Let me start by saying I applaud the current UNICEF campaign encouraging people who are coping to try living below the poverty line and practice some hardcore reality checking…
I may have mentioned before that I am comparatively financially comfortable and I think I have also pointed out that we as a family constantly have to manage our budget to keep it that way. So what I want to have a bit of a whinge about is the proliferation of articles demonstrating the numerous recipes and ways you too could feed yourself for under a pound a day (UK £) from a very practical level.
What I have a problem with is the unrealistic shopping experiences necessary for these meals. Not only is shopping at a variety of different shops to find the best possible bargains time-consuming (which is obviously not a problem while you are on the dole you scrounger *sigh* cos obviously taking your kids with you and applying for jobs at the same time is a doddle especially if you have mobility problems) but it is often expensive – the best deals are usually in out of town hypermarkets and who can afford a car… so do you stump up for expensive public transport or heft your rucksack through the rain to carry back your bulk buys? Because believe me things are only that cheap if you buy a lot at once. Sure 1 egg costs 9p but you have to buy 30 to get that price and to get your 3p 50g of rice you need to buy a kilo. Now rice lasts a while but eggs are a bit more limited, likewise once you have opened your tin of value kidney beans you have to use it up. Don’t get me wrong bulk buying works but its also hard to keep interest and variety in your meals and that is a pressure when you know that the twenty quid you scraped together and spent on those bulk buys in one go had better not go to waste with rotting food. We are regularly told how much healthier fresh food is, but the reality is that actually on a budget you have to go for longer-life stuff – its often not the end of the world nutritionally speaking but it is easy to end up with added sugar and salt (great cheap preservatives) to compensate for the lower cost. If you want the fresh stuff, it has to be from the ends/just about to go out of date sections but that means only getting whats available and being flexible re-writing your menus – good luck creativity!
Yes, you can eat cheaply and moderately heatlthily on quite a small budget but posts highlighting one person’s week and the many meals they managed with lots of ingredients fails to really show the effort and planning it takes to organise those menus for several people for possibly a week or more at a time – a feat that I struggle with even using a calculator and a crib sheet suggesting nutritional values for portion sizes and I have a Maths A-level and nearly a doctorate to my name.
Its not impossible but it is very hard and time-consuming and sometimes demeaning, surely that is the point?