This year, I took part in the UK Money Bloggers #FoodBankAdvent Christmas campaign, which involved putting one item in a box every day for 25 days, to donate to our local food bank.
Taking part in #FoodBankAdvent reminded me yet again how incredibly lucky I am to afford to feed my family, when so many others can’t.
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What we put in our #FoodBankAdvent box
If you need ideas for non-perishable items to give to food banks, there’s a list of what’s in a typical food bank parcel here.
However, do check what you local food bank actually needs. They could have mountains of rice but be crying out for long-life milk, for example. Our local food bank, FIND, which stands for Families In Need, needed everything apart from baked beans, pasta and soup.They also asked for boxes of biscuits and chocolates for the Christmas food parcels.
As ever, I tried to make our money go further using offers, vouchers, cashback apps and freebies. However, although normally I focus on own-brand and value range products, I actually bought a lot more familiar brands for #FoodBankAdvent, as explained in this post.
Here’s what we put in our #FoodBankAdvent box:
Food to make meals with minimum cooking
- Batchelor’s Pasta ‘n’ Sauce Mac ‘n’ Cheese 108g. Normally: £1.15 Cost: 60p on offer (Recipe here for mega macaroni cheese if you fancy making your own)
- Princes Ham 200g Normally: £1.74 Cost: £1.15 on offer
- Fray Bentos Just Chicken pie 425g. Normally: £1.95 Cost: £1 on offer
- Princes Tuna Fillers Tuna, Mayo and Sweetcorn Normally: £1 Cost: free with voucher via Latest Free Stuff
- Dolmio Smooth Tomato Bolognese sauce Normally: £1.73 Cost: £1 on offer
- Ambrosia Rice Pudding 400g Normally: £1.04 Cost: 70p on offer
A few basics
- Yorkshire Tea Breaktime Brew x 40 tea bags Normally: £2 Cost: Free with £1 cashback and £1 referral credit from Shopmium, a cashback app. (Post about supermarket cashback apps here)
- Morrisons Semi-skimmed Long Life Milk 1 litre Cost: 88p
- Morrisons Cream Crackers 300g Cost: 40p
The children chose their favourite cereal, and added marmalade after a trip to see Paddington 2
- Shreddies 415g Normally: £2.06 Cost: £1 on offer
- Morrisons Savers Marmalade 454g Cost: 27p
Fruit is hard to fit into a tight budget
- Morrisons Long Life Orange Juice 1 litre Cost: £1
- Princes Pineapple Slices with juice 432g Normally: £1 Cost: 80p on offer
- Princes Peach Slices with juice 410g Normally: £1 Cost: 80p on offer
Toiletries, and men’s toiletries in particular, are really needed
- Wisdom toothbrush Cost: 49p
- Macleans Fresh mint toothpaste 100ml Normally: £1.20 Cost: £1 on offer
- Carex Anti Bacterial Hand Wash 250ml Normally: £1.80 Cost: £1 on offer
- Nivea for Men Roll On Anti Perspirant Normally: £2 Cost: £1.70 after cashback from CheckoutSmart
Baby supplies. Our food bank said they lack larger size nappies.
- Hipp Organic Vegetables with noodles and chicken 190g Normally: 99p Cost: free from Shopmium
- Pampers sensitive baby wipes x 50 Normally: £1.50 Cost: £1 on offer
- Dry Nites Pull ups Normally: £5.25 Cost: Unopened pack unearthed from the back of our cupboard
Pet food, as I figured people struggling to feed themselves would also have problems feeding their pets
- Winalot with chicken Cost: 65p
Christmas food, to add to the Christmas food parcels
- Morrisons Sage and Onion Stuffing Mix 170g Cost: 40p
- McVitie’s Victoria biscuits, 300g Normally: £4 Cost £2 on offer
- Cadbury’s Christmas selection box (5 bars, 1 bag 169g) Cost: £2
- Hotel Chocolat Tasting Club box of chocolates, 360g. Normally: £22.95 including postage. Cost: free (thanks to Hotel Chocolat, as explained in this post)
In total, the items I donated would normally cost more than £60.
By making the most of money saving measures, I only actually spent £19.84 – less than a third as much.
For American readers, this translates as spending $26.50 to buy items that would normally cost more than $80.
Donating to FIND
We collected items for #FoodBankAdvent during November, and delivered them to our local food bank, FIND in Ipswich, early in December, ready for distribution before Christmas.
Hopefully, our donation of non-perishable food, toiletries, baby products and treats will go a tiny way to making someone else’s Christmas a bit brighter.
But it was sobering to see the piles of tins and packets, and all the volunteers busy processing food. The trollies stacked high with Christmas parcels really brought home how many people are having a tough time right now.
FIND is set to deliver more than 1,000 Christmas parcels – and that’s just to people in and around Ipswich. Nationally, there must be hundreds of thousands of people going hungry this Christmas.
What next after #FoodBankAdvent?
December is the busiest month for food banks, as referrals soar. Sadly, food banks need support not just for Christmas but throughout the year.
If you want to support your local food bank in future, ideas include:
- Add items to the food bank collection boxes in supermarkets, when you’re doing your food shopping
Ask about a collection box
- If your local super market doesn’t have a food bank collection box, ask if they’d consider adding one!
- Donate money to your local food bank. Charities particularly appreciate regular donations, if you’re able to set up a standing order each month, however small. For example, FIND in Ipswich have details on how to donate here while the Trussell Trust, the largest network of food banks in the UK, have a donation page here.
Give your time
- Food banks rely on volunteers, so even if you can’t afford to donate food or money, you may still be able to help. Volunteers can help with sorting out donations, handing out food parcels or providing the skills to help with for example finances, logistics, websites and seeking support in the community. Google your local food bank or search the list of Trussell Trust food banks here.
Get your employer involved
- This could be as simple as putting a box in your office, to encourage your colleagues to add items for a food bank. But some companies have funds to give to charities, and might be willing to support their local food bank. For people near Ipswich, FIND has launched a campaign to raise £100,000 towards a new base, as they can’t stay in their current distribution centre. The FIND 50 Lifeline Appeal is hoping to find 50 companies, groups or individuals to raise £2,000 each.
Press for payroll giving
- Some employers offer payroll giving, making it easier for employees to donate to charity straight from their salary. Payroll giving is also easier for charities, as they get paid Gift Aid on top of the donations, without having to claim it separately. Gift Aid adds 25p to every £1 donated by UK taxpayers.
Take part in #FoodBankAdvent next year!
- We did a reverse advent calendar during November, popping an item in a box every day for 25 days, so it could be delivered to our local food bank early in December.
Now over to you. Did you do #FoodBankAdvent box? How would you suggest helping your local food bank in future? Do let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear!
I took part in #FoodBankAdvent as part of the UK Money Bloggers Christmas campaign. I’m also part of the Rockstar Directory of Personal Finance Blogs over in America. Check out the Rockstar Community Fund Page, to see how bloggers in the US and elsewhere are doing good in their communities. My #FoodBankAdvent donation to FIND is one small part of the total financial GOOD from Rockstar Community Fund’s Year-End Celebration.