I read a very interesting article the other day that confirmed what I think about Italian and Greek migrants in Australia. That their various abilities to grow, cook and preserve food and drinks made them not only wonderful Australian citizens but helped them live frugally and happily in their new chosen land. According to the article, compared to our UK migrants, Mediterranean migrants paid off their houses faster, even though they all worked equally hard to build their new lives. The difference was that the Italians and Greeks knew how to grow food in their backyards, and many of them did that as well as keep chickens and sometimes goats and pigs. They had preserving days with other families when they would put up sauce, salami, cheese and wine. And all this meant they spent less on food while eating the diet they were used to - it helped them retain a part of their culture.
We can learn a lot from those immigrants.
In the article it stated that "A family growing a few vegetables could save the equivalent of, in today's terms, $25 to $50 dollars a week. Over the course of a 25 year mortgage this works out to between $32,500 and $60 000." I believe that is true, and it's serious money. So how would you save that kind of cash by growing food in your backyard. Well, first you have to know what you're doing, but it's not rocket science, it's something most people can do. It involves work, developing whatever land or space you have available, getting your hands dirty and being consistent. Sometimes you'll have good harvests, sometimes you won't but over the course of that 25 years, you'll get better, particularly when you know the wide variety of food you can produce and the kind of savings that are there for the taking.
There is more than one way to make money. One is to get a job, the other is to save what you've already earned and to keep that money in the bank. If you spend less on food, clothes, utilities etc., while remaining healthy, happy and nourished, you can use your saved money to help pay off your mortgage or to save for a house deposit. When you've paid off your mortgage, it will be your choice to work or to cut back on work and pursue other interests.
If we can save that kind of money out in the backyard or in containers on the porch, what can we save inside over the course of a 25 year mortgage? Well, there is laundry detergent. If you're currently in Australia and you're buying a litre of Dynamo a month, you'll spend $102 a year or, if we stay with today's price, $2550 over 25 years just for laundry detergent. By changing to homemade laundry liquid you'll keep $2500 of that in your pocket. If you start stockpiling, more savings, monitoring your electricity, gas, fuel, phone and internet usage, more savings again. If you bake at home instead of buying inferior bread, cook from scratch, recycle, make your own jams, sauces, pasta etc., it's not only going to save you money but you'll be eating healthier food too. Looking after what you already own, turning your back on fashion, learning to knit and sew, mending clothes and household goods to keep them going longer - all these things will save you reasonable money in the short term and will make a real difference to your life over the course of 25 years.
To make these savings you need to switch from a convenience mode to a productive mode. If you have spare time now and are spending time on the computer or watching TV, or if you need to reorganise yourself to make time available, use that time to build a new kind of life. Instead of buying the convenience of someone else's skill and time, you'll do those things yourself and keep the money that you would have spent. We're not talking about a big time commitment for many of these things - it more a way of fitting them into your life and doing things differently. For instance, if you want to stockpile, you'll have to find a space and then just shop in a different way - when it's all set up it will save you not only money, but also time. Cooking from scratch and baking will be easier once you've got your stockpile set up because you'll have your ingredients on hand - your part will be to remember to load the slow cooker in the morning, to find recipes for quick and easy mid week-from scratch meals, or to cook twice as much and freeze it when you have the time. Making laundry liquid will take no more than 30 minutes about once every two months, if you stop buying shampoo and use bicarb instead, it takes no more time at all if you already have the bicarb in the cupboard. You can do your knitting and mending while you watch TV in the evening. Much of this is working in a different way and with different materials - it's changing your attitude and making your mind up to do it, then doing it. It's not a huge life change.
The good thing is all these things are easy to do and you can start right now - today. Everything I've mentioned above has been written about in detail on my blog, many other blogs and in books available at your local library. I know not everyone will be capable of doing this, but most will be. The only thing that will hold you back is you.