Ho Ho Ho…Santa is just a sleigh away

Image property of author

How are you all feeling with Christmas only around the corner and the New Year is shortly to follow?  I personally am feeling exhausted and am looking forward to having some quiet time without the normal hustle and bustle of life, if only for a few days.

Time has got away from me of late and I have not been able to write as many posts as I would have liked and there is always too much to write than what time permits.  The one thing I wanted to talk about is how some of us, this time of year can really find it hard to make ends meet.  If you are anything like me, the last thing you want to happen is for your child to have any inkling into the despair one can feel, and for them to never feel like they have missed out.  This is certainly one promise I made to myself when I gave birth to my son and to date, he has felt he is the luckiest boy around. There are moments I have to express that times are tough; we cannot afford things, and explain that he never really goes without. My son also knows that the study I am currently doing, as well as the various jobs I am doing are for us as a family.  I feel this is important for any child, no matter what the circumstance is so that they do not take anything for granted. There are too many children out there who are unappreciative of what their parents do for them and what life offers them as a result.

My big tip for planning when it comes to Christmas is to take advantage of the mid-year toy sales where they offer you the option to lay-by to Christmas Eve.  I have done this for many years and it is the only way I can survive and manage the financial side of things with Christmas. I get much joy out of giving and even more so now when I have many friends with children who are like family to me and I want to spoil them. I know I don’t have to, yet I choose to and I love doing it. By taking the lay-by option, this allows six months to pay off your purchase.  Obviously you cannot go extreme and by the whole shop (although the temptation might be there), we do need to stick to our set budgets. I make a list of the children and family members I buy for.  When the catalogues come out, I browse through them to get an idea, sometimes I check with the parents to make sure I am on track and have a set amount to spend on each before I enter the store.  I also make purchases throughout the year (even if I can’t really afford it) when items are on sale.  Quite often you can get something that is worth double what you pay and for me; I get much pleasure in knowing this.  Start the collection early and do not leave it all to the last-minute.

I guess for anyone and even more so for a single parent earning the only income to support their family, that PLANNING is the key. It has worked for me and I feel it should work for others.  In saying all this, sometimes nothing can help ease the pain of not having enough money to pay the bills, buy the presents, and have the array of food on the table and so on. This year I believe has been one of the hardest for me financially in the 10 years of being a single parent. I cannot explain why as I am working just as hard, if not more. Perhaps it is because the price of living keeps going up yet our pays does not – perhaps it is because my son is getting older and along with this comes a higher price tag.  There are associations out there that can help you, if you feel you are in dire straits and even if it is only for now you are feeling stressed and unable to do it all.

To start with as I have found through research is to start with contacting local charities and civic organisations to find out if they offer an outreach to the needy during the festive season. Churches can also offer assistance and if you belong to one why not call them and see if they can assist you.  Local communities often have their own Christmas drive, maybe give them a call and find out more and follow the leads they give you. If family members or friends offer you assistance in any way, do not feel ashamed of taking them up on it as I am sure if the shoe was on the other foot, it would be you helping them.

Some of the associations I know of are:

The Smith Family

Centrelink

The Salvation Army

To be honest, this year for the first time in 10 years, I have had to ask for help and advice. I contacted the Salvation Army (Salvos) after a friend of mine who has done volunteer work discussed it with me. I was not aware of the help they offer and was surprised in how loving, supportive an open-minded they are.  The big advice my friend gave me was to not feel ashamed.  This is something I struggled with as I am a very proud and independent person. I HAVE to do things on my own and find it hard to accept help when needed.  It took a lot for me to call the Salvos, yet I did and when I visited them, I was greeted by volunteers who made me a coffee and offered me a chocolate or muffin while I waited to speak with someone. I was trembling with nerves and fighting the voice inside telling me I should not be there. I was questioning everything and trying to analyse the situation. It was like a battlefield within my head with two opposing sides having their say.  Once I entered the office and the woman introduced herself to me, I was reassured I was ok and that what I was doing was ok. The female volunteer praised me for all I am doing for my son and the life we are living and again like my friend said to not feel ashamed of being there.  She then added, “We are here to help and although we cannot always do all we would like, we will do our best and sometimes that is just to listen to you”.  It was further explained the different sorts of options the Salvos are able to offer someone who is in need. For example, helping to pay a bill (if the bill is overdue and you have already asked for an extension), they also offer food hampers, gift hampers for children, bits and pieces depending on what they have in their office at the time. As I was waiting for my name to be called and after I had my meeting, I noticed all the different types of people visiting the Salvos. There were young and old, nicely and poorly dressed, a mix of races and cultures which was lovely to see the Salvos did not discriminate against anyone.  If you are someone in need, it does not matter where you come from or how you look. Some people were popping in just to get a free cup of tea or coffee and to see a friendly face and have someone ask how they were.

I left the Salvos with the information I needed and felt a sense of relief. The visit did not answer all my questions nor did it fix all of my problems, yet knowing a place like this existed was a breath of fresh air. I discussed the experience with my son and expressed the hesitation I was feeling.  He said to me, “Mum I think you should feel very proud”. I replied by asking him why he feels I should be proud. He said “You have looked after me on your own without ever really asking for help in 10 years. I think you should be very proud of yourself Mummy”.  Bless my darling boy!

I don’t think shame ought to be an emotion anyone should feel regardless of whether we have only asked for help once or many times. There are organisations, institutes and people from the general public who are there to help those in need and want to help. This could be because of financial hardship, emotional issues, employment, or just needing an ear to listen and hear our voice.

