Caitríona Redmond’s story isn’t unusual – she was made redundant from her job during the recession and overnight, thefamily lost 70% of its income.
What is unusual is how Caitríona handled the blow – learning to cook to a strict budget and planning a weekly menu to ensure her family continued to eat well despite the tight budget.
The lessons Caitríona learned in her kitchen became the very first blog posts on Wholesome Ireland, this month’s Foodies100 Blog of the Month. “I figured I’d share what I cooked on a small budget, with some tips and tricks – and if it was a help to one person, then it was worth it,” Caitríona explains.
Almost 300 posts later, Caitríona is well known for her family and budget-friendly recipes, such as this simple creamed corn noodle soup, which can be whipped up from store cupboard ingredients.
Over the past two years, Caitríona has learned some important lessons about food blogging. First and foremost, don’t over-complicate your blog, she advises: “It’s so easy to get caught up in what your blog looks like when it doesn’t really matter. Your writing matters.”
Caitríona is talking from experience. “At the start, I splashed out on a paid theme that ultimately I had to ditch after three months. It was slow to load, so no matter how pretty it was, it put people off reading. The day I pared it all back was such a relief.”
Being a food blogger has allowed Caitríona to enjoy some amazing experiences, including visiting a Michelin star restaurant, being a guest diner on Celebrity Masterchef and many, many newspaper and radio interviews. “Those give me the chance to spread the word about what it’s like to live on a tight budget, and how hard it is,” Caitríona explains. “This lifestyle can be very isolating but I’ve made firm friends and been so lucky to learn from experts in their field through blogging and social media.”
Food bloggers often worry about running out of ideas but for Caitríona, the bigger challenge is getting variety into her blog. “When you’re on a tight budget, your shopping basket looks the same week in, week out. Often I open the fridge and struggle to come up with something unique,” she says.
That hasn’t stopped Caitríona from coming up with some really inspiring and popular recipes including a Simple Coleslaw, Simple Roast Chicken and Slow Roast Leg of Lamb. Most of Caitríona’s recipes are about giving people clear instructions to get dishes right – although Caitríona also made a big splash with her rather more complex Jellybean Rainbow Cake!
Readers may be reassured to know it doesn’t always run smoothly in Caitríona’s kitchen. “There was the time I tried to make rice pudding with a brulee top, started a fire in the hall and we had to call the fire brigade,” she confesses. “And the time I was inspired to make vegan meatballs – which resulted in me making my children cry!”
Caitríona has started to work with brands more on her blog over the past year, and has enjoyed working with Morphy Richards on their soup maker review campaign, which included working with other bloggers on a Google+ Hangout.
Her top tips for PR execs who want to work with food bloggers are to take the time to get to know the person you’re contacting and do your research. “For example, I bang my head against the wall when I’m sent information about a premium product that I’d never be able to afford, and nor would my readers,” she says. “And emails that start ‘dear blogger’ are beyond frustrating!”
2014 is set to be an exciting year for Caitríona. Last summer she wrote, cooked, styled and shot her first cookbook, “Wholesome”, which will be in shops in early April! “My blogging goal is really just about spreading the word,” says Caitríona simply. “You can feed your family well, for less.”