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Mum working three jobs goes 'days without food' to make sure kids can eat

By Anita Merritt & Elaine Blackburne & Hannah Mackenzie Wood

A struggling mum has told of her constant fight to put food on the table and keep the heating on as her family suffer the impact of the cost of living crisis.

Kate Worby juggles three jobs while her partner Charles Shudder works long hours to support them and their three children - yet the couple often find themselves having to go without food.

In fact, the mum hasn't "really eaten" in three days, leaving her completely exhausted.

But Kate says lack of food is just one area where she is forced to make tough choices just to keep the family afloat, Wales Online reports.

She says it is not the phrase "heat of eat" that applies to her family's situation, but rather "heat less, eat less".

And even shopping trips are fraught with the risk of embarrassment if her careful calculations go wrong and she finds herself having to put things back at the till.

But the mother-of-three says the struggle is real for many families. She said: "The children will always come first. They get free school dinners but if they come home from school really hungry I will cook them a meal, even if it was for me and Charles, or I try to make the food stretch by bulking it out such as with frozen vegetables.

"When Charles and I are not eating enough it takes its toll. I am so tired as I have not eaten really in three days. We either don't eat or between us have one meal a day, even if it's just cheese on toast. It's not enough, but it's at least something. It's a very real thing for a lot of families.

"I'm quite a savvy spender anyway so I will save where I can. I'm always looking for the best bargain for everything but it does mean we can't do things like buying biscuits, for example, for the children to have as a snack.

"That's not within the budget. Literally, we buy the basic everything such as potatoes and pasta. I have learnt to make my own things like sauces.

"It just means when you are going out shopping you can't think that looks nice and just pick it up. I go with a list and get what's on it. I walk around with a calculator on my phone so I know when we have reached our maximum budget. If it means I haven't got a meal for say two nights I have to re-evaluate what I have actually got and how you can stretch what you have in the basket."

Kate admits it can be embarrassing when her calculations aren't quite right and she has to leave some food behind at the checkout. She said: "Supermarkets are really good about that kind of thing. Having to put things back is always embarrassing but they are generally very compassionate.

Kate says her family face the daily battle not with "heat or eat" but with "heat less, eat less". (Kate Worby)

"I have heard the phrase heat or eat said a lot but for us it's not actually the case. It's heat less, eat less. We can't make a choice between the two because we have a young baby so we have to heat his bedroom and the other children's bedrooms but not anywhere else.

"We limit it to heating just the rooms that are essential to be heated. Luckily we are coming into summer again but in the winter it will be a massive problem. There will be extra coats and jumpers being put on."

Kate, 29, works as a children's entertainer for her own business Magical Guests. She also works as a carer and a cleaner. Her partner, Charles, also 29, is a full-time university student. He runs a valet business and has worked nights as a carer at a local care home until it recently shut down.

He also helps out with Kate's children's entertainer business which covers Devon and Cornwall and mostly has bookings at weekends. Together they help look after their three children aged eight, four and almost one.

Kate said: "We are always on the go and hardly ever at home. On the rare days we do find ourselves both at home together we are busy getting on with things that need to be done.

"We are forever trying to keep our heads above water like I'm sure it is for a lot of families. Everything is going up but wages are not matching it so we are having to make our money stretch even further. Physically we can't do any more hours than we are already working. We have not had a day off in goodness knows how long.

"It's a constant battle in your head as you think, can I justify not taking an extra shift? Often we just do it because we have to. We are both just so stressed." The couple rent a three-bedroom house after having to use the deposit they had saved to buy a house on other things.

Kate said: "We have never been overly flush with money and have always lived within our means. Our rent has gone up which has impacted us a lot. At the same time, everything else has gone up like council tax and energy bills. All the rises build up so we have to watch every single penny we spend.

"We don't drink or smoke or go out, and we have no hobbies. All we literally do is go to work and look after the kids. I don't know what we are doing wrong in the grand scheme of things to be working so, so hard and being stuck in this loop.

"We just have to keep going and hope that one day things will get better. Once Charles finishes university he will hopefully start bringing in a good wage, but until then we just have to take it week by week.

"I also hope that by talking about how we are struggling it can raise awareness and the big wigs might think, 'hang on, this is not fair'. We work, we are on Universal Credit and we are still struggling. Something has gone wrong somewhere for that to happen."

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