My Ready Meal Is None Of Your Fucking Business.

Tonight, scrolling through Twitter, I came across a frankly audacious message sent from the ‘Bath Conservatives’ account, that had tagged me in. Unfortunately this is not an account dedicated to the frugal recycling of your dirty wash water, more’s the pity, but the haphazard and misfiring musings from the anonymous social media person for the Bath branch of the Conservative Party. You might have heard of them. They’re the ones in Government right now, and have been for around eight years now.

These Conservatives decided, in their wisdom, to uphold me as an example of someone who could cook well on a meagre budget. Put like that, you may wonder why I exploded in cold fury.

They said: “Indolent or disfunctional parents… simply don’t know how to feed their children well. If…Jack Monroe could feed herself and her child for £10 a week…most people can.”

I exploded.

I have lived, waiting in fear for this moment, for almost six years. Waiting, to be upheld as some kind of justification for the deepest incisions of Conservative cuts as they seek to justify their barbaric policies by attaching them to someone who can be used as an example of ‘pulling themselves up by their bootstraps’. (With absolutely no irony whatsoever, the brand ‘Cooking On A Bootstrap’ instead of, say, ‘shoestring’ comes from a Tory minister claiming that the poor need to do exactly that. I reclaimed the word from their mealy mouths and made it a middle-fingered trademark of my own.) The first time I was invited onto a breakfast television sofa, after being offered a book deal for my recipes in 2013, I was accused all over the internet of being ‘a Tory plant’. I would like to think that my continuously coruscating commentary since has alleviated anyone of that particular delusion, yet here we are.

The premise of the tweet from the Conservative Association was that parents who do not cook beautiful, bountiful meals from scratch are lazy, uneducated, unskilled and dysfunctional. Allow me to piss all over that particularly poisonous bonfire once and for all.

Many of the families I have worked with over the years are living in temporary accommodation, usually a bed and breakfast paid for by their local council due to a shortage of available social housing, or private landlords ‘willing’ to take on a tenant on benefits. These generally have no cooking facilities whatsoever, for insurance purposes and safety reasons, as cramming a hob next to a single bed that is usually pressed against the wall poses a risk to fire and health. After the Grenfell tower tragedy, dozens if not hundreds of residents were living in hotel rooms nearby, for weeks and months, with no cooking facilities available. They lived off ready meals, microwaved in their contraband microwaves, and takeaways. Ain’t nobody on earth, not even me, who can turn that into a cheap option. I dare you to tell someone who has been the victim of a house fire, is living with PTSD and anxiety, has lost their home and their job and doesn’t even have a saucepan, to pop along to the shop and pick up some spices because it’ll work out cheaper.

I understand the irony, it’s almost like I am turning on my own work here, parroting back some of the criticisms left below the line on my own recipes. I wrote a ‘make ready meals for less’ column in the Guardian once, after all. My work is very useful to a lot of people, but even a 9p burger and a 16p risotto is out of reach of someone who only has £1 scraped from behind the couch. My first book is full of well meaning and lived-experience advice about starting a storecupboard from scratch, cooking three different meals from the same six ingredients, but it operates on the premise that people have a frying pan, a masher, and a few quid to buy the basics in the first place.

I wrote this in 2013.. Very little changes, but I will repeat myself, because once again, it needs to be said.

“It isn’t just “cosy frugality”, as though we are all just living in a snapshot of a nostalgic poster of postwar Britain. I’m surprised the posters haven’t made a reappearance, unaltered, to back up the Conservatives claims.

Eat less bread. Food is a weapon. Your own vegetables all year round. Dig for victory. Home grown food. Make do and mend. Keep calm and carry on.

But there’s nothing cosy and nostalgic about missing days of meals, turning the heating off for two consecutive winters and every bloody day and night in between.

There’s nothing cosy and nostalgic about unscrewing the light bulbs so you can’t accidentally turn them on, or selling your son’s shoes, or drinking the formula milk that the food bank gave you because there’s nothing else. If that’s cosy frugality, the moralisers and apologisers ought to try it. For a month. Or six. Or 18.

Turn off the fridge, because it’s empty anyway. Sell anything you can see lying around that you might get more than a quid for. Walk everywhere in the pouring rain, in your only pair of shoes, with a soaking wet and sobbing toddler trailing behind you. Drag that toddler into every pub and shop in unreasonable walking distance and ask them if they have any job vacancies. Try not to go red as the girl behind the counter appraises your tatty jumper and dirty jeans before telling you that they have no jobs available. “For you”, you add in your head, and you drag that toddler home, still soaking, still unemployed, to not-quite dry out in your freezing cold flat.

Put two jumpers on that you’ll wear all week, to keep washing to a minimum. You sit at home in your coat anyway, and nobody’s there to notice.
Drag yourself to the cooker to pour some tinned tomatoes over some cold pasta, and try not to hurl it across the room in frustration when your toddler tells you he doesn’t want it. I want something else, Mummy. But there isn’t anything else. But aren’t we supposed to just keep calm and carry on?”
Let me take tonights dinner for example. I am 200 miles from home, babysitting for a friend. There is nothing in the cupboard that even I could turn into a meal. As a thankyou for babysitting, he said he would buy me dinner. I asked for a ready meal, rather than the ingredients to make one measly portion for myself. The meal, a mushroom and onion pie with a mashed potato topping, cost £2.75. I flipped over the back and added up how much the component ingredients would cost were I to make it myself: £12.80. Indeed, if I had had the £12.80 spare I could have made six pies, but then I would have needed some kind of Tupperware to cook and store them in (another £1.50) and somewhere to keep them, and to travel home with them for three hours tomorrow in some kind of ice box (£25) in order to keep them safe for consumption in the future. Economies of scale are so very awkward in the poverty discussion, as is the misguided and utterly middle class assumption that everyone has a working cooker. My partner has not had a working cooker for two and a half years. There are many reasons why people do not cook.

Mental health issues are also a factor. I, a bestselling cookbook author, have days where I live on six bags of crisps, one after the other, because the demons descend and the thought of creating anything, of liking myself enough to boil pasta, crushes me from the inside out. I have been very open about mental illness, specifically anxiety and depression. My current surge of recipes is an indication that I am in a sunny place, the weeks of silence can be safely read as a pit of depression, or an arthritis flare-up, or the black dog howling in my face. Sometimes people do not have the ability for self-care, and I hear from people with autism, anorexia, depression, anxiety, and a range of other complicated situations, who need to know what to have to hand when their head is in a pickle, to nourish themselves. (FWIW, I rely on Pot Noodles with a lot of tinned and frozen veg stirred in, and tinned soups heated in the microwave, and easy fruit like oranges, bananas and tinned pears to get me through. And crisps.)

Some people are working two or three zero hour contracts and barely have time to change from their supermarket checkout uniform to their cleaning tabard , let alone knock up a vegetable gratin from scratch and make their own granola. If these lives are unimaginable to you, I suggest you read Ros Wynne Jones ‘Real Britain’ column in the Daily Mirror, and try to understand them. After all, those of you trawling my tweets to argue with me every time I so much as fart clearly have time on your hands, so put it to use.

