Dear Jamie Oliver…

by Miss South on August 27, 2013

(Update: After writing this piece, Miss South shopped for, and made Jamie Oliver’s much-debated meal with mussels. tomatoes, pasta and of course, mange tout. Was it possible to buy the individual ingredients, and did it cost just 60p? Find out here.)

So tell me why I should listen to you on ‘Money Saving Meals’ when it’s clear that you don’t really understand poverty in the UK? Do you have any special knowledge that the 9 million households who will migrate onto Universal Credit don’t have about the day in day out grind of making ends meet? And why do we have to put up with being derided and criticised yet again? We’ve got the Department of Work and Pensions and the coalition government for that usually…

In this piece, you skirt very close to blaming poor people for just not trying hard enough. Now, I think I’ve covered this before here and I have no great urge to rehash the points (although I’m poor and I do know that a hash makes an inexpensive meal at least), but I’m staggered by your lack of responsibility here Jamie.

One of the biggest reasons we can’t all live the life of a Sicilian peasant with our handful of mussels and darling little pasta dishes is that our shopping options have been decimated by the supermarkets which now account for about 90% of food shopping in the UK. This would include the supermarket chain that you advertised for 10 years. And the other five or six that stock your ready made pasta sauces and branded foods.

This is a situation where supermarkets have filled the breach where people no longer got taught Home Economics or cookery at school by telling them cooking was really really hard and that life would be more simple if they just bought this pre prepared item. They branded and bagged everything we ate and turned it to profit over anything more profound. And you encouraged it by slapping your face and your name on everything from grow bags to magazines because it made you money.

Yes, you set up the Ministry of Food and you’ve made a career out of telling people to eat at home and showing them recipes for meals involving one pepper at a time, but have you ever noticed until now that the supermarkets only sell them a lot of the time in packs of three? That’s too much for one person and not enough for four. Supermarket chains don’t just sell your books, they sell the ingredients you need to use them and both you and they have been making money out of it. And that money isn’t trickling back to our rural economy that produces the food nor to our urban one where people lack genuine shopping choice.

Sure you can scour the aisles for the things that are still cheap, but only if you go to a particular branch and only that branch. There are 16 Tesco and Sainsbury’s within 1 mile of my house, mainly Locals and Expresses and not a single one stocks a decent range of Basics or Everyday Value. You might get bottle of fizzy water from those ranges but you won’t get pulses or bags of flour. The fruit and vegetables are pre packed and portioned. Even the main branches pick their produce carefully. Until last week, Brixton didn’t have a big Sainsbury’s so you had to go to the well heeled areas of Clapham or Dulwich instead. Those stores aren’t aimed at low income shoppers at all.

You are right that the market is. But mine closes half day on a Wednesday and is for someone like me with a fatiguing illness a major event to visit as I walk round carrying bags and lifting and carrying. The shops are small and neither wheel chair or buggy accessible. You have your hands full and no trolley so how you keep toddlers under control and pay for the shopping with just two hands I don’t know. There’s no parking nearby and you have to jostle on and off buses carrying bags. Young able bodied people can do it, but older or disabled ones might not be able to.

And that’s the elephant in the room isn’t it Mister Oliver? You haven’t thought about why people are poor. It’s quite rare that people are poor long term just because they don’t earn enough money. Usually its because there are no jobs at all or because you’ve had employment gaps due to having kids, caring roles for other relatives, periods in prison or an illness or disability. Being sick or disabled makes you around twice as likely to live in poverty than your able bodied counterpart no matter if everything is the same.

3.3 million people in the UK are entitled to Disability Living Allowance. This is a non means tested benefit paid to people in work and out of work who have a long term illness or disability to pay for the extra costs of their condition. Some of those people (I believe around 400,000) only receive the mobility component which means according to the Daily Mail they get a free car. In fact they get to lease a Motability vehicle to use, making up for the fact public transport isn’t suitable for them to use. The other 2.9 million get the care component as well because they need help with their daily care levels.

