Budget Eating

Let me start by saying I applaud the current UNICEF campaign encouraging people who are coping to try living below the poverty line and practice some hardcore reality checking…
I may have mentioned before that I am comparatively financially comfortable and I think I have also pointed out that we as a family constantly have to manage our budget to keep it that way. So what I want to have a bit of a whinge about is the proliferation of articles demonstrating the numerous recipes and ways you too could feed yourself for under a pound a day (UK £) from a very practical level.
What I have a problem with is the unrealistic shopping experiences necessary for these meals. Not only is shopping at a variety of different shops to find the best possible bargains time-consuming (which is obviously not a problem while you are on the dole you scrounger *sigh* cos obviously taking your kids with you and applying for jobs at the same time is a doddle especially if you have mobility problems) but it is often expensive – the best deals are usually in out of town hypermarkets and who can afford a car… so do you stump up for expensive public transport or heft your rucksack through the rain to carry back your bulk buys? Because believe me things are only that cheap if you buy a lot at once. Sure 1 egg costs 9p but you have to buy 30 to get that price and to get your 3p 50g of rice you need to buy a kilo. Now rice lasts a while but eggs are a bit more limited, likewise once you have opened your tin of value kidney beans you have to use it up. Don’t get me wrong bulk buying works but its also hard to keep interest and variety in your meals and that is a pressure when you know that the twenty quid you scraped together and spent on those bulk buys in one go had better not go to waste with rotting food. We are regularly told how much healthier fresh food is, but the reality is that actually on a budget you have to go for longer-life stuff – its often not the end of the world nutritionally speaking but it is easy to end up with added sugar and salt (great cheap preservatives) to compensate for the lower cost. If you want the fresh stuff, it has to be from the ends/just about to go out of date sections but that means only getting whats available and being flexible re-writing your menus – good luck creativity!
Yes, you can eat cheaply and moderately heatlthily on quite a small budget but posts highlighting one person’s week and the many meals they managed with lots of ingredients fails to really show the effort and planning it takes to organise those menus  for several people for possibly a week or more at a time – a feat that I struggle with even using a calculator and a crib sheet suggesting nutritional values for portion sizes and I have a Maths A-level and nearly a doctorate to my name.
Its not impossible but it is very hard and time-consuming and sometimes demeaning, surely that is the point?

 

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Grounding

When stress and work constraints get the better of you it is easy to let family time slip away.

Today I was reminded how much difference it makes just to sit down and eat together.
My wife made a beautiful sunday dinner – it was nothing short of a gift for B & I, warming, homely and thoughtful (not to mention damn tasty). I hope that she felt good to be able to share that with us.
I take for granted the moments we sit and laugh together and I shouldn’t. Stopping to eat together or watch trashy tv has always been a way to escape even when our relationships were at their rockiest and no matter how painful and personal the process is we are closer for it. I think on balance I am glad for separate spaces (extra cleaning but better escape clauses) but sharing is good.
Thankyou my loves

Routines (or only cooking once a week)

I don’t like cooking. I find it stressful and time-consuming and difficult to plan. I am not creative and I’m no good at healthy.
My wife on the other hand finds it relaxing and inspiring. I enjoy eating her food. The only reasons she doesn’t cook everyday are that we’d spend all our money on ingredients and I would eat so much I’d actually pop. (She chronically over-caters and does tend to have a penchant for the finer delights of butter and sugar..) I regularly feel guilty about depriving her of the fun of creating fantastic meals but then I remember that work and research have to happen to and realistically no one has hours to make food everyday.

Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of B. He might not be as creative as W in the kitchen but he is willing and able to put together a meal from whatever scraps I hand out according to the budget (I am ruthless 5 days out of 7 so that W can have free reign for at least one weekend meal).
It works well not only splitting the food budget (and therefore allowing us to take advantage of some of the more bulk buy options) but also splitting the cooking Mon-Fri. Once a week W cooks for all three of us, once a week B takes that responsibility and the night of the week that I work we indulge in ready meals. That leaves 2 days where we go our separate ways (and I eat with whichever partner I am spending the evening with). It allows for quirks of individual tastes (W hates mushrooms, B can’t stand parsnips – I think they are both weird), everyone gets at least 2 nights off where they have no responsibility for preparing food and we can save money and work on being healthy together.
Don’t get me wrong its not all sunshine and jollity; it takes flexibility and lots of consultation just to put together a meal plan (so imagine for a moment the sensitivity required for other time management…). I get it wrong, pretty much every week because something will go off, or I’ll forget part of the packed lunches or a particular meeting or reason for celebrating, or I’ll forget that someone hates x or misjudge the amount of leftovers et cetera et cetera but you know what I think we are getting better…

