Hunger Hurts. (July 2012)

Today has seen fourteen job applications go in, painstakingly typed on this Jurassic mobile phone, for care work, shop work, factory work, minimum wage work, any kind of work, because quite simply, this doesn’t work.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, this month my Housing Benefit was over £100 short. I didn’t get a letter that I know of, but I can assume that it’s still the fallout from the cockups made by the various benefit agencies when I briefly went back to work from March to May. Whatever the reason, it’s easy to work out that £670 of rent can’t be paid of £438 of Housing Benefit. So I’m a week in arrears, almost two, as by the time Thursday comes and the next £167.31 is due, there’ll still be nothing coming in. The Income Support went on keeping me afloat, briefly, as did the Child Tax Credit. Now I’m not only in arrears, but last night when I opened my fridge to find some leftover tomato pasta, an onion, and a knob of stem ginger, I gave the pasta to my boy and went to bed hungry with a pot of home made ginger tea to ease the stomach pains.

This morning, small boy had one of the last Weetabix, mashed with water, with a glass of tap water to wash it down with. ‘Where’s Mummys breakfast?’ he asks, big blue eyes and two year old concern. I tell him I’m not hungry, but the rumblings of my stomach call me a liar. But these are the things that we do.

I sit at the breakfast table, pencil and paper in hand, and I start to make a list. Everything that I have was either given to me by benevolent and generous friends, or bought when I earned £27k a year and had that fuzzy memory of disposable income. Much of it has gone already. The Omega Seamaster watch, a 21st birthday present, was the first to go when I left the Fire Service. My words, ‘you can’t plead poverty with a bloody Omega on your bloody wrist’ now ring true for most of my possessions as the roof over my head becomes untenable. My letting agents take care to remind me that I am on a rolling contract, and they can ask me to leave at any time, for no reason. I sell my iPhone for less than a quarter of its original price, and put my SIM in this Jurassic Nokia that I found in a drawer from days gone by.

Tomorrow, my small boy will be introduced to the world of pawnbroking, watching as his mother hands over the TV and the guitar for an insulting price, but something towards bridging the gap between the fear of homelessness, and hanging in for a week or two more. Trying to consolidate arrears, red-topped letters, and bailiffs, with home security, is a day to day grind, stripping back further the things that I can call my own. Questioning how much I need a microwave. How much I need a TV. How much I need to have the fridge turned on at the mains. Not as much as I need a home, and more importantly, not as much as small boy needs a home.

People ask me how I can be so strong. People say to me that they admire my spirit. Days like today, sitting on my sons bed with a friend, numb and staring as I try to work out where the hell to go from here, I don’t feel strong. I don’t feel spirited. I just carry on.

First you turn your heating off. That was in December, it went off at the mains and I parked furniture in front of all the heaters to forget that they were ever there in the first place and alleviate the temptation to turn them on. Then you turn everything off at the wall sockets; nothing on standby, nothing leaking even pennies of electricity to keep the LCD display on the oven. Then you stop getting your hair cut; what used to be a monthly essential is suddenly a gross luxury, so you throw it back in an Alice band and tell your friends that you’re growing it, not that you can’t afford to get it cut. Everyday items are automatically replaced with the white and orange livery of Sainsburys Basics, and everything is cleaned with 24p bleach diluted in spray bottles. You learn to go without things, and to put pride to one side when a friend invites you to the pub and you can’t buy yourself a drink, let alone one for anyone else. There’s a running joke that I owe a very big round when I’m finally successful with a job application, and I know I am lucky to have the friends that I do.

Then you start to take lightbulbs out. If they aren’t there, you can’t turn them on. Hallway, bedroom, small boys bedroom, you deem them unnecessary, and then in a cruel twist of fate, the Eon man rings the doorbell to tell you that you owe £390, and that he’s fitting a key meter, which will make your electricity more expensive to run. So you turn the hot water off. Cold showers were something of the norm in my old flat, where the boiler worked when it wanted to, so you go back to them.

You sell the meagre DVD collection for an even more meagre sum, the netbook, a camera, you wash clothes in basic washing powder that makes your skin itch. You pare back, until you have only two plates, two bowls, two mugs, two glasses, two forks, two knives, two spoons, because everything else feels like an indulgence, and rent arrears don’t wait for indulgence.

In a world where people define other people by their job title (this is Sue, she’s a lawyer, and Marcus, he’s an architect) and by the number plate on the type of cars they drive, and the size of their television and whether it’s 3D or HD or in every room, my world is defined by the love and generosity of my friends, and the contents of my bin shed. You sit on the sofa someone gave you, looking at the piano someone gave you, listening to the radio someone gave you, perched on the chest someone gave you.

Poverty isn’t just having no heating, or not quite enough food, or unplugging your fridge and turning your hot water off. It’s not a tourism trade, it’s not cool, and it’s not something that MPs on a salary of £65k a year plus expenses can understand, let alone our PM who states that we’re all in this together.

Poverty is the sinking feeling when your small boy finishes his one weetabix and says ‘more mummy, bread and jam please mummy’ as you’re wondering whether to take the TV or the guitar to the pawn shop first, and how to tell him that there is no bread or jam.

Jack Monroe, Southend on Sea.


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  1. These things you talk of are becoming a trend and not only effecting people on benefits but working people as well ,we sacrifice for our children and it’s hard when they don’t understand your budget won’t run to an extra piece of bread ect or when they see you eating a tin of mixed veg in gravy when their eating the last of the fish fingers I’ve been their a few times.
    I emailed James Dudridge and challenged him to live on the equivillant of benefits for a month so he could gain a better understanding of the benefit system and how it’s not all beer swilling,bling drenched chavs as portrayed by the media the politicians are far more removed from the struggle of day to day people than many people realise
    And from my understanding of we’re I am and were I have been in the past made me start a community project called hampers against hunger food parcels go out to members of the community twice a year and the need for these hampers far out weigh what I can provide on a pure donation basis a the support of a handfull people .
    Their is no shame in asking for help or admitting you are in crisis never suffer in silence and never let pride get in your way because those who want to help will and will neither be judge or jury
    Like I have always said to those who brag or look down on people for not having the best you may have the best of things now but be carefull of who you tread on on the way up because you may have to rely on those people when it all falls apart
    And the quicker we realise we have to revert to community in stead of I’m alright jack the easier it will be to help people like ourselves and other who are or have been in drastically hard times

  2. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Sometimes things are hard, but this is really hard, and it would be easy not to read it and believe this isn’t happening all over the country, but it is, so take a good hard look. Then ask if there’s anything you can do.

  3. Your blog is so popular that it can possibly earn some money to you. Create a google adwords account and include ads in your blog. Google pays you….

  4. Jack, I just found your blog today.
    I’m in tears reading this – I’m so so sorry this is happening to you. You are strong, strong beyond belief – I have two little boys & cannot, cannot imagine how you live like this day after day. You are my hero and an inspiration
    Sending you love & positivity – I don’t really pray but I will pray for you


    • There are a lot (a LOT!) of us living like this everyday, Anita! This is modern Britain on benefits. Until the system and the government and more importantly, peoples misconceived prejudices change, our situation won’t. This isn’t even as near the knuckle as some of the real life stories get. People are starving, living on the streets, dying at the hands of this government and their dispicable ‘reforms’. We are definitely not ‘all in this together’!

