Don’t let this happen to you! A cautionary tale arising from poor volunteer management.

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Cooking with A Girl Called Jack – Chickpea and Chorizo Burgers

Continuing to try out some more of the recipes from one of my food heroes, A Girl Called Jack. Today these burgers worried me as I am not a big fan of chickpeas.

The haul from Aldi

I tweaked the recipe and whizzed the chickpeas, breadcrumbs, egg and the sliced spicy meats I had in a food processor, and added them to the onion, garlic and carrot I had fried in a pan. I managed to make 8  burgers, the current lodger, The Tax Man, came in and remarked how good they looked, so let him have one.

Chickpea and Chorizo Burgers cooking nicely

My shopping bill today, Chick peas, 39p from Aldi,  as I had all of the other ingredients in. I did buy some chorizo but then discovered we had so left over spicy sliced meat from when we made pizza on Saturday, I had some breadcrumbs in the freezer I had made from the last bits of bread that was a bit stale, and already had eggs and vegetable and the spices I needed.

Verdict?

Another A Girl Called Jack recipe success

Absolutely nom.

I will make a veggie version for my daughter and pop them in the freezer.

And my chickpea aversion? Mushed up they are lovely. I wonder if this could solve my hatred of red kidney beans? Mmmm.

You can find the recipe here.

Tweeting for good

A couple of weeks ago I heard that SIFA Fireside could no longer offer breakfasts to the homeless of Birmingham. They needed £10k a year to keep the service going, but due to cuts in funding they had to make the difficult decision to stop this service. At the coldest and wettest time of the year.

£10k is a lot of money to me. It isn’t to a Premier League footballer or a Banker of course whose bonus could fund SIFA for many years. And I got angry.

And I thought about what I could do. So I tweeted.

Tweeting can be good for you

I have read this book and I have hanging around on social media for a while and I know that as well as the trolling, flinging of insults and tweets about doggie do, Twitter can be used for good.

I was already following @buskingbobby whose Socks and Chocs initiative went off the scale this year when this film of him went viral. And yes, he uses Twitter for Good.

Busking Bobby and I had a chat via Twitter about various things I could do that may help to raise funds. I was pretty sure that there were big corporations out there that could sponsor them. Even if only 1 in 10 Brummies donated £1 each, SIFA would have enough money to carry on breakfasts.

I started following SIFA on Facebook and Twitter and asked them what I could do to help. I told everyone in my Social Media world about the work they do by sharing their tweets and posts.

I also tweeted @GreggstheBakers to ask them what they did with unsold yet safe to eat food that they bag up, suggesting they could use this to support charities like SIFA. They sent me a link to this policy outlining their partnership with Fareshare.

Dear Coral

Thank you for contacting Greggs.

I just wanted to let you know that I’ve forwarded your e-mail onto our Charity Team who deal with all charity requests that we receive. I’ve asked that they contact you directly about your request, so they should be in touch with you within the next three weeks.

Thanks again for getting in touch.

Remember to quote your call reference number: F1523470 in any
correspondence, as this will assist us in providing you with a
quick response.

Kind regards

Lauren McGettigan
Customer Care Team

I am still awaiting the follow up emaiI. I am hoping they have contacted SIFA direct as I suggested.

Yet I still felt I was not moving on in helping with the issue and I was getting a little frustrated.

Then two things happened this week. SIFA held a silent auction for a meal to two that had been donated by Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill. Just as it was about to close I put my bid in. And then got this.

Remember our silent auction on Friday? Well done @travellingcoral you had the winning bid! We hope you enjoy the meal at @mpw_birmingham!

It is my birthday and wedding anniversary next month, and guess where  I will be celebrating? And the food will taste even better knowing that my money is supporting SIFA, albeit in a very small way.

And last night SIFA were featured on BBC Midlands today. The Worcester Warriors Rugby Club had donated time and money to serve breakfasts there.  At once I dashed off a tweet.

Brilliant news for @Sifafireside on @bbcmtd as Worcs Rugby team are cooking brekkie one a week, come on more companies football teams!