On this note, I would like to wish you all a Wonderful and Happy Christmas and may the New Year bring much love, laughter, happiness, light and peace into your lives and souls. A new year can mean a new beginning, a new journey or chapter in our lives.  Let us not dwell on the past, or wish the future away. Let us live in the NOW and make the most of what we have and remember that there are people far less fortunate than us. If we have one, two or a handful of people around us who love and support us, then how lucky are we.

Take care until next time

Love and light

Shelly xo

To cook or what to cook…that is the question

image 'Through the kitchen door'

Today I am going to write about something a little lighter than my first post, yet it is a subject that I have found can cause me much grief in more ways than one…cooking!

In my case, there is just the two of us; myself as the mother and my son the child.  It is not so easy to cook for two! I love cooking and I love exploring the art of cooking, yet I feel restricted. I feelrestricted due to the statistic of being one adult and one child.  I feel restricted because I have a lack of finances and I hate the thought of wasting anything and feeling limited in what I can buy. I am restricted as a child’s palate is different to an adults taste and desires in food preference. I would like to cook my way, yet I cannot always be the masterchef I dream of.

With this in mind, I created a little survey amongst fellow single parents I know to see their response on this issue.

How do you manage your shopping

Cheryl a Mother of three said she manages her shopping by luck and hopes there is enough money to get what required.

Jo a Mother of four always buys chicken as a base ingredient when shopping. Jo said all her children only eat ‘homemade’ food and not packaged which also includes deserts and treats.  Waiting to see what specials are on offer at the supermarket is another way Jo manages her shopping.

Similar to Jo, Janine a Mother of two, also waits to see what specials are available at the time of shopping. Janine finds having a running shopping list helps her to not wander off and buy unnecessary things which keeps the cost down. Shopping when the kids are at school is the way Janine normally purchases her groceries and this also keeps the price down as there is no nagging for certain treats and desserts.

Do you feel restricted in cooking

In answer to this question, Cheryl replied, “Yes, there is often not enough to buy the ingredients you need and want, and you have to deal with second best”.

Jo feels the same sentiments as Cheryl and is a little more expressive in her response.  Jo said it is defiantly restrictive and more so as one of her children only prefers basic foods.

“This restricts me in what I make for myself and the rest of the family and it drives me f***ing crazy”.

In contrast Janine does not feel restricted and is mindful of spending too much when doing the groceries. Janine said she has started to go back to basics and eats similar food she grew up on like casseroles and pies etc.

“They’re cheaper to make from scratch, healthier and left overs are often used by the kids for lunch the next day”, Janine said.

Do you compensate this restriction

Sadly like so many of us, Cheryl does not compensate by eating out regularly and is not able to explore foods they would not normally have.

Jo on the other hand does eat out a lot, but in a unusal and sometimes awkward moment for Mum, one of her son’s who only eats tuna, takes along a can with them to have with boiled rice. On the alternative, her son may have a plate of chips, yet this causes much frustration for Jo as he will not experiment with different foods.

As a treat rather than eating out, Janine enjoys making pizza and wraps with her kids using whatever ingredients already in the fridge.

Janine said “The kids make their own and they think it is more fun and it is healthier for all of us too”.

What are your favourite recipes

Here is the fun part, the recipes and many are similar with the women I interviewed, yet they are popular, easy to make and affordable which is the language we all like to hear.

Cheryl’s family favourites are: Spaghetti bolognese, mashed potato with sausages and gravy, roast pork and roast chickens.

Jo’s favourite in her household is: Homemade lasagna and Spaghetti Bolognese, Schnitzel, chips and salad, Tacos, Homemade Chicken soup, BBQ with salad and cheese and potato bake.

For Janine’s tribe, their favourite recipes are Tuna Pasta Bake, Shepherd and Cottage Pie and Curried Sausages with rice.

It is a given that cooking for a household of any shape and size has its frustrations and limitations.  I know for myself as I have mentioned earlier, I find cooking for only my son and myself very restrictive in more ways than one. In my response to the questions above, I would say the best way I manage my shopping is to think ahead and envision meals which can be easten over two days or frozen for another day. I am fortunate that my son is a great eater in many ways and always attempts to eat what is placed in front of him. I have to hide the zucchini, cauliflower and mushrooms which I do through cooking such things as fried rice and spaghetti Bolognese. I grate certain foods in pasta and on ou hommade pizza’s so it is hidden and he is unaware of what is actually going into his mouth.  There has been times I must admit, where I have been caught out at the register and I do not have enough money to buy what is in my trolley or basket.  In cases like this, I sheepishly put the goods aside, yet we never starve. My son eats extremely well and I think planning ahead is the best option. Finding ways to compensate financially and discovering alternative methods in our cooking can also help us adults to enjoy eating the foods we love.

In saying this, I do know of parents who struggle on such a level to get their children to eat, let alone the other challenges ones do face.  Perhaps getting cook books they can choose themselves and ask them to pick a recipe once a week or fortnight in which they can cook may assist with building their love of food. If all else fails, I am so sorry and just hope that over time, things get better. Know you are not alone and there is always someone out there who matches our experiences and perhaps may even have a worse case than ours.

Below are some recipes you can use and if you have any recipes, ideas and suggestions towards cooking you would like to share, please do as I am always open to hear new ideas and taste new foods.

Spaghetti Bolognese with hidden vegetables                                    Deli pasta

image & recipe from Kid Spot

image & recipe by annabel karmel

         Veal Parmigiana                                                    Easy to make crustless Quiche

image & recipe from Kid Spot

     Chocolate Muffins                                                       Quick & Easy Biscuits

images & recipe from Taste.com.au

image & recipe from Kid Spot





                                                                                  Caramel Sauce & Fresh Fruit

image & recipe from Taste.com.au