My Foodbank Challenge (4)

Although I hate to admit it, I didn’t completely fulfil the foodbank challenge. I managed just over three weeks. Why did I give in? Well there were a number of reasons:

  1. I really found it hard to put together a full meal from some of the foods, as there wasn’t always things that went together. A lot of this was probably me being quite choosy about what I eat. This resulted in me snacking a lot on things throughout the day and never really eating a proper meal. I think this ended up with me eating more in a day than I normally would and consuming more calories.
  2. The lack of fresh foods was something that I am not really used to. I don’t eat much tinned or processed food generally, so this was a bit of a shock to my system. I found a lot of the food unappetising, but again probably me being quite fussy.
  3. There seemed to be far too many carbs and not enough protein. In the week that I had eggs or cheese, it was a little easier, but I normally eat lots of fish and vegetable protein as well as quite a few eggs. I ate far too much bread and quite often had unhealthy things on the bread, such as chocolate spread.
  4. There just wasn’t enough milk for me. Even on the weeks when I didn’t have cereal, I found that I was really short of milk. I found myself drinking more coffee too, sometimes instead of eating properly.

After the three weeks, I have now returned to eating what I would normally eat. I have loved cooking foods from scratch this week and have enjoyed eating lots of fresh vegetables and fish. I’m still not the healthiest eater in the world, but I have really appreciated much more variety and being able to buy the foods that i love.

I have also found that I gained weight. I think that this is down to the processed foods along with the snacking. I have heard in the past, people saying things like ” well they hardly look like their starving, they can obviously afford junk food”. I don’t think it’s quite as straight forward as that. The cheaper foods that people buy fill you up and will feed a family on a budget, but they are not necessarily the healthiest of choices. Fresh foods and meals cooked from scratch are so much healthier, but you have to be able to afford them, have somewhere to store them and have a little bit of cooking and nutritional knowledge to put a decent meal together. Unfortunately not everyone is able to do this. Don’t assume that someone has to look skinny to be hungry or malnourished.

People ask why the foodbank doesn’t provide more fresh foods. The main reason is around longevity and storage. There are some fresh foods available most weeks, as well as frozen meats and other frozen foods. On a week to week basis no one knows how many referrals there will be, how many emergencies, whether there will be single people or large families in need. The only way to provide food in these circumstances is to have a good stock of basic tinned, dried and long life foods to ensure that there is always enough to provide for people in need. This can then be boosted with any fresh foods that are available.

Another thing that has reared its head again this week, particularly on social media, are the comments around “well they can afford a TV/Laptop/ weed/cigarettes (etc), why should we be providing them with food?” There is no simple answer to this. Some people cannot manage money very well, some may not prioritise, some may be struggling all the time, some may just be struggling short term. None of us are perfect. Lots of us are lucky enough to afford the things that we like as well as the things that we need. Using the services of a foodbank is not a lifestyle choice. It is a necessity for some people. How it became a necessity is not really for me to judge.

It is a personal choice whether you choose to give to a food bank or not, just the same as it is to give to any charitable cause. I will continue to volunteer and help where I can. I hope that I am never in a position to need the foodbank, but no one knows what the future holds or what help we might need.

Whatever your views, just be kind, try not to judge others who need help and hope that others won’t judge if you ever need help.

My Foodbank Challenge (2)

At the end of the first week of my foodbank challenge, I have to say it has been an interesting week as far as food is concerned. I’ve managed quite well with the food that I would have been allocated, but in all honesty, most of it is food that I would not normally eat.

That’s not in anyway a criticism of the foodbank, as the food it provides has to have a long shelf life and be fairly straight forward to cook, with the minimal amount of preparation.

I started the challenge on Saturday, with cereal and milk for breakfast. I soon realised that I could only have a small amount of milk on the cereal if I was going to have enough for the rest of the week. Consequently the cereal was pretty dry (either that or I normally have an unusually large amount of milk), but I managed to eek out the milk for cereal all week.

I did feel constantly hungry the first day, but I’m not sure if this was all in the mind. I think that I was fairly strict with the amount of food for the first few days, as I was worried that there would not be enough food for the rest of the week.

I have found that a lot of the processed food has very little texture to it and also left me with quite a bit of indigestion. Some days I wasn’t sure which foods to put together to make a meal, but it definitely helped having a small amount of fresh food to add to the tinned food during the week. I had tinned chilli with potato wedges, made from a fresh potato. I also had a jacket potato one day with a tine of beans and some grated cheese. My pasta sauce was mixed with pasta, a tin of sweetcorn and a tin of mushrooms and a sprinkle of cheese on the top. This made enough for two days.

