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Although in the midst of an “epidemic of nutritional poverty”[iv] we are being warned to live healthier lives or contribute to the costs of our healthcare.[v] By the time baby boomers reach their 70’s in 2020, the NHS budget will no longer be able to afford free medicine. The term “food poverty” seems but a convenient label with which politicians beat each other about the head. Choice is a meaningless concept unless it is an ‘informed choice’, and this is where it gets complicated.
Up to a few decades ago everyone knew, roughly, the price of a pint of milk, a loaf of bread or the cost of a pound of potatoes. If people are to choose healthier food, then their choices must be clear in terms of quality and price. During the course of my work as a nutritional therapist I encounter many people, health and social care professionals in particular, who tell me it is not possible to eat a healthy diet on a low income. The only caveat – and a crucial one – is that you need to be able to plan your shop and make time to cook the meals! Talking about food poverty shifts the blame on to the politicians, the economy and the squeezed consumer, away from major food retailers whose influence on our eating habits and spending decisions are undeniable. Brilliant thought piece, and an exercise id thought about doing….now I shall just direct people here! The yoghurt pot is a single electrical pot bought many years ago (have also used separate pots, but prefer this way). Folding the ready made yoghurt in for a very short time, without madly stirring it which will not help the mix to set, the lid goes on immediately. Once set (I peep into the pot before I decide it’s done), I take the pot out of the casing and leave to go completely cold. It works out at half the price of bought good yoghurts, is constantly on tap so to speak, and totally nutritious. Hi Kathleen, I really appreciate your positive comments and of course would be delighted for you to share the info as widely as you can. The message is clear: if we want to avoid a physical and mental health crisis as pensioners, we have to adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle. In the media, much is made of ‘food poverty’ and the issue often trivialised, for instance with demonstrations of how families are forced to swap branded for unbranded crisps – shock horror!
Rather than asking what we can do about nutritional poverty, we should be asking what we can do about the choices we make when hard up. One might as well talk about “Sky subscription poverty” if one can no longer afford Sky TV. You can make an informed choice about your Sky subscription, but you cannot easily make an informed choice about food.
Whether a particular food price represented good or bad value was an essentially simple task. Supermarkets do not make this easy although they themselves buy entire harvests well in advance and dictate their price terms.


Fed up arguing with them, I decided to have a go at testing out their theory by devising a menu plan with healthy recipes for a week (7 days) with food bought primarily from ASDA – simply because it is the closest supermarket to me. Please note: the costs provided are a snapshot of one particular supermarket on one particular day in December 2012 and then updated again in December 2014.
If, on the other hand, we start talking about poverty and discuss the genuine choices we can make about our food and how it influences our health, then the profits of Big Food might be affected. I haven’t measured anything for a long time, so you will need to play with this, but generally the same amount as a small yoghurt pot I guess.
When I first started making yoghurt, I used the airing cupboard, wrapping the glass pot up in towels, but I no longer have one, and rely on electricity to provide the warmth.
Whole milk makes a thicker yoghurt than semi-skimmed, so that is just personal choice, and I enjoy making it differently from time to time. The yoghurt starter is then gently added (for a first make you will need to buy one ready made, choosing a good bio yoghurt, natural of course). Any handy tips and ideas are greatly appreciated, the simpler and more economical, the better. At the end of a meal I put the leftovers into individually portioned zip lock bags in the freezer and then either take them to work for lunch or pull them out on those evenings when I really can’t be bothered and might otherwise reach for the fast food. All scraps can go either to feed the chooks (which essentially recycles your old food into eggs) or can go on the compost and be used to help grow more food.
Cutting out alcohol saves a ton, plus it deprives you b vitamins and magnesium and hurts your liver and it’s ability to detox. As you have a brilliant website as well (!) you will know how much work is involved with these things, and reader-feedback is crucial to keep the motivation going.
There is much hand-wringing and quoting of statistics in the press, presumably to reinforce the notion that nothing can be done, that we are helpless in the face of the fallout from current economic affairs.
A Sky subscription is simple to budget for – it is a fixed amount that rarely changes. Now it is difficult to work out how much an item per unit, per kg, per each, per pack actually costs. Now it depends entirely upon which supermarket you visit and on what day of the week you go. The results are interesting, confirming that it is indeed possible to eat healthily on a very limited budget. No doubt some of the ingredients can be exchanged for cheaper items, for example if you live near a food or farmer’s market.
I have incorporated leftovers as much as possible to keep costs down and reduce food waste.
The real question we should be asking is not what we can do about food poverty, but what sensible and informed choices we can make about food when money is tight. From time to time, I strengthen up the bio qualities with a little acidophilus powder, which I mix with the base yoghurt before adding to the tepid milk.


I’m planning to update the e-book article in the next few weeks, with up-to-date costs and some new recipes as well.
Another popular opinion frequently expressed in online commentaries is that an unhealthy diet is caused by ignorance and laziness, rather than poverty. Adding adjectives and qualifiers to compartmentalise the problem misstates the true underlying issues, subtly shifts responsibility for them and twists our thinking.
The deal is less clear with food as prices are never constant and can change dramatically without regard to supply costs, promotions obscuring the real costs and pricing trends. The price of food is a moving target, value has become impossible to judge and shopping has become an intellectual challenge unless you have a calculator, a photographic memory and endless time to read the small print under each item on the shelving. Really smart retailers try to prevent shoppers from getting an idea about the underlying value and price trends of food. My recipes are pretty basic and I make no claims they are suitable for everyone or indeed are everyone’s favourite dishes, but they can easily be adapted, for instance, to gluten- or dairy-free diets. Little portions of cooked rice and mashed potatoes also freeze really well, and taste better than if they were in the fridge.
Go for grass-fed offal if you want a meat product, it’s cheaper and healthier than the standard cuts. These views focus entirely on the consumer as either hapless victim, or lacking in education and self-discipline. Baked beans in my local supermarket, for instance, have seen prices double, then (almost) halve, within the space of a few weeks, with the price of many staple ingredients equally volatile. They can then be used as side dishes for leftover meats etc that you might get on another day.
If I don’t have enough money, I need to make a choice: should I keep my Sky subscription or should I spend more on decent food?
The meals are designed to be economical and to support individual health rather than the health of the balance sheets of junk food manufacturers. The ziplock bags are also great for fitting in the freezer, unlike boxes, they squish into any crevice, your freezer is never too full to get another one in. However, that will not solve the problem of retailers introducing deliberate fluctuations in food prices to confuse us, so we have no real understanding of the fair cost and are therefore unable to budget and plan easily from one week to the next.
Instead of eating that little bit more so as not to waste the food, I eat that little bit less so that I can have a whole portion to freeze. I also haunt reduced aisles and often get deals on salmon and mackerel – both good sources of omega etc.



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