These days the world has had to adapt quickly to a quick-paced and ever-changing environment with many finding themselves having to revamp their homes like offices. But one person who has had long experience of working from home while multitasking being a mother and allotmenteer is food writer, Caitríona Redmond.
Caitríona lives in Balbriggan ‘the most Northerly town in Dublin and located right on the coastline,’ she tells me.
‘I love being able to hear the waves when I leave my bedroom window open at night. I’m married 14 years and two of our three children live at home at the moment: aged 11 and 8’.
When Caitríona was younger, she desperately wanted to be a primary school teacher.
‘That never happened but I’ve always looked at things from an educational angle; I guess that’s why I like to show people how to cook affordable meals. The other big focus of my childhood was music and singing, something I don’t do very much at all now and completely unrelated to food!’
Caitríona tells me that going into food was actually by accident. She had lost her job at the height of the recession in the noughties and started blogging to keep her IT skills up to speed.
‘I chatted to my friends and family about managing to cut the household food budget down to €70 per week and they asked me to share my recipes,’ she explains. ‘At this point, my skills merged and the food blog was born. I never intended it to be my ultimate career, it’s just that the more I blogged about food the more I fell in love with it.’
Her website, Wholesome Ireland has a wealth of recipes to browse through as well as many budgeting and parenting blogposts.
‘Originally my focus was not just to share recipes on a budget, but to create a space where other people struggling to feed their families on a budget felt welcomed and less isolated,’ she says.
‘Living on a tight food budget can be a lonely place and knowing that you’re not on your own means a lot to people. It did to me then and I understand to this day how marginalised it can make people feel.’
Nowadays the blog has more of a healthy living aspect to it and is more lifestyle-oriented.
‘Simply because I have less time due to work to blog recipes but I do still blog about what it’s like to be a busy working parent, and recently there’s an element of talking about special educational needs which is a topic close to my heart.’
But what is the Irish food landscape like today?
‘I’m going to be very honest here, on a tight food budget the vast majority of artisan and popular Irish food products are a luxury and I have a blind spot there,’ she admits.
‘There is an element of the Irish food industry that focusses on higher end products and produce. It is hugely successful but inaccessible to those on a tight food budget. It is wonderful to see food businesses thriving and evolving but my end of food is much more based around key basic ingredients that don’t often get the attention.’
Caitríona says that we need to do much more to get people more into buying locally rather than focussing on food from abroad.
‘Locally produced seasonal ingredients are always going to be budget friendly, with less food miles and supporting communities,’ she says.
‘The Irish people now have a varied diet and expectations that certain foods are going to be available all year around. To make people more invested in food production in their communities they need to see the benefits more and feel more invested in it. Knowing who the local farmers are and what they produce helps this.’
Caitríona is an allotmenteer but sadly due to COVID restrictions it was difficult the past few months.
‘My allotment is a shambles at the moment. With lockdown and family commitments I’m not getting the time I want there. I suppose that’s my complaint every year!’ she says.
‘My focus for the year ahead is to get more fruit bushes and take a look at perennial produce so I don’t have to work so hard! The single best item I ever bought for the allotment was a polytunnel that I sold my baby gear to pay for.’
Caitríona’s tunnel has has produced many, many tomatoes, grapes, melons, kiwis, cucumbers, courgettes, aubergines, pumpkins and so much more besides. Not only that but it’s located extremely close to the Irish sea, so the tunnel gives them shelter and warmth to grow outside of the traditional growing season.
But what is so satisfying about growing your own food?
‘The day the seeds arrive it’s an envelope of promises. The day I harvest from the seeds sown it’s the promises fulfilled. It’s wonderful.’
‘In the future, I want to plant less for the next 6 months and more for the years ahead; more trees, fruit bushes, perennial herbs etc. Less work for more bountiful harvests!’