What can you donate to a food bank? SUGGESTIONS LIST.


I’m often asked by my readers and on Twitter what I would suggest donating to a food bank, so I have compiled a list of ambient products that can be found in most supermarkets. They’re ambient on purpose – so that neither the food bank nor the recipient will have to worry about storing them in a fridge, and there is less likelihood of food going to waste.

These are just my suggestions, but I handed this list out at the Womens Institute last week and the Urban Expression conference at the weekend and people commented that it was very useful, so here you go, and feel free to distribute it to anyone that might fine it useful.

As an idea of prices, I have given Sainsburys/Sainsburys Basics prices next to each item – as most people have in mind an ‘amount’ they want to donate, and that amount will go much further (and thereby help more people) if you can purchase as much as possible with it. Feel free to shop where you like, I just know Sainsburys range off by heart after the last year or so!

500g bag of porridge, 65p
500g corn flakes, 31p
440g crisped rice, 77p
1kg muesli, £1.18
454g mixed fruit jam, 29p
454g peanut butter, 62p
454g lemon curd, 22p
454g marmalade, 22p
6 pancakes, 20p

500g tinned potatoes, 15p
Tortilla chips, 50p
200g snack crackers, 59p
500g pasta, 39p
500g spaghetti, 39p
410g spaghetti in tomato sauce, 25p
250g lasagne sheets, 59p
1kg rice, 40p
1.5kg flour, 65p
Instant chicken noodles, 17p
400g rice pudding, 15p

1l UHT milk, 53p
1l unsweetened soya milk, 59p
400g skimmed milk powder, £1.01

500g sultanas, 84p
500g dried mixed fruit, 95p
Broken mandarin segments, 23p
Canned peaches, 31p
230g pineapple pieces in juice, 39p
Grapefruit segments, 37p
Fruit cocktail, 55p

400g kidney beans, 21p
Baked beans in tomato sauce, 25p
Meatballs in tomato sauce, 40p
Irish stew, 49p
500g red lentils, £1.09
400g chick peas, 69p
Corned beef, £1.89
200g tinned ham, 99p

Tuna, 90p
1 jar of fish paste, 32p
Canned sardines, 55p
Herring roes, £1.19

400g chopped tomatoes, 35p
1 tin of carrots, 20p
Tinned mushrooms, 59p
Tinned spinach, 55p
300g mushy peas, 15p

42g cumin, £1
42g paprika, £1
30g mixed dried herbs, 30p
250ml lemon juice, 50p
10 stock cubes, 20p

400g vegetable soup, 24p
500g pasta sauce, 44p
400g creamed tomato soup, 24p
400g creamed chicken soup, 24p

1l UHT orange juice, 65p
1l UHT apple juice, 65p
1l breakfast juice, 65p
1l tomato juice, 65p
Instant coffee, 47p
80 tea bags, 27p

2 toothbrushes, 18p
75ml toothpaste, 25p
30 pantyliners, 22p
1l shampoo, 40p
100 nappy bags, 14p
1l foam bath, 40p
10 sanitary towels, 14p
300ml shower gel, 30p
3 soap bars, 50p

Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @msjackmonroe


    • anyone collecting there morrisons vouchers for the xmas bonus could donate the vouchers when collected just and idea

  1. Thank you for this list.

    Today was harvest festival at my eldests school – food was to be donated to our local Food bank. They are really hard to donate to as their drop off times coincide with when I need to be in work. So tobe able to donate this way was perfect for me.

    I found a much shorter list than this and bought everything from the Asda smartprice range on the list – 8 items and it cost less than £2.50. Upon dropping my child at school it seemed that most of the thirty children were already in the class but only ten tins stood at the front. We live in a good area and I’m ashamed that they could only muster this between them. Obviously I don’t know everyone’s personal economic circumstances but for the price of a Starbucks each they could have made such a difference to people who need it.

    Thank you for raising the profile of Foodbanks.

    • My local Sainsbury’s were collecting a for the food bank a few weeks back and, after reading this blog, I have never been more grateful for what I have. They asked for one item per shopper, handing out lists similar to Jack’s suggestions of what to donate. I am very careful with my money and have always varied my shop, regularly buying ‘basics’ as well as brands so I know they are good quality.

      Thinking about feeding my own family on a budget and what I would need I bought all Sainsbury’s Basics, buying cereal, tinned fruit/veg/pasta, biscuits, tinned meat, pasta, milk, tinned pudding, teabags and jam and I spent just £5!! The ladies collecting were genuinely shocked when I added 3 bags of shopping to their collection.

      For those who can afford to, a couple of extra items wouldn’t be missed, yet so many chose to turn a blind eye.I know everyone cant afford £5 but if they were to just give what they can, think about others for one minute, it would make such a difference. I just hope that if I ever need to use a foodbank there will be enough for me there and how much I would appreciate the generosity of others.

  2. I have donated clothes before, some foodbanks will give out clothes if they are needed – my one has a charity shop, but I gave the school uniform to them in the hope they would give it to someone… and my foodbank said cat and dogfood….

  3. In the USA food stamps cannot be used for necessary and expensive non-food items like laundry detergent, soap. shampoo, paper towels, toilet paper, etc. Not sure but probably aspirin, vitamins, antacids also. One thing the food banks here never lack is candy. Tons and tons of candy.

    • 1 small onion finely chopped and fried in a little oil until soft. add 1 tablespoon of curry paste (NOT cook-in sauce) and fry for another 2 minutes then add pilchards and stir. remove from heat cover and leave to marinate for 1 hour. reheat gently over a low heat stirring occasionaly.

