Who is anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe and what are they known for?

Every penny counts in the current cost of living crisis and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe knows about struggling to put food on the table better than most of us, having relied on food banks to feed themselves and their young son when money was tight.

Jack Monroe Twitter page 2019

Every penny counts in the current cost of living crisis and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe knows about struggling to put food on the table better than most of us, having relied on food banks (opens in new tab) to feed themselves and their young son when money was tight.

The food blogger turned anti-poverty campaigner has made the major supermarkets sit up and take notice after their tweet on the soaring cost of buying supermarket basics went viral.

Right now, it has never been more important to understand how to save money on food (opens in new tab) and reduce food waste to help manage our stretched budgets. But the impact of the cost of living crisis is not the same for everyone. While some are feeling a squeeze on their finances, others are having to choose between food and heat.

Who is Jack Monroe and what are they known for?

Jack Monroe is a food writer, journalist, and activist. After shopping around to find the cheapest ingredients to cook meals from scratch and managing to survive on £10 a week, when their son was young, Jack started an online blog ‘A Girl Called Jack’, which has since been renamed ‘Cooking on a Bootstrap (opens in new tab)’. Jack regularly shares recipes on their website and also on Twitter with easy ways to make meals on a tight budget.

Jack hit the headlines at the start of the year when they tweeted about the soaring price of the most basic food range in their local supermarket. The tweets went viral, as Jack went on to list a vast number of basic food items including bread, apples, baked beans, and peanut butter where prices had soared over the last year, far outstripping any rise in inflation.

Jack publicly called out Asda over the price rises of basic foodstuffs, highlighting the fact that its pasta had gone up from 29p per 500g to 70p in just one year, a rise of 141%, and rice, which had gone up by 344%.

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In response, Asda announced it would stock its ‘Smart price’ range across all its supermarkets.

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How is Jack Monroe supporting people in food poverty?

Supporting people in food poverty is one of Jack’s passions, and they regularly share pictures across Twitter of their weekly budget shops but is always quick to point out that shopping on a super tight budget isn’t easy and is hugely time-consuming.

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The anti-poverty campaigner also joined a discussion on the cost of living crisis at the Work and Pensions Committee. In an interview with the BBC Jack said: “There are millions of children living in poverty in Britain today and their families' financial situations have been becoming increasingly untenable”.

"The impact of the cost of living crisis on those households is going to be in some cases fatal and that's not a term that I use lightly."

Children going hungry is an issue Jack is passionate about along with its long term impact (opens in new tab). During lockdown when free school meals were replaced with food parcels that were sent to children across England, Jack Monroe publicly spoke up while being interviewed on BBC News (opens in new tab), calling the meagre packages, a “poverty picnic’.

What is the Vimes Boots Price Index?

Jack Monroe has instigated a way of measuring rising food prices - the Vimes Boots Price Index. This is being created to track the rising price of basic food essentials, to show the disproportionate impact of inflation, along with supermarket pricing tactics on poorer households.

Jack Monroe coined the phrase from a character in a Terry Pratchett novel – Captain Samuel Vimes in Men At Arms. In the book, Vimes explains how expensive it is to be ‘poor’, citing the example of buying a pair of ‘boots’, where being able to afford a more expensive pair of boots means they last much longer than a cheap pair, which may need replacing several times over, increasing the cost.

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Jack Monroe had previously highlighted, in a series of tweets, how the price of everyday basic foods had been outstripping inflation, during the current cost of living crisis. This in turn hits those in the lowest income households hardest.

The Office for National Statistics, which is responsible for measuring and publishing the inflation figures, has since announced it will change the way it measures and reports increasing food prices.

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Jack Monroe cookbooks

1. A Girl Called Jack: 100 delicious budget recipes

A-Girl-Called-Jack-100-delicious-budget-recipes

Published February 2014

Based on Jack's own experience of having to feed themself and their young son on just £10 a week, this is about ways to save on your supermarket shop but stocking up on the ‘basics’ range but still creating simple, cheap and delicious meals. Recipes include Vegetable Masala Curry, for just 30p a portion and Jam Sponge for just 23p a portion.

In readers’ reviews, 92% gave this either 4 or 5 stars out of 5 with one Amazon reviewer having worked her way through the recipes during lockdown.

“Jack is an absolute genius! This little book has honestly made a huge difference to my experience in lockdown. I'm going through it trying to make every recipe in the book and, about 13 in now, have not found a single one that I haven't enjoyed both making and eating. I make these over Zoom with a friend every weekend and we've had so much fun trying all the recipes. I love the clear way of explaining things and how both budget and lockdown-friendly the recipes are".

VIEW ON -  Amazon | £11.28 (opens in new tab)

2. A Year in 120 Recipes

Jack Monroe a year in 120 recipes

Published October 2014

With this one, it’s split into different sections throughout the year so you take advantage of seasonal foods. It’s about cooking on a budget, but without compromising on taste with recipes including Radish, Pea, and Mint Risotto, Lamb and Aubergine ‘Baba Gosht’ Curry, and Brown Sugar Meringues with Blackberry Yoghurt.

