I live off peanut butter sandwiches to afford bills – I’ve lost so much weight my clothes hang off and I'm always hungry
LAURA March has never been one for luxuries and has always been careful when it comes to money.
But the 72-year-old has admitted she’s now skipping meals and surviving off cheese or peanut butter sandwiches for dinner due to the dramatic rise in the cost of living.
Last month we revealed shoppers face paying up to 60 per cent more for groceries as the economic crisis bites.
In the past year, prices for everyday groceries including fish, fruit, pasta and bread have leapt so dramatically that fights are breaking out in the aisles over discounted foods, and desperate families can’t even afford to cook their food because of soaring energy bills.
Speaking to The Sun, Laura, who lives in Canterbury and has six adult children aged 35 to 50, says she’s “really struggling”.
“I'm just on the basic pension and pension support. I’ve never been able to afford luxuries, I don't smoke or drink and consider myself quite sensible with my spending.
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“Before I could survive by being frugal, but now that’s becoming impossible.
“I always thought of breakfast as an important meal, but now I know I can’t afford three meals a day.
“I wait until late morning to have a single Weetabix with milk, which should tide me over to dinner.
“And whereas I used to cook meat and veg for my dinner, now I can only afford a sandwich, most often cheese and tomato, but sometimes peanut butter.”
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Laura is doing her best to stick to her £25 a week shopping budget, but as a result she’s eating – and enjoying – food much less.
She adds: “I’m really worried this might affect my health. I was hungry at first, but I’ve just had to get used to it.
“I never weigh myself, but one of my sons recently bought me a size 12 jacket which was loose on me, when normally I’m a size 14.
Laura, who is divorced and lives alone, didn’t think the rise in energy bills would affect her as much as it has.
She says: “I heard gas and electricity was going up, but I stupidly thought that because I don’t use that much, I’d be OK.
“How wrong I was. I pay as I go, as I find that the more affordable way to manage, but this month it appears to have doubled, from £10 a week to well over £20.
“I'm just glad that summer’s on its way to save on heating. As for when the winter comes, I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.”
One thing Laura has always wanted to be able to do is offer financial support to her family – but sadly she can no longer afford to.
She says: “I'm sure there are a lot of people far worse off than me. I know some families really struggle, so many people are in the same boat.”
This week it emerged the UK economy has fallen by 0.1% as fears mount that the country is heading for recession due to the crippling cost of living crisis.
Meanwhile the Bank of England warned that inflation could hit an eye-watering 10% within months.
And in a further blow to household finances, interest rates also went up to 1% – adding £612 a year to mortgages.
Boris Johnson said there will be “more support” to help families hit by crippling price rises, but warned an emergency cost of living Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that he will not keep writing cheques which saddle Britain with eye-watering debt.
WHAT HELP IS OUT THERE?
Welfare assistance scheme
Brits can apply for much-needed cash and vouchers for food, furniture, bills and more via the welfare assistance scheme – and you can get up to £1,000 in free cash.
It's something of a postcode lottery when it comes to what help they can get though as some councils are not as generous in offering help.
And others don't even have a scheme in place at all.
Council tax reduction
Many people paying council tax may not be aware that they can get their bill reduced.
Reductions are available for those on low-incomes, people claiming certain benefits, those caring for others as well as other circumstances.
The amount your bill is reduced by can range from 25% off to 100% which would mean you pay nothing at all for this bill.
You should get in touch with your local authority to apply for a discount.
Energy bill rebate
Later on in the year, households will get £200 off their energy bills.
The discount is applied automatically, but not until October.
But the money does have to be paid back – in the form of £40 added to annual bills over five years from next year.
This month though, plenty of households have already started seeing £150 land in their bank accounts thanks to the Council tax rebate that was part of the same support scheme.
Energy bill grants
If you can't wait until October to get the rebate help, then it might be worth contacting your supplier to access help from one of its grants.
British Gas customers for example, can apply for a £750 grant to help with their energy bills.
But the amount can vary according to your supplier and your circumstances.
Discretionary housing payment
If you’re struggling to pay rent, you could apply for a discretionary housing payment.
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It's given out on case by case basis though and how much you could get, depends on your personal circumstances.
You need to apply to your local council for the help.
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