As we all know, I often have my head so deep into the sands of motherhood, that I rarely notice what else might be going on in the world. How can I possibly know what's trending on Twitter when I am so busy rescuing toys from the seemingly endless crevices in my house or discussing the merits of Super Mario's moustache?
So when it was my birthday last weekend, and my brother handed me a hastily wrapped cookbook by somebody called Jack Monroe, I wasn't surprised when he said, "Haven't you heard of her? She's got a blog. Everybody's read it."
So then I did a bit of research (i.e. flicked through said cookbook in front of astounded brother) and found out that Jack Monroe, better known as 'A Girl Called Jack' may have just answered my prayers
|The girl herself|
Like virtually everybody in 'Austerity Britain' right now, my family is living on a pretty tight budget. The Cool Rule Empire is yet to dominate the world so we live on a combination of the hubby's wages as a part-time waiter and tax credits. My hubby, who is Turkish, hasn't seen his family in nearly three years because no matter what we do, no matter how much we cut back, there's never enough money left over to save for a trip to Turkey. This may not seem like a big deal. But imagine not being able to go and visit your mum who has a life-threatening heart condition or your elderly dad who suffers from a serious hernia. Not fun.
And even putting that aside, whilst I know we're not actually, literally poverty stricken, we do struggle daily. We don't eat meat. We don't buy alcohol. We don't go out. We don't have holidays. We don't have Sky TV. We don't buy lattes. We don't do a lot of the things that are the classic money-wasters. Every time a school holiday looms before me, I am caught in an emotional battle with myself. How will I entertain the Tots with no budget this time? How can I make staying at home every single day seem like raucous fun this time?
And on top of all that, I could really do without worrying about feeding them too. There are only so many times you can offer a child peanut butter sandwiches without feeling as if your soul is being dragged down.
|Delicious and cheap!|
And that's why, when I read the introduction to Jack Monroe's cookbook, I thanked my lucky stars.
Jack is a single mum to a Small Boy, was unemployed for a year, and living on benefits. With her excruciating food budget of £10 a week, she somehow found a way to cook healthy, nutritious food using simple ingredients. She blogged about her experiences, posted her recipes online and further down the line came a book deal. That's the book I hold in my hands now.
You can read loads about Jack and her experience of poverty all over the internet. She now campaigns against modern poverty, speaks in parliament and is an ambassador for Oxfam and the Child Poverty Action Group.
The women's a gem. And why? Because her experience speaks to so many people. I think she's amazing for being so honest about those heart-rending times she went through. And even more amazing for turning it into something positive and inspirational.
(And let's not forget that she's introduced me to white chocolate tea bread and the brilliant Penny Pizzas totally rocked the Tots' world. Like I said, the woman's a gem.)
|The white chocolate tea bread did it for me|
So I'm taking a leaf out of her book and trying to be honest too. Although I'm told at countless marketing workshops that it's important to project an image of success for your business, I must remember that my business came about as a result of absolute honesty in the first place. The Cool Rule Book was born because of the honest needs of my toddler son and grew into what it is today because of the very real needs of toddlers and their parents. So I can't throw that honesty away. It's what makes me who I am and my business will always be operated that way too.
|A Girl called Abi wrote this one|
So newsflash everyone! The Cool Rule Company hasn't made me millions yet. In fact, the real newsflash is that it's desperately difficult starting and running your own business. I don't care how much the government bleats on about the growth of SMEs, it is bloody hard work. It requires strength, patience, commitment, belief. And not just from you either, but from your partner, your family and your friends. And it requires an extended period of frugality, that goes far beyond what you ever imagined in your business plan.
And here I am now, loving everything The Cool Rule Company stands for, but devastated that I had to sell my late father's beloved camera equipment to pay off my start-up costs. I can't help wondering what he would have thought of that.
But I'm still here with bells on. And am blessed with many amazing things in my life including two Small Boys of my own who never fail to amuse or surprise me. And Jack Monroe's got me on a mission, so I thank her for that. My mission is to get more healthy, delicious food into our systems, and to get that weekly food shop down. And I mean really down. The game, as I said, is on.
You can learn about how to donate to foodbanks at trusselltrust.org/donate
You can find out more about the Child Poverty Action Group at cpag.org.uk/
Browse the brilliant range of Cool Rule products at thecoolrulecompany.co.uk and start happy living with your toddler today. Follow The Cool Rule Company on Facebook and Twitter.
Read Jack Monroe's blog at agirlcalledjack.com/ or follow her on Twitter