Eating through a recession
Elizabeth Bollard found feeding her family for less was actually a much healthier option, writes COLETTE SHERIDAN
ELIZABETH BOLLARD, author of How to Feed Your Family on Less Than €10 a Day, says that even if she were to win the lottery she wouldn’t change her new-found frugal grocery shopping and healthy eating habits.
When times were good, this single mother of three would typically spend up to €800 a month on food shopping. But when the family finances ran into trouble, Bollard learned how to economise, reducing her bill to €280 a month.
A music teacher who combined her job with renovating houses, moving from one property to another, Bollard says her three daughters (now aged 20, 17 and 11) always had a comfortable life. “I never had trouble paying the bills,” she says.
In 2001, Bollard decided to move her family back to Ireland from the UK. They settled in west Cork, with Bollard commuting to Cork city to teach violin at the CIT Cork School of Music.
Towards the end of the property boom, Bollard put her house in Ballinascarthy on the market.
She had agreed its sale within two weeks and in the meantime found another house that she liked.
She bought this house, but in the meantime the sale of the Ballinascarthy house fell through. This meant that Bollard was stuck with two mortgages.
“I felt physically sick,” she says. “But I went ahead with the move thinking I’d get another buyer for the house. But it didn’t sell because of the recession. Whatever luxuries we had were completely curtailed. I was under severe financial pressure. My salary went on the mortgage.”
Last year, the bank finally agreed to reduce Bollard’s mortgage payments after a lengthy battle involving solicitors’ letters.
She has been through the wars but has learnt a lot about spending less and, through her book, is keen to share her tips on saving money while serving nutritious food.
Reducing her grocery bill meant no more chocolate biscuits and cereals being tossed into the shopping trolley.
“Suddenly, it became very simple. All the processed food and rubbish was gone. It’s all down to planning. You need to plan your menus two weeks in advance – and you really have to stick to your list.”
Bollard admits her daughters’ school lunch boxes used to include cereal bars “and anything that was quick and convenient. There would have been crisps in there and fizzy drinks. Everything was shop bought. It was terribly bad for them and was also expensive.”
As Bollard began to provide healthier lunch boxes, the schools her daughters attended introduced a policy of banning fizzy drinks.
These days, lunch for Stephanie (17) and Alex (11) consists of diluted juice, milk or filtered water, sandwiches made from home-made bread, chopped vegetables such as carrot or cucumber with mayonnaise or hummus, fruit, and sweeter options if required. These would be home-made muffins, cookies, apple or rhubarb pie.
Bollard advises planning school lunch boxes with the daily menu. “Perhaps cook a little extra rice, potatoes or pasta for dinner and hold some back and refrigerate for the next morning’s lunch box. Add chopped ham, lamb or chicken, and peas, sweet corn or diced carrot, along with seasoning, to any of these for an instant salad.