It wasn’t much and I do not know how much difference it made, but it got retweeted by BBC Midlands today who have over 37000 followers.

Today I saw this:

  1. Thank you @WorcsWarriors for your campaign to help us get our breakfast service back! We are re-launching it next Monday! 🙂

  2. Thank you @wraggeandco charitable trust for helping us fund our breakfast service!

  3. Great news!Thanks to your support our breakfast service is coming back to #Birminghams #Homeless next week! #ThankYou pic.twitter.com/e8nYyT9AV3

    Embedded image permalink

And of course I retweeted.

I didn’t do much, but this much I know, I used Twitter for Good.

Not Buying It – food I don’t need

We seem to live in a very unbalanced world. We have food poverty side by side with obesity, a whole industry based on making us feel guilty if we choose full fat of anything and while some spend money on food in order to be thinner, the numbers of families dependent on food banks rises. I struggle to make sense of it.

this is what gets thrown away

this is what gets thrown away

And I see food waste every where. Supermarkets are possibly the biggest culprit of food waste. They encourage customers to buy more than they need with various offers, yet apparently one third of the bread we buy is thrown away! Food retailers need to really need to work out how they can support charities more effectively by donating unsold food and not throwing it into skips. I am already on the case on one chain of bakers who throw bags of bread away each day, to see if they can support SIFA fireside to provide breakfast for homeless people in Birmingham. And I am hoping that the recent case where charges were dropped against the men who raided a skip outside Iceland prompts them to work on a policy of working with charities.

surely some of this ccould be used by food charities such as Foodcycle?

surely some of this could be used by food charities such as Foodcycle?

I like food. I like cooking it and love eating it more. Sometimes I think this blog is more about food than travel. Yet faced with food waste by supermarkets and in the home, I am Not Buying It.

Of course I need food, I need to eat, but how many of us have food that we bought and never use or throw away ? I do, which is why I am not going to buy food I do not need.

One of my very first posts was written at Heathrow Airport for Blog Action Day 2011. I was in the food court, reflecting on how much some of have while others starve. You can read it here.

Food poverty is something that makes me really angry, and the past year or so there have been certain politicians who seem to be in denial that his is happening in a first world country. Ian Duncan Smith can, he told us live on £53 a week ‘if he had to’. I tried to and failed, and again I wrote about it here. In fact I banged on about it quite a bit so feel free to explore my blog to read more.

Then there is the annual Live Below the Line challenge. Five days with only £5 for food. Yes, I had a go at this too.  I would not compromise on nasty value sausages and plastic bread, choosing lentils and other cheaper and healthier ingredients, and some rather good Aldi sausages instead. I was spending slightly over the £1 allowed, but eating very well.

My food hero is A Girl Called Jack. I think she has done so much in the last twelve months to highlight the fact that many of us could end up on benefits and experience food poverty. More than that, she is jolly inventive with cheap food to provide nutritious meals for her and her son. Tinned potatoes and carrots are regularly used in this house now as they are cheaper than fresh. Add a tin of beans, some good sausages and an onion and you have a tasty supper. And the Creamy Salmon Pasta at 27p per portion is lovely. 

Another blog I followed avidly in 2013 was A Year Without Supermarkets. No supermarkets at all for a whole year with a budget of £50 per week to feed two adults and one toddler. And they did it. Indeed the average food bill was less than their budget.

So as part of the whole not buying it in 2014, I decided to really trim my food shopping. I have planned meals around what I had in the freezer, fridge and store cupboards and while I would love to say I have avoided supermarkets, I haven’t. But I will not give the big three (Orange one, Green one and Blue one) my money. They suck you in with the BOGOF deals and you end up buying thing you don’t need.

This month I have hosted a 20 year old French student who is studying English. Like most 20 year old men, he has a big appetite. Annoyingly he seems to be able to eat twice as much as I do and still stay slim as does my 21 year old son. The French student loves pasta and bananas. (only 29p a bag) and I seem to be buying a kilo of bananas a day. Thank goodness for my saviour of cheap food, Aldi. I have visited the open air food market in Birmingham a couple of times, and while it is undeniably cheap, I find by sticking to the Aldi Super Six, is more cost effective for me, as is buying the biggest bag of potatoes. The bargain bananas are 68p a kilo. 

