Posts Tagged ‘Frugal Living’

Sydney has been drenched for weeks, so when the sun peaked through for a couple of days last week, we raced outside to see how the garden had fared.

Leeks are the garden success story of the moment – the large annual ones in the top photo were transplanted from a previous bed and have continued to fatten up.  They’re just about ready to be eaten.

The true marvels though have been these perennial leeks.  Bless you Christine for putting us onto these – I know I keep saying that, but they’re such a wonderful plant!  All the ones in the photo above are self-seeded – we planted a single leek in that spot last year, and this year dozens have appeared from nowhere.

If you’re in Australia, you can usually buy them from Cornucopia Seeds – and if anyone knows where to find them in the UK, please let us know, as my friends over there have had trouble tracking them down.

Also, as I mentioned in a previous post, Ian gave me a small sample of his wild rocket seed.  Here’s my happy little patch growing…

All these broccoli plants are self-sown.  We’re overjoyed at how well our “let them go to seed” approach has worked…

Some hardy potatoes are pushing their way through – both the ones we’ve planted, as well as some that have self-seeded…

Pete’s beloved chickweed – growing like a weed!

Our crazy bed of nasturtium triffids, all self-seeded from last year…

On the herb front, oregano is thriving…

…as is the impossible to kill continental parsley…

…and the rosemary is doing fine too.  The sage, however, seems to be dead, possibly because of all the rain.

The rhubarb has survived its first year…

…and the sorrell is growing happily in its little corner.  Both the chickens and I love it!

Can someone please tell me what the trick is to growing strawberries?  We can raise beautiful plants, but every berry seems to be eaten by slugs before they’re ripe.  We even caught Bob the dog having a nibble recently!

Finally, I bought an expensive Italian sweet onion from the fruiterer and let it sprout – hopefully we’ll get some seed for next season!

What’s growing in your garden at the moment?

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I know what you’re all going to say, and you’re right, we probably do have the most spoilt chickens on the planet.

They’re fed the best food we can afford to give them, from whole heads of cabbage to sourdough pancakes to oven roasted tuna. And because we’re running a chicken spa, they also get a custom dust bath every couple of days.

With the recent wet weather, it’s been hard for the girls to find a spot in the chook dome to take their dust baths – an essential grooming process, necessary to keep them clean and parasite-free.  So…we’ve half-filled an old recycling bin with carefully sifted dry dirt, and this goes into their coop every afternoon for an hour or two.

It’s hysterically funny to watch them – they line up and take turns in the tub,  rolling around in the dirt and flicking it under their feathers to clean them.  They end up coated in a fine sheen, which makes them look as if they’ve been dusted in talcum powder.

Despite being brutally windy yesterday, the sun was quite bright, and I managed  to record this clip of Francesca undertaking her daily ablutions. I thought you might enjoy a glimpse into poultry preening…

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I really can’t complain about our living costs.   Since we started along this path of  “quasi-sustainability”, our food expenses have dropped dramatically.  Paradoxically, we’re eating better than ever before, with very little  pre-prepared or heavily processed food in our daily diet.

It’s tough economic times though, so we’ve again reassessed to see where we can save a bit of money without feeling like we’re depriving ourselves.  We’ve already made lots of big changes, but there’s still room for a bit of tinkering.  These things won’t save us a fortune, but it’s surprising how quickly it all adds up!

Homemade pasta

As I mentioned in a previous post, we used to struggle with homemade pasta.  So much so that until recently, we’ve always purchased it from our mate Joe at Peppe’s Pasta, at $7.50 per 500g.  Now that we have our trusty Ottolenghi recipe down pat, we’ll be making this at home. And since our girls are reliably laying five eggs a day at the moment, the pasta will only cost us $1.20 per 500g!

Homegrown lettuce

Everyone talks about how wonderful it is to have homegrown herbs, but I’ve only just realised how fabulous it is to grow lettuce!  It’s ready to harvest within a matter of weeks, and I go out every morning and pull a few leaves off for the boys’ lunches.  If you have room for a small herb garden, even if it’s in pots, I’d recommend you plant a little lettuce as well.  If nothing else, it might convince the kids to eat their greens!

No more pinenuts

I  love pinenuts, but they’ve recently become prohibitively expensive – good quality ones from Lebanon or Spain are between $60-$100/kg.  I now happily substitute slivered almonds, which are a tiny $12/kg from Harkola. There’s always a bag hidden in the fridge somewhere.

No more packaged dips

Not that we were buying many, but it’s so easy to make dips at home that we really don’t need to spend money on them anymore.  In addition, the commercial versions tend to have a lot more oil and salt than our homemade ones.  We make our own hommus, taramasalata, roasted beetroot dip and nasturtium pesto – more than enough variety to fill a nibbles tray.


