Heating or eating? What to do if you run out of money for food?

In our recent article Are you affected by the Universal Credit cut?, we looked at the impact of the recent removal of the temporary £20 a week Universal Credit uplift. 

Many families fear that the reduction in Universal Credit will result in some very difficult decisions this winter. Such as the choice between heating and eating.

In this article we look at three things you can do if you are running out of money for food. 

We will look at:

  • How to save money on food shopping;
  • How to get help from a food bank;
  • How to access the new government Household Support Fund.


How to save money on food shopping

If you still have some money available for food shopping, it’s really important to make the most of every penny. Our article How to save money on food shopping gave ten tips about how to do that. 

They are:

  • Plan ahead. Plan your shopping and only buy what you really need.
  • Shop around. Look at different supermarkets for the best deals on what you currently need.
  • Loyalty cards and vouchers. Points and vouchers can help you save money on your shopping.
  • Buy in bulk. Team up with family and friends to bulk buy essentials and get them cheaper.
  • Batch cook. Cook two lots of every meal and either freeze the spare one or swap it with a friend.
  • Shop online. This can help you to only buy what you need and not be tempted by impulse buys.
  • Find the best time for bargains. Every supermarket has a time when they mark down prices of stock approaching its sell by date. If you get wise to these times, you can really bag a bargain.
  • Serve smaller portions. If you make a large dish, it’s better to serve smaller portions to start with. People can have seconds if they want, but it avoids waste on people’s plates.
  • Use shopping apps. Many shopping apps can help you either to save money or receive cashback on your food shopping.
  • Use cash. Many people no longer use cash for anything, but it can still be a good way to ration your spending. If you allow yourself a certain amount of cash for your shop you won’t be able to overspend.

Check out our article for more details on any of the above.


How to get help from a food bank

If you are at the point of running out of money for food you may be able to get help from a food bank. 

There are three main ways to go about this:


  • How to get a referral to a food bank

Many food banks – such as those run by The Trussell Trust – need you to have a referral from a professional such as a GP, social worker, teacher or charity worker.

If you need help in organising this, a good place to start is by contacting Citizens Advice, either face to face, online or by phone on 0808 2082138. You can find more details on the Citizens Advice website. You will be able to discuss your situation in confidence with a trained adviser and, if needed, you will be given a food bank voucher to enable you to get an emergency food parcel.


  • How to find an independent food bank

You may also be able to visit an independent food bank without a referral if there are any in your area. Find out your nearest independent food bank by looking online to see if there are any independent local food banks near you


  • Community initiatives

There is also a growing network of community initiatives to provide informal help by sharing food with people in need in their community. 

One such initiative is community fridges. Community fridges are spaces where people and businesses can share surplus food. There are currently around 150 community fridges in the UK, co-ordinated by an organisation called Hubbub.

You can find out more about community fridges – and where your nearest community fridge is – on the Hubbub website here. 


How to access the new government Household Support Fund

At the same time as the £20 Universal Credit uplift was removed, the government announced the launch of a new Household Support Fund. This £500 million fund aims to give small grants to vulnerable households to help them pay for essential daily needs such as food, clothing and utilities. 

The Household Support Fund will be managed by local councils. So if you are in urgent need of support, contact your local council to request help from the Household Support Fund.


We hope that the information in this article helps you to find ways to keep food on the table for you and your family this winter.

For more lifestyle tips – and financial products such as unsecured loans – do visit us again here at Simple Fast Loans.