Becoming independent

4 October 2007
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.


  1. This is a lovely recipe. I also do tomato preserves sort of a spicy jam - awesome on southern biscuits (US biscuits, not Aus biscuits). The flavors are wonderful to have in the dead of winter when all possibility of a taste of a home grown tomato is far far away.

  2. What a great post Rhonda Jean.
    I'm going to start stockpiling when we get back from a weekend away. I will pick up stuff that we use all the time when it's on sale.
    I've also ordered my seeds and they should be in at the beginning of the week. I spoke with the lady there and she grew tomatoes indoors last year and said they were successful. I sure hope that mine thrive as well. I will be planting everything up and will hopefully get some nice fresh vegies when it's minus 20 celcius and over a foot of snow outside. I'm going to try tomatoes, swiss chard (silverbeet), radishes, beans and roquette.


  3. Another way that we get fruit to preserve for the winter is by letting friends and neighbours know that if they or someone they know has excess we are happy to take it. This fall we have been blessed with apples, pears, and plums from neighbourhood trees. This has another plus in the area that we live in as bears are a terrible problem around the fruit trees every fall. We are also able to walk into the bush here and pick some of the local wild berries. Sadly this was a very poor year for berries as it was too hot and dry. Another way of stockpiling on some staples is by buying in large quantity. We have access to a market that sells 25 kg sacks of oatmeal, wheat and 10 kg sacks of brown rice, as well as other grains. In some areas it is possible to join a buying co-op and purchase cases of raisins, nuts, other dried fruits, etc. If you weren't able to use a whole case sometimes there are others who would split a case with you. We are not able to keep any livestock on our town property but have friends that have a small acreage outside town. They raise chickens and pigs for slaughter which if we pay for the feed and processing cost we are able to share in. They also sell their chicken eggs for a very reasonable price. I know that in some communities here in BC there are community gardens with plots available for a small yearly fee which is a great option for apartment dwellers or those with limited yard space. There are many creative ways to acheive some measure of independence in food production or aquisition for your family. By becoming friendlier with your neighbours (one of Rhonda Jean's list of 50 simple things) you can often find out sources of things that you might not have found otherwise. I am sorry if I have rambled on, this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart too!

  4. Hello angie. Tomatoes preserves sound delicious. I do a nice tomato chutney that I usally make enough of for about 9 months. Hanno loves it and adds it to sandwiches, eggs, salads, you name it. I think what we call scones are your southern biscuits.

    Thank you Paula. : ) I'm so pleased you're starting your stockpile. You'll notice a difference, I'm sure. How are the tomatoes and beans pollinated? I guess you do them by hand? If you look in the comments section of the last gardening post, I talk about how I raise tomato seedlings in pots. It might help you.

    Ann, no need to apologise love. We are all here to share and learn. : ) Thank you for your wonderful ideas. It's great to have friends who will allow you to share their produce if you help with food and processing costs. That is very neighbourly. I hope the bears aren't too troublesome this year.

  5. Hear, hear, RJ!!! (Wildside)

    Always an attempt to improve is underway!

  6. LOL "Hope the bears aren't too troublesome this year"... You are a classic, Rhonda. We really don't appreciate how lucky we are here in oz do we? I'm already feeling less critical of the little fluffy possums I've cursed in the past.

  7. Dear Rhonda;
    You are so right. This summer I have been able to stockpile on meat and chicken. I met a really nice couple at my farmer's market that grow Black Angus beef. I was able to purchase enough cuts of meat to last us until my next order, which should be in the beginning of December. I have already put it in. Chickens also are purchased locally and so are eggs. My vegetables will come, hopefully, from my garden starting next year.
    I just love this pre-planning, menu writing, canning, freezing, sticking to a budget life-style. Thank you for the encouragement. You have definately been a great inspiration to me and my family.
    Thanks for visiting my blog :)

  8. Sorry I forgot to ask earlier, do you have a recipe for ginger beer??? We had the very good fortune to visit in your lovely country earlier this year and my son loved the ginger beer. Funny thing last night as we were sitting around the dinner table he started talking about making some...

    And, yes the bears are very troublesome this year! There are several roaming through town right now and they are getting far to used to eating our food.


  9. Hello Wildside. : )

    Marg, I'd pass out if I saw a bear near me. Brown snakes I can cope with, but bears .... nope.

    Maria, it sounds like you're doing very well with your planning and stockpiling. I don't eat meat but I've heard that Black Angus is very good beef. I hope you enjoy your visits. : )

    Ann, I wrote about making ginger beer in the May archives. Here is the link: : )

  10. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    I spoke to the lady at the seed company and she said that she grew tomatoes inside last winter. She took a soft paint brush and just tickled all the flowers. She said you can also just shake the bush a little and that should do it. I will try the paint brush idea and see what happens.


  11. Thank-you for the recipe link for the ginger beer, I hadn't got to reading your archives yet. I have copied it out and will give it to my son tonight!

  12. I enjoyed this so much, Rhonda Jean! Thank you for the wonderful encouragement. We have a small garden each year and enjoy it so much. I like the idea of expanding it as we grow more confident, and our littles certainly love to eat what they have helped to grow :) Love to you! Q


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