You’ve got to believe it will be alright in the end.
I stepped off the BBC Breakfast sofa this morning, said goodbye to Louise Minchin and Charlie Stayt, and hello to a thousand new Twitter followers.
I stepped into a lift at the hotel the BBC had provided for me in Media City, Salford, and a woman jumped in with me to say she had just seen me on the TV. With tears in her eyes, she told me she had just been made redundant, and that she had stopped to watch it, because the information about cooking meals on a tight budget had come at ‘just the right time’ for her.
I had just eight floors to reassure her that no matter how horrible and awful things are, you find a steely determination and a strength you didn’t know you had, to just bloody well carry on.
As I said on Facebook last night, I’m not pretending it’s ben easy. Constantly feeling like a failure, two suicide attempts, sitting with my back against the door as the bailiffs hammer on it for an electricity bill that I know I can’t pay. Applying for jobs week in, week out, with the deafening silence as not even a rejection email comes through.
My ‘£1 a day food’ started a year ago, when, with just over £6 in copper coins and five pence pieces in a dish in my kitchen, I went to my local supermarket to see what I could buy. Yes, I was on Income Support. Yes, I was claiming Housing Benefit, because I live in a society that thankfully supports people when they need it and having needed that system, I am eternally grateful for its existence. But my Housing Benefit wasn’t enough to cover the rent on a flat I had moved into when I had a £27,000 a year job, so I topped it up with Income Support. I didn’t meet the eligibility criteria for a Social Fund loan or Crisis loan, so I couldn’t move to a cheaper place. I unscrewed the light bulbs, turned off the heating, and eventually opened up my house to sell everything I owned in a desperate bid to clear rent arrears and stabilise.
I went to my local supermarket with that £6, knowing it was all I had for the week to feed myself and a 2 year old boy. I bought value chopped tomatoes, value kidney beans, value pasta and rice, value bread, value jam, some mushrooms, etc. I took it all home and looked at it, and started to cook simple food for myself and my son. We managed.
As the weeks went on, I became more adventurous. I had rice leftover, so I bought lentils one week. I went mad one week and bought paprika and garam masala. I found a bag of vegetables for £1, for 1.25kg of potatoes, carrots, parsnips and onions, and I started to make soups. And so it began.
I never set out to be ‘famous’ – in fact notoriety is a pain in the backside when you call someone up in your everyday job as a news reporter for the local paper and they want to talk to you about kidney beans – I set out as an angry single mum, commenting on local politics in my town. When I added the recipes to my blog, it was to help other people in similar situations, to cook simple, nutritious food for themselves and their families.
The feedback I get from people is largely, hugely, positive. People get in touch every day to tell me how much they save on their food shop, people discover cooking skills they didn’t know they had. Pensioners tell me that they cook my meals as they are on tight budgets themselves. A woman at the BBC office asked for my Twitter handle, because she would be drawing her pension soon and wanted to know how to cook well without spending a fortune.
People tell me I am a voice for hope, and for change. I don’t know about that, but I do know that if you told the young woman, who cried herself to sleep after writing the blog post ‘Hunger Hurts’ in July 2012, resolving to sell everything she owned to keep the four walls around her – that less than a year later she would be helping thousands of people in similar situations, she wouldn’t have believed you.
My recipes are handed out for free at local food banks, mentioned in the Telegraph and the Independent and on online money saving discussion forums every single day.
Someone told me, all those months ago, that it would be alright in the end.
Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe
I read up to this comment “But my Housing Benefit wasn’t enough to cover the rent on a flat I had moved into when I had a £27,000 a year job, so I topped it up with Income Support. ” and have to say that if you were on £27,000 then you wouldn’t get any benefits at all.
Anyone who is in or has been in the welfare system can tell you that.
I think you misunderstood that. I moved into my flat on 27k, no additional benefits.
When I was on housing benefit, I could no longer afford my flat, so topped the rent up with income support.
When I sold everything, I moved to a cheaper flat, where I now live. I pay for it with my salary from my full time job.
Mark, perhaps you should finish reading the whole post before commenting. And then go and read the post titled “Hunger Hurts”.
