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The meaning of Less Money, More Love

April 9, 2012

The slow food movement isn’t a new phenomenon.  In fact, it’s just a case of us returning to more traditional ways of eating, preparing and regarding food, in a way that our ancestors would have had to; because fast food and ready meals were not an option.  For those of you that aren’t familiar with what the slow food movement strives to encourage, here’s a short passage from the ‘about us’ section of the Slow Food UK website (www.slowfood.org.uk):

‘Slow Food is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. It was founded in 1989 in Italy.’

My own interest in the principles behind slow food have been piqued again due to a book I’ve just read; or maybe ‘devoured’ would be a more adequate description.  Never before have I gone cover-to-cover in such a speed.  The book in question is ‘The Money-less Man’ by Mark Boyle, and it’s the story of him living without money for a year – or ‘freeconomic’ living, as Mark himself likes to call it.  He did this four or five years ago and from the way the book describes it, there was a lot of media coverage, so you may well be familiar with his experiences.

When I set up this blog and considered the sections I wanted to blog about, ‘Less Money, More Love’ was a key inclusion.  I’m passionate about all aspects of food, not just what it tastes and smells like.  If, to get the freshest pea shoots to go atop my courgette soufflés, I need to grow both the peas and the courgettes, then that is what I’ll strive to do.  Why buy something you can make or grow yourself and that you know will taste better?  And there is no denying that food that has been loved, by you, the farmer or by Mother Nature herself (free-range chickens, organic carrots, wild strawberries etc) tastes considerably better, so sometimes the price you have to pay is higher than what supermarkets and all the disillusioned shoppers out there think is a fair price.

Whilst Mark Boyle’s adventures were not solely focused on food (which was a relief as he’s a vegan and I think I would have quickly have become bored at the lack of lovely dairy products and tales of meaty delights), the man had to live and so it was inevitable that a large chunk of his story is about how he keep himself fed.  And not just on any old rubbish that he could scavenge from bins – no, this is a man of principle.  He’d only eat organic and locally-produced produce, thus reducing his own personal impact on the natural environment.  Now, whilst I’m not planning to convert to Veganism, take myself off-grid and stop spending that hard-earned cash that appears in my bank account every month, I did pick up some valuable foodie lessons from Mark’s book that I wanted to share with you today.

1. Plan ahead.  Like any good cook knows, you need to think past the next meal you are preparing and consider your options into the near future – two or three days is the optimum.  This ensures cutting down on waste (because you are incorporating leftovers meals or ingredients into your plans), helps you make the most of the fresh ingredients that you have available whilst they are at their best, and saves you money and often time, because you can prepare things in advance and sometimes even cook elements in advance.  Now, without money, Mark didn’t have the luxury of popping to the local shop to get a last minute supper – no, he had to plan months in advance to ensure he had planted enough fruit and vegetables to sustain his diet continuously.  So that takes me to the next lesson.

2. Grow what you can.  It doesn’t matter how much space you have – use what you can.  That could be living salads pots on your window sill, a kitchen garden of herbs or an allotment full of a greengrocer’s finest.  Put the effort in and you shall reap the rewards.  It’ll be fresher, taste better and cost you less in money – you’ll pay in time, but that in itself can be hugely rewarding.  But don’t forget to heed lesson 1 and plan your meals around your home grown efforts; you don’t want your hard work ending up on the compost heap.

3. Barter, exchange or give away for free.  Unless you’re a right arse, the chances are you have neighbours, friends and/or work colleagues that you talk to regularly.  So if you’ve grown too many courgettes, or you’ve made too much chicken casserole; don’t waste it.  See who around you wants it.  You might want to give it away, or see if you can exchange it for something else (whether it’s other food or a favour…)  Mark’s philosophy is that we should all give to the world without an expectation of something in return.  If everyone does that, there will be many occasions when you will receive ‘gifts’ from others.  He says something along the lines of ‘the more love we put into the world, the more love there will be to go round’.  I think he might be right.  Whenever I’m making cupcakes, there are usually loads to spare.  So I give them to my neighbours, asking for nothing in return.  On other occasions, different neighbours have brought me windfall apples, eggs, radishes, cabbages, potatoes, polish chocolate cake and freshly-made gyoza with sticky rice!  So, don’t let food go to waste – give it away.

4. Work as a community.  If you are planning to grow something, or keep chickens etc, speak to your neighbours, as they might be interested in sharing your spoils.  Mark worked on an organic farm in exchange for food and other assistance.  You might be able to agree to swap your glut of tomatoes in the summer for your neighbours glut of leeks in the winter.  And if your neighbours aren’t growing anything, don’t despair.  Talk to other friends and work colleagues as well.  In my office, we always bring in any excess from our gardens and allotments and leave it in the kitchen – other people help themselves.  Share the love!

There were lots more things I’ve learnt from the book, including giving greater consideration to how I use nature’s resources, my attitude to other people and my spending habits, but I’ll let you experience those for yourselves.  In the meantime, I’m off to plan breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next two days, as well as plant some courgette seedlings…

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2 Comments
  1. I have grown lots of extras! I am planning on making gifts of them to all the neighbours. I also plan on swapping a few for things I need. Great post – Thanks

    • Oooh, your neighbours are very lucky! I do think home grown produce, or things made from them (such as jam or chutneys), make such lovely gifts. My next-door neighbour gave me lots of windfall apples from her tree last year, so I turned it into chutney and gave her a jar in return. Everyone’s a winner!

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