The Breadline Challenge: the cost of food

Having signed up for FoodCycle’s Breadline Challenge, I’ve been giving some thought as to how to make my £14.70 food budget for the week stretch as far as possible. Shopping at Sainsbury’s (supermarket of the middle classes) where I usually go won’t help, so the other night I checked out Asda’s website. I soon discovered that Asda has a lot of food – especially in its Smart Price range – that doesn’t cost very much, including:

  • Instant noodles: 25p
  • Baked beans: 24p
  • Tinned spaghetti: 15p (hoops are 16p though!)
  • Frozen mixed vegetables: £1 for 1kg
  • Tinned sweetcorn: 35p
  • Eggs: 89p for 6 (15p each)
  • Packet rice: 25p
  • Mozzarella: 43p
  • Scones: 49p for 10 (5p each)
  • Pitta bread: 50p for 6 (8p each)
  • Tinned soup: 24p

I was genuinely surprised at just how cheap some of this food is. What didn’t surprise me in the slightest, however, was the difference in price between the foods listed above, many of which are processed and not very nutritious, and that of fruit and vegetables. One of my long-standing gripes is the way in which people like myself who shun processed food are effectively penalised for being healthy by having to pay more for their meals. Or to look at it another way, the health of those living on or below the breadline is compromised because they can’t possibly afford to buy enough fresh fruit and veg. You can get an insight into how struggling to make ends meet influences the food choices people make here and here.

An article titled ‘Food is Getting Cheaper (But Only the Food that Isn’t Good for You)’ neatly sums up the problem:

The growing price gap between healthy and unhealthy foods is making fresh foods like fish and vegetables get more expensive, while unhealthy foods like doughnuts and pizza are even more of a bargain.

The article goes on to say that it’s not good enough for food banks to exist to stop people going hungry; the government needs to put in place policies to ensure everyone can eat healthily, regardless of their income.

My quick bit of research has shown me that living off £2.10 a day is more than possible. Eating healthily, getting a sufficient amount of fresh fruit and veg, and feeling full might be another matter. The point is, though, people shouldn’t have to survive on a few quid’s worth of food per day, especially in the world’s seventh richest country. And the rising number of food banks are never going to be a permanent solution to the underlying reasons why, according to Oxfam, over 13 million people in the UK don’t have enough money to live on.

On one hand, I’m now feeling less daunted about the Breadline Challenge and having just under £15 to spend on my food for a week. On the other hand, spending seven days on a limited food budget seems an inadequate way of drawing attention to the increasing number of British people for whom going hungry is the reality of daily life.

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2 thoughts on “The Breadline Challenge: the cost of food

  1. nice article! we are having a “whatever is in the cupboard” week this week… the water bill came and the car is in for MOT… thank the lord for free school meals for little ones is all I can say! Thats what does for you when you are living on any sort of benefits (in work or out of work)… any extra expenses beyond the most basic aren’t in the budget… hence why people end up at a food bank… You should check out Aldi and Lidl too… they have a decent range of fresh fruit and veg… I do all my shopping there first… anything I can’t get there I then resort to the more expensive supermarket options… Sainsburys is a shocking price I have to say…

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    • Agreed – Sainsbury’s is noticeably more expensive than other supermarkets. I used to shop at Asda, till Sainsburys in Portswood opened, and now I go there because it’s the nearest supermarket to me… And I also never get stressed shopping there because it’s such a spacious, bright space (unlike most Asdas I’ve been in!). I went to Asda Eastleigh this evening after ages, as it happens, (mainly to get cheap petrol!) and have decided I will try and be organised and do a big shop there once a month of store cupboard and household stuff, and then just rely on Sainsburys for fresh. My guess is that people are increasingly shopping in different places to make their money go further, rather than sticking to one supermarket every week. If you have the time to shop around and aren’t spending too much on the actual travel, it makes sense.

      Will let you know if I need any meal ideas for the Breadline Challenge! 😉

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