Healthy food and a healthy bank balance: you can have both

StepChange Debt Charity
by Lovemoney Staff StepChange Debt Charity on 23 November 2012  |  Comments 5 comments

Many people battling debt turn to junk food in order to cut their grocery bill. But it is possible to have both a healthy fridge and healthy bank balance.

Healthy food and a healthy bank balance: you can have both

Have you ever had to make a decision between healthy food and junk food because of the price? Many families do each day, having to feed their children sub-par meals in order to pay bills and debts on time.

When we speak to adults with children – mums especially – they often tell us they will go without any food at all in order to feed their children. In a country like Britain, where even in these austere times we’re much more fortunate than other nations, this is something that should never happen.

The Guardian recently featured a couple from Bristol who found themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place when it came to buying food. Despite having young children, the cost of eating healthily meant they had to limit the amount they ate on a weekly basis.

We’d never expect anyone to sacrifice good food in order to pay their debts. If anything, we prioritise food above every other living cost. Sadly, many clients have already restricted their food budget to unsustainable levels by the time they contact us.

Food for thought

You may have noticed that the big weekly shop is steadily creeping up and up in price. Even the basics are getting more expensive, and there might not be much change from a £10 note when you buy some fruit.

Back in September, it was reported that the price of food has increased by 37% since 2007 - and could go up by another 40% over the next decade. Indeed, some reports have suggested the annual food bill for the average family will rise to £4,000 by 2022, from the £2,766 we spent in 2006.

There’s a way around this, even if you’re in debt. We asked our Facebook page followers – including those who are on a debt management plan with us - what their normal shop looks like, and the answers were surprisingly mixed, considering their tight budgets.

A good number of respondents said that eating healthily on the cheap is a doddle as long as you’re smart about it. Cooking vegetables in batches of stew and soup then tidying them away in the freezer can give your healthy diet a bit more longevity. One respondent said she halved her shopping bills this way.

What we hear

We talk to thousands of clients every day and it’s sad to report that some expect to survive on a few pounds a week for food because they want to pay their bills; some of our callers leave nothing in their budget whatsoever for food.

Obviously this is unsustainable and one of our jobs as debt advisors is to get them to refocus on providing for themselves and their families first. One of the ways we do this is by asking them this: as food affects your health, how can you go chip away at your debts if you’re home ill due to a lack of nutrients?

Paying off debt is a marathon

We understand that our clients want to be out of debt as quickly as possible but no one can fix their debt problems overnight. Slow and steady wins the race, after all. That makes it even more important to keep healthy and earn the money to get free of debt.

We never want to hear another parent tell us they’ve gone without food in order to feed their children. This is wrong on so many levels, and something that we as a charity refuse to let happen if we can help it.

If you’re throwing what should be food money at your debts every month you know that it can’t go on forever. Get in touch with us and we’ll work out a budget and a repayment plan to help you put your debts on a diet.

More on debt:

The dangers of multiple payday loans

Overdrafts: the debt problem you didn't realise you had

New laws mean credit card debt can affect your mortgage

Budgeting was easier when we were paid weekly

Why a 0% credit card could mean 100% trouble

Losing your job isn’t the only cause of middle age debt

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Comments (5)

  • cee100
    Love rating 0
    cee100 said

    I run the Get the Nation Healthy forever page on facebook. If there's one thing I've realised about food and cost is that you have to look at the bigger picture, fresh fruit and vegetables are what the body naturally craves, the more junk/processed food you consume the more you need because on a cellular level you are starving. It keeps trying to look for the vitamins and minerals in that cheap packet of biscuits instead of eating an apple that would sustain the body far better.

    What I'm trying to say here is in the long run, you will have a well fuelled body that takes care of itself, you won't need to be off work sick paying out money for prescriptions and medical insurance. You will have a better life long term, taking the processed food out of the equation and sticking to what your body should be having will help balance the budget and see the corporations sweating a little.

    Report on 23 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • rebeccajelley
    Love rating 0
    rebeccajelley said

    I manage to buy healthy food for my family by shopping in a number of different ways.

    Reduced items in the supermarket that can be frozen. Do your shop on line using money off your first shop vouchers (just get a family members to order for you )

    Fruit and veg I get on a market stool, I did this yesterday, large scoops of apples, bannanas , cherry tomatoes, mangos etc average 50p to £1.00 a scoop same with veg.

    Other items I shp in the 99p store. 4 pint carton of milk, lloyd grossman sauces , etcetc

    Report on 28 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Mike10613
    Love rating 632
    Mike10613 said

    The average food bill for a family will rise to £4,000 by 2022? Don't you mean 2012? That's just 3.65 a meal assuming they eat three meals a day. If they have 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, those are included in the 3.65. They're not on champagne and caviar are they? Society gives some people rewards they don't deserve just because they were lucky enough to be born in the right place and go to the right school and go to the right university. The winner of the X-Factor gets a record deal and millions and the rest fade into obscurity. Isn't it time opportunities and wealth were shared around a bit, so every child can get their 5 a day?

    Report on 28 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • JRAY100
    Love rating 67
    JRAY100 said

    I liked the line:

    Obviously this is unsustainable...


    very Freudian!

    There has to be no need to go without food: As a past master at surviving as impoverished student here are some tips - in latter years I use them myself to save rather than pay off debt:

    o 25kg spuds delivered by the milkman £9.50

    o Beans and lentils go a long way

    o Basmati rice is cheap in bulk - try ASDA or Asian shops

    o 5kg onions are as low as 99p at LIDL

    o 3 litre of cooking oil starts many dishes

    o Look for the reduced stickers on bread and fruit and veg

    o Apples lie rotting under trees - ask the owner nicely - some are free in verges

    o Blackberries are free in hedgerows

    o Grow your out runner beans and courgettes (OK in containers if there's no garden)

    o Ask whether meat/fish is about to go into the skip at meat counters - you can end up with topside at £2 per kilo!

    o If you let it be known that 1 second over a sell-by date doesn't worry you - people will offer you unused food rather than bin it!

    You need to have the will to survive!

    At the risk of making you shudder, you may help the local council's recyclng by extracting mis-sorted items from their banks - e.g.: in the tin cans 8 kg of UNOPENED pasta quills and penne appeared - why? - Heaven knows - Of course I kindly 'sorted' it for the local council!

    Post scriptum: we eat like lords for next-to-nothing!

    Report on 28 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • alexms
    Love rating 8
    alexms said

    I'm not quite this hungry - yet - but am definitely steadily upping the proportion of lentils in chilli, bulk-ordering 20kg bags of rice, lentils etc (through the local Asian supermarket, may even go to 50kgs..) and growing a few veg.

    There are some great beginners veg packs on nigels eco store website that would make great Christmas pressies. Or just stick an onion/garlic bulb in a pot of compost and see what happens...

    Report on 28 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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