01 Dec

December 2018

With the Toy Show being on last night Christmas season has officially kicked off in Ireland; in fact I have a Christmas party to go to tonight. The kids are obsessed with Christmas and their pure joy and delight in decorations in the shops and music playing on the radio is brilliant. As usual for the start of December though I don’t have the decorations up and I’ve no Christmas Tree in the sitting room quite yet.

I know I’m not the only one. I suppose it’s a hangover from the days of being so stressed out about money that we tried not to put the decorations up early or the presents under the tree until we had them bought. It felt like we were making promises to the kids (and to ourselves) that we just couldn’t keep.

The memories of tossing in turning in bed at night wondering how to borrow from Peter and pay Paul will never go away. I hope that they never do because I understand now that they have (a) brought me to where I am today and (b) know exactly what it’s like for those who are struggling at the moment.

Over the next month I’ll have something new each day for you to read or watch. I’ll share my tips on how to prepare for Christmas on a budget; how to not to be a Mammy-martyr in the lead up to the big day, how to ask for help gracefully, and some budget present ideas for all ages.

For today, the first day of December, I’d like to ask you to add 1 small extra item to your grocery shopping this week to donate to your local food appeal. It needn’t be something expensive, even if it’s an extra tin of beans or a bag of rice. If you’d rather not add an extra item in, why not see if you have something in your cupboards already that you’d like to share. Here’s the list from the St Vincent de Paul for their food appeal (this is also suitable for the Lions Club food appeals). Click here for the St Vincent de Paul list.

I’ve got some bags of pasta and some tins of beans which will be brought to our local collection point this week.

Chat tomorrow. Cxxx

03 Apr

Half Size Me – Food Waste, Portion Sizes, And Dining Out

‘There’s always the children’s menu if you want a smaller portion,’ the waitress said, directing me to the short 5 item menu attached at the back of the main menu.

‘That’s great if you fancy chicken nuggets and chips, sausages (with chips), or a burger with (you’ve guessed it) chips, or a half portion of the day’s roast dinner. What if I want to order a half portion of your signature pasta?’ I asked.

‘Oh the chef only cooks full portions.’

This response from a restaurant in Dublin doesn’t surprise me but does disappoint me. I love dining out and the occasional take away, but I love ‘adult’ food, not infantilised preformed breaded chicken which has been baked or deep-fried. Read More

26 Jan

Monitoring Your Child’s Internet Access

I originally wrote this piece in 2013 and unfortunately I’m reviewing it today in the light of discussion about children’s internet access and online safety today. Read More

19 Jul

Opinion: Food Headlines Worth Banning

Let’s ban the urgency of headlines when talking about food when talking about food

OMG if you read one thing about food today, read this, quick. Before everybody else reads it.

Does this sound familiar to you?

It certainly does to me, and I’m tired of it.

A quick trawl through articles published in Ireland by bloggers, online magazines, and newspapers in the past month reveal the following headline samples: Read More

10 Nov

Opinion: Unconscious Bias in Irish Food

Everybody has to eat. Breaking bread together, sitting down to eat at a table, it is where I believe community begins. It’s a fundamental part of what makes us human.

As I grow food, prepare meals, and eat them with my family, I’m reminded that this is a process that has been going on for millenia. Growing, preparing, cooking, and eating.

In our society, as in most societies, 71% of families report that the task of meal preparation is carried out by women in Ireland.* In fact in the majority, women make grocery decisions, prepare the food, then serve it up to the family for everyone to enjoy. I’m not saying that this is the way it should be, but it is how it is. Yes, my husband is more than capable of doing all these things, but no, he doesn’t down to the division of labour within our family. He goes out of the home to work, I work from home, and so this cycle of being a homemaker (and work at home mother) continues with us both being willing partners. Read More

15 Mar

What Is Irish Food?

What Is Irish Food_It’s the ruby juice from a ripe strawberry as it runs down my chin.

The golden sheen of a smear of butter, so yellow it could only come from grass-fed cows.

The pop of elderflower champagne, and the gentle buzz of its fizz in my glass.

Earthy, soil-like smell from roasting fresh beetroot in the oven.

Steam escaping from a pot of boiled potatoes, filling the room, fogging my glasses and making me smile. “Yum, yum, pig’s bum, cabbage and potatoes.

Sweet gur cake, washed down with strong tea, makes me think of the generations who have eaten it before, and wonder if my children will eat it in the same way.

Milk moustaches on a giggling 3-year-old.

Picking blackberries and coming home with a quarter of those we picked.

Cod so light it falls away from my fork. It tastes pure, clean and nothing like the sea.

Prawns, crab claws and mussels, cooked in that Irish butter and flavoured with tender garlic.

Bitter apples that taste sweeter for the scrumping.

It’s egg in a cup with a knob of butter and a crack of black pepper, eaten with a spoon and toast soldiers.

A ladle of coddle or stew, mopped up with a crust of soda bread.

Creamy porridge made with the finest oats in the world.

The sizzle of bacon under the grill, accompanied by the quiet pfft of the fat crisping (and sometimes the “whomp” of the grill catching fire).

