All posts filed under: Essays

You Don’t Batch Cook When You’re Suicidal

Whenever food poverty, obesity, or food in general comes into the media spotlight, I adopt a mental brace position, awaiting the onslaught of tweets that come, a plague of clockwork cockroaches, wound up and scurrying every which way into the light. Some are clumsily well-intentioned, most are not, yet here they come with their hastily-Googled prices of spring greens and potatoes, crowing about how! cheap! vegetables! are! The latest was Annunziata Rees-Mogg, MEP and sister of that sentient haunted Victorian coat rack, Jacob Rees-Mogg, pointing out that raw potatoes were cheaper to buy than oven chips. A 21st Century Marie Antoinette moment, ‘Let Them Eat Spuds!’ but sputtered into the vacuous echo chamber of Twitter, rather than a foundling moment of a revolution. I know the price of a bag of potatoes, Annunziata. Having lived in grinding poverty and with its aching and unshiftable groggy hangover ever since, I know the price of potatoes at three different supermarkets through eight consecutive years. I know the price of potatoes that are fresh, frozen, loose, baking, bulk, …

Top 5 Tips For Eating Healthily On A Budget (and the limitations)

On Sunday, after the Government announced new measures to attempt to tackle the correlation between poverty and obesity, I found myself suddenly on the end of literally dozens of enquiries from journalists and reporters, asking me for a response to the news. I couldn’t get around to all of them; but wrote this for BBC News on the hidden complexities of attempting a one-size-fits-all strategy, and my top five tips for eating well on a low budget. There are many complex reasons why cooking and eating healthily on a low budget can present a challenge for people, and unless you have lived that life, some of them can be unimaginable. Some people have complex dietary needs, such as coeliac disease, IBS, lupus, or other illnesses that lead to digestive complications. Autoimmune diseases do not discriminate by salary; people who live in poverty do have to contend with them too. In other circumstances, people may lack cooking facilities, in houses of multiple occupancy, student halls, domestic abuse and homelessness shelters. They may have shoddy landlords renting …

The difference between poverty and poverty tourism? You’ll never live like common people.

Every now and again, a minor celebrity or institution will announce that they are ‘challenging themselves’ to ‘be poor for a day’ in order to raise awareness of the plight of people living in poverty in the UK. Sometimes this is done through charitable initiatives such as Live Below The Line, which I have done myself for several years running, fundraising for Oxfam and Street Child United. I use my own experiences of living in real food and fuel poverty, as a single mum on benefits, to cook and eat for £1 a day, and write about it extensively. It usually causes some degree of mental anguish, flashbacks, reliving of some of the worst periods of my life, and is not something that I enter into lightly. I have not done it for the last two years, to protect and preserve my own mental health. I am not sure if I will do it again. Compare this, then, to YouTube star Alfie Deyes, deciding to live on just one measly pound for a day, as …

Poverty lingers a septic wound, choleric, stenching, bursting rancid all over your Sunday best.

You jest at scars, that never felt a wound, I muttered to my phone screen as an avatar of a sneering man stared back, his grainy face positioned just to the left of his barbed jab about why a ‘bestselling author needs to be begging for tips on Twitter’. I bit my lip, shaking with suppressed anger. If he was surprised and outraged by it, it was nothing compared to how I was feeling. ‘Didn’t you get a hundred grand from Katie Hopkins?’ he continued below my tweet gently reminding my readers that I run a 500 recipe, ad-free, subscription-free website on an entirely voluntary basis and pointing them to my tip jar. Well, no I didn’t. I won a libel judgement that paid out a sum that didn’t cover the lost earnings for the 20 months the case had all-consumed me and most of my mental health and energy. I repaid the friends who had bailed out my rent in the periods I was unfit to work, bought a sofa in the sale, carpeted …

food bank image of woman holding tins

The Only Way Is Ethics?

Choosing a vegan diet is a privilege. ‘But some of the poorest diets in the world are vegan’, I hear you cry. And there, dear reader, does the distinction lie. A diet dictated by poverty is not a choice. A diet lacking in meat and dairy products for wont of the finances, resources and availability of them, is not the same as having access to these products and choosing not to use them.