And finally – I took exception to the Conservatives holding me up as some kind of role model because, it was their policies that left me hungry, cold, almost homeless, moving house seventeen times with a child under my arm. I ended up severely mentally ill, referred to psychiatrists, and still recovering several years later. I tried to kill myself four times that I remember under austerity policies, being continuously maliciously investigated for my benefits (curiously always coinciding with me writing something negative about the local Council on my well-read political blog I wrote from the gallery of the local public meetings), having housing benefit withdrawn over a dozen times, leading to my eviction from my home, and in such horrific debt it took two books to finally emerge from the other side of it. Not credit cards or frivolity; but water bills, bounced gas and electric, rent arrears, and bank charges. I still can’t even open my own front door, scarred as I am by penny pinching pissy policies devised over £39 breakfasts by those who think nothing of spending £6,000 of taxpayers money on a dining table for their second home while loftily declaring that the poor can live on 1% of that figure for an entire week. To be used as their ‘poster girl’ for frugality by such obscene hypocrites offends me to my burned and shattered core.

The fact that my archive of 600 ultra-cheap, simple recipes gets millions of views a month is no testament to my skills as a cook nor as a writer. I make Pop Tarts and Bolognese, for crying out loud. Rinse baked beans and cover them in ketchup and spices and call it a chilli. Mash a cake together from cornflakes. Roast tinned potatoes. It is an absolute and damning indictment of the fact that so many people continue to need them. That the queues at the food banks are getting longer. That austerity has casualties, and one in three of them are children.

The architects of that austerity have so much faith in their grand ideas to starve the poor into submission and quietly allow the disabled to die behind the scenes, that they have slunk away into the shadows with their gold plated pensions and £25,000 sheds for company. David Cameron, merrily fisted his Big Society up the arsehole of community and did a bunk in the morning without so much as a polite cup of tea. George Osborne, who declared a ‘war on welfare’ on Five Live in 2013,now editing a national newspaper, criticising an administration he was very much a part of, as though it were all a jolly jape. Iain Duncan Smith, a man who sniggered in a meeting in Parliament as a poverty-stricken single mum spoke about being famished with hunger, while I sat behind him shaking with rage at his insolence. Austerity is more than a war; it is an assault against the unarmed, against the most vulnerable children in our nation, a massacre of basic rights and dignity. And this war, live every other, is orchestrated by rich old men in suits, pushing their little pieces around the map, toying with lives and discarding them at will, puffing their chests out over their subsidised champagne. It’s been a while since I’ve been quite this angry, but my god, I’m livid.

I sat next to a Comservative from Cambridgeshire on a food bank panel debate in 2013 who tried to say that there’s ‘only’ a million food bank users in the UK. Less than one per cent. But what use are numbers, when you are one of the 565 in his constituency, not the other 81,000 or so? What use is a one per cent chance, when that one per cent is you? What sort of a society do we live in where people who go out to work every day to provide for themselves and their families cannot afford to do so, but their situation is justified in a statistic? 

Because the secret nobody lets you in on, is that poverty can happen to anyone. I was a well brought up, if working class, girl who went to my local Grammar school. I didn’t get my GCSEs, went straight into work, but ended up in a decent job with two parents who were still together and adored each other. Dad was a fireman, Mum was a foster carer and former nurse, with some debilitating disabilities that affected her limbs and muscles but not her enormous heart and work ethic. We all had it drummed into us that we have to work hard to make something of ourselves. I went in the fire service, after a period of working in coffee shops and nightclubs, and my brother joined the Army. And yet I still found myself, through a series of unpredictable but all-too-ordinary events, living in absolute poverty.

So yes, I managed to just about not die, living on £10 a week in 2011, when stock cubes were 10p for 10 (35p now), cooking bacon was 67p (£1.50 now), kidney beans were 17p (now 35p) etc. Bath Conservatives claim that anyone can do it, now, 7 years later, when most basics food products from ‘the good old days’ have sharply risen in price or all but vanished.

I am offering the social media person from Bath Conservatives an opportunity to quite literally put their money where their mouth is. Identify yourself, and live on just £10 a week for 3 weeks running. I’ll help you write recipes. You’ll eat a lot of beans and rice. You shouldn’t have to cheat, as you believe it is ‘adequate’. Do it, with no money for drinks, nights out, socialising, no friends to cook you meals, nothing but the £10 you think is so easy to live on. After all, in your own words, ‘anyone can do it.’

But you won’t even start to experience the daily grind of living in poverty. Poverty isn’t just having no heating, or not quite enough food, or unplugging your fridge and turning your hot water off. 

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 and jam.

 This blog is free to those who need it, and always will be, but it does of course incur costs to run and keep it running. If you use it and benefit, enjoy it, and would like to keep it going, please consider popping something in the tip jar, and thankyou.

Click here for ‘Cooking On a Bootstrap’

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Categories: Blog

167 Comments »

  1. Are you okay Jack? I’m not a lot of good at talk, on the spectrum, but please email me if you want.

      • Wow! Jack I have one of your books- this blog post has really made me think- how dare these people criticise you. Don’t mind betting no one will take up your challenge. Stay well and safe- how is small boy now? Bigger I know,,, xx

      • your writing is fantastic Jack – your humanity is a shining example if what we may be – take care of yourself – we need you

      • I have “lived” through years of CONservative control, since my severe RTA, in 1988. Thankfully my situation has not reached the levels you speak of YET, but I have more than enough experience of the joys of being a “benefit scrounger”. Good luck, public atitude will hopefully help us :S xx

      • I hope that blog reaches government, that is what people need to hear. That is the truth of those who have or do experience poverty. This is what is missed from the media. Thank you, for being a voice for those of us who can’t.

    • Your rage is justified, Jack

      It is infuriatingly frustrating that there are people, who are so ignorant of the financial struggle of others; yet, they feel they can disgorge their ignorant bile and believe it is fit for human consumption.

      Poverty is an obscenity and the result of crazed ideological policies enacted by spiteful, self-serving and self-righteous ideologues.

      WHAT THE BUCK:

      Buck up – what do we have to do to ourselves and our planet before we learn to reform
      Buck the systems that shape us so we can reshape them to suit us best as the norm
      Buckaroos – let’s get astride and up there stridently and rightfully amounting
      Not on the ass backwards asinine and dumb is dumber wrongfully accounting
      Buck up – see and be seen – as a community and citizens with birthrights borne dutifully
      Enabled individually and collectively to learn & earn as one and together most fruitfully
      Level headed and leveling the field – diversely and energetically as Man United
      Praxeological and purposeful, strategic, planned, ambitious and far sighted
      Not staged and pusillanimously degraded as Man benighted
      Co-creation and co-production incited
      Action and pro-activity reignited
      Peace and compassion ignited
      Humility and humanity excited
      Justice alighted
      Wrongs righted
      Rights recited
      Delighted
      Lighted
      Ed
      D
      C
      B
      A
      AA
      AAA
      AAAA
      AAAAA
      AAAAAA
      AAAAAAA
      AAAAAAAA
      AAAAAAAAA
      AAAAAAAAAA
      AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
      I had to add the scream to make sure the whole piece did not topple over…

      We are all each other’s business – humankind and kind human – reciprocity – the golden rule.

      Take care
      Marlene
      From ‘The Thoughts of Charwoman Mar”
      @GrannyKnott

    • Amazing blog! I’m a senior citizen in the USA and with the way things are going, I fear my husband and I might end up being in those circumstances. It is a frightening thought and makes me glad I’m not young with children and in those wretched circumstances without finances, living accommodations and help. My heart goes out to you and anyone in such dire circumstances. Thank you for your writing this.

      • I think they know *exactly* what they’re doing but it suits there purposes to pretend nothing is really wrong. If nothing is wrong the they don’t have anything to put right.

        We’re ruled by sociopaths.

