The #BreastDebate

I spent yesterday evening at the Philips Avent #Breastdebate – a round table event to discuss a few issues around breastfeeding and returning to work. This post has a two-fold purpose. I hope to simultaneously share the details on the discussion, and address the Twitter response. Before I even start to tell you about it, however, I want to make a few things very clear:

  • The #BreastDebate I was not paid to participate, I did not receive anything free (with the exception of my train fare reimbursed, which is fair enough, right?)
  • While it is my aim and ambition to  be a WHO Compliant website, when invited to attend, I decided that at least with me on the panel, there’d be a real supporter of breastfeeding in the room. (It was a non-issue, since everyone on the panel had experience of breastfeeding or expressing.)
  • Not everyone breastfeeds. Some use donated milk, some exclusively express. While
    you can hand express into a cup, there are ways to simplify life and use a PUMP and pump breastmilk into a BOTTLE. Using either of these products does not make you a bad person. Companies make these products, to sell, and sometimes, they advertise them. The companies themselves are not bad or evil for making and selling and even advertising bits of plastic or glass. I do not need a lecture on WHO codes. I KNOW. I get it. But I am a firm believer in people being educated, and simply not talking about what’s available doesn’t empower anyone.  That said, products were not mentioned in the discussion.

The #BreastDebate

The first question I received when I said I’d be attending the event, was ‘why is a bottle manufacturer running a breastfeeding event. I had the same question initially, because we all know about the Boobytraps, and how companies represent and misrepresent facts and ‘help’ which can send people on a one way path to giving up breastfeeding.

It is my personal view that the hashtag #breastdebate was badly chosen.

For one thing, it wasn’t a debate, but a discussion. There were no opposing sides. We were all in agreement over most issues. If anyone wasn’t, they certainly didn’t voice it.

Secondly, it wasn’t really  about breastfeeding, as in nipple-to-mouth. Yes, the question of ‘should mothers be ‘allowed’ to feed without a cover’ was asked – and raised a few heckles on Twitter, as it does for me, but it wasn’t one of the main talking points of the night. With varying levels of experience with nursing covers – from real covers to napkins – we agreed it’s up to the mother-baby dyad.  Also, Cherry Healy, who tweeted that, posted this after the event:

The questions we spent most of our time on were:

1) Do you feel attitudes to nursing in public have changed over the last 20 years. 

The #BreastDebate

Some of the panelists said no, they didn’t think so. Health journalist Jo Waters felt that it had changed and people were more negative about it now than when she breastfed her now teen. I felt that it depended massively on your environment, and what the people around you were used to and who you spent your time with. Tina from Loved By Parents had a terrible experience in a restaurant where a couple went out of their way to tell her how disgusting it was that she was feeding her baby there, and Sally, a reader on my Facebook page shared a similar story of being yelled at in an M&S changing room. In Tina’s case it upset her, but didn’t stop her. In Sally’s case it’s prevented her from  nursing in public again!

Overall, we all agreed that your exposure and experiences will have a huge impact on your answer to that question.

Related to this, Cherry Healy who was hosting the discussion asked whether women should have to cover up when nursing. Again, as mothers who have breastfed, we all agreed that that is up to the mother and child team to decide what they are comfortable with, and no one else. I did point out that nothing says ‘I’M NURSING HERE’ than a nursing cover, and that most people don’t even know it’s happening.

The #BreastDebate

Cherry said that she rarely even sees anyone breastfeeding, and the panel discussed whether it should be more visible on television, in soaps and so on, but again, I pointed out that most nursing mothers aren’t out to show their stuff! You could be looking right at a nursing mother and not know it! It’s certainly happened to me on more than one occasion.

2) Should employers be compelled to provide breastfeeding rooms

This was an interesting discussion, because Carrie Longton, from Mumsnet, was able to view the question from the point of view of a SME – a small business that doesn’t have the space for a full-time breastfeeding room, like many, many others out there, I’m sure, and the rest of us discussed it from the working mother point of view. I don’t have experience of going out to work and expressing, but I know many that do.

