How to feed your family on €65K a year


Recent reports in the national press tell us that some Irish people claim "to not be able to feed their families on an income of €65K a year". 

Of course the articles refers to a specific family where the dad works in civil service and between mortgage repayments, pay cuts and lack of any kinds of medical benefits, they are left with a deficit to live on. It's shocking and stunning that this could be the case but, as the salary figure sounds quite high also quite hard to garner sympathy. Many households, including my own and many of my peers live on far far less income, on paper anyway. It must be extemely distressing to this family, and many like them to be caught in this trap. 

Conversley Angela Merkel commented that we could all take a leaf out of the book of the Schwabian housewife and learn the art of running a household on a tight budget, not being wasteful and planning ahead. Having lived in Germany and having my two sons there, the way a German lives their life is extraordinarily different to ours. For example when you visit a student flat you will find a group of young people, living in an orderly way, cooking meals, sharing space and just being, well, functional. They aren't chaotic houses full of beercans and clothes from Primark, their sense of self hasn't left them and they just, well, tipp along. It's not uncommon to see an eighteen year old girl in a DIY store buying tools and things to put up her own shelves and do things for herself in her own flat. It's not uncommon for a German in their early twenties to have a part-time job to get them through college, and, they won't be complaining about being able to live their own lives either. 

On the other side of the coin Germans aren't flashy, the rich houses are as likely to have meals heavily featuring vegetables and light on meat and cheese. The mind-set of the country sees the connection between the health of it's people and the health of the economy. A healthy workforce means fewer days off, fewer losses in revenue to companies etc etc. The country has embraced the concept of rational joined-up thinking, simple equations where a minus plus a minus foes not equal a plus. 

Ireland experienced it's so-called 'emancipation of women' considerably later than Germany. What happened over there in the 70s took until the 90'd to reach us and a huge part of that movement was for women to, naturally, loosen the apron strings and take to the convenience aisles of up-market supermarkets and say "I'm not going to be chained to the kitchen sink and stove like generations of women before me, I'm going to take a stand by the rotisserie chicken and pre-packed baby new potatoes, mini chocolate puddings and chilled chardonnay". And why wouldn't we/they? 

It's a thing I struggled with myself in the early Mummy years as I found myself in just that position, young Mum and partner to a man working all hours in a sales job. he was on the road, I was in the kitchen, in a flat in Germany, like so many other millions of Germans. In Germany you're not considered poor, or second class if you rent, it is the norm, and most folk live in apartments, and public transport and amenities are so good that you have little need of the expense of a car. 

Germans eat well, but they eat differently. They are a world leader in the production of organics and most of the organic babyfood in the world comes from there. They believe in the maxim 'Viel gemeuse, wenig fleish' which means 'much vegetables, little meat' as I previously stated. So a meal might be based on a stew or a soup with some hearty grained bread and salad. We eat a lot of meat which is costly and mostly unnecessary to eat it so often. German homes have tiny kitchens so they shop for fresh food most days of the week, unlike us, who still buy the one weekly shop and throw most of it, including entire chickens, yogurts and fruit into landfill every week. It seems that almost a whole generation has forgotten how to look after itself, by making statements of independence or otherwise, this is a dangerous position to be in. Home economics rooms remain empty in secondary schools while students spend hundreds of hours trying to drag themselves through archaic subjects that have little relevance to the real world. How many people know how much it costs to make a family meal like shepherds pie? 

We need to get back to some basics, there's a lot more to food independence than worrying about paying our import bills. 

For now, I'll engage in what I know, a little bit about basic cooking. 

When you make food for yourself you engage in a simple practice of doing something for yourself and your family, fortunately baking has become really popular and is being enjoyed by men, women and kids. Have we gotten to a place where we do it to save money or improve our health? Hopefully a bit of both. 

So I'm sharing a post I wrote four years ago, as a typical frustrated Mammy, finding solace and comfort in the baking of bread. If you find yourself tearing your hair out, worrying, it's surprising how much comfort you can find in rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck into a bag of flour, with or without kids. 

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