A Fiver To Feed A Family Of Four (Properly)

It’s becoming a rarity for me to stick to the blog posts I have scheduled for the week.

Once again, today I was taken completely off track by something I saw over at Facebook. But can I find it? Alas no! When I do I will share it on my page.

There was a story about a mother who claimed she was too poor to eat properly. Overweight, she commented she cannot slim down as she ‘can’t afford a gym membership’.

I’m not sure that, generally, UK society truly knows real poverty. I cannot say for sure, as it’s impossible to know every persons circumstances.

But what I do know is that, historically, there was the possibility of literally starving to death in the UK.

Even those who were able to work, and earn a minimal amount of money, weren’t guaranteed that a decent meal would be served that evening, if at all.

As soon as I saw the Facebook post, I was reminded of a scene in North & South where a small boy tells the master, John Thornton, he hasn’t eaten, because although ‘Mary went to the butchers’ she didn’t bring anything back (‘nothing fit for a dog even if you’ve got money in your pocket’).

North & South is available on Netflix UK and also will be shown on Freeview Drama 19th October 2014

North & South is available on Netflix UK and also will be shown on Freeview Drama 19th October 2014

“I’ve got aquainted with a strange sort of chap…as I happened to be passing near his house one day…and saw such a miserable black frizzle of a dinner – a greasy cinder of meat” John Thornton (North & South Elizabeth Gaskell 1855)

The quote above is from the Elizabeth Gaskell’s book and depicts the same scene – the book and dramatization are quite different. But the message is the same.

My mother was a small child during WWII. Very often she gives thanks for how she was fed by her parents, but expresses regret that other children went hungry.

So, with all this in mind – I headed on out to our local butchers with a very crumpled £10 note.

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There’s always something fit for the dinner table at our butchers!

Returning with 2 very large chicken breasts, 2 leeks, 2 potatoes and a huge onion.

And £5 change.

A quick chop and dice…

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I loaded up my slow cooker. You can see it on my Instagram today (look right)

By dinner time we will have a hearty, frugal, simple, nutritious chicken and leek stew with plenty for the family, and most probably a leftover lunch for tomorrow.

(If you’ve seen North & South you’ll understand why I chose stew today – continuing a theme!)

The last time I cooked this up, two friends who came by said how great the house smelled!

Do you have any firm family favourites for a fiver? Please do share!

Don’t forget it’s open house here tomorrow, and I’ll be dishing up some leftover stew!

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Vee@VeesEasyVegan October 8, 2014, 8:22 pm

    Hi Jo. I just heard about this story and the mother who says she cannot lose weight because she is poor. A complex issue which requires careful analysis and discussion I think. Many people are quick to judge others so often and social media perpetuates this! Um OK so this is going to sound like a blog shameless plug but every recipe I have posted on Vee’s Easy Vegan since May when I started is not only easy, easy, easy and cheap, cheap, cheap. Beans, rice, lentils and so on cost nothing to buy and make. I worked in Canada as a social worker for 17 years in the poorest neighbourhood in the country where the available food is low in nutrition ( think bread every day which is donated) and variety. Making meals for cheap can be done! Anyway once again shameless plug but this week I posted a Green Lentil and Black Bean Soup recipe which costs $3 to make. http://www.veeseasyvegan.com/green-lentil-and-black-bean-soup/:
    The world is not vegan (sigh) but every once in a while if you try vegetarian or vegan you might find the cost is less prohibitive. Not everyone is going to go and stop eating meat but even a few nights a week might reduce food costs. Great post Jo!

    • Simply Being Mum October 8, 2014, 9:17 pm

      Thanks Vicki for this well considered and thought out comment ref my earlier post.

      Since writing today’s post I’ve thought about how I wrote it, and do wonder if my inspiration and motivation for the post was a little lost. This can happen when a post springs to mind and it hasn’t matured over a day or so. I’d intended on posting about sundried chicken! Very different.
      I never usually highlight an individual In this case the headlines grabbed me. Which of course they were meant to! I think in hindsight a general start to the post would have been better and more in-line with my thinking. I do not know the lady’s circumstances, and it would be naive of me to sum up her situation from a couple of attention-grabbing headlines.

      Really I should have called this post ‘Our Changing Perception of Poverty’ but that sounds rather highbrow or as though I’m handing a ‘paper’ in for assessment 😉

      My real thinking behind this post was to express how I feel that maybe we’ve changed our perception on what being poor really is. In certain parts of the world (and history) there is (and has been) true poverty.

      Poverty also, for me, can be a societal thing. We all know of times in history (and in some cases not so long ago) when even if you had money to pay for food, clothing, shelter (and all our basic needs) they weren’t accessible. That’s a different kind of poverty.

      We’re very lucky in the UK, and I know that’s a matter of opinion, but I’m sure today’s British society will not allow us to starve. You mention donated food. This has been increasing in the UK over the last couple of years. And exactly as you have pointed out good food can be made from basic ingredients. This may be where lack of education/skills in food preparation may be letting us down. Or in some cases lack of interest in preparing fresh food.

