The Year of Austerity (YOA) Part II

1 Jul

Five months into our YOA and apart from a couple of shaky weeks of too many lunches bought ‘out’ (Dotan) and a recent clothes shopping spree (me), it still hasn’t been too bad. But a quick look at our budget will tell you one thing – we love to eat! Whether it’s the monthly food shop, an occasional coffee & croissant, lunches bought ‘out’ during a work day, dinner with friends, or just the extra items we pick up at the Organic supermarket, a lot of our well-earned mulah goes on food.  Saying that (stubbornly or not) it’s still the one area where I’m not willing to compromise.

My great-grandmother Miriam used to say that on shabbat and Jewish holidays, “the table stretches” i.e there’s always room for more. We love having guests, I love to cook and bake and entertain. I like that Jews like to eat, and I’m a big believer in enjoyable eating. I could never see myself being a person who eats for fuel consumption, without any enjoyment. I look forward to meals, I like thinking about their presentation, and about feeding people well. I am beginning to think about nutritional value and The Yummy Factor on an almost equal level.

When Dotan occasionally drives to his clients for work, he drops me off in Herzliya on the way. Not only does the hour-long drive make for great ‘us’ time, but we often stop off at Aroma by my office for a delicious ‘cafe v’maafeh’. I know, why am I pleased about this? We’re supposed to be saving our pennies! But basking in early morning sunshine with my love while sipping on hot, smooth coffee, nibbling on a melty chocolate croissant  – these are things I wouldn’t give up for any kind of austerity. Note: I have given them up for my 30-Day Detox. It’s important for me (not so much for D, who is so much better at being austere…) that while we save, we don’t hate our lives. A coffee together every now and then will definitely not be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

So how to reconcile the love of food, good ingredients, cooking and eating out with our YOA?

In my family, over-organising is known as a ”Bernstein trait” i.e. a slightly disturbing love for organising, planning, charts and lists which the girls – but not the boys – have inherited from my Dad.  Lots of people think that being super-over-organised and making meal plans is the prerogative of hassled mothers who simply have to.  When my sister’s kids were small and I was their nanny, she had a poster-sized schedule of the childrens’ day up on the fridge, and it literally read ‘6pm – clear up from tea, 6.10pm – bathtime’.  I found it comforting, others find it a bit scary. But I know that this is a family trait, so I think it’s ok! For example, the groomsmen at my sister’s wedding will never forget how my Dad gathered them together on the morning of the big day and told them to “synchronise watches”.

Thanks to the Year of Austerity, my inherent love of colour-coded charts, planning and bullet-pointed lists has been given free reign.

A happy, organised pantry.

Meticulously organised lunchboxes = feelings of calm and serenity

When I sleep-in and leave myself 30 mins to get up and on a train in the morning, thinking about food for the day seems complicated. The things I have learned in the last five months  of our YOA seem simple and a bit ‘duh’ like, but have actually been life-changing.

  • It took me a bit of time to get a handle on, but I now enjoy meal planning for the week. It makes supermarket shopping so much easier, and helps us stick in-budget.
  • Chopping fruit, preparing snacks & having my ‘food bag’ ready the night before saves me rushing about with one sandal and no jeans on at 6am.
  • Shabbat guests do not know or care if you use supermarket brand or the most expensive brand. They do care about eating tasty, kosher, healthy food and having good company to spend time with.
  • Baking muffins on a Sunday night and freezing for the week = no 10am hunger pangs. Savoury muffins also make really good ‘early breakfasts’ on the 6.20am train (yawn).
  • When cooking dinner in the evenings, just make extra or a completely different dish for lunch at the same time.  If you’re making a mess cooking, just do it all at once!
  • When my weekly meal plan is stuck to the fridge, I pretend I’m Dora the Explorer and use it like a map to the holy land of Better Eating.

Ok, so I don’t have a fully stocked freezer of food and am not quite up to making my own jam yet – but give me time! The detox is also going to be challenging in terms of finding appealing food to prepare, when going out isn’t an option. It looks like the detox will be positive for our YOA, however, so high-fives all round.

Until next time!

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