At the moment, money is a difficult point of conversation for a lot of us. The amount of stress within the Police Service is concerning, with some having missed meals and others giving money to colleagues to make sure they can eat.
It can be hard to think about, especially when you already have the day-to-day pressures of a highly demanding job to deal with. Nobody should have to worry about putting food on the table, but the unfortunate reality is that many people really are struggling right now.
For those facing financial challenges, there are some great initiatives around that many people are already using for support.
How the cost-of-living crisis is affecting the Police Family
Statistics from the Metfriendly Police Family Finance Index, an independent report assessing views on financial concerns, revealed serious worries in several areas related to affording food. Here are just a few of the most impactful results:
- Over a quarter of respondents aged 35 - 44 have gone without food in the last 12 months due to a lack of money
- More than 80% of those aged 25 - 54 expressed financial concerns
- Almost one in ten people aged 35 - 54, or a family member, have accessed a food bank in the last 12 months
These are just some of the responses from the broader Police Family, including Officers, Staff and their family members. Like many working people in the UK, pressure is mounting and for some, it can be overwhelming.
Members of the Police Service face a significant challenge as they need to be alert, focused and fit to perform their duties. You want to feel mentally and physically well enough to face the challenges of the job every time you start a shift, but it's hard to do that if you're struggling to afford food.
As the cost-of-living crisis continues and the winter months draw upon us, it’s important to know there is help available. Read on for some effective ways to help ensure you make the most of your money when buying food.
How to budget your money effectively
Taking inventory of your incoming and outgoing finances is fundamental to managing your money effectively. A budget planner can help you break down your expenditures into weekly, monthly and yearly segments.
Also consider the 50/30/20 approach to budgeting. It’s designed to help you think differently about your money and can help you to take control of your finances.
A great way to save money on your food shop is to head for the reduced section first to take advantage of any cheaper items that are close to their expiry date. Following that, frozen groceries will almost always be less expensive than their fresh counterparts. Buying meat and vegetables from the freezer can go the extra distance in making the most of your finances.
Additionally, it’s useful to plan your meals on a weekly basis. Knowing what items you’re going to need will support you when shopping to avoid any unnecessary purchases. But, if you decide to map out your meals, make sure to check what you’ve got first to reduce food waste.
Make use of food banks
Using a food bank is a great way to help stretch your food budget further for free.
If you need to use a food bank for meals, there is absolutely no shame in doing so. People from all walks of life experience hardships, but those who protect and serve their communities are perfectly entitled to be supported by them.
The Wiltshire Police Federation launched its own food bank scheme last year, which can be accessed by members of Wiltshire Police and their families. For help finding a food bank closer to you, visit your local council’s website or check with The Trussell Trust.
If you're in need of cheaper options to feed the family outside of food banks, take a look at the following resources.
Too Good To Go
Describing itself as an ‘anti-food waste app’, Too Good To Go shows you local shops, restaurants and cafes which have leftover food and drink, which will inevitably be discarded.
By signing up with Too Good To Go, you’ll be able to check out any businesses in your area that have food available at a heavily discounted price. You could get a whole roast dinner from as little as £3.29 and ‘magic bags’ ranging from £2 to £4 that would normally cost much more. Even Morrisons is partnered with the service, often providing groceries worth £10 for as little as £3.09 - so there are plenty of options available to you.
In an effort to combat the volume of food heading to a landfill the size of China, OLIO connects homes with each other and businesses in the neighbourhood to distribute surplus or unwanted food. It’s completely free and has partnered with companies like Tesco and Pret A Manger, sending volunteers to rescue food items that would otherwise be thrown out and list them at no cost.
OLIO has an app that you can download to get started. Once you’ve signed up, you might find there are a number of households nearby that are either looking for items you don’t need or are willing to give away food and drink.
Kitche is a free app that helps you reduce household food waste by organising the items you already have. You can fill up your inventory by simply scanning your shopping receipts and Kitche automatically sorts your groceries into categories. As your ‘at home’ list fills up, you’ll be shown thousands of recipes tailored to your ingredients. The app also provides tips to stretch your money when it comes to food spending.
Although times are challenging, there are sources of help and support out there. Make the most of any resources available to you and your family members. Make sure you’re taking advantage of initiatives like the Metfriendly Lifetime ISA, where you can get free money from the Government in the form of a 25% bonus on your savings.
Moreover, you need to fully understand your pay and any deductions from it. Use our 2022/23 Police Pay Scales Guide to stay informed about salaries at all ranks and pay points and our guide to the Police payslip.
If you’d like to talk to us about Metfriendly savings products including our Lifetime ISA, and explore the financial options available to you, give us a call on 01689 891454.