  5. Your blog brought tears to my eyes.My family were incredibly close to this situation. My partner and I are still together but after having our first child, I was unable to return to my job and my partner was threatened with redundancy. I am educated to a degree level and have a number of industry qualifications but had no sight of a job, I was either over qualified or not experienced enough! My partner had no qualifications but has experience in care work. However, most entry level positions recieved a vast number of applications so we thought maybe he should get qualified at college to improve our situation – I did not realise how impossible this would be (there is no help for this) we luckily have family that took us in but now we are impacting on their finances and are still no better off!
    We select bills to pay each month and which to juggle until the next, we are on a debt plan and have an incredibly low food budget. We thought things would turn around now I have been offered a minimum wage temporary job. However, we do not qualify for any help with childcare while my partner is at college (he is deemed as unemployed in the tax credits office eyes) and with nursery fees being so high I am not sure how we are going to ever move out of our temporary accomodation. Everything we had has gone already, cameras, game consoles, dvds, cds, baby clothes all of our better looking clothing and shoes, I can’t remember the last time I dyed my grey hairs or had my hair cut! Yet few seem to understand the true meaning of broke, your situation is much more extreme than ours (thanks to family) but still, when I say I have no money, I mean I have NO money! People still ask you to come out or pick something up from the shop or even pop in, I can’t even afford to get from A to B never mind do anything in between!

    On a brighter note, your receipes have really helped us get through the last few weeks, my little girl loves them too and the portion sizes allow us to squeeze an extra meal out of them too!

  6. You’ve really moved me to tears, this is what should be splashed across papers, an insight into how it REALLY is! I don’t know what I can do, I’ve facebooked it so maybe someone along the line closer to you can help more. Is there any family anywhere who can help? The council, with a permanent home?
    There’s a flat right across from me thats been empty for ages, its such a shame! I can post you some things if it’d help? Anything? It’d not cost you anything, just one single mum helping another. If it comes to it, I’d even let you stay lol If you’re ever in Coventry, I’m more than willing to help anyway that I can. I’ve got a 2-year-old and my priority at the moment is keeping up with bills, rent and replacing anything we use in the week so we’re always stocked up, just in case. Please, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d be going out of my mind if I were in the same situation.

    • I just wanted to say Nicole that you are such a lovely person. It is so often the people with less that give more in this world. I cried my eyes out reading this article and all the comments. Words can not describe how much admiration I have for Jack and you. If I can help you, please let me know. I think I still have clothes, toys etc from when my little one was 2 plus and would happily organise for you to have them.

  7. If nothing else you could monetise your blog in a way that lets people volunteer to pay you for your writing. It’s insightful and honest and I’m loving the look of some of your recipes. Have a look here to see how to add a button to your blog. Might just be a bit of pocket money but should help. We all pay for newspapers etc. paying you for your reports on this kind of life doesn’t seem any different (I wouldn’t class it as charity) people need to hear this stuff and the people writing it deserve to get paid for their effort. 🙂

    • This was written a year ago – it says so in the the title. At the time this was written, she certainly wouldn’t have had many visitors to her blog.

  8. Wow powerfully written- I have just seen you bbc 1 news what a great lady :). I’m loving the veggy recipes too!!!!

  9. Just watched you on BBC – what an inspiration. Then I read your blog and cried. We are cutting back but no where even remotely to what you are going through. Now it is Saturday kitchen live – they should have you on there with your amazing budget recipes much better for everyone. Not sure who can afford prawns, squid and salmon as an everyday dish!!! I do hope after all you have gone through something amazing happens – like a real basic cookbook?!

  10. Just watched you on BBC news and came to look at your blog and reciepes. You are an inspiration and I hope life is improving for you. You’ve got a powerful message about poverty to share that lots of people in this country just don’t want to believe or hear! You should consider going into politics, we desperately need people who have experience of real life and how policy affects real people. Good luck Jack x

    • Jack, run for MP – you know how it is for such a lot of people, you’ve built a huge groundswell of support, I’m sure you have a large proportion of the people in your constituency behind you too, you could really make a difference in Westminster just as you do in the blogesphere.

      • THIS is an excellent idea. Really Jack, you should. You are as articulate and bright as any of the MPs we have now, but, crucially switched on to the struggles and reality of today’s Britain. There is huge discrimination again people who want to run for MP or councillor – you have to get a ridiculous amount of money together to stand – but if you were to go for it, people would get together to stump it up. It wouldn’t just be for you and SB – you would be a real inspiration and genuine representative for people. Please think about it!

      • I have just listened to you on The Food Programme and my reaction while listening was that this person should become an MP because this Country needs real people like you who know how it really is. I am an OAP so I know I have a safe, steady income (for now) but I have been in dire straits in the past, though not so dire as yours, and I know how you just HAVE to manage for your children’s sake. I wish I could help you, and others like you, in some way. Maybe someone reading this knows of a way?

  11. I just watched you too, and I think you a wonderfully inspiring lady. I read this and it is exactly what is happening to me. I have sold everything I have, games, DVD’s, my textbooks for the degree I was studying which I have had to give up on (in year 2), because I can’t afford the train fare any more. My radio, mirrors, clothes. I would have sold the telly but it stopped working (typical) so we have resurrected my son’s little one. Even my beloved camera which I was hoping to make professional use of, and I have pawned my late parents’ rings just to try to raise the rent since the Council stopped my Housing benefit in November. My family have never had money, but my Dad worked his arse off all his life to buy a house for us and then he dropped down dead. My Mum ended up in a care home and when she died it was sold to pay the care home bill. Because they think I should have savings left the Council stopped my benefit, and all these months later they are still asking for proof of a bank account which does not exist, and another that was defunct years ago.

    It wasn’t always like this. I worked for Customs & Excise for 19 years (irony), and have had lots of on and off jobs (the last one was a great job at Morrisons Deli, but it was hard to work weekends with a 12 year old son and an obstructive ex-partner who decided to stop me having him! I don’t mean to go on about my own problems, just to highlight the fact that there are many many reasons why people end up in the proverbial – and the Government and politicians cannot see this. What happens when you’ve nothing left to sell? I am doing all the things you have done right now, and I really admire your resilience, courage, and determination. And oh yes – one more thing – All this job searching has highlighted something else to me – and that is how many jobs nowadays are VOLUNTEER jobs and internships. I’ve seen so many jobs, particularly in the recycling and environment area, which are great worthwhile jobs but which do not pay any wages at all. I notice the Government don’t ever consider this in their insistence that we can all get a job instead of sitting on our SKINNY butts smoking drinking and CHAVVING about.

    Keep up the great work hun!

    • Welcome to the world of the zero-hour contract and the myth of employment. There are very few jobs out there, something they conveniently forget to mention.

  12. This was the story of large chunks of my childhood, watching my mother forced to make the same cuts. We went for years without a cooker when the gas was cut off and had just microwave; she would buy fisherman’s pie ready meals on the cheap and lots of dented tins. I can’t eat those pies to this day. No heating, no hot water, and visits to the county court with her because there was noone to babysit. A soggy five pound note blew into our yard one morning and I picked it up and showed her; and she burst into hysterical tears on the doorstep, because by a stroke of luck she would be able to feed us for two weeks.

    I have children now; and whilst I know that I could cope better than many – poverty prepares you quite well for more poverty – I am terrified of going back there. And I am fed up of MPs and journalists with no clue telling other people how to live in ways they really can’t conceive of. Best of luck to you from here on in.

    • Reading about people having to live like this in the 21st century, in Britain, makes me so f#cking angry. Having to read about £10m being flushed on Mrs T’s ‘non-state’ funeral leaves me flabbergasted….how many people could that have fed?? Shocking. How have we come to this?

  13. Jack may I urge you as others have to monetarise your blog? I’d willingly pay to read this. God knows it’s better than most of the crap in the mainstream media. Yours is a story that deserves a far wider audience. Please think about adding that button! I doubt you’d lose any followers and you may gain some. Take care. x

  14. Hi jack I saw you on telly today too. I echo your situation my working tax credits dropped without warning by £400 a month last July. We are in desperate situation exactly the same. Thank you for sharing your story. I am doing my best to right our ship so to speak but honestly it all feels futile. I work hard and grew up in a generation led to believe if you worked hard to support yourself it would pay. I am now having to leave my job because the sums don’t work. I am going onto income support and my three year old daughter and I will be facing yet more challenges. Her father gives nothing – many times I have thought of not waking up, but my daughter only has me so I keep trying. Xx my friends are all working, or in couples sharing the burden. It’s hard for people to understand how difficult things are, and honestly I hate trying to help people understand because it makes me take a good hard look and I would rather not.