There’s always someone ready to jump in and try and shoot you down, you do well to rise above it so politely!!
I think you’re amazing and a real inspiration. I love cooking and I’m really looking forward to trying out loads of your recipes. You have showed so many people that cooking is the key….. Not money 🙂
Mark, not sure how you managed to misunderstand this, but give this amazing lady a break. Besides being forthright, direct and honest in her account (and bravely so), it’s quite clear she is talking about measures she had to take after losing her job, not while earning a salary. Anyway, if you live in London, it’s no laughing matter trying to live on an income of that level, rent is extortionate.
Well done jack. You are an amazing woman and mother. I too was in a similar but not so severe situation a few years back and I sat down with the budget of £20 per week to feed five adults, 3 of whom young males, a dog and three cats. I estimated how much pasta, loo rolls , cheapest tomatoes, washing powder etc etc i needed and then crossed half of it out as I couldn’t afford it. Like you I took Gcse in home economics and I cooked from basic and also war time recipe books. I added grated carrots and porridge oats to pound mince beef and made it make 4 meals ie 20 portions. Not pleasant bo do but tastes fine and we didn’t starve or get ill. Keep it up, you are an inspiration.
Reading the above just shows you (one) can triumph over adversity. You deserve all the good things that are, and will be, coming your way – what an inspiration! Good luck with everything you do in the future :~)
Have just subscribed to your wonderful blog. Thank you for sharing your story. I am going to ask my kids to read it to help them realise and understand what many families have to go through and how lucky they are and why it is so important that we raise money and collect produce for the local food bank.
You really are an inspiration! Thank you for all the work you done and sharing your journey with us. I hope it gives comfort to people in need.
Hi Jack, I watched you on BBC news this morning and I have been reading your recipes and blogs all morning! You are an inspiration. I had my daughter fifteen years ago and have brought her up on my own. Their have been many moments of despair, not being able to russle together enough coppers to buy a pint of milk and brown envelopes arriving on the door mat! But, I have to say this is in the more recent times, without a doubt! Ten years ago renting a house would cost me £320.00 a month and bills and food was much more affordable than today. Today my rent is £600.00 a month and council tax £75.00, let alone the cost of food, bills and school uniform etc etc etc. Minimum wage is £6.08 per hour, How can this be right???!!!! I belive the prices of rental property should be capped!! This plays a big part in council/government spending aswell as prevents families from being able to pay bills and eat.. to benefit who… the rich will sencond homes! What has the world come to?? Good on you Jack for standing up for whats right.. best of luck for the future. Julie Platt, Cornwall
awesome Keep going xxx
Saw you on telly this morning, a true inspiration, have also had the bailiffs at the door, and many court appearances after my business went under, only have myself and a cat to look after, but have been doing the same, value foods, time expired items and good old nectar points, lucky for me I’m veggie, so no meat costs.
I saw you on TV this morning and just read some of your blogs, I think you are truly inspirational and I am definitely going to be trying your recipes!
watched you on t.v. this morning well done honey keep up the good workI am always sending your web page link to fellow hard up folk
Inspiring stuff! Keep up the good work. You are setting a great example and I wish you the very best of luck.
Great to see you on the television this morning. I teach Cookery and I have told all my pupils about your brilliant recipes. It takes much more skill and determination to make a tasty meal for 50 pence than it would with 50 pounds.
Hey Jack, like many of the others I saw you on tv this morning and felt inspired. So many are feeling the pinch now. My story is not as severe as yours; we’ve just been having our own mini and private recession as a family for about five years and have cut back wherever we can. I’m not saying I enjoy frugal food shopping all the time but its amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it. My teenagers think its totally normal to watch what you spend and now my daughter is in full time employment I see her reaping the benefit of our tight money management. Well done to you for helping and inspiring so many others!
Food is even cheaper and more fun when you join and share with others! Eat with the next door people?
Eat with friends and family? Eat communally, church, religious or group eating?
Be strong,political activism can get squashed with media exposure.