In order to qualify for any of the three levels of DLA you must need help to prepare a main meal for yourself. The same goes for the two levels of Attendance Allowance, which is the equivalent benefit for the over 65s, and 1.6 million people claim it. So that’s by my maths 4.5 million people in the UK who struggle to make a main meal regularly due to health, let alone time or costs. Many of these people will have carers who tend to them often while holding down jobs, dealing with their own health issues and raising children and you know what? They might not feel like making a two course meal every night after struggling through the day.

And we can’t ignore them. We cannot continue to say that poor people don’t try hard enough and just ignore 4.5 million people in the UK like all currents discussions of food poverty seem to do. Everyone’s so keen to tell the story of those dreadful povvos we know who have a massive flat screen TV and eat chips at every meal. We also can’t ignore the fact that you can’t actually buy a cathrode ray telly anywhere anymore or the dirty little secret that poor people often have massive TVs because HP firms like the Provident and Brighthouse only offer the biggest ones, and most people no matter how deserving don’t want to sit in silence for the year it’d take to save up.

But Jamie, you’ve probably never had problem getting credit with your fixed abode, photo ID, two utility bills (tricky with a prepay meter) and parents who could guarantor for you, so you’re not well versed in pay by week options, credit cards with 45% interest and Wonga loans. Many people have no other way to get a telly. And before you suggest they buy a nice board game instead to enrich their minds, remember that people without tellies won’t be able to keep the ratings up for your shows and then you’ll have to flog lots more Flavour Shakers and classes at Recipease.

And that’s the thing, if the middle classes want to spend their money on your books and branded goods then you revel in it. You haven’t returned to Rotherham to see how the Ministry of Food is getting on 5 or 6 years later and make a TV show about the people who did learn to cook despite the hurdles and pass it on to someone. You’ve been busy flogging reinvented pizzas and opening city restaurants where the bread board alone costs a fiver.

Where’s that social conscience you made your name off? The one that changed lives in Fifteen or Kidbrooke schools where you harnessed the power and promise of food in people’s lives and made it a force for good rather than a pressure? Where’s the understanding that welfare ‘reform’ and the squeeze on wages, but rise on utility bills are making it hard for people to afford to cook a cheap cut of meat?

When did you last talk to a poor person? Someone like me who has done it day in day out for 13 years and never had more than £20 a week for groceries in their adult life? Or someone totally unlike me who doesn’t know how to cook or where to start? Or the person who can’t afford heat, light, council tax, bedroom tax and hot food without juggling so hard they’re exhausted? I suggest you need to start talking to us again Jamie, and this time instead of allowing us to be pithy parables of modern British life in your TV shows, you need to start listening.

Then you might understand that those 7 out of 10 families very often don’t have real choices. They simply make the best decisions from an underwhelming selection of poor options and they don’t deserve to be judged by you while they’re doing it. The fact that the family who eat chips and cheese you find so offensive probably can’t afford the £26 your new economical cookbook costs in hardback makes me feel that your current interest in thrift is actually a money making scheme for you. We all have to make a living Jamie, but if you’re going to be a hypocrite, at least be a self aware one. You’ve stopped trying to help the situation, but are simply inflaming it.*

*Although you are giving me ample opportunity to crack open one of those cans of Special Brew that are seemingly mandatory if you’re on benefits and play the fastest game of ‘poor person bingo‘ possible, so that’s nice. I’m tempted to replace the TV with that when the nights get long again.

{ 85 comments… read them below or add one }

David Courtney August 27, 2013 at 10:15 pm

Hell I was homeless in London about 18 years ago. Just left my flat and never returned, although I still had the key. Did not bring my cashpoint with me. stupid I realise now. So I was in the Angel area of London. I was too proud to beg, so early in the morning I went about the meat district and picked up food that had been left to be picked up. I never took much from each place as I thought it was wrong. But I was hungry.
I washed in toilets, and was offered sex for money. I thank god that I never had to go there. I was close believe me. It is shameful that persons with mental health problems have to go so far, yet are not seen, they suffer under a blanket of we know best, and keep them quiet.

