't like it.
  • 2 loaves of bread - Can be reduced or smart price.
  • tub of margarine - Can be reduced or smart price
  • 4 carrots - Out of your own pack if you wish but please put in a brown paper bag so it keeps
  • 4 potatoes - Out of your own pack if you wish but please put in a brown paper bag so it keeps
  • 2 onions- Out of your own pack if you wish but please put in a brown paper bag so it keeps
  • 1 pack of mushrooms 
  • 1 pack of bananas or apples 
  • 1 bag of red lentils
  • 1 tinned tomatoes
  • 4 tinned beans
  • Tinned corned beef
  • 1 chicken OR beef stock OR vegitable stock
  • 1 choice of a dried herb or spice
  • Rice or Pasta
  • 1 double concentrate value squash
  • 2 x uht milk 
  • 1 x aldi shower & hair all in one gel
  • 1 x aldi childs bath & hair all in one gel
  • 1 x child toothpaste (because adults you can use kids toothpaste)
Now most of you reading my blog are reading it because you yourself are on a budget of some kind, your looking at the list & your already imagining the weeks worth of meals your going to feed your family using that list. Those are you who aren't on a budget are now looking at that list and thinking WTF this woman is living on an other planet. I am not,  out of the ingredients you see there you could easily fill a family of four for 1 week, or at least 6 days,  its all about bulking, yes you may have to eat the same thing every night for a whole week but do you know what, it's that or starve, I know which I would prefer. Out of the things you have there in that list you have breakfast, lunch & a warm filling tea.
The cost to the general public is almost nothing, the fresh produce would be taken out of our own general shop, just adding the fresh foods to the tinned foods is already bulking a meal out for a family, lets not forget the lentils, all us budget cookers love lentils, they are near on tasteless, they are filling & they are jam packed full of iron, so you don't feel like you are missing out on all that meat. 

Personally I would be more inclined to donate if I had extras from my own shop, for example the fresh stuff, I currently have 8 potatoes, 6 carrots, some other root veg & about 5 large onions. I could & would be more inclined to take some of this to my local food bank & whilst I am at it check out what I have in the cupboards see if I have a spare tin of beans, or tomatoes, I DO have a whole bag of rice unopened & 2 packs of pasta! I don't however have any tinned meat, or ready meals, no dried potatos?? 

Am I making sense here? Am I on my own in thinking we should be aloud to give fresh, I would prefer to know my fresh carrots have filled a family of 2 kids for a week as oppose to my one ready meal filling one adult for one day...

I think what these people do, well its great, if & touch would we never ever would be in a position like that, but if we are that bad off that I have no other option but to use a food bank, I will, & I wouldn't be ashamed about it either! Saying that though I would like to see less of them, & less people using them, some of us just need a little education on how to make the most of our food, that's why I think the instructions & recipes could help!