Hi, I found your blog through the bbc link. I’ve spent several hours reading it. I just wanted to tell you that I am utterly inspired by your determination and pluck. I wish you all the very best in your job, your family and your home. You deserve every ounce of the little bit of good fortune that is coming your way now. I hope you stick with the politics. We need committed people who care!
I can barely see the screen through my tears. What a heart wrentching journey you’ve been through. My husband and I have just spent the last year going through so desparate times but are now coming out the otherside. We were lucky in that we had some wonderful friends and family to help get us through but I wish I had seen your blog sooner. Keep it up – whether or not your are prepared to accept it your bringing hope to a lot of people and god knows that can be in short supply.
I was really impressed with you this morning on TV. We are both in work some some weeks money is tight and your recipes look nutritious and filling. Good luck in your search for a new job
I really, really, hope that someone from a publisher with a bit of nous will be in touch soon with a book deal; but if they aren’t may I recommend lulu (www.lulu.com) as a means of promoting your ideas and gnerating an income?
If you do write a book, you should tout it around as many publishers as you can (The “Writers Yearbook” for the current year will give you the detail.s of agents who may able to help you with this, and may be available in your local library).
It’s worth waiting (a reasonable time) to hear back from as they value “first publication rights”; but lulu may, ultimately, be you best choice, if you choose that path.
Good luck, whatever you do.
Hello David, As you’ll see from other posts (below) Jack does indeed have a book coming along. I believe it will be published next spring. (I’m already forming an orderly queue at my local bookshop 🙂 )
Hi, I’m also a new follower having caught your appearance on Breakfast this morning. I’m raising two always hungry teenage boys on my low single income and I’m always looking for ways to shave pounds off my weekly shop as this is the only area of expenditure where I can try to save money for birthdays etc. I’m delighted to have discovered you and your recipe ideas and will be trying out lots on my hungry boys. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Jack, I saw you on BBC this morning and found your website. I was very touched by your story. It is inspiring how creative you are with your recipes and how determined you were to provide a healthy diet for your son. Thank you for sharing your story.
Having watched you on the Beeb this morning I’ve spent most of my time reading your blog posts and feeling immense respect and admiration for you, and what you’ve achieved in the face of adversity.
Please keep writing, your passion shines through, whatever the topic. I wonder how many people have read your material and then wake up to a number of realisations about own lives.
I think the recipes are fantastic, and can’t wait to try them out.
I also enjoyed reading your comments about certain Tory politicians. I couldn’t agree more.
I’m looking forward to your book being published, and in the meanwhile I’ll keep reading this blog with great interest.
Well done you!!
Back in the early 1990’s when we had the last recession myself and my ex found ourselves in a similar situation (minus the child) and had to cope. Then I found a book which paid for itself in a matter of weeks by Bernadine Lawrence called “How To Feed Your Family For £4 A Day” that book became my bible for feeding myself and my ex for the next couple of years! In fact I still use some of those recipes today.
I wish you all the best for the future and will definitely be having a look at some of your recipes (especially the soups as I love soups)!!!
Looking forward to your book as well!!!
Nice one! A new edition with even more recipes and tips came out last August – this book works because it’s based on my real-life recipes raising a family on less than £5 a day.
The recipes are truly delicious as well as nutritious and filling – good for the body, good for the planet and good for the purse. This is a sustainable diet which helps to accomplish food security for future generations.
Hunger is growing in the UK and we need to ensure that the poorest know how to achieve optimum nutrition for minimum budget.
Love and Peace,
Well done you!!
Back in the early 1990′s when we had the last recession myself and my ex found ourselves in a similar situation (minus the child) and had to cope. Then I found a book which paid for itself in a matter of weeks by Bernadine Lawrence called “How To Feed Your Family For £4 A Day” that book became my bible for feeding myself and my ex for the next couple of years! In fact I still use some of those recipes today.
I wish you all the best for the future and will definitely be having a look at some of your recipes (especially the soups as I love soups)!!!
Looking forward to your book as well!!!