We discussed what the minimum requirements are for a breastfeeding room, as well as what we’d love to see going forward, as well as what in our wildest dreams we’d love to ask for.

The #BreastDebate

I think longer paid maternity leave would do wonders for longer breastfeeding outcomes,  Tina felt that a comfortable, clean environment was essential, and Carrie mentioned a supportive work environment – even if the room is there, having unsupportive comments or mockery of anyone using the room is not going to encourage anyone.

I was naively surprised to find out that there is actually not a LAW that a breastfeeding room should be provided, but rather a strong recommendation. (However there is a law that a resting place should be provided and this should include an area where the mother to be or nursing mother can lie down. In all my working life, I’ve never seen an employer with such a room!)

The question to the panel was two-fold: is the directive enough or do we need more legislation on the support of breastfeeding/breastfeeding mothers for this facility in the workplace, and if so, should there be a minimum requirement, i.e. is a hardback chair in a clean storage cupboard enough? It ticks the boxes, but should the standard be set higher?

We agreed that what already exists is not enough, and we agreed that there should be a minimum standard in place. We also agreed that that can be incredibly difficult, because what a multinational corporation can afford and what a two-(wo)man operation can afford are two very different things, so a lot of thought will need to go into how it is done.

So what next 

The #BreastDebate The Avent team will use the recording from last night to compile a short video that will summarise the topics that were discussed and the ‘conclusions’ that we came to. What we all realised towards the end though, was that this round table event was just the tip of the iceberg.

I asked someone from the team why they were running the event and she said “we wanted to start the conversation about where the gaps are in the support network when it comes to breastfeeding and eventually want to look at ways we could lobby government on legislation such as on the topic of breast feeding when returning to work.”

While it’s fine to be suspicious of a bottle manufacturer’s motivations in being involved in this project (and trust me, I’ll be keeping an eye on what they do with it too), I think it’s important to look beyond on demand breast is best , to mothers who do return to work, and to understanding that they too need support and that treating the tools of expressing as taboo hurts mothers more than it hurts companies. (If anything, it BENEFITS companies!! I’ve spoken to a few mothers today who spent a lot of money on different bottles, because there just wasn’t unbiased information available to them to help them determine what they needed when they did need bottles. And these are EBF mothers!!)

The #BreastDebate

Look at it this way. Philips Avent sell bottles. What mothers choose to put in those bottles makes no difference to them as a company. If their involvement can see pressure put on employers to be more supportive of expressing mothers, then how can that be an entirely bad thing? (PHD In Parenting has a great post about why advertising bottles is a bad thing, and I agree with regards to pregnant mothers, but where do mothers who need bottles go to get information if we make it a taboo and make them feel almost dirty for mentioning the B word? Can anyone tell me?)

The Round Table Discussion was a good one, and it was positive, and I hope that the objective of getting businesses and employers more involved in creating expressing spaces is an achievable one. I’m glad someone is taking it on and trying to bring about change. Do I wish it was a fully WHO compliant company? Of course, but am I glad someone is doing it? Yes, I am.

 

Mamatography 2013: Week 3 – Keep On Keeping On

Life is otherwise, here in Perth. One day I feel like a tourist, the next I feel like I live here. One day I’m doing very little of anything much, and the next I’m running around all over the place. There’s no routine and no real stability.

Day 11/365 – Courage and Support

My mother was rushed back to hospital yesterday, and today I spent a few hours with her. I fell asleep with my head on the bed, just sitting by her as she slept in a morphine induced haze. It was very stressful, and painful, and yet expected. My mom was given this cancer bracelet a while back and while it’s not something she’d wear, I decided I could use the support.

My arm is a veritable support group at the moment – a purple thread from my last birthday, where my friends and I did the mama-blessing red thread ceremony to support me on this journey. The red thread for my friend Kitty’s blessingway, the silver bracelets are for my girls, and this new addition to my life, the cancer bracelet – for courage and support.