    • I am a nearly 70 year old mother, grandmother and great grand mother, I have, over the years, had many times when my stomach has been in a knot of fear and I chanted in my head, as the postie walked down the street, “don’t call here today, don’t call here today!!” because I had nothing in my purse, very little in the larder and could not cope with yet another bill which would make matters worse !! I was brought up knowing how to feed a family on next to nothing with all meals cooked from scratch but that makes no difference if you don’t have any ingredients to cook !! and no money to buy more with. When the answer to keeping the then coal fire lit was to gather damp and unsuitable wood from the hedgerow so the water was hot to give the kids a bath! However, none of this compares to what is going on today and people of my generation need to STOP comparing those that are suffering under this evil government to how it was back in our days !! It was only this bad, back in history, in Victorian times !! We, old buggers need to open our eyes and stop listening to the BBC news and reading papers like the Daily Fail and The Sun etc and actually find ways to help !! This stuff is happening now, in our lifetime!! and it is a disgrace. It may be your neighbours, have you noticed that the children may look pale and skinny ? Do the parents look sad and careworn ?? How about offering some of those cakes that you made too many of or some of that jam that you made in the Autumn and still have loads of ? You don’t need to belittle people just chat to the kids when they are with their parents and say “do you like cake (biscuits/jam/bread) because you know what I went a bit mad and made loads more than we can eat!! would you like some ??” Or if you can’t bring yourself to do that find out who collects in your area for the foodbanks and give what you can. ………….BUT most importantly STOP listening to Mrs Mays lies, stop voting Tory……………because you may also well be the next victim of the chaos that she is causing in protection of her rich mates !!…………………..keep blogging young lady you are doing a service to humanity

      • Thank you. I do get heartily tired of people trying to claim that being under 50 means I have it easy.

  2. I hope you are heard, because you say it loud and you say it clear Jack. Love and strength to you ❤️❤️❤️

  3. I am so, so sorry for all of this. Sorry for what you have endured, and continue to endure. Sorry for all the people struggling to stay warm and dry and fed. Sorry that so many people just don’t get it.

    I admire the work you do Jack.

  4. It’s been so lovely to see you posting lots of recipes lately and I hope it’s a sign that your health is on the up. I agree wholeheartedly with what you’ve written and have nothing but admiration for the fact that you speak up for the people that are being shat on from a great height by the bunch of selfish, self righteous, arrogant, greedy bastards that run this country. As a former welfare rights adviser for a charity I’ve seen first hand the devastation of austerity policies and we need people like you to keep shouting from the roof tops about the injustice and inequality that can quite literally destroy lives. I hope you continue to feel stronger and don’t let the bullshit and haters bring you down x

  5. Your books are on a shelf in the kitchen, I know the next will arrive (I’m in no rush and sure as hell don’t want to think of you struggling to the post office) I’m disabled, can no longer safely cook, I’m surrounding myself with ovens etc that automatically turn off simply to cook the meals I have delivered, yet I know if this Govt gets it’s way I’ll be needing your books again. The majority of Tories don’t have a clue what life is really like, nor do they care, that much is obvious, they rule by deceit, lies and frankly are corrupt to the core. You know they actually enjoy the pain and suffering they cause, eugenics is their core belief. Fight when you can Jack but don’t let it get to you and cause you harm.
    Keep at the back of your mind your very much loved by a huge amount of people x

    • Hi Fibro confused – if you’re in London, I’d be happy to do some batch cooking from Jack’s recipes for you and drop round some home made ‘ready meals’, if that would help out a bit? Or even pop round and cook for you under your direction, so you have more control over the cooking? Whichever suits best. Best, Jane.

      • Jane that’s so unbelievably lovely of you to offer, I live in sunny (cold) Shropshire a fair few miles away.
        Just the thought means more than you can imagine Thank you xx

  6. Oh how I pray (not in the literal sense as I dont believe) that one day the Conservatives will either be a thing of the past or suddenly realise what the real world is like. Although part of me thinks they know & don’t give a damn. I hope that this creature accepts your challenge but I won’t hold my breath. NEVER stop doing what you do so well & thank you from one of the lucky ones who has never had to face some of the trials that you have but does know they exist & is horrified.

  7. Well said Jack. This is such a strong expose of heartless Tory scum. Stay strong and keep fighting. Take care. Xx

  8. They are scum, but unfortunately they get voted in time and again by so many people in this country who just don’t give a damn. I don’t know how or why there is this evil and selfish divide in this country now. Take care, Jack xxx

    • It’s a control issue. People need the illusion of control. They can’t face the thought that it could happen to them, so they willingly subscribe to and perpetuate the poisonous notion that poverty only happens to people who are lacking, because it makes them feel safe. They can tell themselves that it could never happen to them because they have ‘more moral fibre’ or ‘work ethic’.

  9. Just trying to find the words, I am tearful with anger and shame,
    Angry at the the circumstances you survived somehow. Shamed that I live in a country where the elite govern without compassion or indeed without caring and either deliberately or negligently blind to the reality for so many.
    “I see no ships”.
    Nelson put his telescope to his blind eye and announced that he could not see the signal calling on him to end the action and retreat. He continued to fight to succeed. This Tory elite don”t even pick up a telescope to see reality for so many, for they would never get close enough to risk “contamination” from the “Indolent or disfunctional parents”. They behave as Lords of the Manor with utter disdain for the serfs.
    The elite’s shame is they have eyes that never focus upon real life for many. Conveniently, what the eyes don’t see, the heart can’t feel.
    Sorry, I am ranting.
    Jack. I salute you. A survivor. A campaigner. Actually doing something useful and not just talking.
    Keep on keeping on. You inspire me to keep on keeping on. A different battlefront, but a battle none the less.
    Josi..

  10. I agree with every word you say ; and you say it so much more powerfully than I ever could . As the saying goes” it’s the poor that gets the blame”. And it has never been more true than at present. Keep on doing what you do. You are a voice for the voiceless.

    • But jack isn’t poor by any means. She has a patreon account and a paypal account for tax free funded donations. Except Jack should be paying tax as this is income. Hope HMRC is aware of this. if not I’ll be happy to let them know.

      • Hi Anita – nothing is tax free. All of my income is declared, and Patreon actually make you sign a document to say that. Same with Paypal. Your untrue implication that I am illegaly avoiding tax is libellous, and I would strongly advise you to retract it. I have nothing to hide here – I create recipes that are free for everyone to access (against the advice of all publishers, I keep them free on my blog which harms my book sales but helps those who need it).
        My PayPal account was set up a week or so ago so tax won’t be due on it for some time yet, but if I earn enough to pay tax on it (and I earn nowhere near what you think – I earned less than living wage last year for 80 hour weeks) – then I will do so gladly, because my taxes pay for education, nurses, roads, firefighters, community safety, domestic abuse shelters, and more. Now fuck the hell off.

      • WOW. Spiteful. I assumed you researched the matter before making serious allegations? What is your agender Anita Jacobs? What did you want to achieve? .. Don’t bother answering. It is a hateful troll – you must be a very sad person.

      • I don’t personally know Jack but Jack’s work is brilliant and i have seen many many people being helped and given a voice. It seems you are trying to out Jack for making an honest living? Jack has a child to support, would you rather they claimed benefit? Why on earth would you make such sweeping judgements to assume things are not above board?

