Poverty-it could happen to any of us- just ask Jack

There is one area of life I think we can all agree on. We all spend too much money on food.

Is it the supermarket’s fault? I’m not sure but there is just so much choice out there that it is so easy to stray off your shopping list a little and end up going a lot over your planned budget.

Coupled with this, the price of food has rocketed. The Consumer Pricing Index which is run annually but the Office for National Statistics just highlights how much things have increased in price.

As a farmer’s wife, I suppose I see this from both sides of the coin-both the producer and the consumer and, despite being vegetarian, when I see the price of lamb in the shops, I am glad I don’t have to buy it for my family.


I recently joined a Facebook group called something like Feeding your Family on a Budget. It really opened my eyes that the group was split between those, like me, who wanted to save a few pounds and shave a bit off their weekly shop and, sadly, those who really did have to feed their family on a very small budget.

 Personally, I usually think about the homeless when I think of things like food banks and soup kitchens.

 However now in our sixth year of economic downturn, some of that period in recession, the face of poverty has changed.

 While the ubiquitous person lying under a cardboard box still exists, it is the hidden poor who are really struggling.

Families are some of the worst affected. Couples who earn just over the threshold of benefits but only manage to pay their bills with their wages are widespread.

Even today on the BBC news  website there was an article that said a third of UK adults struggle to buy healthy food.

According to Oxfam, one in five people in the UK are living in poverty – and government spending cuts, along with the rising cost of living, are hitting those at the bottom hardest.

Over a third of the population now say that they are just one large heating bill or one broken washing machine away from hardship. Many are finding it difficult to heat their homes or buy essential clothing. Most shockingly, the number of people in the UK that are going hungry is growing.

Sir Michael Marmot, a health inequality expert at University College London says that this has a huge impact on health, social mobility and even life chances: “In the most deprived part of the Westminster, life expectancy for men is 17 years shorter than in the richest part of the borough. That’s how big the health inequalities are in the UK,” he says.

One of the people affected by such abject food poverty is Jack Monroe.

Jack, who blogs at http://agirlcalledjack.com/ found herself on the wrong end of a cash-strapped single mum living in Southend. When she found herself with a shopping budget of just £10 a week to feed herself and her young son, she turned her hand to being creative and resourseful with food and started blogging about it.

But when her blog, A Girl Called Jack, which detailed the thrifty meals she cooked, gained in popularity, Monroe went from being a penniless single-mum to being dubbed the ‘poster girl for austerity’ by newspapers across the world.

I found Jack later than most people when she got chosen by Sainsburys to help promote their ‘Live Well For Less’ initiative.

While her recipes amazed me, what impressed me most is that with a better wage coming in from her blog and her Sainsburys deal, she didn’t abandon her frugality. Indeed, I have read articles where she admits she still shops and cooks on a budget.

However instead of relaxing and feeling glad that she was out of her terrible situation, she started, what can only be described as a one woman campaign to show politicians and society the real face of poverty and fight for them. She even supports and promotes Oxfam and Child Poverty Action as well as Fairtrade.


Now recently, Jack released her first cook book, named after her blog, A Girl Called Jack.

It is packed full of recipes for families to make on a budget.

While I will be trying out some of these recipes to help save me a few pounds off my weekly shop, it is important to remember that in this day and age, poverty can happen to any of us. We can all lose our jobs in a heartbeat.

Next time you see a box in your local supermarket asking for donations to a food bank, put something in. I always buy cereal and UHT milk because I can’t stand the thought of children in my local community going to school without breakfast.

Put yourselves in their shoes. How would you feel?

A Girl Called Jack is published by Penguin and costs £12.99.

The lovely people at Penguin sent me a review copy so, in the spirit of charity, I am giving it away to one lucky reader of Farmer’s Wife and Mummy. Enter with the rafflecopter below

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  1. Fab idea creating a recipe book for people on a budget. We have a decent income but still find it hard at the end of the month.

    This evening we had an online Asda shop delivered which cost £149.84 for simple monthly basics. I really don’t understand how this situation will resolve itself in the future and how those on lower incomes will live.

    Fingers crossed for the book!

    Jenny x

  2. Thanks for sharing this thought provoking post! I was talking to my kids recently about these issues as my 5 year old mentioned ‘Mummy, children in Africa where you grew up, sometimes don’t have enough food’. I had to respond by telling them that actually children near where we live or at their school etc may not have enough food! It was a bit harsh but something that they hadn’t considered that I think is really important to recognise. #AllAboutYou

  3. I’d love a copy of this. As someone who was homeless for nine months last year and who had use a food bank last year, I feel passionately about such issues.

  4. jack is amazing, been reading her blog for ages an she is a feisty lady, a great campaigner and a decent cook especially on a budget. Would love a copy of the book.

  5. ive looked at this book a few times in the bookshop and it looks brilliant but i just couldn’t afford to buy it so would love to win it! 🙂

  6. Ahhhh what a great giveaway Emma. I have entered maybe this time I will be really really lucky and win! lol I never win anything. hahah Thank you so much for linking up to Share WIth Me what a great post. I agree I think we spend way way too much money on food and it doesn’t help our weight anymore than our pocket books either. We have been trying to cut our grocery bill in half and stop buying so many snacks. Its hard to change a bad habit.

  7. I have this book and the recipes are very good and mostly fast to make too.

    I make the courgette and mint soup all the time. (Cook veg in oven, blend with Mint and stock and it’s done)

  8. This post has come at just the right time for me! As a household of 2 people spending almost £100 a week on groceries we’re now making a real effort to shop smartly using the more budget supermarkets and buying meat from a butchers – it may cost a little more but the meat seems to go further.

  9. have already commented but popping by again from #TriedTested fab post and giveaway!!!

  10. I have Jack’s book. I have made Soda bread (lovely) and lentil soup and my favourite which is a sardines and pasta recipe. I have a couple of lentil Bolognese in the freezer for tough times. If you shop at Aldi you can buy good cheap tinned sardines (40p) and pasta for less than 30p. I don’t want your copy as I have my own, so I hope yours goes to a good home.

  11. Just discovered you through #TriedTested and delighted to discover Jack too. This is a great and important post and fab giveaway. I have just looked at our spending and was more than shocked by how much goes on groceries each month. Time for change!

  12. I’m on maternity leave so having to adjust to significantly less money coming in. We could all learn a few lessons from Jack, poverty or not!

  13. You are so right – I think I have realised the past couple of years how wasteful we can be. Well – we’re not anymore! We literally eat everything – unless it goes off obviously, but even then – I don’t ‘over-buy’ like maybe I did when we first moved in together, so really we have zero waste.
    I realise how lucky we are to have our jobs, and we do have a bit of a tight budget – but one that we are grateful for x

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