Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Mighty Pile :)

Recently I have started stockpiling. Recently means last year, when we were in Italy for our holidays. 
I was in a supermarket with my mother, shopping for something special to eat that day and I saw a very good kind of pasta on special offer. So I told my mum if we could organize for the guy who brings to us Italians in Ireland all our tomato sauce, to bring a big box of pasta as well. She said it could be done and so I bought about 30 kilos of pasta, which equals to 60 packets. The thing is, here I can only find 3 varieties of pasta, and the quality is quite low. Actually very low. Unless you are prepared to spend 2.50 € a packet, which I am not.

So the stockpiling habit began. Once the pasta boxes arrived, I placed them all in a space under the stairs, close enough to the kitchen, on a small bookshelf. When I looked at all that food I felt a kind of security. It definitely makes me feel safe to have enough food to feed my family for at least 2 months! The pasta sits alongside my parents' homemade tomato sauce. More recently I have added to this, and increased the pile with olive and vegetable oil, vinegar, sugar, some pesto jars, vegetable stock cubes, salt, wine bottles, flour, pickles and sottoli, yeast, bicarbonate of soda, soda for washing, soap bars, toothpaste, evaporated milk, dried legumes such as beans, lentils and chickpeas, corn starch, potatoes and other things that now I cannot think of.

I find this habit to be a very good one. At least, it works for us as a family. Our trips to the supermarket have been drastically reduced. We go shopping once a week now, and we only buy bread, fruit and vegetables and yogurts for my son. On average, this shopping cost about 20 €. Once in the supermarket, I usually buy products to go in the stockpile. It is important for me to have always the same amount of items in the pile. They are rotated and obviously, the ones just bought go at the back of the shelf.

In the kitchen drawer I only keep the products I am currently using.

Last weekend I cleaned this particular drawer. It is my kitchen drawer, where I keep all the things I need in order to cook. I found 3 bicarbonate of soda packets open, so I decided to put all of the bicarbonate in one single jar, to protect it from humidity and have it all in one place. I also changed the paper that lies underneath the bottles and jars. I got rid of empty packages and I can now see what I have, what I need, what I need to buy and what needs to be refilled from the stockpile.

I also have the habit of washing and keeping glass jars when empty. I love them. Particularly because they come in handy all the time, believe me. I also buy bigger glass jars to keep things tidy.

I come from a culture of reusing, recycling and preserving. Every year in August, for example, I helped my parents make the tomato sauce. The bottles used for this operation usually come from the local bar, empty "Peroni" beer bottles that would be otherwise thrown away. The bottles are washed, filled with the precious sauce, sealed with new caps and placed on their shelf. Once a bottle is empty, my mother would thoroughly wash it, and place it on another shelf to be used next year. This means that we have glass bottles older than 30 years. Older than me. It is a virtuous cycle that gives a simple bottle a huge importance and a very long life. I have also always seen my mother use the freezer as a "treasure chest". Out of the freezer come all kind of things, such as legumes, vegetables, fruit and meat. This means there is always something to cook during the winter months, even if she doesn't go shopping for weeks in a row.

I am trying hard to apply all the teachings of my parents into the life I have now, working full time, living in a terraced house with an eclosed garden at the back. It is hard, but it seems to be working quite well. I try to take one step at a time, like a child discovers walking. When I thought I had no space for a stockpile, I managed to de-clutter the small space under the stairs, and that worked. When I thought I could never grow anything to put on the table, I found that growing in pots can be an option. When I thought I had very little time to cook, I learned to cook extra portions and freeze the extras. When I thought my son would need nappies for a while, before he was born I bought reusable nappies for a fraction of the price I would have spent on disposable nappies and without creating the huge amount of garbage the disposable would have. When I thought of all the chemical crap that comes in our washing powder and that inevitably ends up on our skin, I searched for a simple way to make washing powder.

I believe all of us can find ways in the everyday life to create virtuous habits. I believe that by showing and not telling our children what to do in order to save some money, avoid to create garbage or cook a simple meal, we can really make a difference in our life and theirs.

I needed to take control of our lives and our expenses, especially since we decided to buy our house, and I found that taking control of what we eat is the first step. The journey is still long, I have skills to learn and skills to rediscover. I have a lot of things to work on, and I will definitely do so, one at a time.

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