      • Now now people, Anita hasn’t been brought up to think to be mindful of peoples feeling or even don’t speak if you have nothing to say, she’s one of the new breed of jealous idiots who live on the internet spouting spiteful rubbish and thinking their clever, when the opposite is true. You don’t have to ‘be’ poor to write what Jacks writes you have to have ‘been’ poor as Jack was when the blog started.
        Oh yes some of us are rather protective of Jack even though sadly we will probably never meet, anyone with an ounce of compassion feels the same way, we are after all decent human beings

        Jack the salted caramel banana cake…………not good for my waistline too bloody yummy 🙂 xx

      • i don’t think they are claiming to be. They are looking at the various issues and reasons for eating ready meals. Poor mental health included. The financially comfortable can be in a bad place.

      • Anita Jacobs – you don’t seem to have a clue! You are an integral part of why jacks writing is so necessary! So fuck off or do somethin useful like vote the Tories out and start thinking about anyone other than you and yours

      • Forgive me but you are a bizarre human! None of that is any of your business.

        You’ve just embarrassed yourself as what Jack has just said is correct. You are just pure bitter bizzyboddy.

        Shame.On.You.

  11. Phew – reading this has left me breathless but so well said. Words feed no-one, I know, but thank you for saying it. I wonder if the intended audience will read.
    J x

  12. Beautifully written Jack. Breaks my heart to read what what you endured. Love your recipes, hate the trolls. Hope the tweeter takes up your challenge x

    Keep doing what you do xxx

  13. Jack, this is moving. And worryingly accurate. In the course of my job, I visit many schools and the assumptions of well fed,happy,three-meal -a-day youngsters , is as as mythical as unicorns. People are hurting. Not all..but more than we care to imagine. I so hope your strident message gets through.
    I have to count my good fortune,for life a life that has , I suppose would be deemed “privileged”. That doesn’t mean I don’t care or want to change elements of the world about me – or ignore the obvious.
    I wish you well in everything that you do – and believe. I doubt I could live on ten quid a week.

  14. Will share this on my little blog, as I do so many of your posts. Keep telling it as it is, Jack. I watched ‘I, Daniel Blake’ for the first time the other day. Don’t know why I said that … I think it’s because this got me in the same way: outrage at the whole transparent, gargantuan Wrongness of things staring us in the face whilst those at the top throw more obstacles into the way or try to distract us with empty gestures and statistics.

  15. Jack, you’re my hero/ine! Your voice speaks for so many of us. People have no idea of the emotional drain or constant leech of energy that accompanies being a single parent (especially for those like you or me with no/little family).

    then add poverty/stress …….

    then add trying to get a job that fits around being the sole carer/emergency contact ……

    Luckily we are both now in a different, more financially secure & happier place, but God help those that aren’t, as things are getting so much worse & the Tories have closed much of the support in the community.

    Keep on letting your light shine, with love hope & Faith that a change of government will happen soon x

  16. I first read some of your words when i was in a similar situation. It made me break down but also helped me carry on. I can’t thank you enough for what you do. You are a champion in more ways than one

  17. You write beautifully and brilliantly, Your words are persuasive and influential and awareness raising. I love reading them. I love cooking your food too. Your recipes saw us through some very lean times, but your books and blogs are still my “go to” in better times. Quick, easy, decent home cooked food.

  18. I think that people who have never had to live on pennies misunderstand. Maybe you CAN do it – for a little while at least – but it is a miserable experience and it absorbs a lot of time and energy. You become obsessed with ways of cutting corners. Then something happens – an expensive journey you have no choice but to make, perhaps – and all your careful budgeting goes out of the window. Then you become, in an instant, a ‘feckless’ debtor. People’s minds instantly run to giant televisions and Sky subscriptions.

    These days I have enough money to buy the basics without worrying too much. But I have never forgotten what it was like to live on nothing and I am still extremely careful with money.

  19. I just want to let you know that I hear you, and wish to the bottom of my heart that what you say wasn’t true. I’m a Yank, and we’re racing like crazy to catch up with the wrongness you describe–we’ve probably gotten there already.
    I’m sorry that you have become the focus of the mean-spirited blow-back, but it may comfort you to know that the horrible responses you get to your life-affirming message are directly connected to the truth you demonstrate every day. Stay strong…we need you. (But if you get tired of all this bullshit, I hope you can find a way to step back from the battle a little bit, and know what a voice you have been for all of us–you’re a champ, Jack!)

  20. Fuck me, this brought back some memories – having to decide between heating and food, because I couldn’t afford both; “treating” myself to a shower and hair wash every fortnight…etc, etc. Fortunately, life did get a bit better for us, but I’ve never forgotten the dehumanising, grinding combination of stress, fear, helplessness and anger. You’ve very eloquently expressed exactly what I feel, Jack, thank you xxx

  21. Your right about the cooking equipment, if you have no pots and pans, or a working cooker you have no chance of knocking up a meal. I volunteer at “FareShare” once a week. I love it. They take food mainly from Supermarket distribution centres which will not get to the shops before its sell by. You would not believe how much stuff! The food is then logged onto the system and local charities, night shelters, and social supermarkets can order from the system They pay a membership fee, but otherwise the food is free. I can particuly recommend the social supermarkets if you have allergies (gluten) etc as tons of “free from” stuff comes in and they sell it off quite cheaply. Have a look at them here – http://fareshare.org.uk/.

  22. I live in a ‘poor area’, and it’s getting worse. The government do NOTHING to help and so the local community has set up a unit for people who need food. They can do their shopping there, all for free of course, and have a hot meal made for them whilst they are there. They do not need the god awful, pride denting and working class shaming food bank ticket to access this. It’s all provided by the local community and God love those who donate to it because for sure they’ve scimped on something they want to make sure something goes into that pot. I’m thankful every day that I don’t have to access this, but would never be as arrogant as these Tory arseholes to assume that I never will. I’m in bed crying reading this article Jack, not with sadness but with temper. This truly is a war, and keeping people hungry and in despair is the biggest weapon these arseholes have.

  23. Thanks Jack, I hear every word. I’m fortunate, I have a good, job and home, though the black dog is very prominent just now. I fight as we are all on this knifes edge where change can happen very quickly. Please keep speaking so passionately and eloquently for us, thanks once more, Ade

  24. I’m only on a State Pension so try to live on £10 a week for food. I can buy ready meals for £1 each so they’re the obvious option with a bag of steamed veg. Yes, I can cook, and daily used to cook for eight people, roast dinners on Sundays, etc, etc, but life changes.

  25. So the journey to the pits is what so many of us have undertaken this last few years , I to would be insulted to the core to be held up as some kind of Tory Icon.
    No you dont ever get over it , pull your self up and soar , because inside your forever broken , suspicious and looking at the mat for the next brown envelope .
    Ive documented our latest journey into the black realms here http://kayerunrig.blogspot.co.uk/2018/02/we-won-well-sort-of.html

  26. Well said Jack such a pity that Bath Conservative coward will not read or take up your challenge. You made me cry not in pity for you or the situations you discribe but in memory of trying to pursuade my then 6 year old son to look after his sister while a sorted through the bargain bin at Kwik Save for reduced but still usable veg as my then 4 year old daughter was skipping around the fruit stall asking for grapes and cherries I simply could not buy.

