Although the school year has started, like many families, I have also faced the trial of both my elder children leaving home to begin university last week. It didn’t exactly go off without a hitch and included some stressful last-minute shopping trips and meltdowns in IKEA, whist debating both the necessity and merits of various cooking utensils. But at least they both did all the packing, in that they crammed the entire contents of their messy rooms into every available suitcase and carry-on bag they could find.
Now that they are safely settling in their new homes, it has been a bit of an adjustment to get used to living with less people around. Of course, like all milestones in our children’s lives, there is always lots of advice out there about how to cope through it all. From self-help books to blogs, websites and even 8-step programs, ‘empty nest syndrome’ makes for some serious marketing opportunities. That is not to say there isn’t a need for such advice because some families go through a very difficult period of loss when their children begin to leave home. However, even if you are happily sailing by this milestone in calm waters, there may still be some unexpected trouble ahead. Because what nobody ever warns you about when your children move out is the effect it has on your kitchen. We have not only lost two children but two really massive eaters. As a result, our ever-empty fridge is now perpetually filled and the cupboards are full to bursting. As I struggle to adapt to shopping and cooking for less people in my house, my kitchen has become a battleground to fight food waste.
Like many parents, I spent the last few weeks of the summer holidays trying to stretch out the days whilst dodging the inevitable back to school preparations. Ultimately, time caught up with us which meant that I no choice but to shop with my children en masse. Admittedly, we’d left it a bit late this year but we obviously had blocked any previous memory from our consciousness of back to school shopping hell. Because why else did we choose to shop at a time when the stores are full to brimming of other late starters? Oh, the joy of shopping alongside other panicking families, scrambling around in search of missing school uniform and stationary. There was nothing quite like shopping for the Holy Grail of school shoes, ones acceptable to parent, child and school, whilst in the surroundings of other stressed out families. I lost count of the number people we witnessed losing the plot after hearing the fateful words of ‘out of stock’ one too many times.
Ready or not, the new school year waited for no one despite many of us still trying to deal with one of our child’s most important pieces of kit. Of course, I am talking about sustenance and the annual guilt-laden dilemma of school lunches: to pack or pick?
Although I have just returned from a much-needed beach holiday, there is nothing like the feeling of being home again. Sure, the house may still be cluttered with abandoned suitcases and random shoes. The laundry basket is so heavily packed that it is threatening to explode. And there seems to be a light sprinkling of sand everywhere, as if we have been visited by some mischievous beach fairies. But despite facing the unavoidable unpacking fallout and being slightly aware of the stress of returning to work and everyday life that sits in the back of my mind, I can breathe a big sigh of relief. Because there is something unbelievably satisfying about the comfort of returning home, where you can revert back to your customs and how you live your everyday life.
If you are a runner, it is not unusual to be married to fellow runner because like attracts like. Some may attribute this to the law of attraction while others believe it has more to do with sharing the innate ability to overlook mud, sweat and Lycra in a mate. However, that doesn’t mean that you necessarily have the time to go for a run together, especially during the working week. Most runners find it difficult enough to find some time to fit in a workout for themselves, let alone trying to coordinate with their partner’s commitments. Add some children with their busy school and social lives to contend with and it is even harder. Which means that a runner will often go for a workout on the same day and even at the same time as their partner but in totally different places. Without knowing, the runs may even take place in unison. And if one of you travels occasionally for work, your runs may even be mirroring each other in different countries.
Unsurprisingly, most runners love nothing more than to talk about their run and compare notes. Which is why no one can resist sending a post-run text with related emojis and GIFs to express how it went. Why wait for the chance to rehash a workout once home from work when you can instantly share with an exhausted face, that you are knackered? Often my post-run texts cross paths with my husband’s and we both know what we will be talking about later, at length, over the dinner table. It’s like getting a text sneak preview before sitting down to the main feature, later. But there are times when our post-run texts do not reveal very much and a similar sounding run may, in fact, be very different. This is never more apparent than when you foolishly try to recreate your partner’s run based on their post-run text.
There has been much focus lately on our environmental footprint and how to reduce food waste in the UK. According the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) charity, the amount of household edible food that is put into our bins and wasted every year is in the region of 5 million tonnes and worth an estimated £15 billion. Wasting food not only contributes to global warming, deforestation and the growing worldwide problem of how to deal with unnecessary packaging waste. It also keeps you out of pocket. Therefore, it’s in everyone’s interest to stop our food from turning into rubbish.
There are many ways that we can cut down on our amount of avoidable food waste (see Spoiler alert). In an ideal world, we would simply not buy more food than is needed and use up every last morsel before it spoils. It has to be said, that this is far easier to do if you have teenagers living at home because their raving appetites makes it more difficult to buy too much food. Even the most packed fridge and cupboards can be quickly depleted, especially if they have brought along their friends.