  4. I bought some stuff for Harvest Festival at the school today as it goes to a foodbank, and I put some niceish chocolate and nice biscuits in, as well as the nourishing stuff (which was heavily influenced by what your recipes). I worked on the basis that when I’ve been too skint for many treats, they mattered more than they do now I can afford them, so I wanted people to get those, too. I don’t know if that’s a stupid attitude when people need this food to survive – most of it was sensible stuff like pasta, tomatoes, tuna, tinned salmon, tinned fruit & veg, UHT milk, couscous, etc. (the only other sweet thing was honey, which was half price and obviously good for breakfasts) but I just wanted someone to have a chocolate seashell with their tea for a few days, or a choc digestive. Because I wanted them/their kids to have that moment in their day. Was that stupid? I’m wondering whether I shouldn’t do it again now.

    I’ll buy the economy ranges next time. I bought premium own brand so as to stretch the money out, but still not sort of make it like I thought people facing tough times should accept the very basic. I don’t know, it felt rude to pile the basket with economy stuff, somehow, even though we often eat those ranges at home as many are just as good/identical. It felt like implying I thought they didn’t deserve the pricier stuff, when it could be us, in a couple of bad twists of fortune, benefiting. But you’re right; we could have fed more people if I’d opted for those.

    Thanks for the list. It’s really handy. Have Penguin thought about donating some copies of your book, too? I don’t know how it works for corporations, but there might be tax writeoff possibilities, maybe? And if you don’t know how to make tasty food on almost no money, then it isn’t like experimenting is cost effective. If food banks could offer copies, even on a loan basis (or even a print-out of say 10 recipes) that might help a lot. For all the hand-wringing about “the feckless poor” there’s sod all out there that teaches people to cook on a genuinely low budget.

    • You are clearly a lovely person. I like the idea of mixing basics with a few luxuries; that’s definitely the right approach I think.

    • That’s really kind. My mother and I have been doing this: adding some ‘treat’ items to the basic ‘meal’ items, because we know from experience that if you have to survive on basics day after day, a little treat is welcome.
      My budget is really tight, but if I can just add one or two things (that I eat or use myself) to the shopping basket it does add up.
      When we took the food to the nearest place, the woman asked me for a name, as they like people to know who donated. That struck me as making people feel more obligated, more ashamed of what they get given :\ Has any-one else come across it? I would rather the food/necessities be ‘anonymous’.

      • Where I’m a volunteer, we do ask for the name and address of the person donating the food. But the only reason for that is, they get a thank you letter from us. It’s nice for school children to get a thank you letter when they’ve collected for us. Probably, at least half of people say they don’t want any thanks, so they go down as anonymous donor. 😀

    • I do the same thing. I just feel like I want people to know that they are valued and cared for, and sometimes a little more luxury goes a long way. But I try to be sensible too and remember that it will help more people if I buy the cheap things. So I’ll spend the budget that I’ve set on basics range products and then add in some extras as if they are presents to people I know and love.

      • Ros, you are a lovely person! Cheap basic ingredients are ok but maybe watch the processed food (check against the own brand) as that can just be sugar and nastiness that is going to cause ill health down the line.
        The extras are the thing though: if it were me, how would I feel about getting some decent stuff that people obviously made an effort with. 🙂

      • I usually buy the mid-range products, because I somehow feel that most of us do and many of these products are a bit better quality. I know you can feed more people with extra cheap products, but just from my own perspective it feels wrong to donate what I wouldn’t like to eat myself.

    • God no. Who wouldn’t want something that says “We want you to be more than just scraping by”?
      Also, basics is better than starving but read the ingredients. Some of that processed stuff is just bulked out with sugar and nastiness – and the stuff that can cause Type 2 diabetes. 🙁

      • As someone now dependent on a food bank and someone with existing health issues, I’m very worried about the effects of a low quality diet and being unable to afford to heat my home. I can’t remember when I last ate green vegetables. The only fruit and veg in the monthly food parcels that I’ve received has been one potato, one carrot, one onion, half a turnip and two apples (fresh) and one time also a tin of potatoes and a tin of peas.

    • I’m currently dependent on a food bank. I know that I would appreciate your thought to include treats such as chocolate seashells and chocolate digestive biscuits. I can only speak for myself but I would encourage shopping in the basics ranges as Jack suggests to make your money go as far as possible, unless you can afford pricier products, and also the inclusion of a treat, if you can. How about toilet rolls, tampons, margarine or cooking oil, did I miss those on the list? Also a bar of basics dark chocolate 35p, used in many of Jack’s recipes. Hot chocolate beans are a favourite of mine.

  5. 20 nappies £1.41
    (My children have both used the value nappies in the day time and they are prefectly adequate)
    72 baby wipes 46p
    cotton wool 75p
    2l bleach 29p
    5 sponge pan cleaners 19p
    all purpose cleaner 25p
    washing up liquid 33p

    Tesco value prices

  6. In my local community, a local farmer formed a group encourage farmers to donate the use of unused land to grow vegetables. Students from the nearby University oversee the planting and irrigation of the crops and then non-profit groups and volunteers harvest the crops with 100% of the food going to the food banks in the area. The “farm” consists multiple plots as little as an 1/8 of an acre and can be oddly shaped or in someway not in production. This provides a constant stream of whatever is in season food to the food bank. This weekend I’m volunteering to harvest beets. Recipes are provided to the people who pick up food.

    Don’t forget disposable razors in the toiletries list.

  7. Thanks for this! I love your site. I’m no where near where you were financially, but still have times when I have to remind myself how to cook on a tight budget.

  8. I agree about the cat and dog food as people who love their pets willdo their best to keep them in hard times. Only other thing I wouldsay is its worth paying a bit more for teabags and getting some decent ones, nothing better than a really nice cuppa 🙂

  9. Pet food. It can be traumatic to have to consider giving up your much loved furry or feathered friend if you find yourself in dire circumstances.

