Gransnet forums

Too poor to eat properly

(336 Posts)
Nannyto3 Thu 10-Jan-19 14:28:50

The media seems awash with the fact that families living on Universal Credit or who are otherwise disadvantaged can't afford to eat properly, with children going hungry.
I feel so sorry for people in this situation. But I do wonder just how much 21st century expectations of what constitutes a proper meal (and how to cook it) are to blame.

Years ago we, our mothers and grandmothers cooked most things from scratch, using cheap cuts and whatever was in season to keep costs down.

Even now I make a chicken stretch to 4 different meals for the two of us. I make soup every day out of whatever vegetables I have to hand. Mince is cheap and so versatile and features heavily in our weekly meals. I use my slow cooker on a frequent basis to produce cheap, nutritious meals.

I long to be able to tell families who are struggling just how easy it can be to cook good, wholesome food at a reasonable cost.

MissAdventure Thu 10-Jan-19 14:37:26

Its nice to have a good store cupboard and veg to hand, but I think for a lot of people things have gone too far for that.
1.2 million using food banks, too. (I think)

Bridgeit Thu 10-Jan-19 14:44:35

Yes I agree,and this is how most people I grew up with managed to feed their families. Just like you, I continue to make these meals.
I think there are several reasons why some younger people don’t do this, many don’t ’t have enough money for gas / electric, some have never been taught how to cook the most basics of meals.
I don’t think schools teach them either. It really should be a top priority.

notanan2 Thu 10-Jan-19 14:49:37

Agree with Miss Adventure, I can whip something tasty up with a cheap cut of meat and some veggies...

.... because I have a cupboard full of spices, a freezer with frozen fresh herbs & home made stock, a slow cooker, a steamer, casserole dishes, a crock pot, I can afford to put the oven on for however long I need etc, tinned tomatoes & flour, dried lentils/pasta/rice etc

Without my store cupboards some plane mince and a carrot would be miserable and barely palatable. With my store cupboards full and bountiful I can transform that mince & carrot into: chilli, burgers & slaw, Chapattis and spicey mince, meatballs & pasta.... the list is endless.

But my stores are well stocked and the cost if that is way more than a pack of mince and a carrot.

M0nica Thu 10-Jan-19 14:51:51

I think many families just run out of money, full stop.
When, about 10 years ago, Jack Monroe published her book A girl called Jack about life on benefits, , her food budget for herself and young son was about £10 a week. Even mince or cheap chicken is beyond that kind of budget - and she certainly couldn't afford to buy a slow cooker and would have had to think about the fuel cost if slow cooking in the oven.

Having said that, many of the children going unfed to school, are from families with substance abuse or with other other social management and mental health issues that are exacerbated by benefit poverty.

Having said that I do think we should do more to help these families, or at least there children.

Pittcity Thu 10-Jan-19 14:53:31

It is those who work antisocial hours for little pay who are using foodbanks. They do not have the time nor the skills to whip up a cheap meal from scratch.
Our grandmothers had the luxury of time.

MissAdventure Thu 10-Jan-19 14:58:02

I think there is a vast difference between going through a lean time, and living in constant poverty.
Anyone can manage for a few months, but appliances wear out, stocks deplete, and so on.

notanan2 Thu 10-Jan-19 15:08:46

Jack Monroe is the FIRST to speak out about how noone should ever be in the position she was in when she had to count out 17 pennies for a tin of kidney beans.

The trauma of her poverty has probably contributed to her breakdowns and her alcohol problem.

She is not a poster child for how "fine" it is to cook on a tight budget, she campaigns. She was no merry pauper. It took its toll.

And her chance rise to fame came about because she was NOT managing on her tight budget, and needed to £250 she got for selling her first story!

notanan2 Thu 10-Jan-19 15:10:57

(She also points out that you can no longer get a tin of kidney beans for 17p)

Ilovecheese Thu 10-Jan-19 15:19:06

Absolutely spot on notanan2 and MissAdventure
It needs a lot more than 100grams of mince and a potato to make a tasty meal. It needs, seasoning, power, time and skill.

eazybee Thu 10-Jan-19 15:21:13

Always excuses for the lazy.
People who work anti-social hours have time during the day to shop and prepare food; shops are open far into the night. Our mothers and grandmothers had to walk or bus to the shops several times a week and carry home all the food, no refrigerators to store it, or they grew it, even more time consuming. In between washing by hand, drying clothes without heat, (after making many of them), and cleaning their houses without any labour saving devices such as hoovers or even detergent.

sodapop Thu 10-Jan-19 15:26:42

Times and expectations have changed over the years. Pittcity is right to an extent today's parents are time poor but they don't see the value of cooking from scratch.
I really don't see things changing any time soon, maybe all Grandparents should be on a mission to re educate their grandchildren. I don't think it should be the sole responsibility of the mother, fathers need to help out when mothers work outside the home.

notanan2 Thu 10-Jan-19 15:28:51

Nice rose tinted glasses you have there eazybee

When my grandmother was raising her children there were times when what they were surviving on was definitely not nutritionally adequate.

Sometimes the ends are too short to meet, no matter how good you are at stretching them.

Point is we should have moved on from that and we shouldn't in this day and age have children living in food poverty.

MissAdventure Thu 10-Jan-19 15:34:14

Walking to the shops several times a week works if you have money to buy shopping.
Washing your clothes by hand is great if you've at least something to use as detergent, some way of getting the excess water out; a garden or spin dryer?
Some people don't have those things, nor the time to go shopping.
Lots of grandparents on here say how their adult children can't manage so they do their ironing, washing, look after their children AND fund most of it.
Some people don't have families to do that.