  15. This is the reality for too many people, I suspect. I’ve been there too. No benefits coming into my account, only money from rare odd jobs. The first time I picked up food from the streets was January 2010. People throw out a lot of food, sometimes even still fully wrapped (but there are also many takers). Later that year, I started collecting acorns, and processed them for food. Fortunately, there were trees around the corner that produced acorns with little tannic acid. I lost a lot of weight that year. (So I will probably live longer now.)

    People say “get help” as if help comes in a bottle or a package. I think some say that to reassure themselves. They have to believe that there is help out there, for everyone. Maybe others really do believe that there is no reason why anyone should have to go hungry. The reality can be so different from what people imagine.

    “I have no money” means very different things to different people, I have noticed, and it can be hard to get across that “no money” literally means “no money”.

    I wrote an article with tips too on a local web site at the time because I knew I couldn’t possibly be the only one going through this and I figured that someone out there might be able to use some of my ideas. I wrote anonymously, though, and a lot of people still have no idea how horribly tough things were for me for a while. Most will never understand it anyway.

    I noticed that there is also a kind of fun in the challenge. Every time you find another solution or get lucky food-wise, you go “Yay!!!”. You have to see it like that, I guess, because if you don’t, you go crazy with despair.

    Thank god I had no son or daughter to take care of. I don’t think I could have handled that, but then again, there is no other option, you just gotta handle it any way you can.

    I am glad you are doing well again, Jack. (BBC page says you have a book deal. Is that correct? If so, you must be over the moon. I know the feeling. It’s like a warm glow, or a warm blanket, but lots of disbelief at first. Enjoy!)

    Things are looking a lot better for me too at the moment, so *** Daisy ***, you hang in there too. And yeah, been there too, the not waking up part. But I am still here, and you are too, so do whatever you have to do, and be smart about it, like Jack. You WILL get through this. You will.

    Jack, “hats off” to you, and a hug, and to everyone else who needs one.

  16. I have just found your blog this evening and I’m so glad I did.

    I was literally in tears by the end of this particular post, thinking about your struggle but also your son who has no idea what is going on.

    I feel like my household is going the same way. I’m unemployed and having no luck finding work, my partner is on a low income in a job that hardly ever has overtime, and other than a bit of housing benefit that barely covers half the rent, I’ve been told that somehow we’re not entitled to any other benefits. We have a baby due in September, and my partner already has another son (just 3 years old) who stays with us 3 days every fortnight (this used to be weekly but sadly we can’t afford to spare the travel money to pick him up that often now).

    Our outgoings are around £150 more than the money we have coming in, and that is before thinking about buying food or anything else that’s not rent/tax/bills/etc. We’ve kept afloat so far this past year by selling possessions to cover the extra outgoings, and have had small miracles happen here and there just in time to find money for food. I’m just worried our luck will run out soon (plus we are running out of things to sell).

    I am so glad you are doing a bit better by now. Thank you for sharing your story with the world, and for heloing people like myself who are struggling to figure out how to go on. You really are an inspiration.

      • My thinking exactly. Why is someone unemployed and broke having a baby? I have to be honest – I can’t get my head around it at all. More outgoings than money coming in, living on benefits, can’t afford to have the existing stepchild stay and you’re having a baby? How can you justify that decision? I work full-time and I can’t afford a baby,

      • Rosie – Bixerd .. I think the baby came before Jack was in this terrible situation of breadline poverty, which, actually, could happen to us all .. it could even happen to you one day so please dont write judgemental comments like that.

  17. You are an amazing resilient woman with an amazing resilient child but I’m guessing the need for constant resilience is shattering; what can be done; when i realise the Starbucks buy a spare coffee for £3 will feed your family for 3 days I realise my perspective is screwed, surely there must be a way we can layaway food not luxury. You’ve inspired me to make this happen (I work in retail, it’s a possibility) because I cannot leave a 2 year old needing more while I sip a latte. I am so very impressed by your sheer drive, you will clearly go far and ‘this phase will pass’ (mumsnet classic but I’m sure you know that already…) will never be truer.

  18. Saw you on Breakfast as part of the Below the Line story and was reminded of my own childhood when my mum would take me along to the HB offices, splonk me on the counter and say “You feed her – there is no food in the house (again) because you didn’t give me any money this week. This is the real story that the Below the Liners should be telling; far too many people believe this only happens in the third world not on our own doorsteps. Living on £1 a day for food and drink for just 5 days is a doddle in comparison to the seemingly unending grind that is life for months or weeks of this kind of poverty. Best of luck for you and Small Boy for the future.

      • I was thinking the same thing.. You write beautifully, and should accept donations . Please add a PayPal button. You could also sell digital copies of a cookbook by adding an esty account link. Betsy makes it really easy to sell digital PDF files. I just found you today via Frugal In. Cornwall.

  19. I hope you are monetizing this blog, although I don’t see any affiliate links and only one not particularly relevant ad.

    This post contains over 1000 words of coherent, grammatically perfect prose. Even on the lowest-paying online content mills you could get a few dollars for banging out a piece of that length. Sure, you’d be writing about the virtues of home insurance or persuading people to buy the latest ridiculous product, but at least it would allow you to buy a decent meal when the money came through to your Paypal account a few days later. Surviving unemployment is as much about finding new sources of income as cutting back on expenditure.

  20. Hi there, I have just come across your amazing blog. I too have been through what you are going through, difficult in ways that nobody understands as I have been a British woman that got stuck in an Arab country after being conned in a business deal and am still unable to leave. There is no financial support here and have had to rely on the generosity of family members abroad to wire me funds via Western Union to survive. I never thought it would be possible that as a young, educated woman with a great CV that I would be put in a situation where I would have to walk kilometres in the scorching heat just to buy a bottle of water, one tomato and one cucumber to make it through the day, or drink tea for days on end until the next payment would come through to keep my stomach from churning from hunger. As my situation improves, I realise that this ‘poverty’ was in fact a blessing that made me much more aware of the realities of life, made me more compassionate towards others and I made me overall a much better and more creative person. I wanted to start a blog similiar to yours a few years ago with the same goal, to share the recipes I had learned from these difficult times from others in similiar situations that had crossed my path, but then my computer crashed and it took me a very long time to be able to purchase another. Here I am today, very touched with your blog and your stories and would love to share with you some of the simple recipes that I learned.

  21. I was really moved by your post. I hear that things may be looking up for you, possibly with a book deal. I hope that is the case as you deserve a break.
    Just a thought, but have you considered adding a ‘buy me a coffee’ button to you blog? A voluntary micro donation, the price of a coffee, is something I am sure people would be prepared to chip in with for such a well written blog. Kind Regards, Peter.

  22. I am reading this post on Mothers Day. Your tenacity, strength & love for your child brought tears to my eyes. You are the definition of a Loving Mother. I wish you all the best in becoming a published author, (was to pleased to read tha article in the Daily mail) it couldn’t have happend to a more deserving and better person!

  23. Wow! what a brilliant piece of heartfelt writting! you are a brilliant woman and mum.
    We have found ourselfs in a simalar situation albeit no quite to the point you were at as I am very lucky to have a supportive family that once they realised the situation we were in have helped us out.
    I have looked through your receipes and they are great and I cant wait to try them out, im sure they will make our dinners taste much nicer then they do at the moment 😉 I am not the greatest of cooks and with the limited
    food we can afford you receipes look amazing!!

    • ooops sent before i had finished
      I have on many occassions gone hungary just so my little boy can eat, and its heartbreaking when they ask for more of something you just do not have and cannot get. It was at this point i was able to ring my mum in tears and ask for help, my child needed food.
      we have given up so much just to be able to pay the rent and bills and put food in my boys belly, but as a parent thats what you do.
      I wish you all the luck in the world with your move and your book deal and I will definately be looking in to getting it once it is released.