    Gluten free products. They are a bit more expensive but if you’ve got Celiac disease, you can’t eat oats for breakfast and often the corn flakes and rice puffs have gluten in them! So gluten free breakfast cereals, pasta, crackers, and flour are appreciated. I think I’ve seen buckwheat (not a wheat product despite the name) flour in Tesco for 80p/kg and you can make hearty pancakes and muffins with it.

    Also powdered eggs. Not that great for eating by themselves, but are ok for baking. I’ve made “austerity muffins” out of flour, powdered eggs, water, skim milk powder, baking powder, and whatever bits and pieces needed using up. Herbs and that cheese I accidentally left the wrapper off and it dried out. Sultanas and some nuts that were on sale. Etc.

    • Thank you for bringing up the coeliac issue. I have been wondering about this myself and as it has to be so strictly gluten free (you really don’t want to be broke and ill) whether it is worth sticking a note on when I donate to say if it is ok. It is not always clearly labelled and food banks may not be trained in this minefield area.

      • People with diagnosed gluten intolerance like coeliacs can get GF pasta, bread and stuff prescribed by their GP.

    • Scott, it’s *only* people who are diagnosed “coeliac” who get the free stuff on prescription (and it’s not that good from what I have been told).

      I am gluten intolerant, and gluten makes me feel as though I am food poisoned, but I don’t qualify for free G/F stuff.

      For people like me it’s worth looking up “Microwave Flax Bread”, as it’s a LOT nicer than bought GF bread, and a LOT cheaper, too. xx

  10. The other day I trawled my food cupboards looking for things that were unopened and just taking up space but never going to get eaten. Tinned rice pudding (sent husband to shop with instructions to buy pudding rice because I needed to use up some milk…), peanut butter that was on BOGOF and the kids refuse to eat, baby food they’ve grown out of, gluten free stuff I bought when a friend came to stay… A few bits were out of date, but the rest will definitely go to the bank.

  11. Sainsbury’s regular cream crackers are about 40p a packet for approx the same amount that the Basics range of snack crackers but 15-20p cheaper!

    Basics tinned pineapple is about 30p a can — but I noticed yesterday that a few of the Basics prices have gone up (e.g. the feta-style cheese is 80p instead of 75p and mozerella has gone up by 5p too). There are Basics peach slices and mandarin too, but in syrup (really annoying, the peaches used to be in juice not sugary crap)

    The Co-Op does a kilo of oats for about 75p. I find them less gritty than the Sainsbury’s ones too, they cook quicker (which probably means they’re more processed so not as healthy but hey, cheaper). They also do v nice gingernuts for about 35p a pack which I actually think are much nicer than the regular priced ones that are about 60-70p…

    Lidl does everything cheap (e.g their 500g passatta is about 27p and tastes the same as branded stuff, or they do 4 cans of *actually nice* spaghetti hoops for 30p). They have a weird branding process where everything is labelled as if it was from an individual company, so food snobs won’t know it’s Lidl unless they read the packet really closely. Usually good quality, as well!

  12. Jack – I am doing the catering for my daughter’s orchestra just before Christmas. I am going to email all the parents (and staff) for whom I have have contact details for with a list very similar to this to ask for donations. I will be very interested to see the response, bearing in mind that the majority of these people are pretty well-heeled (though not in this house!)

    BTW, I’ll be using several of your recipes/inspirations for the food just so they can see how delicious cheap and simple food is!

    I read somewhere recently that an interesting side-fact of frugal-living people (whether through necessity or choice) is that such people give significantly more to charity, tips for good service etc.

    All the best to you and yours!


  13. Oh, also, get the chickpeas from the “ethnic” section in the supermarket, they’re half the price and often on offer 4 for £1. Even in my local little shop they’re only 36p…

    • Hi yes I agree, in Tesco just now in the Indian food isle they are doing 4 tins of tomatoes for £1 and 4 tins of chickpeas for £1. I have been stocking up, considering the Tesco brand chickpeas in the vegetable isle are around 65 pence! Get down quickly before its gone!

  14. Olivia, I did the same last Christmas. One of the day’s on my son’s advent calender (others were put tree up, put up crib, winter walk in woods etc) was £5 to spend in the supermarket for the foodbank. he LOVED doing it, and chose some basics and planned a couple of meals but also wanted to include some chocolate as he thinks if people are fed up it will make the happier.
    I really liked your story anyway.

  15. I don’t know what it’s like in the UK but here in the US food banks serve an extremely diverse community that may have little or no familiarity with our staples. In addition it’s impossible to know what they just got a truckload of delivered and thus don’t need this week, versus something else you may not have thought of. Food banks can also buy in bulk at better prices than the general public.

    For these reasons, the best thing to give is almost always CASH.

    • I don’t think they do work the same way here with respect to things like bulk buying/trade donations, for instance. They almost always have a list of what they’d like to be donated on their website so that’s worth checking beforehand, though.

  16. Jack, do any of the supermarkets offer an option to buy a shopping list for a food bank alongside your normal online shop? It just seems like it would be so easy to click on a list like the one you provide and add it to one’s basket, for the supermarket to make available to a food bank – maybe via collection, but surely even delivery wouldn’t be too much of a problem?

    Is anything like that in the pipeline, do you know?

    • I think sainsburys do this on their online shop but dont know if it goes to a local food bank or any. My local tesco store has a basket at the entrance to drop your foodbank items into as youre leaving 🙂

  17. I absolutely agree with what Olivia says, 4 comments above, so I’d really be interested in your take. I’ve tended to buy ‘treats’ too, but perhaps the money could have been better spent? Or not? The spices you suggest on your list are a really good idea. I use them all the time, but never thought to contribute them.

  18. Ditto the detergent. If a person can’t afford a bar of soap, they probably have trouble affording laundry.

    Cotton swabs is one, because I recently ran out and going two days without them to sop up the water from my ears after showering was maddening. A box of bandaids would be helpful, too.

