Home African Caribbean The Poor don’t need to eat Poorly
Clive Caines CaribDirect

Clive Caines Cultural Contributor

Food commentary. In the time that I’ve been doing this article I’ve been acutely aware that income is a major factor in deciding what we eat. Unsuprisingly this situation has been greatly exacerbated by the current economic down-turn. In the UK over the last two years we’ve seen the rise and rise of the discount supermarket, much of this rise is driven by middle class shoppers seeking to reduce their shopping bills.

If Britain’s middle class feel the need to shop frugally then what of those below this class bracket. The Church Action and Oxfam report on poverty makes it quite clear that a significant number of people in the UK are struggling to feed themselves:  “Over 500,000 people are now reliant on food  aid (the use of food banks and receipt of food parcels) and this number is likely to escalate further over the coming months.

” The Church and Oxfam report was published in 2013 and a year later we see a rash of newspaper headlines confirming the increase on food aid reliance in the UK. The most worrying of these headlines was seen on The BBC News website, which made it clear that the UK had the type of food poverty problems associated with developing nations: ‘Food poverty: Experts issue malnutrition health warning.”

Given the global nature of the economic crisis it should come as no surprise that the situation in the UK is no different to other parts of the developed world. In America the numbers of food banks have risen from 200 in 1980 to a present day total of 40,000. Again the UK picture of the middle classes being affected by the need to feed themselves on a dwindling budget can be seen throughout America.

Understandably, given the range of Islands, it is much more difficult to get a clear idea of whether the food purchasing power of middle classes, let alone the working classes, has dwindled. It is easier to take a logical view that it is highly likely that the Caribbean has been deeply affected by the global economic crisis and that this has had an impact on food purchasing power for all classes.

Just to show that I’m not entirely basing my case on idle speculation I can point to two UK newspapers articles detailing just how the Caribbean has been effected by the global economic downturn: the Financial Times carried a feature entitled ‘Paradise lost’ and The Guardian carried an article entitled ‘We mustn’t abandon the Windward Islands’ Farmers.’

Photo courtesy httpwwwhizborguk

Photo courtesy http://www.hizb.org.uk

If you want to dig a little deeper to see globally how the economic downturn has over the past seven years affected our ability to feed ourselves then  I’d direct you to a number of reports: You can check out The World Bank website section on ‘The Food Crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean.’ Then there’s The Borgen Project’s explanation of the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) proposal for ending food poverty: ‘No Poverty in the Caribbean?, Possible says the FAO.’

There are many more reports available online but these will do for starters. I’d also say it would be worthwhile taking a look at the practices of major food producers and how this leads to higher food prices, currently in the UK there’s a news story about a well known food company charging its suppliers a retainer fee.

This sort of practice indicates that the major food companies have far too much power and therefore say so in what we eat.   I don’t want to get too side tracked by issues around food production and availability as what this feature has always been about is healthy food consumption. On that note I want to look at how you can eat well even though you’re on a restricted budget. Whether you have the pockets of a prince or a pauper there are some essential nutrients we all need. In this feature I want to look at ways of feeding yourself when you have very little money.

Before I start my video reviews I want to point out that there’ll be one change in the usual format: I will not feature any ingredient that is difficult to find as it is likely that you’ll have to pay a bit more for it. I also point out, as I always do, that you can certainly cut the cost of your food bill by cooking and eating at home. The ingredients to be featured in this article will be: whole grains, vegetables, beans, whole wheat bread, braising steak and whole chicken.

Jamaican Coco bread recipe

Jamaica Bread Home Made

Here’s a radical idea if you want to reduce the cost of eating bread, why not make it yourself. The time taken to make bread is easily offset if you, as most people do, buy 2 or 3 loaves a week, especially if you buy premium price loaves.

Once you’ve made your own bread you’ll realise that there’s a world of difference in taste than most of the loaves on sale especially at the low cost end.   I’ve chosen two videos to get you started, the first being a recipe for coconut bread, which may not be to everyone’s taste or suitable for your day to day needs. The second video is for the classic hardough bread, which is much nearer to what you’d recognise as a standard white loaf.   Now I’m not going to pretend that making bread is quick and easy, to be a really good bread maker you need to build your bread making experience through time and effort.

That said there are easy to follow instructions in both videos, the first from the Cook Like a Jamaican team and the second from Chef Ricardo; both video makers have been featured here before so you can put some trust in these productions.

Cooking Whole Grains

I’m cheating a little including this video in a Caribbean cookery feature as there’s nothing particular Caribbean about it. However given that it explains how to deal with the whole grain versions of many of the ingredients that feature in Caribbean I’m going to argue that it is perfectly valid, what’s more using these ingredients will save you money.

The cooking processes featured in this video are straight-forward but only explain how to cook the actual whole grain ingredient, if you want to add other foods to the ingredient then you’ll have to figure this out for yourself. If you’re really stuck for ideas on additional ingredients then you can do a lot worse then looking back on in our archive as they’ll be plenty on offer.

Caribbean Stewed Beef With Coconut Dumplings.

I don’t usually re-feature videos but this one is perfect for our money saving feature and what’s more features Chris from caribbeanpot.com. The fact that the video comes from Caribbeanpot means that we know that the method will be clearly explained, the production values will be reliable and the presentation style will be warm and friendly.

However you will have to put some time and effort into producing this dish as there are a number of ingredients to prepare and the cooking process is necessarily lengthy if you want the meat to be soft.  

Haitian Roast Chicken

If you really want to save money when buying chicken then buy the bird whole and cut it up yourself. If you think about it the cost of two chicken breast is often the same as buying the whole bird especially if you’re buying from a reliable butcher. This video offers an alternative for those of you whole don’t want to take on jointing a whole bird.

The video comes from the BBC’s Caribbean cookery made easy and features the ubiquitous Levi Roots, he of Reggae Reggea sauce fame, so what you have hear is a well produced video featuring a dish that is easy to put together.

Caribbean Black Beans Recipe

One sure fire way of eating well and eating cheaply is to eat vegan or vegetarian, generally vegatables and pulses are cheaper than meat.

If you want to be persuaded of the truth of that statement then try putting together the meal featured in this video. The video features a one pot cooking process that involves very little precutting of ingredients, which I’m sure is music to the ears if you don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen. I have to say that I absolutely love the presenters style, which is reminiscent of  Keith Floyd in that it mixing humour with a relaxed approached to food preparation.

Overall the production values are high so not only is it fronted by a great presenter it both looks and sounds good. As much as I love the presenter’s style I’d recommend that you don’t use canned black beans as featured here just cook them from scratch; yes this approach will take longer but I’m sure you’ll save money by bulk buying and you can gaurantee the quality of the ingredients.



We provide news and information for anyone interested in the Caribbean whether you’re UK based, European based or located in the Caribbean. New fresh ideas are always welcome with opportunities for bright writers.


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