Food: Challenged

For a week from 21st March 2021, around 90 people took part in our FoodChallenge21: to feed their family for a week on just £21, the typical amount that a family in crisis has to spend on their weekly shop.

It was certainly a challenge, and many people commented that although they knew it would be hard, they hadn’t realised just how difficult they’d find it: with others noting that one of the things that helped get through it was to know you’d be back to “normal” the next week and able to treat yourself, a luxury not available to many on that budget.

This exercise so far has made me start to realise just how difficult some people’s live must really be. I guess I sort of knew but didn’t really know just what it meant, and even now probably don’t as someone said earlier, it’s not our reality. I know I can ‘cheat’ if I wanted, plus it won’t be like this next week. What it also shows, for me anyway, is the amount of planning that needs to go into feeding yourself and family on a very limited budget.

Such a humbling exercise!… and no, we could never compare our situation with those who don’t have a car to travel back in, or who come home to an in heated house because they cannot afford anything other…”

15p "end of the day" loaves of bread
15p “end of the day” loaves of bread

It really has made me realise how lucky I am. It was so hard, shopping today!! I realised that I usually barely look at prices. Today, I had to go around the shop 3 times, putting back some things I couldn’t afford, swapping others, etc. And I had planned it all in advance…

This, for us, was a ‘one off’, so we could walk a mile in another person’s shoes, and understand the tremendous difficulty of budgeting and having to account for every penny when buying food. It was difficult enough for one week, but knowing that there are so many people for whom this is an unrelenting way of life is heartbreaking.

Such a realisation that we have the luxury to choose what we want to eat and how much we want to eat… and that to adhere to a budget means careful planning, spreading foods over meals, making sure that enough food is left for the remainder of the week… Our budget was used solely on items of food, non food ‘necessities’ mounted up to an additional substantial amount… it was thought-provoking to think of the additional cooking equipment we used, which would not be available to a person unable to afford it – bread and soup makers for example.

I have always been aware that some people have had to budget and menu plan as well as not able to “bulk buy” to save money long term but this brought it home to me big time. It’s also echoed across other purchases. I’ve never been a big spender on stuff like clothes but this has made me think about all purchases, do I really need a new outfit for every “event” and does it matter if I’ve worn it several times.

Roast Chicken Savoury Pasta

This wasn’t quite “real life” because I knew I was only doing it for one week. But the experience of watching every penny, and especially what to do without, was a real lesson. From now on I will look with admiration at people who cope on such a limited budget and work harder towards a fairer society.

Participants were invited to donate the difference to their normal weekly shop, and we raised £900 to support our FoodSavers network, which provides good quality fresh feed at affordable prices, alongside easy access to Credit Union savings, to people across Bradford who need it.

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