Thursday, 12 January 2012

# 12 Useful around the home but keeping it under wraps

I try to keep it a secret that I am quite well domesticated. Of course, now it's out there on the internet it isn't a secret. Never mind, anything is a worthy sacrifice for 'blog' space.

I try to give off the pretense that I'm a career girl but I'm probably more 'Good Life' than good living. In the early days it wasn't really by choice. You have to do what you have to do to get by and though I was never taught how to be efficient and useful in the home and generally used to shut off during Home Economics classes (I can still remember making that Victoria Sponge in cookery though...) it's become a very routine part of my life.

Gardens produce great free stuff like this!
Budgets have been the one enduring feature of my life. I am a total spreadsheet queen. I've always had to live on restricted incomes but never more so than when I moved to my current address and I was having to live off my wits and conjure up all sorts of clever ways to make food last and keep the gas bills down.

I was lucky enough to have a house with a garden and a lot of friends who enjoy 'growing their own', so I turned my garden into an allotment, I got some chickens so that eggs (not cheap if you have a conscience about battery farming) were freely available, and I learnt how to bake, home cook and work with whatever was in the fridge freezer. Some of my favourite recipes are from simple traditional fare Victorian cookbooks and World War II rationing books that I found on the internet. A lot of what was on limited supply during the war were things I generally couldn't afford to keep in the cupboard, so it was an ideal way for us to manage.

I've had to gut and prepare my own pheasant, dig potatoes out of the garden in time for dinner and bake bread last thing on a Friday night so there was something for breakfast the next day. But to be honest I enjoy it. There is nothing more satisfying than eating something you grew yourself or cooked from scratch that afternoon.

My first ever batch of Marmalade.
I was pretty proud of this.
I discovered satisfaction in the simplest of things - home made bread and marmalade and the serenity of Sunday afternoons spent picking apples and blackberries in the local community orchard. Days in summer like this are absolute bliss and I get excited as soon as I can feel that first glimmer of spring on the horizon because it means I can get back out into the garden and start growing things again.

Our set food budget was and has been for the last couple of years, £30 per month for two people and though the days of excessively limited supermarket trips are over we've gotten very used to shopping this way and have remained within this budget out of habit more than anything. The only difference now is that I have an agreement with my housemate that I do all the housework, cleaning and cooking and he buys the meat supply every week. It works out well. He's in work, I'm at Uni.

Chickens produce cool free stuff like this!
I have found this sort of freedom liberating. Yes there are days when I wish I could blow some cash on a good restaurant meal or stock up on fine wine. I've spent more time than I care to remember with my nose pressed up against the windows of high street shops salivating over yet another pair of shoes I can't afford and I've lost count of the lunchtimes I've gone hungry. But to be honest, at the end of the day it's not happening and you just have to get used to it. We can't always have what we want, you learn to work within your limits and you just get on with it. Because sometimes life is like that. 

We all crave that extra pot of cash or a little escapism every so often but provided you can put food on the table, have your health and true friends, you can't really complain that much. It could be so much worse. 

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