I had super noodles which I really didn’t like. Tinned rice pudding had, for me, the most awful taste and texture, so I’m not sure that I’ll be having that again. I also ate more bread than I would in a normal week as it helped to fill me up.

I didn’t use any sugar at all, as I don’t have this in tea or coffee. I didn’t have any coffee at home, as I didn’t have enough milk and I can’t drink it black. I had herbal or fruit teas, again because I can’t drink normal tea black.

I did have one cheat this week and that was on Thursday when it was my mum’s 85th Birthday. I took her out for lunch, which I appreciate I would not have been able to do if I had been relying on the food bank, but as there are no other celebrations at the moment, it did not seem fair to not treat my mum on her birthday.

I’m really missing freshly cooked food and a wider variety of foods. It hasn’t probably been great for me eating so much processed food, but not snacking on sweets, biscuits etc during the day has probably been good for me. I am definitely a grazer so it’s been hard for me not just being able to grab what I want when I want.

So now I’m all ready for week 2!

My Foodbank Challenge

There has been so much controversy and discussion over the last few weeks around foodbanks, free school meals, Covid Assistance etc. In March I started volunteering at my local foodbank two afternoons a week. I really enjoy being around other people and it also made me feel that I was doing something worthwhile.

There are so many people in need of assistance these days and thee foodbank provides a really good service to people who need it. People can end up needing help from a foodbank or similar service for all sorts of reasons. It may be that their personal circumstances have changed leaving them struggling financially. They may have difficulty with mental health issues, disability or addiction. This year has been particularly bad, with people losing their jobs or having lower incomes due to furlough .

I have met people who have been embarrassed to find themselves at a foodbank for the first time in their lives and apologising for needing assistance. I have met young people who find themselves living alone without any support from their families and finding it impossible to keep to any sort of plan or budget. I have put food parcels together for people fleeing domestic violence who are living in hotel rooms.

Yes there will be those that know how to play the system and take advantage. There are those who may not prioritise food for their families. There are those that may have come too reliant on assistance and may not ever be able to mange on their own.

Whatever the reason being someone needing this type of assistance, I don’t feel I am in any position to judge.

Never Gone To Bed Hungry

I realise that I am in a very privileged position having never really known hunger. As a child, our family weren’t particularly well off, but we always had food on the table. Dad would hand over his wage to my mum each week and she had a tin with slots in for all the different bills. We always had money for food. My mum tells me that there was a short period of time when my brothers had free school meals when my dad was off work, but I certainly can’t remember this. The only time we ever went to bed hungry was if you had been naughty and got sent to bed without supper, although my brother informed me recently that he kept a stash of food in his room just for those particular moments!

I also know that my children have never known real hunger. They have had three square meals a day throughout their lives. Even after my eldest daughter left home for university, she always knew that we would help her out with either money or a few bags of food when she came to visit.

I know that I over eat. My meals are generally healthy but I top that up on a far too regular basis with sweets, crisps, biscuits, chocolate and baked goods. I also buy too much food, waste too much food and have the privilege of being picky about which brands I choose.

So What’s The Challenge?

At the foodbank, we have sometimes discussed whether we would manage on the food that the service users receive. The food is mostly tinned, dried or long shelf life. It is the staple things that most people have in their store cupboards. We also are really lucky that we receive donations of fresh food which allows us to give out fresh food alongside the staples. The food is expected to last for a week.

So I have decided to set myself a challenge of living for a month on the food that I would receive if I relied on a food bank. I’ve not done this to prove that it can be done, but to understand the harsh realities of people who are really struggling to make ends meet.

Armed with the standard list, I went to the supermarket today and bought the items (thought I’d better clarify that I didn’t take them from the foodbank!) Luckily today in the foodbank we also had a few fresh items, so I added those to my list too, to give a true reflection of what I would have received had I needed a food parcel today. My challenge will start tomorrow morning and the food should last me for a week. I am hoping to continue the challenge for four weeks.

I will update you next week on how I have got on. I will be honest if I have waivered, cheated or just given in altogether.

The whole point of this is to raise awareness around food poverty and the work of foodbanks and other similar services. I want people to think about the amount of money they spend on food and to count their blessings that they don’t have to wonder where their next meal is coming from.