  24. I am overwhelmed by the grit and spark of the person who wrote this blog – as a mum, I don’t know how you find the spirit and strength but you set an amazing example and some day your little boy will be able to see that and he will be so proud of his mum. I wish there was something that we could do to help. Please let us know if you would let us do something – families have to stick together!

  25. Dear Jack,
    I read your blog and was moved to tears. Being a mother of two young children I can understand what you are going through. I moved to the UK 9 years ago and this country has given me a good respectable job and income. Now is my time to give back to people of this country. Please let me know if you need anything and will be glad to help. God bless you and your son.

  26. Please email me, I know of someone who is looking for a good content writer. It’s not much, £10 for 500 words but there is a lot of work for a consistently good writer and you get to work from home.
    Also, I work a few days a week as a cleaner in a local B&B. It fits around school hours. If there are any Guest Houses or B&Bs in your area it’s worth giving them a call as they often taken on casual staff and these places have a high staff turnover so there’s usually always something that comes up. I combine this with my writing and I make a decent enough living now. Please do email me and I’ll recommend you to the guy I work with.

  27. Ive just sorted my kitchen cupboards and had a bit of a cry at the task of compacting what used to be 4 full cupboards, into just one, so that when i open them looking for inspiration or something to fill my gastric void, i only now have to open one and it looks full and healthy! Money is awful atm, im currently in arrears on absolutely everything, rent and self employed tax bill included, i work as a freelance writer and locum veterinary nurse, and have found it difficult since this time last year when my fiance of 5 years left me and moved out. Ive been clawing back overdrafts and credit cards and am almost back to zero on most things. I have 20 pets and they are, like many people and their human children, my world. Luckilyi live in a quiet semi rural area so i go off with my basket and scissors to collect weeds, grass and branches for my 14 rabbits, i also grow my own herbs for them and hang dry grasses and herbs for a treat, vegetables used to be a daily purchase but now its hardly ever. I got ao peeved yesterday when my kindly neighbour mowed my front lawn – id been waiting for the dandelions to get bigger to feed the troops, how ungrateful of me!! whenever im disheartened about my money situation and lack of inspiration towarda healthy food, i read your blog Jack, you are literally a living hero, i have been so incentive with wierd meal concoctions since i ‘met’ you! My tips are:
    Always make and freeze stock with meat bones and giblets, you can use these for soups, casseroles etc
    For under £1 – i believe my bag was from b&m bargains for £0.59 – you can pick up bags of tiny pasta that bulk out home made or tinned soups to make them go further
    Markets – veg and meat vendors are usuallyhappy for you to take away their leftovers – i get veg for my rabbits but sometimes whizz up a bubble and squeak with cabbage etc
    Smash! – i always thought this would taste vile and bland but after buying a reduced packet for 11p recently, i was pleasantly surprised! I also love tinned new potatoes- i always buy the dented cans that are reduced, theres nothing wrong with them, i just rinse them first. Fresh spuds are just too expensive!
    Pop! I Buy tesco value sparkling water and tesco value double concentrate squash and make my own fizzy pop, it goes alot further than a bottle of a leading brand of pop and isnt ao bad for you!
    Anyway, enough for now, my bellys rumbling, best go heat up some home made soup out the freezer 🙂 xx

      • Doesn’t seem like Jack actually reads the comments you are replying to, just assumes you are talking about her and gets defensive.. I was thinking the same thing as you when I read the above. 14 rabbits…seriously? Sounds like the time spent collecting them treats would be better spent jobhunting.

  28. Hello Jack. My name is Marian. I looked for a way of contacting you but did not notice any email address on your site. Is there anyway I can reach you?
    Thank you.

  29. Hello Jack, My name is Marian. Do you have a contact email address I can reach you on? I looked for one on your site but could not find one. Is there an email I can please contact you on? Thank you.

  30. I just read your blog. I don’t know what to say, apart from I hope things start looking up soon. Doesn’t sound much though when you’ve been through so far. xx

  31. This could easily be any one of us next week/year/month…I would happily put a couple of quid your way (literally unfortunately) as i am sure many would for me and my brood. x Set up a donation site or even amazon wish list…just think, if it is done for your hour of need it can be done for others too…this situation is not forever…but a temporary lift may make all the difference, and paves the way for many others.

  32. Hi Jack,

    This is truly an inspirational read. Best of luck in your endeavours. I hope you find a job soon.

  33. I run a food blog myself… and then my partner and I both became unemployed for a year and coming up with recipes for the blog was the last thing on my mind as my partner and I regularly ate beans and toast and the similar. I’m so impressed with what you can do for so cheap. However, I guess I did not have the motivation of looking after a child.
    I now work in a community centre on an housing estate in London, and unfortunately I hear stories like this every day. However, I rarely come across them in food blogs. Which is why, I guess, I was moved to comment.

  34. “Today has seen fourteen job applications go in, painstakingly typed on this Jurassic mobile phone, for care work, shop work, factory work, minimum wage work, any kind of work, because quite simply, this doesn’t work.”

    Let’s work this out, you are running a high visibility website, you have articles written about you in the national press, you meet with politicians – you are clearly educated and your jQuery skills alone should command a £40,000 p.a. salary and yet you seek a minimum wage job? There is something fundamentally wrong with this scenario. I also find the fact that the domain name is registered anonymously a bit ‘suspicous’.

    • Hi Roberto – I registered the domain as me but opted to hide my address details as it’s my home address, and I have had death threats from people claiming to be connected to the BNP in the past, so hiding my home address seemed like a good idea!
      I wrote this post in July. There weren’t any meetings with politicians back then, it’s all come about as a result of day in, day out blogging away.
      And for the record, I was applying for £40k jobs as well as minimum wage jobs. I didn’t get a response from those either.

      • Obviously I am a cynic, no shame in that. I now realise that writing up about your weekly shopping spend and publishing some recipes will make you the target of death threats and the like from right wing nutters – I mean, that’s just the world we live in isn’t it? In fact I’m surprised Al Qaeda have not issued a Fatwa on you or the Iranians have not sent in a Hezbollah hit squad.

        I presume, for similar reasons of personal security, that your real name is not Jack Monroe, and that is not a picture of someone called Jack Monroe, and that you (whoever you are) do not reside in Southend? In fact, for reasons of “personal safety” you are probably a company and not an individual and this site is merely austerity-era social engineering, to be picked up by the media, generate lots of austerity feel-good publicity, you then get rich and waved in front of the rest of the unemployed as ‘proof’ of their idle uselessness.

        Now it all makes sense. 😉

      • It was a comment about the England flag being appropriated by certain groups that they didn’t like. As for the rest, I’m definitely a girl called Jack living in Southend. My own newspaper (the job i finally got, wahey!) likes to remind everyone of the fact whenever anything good happens with a nice ‘Our Jack…….’ headline. Which is nice.

  35. So sad reading this. Have been in this ship with the sinking feeling. Do you have a food bank in your area? In harlow there is a warehouse where you can collect food parcels to help you xxx

  36. Such a sad state of affairs to witness citizens of a first world country having to sell their personal possessions in order to barely keep stomachs filled and lights on, while the government is more than happy to spend millions on those with millions and billions further on foreign conquests and furthering geo-political agendas.

    So glad to see that you managed to get a job but reading the comments is even more depressing. There are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands out there with stories similar to yours. So many people needing help, but where does one start? What can one person do to make a difference?

  37. Chin up kiddo. Things can only get better. This is what I keep telling myself as well. 🙂 x

  38. Ms Jack Monroe. If you ever vome to Canada you have a place to stay for yourself and your son. I am a single father of 2 young children and like yourself live on fairly little. I admire your courage in standing up and telling your story. Hopefully people start listening.
    David Ingram
    Midland Ontario Canada

  39. Hi Jack. I came to your blog via the Guardian article, as I’m sure many others here have. I find the kind of ingenuity you applied to cooking really inspiring. Looking forward to taking a look around your recipe archive.