Gagarin-Ride August 28, 2013 at 3:02 am

Thank you for writing this out. I am not in the UK, but int he States, and we see the same kind of “stupid/mooching poor people” hooey all the time. Michelle Obama has likewise been a proponent of school gardens and organic foods – but the issues (prevalent especially in places like DC) of contaminated land or what to do before anything’s ripe (or before rats have got at it) goes unaddressed, of course – to say nothing of what to do if you have no access to land anyway (buying dirt, pots and seeds shows that there is no such thing as “dirt cheap”). There is an assumption on the part of Oliver/Obama and many others that the poor are poor by choice, that there’s always a way, etc. This is not so, and you have very eloquently addressed this.

OldGreyBeard August 28, 2013 at 8:57 am

What a pukkah spanner Jamie is being. He clearly doesn’t understand what it’s like to live on a tight budget. He’s wrong to say we don’t have a food culture in this country, we do. It’s called cheap food which is required due to low wages and the lack of access to land to grow your own.

The best books, blogs or programmes I’ve seen that are about budget eating are those that make the meals work together e.g. base several meals around a chicken.

If you read Jamie’s books, and I have several bought from Oxfam, they basically read like a restaurant menu. You pick the meal you want to make and then buy the ingredients. What they don’t do is teach you from first principles or help you acquire the skills to look at what you have or what’s cheap and work out what to make. They don’t even give guidance about how to scale a recipe up or down or even use ingredients so that there are no left overs.

It takes great deal of skill to live on a low budget which I don’t think is acknowledged. The odd thing is that these skills seem to have low social status which is perhaps why so many of us have been so willing not to bother with them and just buy the easiest stuff.

jessica Brown August 28, 2013 at 10:04 am

Here Here, Miss south. I like you was incensed when I read the thoughtless comments made by Mr Oliver this week. Yes some people on benefits do very well thank you, but a lot don’t and just about manage to scratch a living. I am not by a long shot considered wealthy, I would like to consider myself just about managing having to support five children three with disabilities. I can afford a free range chicken, but that would have to last a week. I cook from scratch and raid the bargain bins constantly. I bake my own bread. and buy treats from an online reduced priced slightly out of date food site. I am a support worker and a lunchtime supervisor. I see families in real poverty every week. They are not interested in TV they are interested in where there kids next meal is coming from. Why do you think there are so many food banks popping up everywhere/
I have an enormous 42″ flat screen TV. Purchased off Ebay for £70. I think Jamie needs to step of his high horse, put his money where his mouth is and live the life he is condemning before he can comment. Edited to add I use to like Jamie Oliver and often cook his recipes minus the organic free range -I-nus.

Miss South August 28, 2013 at 10:11 am

David: I hope things have improved for you. Homelessness is a dark place. And it’s put me off ever camping again after all those trips to shower in Victoria Station! I have noticed an increase in street homelessness in Brixton (where I live) and I suspect many have mental health problems since the borough has the highest rate in London. Community Mental Health Teams are being decimated so there is no follow up after Home Treatment Team stage. It’s terrifying and inhumane.

Miss South August 28, 2013 at 10:17 am

Gagarin: that’s definitely some stuff I wouldn’t have thought of about ripe food or land contamination, but I know all too well how pricey the grow your own herbs thing is. There are no garden centres in my borough and it’s £20 in a cab home with the soil needed as I don’t drive. Even the local compost share is beyond me as a non driver. I don’t know anyone who drives to help me out, so I know I’ll spend about £40 all in just to plant some herbs. If you can, do it, but stop offering it as a viable solution to widespread poverty. (And don’t not cost them into your recipes when you make that point…)

Miss South August 28, 2013 at 10:30 am

Hi Gray Beard! Good to see you! Superb points as usual. I’ve never cooked from Jamie’s books. I just remember the great ham hock swizzle of 2003 when everyone in Chelsea where I worked tried to buy ham hocks for dish of his that were seemingly cheap but became such social cache the price rivalled that of fillet steak in the end. I stuck to frozen spinach…

Loved your point about budget skills being sneered at. I do try not to boast about my skills with chicken prolonging but I do notice people are a bit sniffy about it and ask why you don’t buy breast fillets instead. I wonder if it’s because we’ve grown to see domestic as lesser?