Hi. I live in a shared house and last year we had 2 students from India move in, they came straight from India and couldnt believe how expensive food is here. They claimed you can eat for less than a pound per day in India. I was imagining some bowl of white mushy rice like you see on famine and poverty reports on the TV but no, the description included a cooked breakfast similar to what you would get here in the UK, lunch and evening meal. We are being massively overcharged here, the supermarkets operate like a cartel. If there is a billion pounds anual profit to be made by a supermarket then there is an obvious excess markup on food prices. Its great that you detail the supermarkets used to source the cheap food, but if you compare their prices to wholesaler and cash n carry type of places then you will see the supermarkets are ripping us off
It was great to see you on the tv this morning after reading your blog for a few months now. Your recipes are great but I like the other posts as well.Sometimes when I’ve read them Ifeel like a student again-I think it’s the honesty and passion you have.
Incredibly inspirational – congratulations on getting your voice heard, Jack! Would love to hear your thoughts on how best to support people in situations like yours. Is this a political issue that can only be resolved by changing the benefits system(s)? Or can we take some practical action through food banks, campaign to make grocers, wholesalers, restaurants to donate excess food?
Jack, I’ve been following you since the Xanthe Clay article and you have impressed me so much… I came for the recipes but have stayed for the writing and the common sense. Specifically, I really like the way you explain things, and am so impressed with how you respond with matter-of-fact explanations when people who have not done any background research comment. You don’t bitch, and you come across as someone calm and reasonable who is putting her experiences to good work. You respond to other people’s points in a dignified and intelligent way, even if they don’t make them in that spirit. You don’t seem to do vitriol, or if you do, you keep it away from this blog, and that makes me listen to a political point of view which comes from maybe a different place from mine. You seem to be a free thinker, not just an angry tub thumper following any party line.
Your son is going to be so proud of you, when he’s old enough to read all your work and see what you’ve done.
You are wonderful. I just read some of the twits on your twitter account. Ignore vile, narrow-minded, conspiracy- theorist fools. You are inspirational.
yes I thought some people were very rude and very ignorant. ignore them. you are great. 🙂
I know it must feel awkward to accept people telling you that you are a voice for hope and change, but you must know that it’s true and whether it’s just for that one lady in the lift, an encouraging word from someone out the other side is all it takes. Keep encouraging others, and sharing your experience, because it could be just the voice one person needs to stop them tipping over the edge. Well done you.
You were great this morning, really inspiring. Very cute too 😉
Yeah it’s obvious she has ignored the ignorant comments or she wouldn’t be where she is today 🙂 xo
Jack, thank you so much for your blog, your recipes and the hope you offer. I am in the situation you were in last year financially and am moving out of my flat tomorrow because I can no longer manage the £600 a month rent plus the bills and will be of no fixed address and save for kind friends and their spare rooms which I will be drifting through, would be homeless. I am self-employed, having been forced into the situation 3 years ago after essentially being made redundant and finding it impossible to find a new job. I work sometimes 6 days a week doing a variety of jobs, yet for the last 4 months have got to a stage where I am only earning barely above £600 a month rent, if that. Despite this, I apparently don’t qualify for housing benefit, as I earn just a few pounds above the threshold. I have so far survived on the generosity of good friends & family who have loaned me a little cash here and there for a food shop and basics and I get about to my various jobs on my beloved bicycle, come rain shine or hail. For the first time in my life, a bailiff knocked on my door recently. I am a 30 year old single woman with unwell parents. I am so fortunate to have such kindness from friends. Otherwise, I don’t know what I would do. I often feel like I have failed somehow. At times I want to go to sleep and not wake up, as the debts spiral and take over my life. Thank you Jack, thank you. Because after reading about you, today I can tell myself that it will turn out okay in the end and believe it.
You’ve done fantastic work…
We saw you on the TV, and were amazed that with carful shopping you could live off so little. We found your blog and have looked through your recipes, they are perfect for a young family, quick tasty and cheap.
Your son is lucky to have such a strong Mum, and I am very greatful that even though you were struggling, you thought of other’s and wrote down your recipes.
We are very lucky to both have jobs and can put food on the table and pay our rent. We do live on a budget though, and with you ideas of how to reduce our basic food shopping costs, we will be able to save a little bit too.
