Eleanor Wilde

Hungry For Justice


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Ending the Food bank Fast

Hello there!

Well well well, it’s nearly the end! This will be my penultimate post, to recap and end the food bank fast which we have undertaken for a whole 40 days. Keith Hebden had his first meal last night; his 40-day fast is now ended, and he has done really well! He’s adjusting to food again, and we will all have to adjust to taking back the privilege we had before Lent, to be well fed and healthy. I only pray that we don’t forget what we’ve learned, and that we don’t ever stop speaking out against the drastic inequality in our society.

The End Hunger Fast campaign is not quite over, however, and as it ends on Wednesday, Ruth and I are going to hang on for a few more days. Yesterday we spent ages agonising over and eventually purchasing a realistic food bank parcel with our £15, which we thought would last us for 3 days. We have rationed everything down to the last tin, but as the Trussell Trust describe here   we have included some treats as well. We tried to follow their shopping list as closely as possible. Nothing is perishable, or requires a fridge, freezer or oven to cook or store. We are not using anything from our cupboards, not even those amazing mixed herbs which are STILL going. Here is our receipt to prove it:

Not much, is it?

Not much, is it?

We will be having sachets of microwave porridge for breakfast, soup and crackers for lunch and some interesting dinners: Jamaican cup-a-soup mix with butter beans, pasta with tomato sauce, and some stir fry with rice for our dinners.

I did also mention treats: Aldi provided us with some little frangipane cakes and some ginger nut biscuits, which came in handy this morning when we realised that the porridge sachets we had bought are tiny child portions. Honestly. The porridge didn’t even fill a third of a normal-sized bowl. It was quite yummy though 🙂 And having cake for breakfast is great.I  have just had my red pepper, tomato and lentil soup from Sainsbury’s, with crackers, for lunch. It was nice, but I miss being able to cook something for myself! With such a limited shop, though, there’s no chance of making things from scratch. The other downside, so far, is that the food we have bought seems like just enough to keep us going. I have been feeling hungry since breakfast time; I guess we are used to larger portion sizes and more calories.

Oh, in case you were wondering, the most interesting thing I bought (which you may have spotted from the receipt) is this:

If you don't laugh, you're a better person than me.

If you don’t laugh, you’re a better person than me.

All foolishness aside, that one sachet of stock and spices is hopefully going to make a meal for two people, with just a tin of butterbeans added. We had to agonise over every item in our trolley this time, so that we don’t get scurvy/anaemia/low blood sugar. There will be one more post to come from me, on Thursday, letting you know how we did. We will never stop buying Basics range products, drinking cheap coffee or baking soda bread, and not a scrap of our food will be thrown away from now on. These are the things we have learned this Lent; to walk with our Lord in the wilderness and to walk with those who have to live this life every day. We must make the most of what we have, and we must not let people starve in this country. On Thursday, we will also let you know how much we think we have saved, which will be donated to End Hunger Fast.

It’s been a pleasure sharing this journey with you. Until next time,

Eleanor 🙂

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Triple Decker food shop recap

Hi there,

This post is about shops 6, 7 and 8…lots in store for you lovely readers, with more detail about what I’ve been cooking up in my super budget kitchen!

Shop 6: Whilst we were house- and dog-sitting, we did one shop, from Nisa Local (a mini supermarket) and from one of those discount food shops with lots of freezers and factory surplus. The Nisa was disappointingly expensive compared to Sainsbury’s (60p for chopped tomatoes and 89p for kidney beans) but we did get a great reduced section deal on some Jus Rol puff pastry for 40p. This made a lovely roast veg tart, which is an easy and filling dinner and we had enough left over for lunch the next day. The discount shop had some weird and wonderful items including a huge bag of frozen chopped red peppers for £1, and a paella spice mix for 60p. We also bought some BBQ crumbed pollock fillets, which sounds very odd and to be honest, tasted a bit naff. The fish inside was nice, though, and Ruth made them into a lovely meal with homemade potato wedges and garlicky sauteed carrots. I used the paella spice mix for paella, of course, with those red peppers and some Quorn chicken-style pieces, but it also worked well in enchiladas which I baked in the oven with some ready-grated cheese on top. The cheese, sadly, was not very good value for money, as I used the whole packet in one meal.

Shop 7: Back to Sainsbury’s, hooray! The mythical reduced section triumphed again, with 4 white baps for 29p. We’re not making as much soda bread any more, as it uses up a lot of soya milk and therefore reduces my breakfast options. Speaking of breakfast, peanut butter oat cookie/flapjack things were on the breakfast menu, as the oats and peanut butter were running out and I just couldn’t face another morning of porridge. These were made with oats, peanut butter, honey and Basics spread. I melted an equal amount of spread and honey in a pan with a bit of allspice, then mixed in the oats and a little plain flour, and formed the mixture into balls. After baking in the oven for 15 minutes at Gas 4, they were golden-brown and tasted delicious. Ruth also bought some Basics black olives, which were delicious with a tomato sauce on pasta. The little tub of mixed herbs I bought ages ago is still going, and we’ve been using it for the majority of our meals. It really is a star buy at 35p, and has lasted me since the 7th of March!

Shop 8: This was a bit of a luxury shop, as we really fancied some treats for once! We managed to find some reduced croissants for breakfast, courtesy of the reduced section, 29p for four. We also bought some chillies, as I was missing spicy food, and a bar of Basics dark chocolate for 30p. The biggest luxury purchase was a jar of Marmite for £1.70. I’ve been missing it so much! Anything over £1, on this foodbank fast, is a luxury. I will make the Marmite work for its price tag, though: it can do so much more than perk up your soda bread toast! For example, Marmite enriches sauces and gravy, and provides much-needed Vitamin B12 to supplement our veggie diet.

