The Cost of Food

As if it didn’t annoy me enough when people say that those on benefits are scroungers, that nobody really goes hungry in this country, or that they simply can’t imagine spending less than £30/week/person on food, and how does anybody do it, darlings, I’ve just read this.

The personal stories in the comments are quite telling, although the words I find especially effective are those of the author:

This is the reality of food poverty in the UK: the people who are most acutely affected can’t afford the multipacks that offer the best price per item, and can’t get to the shops that sell decent food at the cheapest prices. They’re forced into expensive local shops, or alternatively the frozen food stores that offer highly processed food at prices that seem reasonable until you take into account how nutritionally poor it is. Well-to-do people who like to lecture the supposedly feckless poor on their diets always overlook this – the fact that, paradoxically, poor people can’t afford to eat cheaply. Somewhere along the line our socio-economic system got so warped that cheap food became a middle class luxury.

[bold mine]

And this is exactly the kind of thing which makes me want to scream SHUT UP every time somebody who is used to luxury opens their mouths and tries to comment (my pet hate is “your health should come first” – yes, if you have the luxury to make that choice, it should: get your head out of your arse), or runs an “experiment” like living off little for 5 measly days to understand. Live off £1 a day for 5 days and give the rest to charity. See how long you can maintain it. That might actually help! Don’t do it to “understand” because the thing you really need to understand isn’t eating a meagre diet, it’s the feeling that you have no other choice, and there may not be a forseeable end.

The article isn’t really about attacking well-off people or bemoaning the “nobody understands us” of food poverty. It’s not even about educating people about food poverty – it’s about a valid critique of the ridiculous article which set it off.

The points made are:

  • Brian Milligan knowingly makes his £1/day claim fraudulently because
  • His diet is not healthy: he is undernourished
  • His diet is not at the price of £5/5 days, but ~£40, since he buys in bulk and only costs what he eats – a privilege open only to those who have this money
  • His diet relies on seemingly costless transport to a wide range of supermarkets
  • Nobody with only £1/day to live on could afford the waste of overbuying perishable goods which Brian Milligan creates at the expense of variety

And I’m sure that, as a woman (with a daily calorie demand of 2000 rather than 2500 for a man) and a vegetarian I could live healthily off £1/day, taking into account Brian Milligan’s mistakes and not repeating them. I lived off £10.50 a week in my first year at uni, without a freezer and with the nearest supermarket the not-so-cheapo Coop. I ate 5 vegetables a day every day (although not much variation in fruit). However, I would eat the same things over and over again, mostly cooking 2-4 portions and eating a portion of the same thing every day until it was gone. It was dull. It was not very varied. Occasionally I had crazy spells where I substituted a meal for several packets of 7p crisps, or ate a pomegranite every day for a week. But I wasn’t trying to prove anything to anyone, and when you have less to spend on food, you just spend less and get by, and that’s that.


About RowenaFW

I am a Fish. But you wouldn't know it just from looking at me.
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One Response to The Cost of Food

  1. Pingback: Can’t eat on £1 a day? Cheat! | Indigo Jo Blogs

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