    If someone is in real dire straights, I would suggest offering that person a clothes drying rack, a retractable clothesline and clothespins, or even a spare tension rod from which clean clothes can be hung to drip dry into the bath tub.

    How do I know this? I had to wash my clothes in the tub and have them drip dry due to medical bills which ate into frivolties like my laundromat money…

  19. Oh, cooking oil and salt.

    Very basic but essential to making something palatable. Heard about refugees in some godforsaken place bemoaning the fact that without salt and oil, they can’t really do all that,much with whatever grain rations they are given, and they are absolutely right.

  20. I would personally (and have) donated cash. Fresh food is a vital part of peoples diets and inevitably food banks must have times when all they have is porridge but no tinned tomatoes etc. So unless you work in the food or retail industry and can donate end of runs etc. I’d personally donate money.

  21. Don’t understand why food banks will not accept dated stuff, companies such as Approved Food (not a plug for them, just an example) sell tons of dated stuff every day, there’s nothing wrong with it, and I’m sure quite a few people would add an extra item or two for the food bank if they could.

    So what’s the big stopper with dated things?

    I can understand perishable produce such as meat, fish, fruit & veg not being particularly suitable, but surely tins / packets would be OK?

    Or am I missing something?

    • Buying something which is dated is your own decision and you cannot sue yourself for getting ill. However a foodbank cannot give out of date products to people as the foodbank will then be liable if the person gets sick. Although highly unlikely, they just cannot risk it.

  22. Our local food bank says not soup or baked beans if possible as they always have a huge amount of these. I try to remember to check the buy on get one free offers especially on washing up liquid, washing powder, toothpaste Etc and either donate the free one or both.

  23. Through my church I am involved in a homeless feeding programme in my home town (Maidstone, Kent). Although many of our service users are homeless, we do get people who have a fixed abode too. After soup and sandwiches, we distribute “giveaway” packs. These usually include baked beans, and tinned fish of some sort or another (as mentioned in Jack’s list). But we also include sweetcorn, rice pudding and a portion of triangle cheese. Because we cater more for rough sleepers we make sure the cans have snap tops, since many of the people don’t possess a tin opener. Lidl seems very good at selling cheap tinned goods that can be opened by hand.

    We can get 25-30 people showing up many days. As for what this says about our society… well don’t get me started! How can there be such a need in one of the wealthiest towns, in one of the wealthiest countries in the whole world??

    Love your blog, Jack. Your speech at the Conservative conference summed it all up for me. Keep on making those pompous politicians feel uncomfortable, keep on confronting them with what life is really like for many people in the UK through no fault of their own.

    • That’s a good point which I hadn’t thought of – snap-top canned goods that don’t have to be cooked, like tuna, sweetcorn, frankfurters etc.

  24. In our food bank packs people really appreciate the toilet rolls. We re very lucky at the moment as local churches & schools have donated their harvest food but it soon gets used up. (Except for the baked beans)

  25. I think it’s best that people check with their local food bank and ask them what’s most needed. When I contacted my local one, they had a very specific list of “wants” and “don’t need anymore of”

  26. When the local foodbank asks for donations from shoppers at the local Waitrose, I note that the store has stocked up somewhat on some items, e.g. tinned mince. But for two or three reasons, this may be a well meant but not always helpful action.

    Firstly, as Jack demonstates, for the same amount of money, far more food [meals] could be provided; although I doubt Waitrose would be ready for a sustained assult on their Essentials tinned veg (for example), oats etc.

    Secondly, I heard on “Today” that people were *returning* food to foodbanks because they “could not afford to cook it”. Leaving aside any issue of “won’t” as opposed to “cannot”, maybe some thought has to be given to people who really have no means to cook at all, and/or people who only have access to a kettle. I suppose if you have your gas cut-off, a kettle may be all you have left. Not sure how much of a problem this is. I’m not proposing packet soups here, but what could be “cooked” if all you have access to is boiling water? Pasta and couscous certainly, then can add in stock cubes; Jack’s porridge discussion; might give this more thought. A cheap thermos would also help here.

    Thirdly, cultural values. Where I am there is a singificant muslim population, so anything with pork would be problematic (I’m thinking of gelitine, for example). But a Hindi minority would have problems with the tinned mince (above).

    • I’ve been in a situation where I only had access to a kettle for hot food. My main staples were instant mash, couscous, porridge, and gravy granules + tinned/precooked meat/veg and ‘cooking’ meant ‘add boiling water and leave to heat through for 5-10 mins’. You need to chop stuff so it isn’t more than half a cm thick, or you get a cold spot in the middle.

      Sample meals
      Kettle stew – tinned peas, tinned sweetcorn, tinned kidney beans, tinned potato chopped small, tinned sliced carrot. Drain the tins, rinse the beans off, chop the potato. Make up gravy from granules, add veg. Leave to heat through.

      Sausage, mash and peas – make instant mash, add tinned peas and chopped tinned hotdogs. Leave to heat through. Possibly add ketchup.

      Savoury couscous: mix plain couscous with stuffing mix for flavour, make up with boiling water + stock cube, add chopped tinned hot dogs/sandwich meat/tinned beans/peas + tinned veg of choice. Leave to heat through.

  27. Cling film to save food in, tin foil (to save food in or use to cook in). Tampons.
    Moisturiser – Aldi do a great range and when I was in dire straits I really appreciated a little pot – made me feel so much better – almost like a real woman! Or even a big pot of E45…
    Tinned sweetcorn as someone suggested above – easy to make tasty sweetcorn fritters (egg, flour, milk – a little oil to fry them in).
    Packet soya mince – great for vegetarians but also mixed with mince makes it go a lot further.

