Discussion about poverty in Britain quickly gets snagged on the question of whether you can be poor if you have a plasma TV.
But if, instead of thinking about the breadline, we consider what level of income is needed for an acceptable standard of living, the debate changes.
It gives us a sense of what is decent in a rich country like ours, what we regard as a socially acceptable minimum.
It is not just about having bread – it’s about having butter and, occasionally, a dollop of jam too.
Since then, of course, austerity has barged its way into our lives. So JRF decided to repeat the exercise of 2008 and see what’s changed.
And the surprise is that so little has.
More than 20 panels of ordinary citizens were asked to put together a list of items they considered essential for an acceptable standard of living and the choices were very close to what their predecessors had selected four years earlier.
There were a few nods to belt-tightening: the budget for eating out and takeaways has been cut to £90 a year for a family of four; the current amount set aside for Christmas and birthday presents has been reduced; instead of swimming with a toddler once a week the panels made it once a month.