Musing,  Opinion,  Opinion,  Recipes

Mental Load – Food For Thought

There’s a point in a recent documentary on RTÉ1, called Ireland’s Health Divide, where Dr Eva Orsmond can’t get her head around a woman from Limerick buying so much processed food. The woman says that she doesn’t buy Coke (Cola) anymore because it’s worse than the other bottles of fizzy drinks on the countertop in front of her. Then Dr Eva looks incredulously at the woman not understanding how she came to that assumption. Perhaps even with more than a little judgement.

This is the thing. When you have that much on your mind, you don’t read the labels on food. You just buy what you can, when you can, and hope that the family will eat it. You can’t afford to buy fresh fruit and veg in case the family don’t eat it. If they don’t, then it goes into the bin and not only is the food wasted but also the money is wasted. It’s money that you can ill afford to waste. If your kids insist on eating nuggets and pizzas every single day, you’ll darn well give it to them because at least they’re eating something and it’s in your budget.

Plus at least you don’t have to stand over the hob and cook for a while during the day. Your head is so full with trying to deal with the stress you’re under, it’s just easier to pop something into the oven and forget about it.

Then if you don’t have a home to cook in, if you’re living in a hotel room, how can you even consider cooking? Sure if you’re lucky you’ll have a microwave.

Somebody suggests a healthy microwave cookbook to you and you think; ‘if they buy it for me I’ll make them eat every darn page of the book themselves‘. Plus the smell of the food in the one room you have to live in, sleep in, study in, raise a family in makes your stomach churn almost as bad as the worry does. Did you get tagged in a viral video on Facebook with ‘5 things you can cook with your iron‘ or ‘how to make a whole meal using just a kettle‘? Did you decide to block them there and then? I would.

Why am I telling you this?

Last week I had a reminder of how bad mental load can be. I had work to do, kids to take care of, household to run, all the usual stuff that I have every week.

Then on Monday I spent nearly 50 mins on the phone to the bank trying to sort something out to do with the mortgage. It transpired I had to go to the bank to sort the issue out (it’s an hour round trip from our home). 30 mins while I was there. Let’s just say it was over 2 hours dealing with the bank.

On Wednesday we got another 60 day holding letter about our tracker mortgage that they still haven’t sorted out (yes since December last year).

On Thursday we got an arrears notice, threatening us with legal action. I couldn’t think straight. My husband and I spent literally hours on the phone to the bank being given misinformation after misinformation. All I could think about was speaking to the bank, the arrears letter, how awfully we were being treated. Mentally loaded.

Working on this blog went out the window.

Cooking was all but forgotten.

Food was just a means to an end, a way to fuel the family.

But the kids don’t understand mental load. They understand it’s time for food.

We bought take out.

Too loaded mentally to think straight about cooking dinner; I spent most of the evening trying to get my blood pressure down.

I often hear/see people asking why people on low incomes buy more convenience food or eat take away food so often.This is just one of the reasons why someone would choose not to cook a family meal.

Food for thought.

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.


  • Janine Kennedy

    Yes to this, Caitriona. It’s easy for higher income people to scoff; they’ve never had to experience the mad cycle that is poverty. I always rolled my eyes at those Jamie Oliver shows where he tries to get low income families to buy more fresh fruit and vegetables. As if a bit more education will change their child’s palate ?

  • Jenya

    I am sorry to hear about the problems you are going through.
    I can not agree with the idea that if someone does not give to their family processed food, they ll have nothing to eat. I think and act opposit. If there is no junk/processed food at home, my Kids have no other choice but to eat healthy. And they do it, they do not let themselves go starving. For example, when we cut sugar, they started to eat more fruit, which is always available in a trolley. Then we limited amount of white bread they eat, kids resorted to eating more healthy cooked meals.
    Yes, may be occasionally, they get processed food. But we learned hard way that refined, processed food affects our kids health badly, in many ways, even once off episodes cost us a lot of trouble sometimes… so…. if i would give them junk… I will add insult to the injury, and make our life miserable.
    I believe that a family can avoid junk on any budget. My childhood is the proof. On a tight budget, and often with empty grocery stores’shelves, we ate healthy food.

  • Holly

    I hear you. When I was going through chemo earlier this year I found it impossible to find the energy (or mental space) to cook, at a time when my body really really needed healthy, wholesome meals.

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