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A reverse advent calendar

Sunday, 5 November 2017

After taking a break from this blog in October I'm now raring to go again! So since my Christmas shoebox post was so well received I thought I would highlight another little charity thing I've received to do this winter - a reverse advent calendar.

"A what?" I hear you ask yourselves. This amazing post from Sara Williams at Moneywise explains it all very well! Basically every day you buy one item of food for a food bank, collect it all in a box, and at the end of the 25 days of Advent you take the box to your local food bank as a donation.

Like many other people I'm planning on doing mine for the next twenty five days (starting yesterday on 4 November), as it means the food bank will have time to get the food out to people. However if you don't think you can manage to arrange it that quickly then don't panic! The food you need to get should have a long shelf life. If you decide to start it on 1 December then you can always donate the box in the first week of January. Donations tend to drop in the New Year as people tighten their financial belts after all the Christmas spending, but they're also the point when the numbers that need a hand increase. A box of supplies will be just as welcome in January as it is in December.
Using one of our old moving boxes to store things!

You might be trying to rattle your brain and think about what specifics you should give to a food bank. First of all you should Google for your local food bank, many are set up or assisted by the Trussell Trust so they're a good place to start. They'll list specific days and times when they're open for donations. Each food bank will have an "urgent needs" list, things that they are running very short on. They'll also have a list of suggested donations. They need to make up enough food to feed people for several days, and it needs to be long-life. Dry goods like teabags, pasta and tinned items, plus things like jam, long life milk (may not have a fridge for fresh milk), and a treat such as a packet of biscuits. Many food banks will also have a box of toiletries for people who may be in need of shampoo and deodorant. The phrase "period poverty" has become quite well known in recent months, so donating a pack of sanitary towels or a box of tampons can be a real help.

Now you're looking at the list on your local food bank's website and wondering how much this will all cost. It sounds really expensive, after all prices are going up everywhere. It's going to be £50 at least, right? But I did a little run around Tesco with a pen and notepad the other day and managed to get to grips with the bulk of the prices. Everything on the list below comes to a total of £31.67. BUT - you don't need to get everything on the list. I found Heinz soup on an offer of 5 tins for £3, and individual pots of porridge at 5 for £4. So that would be 10 items right there. I also picked some large sizes (the pasta sauce for example was a large jar) but you can choose smaller ones. Food banks help families, couples and individuals, so there's always someone who could need what you buy.

So here's a list of 25 things (and their cost) you can buy for a reverse advent calendar;

1. Small pack of rice - £1.00
2. Potatoes (tinned) - £0.60
3. Carrots (tinned) - £0.30
4. Long life milk - £0.55
5. Fruit squash - £1.20
6. Cereal - £1.50
7. Porridge - £0.90 for a small pot (my Tesco has a 5 for £4 offer)
8. Tea bags - £1.30
9. Coffee - £2.00
10. Jam - £0.75
11. Marmalade - 60p
12. Meat (tinned) - £2.50 (you can get tinned curry and bolognese as well as stewing beef etc)
13. Tuna (tinned) - £1.50
14. Pie (tinned) - £2.70-ish (there were quite a few types)
15. Soup - £0.95 (also has a 5 for £3 offer for Heinz soups)
16. Pasta - £1.00
17. Pasta sauce - £2.00 (big jar)
18. Tinned beans - £1.00 (three pack of Branstons from Iceland)
19. Heinz ravioli - £1.07
20. Heinz beans with sausages - £1.05
21. Pudding (tinned) - £1.70
22. Biscuit snack pack - £1.00
23. Shampoo - £1.00 (Wilko)
24. Toothpaste - £1.00
25. Towels/tampons - £2.50 (depends on the pack you buy, I think this was the larger pack of Always towels)

I should also qualify that some of the stuff is Tesco brand (jam, potatoes and carrots for example) and some is branded (teabags, porridge, biscuits), so you may find better prices in Sainsburys, Asda or Morrisons.

I already have mine started. On Saturday I popped in to Wilko for some cleaning supplies, and got a bottle of Alberto Balsam shampoo for £1, and then in Iceland I found a pack of 3 tins of Branston's baked beans for £1. So that's Saturday and Sunday sorted out. I'm trying to use multipack offers to bump up the numbers of things in my box, and buy one type of item each day. But as I said above, you can take advantage of such offers to help you reach your 25 goal if that's what works for you!

Thank you to everyone who Tweeted about the Moneywise article, I hope you all enjoy your reverse advent calendars!

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