On Making Do

There is a discussion going on at Liberal Conspiracy, around a report by Amelia Gentleman about Breadline Britain.

I was brought up by two parents, both working in public sector jobs. We had little money, but were better off than the single parent living on benefits described in the article, whose father does not contribute to the cost of raising of his children.

During the course of our childhood, we would economise. We went shopping on Walthamstow market, where my parents would buy marked down fruit and veg. That meant, in practice, that we would buy produce which were sometimes a bit off, but where you’d cut the parts which were bad, and use the remainder. Saturday evening (and later Sunday evening) we’d do the rounds of the three local supermarkets, and buy whatever had been marked down in the 30 minutes before closing time.

We would eat together as a family, where we’d share four meals with meat, and five with veggies – often pulses – a week.

My parents would spend the weekend cooking food for the week. They were both incredible, inventive cooks – creators of the ‘pizza loaf’, where the filling was cooked on the inside! My mother, who died a couple of years ago, left a legacy of hundreds upon hundreds of cook books, almost all of which had been bought for pennies at car boot sales.

At one stage, my dad made clothes. They never wasted money. They didn’t have a standing account with Amazon: they went to the public library.

I thought my parents had been fools, for working in low paid jobs, and studiously living well within their means. Many people reached similar conclusions, believing that there was no earthly reason that one shouldn’t simply borrow in expectation of an eternally sunny economic future.

Obviously, I have been proved wrong. My parents were wise.

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