We can understand why people buy in a panic but it isn’t helpful when we all need to eat and keep clean. While you’re able to get around, pick up what you can, when you can. Start with the long-life stuff, (which is why people went crazy for dried pasta and tinned foods).
Shops are re-stocking constantly, so don’t despair. One idea is to look at booking a supermarket delivery online. They’re stretched at the moment so it can be as much as a week before they’re able to get supplies to us. Once booked, see how long we can keep adding to the shopping basket for. (Sainsbury’s, for example, allows shoppers to keep changing their order until 11pm the night before delivery.) At least we’re on their delivery schedule. It’s possible that a lot might be out of stock but be prepared to consider alternatives: No mince, buy meat that can easily be diced by hand. No cabbage or spinach, could sprouts make a change. Get creative or try some new recipes.
Checkout: our Corona-Finance top 5 tips for stretching a food budget.
Quids in! has produced a Top 5 Tips for stretching out a food budget (see it here).
Some of it works best if we’ve had time to prepare but there are always extra things to try. It’s mainly about planning ahead, even if we’re having to do that from a standing start and in a crisis. There shouldn’t be any need to panic, or panic buy, but everyone is finding their way through this the best they can. Keep an eye on local websites for people offering help. These could be official sources like the council or your landlord (if a housing association, society or charity) or neighbourhood groups like nextdoor.co.uk. On Facebook, do a search for your town or village as you may find local groups offering neighbourhood support, like food hubs or meal deliveries, are springing up close to you.
Depending on why your work has dried up, there could be different options. Firstly, look through the Frequently Asked Questions here to see if one describes the reason you aren’t getting paid. But if you’re in food crisis now, it’s time to find out help is available locally. Just until you get your finances sorted out.
Local churches, community centres and places like foodbanks are good places to see what help is available in your neighbourhood. Online networks like Nextdoor.co.uk also put neighbours in touch – someone might be looking for help, say, mowing a lawn and might pay a little for it too. Everyone knows we’re in this together – it is affecting everyone. Schools and even football clubs may be laying on some help. Ask around. Check out your local council’s website. And, if you’re renting from the council or a housing association, society or charity, contact them right away to see if they can help.
The latest news as of 23rd March is that schools will be able to provide meals/vouchers:
In many schools, free school meals will still be available, but this will not include the universal free school meals given out up to Y2. So those with children this age or below will need to check if they are eligible on their local council website.
Your kids’ school might well be aware of this challenge, so start by asking a friendly teacher there. (Some schools are trying to keep meals available even if they’re shut.) If not, hopefully they can point you towards somewhere that is supporting parents’ in your position. If money is so tight, you’re going to need to be as resourceful and creative as you can be.
Do a search online for ‘cheap meals for kids’, there will be recipes and videos with ideas and suggestions. Ask around to see how other parents are coping – maybe you could team up to share batch meals between you. There will be family support available at community centres and at the local council and if you’re renting from the council or a housing association, society or charity, they might well have help available.
You don’t need to start foraging or poaching but you may need to start asking for help. It’s worth doing a search on Facebook for local support that is springing up – type your town or village into the search bar. Look through the other food related questions here too, to see if they inspire you with some ideas.
Schools will be able to provide meals/vouchers:
You can grow ‘cut and come again’ salad leaves again in a matter of weeks. Even quicker and very nutritious is ‘sprouting’, for example, taking a bean and growing its shoots, eating it before it becomes a new plant. You can sprout beans, lentils and sprout alfalfa and broccoli seeds. Currently, you can buy the seeds online. You can grow these seeds in a bowl or a jar. For the jar method, all you need is a jar and some cloth to go over the top of the jar, soak the seeds for 12 hours and drain, then and rinse and drain few times a day until you have a jar of nutritious sprouts. Check youtube for videos for the method and this link for the benefits https://draxe.com/nutrition/alfalfa-sprouts/. If you grow any, please send us some photos of your harvest to help inspire others.
Have a browse on the internet. You might start with investing in different spices so a tomato sauce one night is Mexican, the next it’s Italian and the next its Indian. There are plenty of ideas out there, if you can get the kids involved working out what they could make from the tins and dried food.
There is a great recipe for chocolate brownies made with a tin of black beans and another made of sweet potato. It is an ideal time to teach the kids some cookery skills whilst they are off school and they may pick up some ideas on nutrition. Kids are resilient and often willing to see things from different perspectives if you can also make it fun and even better if you can make it tasty.
Try one of the apps that help you to cook with what you have, (see brit.co/recipe-apps-for-ingredients-you-already-have). Try supercook.com too where you check off the ingredients you already have and they’ll start you off with a lot of recipes. It then suggests more specific ingredients to give you more options. The suggestions are great because you probably have more ingredients than you thought and there are some great meals in your pantry just waiting to get out.
Check your local foodbank web page. Things are changing on a daily basis and some smaller foodbanks have closed to centralise to ones nearby and others have changed their opening hours, but something should still be available in your area.
To minimise contact some foodbank partners can issue a virtual voucher and send this to the foodbank by computer. Some foodbanks are making up parcels ready to collect to minimise contact time.
If you’re self-isolating you could arrange with the foodbank for someone else to collect the parcel for you or explain your situation and see if they are able to offer delivery.