The best meal I made was a sweet-and-sour Chinese stir fry with egg-fried rice. Everyone has a different recipe for sweet-and-sour sauce, and mine ended up tasting just slightly too much of tomato. Usually I would use ketchup, but we had none, so I made it with these ingredients: Chopped tomatoes, honey, tinned pineapple, soy sauce, a pinch of Chinese five spice, malt vinegar and chopped garlic. It’s really important to mix the sauce cold and taste it while you’re making it. We used half of a big bag of stir-fry mixed veg from Sainsbury’s (700g for £1) and the rest of the Quorn chicken pieces for the stir fry, and it was more than enough for both of us.

On this last shop, Ruth had a good chat with the checkout staff about End Hunger Fast. She had to put some items back at the till (lemons and anchovies) and instead of disdain, she encountered sympathy and interest about the cause. If you want to find out more about why we’re doing this, please visit http://www.endhungerfast.co.uk.

I would like to get something off my chest here, and shed some light on how we make our food last on so little money. I don’t eat every meal at home, as I work in a kitchen for 25-30 hours a week, mostly in the evenings. My workplace offers me a small staff meal after working 5 and a half hours, which I sometimes take advantage of (once or twice a week) even during this foodbank fast. You may think that this is unfair, as I end up eating outside of the budget some nights, and therefore our fast isn’t authentic to how people in poverty live. Let me just answer that with some statistics:  According to the Trussell Trust, In 2012-13, 18% of people referred to their foodbanks were there because of low income (http://www.trusselltrust.org/stats). These people on a low income are likely to be working in industries such as catering, which has very little union activity, widespread abuse of zero hours contracts and frequent breaches of employee’s rights. Most catering jobs pay the minimum wage. Believe me, I have been working in catering since I was 16 and I have never been paid above the minimum wage, with the exception of my current job, which pays 36p an hour above for back of house. Just think about it: if you were under-employed, surviving on the minimum wage, and barely able to pay your rent and bills, you wouldn’t say no to a free hot meal.Therefore, I am going to continue having my staff meal when I get home late at night.

Thanks for reading. See you soon for shop 9,

Eleanor.


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Shop 5- The shop that never happened

Hi there,

It’s been a while! I’ve been working and studying very hard, so I haven’t had time for the blog, sorry! I hope you enjoyed my other half’s guest post; I think it’s important to talk about the wider issues around what we’re doing and Ruth reminded of those in the last post. The whole aim of this blog and this foodbank challenge is to help End Hunger Fast but I hope that our observations of extreme-budget eating might help those who do live on this kind of money every day. As Ruth said in the last post, we feel a bit (or a lot) shocked and guilty about how much of a storecupboard we are building up, and how little we have had to worry about food, despite drastically reducing our budget. So, as I was coming back from a late shift the other night, Ruth suggested on the phone that we give our next shop (or the £15 it would cost) to someone who works on a nearby housing estate, to give food to someone in need. There was someone specific in Ruth’s mind who had used up his food bank allocations and was pretty desperate.

That is why shop 5 ‘never happened’, and to be honest, we didn’t miss it. We got creative with leftovers and had everything from Thai curry to minestrone soup on just the food we had left. We haven’t yet done another shop. Ruth has succeeded in making soda bread, and we’ve discovered that vermicelli from the world food section (though cheap) is not a suitable replacement for normal noodles when put with a Thai curry! They do, however, go very well in minestrone. The minestrone that we had last night was the most delicious meal so far.

So…what next? I am currently sitting in a friend’s kitchen, because we are dog-sitting until Tuesday. I’ve got 3 bags of leftover food on the table next to me, believe it or not, but I am out of coffee! We’ll be trying out a Netto shop later, as that’s now our nearest shop, and there’s also something called a Nisa Local and a frightfully expensive Co-op Food as well. It’ll be an interesting scavenger hunt! Until then, however, we have been ordered to eat whatever food is going off while our friends are away, so another shop might not be needed yet.

This is what we have left, after almost a week (and in all honesty, a couple of meals with family and friends):

1/3 box frosted flakes cereal

About 20 teabags

2 garlic bulbs

1 carton chopped tomatoes

1/4 bag oats

1kg plain flour

1/2 bottle sunflower oil

500ml malt vinegar

About 600g salt

3/4 pot curry powder

About 100g baking soda400g allspice

About 300g penne pasta

10 small potatoes

7/8 onions

1/2 jar peanut butter

Almost full jar of honey

3/4 pot mixed herbs

6 1/2 veg stock cubes

1/4 bag rice

1 tub vegetable spread

1/2 carton sweetened soya milk

As you can see, basic things like oats, flour, onions and potatoes last a very long time. One thing I would like to do, and will do on one of our shops, is to try and go without fresh fruit and vegetables- in other words, we’ll try to eat in a similar way to a food bank parcel recipient! We’ve been eating very healthily due to all the fruit and veg, but with just storecupboard food, would we still be able to eat a balanced diet? We’ll see.

So…the next update will be on our next full £15 shop, when we eventually do it. For the moment, we will enjoy the rest of our provisions and see what else we can scavenge from this house-sitting gig.

See you later,

Eleanor 🙂