  28. I pack for the Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank & demand has about doubled in the last few months – we’re always glad of the things Jack has listed, and where possible we put in ‘treats’ (if we have them), just to make people smile really – also there are many people without access to any form of cooking facility, so we try to consider that as well. We do supply tins that are past their ‘sell by’ by a few weeks/months, as they are perfectly fine to eat, and will not have spoiled. We are very much a multi-cultural area, and provide vegetarian bags on request…. I cannot understand how this government simply will not acknowledge the awful effects their ‘welfare’ policies are having on people…

    • It is truly disgusting. I am blessed that (for now) I have a good job and that I can feed, clothe and shelter my family. The damage that this govt have done to families across the country is dreadful. Lets hope that when they open the ‘war chest’ ahead of the general election, EVERYONE remembers who these animals really are!

    • Hi,
      I’ve finally (after years of trying) been referred to a food bank (tomorrow). In the same week I had a threat of eviction (all situations are ongoing), the next day my email got frozen, and the next my benefits got stopped. It’s run by a church who are fortunately not prejudiced (or not too much). Some other local food banks, run by other churches, do not give food parcels if you are gay and/or not a Christian. The jobcentre accused me of illegally working (they won’t tell me what job I’m accused of doing), and left me with £20 to my name, to live on indefinitely. Also they deliberately failed to process paperwork I handed in months ago, and deliberately lost half of it, then claimed I said the opposite to what I had actually said. Plus they invented made-up dates when I was allegedly away and working, when I was in fact here and jobseeking (and have filled in all forms correctly and done far more than minimum required jobsearch). Two days before they stopped my benefits, they told me my claim was perfectly fine; and made allowances for disabilities, and the fact I had a massive seizure at the end of last week. The jobcentre say they have possibly made a mistake on a few of the charges against me, but are not allowing me to start an appeal yet, and don’t acknowledge that all of the charges and mistakes made in my case are entirely their fault. And it’s hard to make a proper appeal if they don’t say what the specific charges are against you. Most of the accusations I do know of, are inventions of the jobcentre…. The longer you go without food, the weaker you are and the more unable to fight your case, which you shouldn’t have to be doing anyway. One charge is really crazy: that as a benefits recipient I must be indoors at home at all hours 24/7 except when actually signing on (though no computer/internet), so how do you jobsearch/apply/post/bank/shop? And I must be available for work while undergoing medical treatment? And walking to the jobcentre to sign on, is a breach apparently as you are neither at home nor in the jobcentre?! Craziest of all, they wanted me to wait at home (regardless of important places I must be) ALL of a bank holiday weekend/s, in order for the jobcentre’s computer to phone me (there is no phone, and I don’t have and can’t afford a phone), though nobody works at the jobcentre on weekends or bank holidays, and in a normal week they know they can’t phone me anyway as I’ve no phone and am disabled! When there WAS a one-way phone (till 2009) they could have phoned me on, they never called me once. This is after years (21 years) of being banned from going to any dying friends/relatives or their funerals. The jobcentre has never come up with an actual job or one I could actually do, just totally unsuitable ones in a) meat factories (diet/beliefs rules out)/b) truck driving (size/epilepsy/health/disability bans all driving)/c) construction (size/disability/health/strength/epilepsy rules out again; and other issues). The closest I got to paid work in the last 20 years was a private employment agency sending me to landscape-garden a new shopping centre (I was once a freelance gardener). I arrived on my first day and the company took one look at me and sacked me for being too disabled. The agency got angry and never offered me anything else. (They lied to the company I was 6ft and ablebodied, when they had seen me in person and knew precisely the opposite to be the case.)

      So, that’s as summarised as I can make it; but, an issue concerns me nevertheless. If I go to the food bank and if there is any food (it usually has nothing), is it anything I can eat? And what if there’s nothing I can eat (or if I can eat it but can’t cook it)? I’m a strict vegetarian and the schemes in place in our area make no allowance for this. Or other dietary/health/allergy issues.
      (That’s an issue I’ve always thought should be really important in emergency aid and disaster relief, or similar situations.)

      It IS a bigger picture: France (as an example) banned vegetarian or other special diet food from all government buildings: prisons, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, rehabilitation/detox centres, old people’s care or residential homes, immigration detention centres, and many more. The people in residential places on this list, have no choice about being there; so stopping them being vegetarian (or having kosher, halal or other food) (or a diet specific to their health condition), is totally against their human rights. This is after France banned niqabs and hijabs from most places and many jobs; and turned over foodbank provision (specific case in mainly south coast France) to some religious and rightwing fanatics who deliberately made pork the daily (‘French/patriotic’) meal ‘offered’ to homeless people and asylum seekers/refugees/immigrants – knowing full well the majority were Muslim so could not eat it.

      While on forced labour under workfare schemes, we were not offered any food (would not have been vegetarian) or extra money to buy food, though we were already starving (some older people with terminal cancer were sent on my scheme) before the forced work and during it, and in poor health. Some disabled people were there, including myself. We had to carry heavy clothing/gear for miles of fast forced march/run to get there (and back), and on arrival then spend the day digging holes and filling them in again, utterly pointlessly, with no break or water or toilets. In all weathers. For a month. Nobody on the scheme gained any skills, qualifications, job, self esteem, or references. We did pick up several injuries each. Incidentally, if food banks had been an option, and if they had any food, we could not have used them – as the food bank is only open when we were miles away in inaccessible countryside digging ridiculous holes.

  29. The last time I bought stuff for the local foodbank (they do collections here at the entrance to the supermarkets so it’s handy) I gave nappies. They seemed to have loads of pasta rice etc and nappies are so expensive, they are hard to budget for I find.

  30. My daughter’s school has just collected for the local food bank, hopefully they had many donations as there are nearly 300 pupils in the school. Also the local Tesco does collection regularly too.

