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Budget recipe binder: Posh beans on toast

calendar20 October 2016

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Budget recipe binder: Posh beans on toast

Preparation time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins
Serves: 4
Total cost: £2.24

4 medium potatoes, peeled (30p)
400g/14oz tin chopped tomatoes (30p)
400g/14oz tin haricot beans (35p)
400g/14oz cannellini beans (35p)
1 tbsp tomato puree (4p – 200g 40p)
2 white baton baguettes (90p)

Chop the potatoes into bite-sized pieces and cook in salted water for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, drain the haricot and cannellini beans and rinse in cold water. Add to the potatoes after 10 minutes.
Bring back to the boil and cook gently for the remaining five minutes, but try not to overcook the beans. Drain off the water.
Put the potatoes and beans back into the pan, add the chopped tomatoes and puree and heat gently, without letting it boil.
When hot, serve immediately with baguette slices toasted under the grill for a few minutes.
Season or add sauce to taste.

*Prices from Tesco, correct at time of publishing

The real Daniel Blake

calendar18 October 2016

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

The real Daniel Blake

I’m angry. It’s not a usual situation for me. I’m usually quite an upbeat person but perhaps, on this occasion, I need to be like this.

Yesterday, as the release date approached for the gritty docu-film I, Daniel Blake, I asked our frontline staff at CAP if we had a case study like his.

Had anyone, I asked naively, had any recent contact with anyone like the character in the film?

Daniel Blake, I should explain, is a widower who has had a major heart attack and his GP says he’s not fit to work but the Job Centre says he is, and he won’t get any benefits until he ‘looks for work’. So, while he appeals via an unforgiving online system the bills remain unpaid.

It’s a very sad film – don’t think of going without your hankies - but I’m not angry about the fictional person’s situation.

Within the space of a few hours of my request, my inbox was filling up with story after story: the reality of a system failing vulnerable people.

In Derbyshire, there’s a man aged 60, who has suffered five heart attacks, living in an unheated flat. It’s been without heating since last year. His debt problem began when he was regarded by the DWP as being fit for work and his benefits changed. He has been for interviews at the Job Centre – all are manual labour positions yet his doctor has said categorically that he must not work.

In Dorset, there’s a couple barely able to cover the rent because the man has been turned down for PIP (personal independence payment). Things were so desperate that he attempted suicide the day before the first visit from the CAP Centre Manager.

In South Wales, a single mum suffering from depression was assessed as fit for work. Her depression worsened and she was cut off completely from any money. She cried out to her bank and was given a loan, planning to pay it off with another benefit when it came but she was unable to play ‘catch up’ and ended up with debt problems too.

The list goes on – and on. There are Daniel Blakes in every Job Centre and Foodbank. Every single one is a scandal and it must be crushing for Job Centre staff to know they can only do so much within the constraints they face.

Thank God that in all the above situations, the Church is on hand. Food parcels are being delivered, creditors are being called, loneliness is being tackled by caring people with invitations to church breakfasts and more. Thank God that Job Centre Plus regularly refer people to CAP.

But how many more are totally isolated, facing their crisis alone?

Film Director Ken Loach says this: "We need to move on from anger and think - and do something."

What will I do? What will you do?

I, Daniel Blake is released across the UK on Friday 21 October. Read The Guardian’s review here.

Six steps to buying a house for the millennial generation

calendar13 October 2016

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Six steps to buying a house for the millennial generation

I am 23 years old and currently in the process of buying my first house. Yes it’s true: despite having been born in 1992, I have managed to get my foot on the first rung of the elusive property ladder.

In the current economic climate, buying a house seems like an impossible dream for many people my age. The cost of private renting is too high, saving is too difficult and time is moving too quickly. I had these very worries, unable to see how I would ever be in a position to even think about owning a property.

Fast forward to the present and I’m weeks away from completion. It hasn’t been easy, I’ll admit. It has taken perseverance, sacrifice and (a whole lot of) patience, but I stand as proof that the life of a twenty-something isn’t destined to be a damp flat and an awkward landlord. It is possible! Here’s what I’ve learned over the past months – if nothing else, I hope it will provide my fellow millennials with a little encouragement and hope for the future.

1. Don’t go kayaking without a paddle

Well, you wouldn’t, would you? And likewise, you shouldn’t go property searching without knowing the facts. Truth be told, when I first started to seriously consider buying I was pretty much oblivious to the extent of the cost. On top of the deposit, there are mortgage advisers, conveyancers, surveyors… All of these vary in cost, although even the least expensive options are going to set you back a few thousand at least. You need to know exactly what this business is going to cost you from the word go.

But don’t be put off – it’s still possible. My point is simply that, before you do anything, you absolutely must figure out all the different costs that come with buying a house and work out how much you’re going to need overall. This way you’ll be saving with a clear goal in mind and be spared a lot of stress down the line. Ask other people for help too – nobody knows the costs better than a person who’s been there and got the t-shirt!

2. Make use of the help that's out there

The government runs a number of schemes to support people in buying property, including the Help To Buy ISA for first time buyers. Check out for more information on what’s available for you.

3. Make small changes for better things

Back when I was spending just over half of my total monthly income on a private rented flat, I was just about managing to save £10 or £20 per month. It’s times like these that you have to make a decision – could you give something up in favour of better future prospects? Find a less expensive flat? Move closer to work to reduce commuting costs? Get rid of the car altogether? Provided it’s feasible under your own circumstances, a temporary downgrade in certain areas can ultimately open up lots of doors for you.

I chose to move back in with my parents. The perks included paying a lower amount for board than I had been for rent every month, which meant increased savings. The downsides included going from a spacious flat back into my pokey childhood room, complete with wilting posters on the walls from when I moved out five years ago. It hasn’t been ideal at times but, in the long run, a sacrifice worth making.

4. Be strict with your savings

So you’ve made some cuts to your expenditure and you’re saving more than ever – happy days! Alas, what feels like a sudden cash injection can lead to a temptation to spend, so try not to lose sight of the end goal. Perhaps keep a picture of your ideal house or sticky note reminders where you’ll often see them (on the fridge, in the bathroom) or where temptation most often hits (in your wallet/purse, on your laptop).

5. Get your head around mortgages, they're going to become a big part of your life

I remember when my understanding of a mortgage relied on the Monopoly instruction book. As it happens, it’s a little more complex than that. A mortgage adviser should be able to help you get to grips with it, but be aware of extra cost and, importantly, make sure they’re regulated.

Bear in mind the amount you’ll be allowed to borrow on a mortgage will depend on your salary and circumstances and you’ll have monthly repayments to make. As every piece of correspondence will tell you in blaring red letters, your property may be repossessed if you don’t keep up with your repayments!

6. Fight with the wallpaper, not the neighbours

Finally, you’re ready to start property searching. A young person looking for their first home can easily become like a child in a sweet shop. You’re immediately drawn towards the first beautiful house you see, fall in love with it and the rest is history. Yes, this was me, until my wonderful dad gave me a great piece of advice: go for the worst possible property in the best possible area. You can fairly easily fix up a house, but it will be considerably more difficult to fix up the surrounding area. Essentially, be mature about it, know your priorities, and remember your heart and your head both make points worth taking into account!

Budget recipe binder: Marianne’s Eve & Friends’ Pudding

calendar04 October 2016

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Budget recipe binder: Marianne’s Eve & Friends’ Pudding

Marianne says, ‘If your family likes cake and filling, fruity puddings, this will be a total winner. The great thing about this recipe is it uses next to no ingredients and, of course, makes the most of free fruit like blackberries and apples, which can be picked from right outside your door. If there aren’t any decent-looking blackberries near where you live, go ahead with the traditional all-apple from the shops.’

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Serves: 4
Total cost: £3.58 for all ingredients with enough to make several times over

For the filling:
600g/20oz fruit – mixture of apples and blackberries (free or £1.50 for shop-bought apples)
75g/3oz sugar (1kg 59p)
For the sponge topping:
55g/2oz soft margarine or butter (250g 85p)
55g/2oz sugar
55g/2oz self-raising flour (1.5kg 45p)
1 egg (Half a dozen free range 89p)
¼ tsp baking powder (Six sachets 80p)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease an ovenproof baking dish with some kitchen towel and a knob of butter.
Chop the apples into bite-size chunks and put with washed blackberries straight into the baking dish and sprinkle on the sugar. Level out the top as much as you can.
In a separate bowl, put the margarine/butter, sugar, egg, flour and baking powder and whisk with an electric whisk (if doing this by hand, you’ll need to soften the butter first) until smooth.
It won’t look like much mixture (don’t worry, it will by the end) but scrape it all out of the bowl and dollop it onto the fruit, smoothing it out. Hide all the fruit with the mixture, if you can.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until golden brown. The top should be springy and cakey and the bottom will be gooey and fruity. Serve with custard or cream if you like but there’s so much juice it will do fine on its own.

Remember to give any fruit you collect from outside a good wash and check over before use.

*Prices from Tesco, correct at time of publishing

20 for twenty challenge: could you do something extraordinary to help the UK’s poorest?

calendar27 September 2016

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

20 for twenty challenge: could you do something extraordinary to help the UK’s poorest?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for several months, you’ll no doubt have heard that this year Christians Against Poverty turns 20! And during our 20th year we’re trying to help over 20,000 people break free from poverty through our debt help, job clubs, release groups and life skills initiatives.

The thing is, transforming lives doesn’t come cheap. To fund one debt counsellor for just two days, it costs £187. And without your continued support, we could never hope to keep helping thousands of people from across the country, year in - year out.

That’s why from 3 to 23 October this year, we’re inviting everyone to get involved in CAP’s 20 for twenty challenge and do something extraordinary to help battle poverty in the UK. Here at CAP our staff have come up with all sorts of weird and wacky ideas to raise funds, from climbing 20 mountains, to sleeping in a car for 20 nights, to baking 20 apple pies. Even our own CEO, Matt Barlow, is doing his bit by living on £1 per day for 20 days. Talk about commitment!

Not your cup of tea? Why not give up something for 20 days? Get your friends to sponsor you as you go cold turkey on alcohol, smoking, coffee, meat, sugary food and drinks or whatever else you can think of – plus there’s the added bonus on living more healthily while you fundraise!  You could even add the money you would have spent on whatever you’ve given up to your total amount.

You could grow a beard for 20 days, give up your car, give up shoes or wear fancy dress for 20 days. Get silly and have fun and get your friends and family involved. Got a better idea? That’s great – get creative! With this challenge, there are tons of possibilities.

Still not sure what to do? We’ve listed lots of activities you could try at, so you’ll not be short of ideas. They’re all to do with the number 20, of course, but don’t worry if that’s too much. You can do as little or as much as you are able to raise funds. After all, every little really does help and our combined efforts are sure to make a big difference!

Once you’ve come up with a plan of action, head to to sign up and let us know what you’re doing. If your idea isn’t there just scroll down to the bottom of the screen and select the box ‘Your Choice?’ From there you’ll be taken to the form you need to fill in to take part. You’ll also need to make a JustGiving page (or similar) so people can sponsor you. It’s quick to sign up and free, so why not get started now before October comes around and start drumming up support by sharing the link with your friends, family and colleagues? The earlier you start collecting sponsors, the more money you could collect.

For twenty years, Christians Against Poverty has been teaching and helping people all around the country to get out of debt, joblessness and addictions. With your help, we’ll be able to keep helping people for many, many years to come. What could you do in twenty days to help fight poverty in the UK?

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