Did anyone else see the BBC's "Great British Budget Menu" show last night? I found it fascinating - although quite frustrating too. Even more interesting was following the hashtag relating to it on Twitter, with opinions ranging from the proactive "more food and budget education would help these people sort things out" to the defeatest and infuriating "There's nothing that can be done, the government are to blame". Several things occurred to me:
1) Simply saying what the families/individuals they showed "had left" for food was pointless - without knowing what the rest of their budget was like, it was impossible to see whether this was an accurate picture or not.
2) Kids are expensive things - I bet I won't find a parent out there to disagree. If you choose to have 4 of them, you can assume that your household budget will be stretched accordingly.
3) If you have Sky TV, flashy mobile phones, designer clothes and the like, then that's your choice - please don't be telling the world that you "Only have XX to spend on food" afterwards though. (This is a general observation not based specifically on the programme)
4) A budget of £1.40 (I believe was the figure) per person for a family of 6 is not actually as low as it at first appears. Plenty of folk have proved that managing on £1 a day per person - or even less - is not only doable, but can be done in a nutritionally balanced way, too.
5) 2.5kg of sugar per week costs around £2.20 - for the same cost you could buy a bag of porridge oats and a bag of mixed dried fruit - which would give you the foundation of a couple of weeks healthy breakfasts. Oh, and you'd have 50p change too - you could buy some bananas with that.
I had a bit of a debate with a chap on Twitter over the whole thing. I tweeted that the £1 a day figure was doable, he replied asking if I'd done it myself, then. Now, as regular readers may remember, I have indeed coped with this sort of restrictive budget in the past - at one stage a few years back MrEH and I found ourselves with £10 a week for food for us and HRH the Cat, I responded to the chap - we'll call him "YB" accordingly. There was a short delay - I had a feeling that I may have gone "off script" and that was not the expected response. He sneeringly asked what recipes I'd use for that then....so I sent him the link to Weezl's excellent blog - but clearly that wasn't the "correct" response either as he responded without having had time to so much as look...now clearly this chap has a major politically driven chip on his shoulder, and it felt as though quite honestly he was only interacting to perpetuate his own view on things - regardless of evidence to the contrary he wasn't at all prepared to accept that there are alternatives to the "I'm skint so I'll eat rubbish" approach which those focused on were following, but I wonder what proportion of those watching were sharing his view.
It was suggested via Twitter last night that the concept for the show might make a decent series - another programme following people who ARE eating well balanced, healthy meals on tight budgets would be fascinating, and would show the other side of the coin. Get someone like Marguerite Patten involved - an expert on such things, and someone who truly still understands the art of proper "Home Economics" in it's baldest sense.
While the "poor us" mentality of YB and his like prevails, it becomes increasingly difficult to encourage change. Financial Education in schools as championed by Martin Lewis is a good start, as is encouraging people to accept what is actually "necessary" and what is "luxury". Basic budgeting skills, and a focus on teaching people who are struggling basic skills like careful shopping, and knowing how to stretch - for example a Chicken, to make more meals than most folk imagine possible, is another step forward. Our grandparents knew all this stuff - it was instinctive in most households 50 years ago to make the most of what you had and to not create waste - those skills are now being lost though, and it's up to those of us who know that there is a different path to try to stem that flow of loss. while folk are happy just to accept the myth of "it's cheaper to eat rubbish" though, the health of the nation will continue to get worse, and no amount of banning packed lunches in schools will help that!
**Apologies - no photos today!**