Miss South August 28, 2013 at 10:50 am

Jessica: you know, I’m just not inclined to be nice about the fact Jamie Oliver has suggested people like you (or me) who don’t manage to cook are some how lazy and deficient. Maybe they do other things that are productive like knit or garden or read to their kids or pop and see an elderly neightbour? Why do people think pasta and tomatoes are more important than those things? Everyone has different needs and priorities and it doesn’t automatically mean all you do is watch TV.

Jamie oliver would explode if he met me. I cook everything from scratch and I’ve got two TVs which are on 18 hours a day. Of course that’s because in the digital age, it’s also a radio and I’m a Radio 4 obsessive. I also go to sleep with my old cathrode ray clunker on in the bedroom as it helps me. It’s also a godsend on the days I’m bedridden. It’s almost like you can’t tell that much by sweeping judgements.

jessica Brown August 28, 2013 at 10:59 am

Miss South, I just felt the need to let you know that I do cook. I cook all the time from scratch. I am rather fortunate that I do know have an allotment. So my veggies are not only organic but free.

Miss South August 28, 2013 at 11:06 am

Sorry Jessica, I did realise you meant you cooked. I meant that it’s perfectly ok if people don’t but I think I phrased it clumsily. Blame it on allotment envy clouding my judgement. I want a courgette glut of my own!

Becs @ Lay the table August 28, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Well written and though provoking Miss South. I know I am lucky that I can have choices about the food I eat where many cannot.

David Courtney August 28, 2013 at 12:58 pm

There are very many worthy comments on this site.
Yet I feel that we are all missing the point. Including me.
Yes Jamie when you have over £40 000 000 in your stocks, shares and restaurants, you would of course know about the problems beset by people on benefits. Whenever you open meat or cheese it has obviously been bought high end. Well you can afford it. Most people cannot. But your super ego has got the better of you. You have forgotten the common people, who might buy your books in the hope of creating a fantastic meal for friends or family. A meal that will cost an arm and a leg. Yet we always so want to impress.
The advert on television recently said a lot.
Was that supposed to endear you to us. with the price tags for your clobber. etc. That was made for us to believe that you are still a pucker chap who is there for the general population. Get real, you egotistical self obsessed piece of ……..
As for the mention of me being homeless
I now do talks once a month on mental health, I have just recently been asked to do talks at a university too. So I am moving on and developing..

OldGreyBeard August 28, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Aaagghh – The courgette glut…. I do have an allotment and quite a few courgettes. The good thing about gluts is that they have prompted me to learn about bottling fruits, making chutneys and so on.

A good part my kit for this comes from my mother whose house I recently cleared after she moved to a care home. A stock pot, a range of Kilner jars dating from pre WW2 to the 1990s and lots of bits & pieces.

Another thing I found were her houskeeping diaries from the mid fifties onwards where she detailed all the week’s menus, the costs and so on. Quite extraordinary.

I think I lack her skills in this area but I’m having to learn fast as our Tax Credits have gone down to almost nothing this year despite our situation not changing from last year. When I called the helpline they helpfully explained that “Tax credits were not designed to fund lifestyle choices”. I’m not sure what that was meant to mean. If I’d been quicker I’d have said that I was going to spend the afternoon on the sofa watching Sky supping white cider & smoking a fag instead of going back to work.

I don’t think an allotment will suit all but if you have any sort of garden or space to grow stuff its worth giving it a go.

I will probably watch Jamie Oliver’s programme as he is entertaining and I might pick up some ideas, just so long as he engages his brain a bit before speaking on why people are on a tight budget.

On the plus side it has triggered a public debate about the amount people have to live on and the effect of the economic depression on so many.

Miss South August 28, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Grey Beard: i’m just jealous because any time i’ve tried to grow courgettes, they’ve barely bloomed let alone fruited. I don’t think they pollinated enough in these beeless times.

Sorry to hear about Tax Credits not doing the thing they are meant to do and help! Maybe threaten to send them an enormous marrow if they don’t get their finger out?