Mamatography 2013: Week 3 - Keep On Keeping On

Day 12/365 – Park Mornings

The girls were up super early, and I so much wanted to sleep, so I found myself in shouty-mama mode. I decided a much better option would be to walk to the park, so off we went. I rang Kitty and Lucas on the way, and they agreed to join us for breakfast at the park, and it turned into a lovely morning – much better than fighting two babies for sleep, and shouting and being miserable.

Mamatography 2013: Week 3 - Keep On Keeping On

Day 13/365 – Birthday Party

We were invited to a new friend’s first birthday party, which was held in another park. It was a lovely morning, and this was his super healthy lion-themed birthday ‘cake’.

Mamatography 2013: Week 3 - Keep On Keeping On

Day 14/366 – Family Time

My dad and Ameli seem to clash a lot at the moment – a military background and a three year old… fun times. But he loves my girls and for that I am grateful

Mamatography 2013: Week 3 - Keep On Keeping On

Day 15/366 – Raw Food @ Fern

Another birthday party today, this time for a mama. We went to the raw food cafe at FERN in Fremantle – a very unique experience, unlike anything I’ve been to before. This was a raw burger – the ‘bread’ is dehydrated vegetables, and the patty is a dehydrated mushroom. It was lovely.

Mamatography 2013: Week 3 - Keep On Keeping On

Day 16/366 – Busy Bags

My friend Kitty – she’s been popular in this week’s Mamatography – is having a baby soon, so for her son’s second birthday I put together a bunch of busy bags for him to have once the baby comes. I’ll blog them soon.

Mamatography 2013: Week 3 - Keep On Keeping On

Thanks for joining us for our week in pictures!
Mamatography 2013: Week 3 - Keep On Keeping OnThis post is part of the Mamatography 2013 Project with Diary of a First Child and Momma Jorje.

We are taking (at least) a photo a day to keep a record of our year. Join us at any point during the year and start sharing your own daily photos!

Here’s a list of current participants:

***

Without further ado, here are the Mamatography 2013 participants!

 

 

 


Perth Nurse In 2013 – Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

Whether you call it a nurse-in, a breastfeeding protest or lactivism, I love a good session of breastfeeding in public with a bunch of other women also breastfeeding in public. The beauty of breastfeeding activism is that it can’t be an angry event – by it’s very nature, breastfeeding releases oxytocin, the love hormone, and there’s something so powerful about a group of women channeling their passion and their energy into a united cause.

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public If you’ve ever met me, you’ll probably know I’m not really a feminist. I believe that men and women have roles in this world, and I don’t necessarily believe that we are supposed to be equals in everything, but rather that we are supposed to be leaders and followers in different things, making up a full and beautiful circle of strength and weakness, vulnerability and power. I also am not big on the concept of ‘women’s rights’. I am a human. To me, by definition, I am covered by human rights. I understand, in an imperfect world, the need for women’s rights, children’s rights, but in an ideal situation, we wouldn’t need to defend ourselves as women – we could just be human and therefor judged by the samestandards, regardless of our sexuality, our orientation, our colour or our gender. (I love this clip from the West Wing. It’s exactly how I feel, in an ideal world[from 4:40])

While I do think that breastfeeding mothers should respect their environment – I also feel that you should dress appropriately whether you go to church, a dinner or ice skating, and I feel you should consider others wherever you are, whatever you’re doing – I take exception to being told where I can and cannot breastfeed, and I take exception to being told to cover up. I don’t pop my boobs out when I breastfeed anyway, because I dont want to but I also don’t use a cover, because I don’t want to. When I first started breastfeeding, I used a cover because I wanted to and when I became more confident I stopped because I wanted to.  The law protected me, yes, but the encouragement I received from a stranger on a bus gave me the courage that led me to where I am today.  If the law didn’t protect mothers, then where does it stop? When it is okay to tell a woman how much cleavage she can show, it will be okay to tell her how much skin she can show. If it’s okay to tell her where she can feed her child, then it’s okay to tell her where she may or may not be. We can’t have it both ways. Either we are ‘equals’ or we are not.  There shouldn’t be a further subclass: men or women, breastfeeding women or non-breastfeeding women.

