Thursday, 28 February 2013

Emergency Rations

What does your shopping list look like when you are literally broke, and also exhausted, when you have a tendency to not eat at all over eating something you don't fancy (or spending time making something) and also have a child who would no sooner eat a lentil than he would walk on the moon?

Well for me, it firstly looks like making sure said child is either at childcare or off on jolly adventures with friends/family covering as many mealtimes as possible. Making excuses when people suggest coming over for lunch, while wildly accepting any offer of lunch anyone else accepts. This is horrible. I intend to pay back fully all lunch (and dinner, and breakfast) debts as soon as I am in a position to do so.

For work lunches, which if I was being lazy would typically cost me £2-4 per day:
6 tins of value soup @ 24 pence each
2 tins of not-value-honestly-look-at-all-our-colours-on-the-label soup, which had a slightly more interesting sounding flavour, @ 42p, and an adventurous tin of Scotch Broth (because it sounded filling, and I was hungry all afternoon after my tomato soup today) @ 59p.
6 pot noodles at 3 for £2
2 value "pot noodles" @ 35p which require additional flavouring to be added. (Curry paste has many uses!)

For at home when I'm too tired to even try:
Broken mandarin segments @ 23p per small can (in 2004 you could get a full-sized can of peaches for 6 or 7 pence, but alas no more.)
Tesco "8p" noodles, which now cost 28 pence!!
Value bread @ 50p per loaf, for toasting straight from the freezer (so it doesn't go off)
Lemon curd and (probably horrible) marmalade @ 27p each, and a tub of squeezy marmite in my cupboard, to make the value toast seem actually appealing.
Tuna for eating straight out of the tin. About £1 per tin. My excuse is that I can also stretch it out with pasta, but I don't always do this.

You'll notice this is all the stuff that doesn't spoil, because there's no point in buying fresh food unless I'm absolutely, 100% sure that we will eat it. If we don't eat this stuff, it saves for another day. I buy in bulk - when the supermarkets run their 3kg bags of pasta I am very, very happy. I will do top up shops intermittently, often from the expensive local shops, for things like milk and fresh bread (and again always select the longest life stuff and often choose wholemeal, because it tends to stay fresh longer, and tastes nice even when you buy the dirt cheap option.) Real, salted butter for the toast, sandwiches, and is awesome on pasta, and a nicely stocked storecupboard (when I'm feeling flush!) with spices and other ingredients, tinned tomatoes I am lucky to have an excellent and reasonable greengrocer locally, it's just getting there and remembering to have cash and all of the other things that I'm too disorganised or too tired or too whatever to remember to do.

I buy things like sausages, fish fingers and chicken nuggets when they're on offer (because they're awful when really cheap, often on offer, and my son likes them) and 1kg bags of frozen vegetables for £1 because, again, they don't go mouldy. I try to convince myself that it doesn't matter if he eats the same thing every day when he's at home, because he's eating 80% of his lunch and dinner meals elsewhere anyway. And I promise myself that I will fix it later, when I'm not so busy, not so poor, not so exhausted.

Friday, 22 February 2013


Being awake in the middle of the night is one of my favourite things ever. I'm currently finishing (ha! Procrastinating, more like) an essay, but there's just something about it, no matter the reason. Desperately cramming in the work you were too lazy to do earlier, fuelled by whatever music is your current motivation tool of choice (Black Stone Cherry, Mumford and Sons and for some weird reason Taylor Swift. Yeah, judge me.) - usually isolating yourself with headphones so that you don't disturb everyone else in the street in the process.

It's a particular kind of alone-ness, and for me it's productive. Fuelled by tea and exhaustion, but with a weird kind of clarity about it. And then when you eventually reach the required word count you fall gratefully into an unmade bed and let the exhaustion overwhelm the kind of insomnia which comes from worrying that you still have far too much to do and too little time to do it in.

I remember the first time I pulled a true all-nighter, which was also the day I started smoking. I was still awake at maybe 4am, not having started my college work which I was meant to be handing in the next day. I noticed a classmate was still online and messaged him asking how it was going. Somehow we ended up chatting and then arranging to catch the first morning bus and meet at a coffee shop in town. "Okay," I said, "It's a deal, but you have to crash me a couple of fags." He was silently amused, and we agreed, both a little shocked in the end that the other actually turned up. We lasted until lunchtime on around three coffees and caffeine pills and then we simultaneously felt terrible. I've since learnt that the caffeine actually makes this a lot worse, but still, that crash time is awful.

Other awesome reasons for staying up at night - being really, really addicted to a TV show so that you just can't stop watching it, one episode after another, until finally falling into weird surreal dreams which are half about this universe and half about something completely different. Or a game, that works too. Getting way too involved with some argument on the internet. Sex, obviously, the kind in a new relationship where the lack of sleep literally seems to have no effect on your daily life at all. Getting drunk with your best friends, smoking too much and laughing until your lungs hurt, or having the kind of conversation which gets to the very heart of your soul. And being awake with a newborn baby, when they're tiny and it feels like there's just the two of you there in the world and this amazing little person looks at you and you realise that to them, there are only the two of you, because you are their entire world.

I hate being sleep-deprived, and the hell which is the next day (especially with a toddler) means that I don't do this very often, but staying up until god-knows-when is good for the soul, or at least it is for mine. It has to be done, and if I can plan ahead and allow myself a slob day, or an early night, or at least someone to muddle through with, then it's definitely worth it. Hell, it's worth it even without a chance to catch up.