Thursday, 22 May 2014

£70-a-week food shop – Are you having a giraffe?

‘Phrrrrt!’ was the noise I made when Ed Miliband claimed he spent £70 on his weekly shop. Out of touch? Just a Lidl.    

The average food bill for a family four is estimated at around £100 a week. As a family of two adults and a small child our weekly grocery shopping regularly hits around the £100 mark.  Not to mention top up trips to Little Tesco.

While a friend of mine with three children under 10 said she was struggling to bring in her weekly shop at under an eye-watering £185.

Ed’s guestimate would be about right if it related to just food, the trouble is there is so much more to a food shop.

A quick review of my receipt yesterday revealed several unexpected items in the bagging area including, a bottle of Southern Comfort (but it has cherry in it), a six pack of nice ‘n’ spicy Nik Naks (they were on offer) and a strawberry chapstick. ('Pur-lease Mummy, I love straw-bees').   

Asda is a particularly dangerous when it comes to picking up every day essentials. 

I go in for a Toastie loaf and come out with two deck chairs and a Godzilla onesie.   

So how do you stick to your shopping guns?

Here’s a few tips for saving lolly on your weekly trolley. 

Vouchers – You know all those wafty bits of paper they hand you when you get your change, some of them are actually fairly decent offers.  Anything from £6 off your next £40 shop (£6 that’s like two bales of toilet rolls!) to bonus club card points, it’s all money, use them!

Shop online – I am a shopper’s dream. No list, just time on my hands and a vague idea that I need to buy some sustenance.  Stop! Shop online - no distractions, no impulse purchases and no kid bribes.

Some supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and Waitrose offer free delivery slots if you spend a certain amount.  

Meal planning – I am guilty of being a one meal shopper. Yes it’s yawnsome but you’d be amazed by how much you save by planning next week’s meals in advance. 

Meal planning reduces random trips to the supermarket and is a great way to make meals stretch. So if you’re having a chicken roast on Sunday, use the leftovers to make a chicken casserole or chicken goujans the next day. 

Less meat - As my Dad always barked when I was little: 'Eat the meat!'

Meat is the priciest part of the meal. Plan a few meat-free meals every week, such as pasta, jacket potatoes or home made pizza.

‘Whoops’ aisle – Elbows ready! The Whoops aisle is the place for items that’s just about to go out of date or where packaging is slightly damaged.  There are lots of bargains to be had and you can always pop stuff in the freezer to have another day.  Check out Kate Barrett’s blog – who rustles up gourmet meals for just a few pence:

Do you have any ideas for frugal food shopping?

Let me know on here or on Twitter @melissablamey

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Peaches didn’t die of a heroin overdose but a broken heart

The headline that Peaches might have succumbed the same way as her mum, of a heroin overdose, struck more of a chord with me than I would imagine.

Yes, I was as shocked as anyone at Peaches sudden passing but to discover that it might be in the same way as Paula died says much more about Peaches’ state of mind.

To her thousands of Twitter followers Peaches was a wholesome beacon of light, living out the perfect young mum existence, raising two boys, mashing vegetables, walking her dogs, painting Easter eggs. But beneath the veil of home-spun fun life might have been quite different.   

What I have learnt is that becoming a mother doesn't necessarily erase the loss of losing a mother.

I didn't lose my mum to such rock-and-roll circumstances as a heroin overdose but to common, household-name, cancer.

Loss of a parent at any age is visceral and raw but for children and young adults it seems  particularly destructive, leaving many forever weakened and fragile by that loss. 

It’s scary to admit that when I became a mother myself, it helped, but it didn’t heal. In some ways it made the absence more apparent.

In the early days I would see new mums with their mums everywhere. Steering them through the down times, the sleepless nights, the sore bits, the days when they didn’t have time to shower.    

I was fortunate to have a lovely supportive partner. But when I find myself huffing into a paper bag outside Sainsbury’s to stave off another panic attack I wonder, is this me or what happened to mum still?

You see sometimes on the really dark days (luckily these are few and far between), I resonate with those people who are brave enough to square-up to the unknown and slip into a drugged sleep.

I suspect there is nothing afterwards but maybe, just maybe I would get to see my mum again.
I imagine sharing a Guinness with her on a sunny Autumn day. She would probably bark at me 14 years’ worth of stiff talking to.  

Asking why I didn't leave ‘so and so’ sooner, why I still highlight my hair (you’re almost 40), why I wrote such a verbose inscription on her grave (grief does funny things) and, importantly, why I gave her car boot treasure away.

My mum died aged 49 and like many people whose parents have died I expect to die at the stroke of midnight on the same day.  I also think that despite the warnings I am pursuing the same path.

There are many steps I could take to avoid breast cancer and yet here I am, blithely drinking my daily allowance of alcohol, not exercising and rarely checking for lumps and bumps.

Perhaps Peaches was on a sabotage mission too?

In trying to recreate the idyllic childhood she had had and taking thoughtful well planned steps to avoid inflicting the pain she had felt, history repeated itself anyway.
Consciously I want to avoid the same route as my mum’s death; sub-consciously I think there's something darkly comforting suspecting it might be the same.

Whether the cause of Peaches’ death proves to be true or not, I hope that wherever she is she’s at peace. Or enjoying a natter and cold Guinness with Paula.

Good night sweet girl.