Gateway pie

Gateway pie

So what have we eaten? Despite having those lentils and rice that are destined to haunt me (I know I have to use them) I have been experimenting with new recipes. The Hit and Run Tray Bake has become one of my favourite dinners to make as there is absolutely no faffing. To use up the potatoes I made a student favourite layering slices of potato, onion and bacon bits with a cheese sauce. Back in the 70’s the Gateway supermarket in Clifton had a deli counter where they had all the off cuts of bacon and cheese at silly prices so this was how this recipe got invented, I think. Because I had some spinich lurking in the fridge, that got added too. And I also made the Sweet Pea Fish Pie, another recipe from Jamie Oliver. All of these came to less than £1 per portion and the Gateway pie, as I call it, nearer 50p per person. We have had a roast turkey dinner, using up the half price crown of turkey I bought on Christmas Eve. That £55 has of course been supplemented by food I already had in. I am lucky, I have storecupboard staples and a freezer so that when I do see a bargain I can store it for another day.

Sweet Pea Fish Pie

Sweet Pea Fish Pie

I suppose what I am saying is that yes it is relatively easy to eat well on a small budget, if you have some basic cooking skills and live near a place where you can access cheap, good quality food. Not everyone does, of course and and not everyone can afford to buy in bulk which is often cheaper. That said, I have two elderly neighbours who buy the Aldi Super Six and split the packet and the cost. They can’t get through a big bag of carrots alone yet still want to save money. Excellent planning!

Planning  is the key to saving money on food, I list what I have in the house and cook around it buying only additional ingredients when necessary. I avoid the Big Three. If I go to the Green one I always end up being tempted to buy something I do not need. And this is how all this Not Buying It began.

Jamie and Jack

Aside

So today, everybody is talking about Jamie Oliver and his rant about poor people (did he really say that?) who choose big tellies and chips over mange tout from the market.

I hope his mom has phoned him and given him a proper telling off. He flunked school and if it wasn’t for the fact that he had parents owned a pub and gave him the opportunity and encouragement to follow a food career, he too could be one of those poor people living on a diet of Kyle instead of Kale.

I like Jamie, I really do, he put his head over the parapet and criticised school dinners, got the government to increase the spend on school meals. Turkey Twizzlers were revealed to be made of pink slime and his books improved my husbands cooking.

He is a bit gobby, he gets angry when children are passed burgers through school gates and I genuinely think he cares about the health and diet of young people. Fifteen gives young people employment training. What is not to like about Jamie?

It seems he has some right wing views about poor people that have upset a lot of us, poor or otherwise. Here’s the thing Jamie, not all ‘poor’ people have big tellies and eat chips. Some rich people do. People may be poor because they have a disability and can’t work. People may struggle because their partner died. Some are poor because they got into debt and got ripped off by loan sharks. What is shocking is that many of these loan sharks companies are legal, advertise on the big telly conveying the message is that Wonga will solve all their problems and Brighthouse has everything you need to have a lovely home. All at two zillion percent interest.

What I am certain of is that no one chooses to be poor. People with good jobs can lose their homes if they are made redundant. Three months away from homelessness. I have been there, have lain awake at night and wondered how I can keep my house, buy shoes for the children and have enough money for the prepayment electric meter. I was lucky as parents stepped in and helped us out financially. Not everyone has parents that can or will.

I am also lucky because I can cook. My grandmother had to feed an extended family on a very small budget and I guess by watching her I learned basic techniques. By the time we had cookery lessons at school, I was capable of making beans on toast, (a recent survey claimed that 1 in 10 are not) and I went to uni with a pressure cooker, a Kenwood Mixer and a recipe book. I ate well on a limited student budget and created Beef Daube in bedsit kitchens. I owe that to my mom, her complete inability to cook made learning to cook a matter of survival or else eat soggy cabbage the rest of my life.