  27. I started following your posts back in the beginning, when my situation was not too different to yours. Thankfully, like you, my circumstances have improved. But I’ve never forgotten how it feels to wonder how you’ll afford to buy food that week, or if you’ll lose your house. I’m furious right along with you that people in positions of power are so willfully ignorant, to brush off desperate poverty as an acceptable and sustainable way of life. Keep telling the truth, Jack. You speak for so many

  28. Hi Jack, you say it, and how. Thank you for this, it is as timely and honest as ever. But what next?While I would love to remove all Tories to a sink estate and make them live on £10 for food et al, sadly this is unlikely. But it is a timely reminder that we need a massive fight back – those of us with energy, health of some sorts and time need to build for an alternative to the Tories. There is no alternative, we have to get the buggers out before they inflict more damage on people and their kids, destroy the NHS and drive more people into homelessness. I have long lost my confidence in the mainstream political system but having seen Corbyn speak and act over 30 years ago and seeing him now, I think he is making a real difference to the Labour Party. It’s also inspiring lots of young people into activism – they stand to suffer the most under the Tories and their ilk. So sorry if this sounds like a party politicalbroadcast but having been to several meetings over the past year (the first politics I’ve done for a long time) I am actually starting to believe that the dead hand of Blairism can be eradicated and we can get a people’s government that might actually do something. And that will listen and be accountable. We have to do something – this might be our last chance. I hope everone who reads your blog will get active in their communities if they’re not already, or if they have the emotional and physical energy. Even if it’s doordropping leaflets or talking to their neighbours and colleagues. Everything helps to shift the defeatism, fear and make people believe they can win.

  29. Well said, I laughed when I saw the crisps comment I am in that dark place on disability benefits made to feel like a scourge on society.I once worked my way through a six pack of quavers and I don’t even like the bloody things. I am glad that there are people in the world like you to stand up for those with no voice.x

  30. They also ignore the working poor – if you’ve just done 12 hours of physical labour, and have a 12 hour break before you repeat this, you’re not going to be in a good state of mind to spend 30 minutes cooking. You’ve got 12 hours in which to get home, wash, eat, sleep and get back to work.

    Gets worse when your workplace is a long way from home. An hour’s journey each way leaves you 10 hours to wash, eat, and get some sleep; time to cook is time that adds to sleep deprivation.

    And you may well be living such a long way from work because that’s where the cheap housing is, and (especially in London) it’s easier to have a long commute and a zone 8 bedsit than to try and live in zone 1.

  31. reading this breaks my heart. i am ashamed of the state of this country and the elite ruling classes who genuinely have no idea. i salute you Jack x

  32. Jack, I sincerely hope you are ok, as much as ok can be with arthritis to which I sympathise fully and with knowledge of the grinding relentless pain that brings
    This government should be ashamed of themselves, and the previous one under Cameron, and the one before that under Major and the one previous to him under that old witch whose name I cannot bring myself to type. She began the slow and deliberate decline in living standards for the working classes, the rest just continued it.
    Thank you for such an insightful and honest article from the heart, the heart of yourself and the heart of the problems you write of. I wish I could say more than simply ‘I agree with every single word you wrote.’

  33. I’ve had financial problems but never as bad as what you and so many others went through. I was at my very lowest and it nearly broke me so heaven knows how heroes like yourself and others coped and still do, thank you for the inspiration x

  34. Love your posts. Agreed with every word and felt emotional when I finished reading it. Only people who have lived it will understand. Who cares what the others think. Carry on doing what you are doing & never give up the fight. Stay strong lovely xxxx

  35. So well said x we’ve gone from, being a working financially stable family.. to homelesss 9 weeks in a b@b (7 in a room) and now in temporary accommodation.. all it took was hubby becoming ill.. 17 years in a council job with tied Home.. then chucked to one side… homeless for two years now, while the house we were thrown out of stands empty! I’ve followed you from day one.. Thankyou for being the voice so many of us need x. Our story of homelessness
    http://romeosnextchapter.blogspot.com/

  36. Absolutely, it is shocking how society treats those without good fortune. The tories relish in it unfortunately because to them it’s all your own fault.

  37. No wonder you’re infuriated. Point missed completely(as is the way with most Tories).
    Brush them off and keep surviving. You help a lot of people. That is your true legacy.
    X

  38. You have written everything I say daily to my family & friends. The sad state of our society is that some people are living as if on rations and post war when others are living excessively. Our humility has gone and our social community gone. We are now putting spikes in doorways to stop homeless people seeking shelter and treating them like vermin rather than offering help / solutions. We have detached ourselves from the human side of austerity and the political arena merely look at statistics. Something needs to change it is so very wrong.
    Beautifully written – thankyou ❤️

  39. There should be a law that states that anyone wishing to affiliate themselves with the Tory party in any way should be sent to a place far from their comforts, and genuinely ‘walk the walk’ for an uncomfortably long time (for them) – say a month), before qualifying to “talk the talk” in their usual misguided and thoughtless way. They will never, ever understand until they’ve been there themselves, with no safety net of any kind.

  40. Well said Jack. Even if reading this post got me angry again. Stay strong Jack don’t let the bastards get you down. You are a hero.

  41. “The fact that my archive of 600 ultra-cheap, simple recipes gets millions of views a month is no testament to my skills as a cook nor as a writer.” WTF? With all due respect, bollox. You get millions of views a month because you are a great cook on a budget. Nowhere else do people find such a concentration of recipes for good food at such a low cost. And you write well. Thank you.

    Staple foods up so much since 2011? It shows how silly it is to have one measure of inflation. An average earning family doing average things is one thing. Someone scrimping to get by is spending their money on different things. Someone should compile a variety of inflation indicators for different people depending on what they spend most of their money on.

    In your experience have any foods got cheaper (or relatively less expensive) since 2011?

  42. I totally understad where you are coming from. Having had a well paid job and then to nothing, really made me think what was important. Starting my money saving hints tips and ideas group (0ver 200,000 members) has helped me understand what poverty is and identifiying myself with them.. These people who sit on their high thrones eating their filet steaks and caviar need to step down from their towers and see what its like living in the real world. I too would be angry about what has ben said and they need to answer

  43. Wow, very powerful. I am in tears reading this.
    We need you in government. Those self serving conservatives are killing off the poor and vulnerable and then putting the blame on those who are suffering. X

  44. I am Scots that is important as the SNP are not increasing the tax allowance for high tax payers this extra money is going to welfare, I have not as yet seen any complaints my children who will pay are not complaining. My father born 11/11/18 said the only people who stood up for the working man was the unions. I am now a pensioner and due to luck and good management I am fine but a dread getting Ill. Keep protesting for those who can’t.

  45. Good on you x
    I am Fed up of hearing people judging by their own standards, some don’t have the luxury of even a kitchen, let alone be able to afford to run one, if those who can bring about change chose to look at reality, it may help to change this ‘let them eat cake’ mentality – let them try to make a healthy meal for their family with a kettle….

  46. I really hope we Scots break free of this broken union sooner rather than later, to free ourselves from these destructive sociopaths in power. I am heartbroken that there is no easy escape for people who will be stuck in a further impoverished England and Wales once we leave – I’d encourage anyone in a tough situation to be getting themselves on housing association lists for Glasgow/Dundee/Aberdeen as soon as they can, if there is anyway at all you can see yourself being able to afford the move. Many things are more expensive in Scotland, but the significantly better medical and social care, and free prescriptions and the like, make a difference, as do the food co-ops, and general support of people; and, once independence comes, austerity goes.

    • I would move to Scotland if I could; I’ve only visited once, but the bits I got to see were stunningly beautiful. On a side note, the people of Dundee are seriously fucking honest; I left my camera in the ladies’ loos in a shopping centre and got it back because some unspeakably decent person handed it in.

