cooking the books

I need to save up my wages for a big purchase which means frugality must again enter stage left. There are various strategies for achieving frugality in our lives most involve organisation and lists. But what if you are not a “To-Do List” person? What if you are more creative and free thinking than a linear list of items? How do you compensate?

Well my first decision is to go cash. Take out the lump sum of money I have for groceries for the week, leave the debit card at home and when the purse is empty, no more can be bought.

There is a school of thought that one weekly shop and then apportioning it enables meals to be decided and prepared in advance and therefore saves time and money.

I like to shop like the French used to, and many years ago like our country did. Going forth each day to spot a bargain and pick up the specials and the reduced items. I like to be inspired as to what to cook by what is available in the store. So how to tally traditional bargain hunting methods with a limited budget and limited space?

I have been reading “The birth of thrift” by Jacqueline Percival and it has an abundance of ways to use everyday items in unusual ways. Such as cleaning brown shoes with banana skins and eking out the food budget by giving children less “nice” food and keeping to a plain diet of oatmeal, boiled mutton and squished peas with mashed potato.

Some of the ideas from way back, long ago do not work today because the price of foodstuffs has changed. Cod is no longer the cheapest fish, meat is no longer available in the cheapest cuts and fruit and vegetables are not open to seasonal pricing as much greengrocery items are available all year round.

However it is an interesting read and some of the tales are quite funny. But for the time it talks about which is turn of the century Britain, the most frugal people were the ones who were going hungry to feed their families. Most of them did not have a voice, did not read newspapers and perhaps were not reading at all. They were in the main women, who worked full time along with their husbands and sometimes their children. Migrant workers who travelled the country picking the vegetables and fruit for the more well off whilst making appealing dishes like potato skin stew!

The flu epidemic and the first world war laid waste to many lives in Britain, almost all families were touched by tragedy.

And then there was the great depression of the 1930’s. It is understandable how depressing tales of life in the future could be seen as prophetic rather than fiction. Following that was the second world war. And we had anti-heroes, we had ordinary people who had lived half a century of crap and had enough.

When Winston Smith hurries along to his grey flat as the clock struck thirteen is mixing so many metaphors for the future, for the present and for the past. We today don’t in the majority of towns have clocks that chime the hour. What a clock with 24 hours on a normal dial would look like is beyond our thoughts because we got digital and now we have the 24 hour clock but it is just numbers no dial face. Smith is the most common name in Britain and Winston was the great hero of the hour, the prime minister of Britain who (you would think singlehanded) won the war with Germany. In one sentence a book turns the world on it’s head.

But does it turn the ordinary person’s head at all? When you are full of drudgery and greyness how do you see the daisies appearing in the dust in the street? How do you see hope? How do you see any kind of future that is not bleak?

That is what happened to my maternal grandparents, ground down by too many bad things in their life they turned away from places of comfort and began a journey together that involved much frugality but little or no joy. They stopped attending services at their church and although would profess to be Christian, their lives were not lived out that way.

So now today as I embark on another adventure in frugality, I do it with purpose, I do it with perseverance but firstly and most importantly I do it joyfully.

I live debt free in personal jubilee, I owe nothing and nobody owes me anything.  I don’t lend anything expecting it back and I try to look after anything I borrow so it goes back in the same condition it appeared.

There are so many ways I will tighten the belt, less meat, more veg, cheapest carbs available, make everything from scratch and make each meal as tasty and appealing as possible. I am hoping to achieve my financial goal at Easter so it ties in kind of with Lent, not by design.

But as it does. Here is my first choice. Buy a pancake mix and add milk and egg to it. Or. Four ounces of flour, pinch of salt, 1 egg, some milk till runny. My grandparent might not have had much joy in their lives but they taught me recipes off by heart and so it gives me freedom, once the ratio is known the added ingredients can be changed. So make it thicker and add some cream of tartar and bicarb to make scotch pancakes. Use scotch pancake mix in bigger frying pan to make American pancakes. Or add yeast and make pikelets or crumpets. So I will make pancakes with sausages for the boys and veggie curry left over from tonight for me.

How do you prepare for Lent? Do you prepare for Lent?

Try this:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

Is it possible to be frugal with our words, so that only healthy things are said, things that encourage, things that help, things that build up.

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