I am lucky that I have travelled. It was travelling that changed my cooking. I wrote a post You Never forget your first Moussaka a while ago, as it was my first trip to Greece that really inspired me to experiment more with food. Since travelling in SE Asia I have cooked more with thai basil and lemongrass. I am lucky that I have a local grower that supplies me with these plants so I don’t have to pay silly Waitrose prices for them.

Jamie thinks we all need to go to our local market and buy fresh cheap ingredients. I don’t have a local market. It would cost me £4 in bus fare to go to the market in Birmingham. If I was living on a minimum wage I could not afford to do that. That is equivalent of buying a veg bag from Salop Drive Community Garden. A valuable community resource which  the council may pull funding on, a resource that not only gives people on limited incomes access to affordable healthy food, but also provides the opportunity for people with disabilities to learn gardening skills. A resource that is under threat due to budget cuts.

I can also buy from The Bearwood Pantry a food co op who buy direct from a farmer. Watch this short film to find out more about what they do. Then there is a couple of enterprising butchers who have recently started to sell loose vegetables since the fruit and veg shop shut down (yet punters still complain it is more expensive than Iceland) which I mentioned in The Tesco Footprint post.

Jamie really has no idea what it is like to struggle to bring up a family on a minimum wage, to not have access to a wide range of affordable ingredients and not have the skills to make a pasta sauce without opening a jar. I have ranted before about the Live Below the Line recipes and I would rather not eat a sausage at all than eat one from a value range, as they suggest, basing their meals around frozen veg, plastic bread and cheap sausages.

And yet, his accusing poor people of eating chips and cheese maybe career suicide combined with his affiliation with The Sun. The ad on my big telly promoting his budget cookery was patronising. With his flash diamante shoes and his cheeky chappy manner screaming ‘I am rich and I can show you benefit plebs how to cook with mange tout from your local markets’ made me want to chuck all his cookbooks in the bin. And The Sun, Jamie. Will you let your daughters flick through the pages to find your recipes? How will you explain Page Three to them? I would have admired you so much more if you had told them that you would not work with them while they still have Page Three. You cannot be motivated by the money, surely? You care about family values yet will encourage people to buy this publication for your recipes? Bring a paper into the home which objectifies women. How do you look your wife, your mom and your children in their eyes when they open The Sun and see tits?

Jamie is a millionaire, from a privileged background. He may have struggled at school and he has worked hard, but he doesn’t have a clue about what is like to manage on a limited budget, he doesn not know what it is like to be really hungry.

But Jack does.  A Girl Called Jack really knows what it is like to be broke and cold and hungry and is angry at how the smug rich think all ‘poor’ people choose a telly over mange tout. She uses easily available, cheap ingredients and transforms them into interesting affordable and nutritious meals. She got flak for using tinned potatoes (they are cheaper than fresh) and has accused of being a foodie snob for using chick peas. And, OMG, she used fish paste in a pasta dish. You would have thought the sky had fallen in. Yet she is adapting recipes from Nigel and Nigella and making them simple and affordable. She didn’t feed her son crisps and watch her big telly eating chips when she was unemployed and had less than £6 to feed herself and her child for a week and she doesn’t now she has got a job and a book deal. Because she knows that hunger hurts and her recipes and her campaigning is telling it like it really is.

Expect to see more ‘poor’ people in the country, Jamie, as the bedroom tax hits, as more jobs go in the public sector, as companies out source employee services to Romania. People get made redundant, clever, talented people are losing their jobs. They apply for 10 plus jobs a week get interviews weekly, and rejection letters daily.

We do not need Wonga, we need financial education in schools and more credit unions. A number of library services have blocked access to applying for loans on line and are providing information about managing money and information about credit unions. I just hope that these resources don’t close too.

We shouldn’t need food banks. We need access to affordable food, decent wages and people like Jack.

