The flat is small and the kitchen is dark, contributing to a home environment that often feels stressful to Lela. This is exacerbated by her constant worrying about money and bills. Lela is currently training to be a delivery driver for a supermarket, but her main source of income for the last few months has been benefits. Her household income is currently under £15,000.
Lela and her sons sleep on a bunk bed, with her oldest son on the top bunk and Lela with her youngest son on the bottom one. The father of her youngest son lives in Croydon with his mother, but helps her look after the children when he can. However, lack of space in her flat makes it difficult for him to stay over.
Lela goes food shopping at the Tesco superstore once a week, a 10-minute walk from home. She usually goes after she has dropped her youngest son off at nursery as she prefers to go shopping alone. This is because if she goes shopping with the children, she will usually end up spending more money because they will pester her to buy them sweets.
With money being tight, grocery shopping is often a stressful and embarrassing experience. Lela tries not to spend more than £20 a week on food. At the checkout, she’ll put through her items in order of priority, when she reaches £20 she’ll leave whatever else is in her basket. She gets embarrassed when this happens because she thinks the cashiers are annoyed with her for taking up their time. Putting items back is frustrating for her too as it disrupts the meals she’s planned during the shop. To help avoid this embarrassment at the checkout, she has started using the mobile app while she’s doing her shopping in-store. She adds items into both her actual and online shopping basket so that she can calculate the total price before she reaches the cashier.
Lela’s usual routine is to cook her children’s evening meal during the day, so it is ready for them when they come back from school. They usually have a couple of packet of crisps as an after-school snack. A typical meal is chicken with peppers and rice, which the children eat around 6pm.
While Lela always makes sure the children are fed, she sometimes does not eat herself. During the day, she’ll drink tea and snack on biscuits, mainly to save money. Takeaways are a rare treat. She would love to have a family tradition of a takeaway on a Friday night, but because she knows how to cook she sees takeaways as wasting money. Instead, every penny she can spare is being saved to take her children on a holiday to Spain.
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