  31. Our foodbank says small packs of sugar are always needed.
    Mum and I try to put together ‘meal’ shops. (We go to Aldi, which is brilliant because my budget is tight, but Aldi is *always* cheaper than I expect, so I can still add to the shop for the foodbank). So we get items that could make one meal for people like meat or fish, then potatoes or packet rice, or pasta and sauces, and tinned vegetables (some are better than others) then something like tinned fruit or rice pudding, and because their ‘treats’ range are so cheap (but so nice) we add those, then grooming necessities. It is stuff I do eat/use myself, but I know what it’s like to exist on beans and soup, so I feel adding biscuits or multipacks of kit-kat-a-likes is not wrong, because I sometimes crave a sweet.

    Then the next time we go we do the same. I must admit I didn’t think of nappies or cooking oil, or things like moisturiser – they’re not on our local foodbank list, but I will keep this list and also the next time we go, I’ll ask what they most need.
    I wanted, if I had the money, to make up little Christmas bags for them, not only food but a version of a Christmas hamper that could go with necessities. I am hoping to get some temp work for Christmas to be able to try and do something like this.

  32. Could you produce a “printer friendly” version of this list (plus the additions), or have it as a downloadable pdf file to print out neatly?

  33. tinned coconut milk, spices eg curry powder, mustard, salad dressing, and Batteries were always really difficult to afford.

  34. I know the focus of this blog is on healthier food but a lot of people have no experience of those types of food ie chickpeas and wouldn’t know what to do with them.

    You can buy value pot noodle type snacks for around 30p in the supermarkets, they only need access to a kettle. Some of the blocks of Asian brands of noodle soups also only need to be allowed to stand in water for a few mins, are generally really cheap and nicer than the supermarket ones.

    Packets of flavoured pasta in sauce.

    Hot dogs, around 50p a tin.

    B&M bargains is good for cheap food, it depends very much on what is in stock though. I have several jars of premium Bertoli pasta sauces which were 69p each (more expensive than making your own from value tomatoes but only needs heated, or can even be eaten cold), I’ve had family size jars of dolmio for 99p and I’ve often seen Indian ready meals in pouches for around 40p but not tried them. Other buys have included cereals, snack packs of mixed nuts at 4 for £1. I saw huge tins of canned hamburgers the other day too.

    Canned sardines in tomato sauce is a great cupboard staple to have on toast.

    Aldi do gnochi for 69p for a packet that doesn’t need refrigerated.

    Stardrops is an excellent all round cleaner but hard to get hold of. A bottle costs £1 from pound shops but is highly concentrated and can be used for dishes, general cleaning of floors etc and is far better than the Flash I bought when I couldn’t find any.

    Are you allowed to give eggs? In some supermarkets you can get 6 free range for £1, value battery even cheaper. If I were to need emergency help with food then eggs would be what I wanted most as so versatile and cook in minutes.

  35. Jack, honey – I know you would never intentionally mislead your readership – but MrS has changed the pack size of their Basics Peanut butter – along with the other ‘big 2’. The pots are now 340g for 62p.

    Sorry, don’t want to appear to nit pick………

  36. I suggest Chocolate Ovaltine. Three years ago I was working full-time, but continuously in overdraft (I was supporting a close relative who was in full-time studies). I decided to drink Ovaltine instead of eating lunch or buying beverages at work. It kept me full and alert for the entire day. I also lost some extra pounds I did not even know I was carrying, and in about two months time had attained my ideal weight (at which time I went back to buying light lunches). It’s not a permanent solution, but for me it was beneficial. Ovaltine is popular in East Asia as a health supplement. My grandfather drank it in his old age and lived to be 89.

  37. If you want to give an environmentally friendly and ultimately economical toiletry donation I recommend toothbrushes with replaceable heads. You can buy Fuchs or Terradent replaceable head toothbrushes at most health food or environmental stores (in Canada). The base comes with three heads, and then you can purchase replacement heads for four a package. If you bought a base package and two replacement packages (I recommend tying them together with an elastic band) you would be giving a person a year’s supply of toothbrushes. The heads can even be popped out, cleaned, and reinserted, thus prolonging their use. I sanitize my heads in soap and then mouthwash after I recover from an illness. You can also donate mouthwash itself and dental floss.

    Buying people treats is a lovely idea. Having a little treat to look forward to in the morning or the end of the day can is a blessing. Pure fruit juices are a nice alternative to chocolates and cookies. Ceres sells them in cartons which to not require refrigeration before opening. You can purchase extra sweet flavours such as mango, peach or guava. Unsalted nuts and packaged popcorn kernels are also nice.

  38. Tried to find a food bank near me as we wanted to contribute, but really struggled finding anything. Is that a good thing that I can’t find them; are people ‘managing’ without them, am I not looking hard enough or do they not exist near me? Apparently, we live in a ‘deprived’ area though! Does anyone know of a ‘list’ I could go through? Thanks

  39. I haven’t seen this in the UK but supermarkets in Canada have donation packs of goods for food banks that you can buy off the shelf along with your regular shopping. Identifying things individually is probably cheaper for the purchaser and allows flexibility, but I really like the way this plays into human psychology, allowing people to ‘impulse buy’ a donation.

  40. Treats… our church youth group assembles a gift wrapped “shoebox” for the soup run at Christmas. Many of the people we serve are rough sleepers and are usually alcoholics. So we definitely do not put any alcohol in the boxes, not even liqueur chocolates! Drinks we might include are tinned milk-based supplement drinks (Nurishment is an example, but 99p stores often sell a cheaper own-brand). Also, flavoured long life milkshake drinks (eg Yazoo or non branded equivalents). Chocolate bars are an excellent thing to include. Lidl and Aldi do very good own brand chocolate. Also, we tend to include other practical things like toiletries, gloves, hats and a tin opener. Market stalls and convenience shops often sell suitable hats and gloves at this time of year. Wilkinson do tin openers quite cheaply, they are simple and seem to go on working for ever. If we include Christmas pudding we ensure there is no brandy included — we have no wish to facilitate the addictions of those we want to help.

