Despite where the figure is sourced ‘here’, living on £18 for a week was never meant to be and could never be any insight into the lives of those that have to live on this figure or less every week for the foreseeable future. With 13,500,000 people living below the poverty line in the UK and Trusell Trust Foodbanks providing emergency food to 170% more people in 2013 than in 2012, the distribution of food within the UK is an issue of increasing importance.
This issue is exasperated by the fact that every year in Britain an estimated 15 million tonnes of food is wasted from the farm to the plate. There is a multitude of reasons why this figure is so high ranging from the cosmetic standards both consumers and supermarkets place on their food, to sell by dates, to the aggressive ‘only supply to me’ tactic that supermarkets employ on their suppliers. All this is contributing to high and rising food prices and the rising numbers of people that are coming to rely on Foodbanks.
All this waste does have one benefit. Anyone that wants to help themselves to some perfectly edible food should have a rummage in their local supermarket bin. Here you will find anything from, gluten free bread, to day old pastry items, to ready meals, to dairy free yoghurts and anything else for that matter that you would find in your local supermarket…half of it ends up in the bin. Of course it is worth using your judgement as to which food is good for the eating, some (but in general not the majority) will be inedible. But of course this is not a viable option for everyone. Not everyone has time to go snoopin’ around their local bins.
So what did I experience from reducing my food budget for a week? Well I got some tasty poppy seed bread from the local bins…that lasted a week! I realised that it was a pain to not be able to eat when I was hungry and that snacking was out of the question (except for the 12packs of crisps I found in the ‘bin’). I realised how lucky I was to live on a road with independent food shops such as Scoop Away that sell quality healthy items in bulk – great for spices too as you don’t have to buy too much. I realised that supermarkets were convenient but taunting with all their just out of reach tasty treats of which many would one day end up in that bin outside. And I realised that it’s much easier to get more variety for your money when you can come together with others and cook meals.
As I saw it I had 3 options. 1. Meticulously plan a budget for simple but different meals every day 2. Do a budget supermarket shop or 3. Cook in bulk for multiple days. I went for option 3 and had nutritious but eventually monotonous meals for the week. From Monday through Friday I have had: Yogurt, granola and a homemade apple compote for breakfast, Dhal with spinach and sweet potato for lunch and 7 bean chilli with either rice or jacket potato for dinner. As I’m writing this I have just run out of food with £6 left and have not a clue what I am going to do for lunch and dinner today (it’s 00:24 Fri morning as I’m writing). The foods done the trick but I have genuinely felt hungry every day.
We are doing this for such a short time and it is in no way a reality for any of us. For those for which this is a reality I can only imagine that the situation must be indescribable. FoodCycle can provide a life line to anyone that is in need. Every Sunday we serve up a 3 course dinner made up of entirely food that would of otherwise been wasted. This is sourced from the local community and emphasis is placed on building community spirit and coming together around food to prevent food waste.