I would also like you to consider making a donation to your local foodbank. You can donate food, toiletries, cleaning products, feminine hygiene products or cold hard cash. If you’re unsure what to donate, contact your local food bank and ask them what they need.

As one of my daughter’s friends posted on twitter recently : “You’re a lot closer to having to use food banks than you are to doing your weekly shopping at Harrods”

Sentimental Stuff

The clear-out continues

Have you ever started a bit of a decluttering session and it’s ended up aa a sentimental walk down memory lane? I have continued sorting out my eldest daughters bedroom in the loft this week, but ended up looking through lots of things that she had saved which brought back lovely memories.

There were dozens of programmes from shows that we’ve seen, school photographs and year books, mementos from performances that she’s been in and places that we’ve visited and lots of birthday cards (even one valentine’s card) It took me much longer than I anticipated to sort it all out and box it up, as I kept taking photo’s of things and sending her messages about the things I had found. It was actually a lovely afternoon and I loved being reminded of some of the past. I started again this morning and finally managed to sort it all out today and pack it away ready for decorating.

When you just can’t bear to part with something

I reported last week that I had decluttered the loft and one of the things that I had intended to throw out was my wedding dress, It was very dirty around the bottom and had something spilled on it from when it was worn as a fancy dress outfit. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but eventually agreed that it would go to the tip. I wasn’t really one hundred percent sure, but had to be ruthless and decided it had to go. On Monday morning I got a text from my husband saying was I sure that it was going to the tip. I then had second thoughts and asked him to hang on to it. when I got home it was back in its bag in the loft. Neither of us could actually get rid of it. I guess we’ll get rid of it the next time we have a clear out….. or maybe not!

A coffee-less week

So as Lent started this week, I decided that I would give up coffee. I don’t drink loads of coffee, but when I do I like it quite milky and I also quite like something with it like cakes or biscuits, the idea behind giving up coffee is that I cut down on the milk and hopefully any cakes or biscuits that I might be tempted to eat. To be fair I quite like a herbal tea, but it doesn’t really go with a chocolate digestive!

 

 

Ups and Downs

A personal Best

I went to Parkrun again on Saturday. I know I keep banging on about it, but I can’t tell you enough how much it’s encouraged me to keep on running. As well as being lapped by the fastest runners, I also get lapped by parents running with double buggies, adults running with small children and people running with dogs. Despite all this there is constant support from the marshals and a tail runner to make sure that no matter how slow you are, you always have someone with you. I hit another personal best this week, at 45:10, still at the back, but still determined.

A healthy eating lapse

My healthy eating plan went out of the window for several days this week. The first reason was due to comfort eating. I haven’t done this since the start of the year, but for some reason I allowed other people to undermine my confidence and make me feel miserable. Before I knew what had happened I had called in the supermarket on the way home and was tucking into a full tub of Ben and Jerry’s. This was then followed of two days of eating sweets and biscuits which made me feel rough. I know that comfort eating is not the answer, but still occasionally slip back into these habits without even thinking about it.

The second reason was that on Saturday I spent the afternoon in Leeds with some lovely friends from work, as one of our lovely ladies is leaving. It was a great afternoon and although it’s very sad that someone is moving on, it was lovely for us all to get together and spend some time away from work. It wasn’t great for the healthy eating plan (I’m not sure you can count cocktails as part of your 5 a day) but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m now back on track ready to face a new week in a positive frame of mind.

Decluttering

I spent my Sunday afternoon decluttering the attic bedroom. This was occupied full-time by my eldest daughter prior to going to university. She’s been gone for three years now and there are things stored in there that haven’t seen the light of day in all that time.

To be fair there were things that haven’t seen the light of day for a lot longer than that. This included the following:

  • A pair of ski salopettes belonging to my husband (we haven’t been skiing for over 20 years!)
  • My wedding dress (we’ve been married 26 years, but it did have an airing about 6 years ago when my eldest daughter went to a Tim Burton themed party as “The corpse Bride”)
  • Several pairs of shoes belonging to my youngest daughter (She absolutely had to have them, but wore them only once)
  • Various blow up air beds (some of which don’t actually inflate anymore)
  • Spare rolls of wallpaper and carpet (none of it which matched any of the wallpaper or carpet that we have now

Thankfully we agreed what would be taken to the tip, what we were keeping and what would go to the charity shop, which now leaves space for more useful items and after a coat of paint will make a lovely bedroom again for when she comes home, or a guest bedroom for anyone else who wants to stay.

A bit of a mixed bag all in all, but here’s to next week, whatever it brings!