The winners of the BUPA Health Influencer blog awards are fantastic people, and I am proud to be in their company. I want to introduce you to them each week, and I encourage you to read their blogs. They've all made a positive difference in their communities and also in their own lives.
Today I feature my dear friend Sandra Reynolds from the $120 Food Challenge blog. She won the social good category of the BUPA Health Influencer blog awards. Sandra cooks wonderful food - last year she brought me some healing home cooked food when I was in hospital which was one of the loveliest things that someone has done for me. She's wise, funny, and has a naughty streak and a heart of gold. I am so glad we became friends. Her blog is so well written (her recipes come with wonderful anecdotes). When Sandra received the award, she spoke about being able to help people getting a place at Australia's table - everyone deserves to eat a balanced and delicious meal, and it's wonderful that Sandra is doing her bit to help those in need. She writes a little about her reason for blogging here. I really hope this award opens doors to great kitchens for Sandra. She deserves it.
"My blog started in March 2010 after I quit my job and found myself on Centrelink payments and a very tight food budget. I complained on Facebook to a few friends that I would have to feed my family on just $60 a week and they asked me how I could do that. I sent them a couple of recipes and within days they were asking me to set up a log and share it with others.
My blog features recipes based around a budget of $120 a week, designed to feed a family of four.
From the beginning, I explained to readers my own financial circumstances and it really resonated with others, including students, single income families and people down on their luck. I approached it with gentle humour, lots of self-deprecating remarks and some flair in the kitchen. It's encouraged nervous cooks, people trying to budget and young families, amongst others, regain control over their lives, just by being able to put a meal on the table.
It's kept me sane through some incredibly tough times, and not just those situations I have told readers about. At times, cooking and writing were the only events I could complete in my day. In the big picture, it's rewarded me with a career change and new direction in my life and more than I could ever have imagined when I first started.
Winning the BUPA Health Influencer award was wonderful recognition, not so much of the blog or my work, but of my personal ethos. I have put my heart and soul into creating not just good content, but into building and encouraging an incredible and supportive community of readers right around the world. It's engaged people with our wonderful food culture who previously would have looked at cooking shows or read magazines and then counted their money and decided they couldn't afford to participate.
I really believe that what I do not only gives practical cooking skills and budgeting advice but it gives encouragement to people who are feeling vulnerable or disenfranchised from a wider community because they have a smaller income.
Readers have left comments and sent emails and letters to me telling me of the very real difficulties they are trying to overcome. For many, being able to regain control of one small part of their lives, by putting a beautiful low-cost meal on the table is the first part of turning their lives around. It may seem a small thing, yet another cooking blog, but there is an undercurrent of inclusion, and encouragement that I am immensely proud of.
I hope for world domination. Or a regular income stream, whichever comes first.
The advice I have for new bloggers is: don't buy into the hype: you're not omnipotent, no matter how many followers and commenters you have. Learn solid technique, whether it be writing, photography or some other skill and use it. Proof-read, attribute and use good social media etiquette at all times. Don't include pictures or names of your family unless you can afford their therapy in later life. Switch off the computer regularly and go for a long walk."
You can connect with Sandra: