Tue. Jul 5th, 2022

A top Greater Manchester chef put a Tory MP’s claims that people could “make a meal for about 30p a day” to the test. Backbencher Lee Anderson sparked fury when he suggested in Commons that struggling Brits only use food banks because they “can not budget” and “can not cook a meal from scratch”.

Gareth Mason, head chef of Absolute Bar and Bistro in Westhoughton, slammed Mr Anderson’s comments as ‘tone deaf’ and ‘insulting’. In response, Bolton-born Gareth set about trying to cook seven every day meals for 30p.

He managed to make meagre portions of seafood stick salad, beans on toast, and a ‘spam fritter’ made out of luncheon meat, but the 34-year-old raised concerns that an adult would struggle to get the recommended daily allowance of 2,000 calories per day from the meals. Gareth also said that most cheap ingredients are high in salt, fat or sugar.

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He said: “I’ve come to the conclusion it’s a load of rubbish. These meals I’ve done, as soon as you put any protein or dairy into them, it’s not feasible to do it for 30p.

“If you eat beans on toast for every meal, it might work, but even if you did cheese on toast, the cost of cheese would be more than 30p on its own. And you have the cooking cost on top of the cost of the food.

This seafood stick salad is an example of a 30p meal
This seafood stick salad is an example of a 30p meal

“Even if this MP is talking about batch cooking army food, even the smallest amount of spaghetti Bolognese is going to go above 30p.

“You could just about feed yourself, but it’s not going to be healthy or nutritious or get anywhere near the amount of calories an average adult needs to function each day. He’s treating people like peasants. Energy prices are going up, people are struggling, the cost of living is on the rise and what’s their solution? Eat for 30p?

“The cheaper you go, how much rubbish is in the food? It will be full of additives and preservatives and all sorts of junk. It’s not fresh, nutritious food that people need to have a healthy diet. ”

Mr Anderson, who earns £ 84,144 a year as an MP, was accused of being “out of touch” when he made his comments in the commons last week. He urged Labor MPs to ‘come to Ashfield and work with me for a day in my food bank and see the brilliant scheme we have got’.

He told Parliament: “What we do in the food bank, we show them how to cook cheap and nutritious meals on a budget. We can make a meal for about 30 pence a day. And this is cooking from scratch.”

His comments sparked uproar but he defended himself by saying he was trying to “educate people” to make their lives “a little easier”. And he pointed to a cooking challenge at his local food bank in conjunction with the college and a local chef to feed a family of five for £ 50 a week.

Gareth said the meal's were lacking in nutrition, such as this 'spam fritter' cooked using a sixth of a tin of luncheon meat
Gareth said the meal’s were lacking in nutrition, such as this ‘spam fritter’ cooked using a sixth of a tin of luncheon meat

Gareth previously created 15 days worth of children’s lunches from just £ 20 to put the paltry school meal hampers given to kids during lockdown to shame. Even then the cheapest meals cost 42p and Gareth said that Mr Anderson’s comments have not taken into other factors.

He added: “Has this guy ever eaten a 30p meal in his life? I doubt it.

“He’s contradicted himself by having chefs’ cook the food in a big kitchen with an industrial oven. Where does he expect the average person to cook all this food and then freeze it all?

“It takes a trained and experienced chef to work out the precise cost of a meal to the penny like that, how is the average person supposed to do that?”

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