If you are homeless and placed in emergency or temporary accommodation, there is a chance that the place you get will be completely empty.
When I was housed in emergency accommodation, the flat had a dirty old carpet and some blinds, but NOTHING else.
There was no furniture – no bed, no table, no chairs. There was no cooker, no fridge or freezer, no microwave, no washing machine, or any other kitchen appliance. Not even a kettle or toaster.
I had nothing, apart from a small bag of clothes and toiletries and, luckily, a sleeping bag I had brought with me.
For weeks I slept on the hard, cold floor because there was no furniture of any sort.
I had hardly any money and no way of cooking food for myself.
I was lucky enough to be given an old plug-in electric kettle by one of the other residents who was moving out. It was a lifesaver because it meant I could eat some hot food – though I had to be creative about it.
Hot food you can make with an electric kettle
I could only cook foods that could be made using hot water, and that I didn’t need to keep in a fridge.
Remember, you will need probably need to top up the electric meter in your new place, but a kettle doesn’t use much electricity, so £5 should be enough to at least feed yourself for a bit.
Food I made included:
Pot Noodles – these are great because they give you a pot that you can wash and reuse for other food or drinks
Porridge Pots – instant porridge pots where you just add boiled water – good if you don’t have a cup or bowl
Instant Soup/Cup A Soup (or miso soup sachets) – good if you do have a cup or bowl to mix them with hot water
Smash/Instant Mashed Potato – you can buy sachets of instant mashed potato and mix hot water with it in a cup or bowl. (If you want some flavour, you could get gravy granules and make gravy to go with it.)
Couscous – just pour some in a bowl or pot and add hot water to cover it and then a bit more on top, then put something over it to hold the steam in for a few minutes and its ready. You don’t need a lot because it expands. You can get sachets of flavoured ones or bigger bags of plain. It’s usually near the pasta in supermarkets.
You can get tea or coffee and if you don’t like it black, get some powdered milk too. Also, instant hot chocolate often has powdered milk already included in it. You can make hot drinks in the Pot Noodle cup if you need to.
You can also hard boil eggs in the kettle. Some people prefer to keep eggs in the fridge, but they will be ok if they are not refrigerated. Put one in the kettle with the cold water and bring it to boil. Let it sit in the hot water for about 5 mins and then re-boil – then repeat. Let it cool (you can hold it under the cold tap to speed it up) and then peel the shell off. If it’s not hard enough, next time try re-boiling it once or twice more.
Bear in mind, eating like this is not healthy in the long-term and you certainly won’t be eating a balanced diet. This is just about feeding yourself in the short-term to keep warm and survive, while you sort out getting a fridge and a microwave, at the very least.
My biggest tip
My biggest tip is to buy a Pot Noodle first because once you’ve eaten it, you can wash up the pot and use it to make some of the other food mentioned above in, or cups of tea/coffee (if you don’t have a mug or bowl).
If you don’t have washing up liquid, use soap or shampoo if you have it, or just rinse it really well in boiled water.
More tips for getting and storing food
Browse the supermarket for food that you can eat without cooking but that doesn’t need to be stored in the fridge. If you do buy something that does need to go in a fridge, then just buy what you need for one meal and eat it all in one go. Supermarkets tend to be cheaper than local shops, so it is worth going further to get to a supermarket, if you can. B&M, Asda, Aldi, & Lidl are some of the cheaper supermarkets.
If you live near enough a supermarket, or even a smaller convenience store like the Co-op, it is worth going in a few hours before closing time and looking in their fresh food reduced section for stuff. You can get some cold meats, bread, fruit and veg etc. that need eating right away, for really cheap.
Remember, if you buy any tins, make sure they have the ring-pull tops & don’t need a tin opener to open them.
One of the cheapest foods available that doesn’t need cooking is carrots. They don’t need to be in a fridge, they are literally only a few pence, you can eat them raw, and they are at least some kind of vegetable if you are craving something healthier. I used to snack on them to keep myself from feeling too hungry throughout the day.
If it is winter, you may be able to get away with buying some refrigerated items and putting them on your windowsill. Lean them against the window, as the glass tends to stay quite cold. You could maybe put them outside too, as long as they are somewhere they won’t be stolen. They won’t last as long as if they were refrigerated and will probably go off before their expiry date, though, so check the milk isn’t off before you pour it in your tea!
Basic items and how to get them
If you do find yourself housed with nothing, if you can, try to at least get the following:
– a kettle (electric one you plug in)
– a cup or mug (though a pot noodle pot will do in the meantime)
– a knife, fork, and spoon
– a plate and/or bowl
For the kettle, you can get one for just over £10 in Argos: https://www.argos.co.uk/product/8256344
But the cheapest one I have found is this Asda one for just over a fiver: https://groceries.asda.com/product/kettles-coffee-makers/george-home-kettle/1000000581516
You might find it in store if you’re not able to order online.
In terms of the other smaller items, you could try charity shops that sell household items – here they will be extremely cheap. I went to a charity shop that sold household stuff and got myself a mug, plate, and a knife, fork, and spoon for just under £1.
If not, you can use paper or a chip shop box as a plate (buy yourself some wrapped chips from a chip shop – they are usually only around £1 – and keep the wrapping). You can grab some chip shop forks while you’re there, and it’s always good to have some napkins and spare sachets of salt too (makes plain couscous taste better!), if you find some.
Stirrers from coffee shops are good for mixing up Cup A Soups or tea/coffee.
Sometimes instant noodle pots have little plastic forks in that you can reuse.
Help from charities & organisations
There are some charities that help people in this situation by donating furniture and appliances, but sometimes it takes time to organise those things.
Your priority items are a fridge and a microwave, and also a bed or something to sleep on that isn’t the floor.
If you want to find out about what is available locally to you, you could start contacting your local Citizens Advice office. You can find out where that is by typing your postcode under ‘Find your local Citizens Advice’ on this page: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/
They should also be able to help you find out about any food banks nearby that you could use, or food parcels you can get, though remember to pick food (if you’re allowed to choose) that you can eat without cooking facilities, plus tins you don’t need openers for, until you get something sorted out.
I have written this article not just to help other people who find themselves in this position, but to raise awareness of the lack of facilities emergency or temporary accommodation for homeless people can have. You have a roof over your head, which means you are safer and (slightly) warmer, but it really is only one step up from sleeping on the street if you are provided with nothing. I do think that accommodation should include the essentials for someone to feed themselves, which for me is a fridge and a microwave (or at the very least a kettle!).
If you are placed in this kind of accommodation, you likely have very little money, and maybe have a vulnerability that makes you less able to be resourceful and organise things for yourself. You may have been through some traumatic or stressful experiences, making it much harder to gather the strength to figure out what you need and go out and get it.
If you are in this situation, I do encourage you to speak to your local Citizens Advice office, or a support worker if you have one. They should be able to point you in the direction of local organisations who can help you at least get some basic items together to help you survive in your temporary accommodation.
It takes time to build up the essentials and slowly make yourself more comfortable, and sometimes you will have to be creative to survive, but you will get there.
I know it is hard, but I did it, and you can too – I believe in you!