      As you have explained also good food can be served up at minimal cost. In fact vegetarian and vegan recipes are very frugal and nutritious – had this recipe today had beans and veggies substituted for the meat I could have retitled it ‘£1 To Feed A Family…’

      ((I was vegetarian for 6 weeks 2 years ago – there’s a post (or 2) about my endeavours! It is something I would like to try again and will be checking out your recipes because they always look fab!))

      Thank you for your thoughts, they have also prompted me to clarify in my mind (and now here) what my train of thought was. A whole new post in this comment alone!

      Don’t forget it’s an Open House here tomorrow if you’ve chance to pop by! Probably talk about chutney – much less taxing (and that’s vegetarian! not sure if vegan?).

  • Vee@VeesEasyVegan October 8, 2014, 8:22 pm

    Hi Jo. I just heard about this story and the mother who says she cannot lose weight because she is poor. A complex issue which requires careful analysis and discussion I think. Many people are quick to judge others so often and social media perpetuates this! Um OK so this is going to sound like a blog shameless plug but every recipe I have posted on Vee’s Easy Vegan since May when I started is not only easy, easy, easy and cheap, cheap, cheap. Beans, rice, lentils and so on cost nothing to buy and make. I worked in Canada as a social worker for 17 years in the poorest neighbourhood in the country where the available food is low in nutrition ( think bread every day which is donated) and variety. Making meals for cheap can be done! Anyway once again shameless plug but this week I posted a Green Lentil and Black Bean Soup recipe which costs $3 to make. http://www.veeseasyvegan.com/green-lentil-and-black-bean-soup/:
    The world is not vegan (sigh) but every once in a while if you try vegetarian or vegan you might find the cost is less prohibitive. Not everyone is going to go and stop eating meat but even a few nights a week might reduce food costs. Great post Jo!

    • Simply Being Mum October 8, 2014, 9:17 pm

      Thanks Vicki for this well considered and thought out comment ref my earlier post.

      Since writing today’s post I’ve thought about how I wrote it, and do wonder if my inspiration and motivation for the post was a little lost. This can happen when a post springs to mind and it hasn’t matured over a day or so. I’d intended on posting about sundried chicken! Very different.
      I never usually highlight an individual In this case the headlines grabbed me. Which of course they were meant to! I think in hindsight a general start to the post would have been better and more in-line with my thinking. I do not know the lady’s circumstances, and it would be naive of me to sum up her situation from a couple of attention-grabbing headlines.

      Really I should have called this post ‘Our Changing Perception of Poverty’ but that sounds rather highbrow or as though I’m handing a ‘paper’ in for assessment 😉

      My real thinking behind this post was to express how I feel that maybe we’ve changed our perception on what being poor really is. In certain parts of the world (and history) there is (and has been) true poverty.

      Poverty also, for me, can be a societal thing. We all know of times in history (and in some cases not so long ago) when even if you had money to pay for food, clothing, shelter (and all our basic needs) they weren’t accessible. That’s a different kind of poverty.

      We’re very lucky in the UK, and I know that’s a matter of opinion, but I’m sure today’s British society will not allow us to starve. You mention donated food. This has been increasing in the UK over the last couple of years. And exactly as you have pointed out good food can be made from basic ingredients. This may be where lack of education/skills in food preparation may be letting us down. Or in some cases lack of interest in preparing fresh food.

      As you have explained also good food can be served up at minimal cost. In fact vegetarian and vegan recipes are very frugal and nutritious – had this recipe today had beans and veggies substituted for the meat I could have retitled it ‘£1 To Feed A Family…’

      ((I was vegetarian for 6 weeks 2 years ago – there’s a post (or 2) about my endeavours! It is something I would like to try again and will be checking out your recipes because they always look fab!))

      Thank you for your thoughts, they have also prompted me to clarify in my mind (and now here) what my train of thought was. A whole new post in this comment alone!

      Don’t forget it’s an Open House here tomorrow if you’ve chance to pop by! Probably talk about chutney – much less taxing (and that’s vegetarian! not sure if vegan?).

  • swissrose October 9, 2014, 4:40 pm

    Hear hear. I do think education, or the lack of practical education, is a huge problem.
    I also think most people wouldn’t actually notice if we reduced meat meals to a couple of times a week, not even my meat-loving husband and daughter – they love many things I cook that are essentially veggie. So many kids (including my youngest daughter and BF, unfortunately) don’t stop to think about the price of food and take the easy way out by buying fast-food or from expensive small outlets to satisfy an immediate need, whereas they could easily go home and cook something simple, delicious and far cheaper… we’re on a teaching curve, here!!

  • swissrose October 9, 2014, 4:40 pm

    Hear hear. I do think education, or the lack of practical education, is a huge problem.
    I also think most people wouldn’t actually notice if we reduced meat meals to a couple of times a week, not even my meat-loving husband and daughter – they love many things I cook that are essentially veggie. So many kids (including my youngest daughter and BF, unfortunately) don’t stop to think about the price of food and take the easy way out by buying fast-food or from expensive small outlets to satisfy an immediate need, whereas they could easily go home and cook something simple, delicious and far cheaper… we’re on a teaching curve, here!!

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