Let’s face it, January is a looong month when it comes to finances. The expense of Christmas, coupled with an early pre-bank holiday pay day for most, means getting to your next wage cheque in January can be a challenge.

Add to that the increasing cost of living for all of us, and it’s no wonder that people are feeling the pinch.

However, one charity in Cornwall and Devon is doing incredible things to help make it a little easier for people each month.

Devon and Cornwall Food Action holds monthly events, at which you can pay £25 and get a phenomenal amount of food, toiletries, household goods and even toys – and it’s open to everyone.

Falmouth Packet: All this for £25!All this for £25! (Image: NQ)

Different to a foodbank, you don’t need a referral or even to book – and there is a charge. But the amount you get far outweighs what you would need to spend in a supermarket to get the equivalent amount of goods.

Simply go along to one of the monthly sessions, at locations across Cornwall and Devon, pay your money and you are handed bag after bag of items, much of which would go to waste otherwise – although there is a good date on the majority of the fresh food, and what hasn't comes pre-frozen.

I’ve said a ‘week’s worth' of shopping in the headline, but in reality much of this will last us a lot longer.

Falmouth Packet: Some of the DCFA team and helpers from Helston Community CollegeSome of the DCFA team and helpers from Helston Community College (Image: NQ)

Alan Dunne, the charity’s chairman, explained that the rationale behind it is to help working people who find their monthly pay cheque is covering less and less, as well as people really struggling to make ends meet.

He said: “This is aimed at everyone; it’s quite inclusive. It’s for people to combat the cost-of-living crisis – we’re talking about working poverty here.

“The bottom line is, what are we going to do about it? We’re trying to do something.

“There will be the best part of 120 families fed here today – that’s about 600 people. And we do nine of these a month.”

Falmouth Packet: Charity chairman Alan Dunne (left) and one of the helpersCharity chairman Alan Dunne (left) and one of the helpers (Image: NQ)

Having heard about it from a friend, I went along to the Helston event on Saturday, to try it out.

Based outside the main building at Helston Community College north site, rows of gazebos were set up ready. It opens at 10.30am and when I arrived at 10.15am a reasonable sized queue had already begun to form.

Upon reaching the front, I handed over my £25 (both cash and card are accepted) and this is when the magic happens.

Passing the line of gazeboes you are handed bag upon bag of pre-packed items, as well as loose for your own bags, including bread, fruit and vegetables, frozen items, baked goods, pet food (chosen to suit your needs) and toiletries.

Falmouth Packet: Lots of fresh produceLots of fresh produce (Image: NQ)

Everyone gets a box filled with a catering-sized amount of pasties or sausage rolls, plus a full box of crisps. There is even a table of children’s toys included in the price.

The organisers advise you to take plenty of shopping bags with you, as well as drive there if you can, as what you take home is the equivalent of a full supermarket shop for a family of four, if not more.

A small amount of supermarket trolleys are passed up and down the line, as people leave and the next ones filter along, but those with previous experience had brought their own pull-along shopping trolley or beach cart.

Unpacking the bags at home was quite honestly like Christmas all over again, as the majority of things were in ‘mystery’ bags and I had no idea what I was getting.

Falmouth Packet: Toiletries and a catering sized box of sausage rollsToiletries and a catering sized box of sausage rolls (Image: NQ)

For my £25 I received:

Personal toiletries – travel sized selection of shampoos, full sized bubble bath, two full sized shower gels, cotton buds, sanitary products, wet wipes, full sized toothpaste

Household items – hand soap, kitchen cleaner, washing up sponges, industrial sized toilet roll

Baked items – catering sized box of sausage rolls, four-pack of doughnuts, two packaged bagels, six loose bagels, loaf of bread, gluten free loaf of bread

Cupboard goods – whole box of crisps, bag of porridge oats, tin of baked beans, jar of pasta sauce, two half-dozen boxes of eggs, bag of Crushed Oreos, dried pasta, dried black beans, bag of loose tea bags, tin of tuna, dried fruit, large bottle of hot sauce, packet of biscuits

Chilled goods – two Trewithen Dairy 1 litre milk (whole and skimmed), soup pouch

Frozen items – full sized pizza, mozzarella ball, antipasti meats, portion of KFC, tube yoghurts, cheese fondue, tomato pasta bake, plant-based southern fried chicken, butternut squash mash

Fruit and vegetables – fine beans, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, tomatoes, sprouts, kiwi fruit, satsumas, one leek, one turnip, carton of mushrooms, bunch of bananas, container of plums, lettuce, blueberries

Pet food – four cat food pouches, small bag of dog food

Toys – Barbie, pen set

What you get varies month to month, as well as different brands in each bag, while some items may be there one month and not the next, depending on what the supermarkets have available. This month there were eggs and milk, but not every time; last month there was cereal and ice cream.

Ita, who is in charge of managing the goods at the charity’s Plymouth warehouse, said they try to gauge how many people to cater for from their contact at each venue – in Helston that’s Charlene Price.

In Camborne it takes place at Colin Matthews Funeral Directors, with another venue in Hayle.

Falmouth Packet: Toys and baked goodsToys and baked goods (Image: NQ)

Dates and locations of many of the events are posted on the charity’s Facebook page, Devon & Cornwall Food Action – DCFA, which can also be contacted directly via info@dcfa.org.uk and 01752 651800 for more information or to check for the nearest location.

The charity is supported by almost all the major supermarkets, as well as Rowe’s, Ginsters and others.

It also fundraises towards its running costs, with the aiming of raising £2,500 each month. Donations can be made through a variety of different ways at https://devonandcornwallfoodaction.org/donate/ where you can also volunteer as a driver or to help at events.