Come to think of it, the crisp snap of brittle crackling followed by succulent roast pork.

Potatoes; waxy, floury, covered in butter. All the sizes, all the varying flavours.

It’s a kaleidoscope of tomatoes, hanging from the vine, sweet for the picking.

You know what it is? It’s the taste of home.

I’ve not mentioned a brand name here. We have the best of ingredients, great producers, passionate advocates of great food. What does Irish food taste like to you?

Just FYI in case you never heard about Irish food before, the following terms do not apply to Irish food:

05 Jun

Things I Don’t Buy Anymore

Last year I wrote about the things we don’t buy anymore but I just realised that it’s due an update. Although I talk a lot about what I buy, what we eat and how we live, maybe what is missing from the list might be interesting. This afternoon I was working through my shopping list and figuring out what I want to get for the week ahead and it struck me. So here’s a list of some of the things I don’t buy anymore and the reasons why (if any): Read More

14 Nov

Food Blogging Tips & Tricks That I’ve Learned

Call this post a review of sorts, in effect it is. This is a review of a year in the life of an Irish food blogger, but it also a way of sharing some food bloggingtips and tricks I picked up along the way. This blogpost was originally written in December 2012, now 2 years later I’m updating some of the information. Read More

05 Sep

Where Does Your Meat Come From?

If you buy your meat at the supermarket you can clearly see where the meat has come from. Plain meat with no sauces or “value added” to the package. If you go to a decent supermarket, you’ll be able to see which farm reared the animal that the meat is from, or which county it’s from. That makes it really easy for those of us who go into the shops to choose whether or not we want to buy Irish meat.

Irish meat labelling can be confusing but at least you can be confident that if you buy a whole Irish chicken in a supermarket that it’s been raised on the island and within the 32 counties. It’s peace of mind you want to support Irish producers and normally a great guarantee of quality.

I buy my meat from a local butcher. He’s a Craft Butcher and this is meant to suggest that the butcher is top of his craft and you can be sure of great service when you purchase from him. I know that he has an Irish-Only policy and any meat I buy from him is Irish.

ACBI encourages consumers to look for the CraftButcher logo to be sure of having the very best, traceable, traditionally prepared meat available. Meat from a Craft Butcher is sourced, slaughtered and prepared locally and so reduces Food Miles (helping our carbon footprint), and also eliminating stress to the animals. Transporting animals long distances before slaughter has a detrimental effect on the meat quality. By supporting your local Craft Butcher you can be sure of the highest quality produce.

There’s another local butcher who is also a Craft Butcher. Their shop is brightly lit and clean, it looks great from the outside. There are huge signs facing out saying positive things like “Irish Lamb” and “Quality Irish Beef”. From the outside it looks fantastic.

There are no signs on their chicken or chicken products about the origin. Nor are there signs on most of their pork products including ham and bacon products like ribs and sausages.

So I asked where their meat came from.

Go figure, the majority of their pork and chicken products are not Irish in origin. Yet they carry the Craft Butcher logo.

It’s not the only butcher in my County that doesn’t display origin on all their meat even though they are affiliated with a great organisation. It’s deceptive because they’re omitting where the meat has come from.

If you’re not confident that the meat you’re being sold is Irish, then ask.

Bord Bia have a scheme for restaurants called ‘Just Ask‘:

Just Ask! is a public awareness campaign that aims to encourage consumers when eating out to look for information on where the food (particularly meat) on their plate comes from and to encourage chefs to provide this information on their menus. With so many fantastic and great value restaurants right on your doorstep, eating out is still on the menu.

I’d love to see this rolled out for butchers nationwide because it may be the encouragement that some craft butchers need to display the information more prominently. It would also be a chance to commend those who are outstanding in their field.

28 Jul

Are Groceries More Expensive In Ireland?

I believed that grocery prices in Ireland are expensive; I felt they are steadily on the rise again, spurred on by the report from The Guardian published on Saturday, I’ve revisited my grocery shopping list from a few years ago to see how the prices differ. Read More

19 Jul

Choosing School Uniforms

I apologise for this post as I know that for some parents the thoughts of getting uniforms and organising back-to-school stuff waits until August. Having just bought some of the new uniform for the Autumn term I thought it might be worthwhile to explain what I learned last year and how it has affected my choices this year.

Just before the 5-year-old started school last year I blogged about the expenses of sending him to school and how much it was costing. At least I have a real account I can compare to!

The cost of school charges (including book rental) and books I have to buy pretty much remain the same which is a great credit to the school. However, when it comes to choosing school uniforms I’ve changed my outlook and that’s why I’m blogging about it again. Read More

30 Jun

Let’s Talk About Pigs

Why I haven’t blogged about the pigs? After all I’ve written about many aspects of my family life, including the allotment produce, so why not the pigs?

Some of you reading this might be thinking what pigs? That’s  understandable too as I’ve not written about them much. We keep pigs as part of a group. I say we, but this mainly means my husband because he normally has the car and the spot where we keep them isn’t within a safe walking distance so the responsibility falls to him.

Read More

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