Breadline Voices: 'The terror of empty cupboards keeps me awake at night'

An empty food cupboard

By Kathleen Kerridge, mother-of-four, Portsmouth

"I think it’s fair to say we have all found ourselves, over the past few months, staring in horror at the shelves in the supermarket, wondering how an already meagre budget is going to stretch further still, while frantically mentally calculating how far one 500g bag of fusilli can go.

"As I’ve watched prices inflate by five, then 10, now 15 to 20%, my panic levels have begun to rise. I have a fear of not being able to feed my family (again). Of having to go hungry, and go without (again). The thought of a looming recession has my anxiety levels at never before known heights.

"I've found myself asking the family less and less what they would like for dinner. It feels as though whatever they choose, I reply with 'Choose something cheaper'.

"It wouldn’t be an issue, if they weren’t already choosing reasonable foods. My kids do have the balls to ask for steak, but they know it ain’t gonna happen, so they stick to asking for Carbonaras, jacket potatoes, chicken and rice…that sort of thing.

"The trouble is, as I watch the price-per-kilo rise on everything, whilst my wages (and Hubster’s wages) stay static, it doesn’t matter how good at economics I am, I can’t make the math work.

"I don’t have enough coming in to be able to afford everything going out. Cutbacks are a year in the making, now. I’m lucky I don’t need to go to a formal office to do my job, because I don’t own work clothes (if anyone dies, right now, I’d have to borrow black trousers for a funeral).

"I don’t drive, so I’m spared the fuel hikes, but I can’t afford to buy a train ticket, or to get a bus past the city lines. I can only buy what I can carry home, and my shopping is limited to the places I can reach on foot.

"I’m at a loss to see how much more I can cut back, and still keep some semblance of the life I’ve worked so desperately to rebuild.

"I’m finding the terror of empty cupboards are enough to keep me awake at night. I tell myself, each payday, I’ve made it through another month, but then the relentless cycle of fear begins again, because I have to make it to the end of another month, then another, and another.

"I just want to be able to go to work, do my job, and have enough money to pay my rent and feed my family. I never thought, before this government, they were big asks.

"Now, as our standard of living, healthcare, education, and economic growth is falling to an all time low, feeding my family and paying rent are starting to seem like very lofty ideals indeed."

This is part of Breadline Voices, a series from The Food Foundation highlighting the realities faced by millions of families plunged into food and fuel poverty as food prices reach a 40-year high.

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