Unplugged from food corporations
I’ve heard some alarming tales from friends who work with people trapped in poverty and debt. The worst cases, due to the tax and benefits nightmare orchestrated by successive governments, are all people working full-time. Usually, they are working so many hours that they find it difficult to make the best decisions about what to eat.
Understandably, when exhausted and broke, they feel the need for a treat. Doing your food shopping (fast food!) in this state of mind is not a good idea.
Very often, the worst enemy of such poor people is corporations. The food corporations, food ‘manufacturers’, marketers, advertising/media giants.
Our newly elected majority government in the UK claims to be aware of poverty and health problems, but is currently celebrating their responsibility to the people by trying to relax the ban on hunting foxes with packs of uncontrolled dogs.
Clearly, if we want things to improve, we’ll have to do it ourselves.
One of the difficulties with ‘general advice’ is that everyone’s circumstances are different. There is no ‘general case’. Probably the only factors shared by all are cash poverty and exhaustion. So let’s choose the worst imaginable case and see how it can be improved.
Very low income.
No cooker, just a microwave.
Trapped in a poor district of a city where all local stores only sell ‘convenience’ food (heavily subsidised, advertised; huge profit margin)
no private transport.
With a microwave cooker it is easy to cook a variety of quality meals, provided you have a microwave-friendly vessel with a LID. Typically pyrex.
The best bargain for your health and wallet is oats. It has soluble fibre and a useful amount of unsaturated fat. If you like muesli, add dried (or fresh) fruit, seeds and nuts. If you like porridge, it makes in about two minutes in the bowl.
The food industry likes to disguise small portions of ‘quality’ food in cheap, bulky packaging.
1. pork pies; which often contain more wheat flour, lard and water than pork.
2. pizza. This is little more than cheese on toast with an inflated price.
3. sandwiches. These are often near the checkout, with ‘chocolate’ and sugary treats. Just once, buy one and take it apart. Typically, the main constituent is 2 slices of cheap bread.
4. The worst example isn’t food at all. It’s an aluminium can of fizzy tap water with CO2, flavouring and sweetener. Currently the adverts for this confidence trick show overweight couch potatoes mysteriously transformed into manic teenagers leaping about to loud music as soon as they open the bottle. If you are a couch potato, be warned. It doesn’t work!
5 Fish and chips …
fish and/or fish fingers with chips (from frozen).
These cook well in a microwave on the plate, ready to eat. The fish (from frozen) might need an extra minute. If you have a freezer or freezer compartment in your fridge, then add peas for the vitamins.
Currently in my local supermarket 560 grams of frozen white fish fillets are £2.20 – containing typically 6 portions. The average chip shop has this amount of fish disguised as something huge with loads of cheap batter.
If you like batter, either make some or try the supermarkets own-label fish fingers. (£0.60 for ten).
Fish and fish fingers and chips and peas costs less than £1.
Frozen chips (96% potato, 4% sunflower oil) are NOT fattening unless you fry them in oil.
TEA /MAIN MEAL
Fresh carrots, greens (or frozen broccoli), peas, potato or rice, lean meat or fish. The variations are are endless. It takes about 10 minutes, though some meals taste better if microwaved slowly.
apple, banana, orange juice. These don’t advertise, and they are good bargains for health.
If you love chocolate, make your own from 100% cocoa with sweetener and/or dried fruit and nuts. Also use Carob as cocoa substitute.
Sugar is the enemy, not cocoa, though one can overdo it.
Most important of all: don’t watch adverts. Failing that, don’t believe them.
Don’t go shopping when you are hungry (either food hunger or emotional hunger). The displays are designed to take advantage of you.
Do take a shopping list.
If the corporations have taken control of your neighbourhood and you don’t have transport:
1. Search online for bulk buys (oats, wheat flour, etc.).
2. Talk to neighbours to develop a community solution: bulk buying, shared transport …
To assess/compare bargains, read the ingredients and the analysis. It is no coincidence that pies, pasties, cakes on display in ovens, blowing their aroma at you do not have such information on the packaging.
You will probably benefit from a list of meals that you discover work for you. It is very easy to forget after a hard day/week/month when you stagger into your home.
This is just an example of value for money and adequate nutrition. Food can be very interesting and varied without spending a fortune, and can become a pleasure rather than a chore.
No matter how hard it seems, you are not alone …
In many ways, the fact that supermarkets now how MULTIVITAMINS (all of them) in a daily tablet for about 1 penny, is a remarkable achievement of medicine and applied science … with one enormous proviso:
It is a huge mistake to have the full daily dose of vitamin A in each tablet, because it is hazardous to take more.
If you need such supplements, and a real health service would be able to routinely check, then one a week, twice a week, or best of all, tablets with a more cautious composition are a better solution.
Complementary to healthy food: