Radio Days

plate-&-stuff

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!

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16 replies
  1. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Roberta: I’m making coffee granita today from your post. Cold brewed some for iced coffees from The Skint Foodie’s blog and then saw yours and felt inspired…

  2. Caitriona
    Caitriona says:

    I’ll be listening in Ireland. Can’t wait to hear the programme. I’m delighted to see that despite the “lip-service” paid to frugal living on the BBC main TV channels over the past few weeks, the Food Programme is finally speaking to those from a qualified and informed perspective. More of this please!

  3. Kavey
    Kavey says:

    Beautiful content. Beautifully written. Beautifully presented. Beautiful blog.
    Completely unsurprising to all your long time readers that the blog has gained recognition for the great content both of you produce.

  4. Chrissie
    Chrissie says:

    Great to hear you both this morning. Hope you’ll increase your readership as a result of the feature on the Food Programme. I think the ‘general public’ have absolutely no idea of how relentlessly restricting and grim it is to try to feed yourself and your kids on virtually nothing – judging by some of the comments I’ve overheard by people at the Foodbank who you’d think would have some understanding of the reality of real poverty. Negative attitudes are deeply ingrained even amongst those trying to help. Anyway, great on you for writing your wonderful blog and sharing some yummy recipes. I’ve still got the Observer Food Monthly with your article which led me to reading and subscribing to North / South Food. Your words are challenging and affecting. I look forward to reading more.

  5. Jade
    Jade says:

    I found your blog via the Money Saving Expert forums (the Old Style aka thrift subforum is wonderful) along with A Girl Called Jack. I am so moved by both blogs and what you are doing for those on low incomes, both in terms of recipes and in terms of protesting against the barbaric new measures the government has brought in. When I was 17 (in 2006) I ran away from home and was homeless, and spent the next four years in hostels ran by the YMCA and Stonham, whilst doing my A Levels. The amount of support from the government I had then seems like infinite riches compared to what’s around now – I could get Crisis Loans, Community Care Grants etc, all of which helped me to be an independent adult. It makes me so angry to see what people have to face now, particularly the under-25s who get less money in terms of benefits (Why? Under-25s don’t get a discount on their electric bills for being young, they need the same money as everyone!). I am involved in various social justice things via the church but would like to blog too….I wish I was as eloquent as you because I think my blog would just be angry incoherence!

  6. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Kavey: Thank you for this lovely comment and for all your support and encouragement over the past few years!

    Chrissie: it would be great if we help people understand the realities of budget restrictions and show some people doing it that there can be a bit of joy in there somewhere too. I think there’s room for both views. And thank you for the encouragement and support!

    Stuart: thank you!

    Jade: welcome! Your comment is brilliant and exceedingly articulate. I completely agree that the under 25s get an awful deal. Lower benefits and wages and no tax credits (unless you have kids) and things cost the same. Plus you’re starting out and having to buy new stuff like pans, irons, airers etc. I did hear one snippet of good news recently that Budgeting Loans still exist but the DWP is keeping it super quiet. I wish I could find the link I had for you to mention it on MSE.

  7. Miss Messy
    Miss Messy says:

    Hi there,

    I heard you on Radio 4 today it was super, and to my surprise I was already following you on bloglovin! 🙂

    Keep up the good work I love your blog!

  8. Barry Sandland
    Barry Sandland says:

    In Belgium and listening to the Food Program via podcast. Great show and well worth the link up to you. Thanks. I am on a budget, but more self-imposed. But in Brussels, we have a far better range of inexpensive market foods (veg and meat) than when I visit the UK. You would love the potential 🙂

  9. Stuart gardner
    Stuart gardner says:

    Hi Miss South and Mr North, a little point about budgeting loans ……. yes they are keeping quiet about them….. applied for one for a friend a few weeks ago….. answer comes back no due to 26 week rule …not on esa for that time….. but friend won tribunal but transferred to esa nevertheless and therefore 26 week rule kicks in…… nasty trick.

    Hope you are both well….. still getting stuff for the flat from the back lanes…. last 2 finds Next throws on which me and my jack russell Mille are sitting….. but now the police are walking around the back lanes and have arrested several people for taking other peoples rubbish!!!!!! What a world we live in!

    Oh by the way discovered can cook a sunday roast on a Gerorge Forman grill…… albeit with frozen yorkies…

    Have a good weekend

    Stuart

  10. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Stuart: thank you so much for the budgeting loan tip. I’ve been able to pass that on to a few others on appeal and IB migration.

    And good news on the Sunday roast. Nothing wrong with a frozen yorkie in an emergency. As long as you have gravy it’s all good (this is pretty much my life’s motto!)

  11. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Sally: I love your blog! Welcome to ours. I’m hoping we’ve hoovered and have good biscuits in the tin to greet you with!

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