What a week it's been! Noel has just returned from his fishing competition a very happy man. Not only did he and his two mates bring home 153kg of marlin but also thousands of dollars worth of brand new fishing gear and $900 in cash! For once I can say it was worth the extortionate entry fee! If the freezer was full before, it's overflowing now - and not just with fish but also with vegetables. It was my job to look after Noel's vege gardens while he was away. Good grief, I felt like David Bellamy, 'scwubbling around thwough the undergwowth'! I had to push past towers of sweetcorn and got tangled up in the tomato forest on my mission to reach the beans, all the while making sure I didn't tread on the carpet of courgettes, pumpkin and cucumbers underfoot.
While the whole experience may have been worryingly ‘Day of the Triffids’-like, it really brought home to me just how dedicated my green-fingered hubby is to feeding our family. Faced with the massive fruits (and vegetables!) of his labours, I could see just how much time and effort had gone into them. Now I know exactly why he hates those pesky white butterflies getting near the broccoli and those funny green bugs with the hard shells that try to annihilate the beans. They undo all the good he’s done, wasting time, effort and money. Just like the kids and me when we’re too full to eat all the veges on our plates!
It really made me feel very fortunate and looked after and I didn’t realise just how much I took all our gorgeous, fresh food for granted until we went out to a local restaurant for dinner that night. I kid you not, they could have done with a visit from Gordon Ramsay. My auntie and I ordered Thai Chicken Curry, which I was really looking forward to until I saw the catering size bottle of ‘Knorr Green Curry Sauce’ next to the stove. Was I really paying $22 for someone to stir a few pieces of meat into a ready made sauce? Don’t get me wrong, it was very tasty and there was heaps of it – but it’s been five years since I opened a jar of ready made sauce!
From the day I joined Simple Savings I have taken pride in making everything from scratch, including the most fantastic curries using authentic recipes from the Forum. I love throwing all the various spices and bits and pieces together and inhaling the aromas wafting out of the pan. I love the fact that I know exactly what is in the meals I cook – just simple, fresh ingredients. Not preservatives, numbers or long names I can’t begin to understand. To me, watching the resident ‘chef’ upending his giant sauce bottle for the umpteenth time wasn’t cooking. Where was the skill in that?
OK, so I admit my Simple Savings way of eating has turned me into a food snob. As mentioned, all our meals were very tasty. So why did we send most of them back? The portions were impossibly huge! I am absolutely serious when I say that each meal could literally have been split in half to feed two people, rather than just one. Auntie Bobbie and I couldn’t manage a single lettuce leaf from either of our salads and Liam left all of his salad plus two enormous pork ribs. Ali’s seafood platter was so huge that even though he did his best it still looked as though he had hardly touched his plate. The amount of food we sent back was embarrassing but most of all it was sad.
You see, over the years that restaurant has earned itself a reputation for serving enormous meals. People rave about how reasonably priced the meals are and what great value you get for your money. But where is the value in throwing half of your meal away? After spending the afternoon in Noel’s garden I had seen the time and effort that goes into growing and producing all those salads. It was heartbreaking to think of the amount of food that restaurant must chuck out every single day. Not only are they wasting food, they’re wasting money. By halving the portions they would literally be able to double their takings, without having to spend another cent! It’s a no-brainer but what can you do?
On a more positive note, Master Ali was awarded Champion Swimmer on Friday! The smallest competitor by a long way, I thought I was going to burst with pride as he lined up for the Champion of Champions race. ‘No need to ask who the winner is, I can hear his mother!’ came the cheeky voice over the sound system. Me and his Uncle Spike were cheering so loud we hardly had any voices left by the end of the race! Even though it was ‘No Spend Month’ I confess I did buy him an ice cream as a reward and I told him he could choose whatever he wanted for dinner. His reply? ‘Kate’s Savoury Mince with Hidden Vegetables’ from The $21 Challenge book! That’s my boy!
Ooh, I almost forgot! Our $21 Challenge went even better than we hoped! Apart from our restaurant meal, which was in honour of my auntie and uncle visiting from England, the boys and I didn't spend a cent on food during the five days Noel was away. What a team!