    One risk with the shoeboxes is that there are fewer gift boxes than people. If you are going to do this you do need to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

    If you want to see the Maidstone Soup Run in action, come on down to Knightrider Street at the arch near the College Road / Mill Street lights, by All Saints Church, 3.30pm Saturday afternoons (but not the first Saturday in each month). You can be an observer, a helper, a service user, or you can even be all three things at once! It’s outdoors. Dress warmly.

  41. Recipe cards would be brilliant; people could write them out and print them to show people how to put certain ingredients together to make longer lasting meals (Casseroles, pasta bakes, etc).

    I wonder, too, whether people could donate their old, unwanted crockery/cutlery/cooking utensils equipment, too? It would absolutely mean first come first serve. However, if most people who use food banks are referred in the first place anyway by health and social care professionals, then it’s likely (one would hope!) that they’ve seen them at home and could add on to their referral that they have limited means in which to cook meals/eat them off of something reasonable.

    Washing up liquid and spongers would also be fantastic, in the interest on hygiene! x

  42. I am now embarassed by some ofthe “I will buy this now and maybe use it” canned items in my pantry – they are all going to the local foodbank!

  43. Unless the person buying for the foodbank is as poor as the people using it, it’s an insult to be bought basics products for the foodbank. It’s reinforcing the idea that as a poor person you aren’t even worth a branded pack of sanitary towels or a supermarket own brand can of beans.

    No, you’re only allowed the cheap stuff that the people giving it to you wouldn’t eat themselves. This reinforces the deserving and undeserving thing and is why I choose to go hungry than have someone who wouldn’t buy value beans for their dog give them to me and expect gratitude and forelock tugging.

    I am very happy to buy Basics for myself, but to suggest people spend 15p to tide someone over and then not think about them again is as insulting as hell to those of us who are long term poor. I’m horrified to see you suggest this and reinforce those stereotypes now you’ll never need a voucher again.

    • Actually my point was if someone has a spare pound, fiver or tenner to spend, they can buy more individual items, which helps more people and families than spending the same amount on branded goods – its nothing to do with ‘brands’ or what people do or don’t deserve, it’s the difference between helping one person and helping four, and just how i think. For the record, I still buy basics products for myself, and don’t consider that I am insulting myself by doing so! People are so quick to try to see the worst in people sometimes, it’s really quite depressing.

      • Thanks. I worried about this. Every few weeks, usually in the school holidays, I get a fiver’s worth of food and I usually buy Basics/Value as it means I can give more. Things with a long shelf-life – like tinned veg – also tend to be cheaper. I don’t give anything that I wouldn’t eat myself.

  44. Tesco are giving £5 voucher if you spend £40 midweek. I have posted on Facebook asking friends if they really need that £5 or if they can donate some or all of it towards buying items for basics bank. Have linked to your list. Hope that’s ok.

  45. Why not give more fresh fruit? As only one respondent mentions, there have been masses of apples which dont go off if kept in the cool, instead going to waste in lucky people’s gardens or on common land. First eaters, now cookers..
    I take bagfuls round giving mine to friends and acquaintances,which is nice, but surely foodbanks restrictions are encouraging families to revert to processed carbs

  46. Pearl barley 55p is quite beneficial health wise and I found a branded vegetable broth mix 500g for 68p from asda which is full fibre and protein

  47. We are fruit & vegetable farmers, we use gleaning uk when we have large areas of veg going to waste in the field and someone from the food bank picks up grade 2 apples & pears – loss making to us thanks to big retail returns but perfectly good fresh fruit. If just a small percentage of the national grade 2 / unwanted harvest was provided to food banks there would be more fresh fruit in season than food banks could cope with….

  48. There are always plenty ‘buy 1 get 1 free offers around. Even if people just donated the ‘free’ one the collection boxes would soon fill. I feel that every supermarket should have a donation area available. In my local morrisons there is only a donation box for animal food – which by the way could also be donated for food parcels as people also struggle to feed their pet when having money problems.

  49. Great article, Jack, really brings home how inexpensive some items can be and yet how much of a difference they can make.

    I hope it’s ok to link my own article on the same topic? I found different food banks have differing needs or criteria as to what they can accept, so it is a general summary of what will always be welcome, and what you should check before donating: flashsays.com/foodbank

    It is many years since I had to struggle to afford food every day, but the memories stayed with me. As my local food bank told me, you are providing SOMETHING for people who have NOTHING. And that cannot be overestimated.

  50. Hi, I was wondering if any of you could give me your thoughts on this please? I’ve got a collection of gift sets built up over the last few years (Christmas/birthday gifts which I can’t use as they tend to be too perfumed for my skin), mostly containing shower gel/soap, although some also have body puffs/sponges or various moisturers, scrubs, perfumes, etc.- that kind of thing. What I’m wondering is whether or not I can donate them to my local foodbank (I think it’s run by Trussell). I’m a good bus ride away from it, and I can’t really justify the bus fare unless it’s going to be “worthwhile” (ie, to justify the cost I’d really need to be able to donate them, rather than just take them on a scenic tour of Sussex).

    P.S. At the moment, these sets are obviously sealed and complete, but I can seperate out the contents to donate as individual items if this would be considered a better option.

