Frugal Living


For a change this isn’t a blogpost with a recipe. Call it a musing if you will, about the Ulster Bank issue and how our lives have changed.

Meet my eldest son, he’ll be 4 in the Autumn. Here he is with a pea seedling that he grew and once it has fully matured we’ll have enough peas for about a fortnight from that one, tiny plant. This time 4 years ago I was still working (pregnant obviously), we were living comfortably and while we had a budget we truthfully had no idea of what it as like to scrimp to pay the bills.

This week Ulster Bank had a massive glitch in their systems which meant that those who bank with them faced not being able to access cash that should be in their accounts. Before my children came along we wouldn’t have stressed in the slightest. We would have used the credit card if we were stuck and paid it off when the money became available again. Nowadays life is a good bit different.

Like many families in Ireland today we depend not just on my husband’s wages but also on an assistance payment from the state in the form of Family Income Supplement. This is not by choice. Quite honestly if we could afford not to rely on help from Social Welfare I would hand it back to them right now. Financially some days we struggle and don’t think that I’m having a moan, I’m not, I’m just telling it like it is. I know so many people don’t admit that they are having problems or aren’t open about it. I am. Sure isn’t that the whole reason why I blog about feeding my family on a budget?

So when I checked the bank account on Thursday morning to see that not only had the wages not gone into the account but also the Family Income Supplement hadn’t either my heart sank. I don’t spend a huge amount on grocery shopping each week out of necessity but not to have that available to me made me feel drained, and sick to my bones. Panic mode set in.

Yes I did pull all the cushions off the sofa and dive into that mystery section in the back where you are never quite sure whether that small round black thing you found is a raisin or something more ominous (it was a raisin by the way). For the record I found €6.50. I did my store cupboard stocktake and realised that we did in fact have enough food to last us for a good while and enough cash for essentials like milk thanks to my sofa dive. I also found that we had plenty of food for the future, seeds to grow food which will save us money, the makings of many a celebratory cake and filling dinner.

Are you shocked the families in Ireland live like this? Live from week to week, from payday to social welfare payment? If so you shouldn’t be. Perhaps I might have been four years ago, but not now. Now I appreciate how lucky we are. The nearest Ulster Bank is over 20km away. If we had run out of diesel and wanted to get to the branch to get money out how would we have paid for a bus fare or put fuel in the car?

Let’s forget for 1 second that we have such an amazing bunch of family, friends, neighbours and community who would never see us short.

So that is why I’m revisiting my promise to teach my children how to grow for themselves, be self sufficient in as much as they can be, and fend for themselves from as early an age as I can. As the old proverb goes; “teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. How to budget for a household, save money for the future if there is some left over at the end of the week and ultimately how to have lifeskills no matter what happens is what I want my children to know and learn.

We’re doing fine and if the bank hasn’t resolved the accounts issue by Monday we’ll be getting to a branch to get access to some cash. The past couple of days have just strengthened my resolve.

I'm an Irish mother to 2 boys, born & bred in Dublin, Ireland. I like to cook simple & fresh food for the family, with the family on a budget.


  • Carolanne

    Your son is gorgeous, what a charming little smile! I hope you get everything sorted out soon xx

  • Lisa

    It’s just unreal how we’ve all been affected by the recession. I’m not affected by the ulster bank affair but we’d be in the same situation if I was a customer. The lack of info was the most infuriating. Being honest with each other about our lifestyles is such a help when you feel on your own struggling. Great post (in a weird way if you know what I mean!!)

  • bernadette

    Sometimes we don’t know our strengths until we are tested!when we can’t change what has happened to us the only thing that can change is how we are with that difficulty.Well done x

  • English Mum

    I’m in the same situation over here with NatWest who have also had a computer crisis. Nothing like not being able to get at your cash to bring things into focus, is there? This is shocking, but also uplifting in the positive way you deal with it. Big hugs for you guys xx

  • Rosemarie

    What an insightful post -I spend a lot of time trying to assist people with budgeting in my job. It’s teaching me a lot about priorities and what is really important. Sounds like you are doing a phenomenal job and those children of yours are lucky to have such a great mum. Admire your honesty & feel we could do with more discussion on this . Thanks for sharing Rosemarie

  • Emma Toner

    “Let’s forget for 1 second that we have such an amazing bunch of
    family, friends, neighbours and community who would never see us short.”

    Why forget? Just to make your story more dramatic?

    • Wholesome Ireland

      I guess I didn’t articulate what I meant properly. What I was trying to say was that the locations of the branches that are open could mean that those who run out of cash may not be able to get there. I don’t mean or intend my story to be dramatic. I appreciate your feedback.

  • Amee

    We are self employed and the uncertainty has become a way of life for us in the last few years, dispute me taking on extra work. Cash flow is a massive problem and there is no point pressuring others to pay as every body is in the same boat. I have a larder, store, freezer and vegetable garden that could see out a nuclear winter as a result. We may have no health insurance but we will never go hungry. Your little fella is a dote.

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