Blogging, Comment

Food On A Budget

Can anyone beat “mummy blogger Anneliese” and her challenge to feed a family of 4 on £20 a week?

Off her trolley??

I had to bite my tongue so many times when I was reading this because of the sheer patronising arrogance of this woman. Clearly she is found the challenge “fun” to do. A bit of “slumming it” to see how the other half live and to prove a point to all us poverty-stricken whingers that the Conservative austerity measures have not gone far enough and £20 per week is ample to feed a family of four…with change to spare and all.

There were a couple of things to note:

1. She did a bulk-buy before the challenge started and used the allocated budget to top-up on essentials during the week.

2. Her children were little more than toddlers, who couldn’t possibly eat a full portion of food between them. She should do it with a couple of hungry teenagers in the house and a husband who has a physically demanding job.

3. She acknowledges the fact that it is socially isolating to live on a food budget such as this. She was grateful for the opportunity for her children to go to a party, but she was embarrassed that she couldn’t return the favour until the challenge had been completed.

4. The menu she provided for her family did not include any “treats”, as she put it. She felt hard done-by that her children did not have cakes, biscuits, jelly etc and had to rely on home made ice lollies for one single extra during that month.

5. She tells us how horrified she was that her children were found munching breadsticks in between meals one day, realising how hungry they must have been to do that.

6. She acknowledges that fresh fruit and vegetables were too expensive to be incorporated into her challenge, fruit more so than vegetables. She tells us the answer to the gap in her children’s fruit intake was to go foraging in the fields behind her house for blackberries.

7. She was “bored” of the “bland and repetitive” meals…by the end of the first week!

I can’t take these points one by one because my comments span them and incorporate more that one at a time, but here goes:

1. This “mummy blogger” obviously can’t have a job, because the amount of time she would have to spend on cooking means that she simply couldn’t have fit paid work in as well.

2. It would be interesting to see what items were in her initial bulk-buy, and where she bought it from. Her menu relies heavily on fresh ingredients – hummus, carrot sticks, pitta bread etc – which can’t be bought and kept for a month.

3. On the subject of “treats”, she was mortified that when her children had been to a party she couldn’t return the favour because there was no room in the budget. She was equally mortified that her children had nothing to eat in between meals (apart from the breadsticks – presumably from the back of the cupboard and not out of the £20 budget. If she’d bought them out of the budget for this challenge, what a foolish woman she is, and if they’re out of the cupboard, what a cheat!).

We do have to remember that her challenge was for a month only – how on earth does she think people in this situation PERMANENTLY feel? There’s no chance to bulk buy for us! And to do without a couple of treats for a month is no hardship whatsoever. Doing it week in week out, month after month after month is not only tedious but yes, it is bloody HARD. And when it comes to parties and sharing etc, the guilt and shame and embarrassment of being on the receiving end of sharing like that without hope of being able to give it back is a terrible burden to bear. For someone who naturally wants to share and pay back, taking and not giving back is horrible. Horrible.

4. Foraging for blackberries in the fields behind her house?? Not living in Manchester or Sheffield then….

5. The fruit and veg thing, yes they ARE expensive but it is possible to manage things so that you are taking in nutrients without blowing the budget. Root vegetables tend to be seasonal, and there is a glut of them for about three-quarters of the year round. Carrots, potatoes, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, parsnips, swedes, turnips, courgettes etc are quite cheap to buy and can be incorporated into soups and stews for bulk and for vitamin contribution. Root veg freezes well, and if you buy frozen veg you can manage the waste a bit better too. Fruit however really is a different matter. Even cheap fruit isn’t that cheap – you don’t get much for your money, it doesn’t keep well, and doesn’t go very far. I think the only fruit that you can spread around a family of four is apples – pies, crumbles, purees etc. The rest? Forget it! Even salad veg is expensive – lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber etc. The best way to get tomatoes is tinned ones. So versatile and so long as you don’t have the very basic budget ones, you can be certain their quality is quite good.

6. She did this challenge in the full knowledge that at the end of the month she would be able to go back to normal. Anyone can survive hardship for that short amount of time knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, especially if you know that you have money in the bank anyway and you are simply choosing not to spend it because you have a point to prove to the Daily Mail readers.

I have to ask the question why she did this challenge in the first place. Is it to highlight how hard it is for normal people to feed their families healthily on a budget and therefore highlight where help is needed? Or is it to highlight that it is possible to do it and therefore encouraging the government to make even MORE cuts from people at the bottom of the pile? I’m not even going to get into the whole “poverty vs benefits” argument because that’s for another post, but basically there are people in poverty who have budgets as little as this who are working for their living and do not qualify for benefits and who can’t gain access to food banks because they are not on benefits who do struggle for food, medicines, toiletries, personal essentials etc. It’s one thing to prove a point that you can feed a family of four on £20 a week for a single month, but it is entirely different to live with it for real for months and even years.

The more I think about this the more incensed I have become but I would like to hear your views on it. Am I making too much of this? Or am I speaking for lots of people who are struggling to make ends meet? (Or even “meat”, as the case may be). Is this something that is unique to the UK, or are people experiencing things like this in other countries too? I’d love to hear from you if you are in the US or Australia, or elsewhere in Europe and can see for real the hardship that this woman has tried to emulate.




5 thoughts on “Food On A Budget”

  1. I agree with you totally. For a long time we were a single income family and really struggled, though I still consider us better off than a lot of people at that time. What the “challenge” also wouldn’t have shown was the struggle to pay the power bill or what happens when a child becomes ill and needs a doctor’s visit and medicine. There were a number of these “challenges” a few years back in Australia and a lot of the time they were bulking up on empty calories filed with sugar, because it was cheaper than fresh fruit and vegetables. No stocked pantry and filled freezer to fall back on.


    1. Exactly!! It’s all very well doing a short term challenge like this to see how it goes, but it can’t cover the times such as when you need to buy school uniforms or shoes for the kids, or when as you say, you need to pay for medicines or dental fees etc. It makes me mad that people like her swoop in and then swoop out again, leaving people who are really suffering because of poverty line budgets like this reeling in her wake.


  2. I have VERY mixed feelings about this sort of challenge. For a variety of reasons, most of which you hit on here.

    Praying for you and your financial situation.



  3. I found the article patronising and can only guess that should the government choose to cut benefits and should the economic get worse, this lady will be in a situation where she won’t suffer. It’s unhelpful to do these articles. I prefer the TV program’s who put cash in someone’s hand and say survive on that!
    Everyone’s path is different and blinkered articles like this only provide light reading for well heeled folk who know nothing of going without.


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