Lifestyle: What £30 Can Buy & What To Donate to a Food Bank

These days, £30 can’t even buy you a dress from Topshop. It might buy you a pair of jeans. It won’t get you two MAC lipsticks. It CAN, however, virtually buy a whole shop for three families.

 photo 34ea6b8f-bd27-4073-8817-18f499057c93_zpsonfa49vj.jpgThink Money have been working alongside local food banks up and down the country to look at the reasons underlying the rising food poverty in the UK. They invited me to take part in the Food Bank Challenge and I jumped at the chance. On a student budget it is often difficult to find anything spare to support charities, even being on a paid internship money wasn’t exactly going spare in my pocket. This gave me the opportunity to support a cause I feel strongly about, beyond the odd donation of a can here or there. It also gave me a challenge – how much can I buy for £30. I was actually quite shocked at the results…

I pretty much immediately decided I wanted to try and get things in ‘threes’ – in other words buy three families worth of shopping. I did check with my local foodbank and they kindly said they were inundated with pasta and rice, but short on things to serve with them, along with toiletries. I also didn’t pick up any fresh produce as most food banks just ask for non-perishable goods.

In the end I had an overloaded trolley of bits and pieces, so full and heavy I was struggling to push it! I’d been roughly adding it up as I went round, but was doubting myself – no way could this amount of food come in at around £30. However I was proved wrong with the entire trolley-full coming in at £35.45.

 photo What to Donate to a Food Bank 1_zpsmtly5hgf.jpgI tried to pick things up in ‘meals’ as this made most sense to me. First up was breakfast, and I grabbed 3 lots of cereal, 3 cartons of UHT milk, 3 cartons of fruit juice and 3 packs of teabags. The Foodbank says a lot of donations tend to overlook breakfast and, whilst they are grateful for anything received, it can be hard knowing families are going without anything to eat before work or school.

 photo What to Donate to a Food Bank 3_zpshjblpoho.jpgLunch bits were where I became a bit stuck, but eventually went for crisps, crackers and biscuits, along with bottles of squash. Again, three of everything – I was lucky as both the crisps and the squash ending up being on a multi-buy offer the weekend I shopped!

Dinners were easier, and again I got three of everything. I think I’ve remembered just about everything but I picked up chopped tomatoes, cooking sauces (a range from curry to cheesy sauce – I was shocked at how much more expensive non-tomato products are!), stock cubes, gravy, soup, peas, carrots, potatoes, sweetcorn, kidney beans and even some fruit.

 photo What to Donate to a Food Bank 2_zpsuyecy2s4.jpgToiletries wise, budget was starting to stretch. I ended up getting only one lot of toilet roll, mainly as my local Sainsbury’s was out of their cheaper packs. I picked up shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and even some sanitary towels – something I totally take for granted as I can’t imagine not being able to afford these!

I took everything to the Putney branch of the Wandsworth Food Bank Network. The workers there were so grateful, a lovely woman who made me a cup of tea (I then felt gulity for drinking their tea!), and whilst we were there a father was signing up to receive some food. They were so touched we’d thought to go and check what they were short of beforehand, and it was clear our donations would make a real difference.

 photo What to Donate to a Food Bank 4_zpswpok7rbx.jpgAlongside this shop, I also took along a few bags worth of stationery and cleaning products. I find that I get sent a lot of stationery samples at this time of year and, whilst I am extremely grateful, I often find my drawers overflowing with pens and notepads. Likewise with cleaning products this year – I’ve been sent some lovely bits, but our flat comes equipped with bits like that (plus a cleaner). With limited space to transport things back I took the decision to donate some of it to the Food Bank – again they were so grateful. This particular branch run career sessions weekly, where they help with CVs and applications, so the stationery will come in so useful. It also made me think how integral food banks are to society – not just for the food element, but for the support they provide. My local one offers parenting sessions, toddler play-times, career help, and just a place to chat.

I’m so grateful to Think Money for giving me this opportunity to see how far £30 goes, I’ll definitely be thinking more about how I spend my money in the future! I love that I have been able to support a cause I feel strongly, and I know my donations will be enjoyed. I only wish I could do it more often!

Have you ever donated to a food bank? What items would you donate? Is there something I’ve donated that you wouldn’t have thought of?


  • Jennifer K

    I haven’t ever donated to a foodbank, but seeing how much you managed to get for around £30, I’m really thinking about maybe picking up a few bits for around £10 – money I could spend on 2 bottles of wine for myself, or a few meals for a family in need. I really like your tip about asking the foodbank what they need – I will find out where my nearest one is and see what I can do to help.

    Jennifer x

    Ginevrella | Lifestyle Blog

    • ninegrandstudent

      I definitely agree, it’s made me think twice about treating myself to Ben & Jerrys! x

  • Hannah

    I always try and add in a few luxuries if I can afford it. I have a very strong memory of a homeless woman talking to me about how crap it sometimes feels to always have to get the basics etc. Of course at the end of the day quantity is nearly always better (so please dont read this as a criticism – the bulk of what i buy for food banks is basics etc. ) but I try and add in some nice bars of chocolate or sauces. Its also good to consider the types of cooking equipment/background people come from. For instance buying canned goods which have pull lids, as not everyone has tin openers etc – also things that can be eaten cold and are high calorie in case someone can’t afford to turn the oven on. Also things like lentils, chickpeas etc.sure they have a high nutritional value but if you don’t know how to cook them/take a long time to prepare they aren’t always super helpful (but if you are donating to a refugee centre or in a highly Asian area then they are probably perfect!)

    I love the idea of thinking in meals – I definitely always forget breakfast! Also I would never have thought to bring stationary items so that’s a great shout.

    – Hannah from Trans-Atlantic Sisterhood

    • ninegrandstudent

      I do understand your point, but when the majority of things I buy for myself are basics I wouldn’t buy luxuries…though I certainly wouldn’t buy something I wouldn’t eat myself! I tried to pick tins with pull rings and things that would both heat in a pan or microwave – but it is tricky! x

  • Clare Purdy

    We do a collection at work every year around christmas for our local food bank (a box is put in reception and delivered to the food bank every week. It is so easy to just stick a couple of extra things in your shopping and add to it that way, i personally feel it should be done all year round.) just think how cheap things like porridge oats are and how long a bag will feed a family and its nothing really. Especially as more and more people are earning less than a living wage and being forced to use food banks!