Why it's unfair to say families are struggling because they can't cook...you can't cook with what you can't afford to buy - Christa Ackroyd

Last night I made soup for tea. Home made, because my husband decided what I really needed for Christmas was a soup maker. Not the most romantic of gifts but certainly one of the most useful. Or so he said.

I will give you the recipe if you like. Two potatoes, two large onions, a large bag of carrots, a leek, a tin of tomatoes, a stock cube and a dash of salt and pepper. Total cost for two with a slice of bread and butter about £1.70.

For lunch we had an omelette, six eggs between us, a knob of butter and a generous sprinkling of grated cheese. Served with a bit of left-over lettuce and tomato. Total cost about £2.20.

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Tomorrow I might make a cottage pie. Potatoes, mince, the last of the onions, a dash of dried herbs and served with frozen peas. I reckon it will cost a whopping £3. But then it is Sunday.

To suggest that families are struggling because they cannot budget and they cannot cook is just downright unfair, says Christa Ackroyd. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA

No need to worry, dear reader, this column is not about to turn into a weekly recipe book or proof of my prowess in the kitchen. And you absolutely know what’s coming next if you know me at all. The last thing I need to tell you is how to make a home-cooked meal. But then neither of us needs a Tory MP to tell us that either.

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Delia I am not, but I cook every day, just as every day I came home from school to a tea made from scratch by my mum. The recipes got cheaper as the week wore on, to account for the fact it was pay day on a Friday.

The Sunday joint was served cold the following day with chips and veg. The mould was cut off the cheese and over-ripe fruit was baked into a pie. Nothing was thrown away.

Even left-over pastry was made into a jam pasty, always a favourite. There was a biscuit tin of plainish biscuits. There was a cake tin of home-made buns and cakes. Both were only allowed after we had cleared our plates. And if we didn’t we were told there was nothing else. That was it. Like it or lump it.

Because we were not wasting good food when there were so many children starving in the world. You know the scenario. It was probably the same in your house.

Well, now there are children starving here. Never once did I feel poor, never once was I not full up at the end of a meal (and if I wasn’t I was told to get a slice of bread and butter). But I bet my last pound the only time I ate a meal costing 30p was then and not now, no matter how hard I try. Or how easy others tell us it is.

This week in the House of Commons Tory MP Lee Anderson said people in his constituency were being shown at a foodbank how to make a cheap and nutritious meal for 30p a head. And then went on to contradict himself by saying there was “not a massive use for food banks in this country”. Well if they can cook a meal for 30p there should be one on every street corner.

Thousands upon thousands of people are now turning to foodbanks in desperation. So who is an obviously out-of-touch MP to add shame to their already huge burden?

Well let me remind him of the constituency he purports to serve. Oh, and in case he doesn’t believe me, the figures I now quote come from none other than the House of Commons library, which I am pretty sure he has access to if he cares to look them up.

Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, Mr Anderson’s constituency, has ten areas deemed among the most deprived in the whole country, with 16 per cent of all areas considered to be “highly deprived”. What’s more, when it comes to education skills and training, it rates a lowly 63rd out of 533 constituencies and 111 for employment deprivation.

Unless Mr Anderson gets himself an education about the real world, I suggest he could be adding to the list of the unemployed at the next election. Oh, and those statistics are pre-pandemic, so I can only presume things have got worse, not better.

This week a survey by ITN showed that, unless the Government acts, one and a half million households will have more going out than they have coming in. And that is taking a toll on both the physical and the mental health of a huge percentage of the population.

I may be no economist but while I am at it I also fail to see how the Bank of England mortgage interest rates protect inflation, instead of merely adding to the burden of growing fuel and food costs and inflation, which is set to rise even further. A recession is just around the corner, we are told. So what are we playing at?

This week the State Opening of Parliament was a sad occasion. Sad because the Queen was too ill to attend and sad because it contained no real detail, no real hope of what the

Government is going to do to tackle the extreme poverty many people across many areas and all generations, from children to pensioners, find themselves in.

This Government’s answer is that long-term economic growth is the cure-all. And that is a lofty ambition. But what about the here and now? Over the past two years the Government moved mountains to tackle the Covid vaccination programme.

Over the past few months, since the invasion of Ukraine, we have been at the forefront of drumming up support and providing military hardware in their just cause.

Boris Johnson was this week in Finland and Sweden, two traditionally neutral countries, to sign a security pact that may lead to entry into Nato and send a clear message that we can and will play a part in European security, post-Brexit. These moves I applaud.

So why can’t we use the same strength and determination to tackle a growing poverty crisis in Britain?

Just a final word to Mr Anderson. To suggest that families are struggling because they can’t budget and they can’t cook is downright unfair and damaging.

You can’t budget what you don’t have and you can’t cook what you can’t afford to buy. And whatever you choose to eat, unless it’s a slice of jam and bread, it will still cost more than 30p.