National $21 Challenge - Day Six

Posted June 7th, 2008 by Penny Wise

Lost the plot at the dinner table today. Spat the dummy, threw my toys out of the cot, the whole she-bang. I have to admit, I have found the $21 Challenge a lot harder this time round now the kids are wheat-free. I've realised that I've become lazy trying to cater for their needs. Main meals are fine as we always have meat and fresh vegetables on hand and we all eat well. It's the lighter meals and 'in-between' meals which are a problem. Kids are naturally grazers and wheat-free kids even more so, as they are not able to fill themselves up with all the bulky stodge their peers can scoff quickly to keep them going. Liam has been wheat-free for ten months now and I feel as though I am constantly chained to the kitchen. He's a big boy - as big as me now and every day after school, in between three afternoons of rugby training a week, helping with homework and cooking dinner, I am continually fielding requests for food.

But it's not as simple as being able to whip up a sandwich when you're wheat-free. Fish fingers, chicken nuggets, tinned spaghetti and other 'kid food' is off the menu. Every slice of rice bread is gold plated and I have to make a new loaf every second day. Both the boys are sick to death of toast - heck, even I'm sick to death of toast! Baking lasts two days if I'm lucky but usually it's all gone in a day and then Liam starts on the junk. Potato chips, crackers and dip, chocolate and ice cream. He eats a kilo of Easiyo a day, can eat a whole packet of rice crackers in one go if I'm not looking and would consume a whole tub of ice cream if I let him. Don't get me wrong, he eats a lot of fruit as well but I just can't keep up with him! It's not the boys' fault; wheat free food just doesn't fill you up as much.

It's taken this $21 Challenge for me to really see exactly what they eat and how much. That's why I lost the plot I suppose - guilt and frustration. Frustration because I spent all last weekend in the kitchen, baking, planning and making sure we had enough snacks for the week only to find it didn't last beyond two days. Guilt because Liam in particular is obviously not getting enough and it's my responsibility as his mum to make sure there is enough food in the house - and enough of the right food. The last straw came when I found a recipe for crunchy roast potatoes. They were supposed to be coated in flour and spices but of course I couldn't use ordinary flour so figured they would turn out alright if I coated them in rice flour. Apparently not as we tucked into them at dinner tonight. I thought they were OK but the boys pronounced them disgusting and refused to eat them, meaning their meals had instantly become significantly smaller and I knew they were going to moan about being hungry and scoffing huge bowls of ice cream and potato chips (which are supposed to be reserved for school lunch boxes only) before bed again.

So I burst into tears and yelled at them that they were ungrateful sods and I was sick of their constant demands and nothing I do is ever good enough and I was sick of them eating junk and sick of them not appreciating whatever I cook and pigging out on whatever I do cook so I never get out of the kitchen and so on and so forth. To which they all looked at me as though I had gone mad until Noel smiled apologetically and said 'No offence dear, but the potatoes are bloody awful!'

However while it had not been the most classy of outbursts I think it did some good. The kids have promised to stop pigging out on all the baking and I have promised not to make those dreadful potatoes again but it's also made me realise that I am going to have to go against my own frugal principles and buy more food for the kids - the right kind of food. Nude food, especially for after school. If I always have plenty of nude food on hand, they won't need to eat junk and I won't always be stuck in the kitchen. Instead of chicken nuggets, I'll keep an eye out for chicken breasts on special and make my own, lightly seasoned version. As soon as this Challenge is over we are going shopping, but not to do a massive stock-up. We still have plenty of food - in fact we still have so much in the pantry that I'm planning another $21 Challenge for the following week - but my boys have to come first. How amazing - the $21 Challenge really does change the way you eat!

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