And today I participated in another breastfeeding protest, not because I want my boobs out on the street, but because if ONE mother or future mother saw women nursing in a public place and saw that it was okay and that it was normal, then it was worth it. If it gives one mother the courage she needs, then today was a job well done.

So, here are a few pictures from our Perth Nurse In today, and here’s my message: Breastfeeding is beautiful. It is normal. My breastfeeding isn’t a judgement on your feeding choices. Breastfeeding is the normal thing for babies, and it should be normal in our society. You don’t eat in a toilet or facing a wall – neither should my child. You don’t eat with a cover over your head, neither should my child have to. Breastfeeding is to bonding what a candle lit dinner is to romance, it’s lovely, but sometimes you just have to eat to stay alive – not every meal is an intimate experience, nor is every breastfeed. The only way to normalise breastfeeding, is to breastfeed where people can see it. 

I loved the fact that there were young people behind us doing street dance and skateboarding stuff, right next to a bunch of breastfeeding mothers. How much more normal can it be?

Other posts you may enjoy:

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public
Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

These guys were behind us - how much more normal could we want?

Perth Nurse In 2013 - Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

*If you see an image of yourself or your child that you would like blurred out or removed, please contact me!
Here’s some news coverage from the day too:

London 2012: A Mama, A Baby, BA And Women’s Hockey

On Tuesday afternoon Aviya and I set off for London to be guests of British Airways at the London Olympics 2012 Women’s Hockey. We had an amazing time.

There’s just so much about the Olympic area in Stratford that was eye catching, interesting, or otherwise engaging. London as a city was about as quiet as I’ve ever seen it in the middle of the day, and the tube to Stratford was occupied but not crowded.  Upon our arrival at Stratford we were met with a steady stream of people being shepherded through the train station with strict up lanes and down lanes, and volunteer stewards every few feet, guiding and directing and getting the crowd moving along quickly and efficiently.

Aviya and I went to the ticket pickup point and collected our hospitality passes and tickets for the game and met up with the rest of the bloggers for the British Airways #HomeAdvantage campaign. Tickets collected, we returned to the throng and found our way through airport-like security (where I had to surrender an almost new can of Unforgettable from South Africa to the bin! *sob*) before seating ourselves in a lovely sunny spot in the BA hospitality suite.

London 2012: A Mama, A Baby, BA And Women's Hockey

A gorgeous buffet dinner, and a slowly savoured glass of champaign later we began our track to the furthest point – the Riverbank arena – for the Argentina vs USA and later the Germany vs Australia women’s hockey games. Now, it would be fair to say that I don’t really know what’s going on in hockey and it took me a while to figure out which team was which and which side they were scoring and so on – don’t hold it against me! – but I did really enjoy being there.

Despite the fact that there were way too many empty seats, considering how many people can’t get tickets, the atmosphere was really fantastic. There were enough spectators from each country to make the crowd really feel each missed goal and truly celebrate each small win, till eventually there was victory or loss.

During the gap between the two games I needed to go to the loo, and was absolutely shocked. For the first time ever at an event of this scale, I didn’t have to as much as queue for the facilities! There were enough and they were clean. That was a definite bonus. I mean, you don’t want your Olympic story to be that you went, but spent half the event queueing for the toilets!

The whole place looks amazing – from the ‘soft’ playground style flooring in some parts to the elaborate and intriguing art work structures, to gorgeous night time lighting to the incredible flow and – I’ll use the word again – efficiency of controlling the movement of people.

The most unexpected part of the whole event, however, was how friendly all the official volunteers were. Initially I wasn’t sure where to go and a lady came up to me asking if she could help (clearly, I was holding up the flow!), didn’t know the answer to my question, and went to find someone who did, and came back with an answer! On our way out they were smiling, laughing, chatting to spectators, all the while moving us swiftly along to the underground, and back out towards the rest of London in super fast time.  Seriously, I’ve been to music concerts with less people that have taken longer to get home!

I’m so incredibly pleased that we managed to get to see an event, and I’m hopeful of another opportunity before the end of the Olympics/Paralympics, because – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – it really is a once in a lifetime, spectacular thing.