      Unfortunately, my useless thyroid means I can’t tolerate cold ( I live in Devon; if I could afford it, I’d go somewhere warmer on the continent) and the temperature difference would incapacitate me.

      We shall miss you.

  47. Well said Jack! I have been there (more than once in my life) and it’s no easy thing to have to go for days on end without food so that your child can eat. It has a long lasting effect when, not only can you not afford heating/lighting, but are terrified to open the door or look at the mail. To this day I panic if someone knocks at my door or the postman calls! I’ve queued at food banks and been made to feel less than human because an accident left me disabled. I used to work full-time (more than one job at a time too), cared for my mother (severely disabled) for 28 years but one simple accident left me in a situation where I lost my job and my home. This government made me attend an ASOS assessment and, despite masses of paperwork from doctors, hospitals and my mental health team, I was told I was fit for work. I appealed, after my doctor helped me (as I was suicidal) and it took 14 months for it to get to the tribunal. Thankfully, they overturned the decision (although I was only allowed to be reimbursed for 3 months of the time my benefits had been stopped!) and life gradually got better. I still suffer from mental health issues, along with my disabilities, and the lasting effects of those times is ever present. My heart goes out to you Jack, along with all the others who find themselves in a similar situation, as I know your pain. YOU helped me get through with your help and advice…You were the “voice” that kept me going. Don’t ever underestimate the effect you have on others!!!!! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I hope those who wrote the stupid, unthinking drivel that prompted this piece find themselves in similar difficulties (for want of a better word!) and then they can tell others how easy it is! Sod the lot of them Jack, you are amazing!!!!!!!

  48. Hi, Jack…at first I wondered why you chose to acknowledge the lousy attack. After all, you are successful, have a beautiful child, and have spread relief, entertainment and affordable food management tips and recipes to millions (I hope) of people. And by the end of the blog, I realized that you also have raised social consciousness among many as well. Keep it up! If more people voiced their thoughts, we might be a better species. I live in America, and the one good thing that came out of the horrible school shooting this past weekend is that the press is finally listening to students. These brave young kids are screaming their rage…and maybe (altho I don’t hold out a lot of hope when faces with the power of the oligarchs who support the system as is) something will finally change. So continue to get pissed off, and share with all who will listen (and even those who will criticize) so that change for the good will have a chance.

  49. I found this blog linked by a friend on facebook. I live in the netherlands and except for the kid, you just described my situation. I managed to wrestle myself out of wellfare and work now but only 3 days due to mental issues. So i still live on the same poverty level as when i was on benefits.
    And make it work, as healthy and cheap as possible eating. Hardly any heating in my appartment in winter. I’m lucky as i have no debt and manage to keep it that way.
    I could be a little more comfortable than i am now, but i love to travel and i have friends all around the country and every penny i save is spend on visiting them and traveling because that truely makes me happy.

  50. Thank you for speaking out and congratulations that you have fought through to a place where your voice can be heard. Please be encouraged, know that lots of people support what you are saying and want to fight for change.

  51. I’d like to thank you Jack, your recipes helped my family during some of our darkest times. Asking for food from a good bank is soul destroying, but at least you helped us make the best out of the food we were gifted

  52. Well said,I see this poverty and hardship every week at the foodbank I help at. Can you dk recipe cards that use the items given out hy foodbanks asbu say there many with very limited cooking facilities .

  53. So true so well written and rings so many bells. Its my birthday today Im 59 and cant get a job because of that number. I got 20quid from my sister and the same from my son to get myself a treat – I thought about perfume I love the new jean paul gaultier one – then went to Tesco and Morrisons to buy reduced food and a few treats – not cos I needed it I have two freezers full of food and cupboards are not too bad – but because Im terrified that when my esa finishes in a couple of weeks I will be left with nothing waiting for UC and told Im fit for work despite the fact I cant even finish a bowl full of washing up without sitting down for half an hour and falling asleep. I was the same as you. Went to grammar school ended up in a really good job then life bereavment and MH problems hit and off goes my arse to the scrap heap. At least I have my cats for company and they make really good heaters too x

  54. I’m a well-off yank, thousands of miles away, relating to having heartless, soulless old white men(and a few women) in power at the moment who, day by day, are dismantling the safety net so their own bellies can grow fat. I was not always well-off and relate to food budgets counted in pennies as opposed to dollars. Our minimum wages are obscenely low, and I work with single mothers who have to work three jobs to make rent (cheap rent in Los Angeles is 855BP($1200US for a one room flat, if one can find it) making as little as 360BP($560US) per week.

    The American author,Mary Karr(The Liars Club) grew up working class in Texas, and her father once said that “A Republican(Our Conservatives) is a man who can’t enjoy a meal unless he knows someone else is going hungry”

    Seems apt. Great writing; thank you.

  55. I was briefly on benefits in the 1980s and it was bad enough then. I remember a TV documentary where a ToryMP took up the challenge to live on benefits for a week. I think most of your readers know that a week is much easier because you don’t have to worry about replacing things like shoes or shower gel. Anyway, but the middle of the week he gave up and went down the pub. And still went on voting to shit on the desperate.

    I try not to hate people but…

  56. Hits the spot on so many levels as always, when I first read what you wrote in the book, I burst into tears as I have been there before. Not out of the woods yet but in a far better position when myself and hubby were pretty desolate! (more than a few years ago now!) we now have two kids, sorted our debts out.

    Keep at it Jack!! You’re more than freakin’ loved in more ways than one!!

  57. THANK YOU for putting this down so eloquently. I teach in an affluent area in Kent and yet we still see children traipsing through who are unwashed, dangerously malnourished and in serious need of our help. Their parents are by no means negligent, they just cannot afford to survive. Something has to give, otherwise we’re all in serious trouble. Your comments on the price hikes of basics such as stock cubes and kidney beans was especially eye opening! I hadn’t given it much thought (don’t get me wrong, I’m struggling just as much as the next person, that isn’t my privilege talking…) but now that you’ve mentioned it, I’ve seen my weekly shop in a much harsher light!

  58. A fantastic piece of writing, and telling it exactly how it is. This is exactly why men marched from Jarrow in the 1930s – it’s why squeezing people into absolute poverty so the rich can get richer ends up with revolution and war.

  59. I Came across this on twitter. It’s one of the most powerful, well written rebuttals of the Conservative party’s draconian policies I’ve read. Why? Cos it’s honest, from a “real world” person, and from derived from experience not a research panel. You’ve got a new fan Jack and I’ll spread this the best I can.

  60. The worst thint is that it is all so pointless.
    Like many others who studied economics before the cancer of Thatcherite monetarism overran and pushed aside Keynesian theories, it’s clear to me that not only has austerity always failed but it is always doomed to because the adverse effect of deflation.
    That’s why every Labour government (even the pink Tory ones) has reduced the budger deficit and every Conservative government has made it worse.
    There is some hope. If a Corbyn-led Labour gets in, things could be turned around, though they’d get the blame for the economic fiasco of Brexit, whatever the outcome. So they probably won’t get the second term they’d need.

  61. Well I would have been angry at the implicit assumption that you were dysfunctional or indolent. Too many dick heads in high places, in the UK and here in Australia and especially in the mighty ol US of A. Keep fighting the good fight. x

  62. I have to confess that I was one of those middle class do-gooders who thought the simple answer to poverty was cooking cheap foods from scratch for many years until I started volunteering at a food bank. What an eye opener that was – it had never occurred to me that so many people simply didn’t have cooking facilities – that tinned potatoes were better than dried pasta because they could be eaten cold from the tin, that ring pull tins were preferable because the recipient may not even have a tin opener.
    I still cook from scratch, I love doing so and know that I spend a lot less than somebody who buys ready made food, but now I realise that is because I have the luxury of a well-stocked store cupboard, as well equipped kitchen and decades of experience – and appreciate that people living in poverty may well have none of those things.

