Mmm…I’ve got food on my mind. Well, to be honest, I’ve usually got food on my mind. I like my grub. My waistline will testify to that. But I’m trying to think of ways to get the cost of our food down and possibly lose some weight too. And I think vegetables could be the way forward. My neighbour is coming round for lunch today with her little girl, so I thought I’d take Christine’s sensible advice from yesterday’s blog and make a vegetable broth and homemade wholemeal bread using our bread maker. Bread makers aren’t cheap, it’s true. Luckily we’ve had ours for a few years now. I bought an expensive one last year for my parents and they thought I’d gone mad. They kept asking me why on earth I’d bought them it and referring to it as ‘the tardis’. But surprisingly they’ve got into the swing of it now and use it every week. We rarely buy in bread now unless it’s an emergency.
I spent about £4.50 on veg from our local green grocers this morning for the broth –parsnips, leeks, potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes and a bag of celery – but have only used about a third of this, so there is still plenty left over for a casserole or more soups. So I guess the soup has cost about £1.50 or 50p per person. Cheaper than buying three tins of soup from the supermarket, which is what I often do for convenience, even though I much prefer my own homemade soup. This is a habit I need to knock on the head I think! If I planned my day better I could make the soup in the morning, as I did today, and then eat it at lunchtime.
Luckily, whatever our frugal aspirations, we can afford to eat well in our household, but one of the many things that shocked me about the Dispatches programme Heat or Eat the other night was its claim that many elderly people suffer from malnutrition. This is something which seems particularly appalling and Dickensian considering the sheer range of fruit and vegetables on sale in the supermarkets nowadays.
Apparently, according to research by Age Concern two years ago, the condition is five times more likely in people over the age of 80 than those under 50 and costs the NHS around £7.3bn each year. I wondered if this was due to budget constraints, so this morning I spoke to Anna Denny, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation about it and she told me that it wasn’t as simple as that.
“There are issues with the elderly and nutrition, but whether they are to do with budget depends on the individual case,” Anna explained. “Everyone is different. A 65 year old who’s just given up work will be different from an 80 year old. By no means are all people on the basic pension malnourished. There are different reasons for malnourishment – illness, loneliness, social exclusion, dental problems, arthritis (making shopping difficult), difficulties with preparing food and opening cans, getting to the shops etc.”
So often it’s actually pensioners’ physical or psychological problems that can prevent them from getting a decent meal, not necessarily their pocket. “Our requirement for food doesn’t change with age,” says Anna. “There’s still the concept of the balanced diet. Appetite does decrease with age and there maybe drug and food interactions. Some elderly people can stop absorbing vitamin B12 and may need injections, for example. But many tend to fill up on tea and biscuits. This gives them energy and they need energy but then they’re having too much saturated fat. It’s important that pensioners eat small portions of healthy food.” She recommends this link on the British Nutrition Foundation’s website to help with working out a balanced diet.
Do you find it easy to eat a balanced diet on a budget, or do you – like me – reach for the biscuits and crisps?