I fell off the wagon: Summer holidays 2012

posted Aug 28, 2012, 1:48 AM by Dinner Lady   [ updated Aug 28, 2012, 1:52 AM ]
Four and a half bellies 
are back, a week early, because the third guest blogger was unable to meet the deadline set for him. Given that this guest blogger is only just six years old, takes about 30 minutes to type one sentence, has a concentration span of 15 minutes and has set himself a rather ambitious food writing project, I decided to forgive him and give him a second chance. You'll hear from Maths Geek in the next few weeks.

It has been an exciting summer of food for us at Four and a half bellies HQ.  Exciting from my point of view, in that it involved a host of culinary treats that I had little or no hand in preparing.  Such as BBQs lit and tended to by Mrs Doubtfire, which we enjoyed on the beach, just as the crowds were leaving for home.  Such as a Thai take away treat while I stayed at Mrs D's parents.  And the couple of lunches out that we enjoyed as a family.  Or the week of naughty food we scoffed while at my parents. Naughty for me, because it involved meat at almost every meal and because Happy Hour started whenever I wished, but certainly no later than 6pm. Naughty for the children because they were allowed to leave food on their plates, eat a multitude of sweet things and were encouraged to consume the ultimate in banned food substances: the fish finger.  At home during our Olympic staycation, I discovered a range of convenience foods, purchased from the supermarket, requiring nothing more than turning the oven on, sitting back with a large G&T and waiting for some sumptuous aroma to come wafting out through the oven door, round into our patio, tempting me with "I'm ready and I'm hot and I'm waiting for you now".  A special treat I purchased for myself, as a reward for extra child care duties while Mrs Doubtfire stayed in London, treating himself to an evening of Basketball, has slightly backfired on me. I cut off a little of my steak and saved a few dollops of pepper corn sauce for the children to enjoy the next day for lunch.  This has now become Maths Geek's favourite meal, the meal he requested immediately, with dancing eyes, when my mother asked him what he would like her to cook for him, despite its dubious ethical credentials, ability to corrupt my bank account and ambition to clog his arteries.  

I like to hope that our unsustainable eating has perhaps been made up for in part by the food situation in the Olympic Park which exceeded my expectations.  Mrs Doubtfire and I had gone to the Athens Olympics in 2004, and even then, despite our lack of knowledge of anything resembling sustainable eating, we were shocked by the waste and that a certain McMultinational Fast Food chain had a total monopoly over our food options. We thought it was shameful, even as the carnivores that we were then, that the only veggie option seemed to be a salad. Once you had hand picked out all the bacon bits.  Yet here, in London's Olympic Park,  the food options seemed to have improved. Although McMultinational still had a prominent place in the centre of the park, there was at least a chance to celebrate a range of world foods where one could enjoy traditional Fish n Chips or a Thai curry.  Healthy deli food or artery clogging hot dogs. One paid a high price, but even the fish earned a tick from the Marine Stewardship Council.  Much of the waste seemed to be recyclable and this was well organised.  
In my last post I had vowed to uphold the Four and a half bellies Rules and Regulations during this summer of frivolous eating.  I have fallen off the wagon for sure, although I am desperately clinging on to the wheels.  In a scenario reminiscent of a Western film I am whisked around in a cloud of dust as the wagon careers from one social event to the next.  I am trying to claw my way back on to that wagon even though I know I might get bucked off again at any moment when it lurches from the pressure of combining paid employment, looking after the family and our house and my passion to keep up with this project.  Many friends have warned me that when I am busy back at work I will not be able to keep on cooking from scratch, I will have no time.  And sometimes I nod in resigned agreement. But when I look back at the past year since I set us this challenge I know that I have never been busier.  And when I look back at the past month I have had relatively little to do, with lots of help with the children and no paid employment or blogging demanding my attention. I have come to realise that throwing rotting food out of the fridge and into the bin is not to do with an overlong to-do list.  Relying on ready meals is not to do with being too busy.  Running out of inspiration and resorting to easy to think of and boring food cannot be blamed on running out of time.  I fell of the wagon for two reasons.  
 The worst of the waste
-2 rotten limes (60p)
-half tin baked beans that I forgot to put in the fridge and went mouldy (18p)
- 2 plaice fillets that went past their use by date and smelled, well, fishy (£4.20)
- half tin sweetcorn that sat in the back of the fridge and I had forgotten to use up (27p)
- half carton double cream which I forgot about and did not use up until it was beyond sour (75p)
- spoons and spoons of food left on plates as I relaxed our rules on eating everything up
- odds and sods of bits of cheese and crusts and bits of sandwiches from picnics that I did not think were safe to reuse given the heat


Supermarkets:      £396.40

Restaurants:       £145.80

Organic veg box:   £64.50

Total:            £606.70

Oh dear, the price we have paid for fun and carefree eating this month. We have spent double our food budget!  Meals out haven't helped, but I suspect those ready meals, buy-what-looks-good-without-a-thought-to-what-we-need-or-already-have approach to shopping, and fun items like the little boxes of naughty cereals have really dented the budget.