London 2012: A Mama, A Baby, BA And Women's Hockey

P.S. I’m under no obligation to say or share this, but I really want to. British Airways have a fantastic range of adverts out at the moment, in support of Team GB. I was drinking a bottle of water when I saw the first “Don’t Fly” advert and I nearly spat it out in surprise. I think it’s fantastic support from a large corporation.

They also have some brilliant aps out on their Facebook page – one that tracks the tweets sent with the hasthag #HomeAdvantage and creates an audio wave. I have no idea how they did that, but I spent ages last night listening to it.

They also have another really clever advert with a plane travelling down your street – you put in your post code and it draws bits and pieces from your neighbourhood into the ad (probably using Streetview on Google Maps or something) and a total time killer, but I’ve popped in every post code we’ve lived in in the UK. I found it stupidly exciting. It’s brilliant!

But of course, following that flight to South Africa, I’m a huge  BA fan anyway.

P.P.S USA beat Argentina, and Australia beat Germany.

London 2012: A Mama, A Baby, BA And Women's Hockey

Breastfeeding Awareness Week Celebratory Picnic Farnham 2012

Sometimes when something you love is threatened, it’s easy to stand up and fight for it. It’s easy to march for it, it’s easy to protest or demonstrate. But sometimes the hardest thing for many of us – especially mothers – to do, is simply sit back and enjoy.

I’ve joined marches, sat outside government buildings, and flash mobbed public places, all in the name of breastfeeding, but this year I didn’t want it to be a fight. I just wanted to relish in the gift that I am able to give my girls, and celebrate the beauty of our breastfeeding relationship.Read more: Breastfeeding Awareness Week Celebratory Picnic Farnham 2012

What Father’s Day Means To Me

A guest post from my hubby, Martin, today, on what this, his 3rd Father’s Day, means to him.

Having grown up on the giving end of Father’s Day, it was quite a surprise to find myself on the receiving end for the first time a couple of years ago.

It’s not that I didn’t see it coming or anything like that – I mean, even in the brave and confusing new world of becoming a father for the first time, it’s fairly obvious that Father’s Day probably has something to do with fathers.

It’s more that I’ve never had a Day before. Yes, there are birthdays – but considering all you have to do to have one of those is be alive, it’s hardly some kind of grand honour (although the presents aren’t bad sometimes).What Father's Day Means To Me

No, Father’s Day is about more than that, about more than marking another year of successfully not dying. To me, it’s an invitation to think about the father I’d like to be remembered as.

Thinking back on my own childhood, I’d say without question that I had (and still have) a good father. Having had just the one, of course, I can’t be 100% sure, but I’m pretty confident.

I don’t remember ever feeling unloved, unsupported or misunderstood. I recall the pride I felt when I did something dad was impressed by, the security of knowing he’d be there even if (or rather when) I made mistakes, and the trust of believing he was steering the sometimes chaotic ship containing our family through life with a steady hand.

Now a lot of that may have been down to the blind innocence and naivete of youth, but the point is that those are the things that made an impression, not the amount of pocket money I received, or the new toys at Christmas, or how successful dad was at work because of the long hours he spent at the office.

And if that’s what mattered to me as a child, that’s surely what my own children will look back on and judge me on now that I’m a father.

Children – especially young children – tend to look at their fathers as heroes, and to me that’s one of the biggest rewards fatherhood brings. But in too many cases our children grow up to realise the truth is very different, and that’s a responsibility too many fathers seem unwilling, or incapable of, facing up to.

So with today being Father’s Day, I – like many other fathers – enjoyed breakfast in bed served up by little hands, and smiled at the hand-made Father’s Day card my daughter made especially for me through the week. In other words, today I’ll celebrate being the hero. But tomorrow, and every other day of the year, it’ll be up to me and dads everywhere to prove we’re worthy of the honour.

Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt

Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger HuntDuring the month of June, we here at Diary of a First Child will be joining up with the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt. 

A group of bloggers and businesses will be posting about breastfeeding over the course of the month and on each post you will be able to use Rafflecopter to collect points to enter to win over £500 worth of prizes.

