Archive | February 2013

# 34 (2013) Back To Work

It is a horrible fact of life that the less you have to do, the less you want to do. I am afflicted terribly by this problem. Once I’m busy and work is buzzing there is no stopping me but when I run out of projects to keep me inspired and enthusiastic it’s frightening how quickly I stagnate and lose motivation.

And this is one of the reasons I was interested in the Job Seekers Allowance vs Volunteer Work battle that’s been going on lately with out of work geology graduate Cat Reilly. My personal feeling is that as Job Seekers is a payment to keep the bills ticking over whilst you look for work (which is what wages do whilst most of us are waiting for life to happen) there should be some onus on the recipient to earn it. So my initial reaction was, like many people, cheeky sponger!

Success in the courts but still out of work (source)

However. That it is big multinational companies such as Poundland taking advantage of wage free staff through this scheme (particularly when the protesting party was already doing volunteer work far more important and useful) is a moot point. The ethics behind the Back To Work Scheme, that it gets people up, out and earning their ‘pay’, can’t be argued against as a good thing surely?

But there are so many other places where these people would be better placed. Either with needy organisations who survive off volunteer generosity such as charity shops where nearly all the staff are volunteers now, libraries or community projects that really benefit the local area. In return these organisations would give genuinely valid experience and a job reference.

The scheme should work, but as usual it’s been badly thought out with no real consideration for the people who use it. The job centre alone is a depressing and largely ineffective place in my experience and this scheme does nothing to improve its image. It stands to reason that it was put together by people with no grasp of what goes on in the real world. So much could have been avoided by a more considered approach.

# 33 (2013) The Price Of Peas

In less than 6 months the price of a bag of value brand frozen peas at Tesco has gone from 84p to £1.20.

I’m already down to one bag per month and I expect prices to keep on rising. Cheese, butter and potatoes are all off my list now and I stopped buying washing powder about 2 years ago thanks to a handy gadget from Lakeland which has saved me a lot of money.

More than 13 million people live in poverty in the UK, suffering 
food shortages on a scale not seen since wartime rationing

We are all feeling the pinch. Even the most basic things are starting to become luxuries and I’m thinking that I can’t be the only one streamlining my shopping basket to such lengths. I am however now beginning to worry how the restricted diets many of us are being forced into are going to affect our health in years to come. Scrimping on fresh fruit, vegetables and a balanced diet is surely going to have long term effects?

Over the last few years my diet has become incredibly restricted. Most of the veg I consume has to be grown in the garden which means that for a large part of the year I don’t have much variety. Supermarket prices are now too prohibitive as the price of peas demonstrates. I now have an intake of just five vegetables.

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My staple diet consists mostly of meat, fish, carbohydrates (pasta, rice, homemade bread, porridge), milk and eggs which I am sure cannot be good for me. Despite this I’ve not lost any weight at all which is also a concern because it means I must be eating calorie rich foods and am not getting the right nutrition.

Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed I am going to bed hungry more often and I skip at least a few meals a week. The food I am eating at home is becoming routine and uninteresting which often means I just can’t be bothered with it. And Im not the only one. This is becoming a regular pattern across the country for people in all wage brackets, in all classes. 

A recent report by Save the Children looked at 5,000 families with incomes 
of up to £30,000 a year….to ensure their children get enough food to eat, 
nearly two-thirds of parents skip meals, go into debt, avoid paying 
bills, and put off replacing worn-out clothing
And there’s more to come. As harvests fail due to the weather and we rely more and more on imported food (about 40%), it is estimated that the cost of the weekly shop will continue to rise by about 4% a year until 2022.

The knock on effect is that supermarkets are going to see their profits fall. To encourage shoppers they either have to drop their prices or cover the short fall by putting them even higher. Something has to give. And I can’t see an easy resolution to the problem.

# 32 (2013) Space

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My relationship history is peppered with ill considered partners. If there was one thing I was guaranteed to do, it was move in with someone too fast and then regret the decision. The main reason was that I wanted a place of my own but I couldn’t afford to live on my own (my circumstance of preference). Back then moving in with a partner (who always seemed to come with their own pad) was the compromise I was willing to make.

