This mother feeds her family of four on $81 a week.

A single mother with three kids has gone public with her household budget – and it’s got a whole nation talking.

New Zealand mum Ebony Andrews works as a learning support teacher. She also receives child support and some government assistance, bringing her weekly income up to $968.80. But by the time she’s paid rent ($460), power and water bills ($80), car loan/expenses ($115), petrol ($100), phone and internet ($32.50), insurance ($85) and school costs ($15), she only has $81.30 left for food.

This is how she spends it:

$9.20 for milk

$10 for bread

$1.50 for margarine

$10 for spreads

$1.75 for cheese

$35 for fruit

$12.55 for vegetables and meat


Bread - cheap and filling. Photo via iStock.

Andrews went public to dispel the myth that parents who send their kids to school without lunch must be jobless, wasting their money or bad at budgeting.

"If you have seen my budget, I can't waste," she told NZME. "I think they are just assuming. They don't actually see it, in real life, how we run our own budgets. It's really hard."

Andrews doesn't drink or smoke. She says the family can't afford treats, and she hasn't taken her kids to the movies in four years. She sometimes turns to NZ charity KidsCan for food, clothing and shoes.

Her decision to share her household budget so openly has sparked off a big discussion in New Zealand about poverty. KidsCan chief executive Julie Chapman says 40 per cent of kids living in poverty have at least one parent working.


Andrews has had a sympathetic response since going public. One woman offered to shout the family a trip to the movies. Others donated money, with one person in Japan offering $1000.

But she's also had some criticism on social media, with some saying they manage to get by with less, and others pointing out savings tips.


It's not just jobless families living in poverty. Photo via iStock.

Personally, I can't imagine feeding a family of four on just $81 a week. I'm sure I spend at least three times that feeding two adults and two children (and two dogs). If my kids like something that's healthy but expensive - avocados, raspberries, etc - I'll buy it. For me, it's important for everyone to enjoy their meals, as well as to be nourished. Plus, I tend to buy everything in one hit from the supermarket, rather than hunting around for cheaper options, because I don't have much time for shopping. But I'm lucky that my family has two incomes and I can afford to spend that amount on food. I make my savings in other areas (like, I drive a really old car).

The thought of struggling to find enough money to feed my kids, or having to send them to school without lunch, is terrifying.

Could you feed a family on $81 a week?

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