Simple Family Life - Part Two

8 April 2008
I was so happy with the feedback from my guest post here last week, thank you all for your kind comments. It’s lovely to hear from others living similar lives too.

Sometimes I think that I am a bit obsessed with food. But given that ‘we are what we eat’ and I am responsible for feeding myself and another seven people, and that it is our next biggest expense after housing - I guess my focus on food is valid.

We have a varied diet. The ethics of food currently has me swaying between organic vs. local produce and vegetarianism vs. growing our own meat. I have no clear answers to these questions regarding food. My ideal is local, organic and affordable. Preferably home-grown! I am fascinated by comparisons such as this one featured in Time last year. I have also read books from the library about the ethics of food, and wonder why I didn’t ask questions earlier!

My number one tip for saving money and staying healthful is to stay away from the large supermarkets. I do still go to a big supermarket for cat litter, toilet paper, bulk olive oil and so on, but for the main part of our grocery items I stay well away from those aisles of temptation and packaging!

I buy bulk nuts, dried fruit, oats, lentils and flour with a group of friends through a company in Brisbane – which is a city about 1750km away from where I live. It’s our nearest capital city! I package these items into smaller bags and containers and store them in the freezer, taking out approximately a standard packet’s worth when we need more. Keeping them in the freezer means that they’re fresh and safe for longer.

Of the few jars and tinned foods we eat, I buy these from an organic seller, often in cartons of 12. I store most of them on the bottom shelf of my linen cupboard and ‘shop’ from this stockpile when we need more, moving 2-3 tins or jars to the kitchen pantry. So those two shopping options, with the rare supermarket buy-up (of toilet paper and olive oil etc) cover most of our staples.

We are lucky to live on a farm where we can grow fruit and nuts, harvest wild foods, keep chickens and plant herbs and vegetables. Having and using these fresh foods cuts a great amount from our food budget. When we moved house about a year and a half ago I had no garden for awhile and I really noticed the difference having to buy all of our produce and eggs. Even if you can grow some sprouts, a few potted herbs, a couple of tomato plants in pots, and a foam vegetable box (or planter box if you wish) with salad greens – you’re making a difference. And if you’re doing this with children, you’re teaching them something very special. As a child I had many gardens, including one on a window ledge in an inner-city apartment. My mother encouraged me to grow plants wherever we were, and to this day it is an important part of my lifestyle. In turn, I encourage my own children to care for the chickens, plant seeds, help me to harvest from the vegetable patch and forest. Last week they took a basket to the edge of the forest, just metres from our house, and harvested enough yellow guavas for me to make 6 litres of guava jelly. Most went to the pantry and some was given to a friend who brought us some of his excess bananas. Next time he visits I’ll have a banana cake to show my appreciation.

Living in the country does offer more blessings in the way of space to grow food, roadside stalls, country markets, wild foods and free food from friends’ and neighbours’ gardens. In urban areas, families can try the ideas above if they have some balcony space or a courtyard. Or perhaps look into community gardens, food co-ops (where you buy food in bulk and share it out) and farmers’ markets. In cities there are also warehouses for bulk buying, larger supermarket chains with very cheap products and international grocery stores. In case you’re wishing for what you don’t have, please take advantage of what you do have and work with it. I have lived in urban, suburban, semi-rural and now a farming area. I’ve had many homes and many gardens and I know that there are pros and cons to every situation. For me, having the land is great because I love the work and don’t miss the benefits of city living too much. For others, the land could be a burden and the city full of blessings. Whatever you have and whatever you do, involve your children in obtaining food. Let them help you shop wisely, without the I-wants. Encourage them to grow food. Teach them about your local wild foods. Preserve the bounty and see their wide-eyed joy. The advertisers want our children to be thrilled by character-packaged nothing-foods. I want our children to be thrilled by the taste of a cherry tomato plucked from the vine, the crunch of a snow pea, shiny bottles of jam and the thrill of discovering that the fruit is ripening on the trees.

Once I’m done shopping (which, when you avoid the supermarket, is quite complicated but very worthwhile), I focus on planning our menus. Here is a post on my own blog describing my method of menu planning. For me, menus are a sanity-saver rather than a chore. Having a menu means we’re within budget, on time, never run out of what we need (so no ducking into that supermarket or buying takeout food unless we want to!). We have back-up options such as swapping meals to different nights, and meals in the freezer from bulk cooking.

Cooking in bulk occasionally happens on purpose – if I have a lot of something to use up I’ll set aside time one afternoon to cook and freeze some meals. But it usually happens as I’m cooking the family meal with my children. Instead of cooking for eight, we make double or triple that amount. Yes, we have some big pots! After our meal, I pack the excess and label it and into one shelf of the freezer it goes. Our usual frozen meals are curries, pasta sauces (also good with rice) and soups. These reheat easily and taste better than the first time.

