Every little helps …

There is a learning curve with unemployment. I mean, who knew food shopping could be so complicated? I remember (fondly) wandering around supermarkets chucking anything I fancied into my basket … then binning the rotten produce or feeding stale bits to the birds. That lazy, self-indulgence can’t be maintained on £67.50 per week.

I’ve found frozen food is my friend. I’m not yet dirtying the lino in Iceland or Farmfoods (and I hope I never have to) but I’m purchasing, for example, store brand oven chips, safe in the knowledge they will last longer than real potatoes. Ok, so I could shop every day but it costs more because local shops are more expensive than supermarkets.

That’s another thing: I don’t support local businesses. I shop where it’s cheap. I shop where I can buy BOGOFs, reduced price and three-for-two, filling my cupboards and freezer with food. I buy tinned tomatoes, sardines, frozen vegetables and the occasional cream cake to keep me sane.

Luxury items are rare

Health concerns are out of the window. I used to think about five-a day. I considered where my meat and eggs came from. I used to buy organic. Now the idea of going to an organic supermarket and making an effort to purchase anything eco-friendly takes my breath away – especially when I see the prices.

As Which magazine recently reported, “nine in 10 people have noticed an increase in food prices over the last year, and a third told us they had already reduced their spending on groceries this year. People have also changed which foods they’re buying to cope with higher food prices, switching to cheaper brands, bigger ‘value’ packs and more supermarket own-brands.”

I, like many, treated food as an asset, a lifestyle choice but it is fundamental to human life and, as I now go without meals on a regular basis, I’m disgusted by my previous pretention when purchasing mushy peas. One’s attitude to food changes significantly when one has no cash to immediately buy a take-away, a bag of crisps, or when one can’t throw away vegetables and replace them easily. I have realised my own literal greed as a consumer.

The World Food Programme tells us that the global food price index produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reached a historic peak in February of this year – and that prices are still 36% above those of April of last year. As the cuts bite more people will have to chew over their income and wonder if they can afford mushy peas at 44p when supermarket brand is only 17p.

Thankfully cat food and biscuits are frequently on offer otherwise Chaplin might riot and  take the panel off the side of the bath – a little activity he does when feeling ignored. He also enjoys storebrand cat food, but would prefer Sheba of course.

We’re now waiting eagerly for our delivery so we can both have breakfast.

What I have spent: £50 on food, but I forgot cat biscuits and tea bags, two essential items in my house

What I intend to do: Complete about six jobs applications while eating peanut butter on toast

What else I intend to do: Visit Job Centre Plus for a “mandatory meeting” about what I am unsure

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