New Year Challenge

I am reading a book at the moment called "Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything" by Laura Grace Weldon. I haven't got very far with it yet, but I love the strapline because home schooling (unschooling, as I prefer to call it) does, indeed, change everything. It takes us on a path which leads to different places, places which sit aside from mainstream culture ... and I like that. I like the way it continually challenges us to think outside the conventional box, and to question things we might otherwise have taken for granted.

Home educating has financial implications. It means living on a single income in our case, which is sometimes challenging. This in itself is counter-cultural, and it means making choices about lifestyle, where we go, what we eat, what we do. It has opened my eyes to living with less than I might otherwise have done, and it has raised some serious questions .... Our society operates according to a monetary currency, and we tend to value, not only things by how much they cost, but people, too, by how much they earn, or by their economic value. Stay-at-home Mums don't seem to rank very highly in our collective opinion ... though you can easily argue that their value to society is high, if we were to measure in another currency ... let's say "building community" or "contributing to children's well-being".

Food is an alternative currency. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a keen interest in the environment, and as a family we have been engaged for the past 18 months in looking at how to reduce our waste and use of disposable plastics. Along the way, we have learned a lot about food waste and been shocked at the amount of consumable food which is simply being thrown away in this country - either failing to meet supermarket standard at source, going past it's sell-by date on supermarket shelves, or simply being thrown away by households' overpurchasing. All of this suggests an abundance culture, and a devaluing of food.

It is surely a basic human right, just as we would argue access to clean water and sanitation is, that people should have access to good, basic food. I am talking about the unprocessed, straight-from-the earth variety ... the kind we would once all have grown for ourselves. Should not basic, good, healthy foods be available to all? Unfortunately, this is not the case. I am shocked at the cost of buying basic fresh food. It is, of course, cheaper to buy rubbishy processed food ... cheap and convenient. And school seems to omit to teach us all very much really about food and nutrition and how to keep ourselves healthy, things which are so important for quality of life, health and wellbeing. Whilst the curriculum pays lip service to such lessons, school canteens are notoriously unhealthy and filled with too much cheap, processed food which is eaten with disposable throwaway plastic utensils. So whilst we say we care about the environment and about our children's health, this is not actually the case at all. If we truly cared, things would not be as they are.

Living in another culture can also be revealing. In Turkey, school meals were excellent, wholesome and important. Valued. In many countries, people stop to eat properly in the middle of the day. Mealtimes are social occasions, and this time to stop and refuel is precious. Not so here, where adults will often scoff down a sandwich at their desks, and schoolchildren are herded at speed through crowded cafeterias serving substandard food.

I am tired of eating poorly, and not exercising sufficiently, of not really looking after myself very well. This is not a good example to set to my children. So I have decided to put myself on a challenge (I like challenges!) and to Super Juice through January. I want to detox and get rid of all the sugar and processed food addictions which I am sure my body has. I want to lose a bit of weight, to feel sharper and more energised. But also, I want to reject the crap that the government and supermarkets and moneymakers tell us is good to eat. I want to try to go back to basics and to eat simple foods as close to source as possible, in other words fruits and vegetables that come straight from the tree and earth. I have no idea how I am going to find this experiment. I have persuaded my husband to give it a go for the first week as well, but I am going for the full 28 days. I am sure I am going to struggle. But I will document the journey here on the blog. Let's see how it goes.

The first shock for us has been the cost of buying this basic food. This is what the week's fruit and vegetables looks like for 2 people .....

It cost us about £80, though shopping on New Year's Eve probably wasn't the best of ideas as shops were low on fresh produce due to the New Year break, I think. I tried to shop in the local greengrocer I have been frequenting, but had to go to Aldi as well, and then to Tesco, which I would have preferred not to have to do. A lot of the produce did come loose, though, which was good. Only the cucumbers, kale, peas, celery and asparagus came wrapped in plastic. And this is all the food my husband and I will eat for a whole week. It's not cheap, though, is it? And of course we will have to feed the boys on top of that ...

It seems there is a problem, when so much food can be thrown out to waste, and yet many, many people in Britain are prevented from access to wholesome, sustainable food because of the price. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has been speaking up for better food for schools for some time, and if you watch "Jamie and Jimmy's Friday Night Feast", you might have seen the programme about Holiday Hunger which discussed the problem families face to feed their kids during the holidays when they don't get their free school meal. To hear mothers talk about having to choose between providing hot water or a decent meal for their children in 21st century Britain moves me to tears. The currency of food is something we should all be working to do something about. .....