Friends, if you’re not buying at least some of your groceries from Aldi, then you’re probably spending more money than you need to.  I know we certainly were.  I think the notion that Aldi products are inferior is a misconception – they may not always be better than what you can buy at Woolies or Coles (although sometimes they are), but they’re usually comparable in quality.  And they’re almost always cheaper!  Aldi also have a great organic range, with items you won’t find in other supermarkets.

Emergency meals = no more takeaway

I once read somewhere – I think it was in Shirley Conran’s Superwoman – that one of the best ways to reduce stress in the kitchen is to have a list of emergency meals written down.  These need to be easy to prep and preferably quick to cook, with minimal washing up.  It was suggested that the list be taped to the inside of a cupboard, where it could be referred to whenever exhaustion might otherwise drive you to pick up the telephone and order $60 worth of takeaway.  Our list includes dishes like baked bean toasted sandwiches, risotto and survival soup. Our boys adore them all!

If you have any money saving tips, please share them with us.  Every little bit helps!

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Previous Frugal Living posts:

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I’d like to make a case for owning a dedicated freezer.  Somewhat outrageously, we have two, but that’s only because Pete keeps refusing to build me a coolroom.

Yes, it does cost us extra electricity to run the freezers, but they save us a fortune.  Plus we switched over to 100% green energy a couple of years ago, so I’m feeling a little less angst-ridden about our consumption now.

What the freezer does is this: it enables us to process more of our food at home.  So in mid-winter, we can have home-frozen plums to use in a dessert, rather than having to purchase tinned ones.   And when roma tomatoes are out of season, we’ll still be eating homemade passata, made when they were just $1/kilo.

We store all our bread and flour in the second freezer, and because we’re able to do that, we haven’t had to buy a loaf for over three years.  I once calculated that we save about $40 a week on sourdough by baking our own.  Over 156 weeks, that comes to $6,240!  Even if we were only buying supermarket bread, we would still have saved nearly $4,000.  And that’s just the saving on bread alone!

Here are some of the other things we freeze:

  • we buy fresh garlic in bulk from Diana and Ian, and freeze it broken into unpeeled cloves.  It lasts well in the fridge for ages.
  • when stone fruit are in season,  we buy it in boxes.  We eat some, jam some and freeze the rest, cut in half and stoned, vacuum sealed.  Then in the depths of winter, we can make an apricot slice, or another batch of plum jam.
  • baked goods always freeze well, and at any given time, our freezer is packed with cookies, meringues, leftover cakes (for trifle) and various other sweet treats.  We also keep rolls of cookie dough, ready to bake for an instant dessert as needed.
  • frozen berries – we keep raspberries, boysenberries, strawberries, blueberries and cherries in the freezer.  Most of these we buy frozen in bulk, but the strawberries and cherries are purchased from the markets when they’re in season and washed and frozen.  This is where the freezer really comes into its own – being able to store and extend the life of seasonal produce.
  • we keep an entire freezer drawer full of tomato passata.  Pete will now only make it when roma tomatoes are in season, and we freeze it in small takeaway containers.  As we eat a lot of Italian food, we’ll go through several tubs every week.
  • precooked meals and sauces – when we have time, we’ll make a double batch of bolognese sauce, or chicken curry.  There’s also a healthy supply of pesto, frozen in little ziplock bags. Having these tucked away in the freezer means we’re less likely to order takeaway when we’re tired and exhausted.
  • juice and rind -we buy a box each of lemons and limes once a year, squeeze them all and grate the rind, then freeze the lot.  The juice is stored in ice-cube bags (trays would work as well) and the frozen rind keeps brilliantly in a small tub, from which it can be scooped out as needed for cakes and desserts.

If you have any suggestions for things I can add to this list, please let me know.  There’s always room to squeeze a little more into the freezer…

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On a whim, I picked up a discounted tray of lamb offcuts at the Italian butchers this morning.  At $1.41, they looked like nothing more than fat, bone and gristle, but there was a thin promise of pink meat in the middle of each piece.  I suspect they were lamb breast offcuts, but the labelling was fairly nondescript.

I trimmed the meat out of the fat and sinew, and ended up with 275g of usable lamb…

….which was marinated in a mix of homemade yoghurt, olive oil, salt and some Chermoula spice mix, and threaded onto skewers…

…then cooked on a hot griddle pan and served with creamy mash potatoes, Roma tomatoes and homemade harissa.  We ended up with nine sticks – enough to feed all four of us for lunch!

This was quite time consuming, and I probably wouldn’t do it again, but it’s nice to know that it’s possible to turn $1.41 worth of meat into a decent feed!

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