Apart from a mortgage, rent, child care or car repayments, food is usually the biggest ongoing expense we all have to contend with. We eat food every day so it has the potential to make a huge impact on our budgets. If you can save money on food and groceries, and prevent wastage, it could save you a lot of money over a long period.
Saving money on food is not the only reason that it is an important part of a simple life – home grown and home cooked food is also healthier. Organic vegetables and fruit grown in a backyard and eaten fresh is possibly the best food you can eat. If you paid for food that fresh, it would cost you a lot more than a few seeds, water and some outdoor work. When you harvest that backyard food or buy fresh local fruit and vegetables, and cook it with items in your stockpile, you are cooking frugal, healthy food that will add to your well being and, hopefully, keep you healthy.
Home produced food or buying local food also cuts down significantly on “food miles”, which is the term for the distance your food travels from its source to you. Food that is transported long distances is responsible for the emission of tonnes of greenhouse gases in that delivery process, so cutting food miles will decrease the amount of greenhouse gasses associated with your food.
Stockpiling food adds another dimension to your productive backyard. It will expand your ability to make meals with what you have on hand and will save you time and money by staying out of the supermarket. Of course, you can stockpile without a garden in the backyard. If you find a good supplier of local fruit and vegetables, or have access to a good market, then stockpiling and your fresh produce is a marriage made in heaven. Stockpiling will reduce the amount of money you have to spend on food and save you time. Instead of spending a couple of hours each week at the supermarket, when you stockpile is fully operational, you’ll only have to do a once a month shop, you might even stretch this out to once every two months.
Stockpiling and growing some of your own food also gives you the ability to feed yourself and your family in case of an emergency. If there is a cyclone, damaging storm, a system breakdown or something more sinister, you will have enough food and water to see you through. Fruit and vegetable gardening, keeping chickens for eggs or meat, making do with what is in the pantry and cooking from scratch were all a common household skills in days gone by. Some people now see that style of living as abnormal but the way we waste food, eat processed food and live on credit is the real aberration. It is good to see those old common skills being part of our lives again because it really is a sensible and sustainable way of living.
It is a great thing to become at least partially independent of the supermarket and provide as much food as you can from your own backyard, or from local roadside stalls or farmers’ markets. You can create your own little market at home, which is stocked with your favourite products bought at a reduced price or made yourself. Just imagine, your own little grocery store, open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. And not only that, your grocery store has the lowest prices every day.
If you have the time and space in your own home garden, have a go at growing fruit and vegetables. You will be eating home grown organic produce in no time and keeping a few hens in the backyard will give you the freshest and most tasty eggs available.
When you’re confident with your vegetable gardening, try to grow a bit more than you can eat fresh. You can either preserve the excess with bottling or freezing, or barter it with neighbours. Preserving fruit and vegetables by buying a box of whatever is cheap and in season is another excellent option. Ask at the market for their best price and you might get a full box of good tomatoes for a bargain. You can often get good peaches at the markets – a box for ten dollars, enough to eat fresh and for making a year’s supply of peach jam. Preserving is a great way of providing many special, preservative-free foods at a reasonable price.
Making chilli jam for the stockpile cupboard.
Experiment with different recipes and make sauces and jams that you’ll eat during the year. Homemade tomato and BBQ sauce and relish are delicious and you can make them to exactly suit your taste – less salt, more lemon, a little bit more sugar, whatever. They’ll also healthier and cheaper. If you have a glut of cucumbers, preserve some – pickled cucumbers store well in the fridge for about a month, without processing in a water bath. Teach yourself how to make lemon butter and cordial with your backyard lemons and turn your own oranges into the best marmalade you’ll ever eat. Learn to make ginger beer and replace those soft drinks full of preservatives and colourings. You can make simple cheese and yoghurt at home with no special equipment. You’re only limited by your imagination and the time you have to put into it. It all goesto providing healthy options for your family’s diet and can help you provide interesting, tasty food within a sparse budget. And remember, the more you produce and make yourself, the more independent you become.
6 ripe tomatoes
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 cup ripe chillies - a mixture of mild and hot chilli according to your taste
Cut the tomatoes into quarters and place in a thick bottomed pan. Add the vinegar and chilli and bring to the boil. When the mixture is boiling add the sugar. When the sugar has dissolved, turn down the heat and let the mixture simmer until it has reduced to about half. Pour into sterilised jars and seal.
It will keep well in the fridge for two months. If you want to store this for a few months, place in a water bath and process.