Karin August 28, 2013 at 11:18 pm

And to cook JOs meals the kitchen equipment you need cost a small fortune……

John B August 29, 2013 at 11:07 am

Absolute bullsh@t. How on earth have you turned this into an attack on the poor? The comments were made relating to the fact that a large majority of the UK youth today seem to have difficulty working hard and can’t see past the ‘want it all now’ view. I would suspect that the overwhelming majority of business owners (not just restaurants or food-based) experience exactly the same. I know I do.

Miss South August 29, 2013 at 11:21 am

No John, the comments I’m replying to were about poor people watching telly and not cooking but eating chips and cheese. Different to the ones about the Brits being lazy and not wanting to work 100 hours a week. I did link to the one I’m referencing in the article and I’ve now got screen shots of the Radio Times article they came from if you’d like to see those to be clearer?

I’ve got opinions on the ones you mention, but I wouldn’t go there because it isn’t my field of knowledge at all.

John August 29, 2013 at 1:06 pm

I’ve been poor, I’ve been fired from jobs for no reason, I’ve often been in the situation of not knowing where the next paypacket will come from. I’m currently unemployed. I’ve also known long term illness.

Enough of the crap about blaming Jamie Oliver for not understanding what it is to be poor. He’s made a recipe book for people on a budget, not a bible on how everyone can work, eat and make money. He’s a chef, not an economist or a politician.

Jamie Oliver employs somewhere around 6000 people, and has opened restaurants staffed by young people who were unemployed and homeless. He’s just one person and he has made a difference. Just ask the staff at his “Fifteen”restaurants. Really, go on and ask.

The problem is that you appear to believe that Jamie Oliver should wear a fucking hairshirt and live in a dosshouse to care about what poverty is really like. Why? Because he needs to know what its like to feel unloved and degraded? Is it necessary?

The problem isn’t Jamie Oliver – the problem is that a lot of people on the breadline think that their problems aren’t appreciated by anyone else. But there is also a misconception that those who are making money and are living above that breadline are somehow making it worse by ignoring suffering. Crap. Total crap.

I have criticized Jamie Oliver in the past for making delicious food without regard to the practicalities of shopping or eating on a budget, and a few of his recipes have been ridiculous by their unnecessary extravagance (its not a dominant theme but its there – check out the “15 minutes meals” recipe for minestrone which has 25 ingredients!).

Jamie appears to have addressed those criticisms with this new book. It won’t end world poverty or malnutrition, nor cause the sick to rise from their beds – but maybe, just maybe, it encourages people to try things for themselves, eat better and face the world a bit stronger knowing that they aren’t reliant on pre-packed food or takeaways to eat reasonably well.

Miss South August 29, 2013 at 2:00 pm

John: how did you get a review copy of the book? I don’t know anyone else who has, so if you could give us a heads up or sneak peek at some of the recipes that would be brilliant, because maybe his rudeness and judgemental tone was misrepresented and I owe him an apology?

Also it is coming to attention that Jamie Oliver has been using zero hours contracts as standard and that he applied for Workfare for Fifteen in Cornwall rather than continue with his excellent training scheme. That’s rank hypocrisy and making people poor, then telling them they aren’t trying hard enough.

You want to make a point about poverty here? Totally fine. I’m presuming you don’t advertise the supermarkets that rip off producers, put local businesses out of work, push up rental prices and restrict choice? nor do you have the political power and public ability to start debate, offer genuine, non judgemental help, employ people on stable living wages, challenge the monopoly of supermarkets and the benefit changes helping drive this poverty? Jamie does and instead he’s decided to us the example of one woman he met years ago to tar 13 million low income households as lazy.

If he wants to help ” people to try things for themselves, eat better and face the world a bit stronger knowing that they aren’t reliant on pre-packed food or takeaways to eat reasonably well” then I will cheer him from the rooftops and ask how I can do my bit.