  40. You’re truly amazing, what a strong and inspiring person! I realise this is post was a year ago, but I really hope that things are better for you now. If not I’d happily send you a food parcel or order a shop for you and have it delivered.

  41. “Whatever the reason, it’s easy to work out that £670 of rent can’t be paid of £438 of Housing Benefit. ”

    Why don’t you move somewhere cheaper?

    • I did (this post is a year old) – but it’s not that simple in private accommodation. Firstly you have to see out the end of your contracted period – or pay the remainder – which in July 2012 would have been 4 months rent for me – 3k I funnily enough didn’t have lying around if I wanted to break the contract. Then you need a deposit, and admin fees which are £200-£300, and the first months rent…
      So I sold everything in my home in a one day ‘house sale’, raised some money, held tight to the end of my contract, and moved somewhere cheaper – but ‘affordable’ for me at the moment is a bedroom in a shared house, where I sleep on a mattress and
      my 3 year old sleeps a foot away on a single bed. It won’t be like this forever – and i’m happier here than I was ina 2 bed apartment with bailiffs knocking on the door.

      • I hate it when people ask someone with no or little money “why not move somewhere cheaper” as though a deposit and a months’ rent (let alone letting fees) grow on trees and most landlords don’t have a big “no DSS” sign.

        I’m in a houseshare too (a lodger in an attic – bills included and furnished thankfully), in and out of temp work (mostly out this year) – but thankfully just me to look after.

        There are slightly cheaper rooms in my city, but (1) no money to move (would likely be £600+ needed upfront at least) and (2) my landlords are nice (they don’t mind rent arriving in dribs and drabs of 1 week or 3 weeks or a few days late depending when benefits arrive), so I think it’s fair to say it’s better and (since lodgers can be evicted with very little notice) safer to stay put.

        Great blog! Keep up the good work!

  42. Just taken the time to read through your first post and all the comments and wanted to reply to those who think you’re not real. My view – doesn’t matter whether “Jack” is a real or fictitious character, the experience is real and those of us who don’t have to live in the way you do need to understand the experience. Things are so precarious at the moment, even for people who live quite comfortable lives. We’re none of us guaranteed our comfortable status quo and for many of us it is comfortable, oh we may grizzle about not being able to afford things; eating out, holidays, an anywhere-near-new car, home improvements, new clothes, but we really are very comfortable, those of us who get to the end of the month within nothing left in the bank but in the expectation of another salary cheque.

    My only criticism – and it’s a criticism of the society which created this blog rather than the blog itself – those who are in Jack’s position or have some insight that it wouldn’t take too many bad decisions or quirks of fate to land us in Jack’s position are more likely to be moved by this than people who have no concept of being hard up because they’re insulated from it by privilege and wealth – their own of the wealth of the previous generation.

  43. Your post touched me. Not just because of what you wrote, but because of the picture in my head. I can see your little boy at the breakfast table, as clearly as I have looked upon my own. I can feel the feelings you have right now.

    Just a few months ago my electric was gone, I wasn’t in receipt of benefits, the cupboards were bare and it was his birthday. He didn’t get a present. I am grateful to have such friends who would buy cake, a token present and head out with us for the day. There is nothing worse than cutting back week after week, and it still not being enough. You question how much you really need to eat, to wash clothes.. I have been studying hard and volunteering for a chance at work that just isn’t there. I have shouted at my poor five year old for breaking his shoe climbing a tree. I hate that. I don’t like shouting, and five year olds are meant to climb trees. He starts school in september and I can’t afford the initial costs, nor can I return to finish my own education because the childcare costs are ridiculous. My oven is broken, my rubbish is piling up but I’m not going to let this break me. My answer is to break free and have a crack at a self sustained life, which could leave us worse off.

    it’s sad that so many of us have to face this hunger, sell our things and wonder how much longer it will last. I sincerely hope you and your boy are well and a job comes soon. I hadn’t known things were as tough in England as they were in Ireland. Lets hope we can all overcome this, and someday the politicians will take off the rose tinted glasses!!

    Your tough spirit will get you through this; you can do whatever it takes. Take care x

  44. This takes me back to when my two daughters were young and everyday was hard work. Days when you are sick and tired of the constant financial struggle. Its not just food, its the stamp you need to post the birthday card you’ve made, the shop that sells real bargains, but it is a bus/train ride away and you don’t have the fare,the very well meaning people who inform you how inexpensive something may be, but when you have nothing, everything is inaccessible. Banging your head against a brick wall because you think you may have found a solution then something, some body, lack of funds, etc. prevent you from going any further forward.

    It is absolutely disgusting and so, so wrong that this is happening and has been happening in a country of our relative wealth, and I feel for you. I really do. You are however, a very strong (whether these events make us stronger, or if its a strength somewhere hidden until times likes these), capable survivor. This is something you will have been told over and over again I am sure, but there are days when it is just not enough!!! Hopefully, you are on your way out of this situation and I wish you all the very best with your book, but mostly that you and your boy have a happy and healthy future ahead of you.

  45. This is shocking it is just so sad. Clegg and Camoron not a spelling mistake should be beaten to a pulp. How they can cause this much suffering whilst giving 12 billion of tax payers money to foreigners. You now know who to vote for at the next election not the Condems. People who put the rest of the world ahead of its own people deserve the most savage of fates.

  46. I, as many of the above commenters, was moved by your words….
    I thought of all the words of empathy I may write…but decided on this instead..


    I wish you success…you not only deserve it…you’ve earned it !

  47. Your article made me cry because it reminds me so much of my own life. I have a little boy as well I am working at the moment but it is still hard to make ends meet. When I lost my previous job I was unemployed for few months and fell behind with bills, catalogue cards, credit card and rent. Every trip to job centre and council was horrible and made me feel like a beggar, staff working there wasnt helping either with their sorry looks and voices treating me like Im an idiot who cant take care of myself let alone my child. I had a meter fitted as well and I didnt even go outside when the guy was fitting it I was pretending Im not at home thats how embarrased I have felt
    It is so hard when you cant give ur child basics I was crying myself to sleep every night after I put my baby to bed because I felt so hopeless and helpless.
    Im still paying off my debts now I have 2 court orders attached to my wages and still havent had a haircut for over a year;) its getting better though but I wish one day I could jus have enough, enough to put aside and save without thinking what to pay off first. Good luck Mama you doing great:)xxx

  48. been there too…checking every bag & pocket for any coins at all, hanging round the supermarket til they reduce the bread to 10p, wishing I was brave enough to go freegan..

  49. This has made me very emotional. Reminds me of my own childhood where my mum went without to save up to buy me a vest for the winter. When she saved up to buy 4 yoghurts as a treat. She is now a college lecturer and doing so well and I’m unbelievably proud, but it was very hard. She worked as a childminder and at playroups and playschemes so that she could take me with her as she didn’t have money for childcare. She somehow got a degree and she went on to train people and, as I say she’s now a lecturer in child studies.
    Your blog rings very true with me, as I say it’s made me quite emotional. What a powerful piece.

  50. This article reminds me so much of a time in my life I’d rather forget. I don’t live in the UK, but my experience was quite similar. I now have a job and me and my son live comfortably, but I know how everything can be taken away from me at any time and it is actually really scary.

  51. Maybe if you’d listened at school, when you got that free education that we all get, you might not be whining about having to feed your kid water a weetabix. That MP you talk about takes a massive pay cut at 65K because could get a job on at least twice that (a job that is open to any applicant).

    It makes me sick that people don’t take the opportunities offered them in life. you have failed at life.

      • When the going gets tough, as the adage goes, the tough get going, and you prove it. You’re a great role model to people who find themselves backed into a corner because you haven’t given up, and have come out fighting, and used your intelligence and internal resources to create something from nothing. Heroic! I shall certainly buy your book when it comes out. There’s no mention in anything I’ve read about or watched, of your little boy’s father. Is he making a contribution to his son’s upbringing?