Despair has set in

To tell the truth I don’t know if the £53 figure bandied around is for one person or a family. After my last blog about this when I saw in black and white how much my weekly outgoings were just on what I consider essentials (including cable and internet) I got a bit down. When I saw what our income would be if we were dependent on benefits compared to this figure the truth hit home. And I got a bit depressed because if my husband lost his job tomorrow, we would have to make some drastic changes to our lifestyle. Add to this all the Margaret Thatcher stuff in the media and I was well and truly fighting off the Black Dog. I thought it wise therefore not to attempt to blog (although I did draft some random thoughts about sausages).

Because I was in a grump, I lost the shopping receipt for Wednesday.  I know I bought peppers and some Creme Fraiche and the bill was about £5. No idea what else was purchased (which illustrates how shopping can become a mindless activity and why tracking your spending is a useful if painful exercise). I made fajitas using these ingredients plus items from the freezer and store cupboard. I use a fajita kit which is the nearest we get to a ready meal in this house, yet once you add up the cost of the ingredients it comes to about £8 for feed three people, which is not cheap. This meal may be coming off the meal plan.

Thursday we had a French student arrive to stay with us for three months, who will be sharing some meals with us. This will inevitably add to my overall shopping bill. I am still not sure how to divide the costs, but as I like spreadsheets I may have a play at dividing food, overheads, luxuries and clothing, depending on how I feel of course. You can see that I need a distraction from other more important tasks. Like sorting 30 bags of clothing and filling in tax forms.

This was my Thursday shop:

Water 1.99
broccoli 0.79
oranges 1.49
grapefruit 0.29
tomatoes 1.29
mushrooms 0.85
leeks 0.89
sweetcorn 0.32
single cream 0.69
double cream 0.85
pork steaks 2.69
12.14

I had previously noted that we seemed to be lacking in fruit in our diet and the French Boy said he liked fruit for breakfast so this seemed to be a reason to ensure there was more fruit in the house. As it was his first meal with use I did go a bit overboard with the supper making pork chops with mushrooms and cream (the first thing Delia Smith taught me to cook) with some vegetables and used up some potatoes and onions in a Pan Haggerty recipe I got from The Bearwood Pantry. It was really lovely and there are plenty of leftovers for lunches. Seven meals (as I also used up two pork steaks from the freezer). Total for the ingredients was £8.26 which is £1.18 per portion. Not bad even if I say so myself, as it really was very tasty and seemed luxurious.

What has struck me is that the seemingly luxury meal cost a lot less than the supposedly cheap and cheerful option. A bit more work went into it, I am not sure that double cream is a healthy option for every day, yet no packet was opened in the making of this supper. That is a good thing, yes?

Live Below the Line

This week is the start of Live Below the Line week. People all over the world will be feeding themselves on the equivalent of what many families in extreme poverty have to live on every day.

For the people participating and raising money for charity, living on £1 a day is a choice they are making. and I wish them well and hope a lot of money is raised.

I hope they do not forget that for many it is not a choice but a reality. And while scouring the supermarket for the cheapest sausages they remember that they have the choice of pasta or rice and beans or spaghetti while for others there is no choice. It is rice, or rice. They don’t have the opportunity to see if pasta is cheaper in Tesco or Asda. And have never seen a tea bag.

So I am not participating, fully. I am going to track what I spend and am going to feed three adults on as little as possible. I am going back to an old favourite cook book published in 1987 called How to Feed Your Family For £5 a Day, by Bernadine Lawrence. Not for her plastic bargain bread at 47p or cheap frozen veg and a jar of pasta sauce. She advocates baking your own bread and cooking fresh, seasonable ingredients, providing healthy home cooked food.£5 book

My view is that at a time where more food banks are springing up to help more and more people who are having to choose to eat or heat, or believe that fast food is cheaper than shopping and cooking, the real issue in the UK is that so many people do not know how to cook. And I worry that this campaign is encouraging unhealthy eating by providing menus based around cheap sausages and plastic bread.

So I’m costing up my meals, cooking from scratch, using left overs, but I’m not taking part in the campaign.