The Joys of Saving
Like much in life, it is all about attitude – your attitude to saving money that is. There are the different words you can use for a start – horrible words, like: cheese-paring and penny pinching, or, worse of all, mean. Unpleasant; but, contrary to this mean spirited approach we can adopt a much more upbeat attitude to saving the pennies – or cents.
Luckily this is right on-trend at the moment. The showiness and ostentatious consumerism of the 90s has become passé. It is both socially and morally commendable to show restraint. It is cool to make your own; indeed it is very satisfying – take a look at the renewal in sewing and craft. It is heartening to see fabric and haberdashery shops full once again. In fact it is probably more fashionable to knit and sew today than it was 20 or 30 years ago, when some of us remember being embarrassed about our home-made jumpers and skirts. This is due, in no small way to the explosion in fantastic new wools and fabrics.
In Ireland, we have been wrestling with the hair-shirt for some time now; guilt-ridden as only we can be, cringing at our former lack of restraint and our (fairly brief)love affair with consumerism. But, what is the point of the guilt – it is a rare person indeed that refuses to make hay while the sun shines, and there are those who would say that the Irish people didn’t have a bit of a lavish fling due to them.
Nevertheless there is also a core of good sense and self-sufficiency deep in our hearts. We are not so far removed from the land or the small-holding, as those in more industrialised countries. Most of us have strong memories of parents and grand-parent who could, as they say, “teach you how to live.” Our forbears knew how to cook and how to stretch a pound. In many cases a combination of factors made this thrift a necessity. Large families were the norm. Many owned a piece of ground. My sister-in-law said to me, “we always had vegetables and potatoes and my mother baked; a sliced loaf was a novelty”. Refrigeration was not widely available and probably, the biggest change of all – shopping was a completely different affair.
The changes brought about by the supermarket, has had one of the most profound effects on how we live; but it has crept up on us to the point where we can barely imagine a life without the “weekly shop.” Some people think this is great. They argue that the consumer has much more choice and that we ultimately gain much more than we have lost. Others are not nearly so sure. Maybe, the way we shop and the easy availability of ready meals has unskilled us, to the point where we have lost the ability to cook from scratch. The high-fat and high-salt content of ready meals is also something that is receiving a lot more attention, in recent times.
So, how about some ways of making the Euro go further while eating more healthily?
- Even if you haven’t a clue about gardening, there are a few things you can grow yourself, with minimal effort. A couple of Euros will buy some salad leaf and herb seeds. All you need is a little compost and some trays and pots. It really is that simple. You don’t even need a garden and it will fire up your enthusiasm to experiment further.
- Ask your mother, grandmother or aunt for recipes for soda bread, scones and potato cakes. These are not difficult to make and are delicious. You also know exactly what has gone into your mixture – unlike what you often buy.
- Be selective about what you buy in the supermarket. The known-value items may be cheaper, but a market stall is often a better (and cheaper) place to source fruit and vegetables.
- Shopping right at the end of the day will almost always save you money.
Most importantly of all, look upon thrift as fun. It is a challenge to live well for less, but it is extremely satisfying.