My Ready Meal Is None Of Your 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 …

We need to talk about Diane Abbott. Now. (EXPLICIT CONTENT)

This is not a recipe. I wrote this as a series of tweets today and readers asked for it as a blog post, so here it is. Our politics may differ, so feel free to skip straight back to the recipes if that’s what you’re here for. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT DIANE ABBOTT. Right one of us political writer people needs to do this and it looks like it’s me. Grab a seat. I wanna talk about Diane. Diane was first elected as an MP in 1987, the year before I was born. She has been dedicated to serving the British public for longer than I have even been alive. Hold that thought. Understand it. Diane was the first black woman to have a seat in the House of Commons. She MADE HISTORY. Her father was welder, her mother a nurse. How many working class kids do we have in politics these days? None, really. Diane went to Cambridge University to study history. IN THE SEVENTIES. In 2017 only 15 black kids went to …

How To Shop On A Budget – from A Girl Called Jack

These are the handy hints in the front of my first cookbook, A Girl Called Jack and are as useful now as they were then – it’s advice I give readers all the time, old and new, so I thought it would be handy to pop it here too: WRITE A LIST AND STICK TO IT. It sounds obvious, but I only generally have two kinds of shopping experiences. Those where I walk into the store, list in hand, doggedly stick to it and come out with everything I need and no money wasted. And those where I run in in a hurry, flail about, grab things I don’t need, and berate myself all week for wasting money and forgetting certain essential items. The first few times may feel awful. Many a time, as a single mum on benefits that were suspended or delayed, with no spare money in my bank account and just a handful of change, I found myself standing in the freezer aisle staring at luxury ice cream. Picking up the posh coffee …

I can't even open my own front door.

This is an article that I wrote for the Guardian in December that I didn’t post on my blog, because I hadn’t done anything ‘political’ on here for so long that I didn’t want to scare people away. But I am who I am, and this is a very big part of who I am, so if you’re here for just the cheap recipes, then I make no apology for talking a little about why I started writing them in the first place. TRIGGER WARNINGS: Anxiety, trauma, mental health, PTSD, debt, poverty. My head in my hands, choking out words, tears rushing down hot, humiliated cheeks, I raised my head to look at the array of varying expressions looking back from the other side of the room; a Labour MP, two Conservative peers, and a Conservative MP looked back, a mixture of horror and sympathy as I publicly crashed and burned. Fear and humiliation and self-loathing leaping on me like a set of hyenas, as I sobbed: “I can’t even answer my telephone, any more. …

The 296 MPs who voted AGAINST investigating food banks use and UK hunger: THE LIST

Taken from Hansard, 18th December 2013. Adams, Nigel Afriyie, Adam Aldous, Peter Amess, Mr David Andrew, Stuart Bacon, Mr Richard Baker, Steve Baldry, rh Sir Tony Baldwin, Harriett Barker, rh Gregory Baron, Mr John Barwell, Gavin Bebb, Guto Beith, rh Sir Alan Benyon, Richard Beresford, Sir Paul Bingham, Andrew Blackman, Bob Blackwood, Nicola Blunt, Mr Crispin Bone, Mr Peter Bradley, Karen Brady, Mr Graham Brake, rh Tom Bray, Angie Brazier, Mr Julian Bridgen, Andrew Brine, Steve Brooke, Annette Browne, Mr Jeremy Bruce, Fiona Bruce, rh Sir Malcolm Buckland, Mr Robert Burley, Mr Aidan Burns, Conor Burns, rh Mr Simon Burstow, rh Paul Burt, Lorely Byles, Dan Cable, rh Vince Cairns, Alun Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair Carmichael, Neil Carswell, Mr Douglas Cash, Mr William Chishti, Rehman Chope, Mr Christopher Clappison, Mr James Clark, rh Greg Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Coffey, Dr Thérèse Collins, Damian Colvile, Oliver Cox, Mr Geoffrey Crabb, Stephen Crockart, Mike Crouch, Tracey Davies, David T. C. (Monmouth) Davies, Glyn Davies, Philip Davis, rh Mr David de Bois, Nick Djanogly, Mr Jonathan …

The Hunger Names: Handing in 130,000-signature petition to the Houses of Parliament (Daily Mirror coverage)

To read the full article, click here: The Hunger Names by Ros Wynne-Jones, Daily Mirror, Monday 9 December Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MxJackMonroe Facebook: www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack   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.

