With the Chancellor soon picking up his favourite red satchel to match his flushed cheeks that he got from having been digging deeper and deeper and sinking this country further and further into the sea of misery I, the self –proclaimed self-chatterer, have been asking myself over and over again: oh dear oh dear, come on Georgie, how much worse can it get? Quadruple abyss recession? How are we, the BlueBeretFamily, going to feed our young?
Let’s face it. Times are tough and it is not going to get any better any time soon if you listen to all the media prophets. However, as they say recession is the mother of invention and the only way to start digging our way out of this budgetary gap is to get creative. To think outside the stack of boxes we will all soon be living in if the childcare and living costs increase by even a penny.
Ever since BlueBeretDad and I made the so called “lifestyle” choice and acquired a lively model for a baby, instead of a Jaguar or a property in some foreign up and coming country or a designer pooch, we have been staring into the crystal ball to read our financial future and all we can see is a sinister pitch-black void. To add to our economic demise, Peanut has started the nursery which is lovely and costs us more than buying a small developing country on Ebay (not that I would ever want to do THAT).
But things are not as bad as they could have been. Have we had fallen under the spell of evil advertising executives right now the three of us would be squeezing into Peanut’s latest city super light super fast super chic baby jogger parked underneath the nearest bridge. Pulling down the rain cover and rubbing our blue-ish hands we would remind ourselves how we used to live in a lovely pastel coloured world where everything was so soft, and handmade and carefully designed with only Peanut in mind. And then BlueBeretDad would remind us how one day the evil bank people came and took the pastel colours and the beautifully handmade baby bits and bobs and how we managed to just escape in the jogger and this is why we are now living in a barren concrete wasteland warming our hands over the burning credit card statements.
No, thank god Saint Pound, the patron of the Thrifty Nifty, we knew better than that. Or maybe our plastic cards didn’t stretch that much. And so after months of experience of that whole parenting stuff here is the final version of the BlueBeretFamily’s Baby on the Budget Survival Guide:
- Baby clothes – whenever you find yourself tempted by the soft and organic cotton sailor suit hand sewn by fairy godmothers in a Parisian atelier ask yourself the following question: what is the difference between a lovely soft designer baby sailor suit covered in sick and a cheap and cheerful Three for Two baby gro with sick on? There is your answer. If this wasn’t enough to stop you from waving your purse left, right and centre enough, the offspring grows faster than you can say “Baby ate my last credit card statement.” So next time you struggle to exorcise the temptation imagine the same exquisite garment after you have washed it 500 times in three pukey days. Yes, you are right. It will look like something you have pulled out of the depths of your designer pooch’s mouth. With sick on. And by the way, you are not setting your Beans up for failure only because you dress them in hand me downs. Good for the environment and the bankers will hate you. We need more of that.
- Toys – if an average mini Einstein has a choice between:
A) Brand new toys designed by a committee of educational psychologists, tested on carefully selected focus group of the brightest mini humans and mass produced by the seven dwarves, and
B) A recycling box full of cardboard, plastic bottles and other crap
What do you think he will choose to play with for hours and hours?
The first objects Peanut speed-crawls towards as soon as he enters the kitchen are:
- the recycling boxes
- the Tupperware drawer
- the bin
Who needs a fancy soft play when all you have t do is to call your council, get the recycling going and there you have the best free entertainment for your young one because nothing compares to being able to chew piece of cardboard or two.
Also, if anyone is very sensitive about the whole “every time you put on TV it sucks out all the intelligence out of your child’s brain so if they later on fail in life, you know who’s to blame” debate put the washing machine on. Put your child in front of the washing machine. Put your feet up and catch up on the last three seasons of Made in Chelsea. I know, I too hate to admit that with all my degrees and passion for high literature and art and classical music, I am a sucker for the “I’m posh and have nothing to say but I wear nice clothes so why not be famous “ reality TV show (but that is a different story altogether). Guilt-free pleasure for you, the humanoid is learning a lesson for life: staring at the washing machine won’t make it finish faster but it can make you feel seasick.
