I’ve been hearing a lot about poverty lately. Only two days ago my local newspaper billboards proclaimed “Archbishop shocked at Cumbrian poverty” and according to their search malnutrition rates in my home county have more than doubled since 2009. Reading further, I found studies that show that half a million children live in families where there is not enough money to feed them properly (three meals a day, including meat, fruit and vegetables) and of the people taking part in the study, over a quarter of adults had gone without food to ensure others had enough (1). Even after hearing at our school harvest festival about the increasing need for foodbanks in our area, this still comes as something of a shock. My heart goes out to those children who don’t get enough food, or a diet that is not nutritious enough for their growing bodies and minds. I know I am lucky. We work hard and although we may glibly claim to be skint, I know in reality that we are not in a situation where we have to hoose between food and heating. We aren’t talking about people who can do the Martin Lewis Downshift Challenge here – this is 2013 in the UK and people literally can’t afford to buy enough food to feed themselves and their families a healthy diet. How can this be?
Perhaps it was because this was in my mind that the Three Pound Challenge jumped out at me when I saw it on Twitter. A joint challenge between Buyagift.co.uk and The Trussell Trust (2), the aim is to highlight the growing problem of poverty in the UK and raise money for the leading national foodbank charity. The challenge was to create a meal for two people, spending no more than £3 – the more creative, the better. As a keen cook (and someone who enjoys the challenge of being thrifty) I knew I wanted to get involved right away. I’ll admit, I spent a good few days poring over magazines, books and webpages to get some ideas of cheap cuts of meat, as well as “rubber food” – you know, the kind that stretches over several meals.
I could go for a casserole – stick plenty of herbs in and slow-cooked, casseroles have bags of flavour and are filling to boot. Or maybe something like a curry or chilli could go down well. In the end I decided to see just what I could make of my budget and produce a romantic dinner for two, complete with pudding. After totting up what I would need (mysupermarket.co.uk was my friend to check prices and the cheapest place to buy) I realised I had managed to save a few pennies by buying frozen or tinned over fresh ingredients in some cases, so decided to splash out on a cheap bottle of wine, which I could jazz up a bit too.
My Three Pound Challenge final menu was:
Appleberry mulled wine
Smoked salmon and cream cheese croustade canapes
Greek slow roast belly pork slices with spiced pearl barley risotto and sauteed Brussel’s sprouts
Rhubarb and custard Eton mess
Coffee and homemade chocolate truffles
My total spend on the ingredients used in my meal was £2.81 (the leftover food is either already frozen, in the fridge to be used in the next day or two, or non-perishable items that will keep in the cupboard until needed). I think this was a pretty substantial meal for two and shows that with a bit of thought and some careful budgetting it is possible to eat a healthy diet on a very limited amount of money. That said, it certainly wasn’t easy and I am very glad that for me it isn’t an every day occurrence.
If you’d like to help people in poverty this Christmas, or any other time for that matter, please consider donating to your local foodbank – I understand that they take donations of non-perishable foods such as tins, and you can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website. This weekend (29th November -1st December) you can also donate at your local Tesco – perhaps you could add an extra tin of soup, baked beans or rice pudding to your shopping and drop it off as you leave. Tesco will top up all donations by 30% so the food you donate will go even further.
Finally, if you like the sound of my meal, I’d really appreciate it if you could take the time to vote for my meal on the Buyagift.co.uk Facebook page. I can’t promise I’ll come and cook for you, but it’ll give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside to have helped me out in the competition.