    Many thanks

  51. My local food bank is not able to handle fresh food, it does not have the storage facilities. I knew they were donated too many bakd beans, but did not know about the soup,. Thank you

  52. i work as a mystery shopper and donate my purchases to my local foodbank. i try to make my spending allowance go as far as possible and usually manage to donate around £20 of goods a month

  53. I was left some money from my Mother’s life insurance and have placed and order with a supermarket to be delivered on Monday to the local food bank. I included a variety of foods but also stuff for babies, laundry/household, toiletries as well as feminine hygiene products.

  54. One of our local foodbanks DENS puts out an email list of high priority needs to local churches – we then put out that list into our newsletters,for
    our collection points All non-perishable food is welcome, but the high needs list is very useful – why not contact your local foodbank and see if they have a mailing list?

  55. One thing that I’ve discovered fairly recently whilst clearing out our student house is that some foodbanks will take donations where the original packaging has been opened. My housemate left behind a few massive (200 bags+) boxes of tea bags where he’d only used 1 or 2 bags before deciding he didn’t like them, as well as the flavours of crisps he didn’t like from assorted multipacks, and half a box of individually wrapped biscuits. When I took them down there, I offered them up as for the volunteers, or to offer to people on arrival, and they were perfectly happy to take them, especially as it was all branded/premium products (my housemate has little idea of money).

    Also, for a few weeks before the first years move out of halls, my university keeps boxes for donations of food-bank suitable food from first years moving out, as well as for donations of clean kitchen equipment (mainly from the international students). I don’t know how common this is amongst universities, but at my very small university (5,000 students in total across 2 campuses) they were averaging at 1-2 bags for life full of food per day- maybe it’s something that all univeristies could be encouraged to do?

  56. This is very useful. I’ve been trying to buy extra bits when i go shopping (A extra tin of tomatoes, packet of biscuits etc) in the hope that every so often i would have a bag to donate. I was wondering whether i could donate UHT milk didnt think of juice too.

  57. There are two petitions on 38 Degrees that might help to end any surplus food going to waste.


    Belgium already has law to ensure all food goes to charities to feed the starving, that will only rise in number hugely over the next 5 years now. France has such a law coming in soon.



    Remember that pregnant women are sanctioned off benefit and sanctioning is for months, and being hungry are unable to breast feed (hunger stops the mum from producing breast milk) the new baby born premature from the stress of not having any food money.

    Those on benefit actually more than cover their own welfare money from the 75 per cent of all tax that comes from stealth indirect taxes and VAT.

    Examples are VAT on maternity pads and maternity breast pads and on tampons,
    as well as on condoms and lubricants.

    And the huge duty on alcohol and cigarettes.


    Universal Credit, when it is nationally rolled out, will sanction the low waged part time worker permanently, just as much as the unemployed (the latter only barely above 2 per cent of entire welfare bill).

    The growth of the low waged on so low money so cannot afford to eat and pay the soaring inflation in rent, heating, electric, as well as the loss of council tax support, capping of housing benefit and the Bedroom Tax.

    The capping of housing benefit (goes to the landlord not the poor anyway) will see more people homeless, living as an entire family in one small Travelodge hotel room long-term.


    Whereas coffee shops re-use waste coffee grounds, not all give their surplus food to foodbanks



    In that petition, the person doing the petition found that Pret a Manger did help:
    …”which sees them donating around 3,000,000 food items to homeless charities every year,” …

    So you might ask your local Costa Coffee if they donate the food gathered up 15 minutes before closing and donate it to foodbanks.


    Bear in mind how much surplus food could have gone to foodbanks and community projects like social supermarkets and free cafes that sell at what the poor can give (or what people could give a bit extra to help fund) prices or give free if you have no food money.

    …”In the UK there are some 18,832 coffee-selling outlets that shift about two billion cups of Joe a year, according to the Allegra 2015 Project Café report.

    By the end of the decade there could be 8,000 more outlets and that means even more waste.” …

    In fact, why not ask any of the big coffee shop chains if they donate their surplus food to foodbanks.

    Bearing in mind the coffee shop chains can be in your shopping precincts, up the high street, on the motorway service station, and in your local garden centre,


    ..”As bakers we want our customers to have the freshest food possible, so we don’t carry over into the next day our sandwiches, savouries and some of our confectionery. We try to make sure there is enough food available for our customers right up until closing time, whilst at the same time we don’t bake too many savouries or make up too many sandwiches later in the day, to keep the amount of unsold food as low as possible. Where food that we can’t carry over is not sold, we have different arrangements across our shops:

    – A number of our shops have partnerships with local charities such as hostels and homeless shelters who collect our unsold food at the end of each day.

    – We have a partnership with an organisation called FareShare who collect unsold food sent from our shops back to our bakeries and distribute it on our behalf to disadvantaged people.

    – Where the technology is available, we send unsold food for “anaerobic digestion”, which is a new technology that converts food into an energy supply. This is something we are pursuing increasingly.

    – Some of our unsold food is sent for composting.

    – Almost all our unsold food is diverted AWAY from landfill.


    We would very much welcome any registered charities to get in touch with us should they have a need for our surplus food and if they are able to collect it direct from their nearest Greggs shop, please email us at



    We are the 6th richest nation on earth, but starvation will now only massively increase.

    From babes in wombs to grannies.

    My petition on 38 Degrees is about those who will lose most if not all of their state pension under the flat rate state pension rules for new pensioners on and from 6 April.

    For the first time the SERPs opt out and National Insurance record wipe each other out, so the lowest forecast seen so far is £8.39 per week after 45 years in work.

    For the poorest and especially for poor women, this means their sole pension provision in life could be wiped out. The state pension is payable even if remain in work and half the over 60s are within the working poor, who will be the biggest next part of the welfare cuts.



  58. Please keep in mind that many people in food poverty are also in fuel poverty, which means they can’t heat food. Also, many don’t have a tin opener. High calorie items, which require no preparation are really useful.

Leave a Reply