Many of the bloggers will also be running private competitions during the month (mine will all be during National Breastfeeding Awareness Week at the end of the month.)

You can find out more about the scavenger hunt on the KBBF webpage and you can follow the frivolities on the Facebook Page.

We’ll be posting on specific themes, which are:

Week 1 – The Benefits of Breastfeeding
Week 2 – Mum to Mum Sharing
Week 3 – Breastfeeding Support and
Week 4 – Breastfeeding Beyond the First Month
Stay tuned for more info!

4 Lasting Ways To Celebrate Earth Day

It’s Earth Day today, and while many people might not even realise it, millions of others around the world will be participating in Earth Day activities. In past years we’ve done things like black outs, where everyone is encouraged to turn off their lights for an hour in the evening, or meet at a local park to pick up litter.  While those are all fantastic ideas, and well worth doing, when I think of my children and how I can involve them in Earth Day, I realise that to them, a way of life will be so much more meaningful than simply doing special things on one day.

Equate Earth Day to Valentine’s Day. It’s all fine and well spoiling your partner on 14 February, but the rest of the year treating him like he doesn’t matter, you don’t care about him and he is irrelevant to your way of life. There’s little real or lasting about a relationship that only has effort put into it on one day a year.  Earth Day is the same. While 1,000,000 people doing something special on one day of the year is not to be sniffed at, 10,000 people doing something special every day is already almost four times as effective.

So how can I teach my children to treat every day as Earth Day?Read more: 4 Lasting Ways To Celebrate Earth Day

Money Saving At Home (Part 1)

I have mentioned before that money is a little tight around these parts at the moment, since my hubby hasn’t been working full time for a few months now. I realise that looking around me, many people are facing the same or similar circumstances, and there’s a repossessions warehouse near where we live that’s recently acquired more land to build extra units – which can’t bode well for the area, or the economy… or in fact the families affected.

I’ve been thinking a lot about ways of tightening those imaginary belt straps, and realise that I’ve written a lot for others on money saving, but never for myself. So here are some of the money saving ideas we’ve implemented in our home. Part one will focus on ways of reducing your monthly outgoings, while I’ll look at some ways of generating cash from things already in your home in a follow-up post.

I would love to hear some of your own ideas, too – they may help me, or someone else, feel a bit less financial pressure in these tough times.

Money Saving At Home (Part 1)Depending on just how dire your financial circumstances actually are, you’ve probably already covered the first wave of belt-tightening exercises worth thinking about: you’ve given up your morning cup of coffee from whichever local vendor you support, saving you up to £60 a month on coffee. Then there’s the muffin you’re no longer having, which is saving you another £40 a month.
You’re not slipping a bottle or two of wine into your weekly shop just for the sake of it, and you’ve cut down on evenings out, or imposed a firm spending limit. You’ve probably also reduced how often you go out for dinner, while take-away menus are now recycling fodder and you do your grocery shop with a shopping list and calculator in hand.

So now we’re looking at more hardcore savings, right?

  • The first thing to do is take out your bank statements for the last three months, and go through them. Look for anything you don’t recognise. I did that and found a £9.99 a month subscription for an online movie website I hadn’t used in over a year, but was still paying for.
  • I also found a payment for home insurance for a house we haven’t lived in for more than a year (despite my having cancelled it). This kind of thing may be refundable, in some circumstances, so look into that. Even if not, it reduces your outgoings going forward, in this case to the tune of £15 a month.
  • Make sure to do it for all accounts too, not just your main bank account. For example, I found a credit card we hadn’t used in some months had racked up a bit of money owing again, thanks to payment protection insurance I wasn’t even aware I’d taken out. I cancelled that, and in fact the credit card itself, as it had a way too high an interest rate for my liking.

A morning’s effort saved us almost £30 a month.