I hope you can also find new ways to feed your family on a budget, healthfully and with the planet in mind. I have made one small change at a time, saving money to buy in bulk and planning shopping and meals to suit our lifestyle. What changes can you make right away? Where will your food come from in the future? Will it cost more than you’re spending now, or less? How much garbage will you be producing? How can you involve the children? Our daughters aged nearly-14, nearly-12 and 11.5 years can cook full meals on their own. They love to cook and feel proud when they help me or serve up a meal of their own creation. I will be teaching our nearly-9 year old son to cook this year, if he stops bouncing around the kitchen and eating the ingredients long enough to learn!

Oh, did I mention I am a little obsessed about food?

* Second in a series of guest posts by Belinda Moore.

Part one and part three of Belinda's story.


  1. Thanks for taking the time to write this post and your previous one too. It's encouranging to read something so similar to Rhonda Jean's, but from a mother of young children. I agree about taking small steps, getting used to them, and then taking another step when the new has become routine.

    When I became pregnant with our second child, we sold our farm and moved into town. We couldn't quite swing the mortgage without me working, and I was the main farmer. Now in town we are able to save money, and still raise some veggies. We also have begun bulk food buying with some friends. Boy do I miss our free range eggs though. Our town doesn't allow poultry. Perhaps we'll move back to the country one day, but it's a trade off reduced driving costs and my hubby can come home from work to eats meals with us. Different places work for different people and for different seasons of life too.

    It is wonderful when children work beside you in the garden and kitchen. I love seeing my 3y.o. 'work'.

  2. Thank you, Belinda, I really enjoyed reading this post. Beautifully written! Diana x

  3. Another great post. You are a wonderful role model for your children, Bel.

  4. Hi Bel :) I enjoyed this and thank you for the encouragement it provides! I love what you have to say about teaching and including and being an example for our children. Blessings! Q

  5. We plant what we can fit in over the warmer months. There is just nothing quite like the taste of a vine ripened home grown tomato!

    Thanks for your articles ~ they're very inspiring.

  6. Hi Belinda,

    Marvellous post! I think we're all going to have to become obsessed with food in the future, producing as much of it ourselves as we can.

    The pictures from the Time article say an awful lot don't they? It gives us a lot to think about. I'm definitely going to get my young adult girls to view this link. When they were pre-teen they were quite happy to eat fresh, nutritious foods and would regularly ask before eating something, "Is this good for you?". When the teen years hit, with all the outside influences, their dietary habits went downhill but there is hope on the horizon. Number two daughter said to me just days ago "You're such a good cook, mum. I know I don't eat a lot of it, but you've spoilt our taste buds with all this home grown stuff. You should see what my friends mothers pass off as home cooked meals!"

    Regards, Marilyn

  7. Bel, thanks for another very interesting post. I think its great that you, and so many mothers like you, are encouraging children 'back to the soil' and teaching them to care for chickens etc. - its the kind of really useful education they don't get in school.

    My daughter was involved in a school project in England a couple of years ago and was horrified when not one of the children could tell her where potatoes came from (the class answer was Tesco!!)

    I look forward to reading more from you :)

  8. Another great post Belinda, thank you.

    I love the bulk bin section. It's like the adult, good eater, version of the candy store. All the bins and handles lined up. What I love about it is I can try just a little of something new. I don't need to buy a whole box. Likewise I can stock up on those old stand by's that have served me so well over time and usually much less expensive than the boxes. Besides that I can feel good about not adding more packaging to the environment including the energy it takes to make all those individual boxes.

    I like bulk cooking sometimes too. I don't mind to cook but it's not always my favorite thing either. I don't mind left overs and I think I'm the only person in my neighborhood that gets out my huge stock pot to make pasta sauce. I can make a big pot and freeze small batches weather it's pasta sauce or some other home cooked meal. When I'm dead tired from a busy day or maybe a day I don't feel so well I can take a meal from the freezer that I can still feel good about. Show me a take away or frozen food box that can compare to that. >:3

  9. Hi Belinda, I read your last post as well. I have five children, one has been independent for 2 years. We have lived in a remote by Victorian standards location for 4 years so no Coles for that time. The local store is hard for me to shop in. At the store I do shop in I get mostly sausage products and mince and do vegie lentil meals around that. I get my inspiration from

    I fully agree that food shopping is my major job, so living remotely makes it a challenge.

  10. Sorry my blog is:

  11. Thank you everyone for your kind words!!

    Marilyn, I found two more posts regarding that study and book - what an eye opener!

    Rabbit, those bulk bins sound great. We have nothing like that here, which is why I order in and store my staples with friends. Avoiding packaging would be great!

    So good to hear of others making wiser food choices. Thank you all for sharing!

  12. I so envy what your climate allows you to grow! I wish farmer's markets, CSA groups, etc were more budget-friendly. Here they are outrageously priced. As a single parent it is a challenge to consistently put the quality and variety of foods on the table that I want for my children. We do it, but it gets tough! Another great post!


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