Here at North/South Food we’ve been blogging since 2010, and more than anything else it’s been a fun way for us as brother and sister to share a common interest, background and communicate when we live hundreds of miles apart. It means we talk about more than just what we had for our tea when we chat on the phone.
But almost by accident, I certainly discovered another side to blogging. It taught me to be more creative about eating on a budget. This happened naturally. I have only ever had a small budget to cook and eat from due to my circumstances. So as we both developed and honed our skills in writing and social media and photography, I definitely expanded my budget horizons while we blogged.
I just never thought to mention it. While I love other frugal blogs and check them regularly, my own lack of money seemed irrelevant. Everyone has a budget after all: some people’s are just smaller. In fact although Mister North has a larger budget than me, he’s a careful shopper, knows his prices and the value of things and neither of us are are excessive financially when cooking. It didn’t seem that important to highlight this.
And to a certain extent it isn’t. Good food is good food. We cooked and blogged and people enjoyed it both in person and online. No one ever noticed the price of things. But when I realised I’d developed good skills for budget food and then heard people like me doing their best being criticised for it, I accidentally ‘outed’ myself by writing a piece of what challenges living on a budget can cause.
We couldn’t have foreseen the response. No one was sniffy or judgemental, and we realised there’s a massive appetite for frugal food that allows for some pleasures, and builds on skills and ideas. It’s been an honour to be asked to write for the Observer Food Monthly, to be interviewed for the Radio 4 Food Programme, and a privilege to meet and talk to others also eating well on a budget.
In many ways I can’t knock the tone of things like Delia’s Frugal Food (I bought my mum a copy for Mother’s Day when I was about 8, not knowing what frugal meant…) but I don’t love the tone of parsimony that accompanies them. Having a small budget is not a failing, and it shouldn’t be a punishment.
My budget is £15-20 per week, including store cupboard essentials. I’ve got a wee bit of wiggle room – because food is my hobby – and sometimes I buy stuff for fun so I might spend £25 one week and £15 the next. I’ve learned to adapt to seasonality and to plan without being so rigid I can’t trust my instincts. This flexibility is how I not only cope, but genuinely enjoy budgeting week in, week out, for the last 13 years.
I’ll happily eat boiled rice and veggies a couple of nights a week so I can bake something occasionally. But then I’m only catering to myself and that’s a luxury in itself. Mister North cooks for two and that enhances my skills by teaching me to cook big sometimes. This isn’t a blog necessarily aimed at feeding a family, but I think we’ve proved useful for helping singles and couples how to enjoy food in a world often aimed at families of four.
It isn’t solely about budget for us. You’ll see a few items in here that don’t scream counting the pennies; except when you look more closely, they might be from a market, farm shop, friend or other place that offers a different type of value to the ‘Big 4’ supermarkets. Mister North has a bit more money, but less time than me, and he lives in a more rural environment so has access to different sources than I do. However we both feel it’s important that the north/south aspect of our blog covers all the places you can shop because budgeting is not one size fits all. It’s finding what works for your circumstances.
My circumstances are that food is more than just fuel. It is often my friend and companion as well. My health is poor and especially at times of relapse or flare up, days blur and food punctuates that. Making something to eat can be my big achievement for the day or the week and my only pleasure. It can help or hinder me depending what I eat and I try to keep my recipes relevant to that, but not be the dominant factor in either my life or my cooking.
When you dip into the blog, you’ll find recipes that make you hungry, tips to try, skills to be built on and a connection to food that entertains you. There are no prices per portion, no talk of cost per se; more just a selection of love letters to food and all the aspects that make up eating, drinking, cooking and shopping… along with lovely helpful comments from our readers. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!