  • Next, look at your outgoings, such as gas, electricity, water and so on. You can use a website like uSwitch to compare energy prices , home communications, mobile phone packages and insurance prices. According to uSwitch, you could save over £1,000 a year – which is obviously the best case scenario, but still, any saving is good news.
  • Groceries represent a huge outgoing for most families, and I’ve been chatting to people recently to find out what they spend on food. The definition of ‘necessities’ varies from family to family, and ‘essentials’ are as changeable as the people who use them, so it’s difficult to set down a one-size-fits-all spending target.For ourselves, if we can keep our shopping to between £60 and £80 a week, I’m happy. Considering that includes things like washing tablets/powder, cleaners and toiletries, it’s a bit of a tough ask at times! That’s for a family of 2 adults and 1 eating child. I’ve had an ask around on Twitter, and with a few exceptions, families like ours do seem to spend the same as us. One family had their bill reduced to £45-odd a week, and another admitted to around £90 a week.

We have found two things that have made a huge difference to our shopping outlay (interestingly, the £45 family do the same things with regard to food!):

  • First – getting an organic food box delivered once a week, with all our vegetables for the week. On a rare occasion we might need to top up with some onions, potatoes or similar staples from the supermarket, and because we’re selective fruit eaters, we buy fruit as and when we need it, but for the most part, our weekly food shop now doesn’t include any vegetables.Our organic food delivery is full of locally produced, seasonal vegetables, and we’re often exposed to things we wouldn’t normally have picked off the shelf, which means we’ve discovered wonderful new foods as a result.

    Just how is that money saving? Well, the vegetables in those boxes last two weeks, on average. The bagged salads will easily last a week in the fridge. The same thing from the supermarket is generally wilted within a day or two. Vegetable bought from the supermarket rarely last the week. So, our food wastage is significantly reduced and we don’t throw out as much as we did in the past.

    Also, because we don’t have to buy new veggies every two to three days, it cuts down on the number of times we head to the supermarket in the first place, meaning I don’t spend the £10 – £15 on spontaneous buys that I used to probably two to three times a week.

  • Second – learn to cook what you have, store what you don’t eat, and eat through the kitchen for one week a month. What does that mean? It means prepare the food you have on hand, and learn to create recipes from what’s in your kitchen.This can be really hard at first, and rather hit and miss, especially with new ingredients, but practice makes perfect. When you need three carrots for dinner, chop all six and put the other three in the freezer. (Label it so you don’t defrost the grated swede thinking it’s mashed potato…. Trust me. It’s nowhere near the same thing in a shepherd’s pie!)

    One week a month – probably the last week – eat through the kitchen: open up your freezer and see what’s there and work on clearing it out. Look at the tins in the cupboard, the pasta and so on, and eat it all before it goes past it’s best, and you throw it out anyway.

It takes a little planning and a little extra effort, and sometimes imaginative cooking and gracious diners, but saving £60 odd pounds on that last week’s grocery bill is a huge saving at the end of the month.

What have you done around the house to help you save money?

Next time: How to make little pots of money to top you up through the roughest patches.

For great posts and ideas from the Natural Parents Network on money saving, look at the list on this page.

The 40 Hour Famine

The other day I walked into a shop to pick up a few groceries. There was a boy of about eight years old standing outside begging for food. His clothes were filthy, he was covered in dust and his shoes were held together by elastic and tape.

I know he wasn’t my child. I know I can’t help every child in the world, but I know that as I walked around that supermarket picking up crisps, vegetables, a  bar of chocolate, milk and a few staples, I couldn’t get the image of hopelessness etched on his face out of my head.

I walked past the bakery and picked up a few bread rolls, past the deli and picked up a couple of Viennas and on my way out the shop gave it to him in a plastic bag.  He said thank you, and as I got in the car, I saw him glance inside and a smile spread across his face. He stepped towards the car to say thank you again. We nodded and smiled a little pitifully, and drove off.  He crossed the road to wave at us, still smiling. I fought back tears. I couldn’t cope with the gratitude for a couple of rolls and two sausages.

And that was one child. But in the ‘Horn of Africa’, in Somalia, children are starving. Babies, infants, like the ones we know and the ones we love. Fathers are burying their children, their babies. After walking for weeks to find help for their families, they’re having to bury them, as they starve to death.

Read more: The 40 Hour Famine