    • It takes cojones to acknowledge that you were blind and thank you for saying it.

      I’s like to add one more thing; even if you have proper cooking facilities, you can’t necessarily use them. Sometimes you have the choice: cook or heat? In my case, with a ropey thyroid, hot food is what has to go by the wayside.

      Also, even without that, cooking isn’t as easy for everyone as some people find it. I can’t cook. My reasons? Let’s see:
      one, I am easily distracted due to my memory problems because severe depression destroys memory, focus and concentration. I have more than once almost set the house on fire by leaving the cooker on. I have burned more things than i can conveniently count. Basically, I don’t have the mental faculties to cook SAFELY.

      Two; I am too tired. Does that sound like an excuse? Doubtless, to those who have never been so tired after waking up and having a shower that they had to go back to bed for four hours. To such sceptics, I recommend Spoon Theory, as written by Christine Miserandino. My daily activity has a strict budget. Every task I do means something else I can’t and every time I go into my Spoon overdraft, I’m setting myself up for a minimum of three or four days paying back the interest.

      2a) Time. Cooking takes precious time that takes away from other things, partner/friends/kids time, sleep, your 4th job, lying in bed moaning pitifully because you have a migraine and want the world to end…

      Three: I don’t really want to eat. I look in the mirror and see a fat, dumpy, ugly middle-aged woman who doesn’t deserve to eat. Seeing that doesn’t make for prioritizing self-care; you can’t care for someone you don’t like and don’t want to be.

      Four: I cannot bear the sight or smell of raw meat; just the smell makes me feel physically sick. I avoid the kitchen when cooking is happening, even cringe if I open the fridge and see raw meat. That really doesn’t help if your goal is cooking ‘fresh’ or ‘real’ food. It restricts my efforts to packet foods before even considering the points above.

      I expect there are more but I am tired:
      https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

  63. Keep going jack!
    I share yours and many frugal recipes, and hope that as many people as possible are going to survive this govt and eternal cuts.
    Just letting you know that expat pensioners are rummaging in order to find those elusive ends to one day(?) make them meet.

  64. Hi, I’m a Cookery teacher in a couple of Primary Schools, one of which has children from low income families. I see first hand how difficult it is to feed a family decent nutritional tasty food. Thank you so much for your voice and words Jack Munroe – you say out loud what many of us know to be the truth!

  65. £10 a day is a ridiculously small amount of money and it’s not realistic to live off – especially not when children are in the house.
    Nothing worse than having to explain to a toddler why there’s no food in the house while raiding their piggy bank to get money for tea, all in the knowledge you wont be eating today, largely due to the extortionate cost of childcare

  66. This is probably going to get buried, but does anyone have any advice on how to get toddlers to eat beans/cheap pulses? We were doing okay when I got PIP but it’s just been up for renewal and I’m apparently going from the enhanced rate to nothing despite my disability not changing (going to appeal). We’re living on rice and beans a lot again but my almost 3 year old won’t eat the crucial protein. She’s smaller than all the others her age and I’m sure living off rice and cornflakes isn’t helping.

    • That’s tough. You could try sort of squashing the cooked beans/pulses into burgers/nugget shapes, maybe she will be more willing to eat them with her hands? Probably not ideal. Sorry, I know nothing about raising kids or living on a low budget. It breaks my heart that anyone should have to think about this. I hope she does start eating her beans.

    • What a nightmare 🙁 try as search with the ingredients on the recipe section, it should come up with a variety of ideas, otherwise maybe ask Jack for help via an email or maybe on twitter might take a while but I’m sure Jack will get back to you. BTW make sure you appeal! fightback4justice are damned good at appeals, just search them on google…..keep fighting xxx

    • I have no specific suggestion for beans (wish I knew a tip myself) but I found that talking to them and keeping them distracted from what they are eating works well. Also if you use haricot (or any similarly sized white) beans and they like baked beans just point out it’s the same beans. Also try reserving some and giving the choice if how many extra beans they eat?! My son won’t touch beans in a pasta sauce but will eat them straight or at the bottom of a baked potato. Good Luck.

    • If you have a blender will she eat it made as soup? In the past, I’m sure it’s Jack’s recipe on here somewhere, I’ve rinsed off sauce from baked beans to Mash up and make sandwich fillings with herbs I have in the garden. Hoping you may find something she will find acceptable.

      Been through the ridiculous PIP thing and got enhanced for care but not mobility. I don’t have the emotional wherewithal to appeal as I’m scared they will take away what I have and we need it.

      Xx

  67. How dare anyone judge another human being. In a world full of bullshit and negative buried heads in the sand, at the Grand age of 48 I have taken the stance to only be concerned with real people and their situations. It has taken age and a lot of hardship (I was homeless for 4 years) for my confidence and understanding nature to stop placating those that really have no idea what it is like to live in poverty. I am grateful to not be in that horrendous place now, but I am always aware that situations can change in the flip of a heartbeat. My anger has been replaced with kindness and the need to help others, which in turn makes me feel like I am giving back to a part of society that truly needs a bit of love. Like you, through hard work and a lot of sacrifice I have turned my life around – this doesn’t come without flippant judgemental comments from people who think that my current lifestyle came ‘handed on a plate’. I also find, that being female this too gives certain allowances for idiots of a particular party to be flippantly open with their bullshit comments. I praise all you have achieved, and are thankful for your creative gift in your work. And for the record, I use your recipes, not because I need to be frugal now, but because it’s good to be grounded in the kitchen where I once ate nothing for 4 days in a row. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  68. Brilliantly said. I always remember that whilst I think of use of food banks as a sign of how we have failed, the right wingers see it (though they may not admit it) as a sign of Cameron’s Big Society working. disgusting but true

  69. As a child who grew up in poverty can I just thank you for that wonderful heartfelt piece of writing Jack -I always give to the local foodbank as I well remember the feeling of hunger that dogged my childhood – the Tories need to try living in poverty for a while instead of glibly blaming parents. Keep up the good work and don’t let the bastards grind you down.

  70. Great writing. I have teared up in the pub. I too am living the nightmare and all you wrote was true.Keep strong.
    Paul

  71. This is beautiful and infuriating and sad and relatable and all sorts of adjectives my brain currently isn’t generating. I want to send it to my friends, but they already agree with everything you’re saying, so what I’d *really* like to do is make it required reading – or even better, required living – for people whose lives have never been touched by situations like this.

    But in the absence of the ability to do that, I’ll share it with my friends, and also congratulate you on “continuously coruscating commentary”, which is my favourite bit of alliteration this week.

    Thank you for your wonderful and important writing.

  72. Jack, thank you so much for writing this – please keep doing what you’re doing, you’re great. x

  73. Great writing, Jack. Great writing comes easy when we’re angry, but even so, this is well thought out, coherent and most of all, 100% accurate. We live in a time of vile excess for the rich and (often) selfish, who have contempt for the growing poor. I’ve been there, years ago, but I’ve never forgotten what it was like having to make the decision to spend my last 50p on some food or the bus fare to work (at least I had work!) Now I wouldn’t get anything for 50p. Conservative policies are geared to make the poor poorer and the rich richer, with their money-hiding havens and tax avoidance schemes. Monsters, all of them. Monsters in designer suits. Keep going, Jack. You’re an inspiration. And a bloody good writer.