Kenny August 29, 2013 at 2:49 pm

John – I think the points you raise are what make Oliver’s recent comments so irritating. He HAS done some good work – on school meals, for example, he really did change the debate at the highest level – and that’s fantastic. The work he did on his show in the States was pretty impressive too. And Fifteen was a fantastic idea, demonstrating clearly that what poor people lack is not ambition or a work ethic, but simply opportunity. That’s why it’s so frustrating to hear him resort to pathetic, cheap, nasty stereotypes now. It would be like spending time talking about how to improve education in south central LA, having already done a power of good work there, then in an interview to discuss your next project, talk about how everything would be fine if the damn n*ggers weren’t genetically programmed to shoot each other. It just undoes all the other work he’s done because it’s someone whose opinion is trusted on these issues pandering to the worst Daily Mail-esque prejudices.

Miss South August 29, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Kenny: totally agree. I realise the reason I’m so annoyed about this is that I’m disappointed in him (god, I’m getting old saying that!) I thought he was better than all this and everytime I’ve talked about low income eating, I’ve referenced the Ministry of Food because I think it’s brilliant. I’d love him to revisit it minus the Daily Mail rhetoric.

Jacqui August 29, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Have you read what he said or a report of what he said? He said he found it hard to talk about how SOME people SEEMED to prioritise their spending. Buying large TVs rather than eating healthy meals for example. I’m sure we can all think of people who fall into that category. He has also donated a copy of his book to every library in the country. I’m not a huge fan of his but I shall watch his series, perhaps buy the book (which will be sold at a reduced price in most stores) and then judge.

Miss South August 29, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Jacqui: have you read it yourself because his exact words were “the poorest in Britain choose the most expensive way to feed their families”? He then went on to give the example of the woman with the big telly. I checked the Radio Times article as soon as it came out to be sure. For most people using these ways to feed their kids really isn’t a choice. There are estates near mine where there is no shop selling fresh fruit and veg without a bus journey each way and I live in London. How is that a choice?

And when are we going to criticise the middle class parents who give their kids Annabel Karmel ready meals, Munch Bunch yoghurts, Jamie Oliver tomato sauces and smoothies (which have more sugar than a a can of Coke and a higher GI load than high fructose corn syrup but cute bobble hats on the bottle) which are just the posh version of the sugary, salty and processed stuff people slam when the ghastly poors feed it to their kids. Unless we talk about both, it’s just classism to me.

Nash August 29, 2013 at 10:47 pm

Oh my gosh… what an insight! Well done for writing this article. It ties up some many many strings that we do not always have the time to link back… Wow! I hope this article take you to places you’ve never been before and your “parlé” will open many doors for you. You are very well spoken and I hope that you will be invited to write more about these subjects and other “poorbashing” ones. All the best for the future. Nash

Stuart Gardner September 1, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Well said Miss South

Stuart Gardner September 1, 2013 at 10:48 pm

I have been away from the internet for a few days…. looked at the new and the Miss South…. was shocked about jamie’s OPINIONs……….. let him get on with it…….the reason why I have not been on the internet is that i did not have the money to tup up the donngle. when you

You are right about the money lenders ….. Brighthouse…… but if you want a tv when you have no money what do you do. I am from Newcastle and you can have a tv with a slot machine …..put a quid in…. get tv …quid goes …… go to corner shop…..i do not need to elaborate.

So Mr Oliver the Essex boy from the streets…… well if he was as Geordie Cook…… he would not be able to come back to the TOON….. there are lots of people in Geordie land who can cook……..

I used to teach Philosophy at University but now I am unemployed and on the sick…. but I still buy a philosophy or theology book from my sick pay every fortnight….

Jamie is very welcome for a free lesson in philosophy or theology…… but I would charge him for a cooking lesson on a 30 pound hob.

Hope your health is well, take care.


KBeee September 8, 2013 at 6:12 pm

I love TV Chefs.. All those “Cheap but taste better cuts of meat..” Like lamb shanks that used to be 50p for 2, and now are £7…

Miss South September 9, 2013 at 10:30 am

KBeee: god yes, I wonder if things like brisket will go up now or simply become easier to find? Harumph…

KBeee September 9, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Having watched episode 2, I think we all got the wrong idea. It’s how to save money IF you are “working full time in the Meeeja” and spending £150 a week on food, then throwing half of it away! Chillies are free (cos you can grow your own from the seeds!!!), fuel costs don’t count (1.5 hours on a HIGH heat, then 4 or 5 hours at a LOW heat – for a £28 leg of pork). Herbs and spices and sauces are Free (come from that Magical Store Cupboard)… Cheap as Chips steamer (obviously hasn’t seen how much Chips cost these days)..
Just waiting for the “handful of saffron – that’s only 20p if you pick it up from your next Indian Ocean holiday…” bit
Strangely, I’m NOT living on a budget, but this is REALLY winding me up!

