Food and Energy Costs

Information and signposting on food and energy costs 


Foodbanks are places in your local community that can help if you can’t afford to buy the food you need.

Getting help from a foodbank

You can’t usually just walk into a foodbank and get food. Instead, you need a referral from a local advice organisation, your doctor or health visitor, social services or your housing officer. This organisation will give you a voucher that you can swap for food at the foodbank

Staff at the foodbank will welcome you, offer you a warm drink and chat to you to see how they can help. They may have pet food and cleaning supplies as well as food and often know about other ways you can get help.

Find your local foodbank

Gas, oil and electricity prices have all increased by large amounts in the last year. And further increases are coming.

There are things you can try to decrease your energy usage and budget for your energy bills. Even after using these tips most people will struggle to pay their bills while energy prices remain high.

Tips to reduce your energy bills

There are different tips you can try to use less electricity, gas and oil. Age NI partnered with National Energy Action and Power NI to develop this video outlining some of the best ways to reduce your usage and save money. 

Using less gas and oil

Your heating and hot water systems typically use more energy than your electrical system.

  • Bleed your radiators to get rid of cold spots and make them more efficient
  • Turn down your thermostat – but make sure you are still comfortable
  • Turn down the water temperature gauge on your boiler slightly
  • Turn down radiators in rooms that aren’t used
  • Close blinds and curtains once the sun starts to set to keep heat in your home

Using less electricity

You can take some small steps to reduce how much electricity you use.

  • Turn off lights when you leave a room
  • Don’t leave devices on standby and switch off plugs when you’re not using them
  • Wash clothes at lower temperatures and try to do one less wash cycle each week
  • Avoid using your tumble dryer if you can

Making your home more energy efficient

You may be able to get help to make your home more energy efficient. Contact Northern Ireland’s energy advice line on 0800 111 44 55 to find out more

  • Move furniture away from radiators
  • Cover pots and pans when cooking
  • Block up any unwanted gaps in floorboards, windows, unused chimneys to stop cold air coming in – but remember that ventilation is important to stop mould growth

Budgeting for energy bills

If you can afford to, think about putting money aside for your next bill or prepaying your energy bill.

If you’re on a pre-pay meter, you can stockpile energy at the lower rate before a price rise comes in by topping up your meter as much as you can afford to. You may have to top it up multiple times as most retailers will only let you top up so much at a time.

Don’t top up again until you’ve used all the energy on your meter. You’ll pay the new rates from the first time you top up after the price increase comes in.

Check if there’s an oil buying club in your area. These clubs order oil in bulk so can get cheaper prices for members.

What happens if you don’t pay your bill?

Electricity and gas companies will only disconnect your supply as a last resort. They’ll contact you multiple times before they stop your supply.

If you get a letter about a missed bill and you don’t feel able to deal with it yourself, seek help. You can contact:

Make sure you are on the critical care register if you rely on electricity or hot water for your healthcare needs.

Let your utility provider know if you have any disabilities or illnesses. They will have a vulnerable customer policy and may have a special team you can talk to if you run into difficulties.

Your energy supplier might change you from a billing system to a pay-as-you-go meter if you have trouble paying your bills on time. When you top up, some of your money will go towards your debt and the rest will go towards your current usage.

Your electricity meter will make a warning sound when your credit gets low. Your electricity supply will stop if you don’t turn this sound off. When you turn it off you will get £1 of emergency credit to help until you top-up your meter. Your supply won’t cut out due to low credit over the weekend or between 4:00 pm and 8:00 am on weekdays. The supply will switch off at 8:00 am on the next working day.