What is good about what we do

19 January 2016
I'm often asked how to start living life more simply. My answer is to concentrate on whatever your energy is spent on right now - so if  you're actively engaged in paying down debt, develop more ways to save money and continue to reduce your debt. If you're an avid gardener, work out what you can grow in your own back yard, save money by doing it and provide fresh organic food for your table. If you've got sensitive skin or illness in your family, start by making some of your own cleansers and laundry products. If you're over worked and stressed out, start by slowing down and developing routines.

We'd already paid off our debt when we discovered the wonderful world of simplicity but I had two teenagers at home so my focus was on providing home cooked meals of good variety, taste and quality. Home cooking led me to move my shopping from the supermarket to the wider community, save money, grow more of my own food, menu plan and learn some traditional skills that I'd not thought about before.  I also rediscovered that home cooking presented the splendid repetitive ritual of meal times at the kitchen table. Meals shared with loved ones provides a much needed focus every day that also gives us a reason to sit and talk. Food binds us together, it provides many opportunities for hospitality and generosity, it teaches us about gratitude and daily chores and it comes to symbolise what is good about what we do.

I have about 30 home cooked main meals that I can produce without a recipe. Most of them are ordinary and simple and just the thing to keep us warm when it's cold and cool when it's hot. When I was developing my repertoire I thought my meals were just a collection from all over the place. Now I know they're my family's recipes, handled down to me via my mother and father's home cooking, and given to them by their mothers and grandmothers. It is only now that I realise they're mainly Irish and Swedish and a true reflection of both my grandmothers' heritage.

Family traditions and your own heritage is a great place to start home cooking or to expand on what you're already doing. Just start cooking some of the food you grew up eating. Of course you can modify it if you want to, but if you're anything like me, you'll want that authentic taste from the past when you sat at your parents' table and might not even have known what you were eating.

You'll probably find that real home cooking - and I'm not talking about tins of soup, cake mixes and gravy powder - real home cooking will lead you into a world of stocks, sauces, fresh vegetables, cheaper cuts of meat, fish, dairy foods, fermenting and learning how to use leftovers. I hope it will also lead you to sit down around the table and eat together, with no phones or ipads, so that real life can be talked about. That respect for the family mealtime was unquestioned when I was a girl but it seems to be gone for some of us now.  But that's okay, one of the skills you can learn with your home cooking is how to reestablish that evening ritual of laying a clean cloth and homemade napkins, setting the table with cutlery, water glasses and a jug and gathering the family around. That simple ritual of good food shared with the family will become one of the things you all look forward to after a day of school or work. Coming home to the aroma of home cooking and a table set for a meal is one of life's simple luxuries.