  74. An MP did try living on benefits once for an ITV documentary, back in the 1984. A Tory MP, no less – living on the same benefits offered by his own party.

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDb4G8ZikHM&w=640&h=390]

    The MP in question, Matthew Parris, unsurprisingly ran out of money before the first week was over, and that was living frugally. It definitely seemed to change his mind.

    Unfortunately, he abandoned his career as an MP parliament soon after.

  75. Promise me you will run for parliament we need people like you driving the agenda. We need more people that get it. Thats the only way change will happen
    Great article well written!
    You illustrate well what many of my friends have had to go through.

    I hate this government I hope someone sanctions them.

  76. Thank you Jack. Thank you for standing to and shout at the buggers. Im a very small time blogger but youvecbeen my inspiration and I was inspired to write about the “apology” today…

  77. I know my mom worked hard to feed us as kids, but Rage is having to hide in a corner of the field during lunch so no kids saw you eating bread for lunch..day in and day out becasue bread and butter was all you had. Or your mother having to whip up pancakes(because flour, and egg and water) and you eating cold pancakes for lunch..day in and day out while your friends brought lunch they got from a fast food joint and complain that their parents didnt buy them the 50$ shoe they wanted.

    I still cringe when I go to the mall and buy myself something that costs 3$ as an adult because “can I afford this, do I deserve this?” I hate that feeling. Its a terrible one.

  78. Jack,
    This is a beautifully written piece of work, it actually moved me enough to comment about it. I understand how depression can affect your desire to put any effort into feeding yourself. I love to cook, especially Italian dishes, but when that dark fog descends it is all i can do to butter some bread, even turning it into toast is beyond me at those times.
    I am also a victim of the Tory “improvements” to the benefits system. At the ripe old age of 42 I suffered a massive heart attack, i lost 65% of the flow to my heart. I went through a quad bypass but sadly the surgery severed nerves which left me partially paralyzed on my left side. Since then (I am now 58) I have had 6 more heart attacks and suffered 2 aortic dissections. About 3 years ago the DWP decided to stop my ESA, I guess I am not disabled enough anymore. As you can imagine I am on a fairly tight budget and any time I can save on food I grasp at it. I have made copies of your recipies and will be using quite a few of them so thanks.
    As far as that post by the Bath Conservatives goes they also missed a huge point. Just because a mother CAN feed herself and her child for £10 a week (£16 now) doesn’t mean she should HAVE to! The level of benefits paid should at least be enough for a person, especially one with children, to retain some personal dignity.
    Keep doing what you’re doing, you are are a beacon of sanity in a world full of crap.

  79. So well written. I hear you. I live in Bath and already knew the Bath Conservatives are a mean, self serving lot, seemingly blind to the non-tourist side of the city but that tweet sinks them to whole new depths. Shocking.

  80. You wrote everything that I felt, but with less swearing. I mean, torys expect low incomer to eat dirt and rocks right? How selfish to want a liveable wage. How selfish is it to want access to fresh food at the local food bank.

    Food is nutrition. Access to healthy food is a privilege, but it should be a human right. If you don’t receive adequate amount of nutrition, there will be severe health consequences. Premature death. Stunted growth. My parents are shorter than me because they starved as kids.

    People who believes this have no compassion. They are surrounded in an echo chamber with their fellow upper middle class folks. Their lived realities are comfortable, warm, well-fed but have the audacity to be hateful against people that are disempowered and struggling. Indifference is cowardly, and your response was far from it.

    You and your work represent so much. I can’t even put this into words about how much this touched me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Despite being forced to write it from a place of anger and outrage; your words need to be shared with your followers.

  81. Hi Jack, what you do is real and useful and you do much on here and through your advocacy to provide practical help to other human beans (often using beans to be fair) I haven’t needed you recipe and budgeting work as I know how to cook and can make something out of nothing but I salute you and what you stand for. You describe the damage to your mental health and how it has taken its toll but- if love can help you heal or in anyway help you continue your work know that you are loved, respected and admired by people who you know you give a shit. Don’t waste your time on politics you are simply too good (and useful) for that meaningless, selfish life.

  82. This illustrates the truth of the statement that bad choices creates less poverty, than poverty causes bad choices. When you are in a pinch and up against the wall, you will do what you have to do to survive the next 24 or 48hrs; long term planning is supremely hard.
    Thank you, Jack, for speaking out against injustice. We need more people like you in this world.

  83. Dearest Jack, I found this blog post to be moving and disturbing in equal measure. I help out at a ‘waste cafe’ (pay what you like or indeed nothing) and I know that most of them come bring their toddlers to chow down and not be advised on what to do with harissa paste and a spud. They are hungry – but the way you described was far more brutal and heartbreaking than I could possibly imagine what it is to be beat down, piss poor. I wish that I could do more. Many thanks for your words x

  84. Bless you for telling it like it is.

    I have a novel idea: it should be a requirement for anyone elected to public office to first “serve” a couple of weeks on Jobseekers, with a mandatory away-from-home bedsit accommodation as part of the deal. And not the full 73.10 a week, either, just the amount the wise and generous Whitehall gnomes allow for food. Let them actually have a (very) small taste of what it’s all about before they’re allowed to take up their post. And another mandatory week or two every year they remain in office. Anyone caught cheating: immediate dismissal and a new election, and they’re barred for life from ever standing for election again.

    I think it would dissuade some of the worst of the Tory hawks from ever seeking election, and probably a few from Labour and the LibDems as well. It might even teach them a little humility… well, a girl can dream.

    Thank you again for speaking truth.

    • Might be a novel idea but it should be part of their employment as an MP, until real life education for all Mp’s is the norm the horrors we are experiencing will continue unabated

  85. I have recently been told by Universal Credit that because I was paid by my old job in 4 weeks, that I would not receive any money help. So they seem to now think a person can make £200 last 8 weeks, I had to ask for an advance on the money and even then I do not have money to pay for 4 weeks of food and for Gas and Electric for 4 weeks. They directed me to a food bank and said “The good news is I don’t have to come to job centre as often…” How is that even good news. I have just lost my job, clearly I don’t need the effort o them to get me back to work quickly.

    I face selling my procession because I asked for finical help to earlier and got a weeks pay calculated. I was also turned down for PIP, trust me this government wont give the poor and people in need anything.

  86. I am good at reading between the lines. This badly behaved vicar’s wife prayed for you when things went “pear shaped”. The world is full of folk that don’t understand and never will. However, the rest of us enjoy your honesty. Life is tough but you are clearly a survivor. Anger is usually justified and is very understandable . We all feel it if we are misunderstood or misrepresented. Keep up the good work.

  87. I’m not very good at words so I will keep it short other than being deeply moved by this passionate speech you said something very telling in this article about how people lived during the second world war with make do and mend and dig For Victory and grow your own food but that’s just it we were at war we are not at War now we are supposed to be living at peace time we are not supposed to be just surviving and living in a state of War.
    The poor in this country are living in a state of PTSD, they are having their bodies starved and their minds crippled.
    Starved into obedience, apathy & submission, policies designed to prevent revolt.
    how can people revolt and rise up without energy and with despair

  88. Hi, every time I read about your little boy being hungry after one weatabix I nearly cry! I have a two year old and just don’t know how you managed, your strength of character is amazing, and so are your books, I don’t even bother to put them away now!! Many thanks for the good recipes and for being the voice of reason about poverty.

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