Looking back, they were bad decisions but there’s not a lot I can do about any of that now. However, I’m not going to get all arsey about it like xojane did the other week. There’s no point.

I’ve been with my current partner almost a whole year and we still don’t live together. Not only is this a first for me, but it’s been a good year. Mostly it’s because I’ve finally met someone who doesn’t see me as a mother substitute, accountant, cook or cleaner. It has nothing to do with him not having his own place to live as I’ve sorted that gap in my life now. As it turns out I’ve found someone who doesn’t need me more than I need him and that is a huge part of why it is working.

The thing is, I’ve become very used to this situation now and I’ve discovered that you really can be in a committed grown up relationship and still enjoy your own space. It’s the sacrifice traditionally made by long term couples but these days it just isn’t necessary. Space is something you just don’t get if you move in together. We are both actually really independent people. We don’t need to live in each others pockets and a few days away from each other is fine.

And even though I am moving in April and it would be the easiest thing in the world to say, well why don’t we just get a place together, somehow it just doesn’t seem right for either of us.

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I shall probably always be reliant on houseshares for a roof over my head but that comes with a whole set of privacy rules of its own which mean it’s not like living with a partner at all.

Will we ever live together? I don’t feel at this stage it is inevitable but if it did eventually happen I wouldn’t be that surprised. It depends on a lot of things, some of which are out of our hands. But we’re not worrying about it because things are just fine and really, that’s all that matters.

# 31 (2013) Calorie Counter

I am back on the food wagon counting calories.The main reason is that I lead quite a sedentary lifestyle. My job means I don’t do a whole lot of moving about and I don’t have the motivation to exercise on a regular basis. I have to pay the price somewhere.

So I’m using my favourite calorie counter Food Focus to log everything I eat and see where I am going wrong because I thought I was now eating a fairly restrained diet and yet me weight is the same.

The sad fact is that pretty much everything you eat is overloaded with calories. My lazy lifestyle means I should be eating less than 1500 calories a day but that’s incredibly hard to stick to when you’re also challenged with a tight food budget. Most of the cheaper foods that stock my cupboard are loaded with unnecessary calories and aren’t all that interesting in themselves so keeping food exciting is a challenge and boredom can lead to all kinds of problems.

The other day for instance I skipped breakfast because of a late start and in anticipation of a larger than average lunch which failed to materialise. So there I was at half past one, hungry. I weakened and bought a 60p packet of biscuits. Now, I only ate 9 of them, but that replaced both the meals I had missed, and not surprisingly I felt hungry again pretty soon and was starving by the time I could legitimately start preparing dinner.

Food should be fun and enjoyable. It can also be hugely comforting – largely I guess because of the artificial flavourings we are all used to these days. But if you can’t enjoy food without worrying about what’s in it, what’s the answer?

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# 30 (2013) The Valentine’s Day Rip Off

So how did you spend Valentine’s Day? Snuggled up by a roaring fire with your better half? Perhaps a mini break? Maybe against your better judgement you just went crazy with the remnants of your January paycheck and bought chocolates, flowers and a card. That must have set you back at least £30.

We decided to celebrate our first Valentine’s Day by doing – well nothing really. If there’s one thing we both agree on, it’s that Christmas, Easter and all the other ‘anniversary stuff’ in between is a waste of money. Valentine’s Day really gets me. For mum’s it’s probably the one day of the year she’ll get breakfast in bed, for couples it’s a meal out but add £30 to the bill.

Seriously, do I actually need one special day of the year put aside so I can tell the person I am with that I love them? Like all the other celebratory days it’s just an excuse for retailers to make a quick buck.

It’s a religious celebration. Did you know that? Yes, St Valentine was a Saint and yes it is a religious celebration. And with neither of us being religious it seems insanely hypocritical like getting married in church because it’s ‘traditional’ rather than because you go to church and Christmas being all about over-eating and presents rather than Jesus Christ.

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