    • Dear Andy

      Maybe if you had listened at school, when you got that free education that we all get you might have learnt to read (plus a bit of grammar wouldn’t go amiss), then you would have been able to understand Jacks blog. Your comment has marked you out as the failure and simply highlighted just how much Jack isn’t.

    • Maybe if you did your homework Andy and read through Jack’s blogs and website instead of jumping the gun on one article, you’d pull your head out of your bum long enough to realise the above comment is appalling. Who are you to tell any human being that they have failed at life and what an awful thing to say……. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but comments like that are mean and unnecessary. Were you never taught that ‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?’

      And I’d rather we didn’t have MP’s taking massive pay cuts. Let them take the higher paying jobs and the MP’s position go to someone who can really make a difference.

    • People like you never seem to realise that poorer people are not less deserving, or failures, they are just less fortunate. Jack is obviously bright, educated and resourceful. She has been unlucky, and now her hard work is paying off and her luck is improving.

      But not everybody is bright, resourceful, clever, talented, or well educated. That is not their fault. We are all different, and it would not be possible, or indeed desirable, for everone in the world to be clever, entrepreneurial etc. Because who would then do the caring jobs, or the menial tasks that are beneath those taking a pay cut as an MP.

      Instead of juding people, how about acknowledging how lucky you are not to have been in Jack’s position.

  52. Wow thats a really sad comment Andy don’t be so hard on yourself those thoughts won’t get ya anywhere

  53. Wow I am truly stunned that this happens in our country. Im struggling too but not like you in this post. What a caring mother. Im currently pregnant and having to cut back so much as we are a one small income family. You are so strong!

  54. Hey Jack,

    Some good recipes your sharing 🙂 going to try out those bean and carrot burgers I don’t used carrot enough. I can’t imagine what it must be like having a child on this kind of budget for a long period of time. I lived on a £13 a week budget myself after rent when lodging for about 11 months over the last 3 years. Tinned kidney beans, potato and frozen veg and some simple spices like smoked paprika and mixed herbs suddenly become life savers.

    I think with currency being a means of acquiring both luxuries and life essentials really skews peoples view on being broke or poverty. Also I don’t think many people understand what it’s like having the stress, mood swings and other problems caused by hunger until they experience it in the long term. I can only guess that it must make you feel far more insecure as a parent than it did for me just looking out for myself and I’m really glad you’ve made the choice to voice your pain as so many of us either don’t or are simply not heard.

    Best regards,

  55. Came across your blog through the Guardian. It’s easy to say things like “you’re an inspiration,” “you’re strong” etc. etc., but another thing to live through them. I can’t make empty comments and issue vapid praise because in my adult life, I haven’t known the hardships you face (my family faced them when I was an infant, but I barely remember those difficult days and I was lucky to have parents who sacrificed everything to protect their children — just as you are doing). I cannot identify with your situation, and your words enrage me. I am furious that a single, intelligent, RESOURCEFUL and CREATIVE young woman has to scrape to feed a growing boy, let along take care of herself. I cannot identify with you, but I can affirm my solidarity with you in all the work that you’re doing to ask people to think about what it means to live in a society where everyday poverty and struggle are ignored.

    • Your recipes look wonderful and your politics spot on.
      I don’t know you at all, but do know that your son is, and will always be, quite proud of all you do and are.
      Keep up the good fight.

  56. Pingback: Humbled | J-Blog
  57. Bihar? and all that. Andy (and people of that ilk) have no clue what life is/ perspective. ” Down and Out in Paris and London/ Keep the Aspistra Flying/ COming up for Air are my favourite reads, Orwell knew the world, and my choice is to keep travelling and being a sycophantic, recalcitrant (big word, apparently) Grasshopper, so I’ll be knocking on your (Jack, if you read this) Ant door in twenty years (Andy probably will be too), and when you say $%# off, I’ll say “Fair enough”. or i’ll try to if ‘m not to be enraged, if I’m not already a zombie..oh this conceit sucks in this time. for the recordi also appreciate fat, ugly Canadians who promote healthy budget living, but you’re more compelliing, somehow -the dirty kiwi, thailand

  58. Hi Jack

    I’m getting sidetracked by reading the comments on this page and probably missing something which is staring me in the face, but is there a direct link to your blog? I’d like to read through it and this page has changed a bit since I looked at it the day you appeared on the BBC news.

    I am both horrified and heartened by what I’ve read so far – your struggles are horrendous in a “civilised” country such as ours (the “trolls” need a swift right hook, BTW) and that you have gone through it and are emerging into the sunshine now helps me cope with the daily struggle of needing elastic money which stretches further and further, even though I work.

    Looking forward to the book release


  59. I have just come across your blog Jack and my heart goes out to you. I hope things have improved since you posted this. I’ve just one thing to say really – that poverty is not your fault. We share this world and it is simply wrong that a mother and child ever have to go hungry or (near) homeless . The responsibility lies with all of us, and especially with those living smugly comfortable lives. Again, my heart goes with you, may you find a life of enough.

  60. Like so many, this share moved me to my core & has highlighted how careful I now need to be while living on benefits & raising a child as a single parent. I think you are truly magic & you are rocking my world! Thank you for shining such a bright & brilliant light & for being the change that the world needs to see. As for the nay sayers – those who matter don’t mind & those who mind don’t matter.
    Thank you for being awesome =D

  61. Hi I feel for you jack, I have been a single mother on a starvation diet with three boys all with special needs since my husband died of cancer back in 1991. I had to leave work and look after my sons as my oldest has special needs and is disabled with a life threatening illness, and needs 24 hour care.
    No matter how many times I tried to go back to work, something would happen to one of my sons and they would end up either very ill or in hospital, So after losing so many jobs, due to me putting my children first. As I have no family or friends ti help me, I gave up trying to stay in a job, and decided to stay at home to make sure my boys were safe and well cared for.
    Because I had no choice but to stay home and depend on the state, I have found that the little bit of money they were given me was not enough to pay off all the bills I owed as well as buy enough food for me and my boys. So I had to make a choice, either myself and the boys eat and we end up on the street or I don’t eat and we stay in a home. I came to a decision that for four days in the week I wouldn’t eat anything but left overs if my children left any, and bread and butter if I had any. To make sure that they had enough to eat and the bills got paid.

    Doing this for so long has made me ill, because I have been on a starvation diet so long now, I have found that my body no longer needs food on a daily basis. I can only eat a few times a week and only little amounts, Say a sandwich. When I do eat I feel so really sick and dizzy now, it feels like my body is rejecting the food, and it takes any where from three days upwards to digest it. I feel a lot better when I don’t eat.
    I worry about my health and the effects it has on my body,but there’s not a lot I can do about it now. The damage is done.

  62. I have a couple of queztions.

    1. How did you f.,k up your life so badly.
    2. What did you do to alienate yourself from your family.
    3. Why pay 670 a month for a house when you could live i. A room for half of that money?
    4. Why was it so hard tofind a job for a person that had such a good job before?
    5.why are you so angry?
    6. 65k for tory politicians are terrible but labour backed BBC pay thier hr director 330k. Who are the biggest crooks?
    6. How many poor people know what kumin is?
    7. You like food but not all poor people do? You had alot of time to cook and not all people do. For instance some single mothers work 40 hours per week for minimum wage then go home and cook.
    8. Why didnt you cancel your internet if you were so poor?
    9. Why are you blaming society for your fuck ups? Britaindidnt screw your life, you did?
    10. Jamie oliver might be a tw?t . You look like an even bigger one trying to criticise him and offer your rotten recipes as a solution.

    • What an absolute idiotic judgemental pr*ck! Things happen in life to make it take a turn for the worst! You don’t know this ladies full circumstances so how dare you judge her. She is doing the best she can for herself and her family and I commend her for that. In the mean time she is showing the public tips on how to do the same. As for having the Internet. Do you not think maybe with such little money she wouldn’t be able to go out and socialise therefore for her own sanity the Internet should stay, never mind the fact that it is a brilliant source of job hunting, staying in touch with family, finding cheaper shopping deals etc.