We need an inquiry into food banks: My column in today's Guardian.

Food banks are not new, nor news. Commenters on all sides are quick to point out that they first sprang up under the last Labour government, but the need for them has increased dramatically since the introduction of the bedroom tax in April, and harsh sanctions for benefit claimants. The latest figures from the Trussell Trust show that demand for food banks is still increasing. In George Osborne’s ‘war on welfare’, the only casualties are those at the very bottom. But this is not a war. It is an assault against the unarmed, a massacre of hope and dignity. Edwina Currie recently commented that she had “no sympathy” for food bank users, that they were just “rational” opportunists. I attempted to point out that food bank users had to be referred by a health visitor or social services or other agency for help, but she refused to hear it. Currie isn’t the only senior Conservative to perpetuate the myth that they are all just turning up to fill their boots with a few cans of …

"Calling your cuts a war, is an insult to my father, and to my brother, and the service they gave this country. This is not a war. It is a massacre." Conservative Party address, Jack Monroe.

The question we were asked to answer today, was “are food banks a sign of hope or failure?” I think we all know the answer to that – or at least we think we do. Here’s my story. You might think you know it already, but listen carefully. Here it is without any media spin, without any internet commenters, without any details carefully left out by left wing or right wing newspapers that don’t want to upset their readers. I’m a girl called Jack. I’m 25 years old, and I was unemployed for 18 months and claiming benefits. However, I had my first job at the age of 14 or 15, working as a waitress in a local restaurant owned by a family friend, earning myself some pocket money on a Saturday and Sunday. Before that, I had spent weekends at my grandfathers guest houses, folding sheets and making tea for a tenner in my back pocket. I have worked in retail, in coffee shops, and eventually, Essex Country Fire and Rescue Service. I left …

"The rain is just as wet, when you went to a grammar school. It soaks you to the skin, and your three year old, too." (TRIGGER WARNING)

I’d like to apologise to anyone I seem to have mortally offended with my apparent ‘conventional attractiveness’ and taste for middle eastern food. In an article published today on ‘Left Futures’, I am apparently ‘middle class’ for ‘not spending the afternoon drinking White Ace and copulating.’ I am often advised not to respond to criticism – and I rarely do, people are entitled to their opinion. But I do respond to outright lies and misrepresentation, because I’ll be damned if people can rewrite my life and I’ll just let it lie. In a potted bastardisation of my history, I have apparently ‘been judged lightly’ as a benefit claimant because, basically, i’m pretty and cook with chickpeas. (I’ll ignore the overlooked fact that I only claim child benefit these days, and crack on…) Really? Did you read the Sun comments section, the Guardian comments, the Daily Mail comments, the comments under the Hunger Hurts post on my blog? The tweets that flooded the Sky News feed telling me to ‘stop having children’ when I’ve got just …

"We need to stop just pulling people out of the river." – Jack Monroe in the Houses of Parliament, 3 June 2013

The full text from my speech in the Houses of Parliament, June 3rd 2013. This morning, small Boy had one of the last weetabix, mashed with a little water, and a glass of tap water to wash it down with. Where’s Mummy’s breakfast? He asks, all blue eyes and two year old concern. I tell him I’m not hungry, but the gnawing pains in my stomach call me a liar. But what else can you do? What else can you do – when you’ve turned off your heating? That was in November 2011, it went off at the mains and I parked furniture in front of it to forget that it was ever there, to alleviate the temptation to turn it on. What else can you do, when you’ve turned everything off at the wall sockets, when you become obsessive about unplugging things, down to the green LCD display on the oven, mockingly flashing away. You learn to go without things, you unscrew the light bulbs. You turn the hot water off and pretend the …