Miss South September 9, 2013 at 9:53 pm

KBeee: I thought bits of tonight’s show were much better than last week. The curry was excellent. I’d never thought of using the leaves off a cauli so even I learned something! But ugh to this whole free ‘grow your own’ stuff. The kind of people on a tight budget are more likely to live in flats without access to a garden or even a windowsill, plus soil, pots, seeds etc aren’t free! Your saffron comment made me laugh. I think you’re uncannily accurate…

tams September 20, 2013 at 10:02 am

I’ve only just discovered your blog (via The Guardian) and I love it!

My story: I loved cooking from scratch, shopping from farmers markets etc until I sustained an injury which has now developed into a chronic and debilitating long term condition.

Out: sourcing fresh food from markets, expensive fresh ingredients and (often) cooking from scratch. I can’t stand up long enough some days in the kitchen to cook and visits to the supermarket either don’t happen or are at best, deeply unpleasant. Thankfully, I can shop online but food is more expensive and you with fresh fruit and vegetables you get what you’re given.

Also out: 80% of my disposable income.

In: hideous convenience food which in my former life I would never have touched combined with budget supermarket staples of poor quality. On a good day I try to cook. My current diet is pretty monotonous. Yes, a packet of high sugar biscuits is a treat which (again) I would never have touched when I had the income and ability to eat well.

I once was quite a fan of Mr Oliver. He is now so far out of touch he can’t see daylight. Although I no longer live in Britain (I did so for several years), my own country demonises the poor and the income divide is deepening. The parallels with Britain are astounding (right down to the difficulties with Disability benefit which is almost impossible to qualify for). The most recent ripples of debate here involve increasing the level of GST (VAT). This will hit the poor the hardest, and is something not even mentioned.

Miss South September 20, 2013 at 10:11 am

Tams: so sorry to hear you’re in this boat. I just don’t think people who haven’t been short on money or energy can understand just how much effort feeding yourself at all requires. It’s exhausting and demoralising. I can’t promise to have the answers but hopefully I can allow people to read something enjoyable about food that they might be able to do. I’m getting really into slow cooker/crock pot cooking as the initial outlay pays for itself quite quickly in reducing electric costs and making cheap stuff like beans more interesting. Plus it’s cooking while you’re sitting or lying down! Got to love that!

paul moorhouse September 26, 2013 at 7:03 am

The point you make about DLA is very valid. However it is not factually correct that ALL recipients of DLA or ANY AA claimants are NECESSARILY unable to cook a meal for themselves. It is ONE of the two routes to claiming the lowest rate of the care component of DLA and entirely irrelevant to qualifying for AA. The DWP do provide figures for the number of people who qualify by the cooking test,
it will be much less than 4.5 million.

Miss South September 26, 2013 at 11:31 am

Paul: I’d be really interested to know how many people do qualify for low rate care at DLA without passing the main meal test. I can only think of cases where an under 16 migrated on a 2 year award to be reassessed at 18 and it wasn’t taken into consideration in that time. I’ve also never not had it considered for AA clients as it’s the easiest and fairest gauge of safety and need. Do you have the link for the DWP figures because I could not find anything up to date and not including over 65s who began claiming before then. I’d like to see how much less than 4.5 million it is, because my experience as an advisor is that the majority are assessed on this criteria which is why I mentioned it.

tams September 27, 2013 at 12:59 am

Lovely reply, Miss South!

I’m slowly modifying my recipes to reduce preparation time plus time spent over the stove etc. It still floors me how ignorant some people can be though. I love the way you educate Joe Public on the barriers to eating well.

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