      In future I suggest if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything… Did your Momma not teach you that?!

  63. People like Andy and Stucoop need to realise how close most of us are to poverty. Illness, divorce, redundancy can strike any of us at any time. A single person or parent is even more vunerable – no handy second income to rely on.
    Jobs have been scarce for a long time now and there are so many applicants that it is hard to get a new job. Coming second out of 200 applicants isn’t great if there is only 1 job. Forget it altogether if you are 50+.
    Savings, if you are lucky/astute enough to have them, disappear very quickly when you have nothing coming in. Oh! and they stop you getting any benefit! Talking of which…
    The Benefits system is complicated and messy, even when you are used to dealing with it, and the Newly-Broke often don’t know where to start. If you aren’t aware that a benefit exists you can’t ask for it. Getting a small company pension? No help for you.
    What about your assets? That watch you got for your 21st? Your grandmother’s engagement ring? Your electronic toys? Worth far, far less than they cost when you come to sell them. If you have a mortgage you are as vulnerable as any renter, if you can’t pay then you are out! Suddenly it’s not your house, it belongs to the bank. If a property is a repossession or a forced sale the buyers want a bargain. The more desperate you are the bigger the bargain they get. Meanwhile the banks charges are eating into your capital.
    And there you are – homeless, broke, ill-nourished, beaten by the system, ground down and despised by people like Andy and Stucoop.
    Remember, when you lie in bed tonight, tomorrow it could be you.

  64. I think it would be a great idea to add an optional donation button to your blog. I am also a single parent. I totally appreciate not everyone is in a position to pay or contribute money to your blog, but am sure a lot of people would like to contribute, even if it is just a little.

  65. Reading this makes my heart hurt.
    I’m a single mum, with a small boy. I’m lucky that my family live very close by (over the road), and if I’m ever struggling there’s always someone to ask. It is truly terrifying that children in the UK today are going without food. I love your blog. Thank you!

  66. Very moving insight into poverty in the UK. Can’t wait for your book to come out. Will encourage my whole church to buy it as we are starting a poverty challenge in March and donating the savings to those in most need.

  67. This is really good insight into poverty in the UK in 2013! Jack, you’re an excellent writer. For me the problem is that the prices of accommodation take up a vast proportion of my monthly income (and I don’t consider myself to be in a very difficult financial situation, i.e I still have disposable income at the end of the month). You can cut on many things but it’s difficult to cut on a place to live so you’re effectively forced into supporting this system (I think it is exploitative because private landlords made a lot of money on buying out council housing and turning it into source of profit, very often these properties are expensive and of low quality, plus as you said everything is more expensive if you don’t have money) In the end I thought that this is so annoying that I got a narrowboat where I don’t have to pay anyone for the luxury of having a roof over my head but I understand this is not a solution for everybody, let alone a single mom with a young child. Hope your situation improves with the book deal, I am certainly getting one.

    P.S Me and my partner lover your recipes and wait for new ones to try.

  68. Poverty is not only for people on benefits. We are struggling to put the petrol in the car 5 days a week to get to the minimum wage job that we need to pay the rent & council tax so that we can keep our home. Every week after paying the rent we have to make choices with what is left over, mainly gas/electric v. water rates v. food. There certainly won’t be a christmas in our house AGAIN this year

  69. I read this blog after reading the poisonous attack by LittleJohn in the Daily Mail. I will cook Kale with pesto it’s such a good idea! I am sick to death of the patronising way that Littlejohn pretends to speak for the working class. His sneering is pathetic for a grown man. Go girl you are doing great and I fully support you. PS enjoy your boy they are a delight & treasure at 2 years old.

  70. I know how hard it us to get a job and try and get off benefits. I am not judgemental but did wonder about internet costs and why such a bright woman finds herself here. It is clear from comments that the mantra “British people don’t want to work, that’s why we are grateful for so many immigrants working” is not true. I want to know how so many people from other countries get jobs that British educated people can’t get? Is there a job centre somewhere that caters only for foreigners. Not racists just an observation. Not even UKIP.

  71. Anything I have to moan about suddenly falls into total and utter significance after reading this 🙁 Very strong women.

  72. I read the blog a while back after seeing an article in the Guardian. It’s hard. No income spiralling prices and I really admire your measures to survive. What I don’t understand is why you would tell your FRIENDS that you are growing your hair and not that you haven’t got the money to get it cut. On the one hand you are putting this thing out in the public sphere (good) and on the other playing games with your friends. Didn’t understand that part. No shame in not having.

  73. Hi, I realise you prob don’t reply to messages or emails, but here’s taking a chance. I’m from the northwest, I too was a single mum , living on a meager £50 a week. With that I had to pay electric ( on card i.e when it’s gone so are the lights) and gas (thankfully not on card)…. I loved my daughter but all the love in the world didn’t put food on the table. I took a very very part time job one eve a week life modelling just before her second christmas just to get presents. I studied at college as well having a friend (luckily also childminder ) watch her and volunteered at a EBD school for boys to get experience .i loved good from an early age and was keen to pass that on. Cooking and eating can be one of life’s greatest gifts. Giving a hot steamy bowl of food is like giving love. I wanted to give what it could to my baby girl. this however isn’t a sob story or me asking for sympathy because so many mums do the same. A year later I met my husband to be. Gorgeous and generous and also a little old fashioned, he saw me for what I really was a mum .
    We unfortunately lost two babies before having I had another little girl. We now have our completely mad family unit. I stay at home cook, clean and play with my kids . My point… In now in a financial position that allows me to sit comfortably, but many arnt and being poor is not just a financial stat but a mental one too. I believe if we taught people to cook better, healthier, cheaper food as a community it would bring peopes mental state up and help everyone together. I hoped you maybe able to help me with some ideas for a prodject like this . I think you’d be an insperation.
    Thanks for listening
    Kelly x

  74. Hello Jack! I am so glad you have started to turn things around for you and your son! The article on your circumstances in the NYT was really touching. I went through this back in the early 90s during that ugly recession. That recession pales in comparison to this current one. I had to ‘sign on’ for a period of time to support my young family, and I feel for you. Keep up the good work with your culinary work, and ignore the naysayers. I’m in a better place now, and I really hope that the UK government regains it senses and doesn’t let this kind of misery, that you and millions of others encounter daily, continue. I look forward to following you and please keep us updated! I hope you will always, in the back of your mind, be concious of what you experienced and never forget those who are going though the same. We are here to help.


  75. I lived your story over 30 years ago. Some things are different today, but many of them are not. I was thrown into poverty during my separation from my ex-husband. I would like to tell you that your life can be wonderful, fulfilling and successful. Today, my two children are successful adults. I am completely independent and very financially successful. My life turned out much better than I ever dreamed, thanks to hard work, using the talents that God has given me and loving myself and my children. The one thing I believe turned my path around was getting my college degree. Once I had that, doors opened for me, I had more control of my destiny. I was able to work and support my family. Since you are blessed with a smart brain, develop it so you will never be in this position again!! I would be happy to tell you my story if you think it can help you or others.

  76. I am fortunate not to be in your situation at the moment. However, I’ve been there before, as a single person. Now that I have a 3-year-old, I can’t imagine the shameful ache you must have felt in knowing you couldn’t provide your little boys essential needs and worrying whether he would go to bed hungry. We parents will generally do anything for our babies and it’s heartbreaking to know that any child (white, black, brown…whatever) would go to bed hungry — but they do — millions, every night, while the rest of us eat cake.

    There’s something very wrong with a world that could easily afford to feed and clothe every person on the planet, and provide adequate health care to each of them, and yet, we don’t. Meanwhile, the Fat Cats in the country where I live continue their lavish lifestyles and expect the rest of us to gratefully jump to whenever they deign to toss us a crumb.