Dividing the week up and compromising on the needs and desires of 3 adults is not everyone’s cup of tea but I enjoy having the support network that means no one has all the pressure and that everyone has a chance for their own space as well as always having an extra shoulder to cry on when those nearest are overloaded. What do couples do when 1 is ill in bed and the other hasn’t slept for 3 days and food needs to get from the shops to the table? How do more couples not collapse under the pressure of depression and chronic illness? I am thankful for my loves and my life.

Keep Off My Peas!

With the possible exception of the creaking of my joints by far the worst aspect of our messed up weather this summer hasn’t been daylight deficiency, lack of Barbeques or walking the dog in the rain – it is the Slugs and Snails.
I am being driven crazy by the attack of the gastropods on my poor vegetables, every night I sneak out with my torch to pick up the slimy little bastards and hurl them into the distance.

To be fair I’m proud of where we are with the garden – we have potatoes and strawberries. The Cos is almost ready (albeit a little raggedy from our slug issue) and so are the ‘spring’ onions. We have spinach, hopefully the peas will flower soon and maybe the tomatoes (which have grown from seed to real plants..) will also make fruit.

I am one step closer to achieving the goal of providing for us as a family. We are really lucky

 

Budgets #2

So after last week what’s happened?

Well it was a rocky start – though perhaps I can comfortably blame W’s Birthday for that.
Fairly sure we blew the drinks budget at a whiskey tasting(approx £30) but W added extra to the pot and we split the cost on the cards which makes it a bit tricky to judge.

Foodwise on top of the £26 I recorded that we spent in our big shop: We also spent £4 on chicken and chips for 2 (yes junk food was required after all that drinking…), £29 on birthday burritos and a beer to go with that for 3 and £18.50 worth of Clubcard vouchers that did Roast dinner for 3, leftovers dinner for 2 and 4 lunches.
So 63 meals = £77.50. Average a bit under £1.25, incl a cheap meal out. It is of course worth pointing out that we were also making use of the food already in our cupboards and there were some remaining items from the previous weekly shop. Not bad but can do better – Grade B-?

So this week.. So far we have spent £20. Soup veg from W’s parents has covered some of the meals planned which helps and B is expecting to eat out with work one night this week.. hoping it will be a cheap food week.
Transport on the other hand is going badly this week already because W’s work bus ticket which she buys monthly had expired so that means extra money taken out of the local bus fund – otoh walking is good for me. Lets hope it doesn’t rain too much..

Wish us luck.

Days and Longer Days

Haven’t been writing for a couple of days..

So mostly there has been a weekend – largely full of working and food. Saturday late start with friday’s rather lovely left-overs and then to work and and an absolutely fantastic meal from my beautiful wife. Sunday early to work then a booze run and dinner from my boy.

My beautiful Girl cooked food from an improvised “ready steady cook” gourmet bag – tilapia fillets, oranges, spring onions, brown rice and chilli peppers plus whatever was in the cupboards. The fish was cooked in a carribean spiced style, the rice became mushroom risotto with fish stock and a side of orange salad. It was beautiful and lasted through lunch on sunday.
On the Sunday B made all of us a roast dinner. Lamb, lots of veg and good gravy. It was nice to be treated to good food and though the calorie count wasn’t low there was plenty of veg and very little fat which really helps. I am a very lucky girl.

Today on the other hand was hard; I had to go to uni for some meetings all in all a 10.5 hour round trip plus M is struggling at the moment; a combination of family woes and work pressure…anyway she needs a break and better drugs. It would be good if her colleagues could just give her a little support
I am looking forward to bed!

 

Food Cravings

I blame the pills – which is convenient on the basis that not only is it a recognised side effect, it also makes it ‘not my fault’

I have never felt hungry/thirsty like this before. Other than short bursts of craving for cheese or chocolate that were easily satisfied, I have never wanted to eat like this before – its sort of been a pleasant optional extra or occasional awareness of need. Now there is a want..
In general I ignore it, but its an effort, a constant effort.

I wonder if chewing gum or something would give me some kind of satisfaction.

Its a shame really cos actually the drugs are damn good for my head.