- Food – if you breastfeed for the first six months (my case) are cheap. Then when you move on to solids you quickly realise that there is a wide range of new qualifications you can add to boost your CV and therefore start a new career(and potentially earn some cash):
– Nutritionist – within weeks I have become an expert in mapping out the protein to carbs to fat to veg and fruit ratios. I have been scribbling down menus and personally delivering the right amount of iron to Peanut’s brain daily so that he can get that Nobel Prize one day. Or at least finish the secondary school and learn to drive so that I don’t have to. I know my good ‘no sugar’ added fromage frais from the bad one loaded with the evil S stuff. No salt. No E-numbers. Full fat only.
– Gourmet Michelin star chef – I know the drill. Babies have more taste buds than we do. Hence they are fussy. Maybe I would be too if I could detect more in my food than just sweet, salty and aw bloody spicy. I chop, I puree, bake and mash. All organic and only the best of the best. And the best of the best of the best comes at a price and a high one (especially if you are on the very generous statutory maternity pay). Squeezed in the middle to the point of breathlessness, I have recently discovered that you get and eat what you pay for does not apply to foods, like potatoes and carrots and other root vegetables. Or pasta. Or rice. Or breadsticks (just watch that salt content). But coming back to the humble potato. So much choice – normal or sweet. Gigantic or miniscule. And it goes with pretty much anything. You can mash it, boil it, steam it, sauté it, roast it… Trust me, this comes from a woman who grew up in times when Jamie Olivier wasn’t even planned and the BlueBeretGrandParents in the Beetrootland had only one kitchen bible entitled “1000 Potato Recipes”. Can you imagine a cook book with no pictures in it? Horror oh horror, based on the Potato’s success a sequels called “999 Buckwheat Recipes” was released. Another national bestseller and curse of all eight year olds (the perks of growing up during the communist regime).
The moral of this story is loosen your belt, breathe out and don’t beat yourself up if your Peanut has a non-organic meal or if you are tempted to splash out on that magic fairy powder that all baby meals have to be sprinkled with otherwise your child will never succeed in life. Chances are they will like the modest potato and cool cod with pulp peas more than the baby soufflé you were perfecting last night.
- Baby gear – Peanut’s buggy is so two seasons ago. I know, shocking. When I was in the haze of attending the pre-natal classes I was sucked into long debates over the superiority of the Peach iCandy over the Strawberry and I lost the will to live. Then I joined the buggynonymous guerrilla group and ordered online a very so-unfashionable-it –is –not even –worth-a – smirk model. Came with a car seat and cost £99.90 with delivery. Toot toot. So far for the last 10 months or so it has been through daily trudging over cobblestones, uneven pavements, bouncing up and down thousands of steps and bumping into innocent lampposts and annoying passersby (very useful to use as a mini-tank to get people out of your way during the Festival) . The best thing of all, the day its wheels fall off and the basket collapses under the weight of all those potatoes I will know that we got what we paid for and much more.
The same rule applies to bouncy chairs, high chairs, changing mats, anything else that big brands try to make you feel bad about if you don’t get it for the Bub pronto. Put on the Frugality & Reality Goggles because a few months down the line you will wish you had gone for the cheap and simple plastic high chair which tomato sauce can be wiped off, not dry – cleaned.
- Other ways of saving money – the good thing about having a baby is that for the next 20 years or so you surrender all your money – chomping hobbies like going out, clothes shopping, putting on make –up (even if you keep up with the makeup routine and applaud if you do, chances are most days you leave the house with only half of your face done which means your face-paint tubes and pots will last twice as long. Unless the baby gets there first) and join the I’m Leaving the House in My Pyjamas ‘n Proud of It club… On the other hand you can expect the wine and chocolate expenses to go up as well as your weight… That is normal. Extra fat will keep you warm which will make the heating bills lower so a win win for all (apart from the evil gas companies).
So Georgie show us what surprises you have for us this year. The BlueBerets are ready.
How are you getting on in this dreich economic weather? Share the penny-pinching stories 🙂