    What’s it going to take to make a better world for all of us, even the poor and uneducated who don’t have the opportunities we do?

    Thanks for stirring up the hornet’s nest, Jack, and best wishes to you and your precious son!

  77. I just read your story in the New York Times. Thank you for sharing your story. I live in the United States. My father left my mother and 5 siblings when I was 15 and we had to go on welfare. My mother had to make dinner using potatoes, beans and rice in a myriad of ways. Since my mother didn’t speak English I had to translate the harsh questions and answers when we were interviewed for social services. We were immensely grateful for the help but knew we could not stay on welfare forever. My mother worked for the first time ever first in a factory then in a restaurant. Eventually she went to school and finished high school. Fortunately, the rest of us knew that education was the answer and worked very hard to finish college. Now we would be considered successful. However, if it hadn’t been for those welfare services, we could have fallen into very different paths.

    Some people still don’t understand that welfare is not wrong. It helps people and saves children. It encourages them to find solutions and to not despair. .I am happy that you are doing better now. Thank you for being a voice for poor families.

  78. Jack, I have been a vegetarian since 1975 and am in very good health. Humans do not need to eat the flesh of any animal. There are seeds, nuts, herbs, grains, beans. lentils, vegetables and fruits that supply what humans need. Laurence forpeace at windstream dot net

  79. ..and that is what is so wrong with society, you have got so many people, like MP’s on such a huge salary, who not just din’t understand what it is like to live, not just on the breadline, but under it, they simply do’t care to understand.. It is immoral

  80. So I’ve not got this bad yet, I’m lucky, I have two jobs, but I still can’t afford all the bills every month, every day I give my two year old a kiss and send her to nursery that I can’t afford to pay for to go to work to not quite earn enough money because the alternative is benefits. But now I’ve had to cut back my hours at my second job because of some health issues my tax credits that are supposed to top up my earnings have been cut, which I don’t understand why. So I’ve not got this bad yet. But I’m on a spiral, and it’s going down. I know the desperation you feel, I’m just lucky I’ve not felt it as bad. Yet.

  81. Brilliant Jack! Very touching. You deserve every benefit forthcoming as all do who speak from truth. Stay positive. You’re inspiring.

  82. Had some Weetabix shipped to me is the US in order to try and understand the limits. Good idea now. Thanks.

  83. heartbreaking. inspirational. we in south america always think poverty is just ours to claim. you have opened my eyes ever so widely. the system is even more fucked up than I thought it was. thank god there is people like you that put it in evidence. My only regret is that you had to suffer so much to make people realize the deep shit society is into. my condolences but above all, thank you and good on you! you’re someone to aspire to. brave, strong and generous. the ultimate survivor from the 21st century.

  84. This is me now and a bit worse as we are soon to be evicted and having to stay in family in north London. We work in south London. It’s going to be a hell of a struggle to get back on our feet but I really find comfort in reading this blog. So thank you for writing it.

  85. Dear Jack

    I’ve just heard you on the radio, on question time. I thought you acquitted yourself very well, against the professional rhetoricians. And it seems things are looking up for you. I’m so glad. Good luck in all your projects, and know that I will be supporting you, in little ways, however I can.

    Best wishes, Rob.

  86. Bonjour Jack,

    Vous êtes très courageuse. Continuez, et j’espère que vous trouverez une place dans l’édition française.

  87. This has been my story for the last 18 months since my husband left me with 4 children.
    Unfortunately I’m in the position where I have a mortgage. I know this wouldn’t be an issue for most people, but there is no help out there for mortgage payments so I spend out £500 of my money each month on a mortgage I can’t afford. If I sell my house, the council won’t rehouse me because I would be intentionally homeless and I would also lose all of my benefits because of the sale money. So I would have to rent privately until the money ran out.

    Your story gives me hope that there can be a light at the end of the tunnel. One day I will be able to look back on this and say ‘I did it! I survived! And I managed to bring up 4 children at the same time!’

  88. Reblogged this on Somewhere Only Poot Knows and commented:
    This will become more and more prevelant if Cameron and Co. are allowed to carry on… So come on, Tory voters, tell me how the country needs this. Tell me, that this is the only way to get the country back where it should be; and tell me that anyone living like this while millionaires dodge billions of pounds in tax is acceptable. Come on. Justify it.

  89. Dear Jack,

    I don’t suppose you’ll have time to look at my comment, but I wanted to leave one anyway.
    I don’t know how I have only just come across your blog but I have & I’m glad I did.

    I have to say as I read this, I related so much to your words I’m a fellow blogger & at the age of 24 I look back on my early teen years & I unfortunately for various reasons that I won’t bore you with I hear my own story from the ages 17 through to 23 its only the last year or so that I have found myself in better situations, mostly because of my rock of an other half.
    However to this day I’m still all for reusing, recycling & watching where my money goes.

    Since starting my blog/videos (although I write about my creative projects vintage lifestyle) I think you’re a real inspiration & I’m so glad to have read your blog today.

    Thank you for this & all your other pieces.

    Peace & Love
    Kelly – KayCeeCreates

  90. I just read this again. And it still makes me cry. Sadly, I can relate to it more now that when I first read it, and once again your first book is my bible.

  91. As I started reading this I realised I had read it before. I cried the first time and I cried again this time! Times can get hard and you can’t see the end, you just keep trucking and come out the other side

  92. I know the post has been here for a while. I hope things have eased. The mark never leaves you. You feel the guilt in later years when your child’s dentist says their teeth didn’t calcify properly and wonder if there was anything more you could have done…anything else you could have scraped… or begged… or picked up after the market had gone. You contemplated just about everything to put food on the nonexistent table and were at a weight that made you look anorexic…
    I went through this. People are still going through this. Every damned day in a civilised country where children are supposed to be protected and mothers who are ‘not hungry’ at mealtimes would sell their souls to keep at least a roof…and so many others do not even know it is happening.
    Thank you for being a voice.

  93. We have been here the last few days. Sending my other half off to work (long hours) hoping his little bundle of sandwiches will do. Feeling like a shit Mum, and sitting crying in the kitchen last night, when my youngest keeps saying she’s hungry, and they don’t like the curry I had made (but I had nothing else to give them). Hunger does hurt, way more than just the growling in your stomach, but the awful feeling that you can’t provide for your child, despite desperately looking for jobs. And the awful, ridiculous irony is that today I have to go into my child’s school and attend a “Healthy Eating Packed Lunch” seminar, when I want to stand up and scream at them “Let the kids bloody well eat what they want, as long as they are eating!!!”. Instead of shaming those of us who only had 40p left to buy a cheap pack of biscuits, to last the week in packed lunches. For christs sake, spare a thought for those kids whose families can’t afford breakfast or lunch or tea. I am so utterly fed up, spent out, drained from feeling like this. Working means nothing, unemployment means nothing, because poverty does not differentiate.

  94. It’s a sad state of affairs when a country as rich as ours has so many of us living in poverty. How is this in any way forgivable? I myself can’t afford to heat my home, but at least my son eats well. He’ll just have to grow up strong and get used to the cold. Austerity does not serve the needs of society, we need investment so that people are paying taxes and buying goods. That creates more jobs making the goods, which in turn means more tax revenues. To run an economy any other way only serves to put the working classes in their so-called ‘place’, which I would have thought would be a ludicrous practice in this day and age. And if you think this can’t happen to you? Trust me, it can. The economy is STILL going down.

  95. This still makes me cry when I read it Jack but they’re not tears of sorrow, they are tears of rage at the cruelty of this ruthless and malfunctioning system. I have lived like that, when my invoices haven’t been paid for months and I’ve scraped pennies just to get to work, juggled one bill against another, torn between paying for the roof over my head or the fuel bills. And when a contract ended unexpectedly early, no support from the government,

    This is what inspires me in your writing; when I’m feeling flat, the passion lights me up again. Now I no longer in that position, I try to help people who are, quietly, behind the scenes, a little here and a little there.

    Thank you.

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