Thank you, so much, for sharing your story. Your love and perseverance are inspiring – and sobering.
You did it: you managed. And you deserve every little piece of it!
My very best wishes,
Saw you on the telly ;0) Well done Jack. The bloke who interviewed you on the sofa – what a bad interviewer he is (don’t normally watch TV these days). Those few minutes weren’t enough – really you need a whole hour long program just dedicated to you and how completely amazing you are. I’m really looking forward to buying your recipe book when it comes out.
I WISH that I had seen your feature yesterday morning. :(.
OMG, YOU ARE an inspiration. :).
I will be a REGULAR visitor to this Blog as a result of reading this Post. 🙂
Hi, In common with most, I saw you on TV yesterday.Also went on to read your story and blog.I’m a divorced pensioner.approaching 68, but worked up til last year.I have a bit of savings, but this won’t last that long.I worked in education for 15 and a half years, but due to the nature of the role, working with special needs, only had a permanent contract in recent years.Therefore couldn’t afford to top up, so am now on £488 a month.Sounds a lot doesn’t it?This said,those savings don’t give me a leg up! Where do these politicians get off? I keep hearing about this low income. 20 odd thousand, I wish!! Anyway, the point of my reply is, thank God I can cook from scratch and budget, and like yourself have a ‘Good friend support network.’ I wish you all the best in your ventures!
I watched you yesterday on BBC breakfast and afterwards looked up your blog – I have to say, you are an amazing woman and an inspiration to us all. In the past I have been a single mother struggling – I have been there and know how it feels. I have told my 4 children we are making your recipes this coming week, in fact I made them your ‘school dinner days dessert’ for them tonight and they absolutely could not get enough of it, that’s how good it is (even though I am no cook!!)! Write a cookery book, please – I will buy it!
Well done you!!
I was taught how to cook by a combination of learning from my mother and at school. I still remember the white sauce , the apple snow ( for invalids!) the beef olives… All cooked on a gas cooker with the teacher there to assist us.
Why oh why did this valuable training stop? There’s a massive disconnect between liberal thinkers and ‘old fashioned’ teachers who wanted to ensure that their generation of pupils could function well in society when they left school.
Those two years of cookery classes gave me the confidence to develop my skills from the basic to the more adventurous. I learnt to feed myself at college and now my family.
I realise that there are so many reasons why a generation of people don’t have the skills to put a home cooked meal on the table but I will never cease to be angry that these people gave been cruelly failed by a deeply flawed education system.
I’d never heard of you before I saw you on BBC Breakfast show. I was feeling low having just started paying my £50.00 per month Bedroom Tax from my JSA and absolutely nowhere available in my area for me to move to, not that I feel I should.
You have inspired inspired me now I have read this blog and I will be following it and your recipes.
Good Luck everyone who is struggling under the rich so and so’s in this horrible time for the poorest.
I never saw you on the TV but found your site today through searching for info on living below the line. I am totally inspired, I already by a lot of value things but reading this I am going to try and plan better for shopping and I am definitely going to be trying out most of your recipes. Well done I think everyone can learn from this whether on a low income or not 🙂
just read both this and hunger hurts and realize just how VERY, VERY lucky I am to not (currently) worry about the cost of food. Your son is very lucky to have such an amazing mother.
I’ve just read some of your blog today and frankly your writing is inspriational. And i’ve been sobbing in the toilet as I started at hunger hurts perhaps I should have started with this post first. It frustrates me that many people think that being on benefits is a good life when I am very sure that its not although I have been lucky enough so far never to have to but you never know whats just round the corner.
I wish you and the small boy all the luck in the word. x
Thank you for sharing you experience, strength and inspiration Jack. There are and will be many people who (like me), gain so much from your writing. Again thank you..
Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I’m at the other end of the world thinking about taking a pension that won’t even keep me in my house, and I still have a young son to get through puberty and high school. But working conditions in my present job are not the best and at 61 I could retire. I just don’t trust that it will be alright in the end. Your post gives me strength.