Framilode Thu 10-Jan-19 15:35:06

I also think it must be hugely difficult to stay motivated when the present is so bleak and so is the future. I can see how people can sink into depression when every single day is a struggle without any hope for things getting better. Even making decent meals on very little requires motivation.

Nonnie Thu 10-Jan-19 15:49:02

Some truth in all of the above.

Of course there are people who cannot afford to feed themselves properly but there are also those who don't know how or can't be bothered. There are some whose priorities are wrong too.

I have thought about whether it would be a good thing to give out recipes at food banks or even have someone there to help and advise but I suppose that would be thought patronising. I wish there was a way to help people to understand just how cheaply they could feed their families if only they knew how without causing offence.

It would also be helpful if those administering Universal Credit could get their act together and do it properly. I think most of us would agree that the principal of one welfare payment which helped people to get back to work is a good idea. However, they seem to get it wrong so much that it must be really difficult for those penalised without reason.

I don't agree that it is necessarily so expensive to collect together some pulses, they are very cheap, basic chopped tinned tomatoes, onions etc. Supermarkets often have sub-standard potatoes, carrots etc at a cheaper price, they just need a few extra minutes of preparation. DS has lots of items with yellow stickers in his freezer because he shops carefully. Of course not everyone has a freezer but I think most do.

It would not be so expensive to make a stew on the hob turned down low and a big one could do more than one meal. Cheaper cuts of meat do need more preparation but often taste really good. Porridge is cheaper and healthier than packet cereals.

Not sure the media helps much when they interview 'the poor' and show them with dyed hair, fancy nails, expensive products in their kitchens etc. Why do they select those people and not the genuine poor? It is hard for those of us who don't have recent experience of being poor to really understand no matter how hard we try.

Nannyto3 Thu 10-Jan-19 15:53:50

No matter what our views are on the necessity for herbs/spices etc to make a meal tasty. Or the question of time poverty. Or how difficult it used to be without modern labour saving devices, I think we are all in agreement....... the situation that has developed, where families can't afford to eat properly is intolerable.

The biggest question is what can WE do about it??

Nonnie Thu 10-Jan-19 16:17:22

What do you suggest Nannyto3?

paddyann Thu 10-Jan-19 16:23:29

Nonnie as the new owner of a smart meter I can assure you that 2 hours of simmering for a stew will cost a fair bit of cash.I had no idea that turning on my gas made my hourly bill jump from 12 pence an hour to over 58 pence an hour.If they had to use that much power every day on top of other use that would be way out of the reach of low paid families.
I use a pressure cooker which will stew the beef in 35-45 minutes but even that will cost a reasonalby high amount when budgets are strained to breaking point.Fuel poverty is not new I know but it is becoming more and more common with the inroduction of UC .The rise in child poverty is unacceptable to most ...discounting the tory govenment from that ...they seem happy to see the poorest being used as fodder in their divide and rule tactics .The poor ,the sick the elderly are all talked of as "benefit scroungers" when in fact many are just folk who have hit hard times .

Newquay Thu 10-Jan-19 16:29:28

Our church-which has a very well used food bank-is now setting up cookery classes to show how to prepare cheap nutritious meals. I’ve always thought benefits were supposed to be a safety net not a career choice. However the idea that Universal credit will get people back into work is pie in the sky IMHO. Where is this work then? Not round here and poorly paid. And what are you supposed to do with children?

Nonnie Thu 10-Jan-19 16:32:07

Paddyann if it took 2 hours at 58p an hour (although simmering is possibly cheaper) that would be £1.08 for, say, 2 day's meals. If that meant meals were cooked at half the price of ready meals or more expensive cuts of meat it would represent a saving. Also adding pulses and lots of root veg would make it both cheaper and healthier. I do know as it is the way we cook, nowadays for reasons of health as we no longer need to be as frugal as before.

I think we need to look at the bigger picture, there is not a simplistic answer.

I prefer not to get into a political argument about this, too complicated over too many years.

notentirelyallhere Thu 10-Jan-19 16:44:17

My mother was a widow in the 1960s and we lived on a very tight budget. I wouldn't want to condemn anyone but I do agree that people these days don't seem to understand how to prepare a meal from just a few ingredients. It doesn't need lots of spices or slow cookers though perhaps the processed food that poor people buy is adulterated with hidden sugars, palm oil and additives that give a taste that cannot be matched at home.

No one has mentioned being vegetarian and it's hardly unheard of these days! Meat is expensive and protein can be found in a mix of vegetables, pulses, dairy food and even tofu. We are vegetarian, as are my adult children and we eat well for not very much.

When I had a young family, the cookery writer Rose Eliot's books were my bible, they presented simple yet nourishing food. It's all Jamie Oliver and fancy, imported ingredients these days but it doesn't have to be that way.

MissAdventure Thu 10-Jan-19 16:51:32

I've just bought vegetarian food. Its more expensive than a bag of frozen nuggets and chips, that's for sure!

notentirelyallhere Thu 10-Jan-19 16:56:04

Processed vegetarian food is just that, processed, with all the attendant costs. Real vegetarian food cooked from scratch is something else!

Cabbie21 Thu 10-Jan-19 17:18:02

A fair number of people who are obliged to use food banks do not have access to cooking facilities. Special “no cooking” food parcels can be provided, or those that need just a kettle, eg pot noodles. Hardly a good diet but the best available to them.