94% of reviewers gave this between 3 – 5 stars out of 5 with many reviews citing the practical easy style in which the book is written.

“Jack's down-to-earth no-nonsense approach to food recipes is very important to people who live on a budget. There are no expensive ingredients just simply honest food. If all cookbooks were like this I would buy More. You also feel you can relate to Jack Monroe”.

VIEW ON AMAZON | £9.67 (opens in new tab)

3. Cooking on a Bootstrap: Over 100 Simple Budget Recipes

Published August 2018

This is the sequel to the number 1 bestseller, ‘A Girl Called Jack’ and packed with over 100 creative and affordable recipes, including Fluffy Berry Pancakes, Marmite Mac ‘n’Cheese and Hot Sardines with Herby Sauce. No fancy chapter headings here: Bread, Breakfasts, A Bag of Pasta and a Packet of Rice.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon. “Every time our family hits trouble I turn to Jack so we can eat ourselves better while mending our broken bank balances. I'm quite frugal, shop carefully and love cooking. And I found loads of ideas for different techniques, substitute ingredients, different flavour combos and new vegan ways of making family favourites. Thanks so much Jack. You can see the work in this book and yet the style of writing is just... Like your best mate is taking you through it... A best mate who has made mistakes and found cool stuff and is completely willing to share them”, was the review of one happy Amazon customer.

VIEW ON AMAZON | £11 (opens in new tab)

4. Tin Can Cook: 75 Simple Store-cupboard Recipes

Tin Can Cook Jack Monroe

Published May 2019

This is packed with 75 fun and creative recipes you can rustle up using tins or dried ingredients. Red Lentil and Mandarin Curry, Catalan Fish Stew and Pina Colada Toast are just some of the easy recipes on the menu. And with these you won’t need a pile of exotic ingredients – with everything you need in your local supermarket.

67% of reviewers gave this a 5 star rating with one reviewer having bought multiple copies.

“Having been a fan of Jack Monroe’s recipes for a long time, and having been in the same financial position for a long time, I have a tendency to eat the same foods, week in, week out, in order to stick to a (rather low) fixed budget. These new recipes are interesting, tempting, affordable and straightforward enough for even the least adventurous, or unmotivated cooks amongst us, which makes it perfect for me. I bought a second copy for my parents, who are pensioners who also struggle to eat ‘nicely’ due to their circumstances. That said, I would recommend this book for anyone, no matter what their financial circumstances. We can all find our cupboards bare from time to time, and these recipes really do fit the bill”.

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5. Vegan (ish): 100 simple, budget recipes that don’t cost the earth

Vegan-ish-100-simple-budget-recipes-that-dont-cost-the-earth

Published December 2019

According to Amazon, this offering from Jack includes Breakfast Muckmuffins, Beet Wellington, as well as Kinda-Carbonara and Bakewell Tart. Full colour pictures with 100 recipes aimed at vegans or anyone who fancies giving vegan cooking a go.

Reviewers gave this 4.6 stars out of 5 and 74% of Amazon customers gave it the top five star rating. One reviewer claimed this book was a ‘great addition to my kitchen’ and went to on to say, “I think this could be Jack’s best book to be honest and I have them all. I’m not vegan or vegetarian and I am not ready to give up meat completely, although I’m a huge animal lover and it does cross my mind a lot. I do love my veggies though and I also work three jobs, one of which includes the night shift. So loved the soup and sandwiches sections as perfect for me on nights and needing a quick snack. Also really like the look of the fakeaways!”

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6. Good Food for Bad Days: What to make when you’re feeling blue

Good-Food-for-Bad-Days-What-to-Make-When-Youre-Feeling-Blue-jack-monroe

Published May 2020.

This one’s about how to cook delicious nutritious meals if you’re feeling low, so everything you want from a meal but without a huge amount to effort to tmake it. This collection incudes Quick and Spicy Noodles, Jaffa Cake Mug Pudding and Hot Apple Pies.

This got 5 stars from 75% of Amazon reviewers with huge praise for its practicality with one reviewer saying, “Not another 'aspirational' cookbook that will sit on the shelves and never get cooked, this cookbook has real recipes that take into account people's emotional labour, time and organisational abilities - meaning you *can* and *will* cook them.

Peppered with personal anecdotes and honest writing about their own mental health and circumstances, you feel like Jack genuinely understands the barriers you face to actually cooking. There's no shame in shortcuts, or using tinned/frozen/pre-prepared ingredients. Plus a few basic suggestions at the beginning for how to set yourself up for success”.

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Sue Hayward is a personal finance and consumer journalist, broadcaster and author who regularly chats on TV and Radio on ways to get more power for your pound. Sue’s written for a wide range of publications including the Guardian, i Paper, Good Housekeeping, Lovemoney and My Weekly. Cats, cheese and travel are Sue’s passions away from her desk!