Home production and the frugal mindset

1 October 2009
Years ago, when I sat alone on my front veranda, thinking about how I could change my life to become the person I wanted to be, the thing that I knew above everything else was that I would have to develop a frugal mindset. Nothing could be achieved without that vital change. It was difficult at first because I too had that attitude that I worked hard and I deserved everything that was available to me. If I saw it in a shop, I believe there was no reason why I shouldn't have it. Hanno and I earned a lot of money but we still had credit card debt because the more we had, the more we wanted.

Now when I look back on it, I barely recognise that other "me". Now the way we live makes so much sense. We have everything we need. We understand now that joy and happiness aren't found in the vast shopping centres we all know, those precious qualities are found within. I don't shop now in the way I did then. I use to go shopping whenever I felt like it, and now I see shopping as a waste of time. I get more satisfaction creating what I need at home instead of buying it already made and inferior to my own home produce.

That frugal mindset is well and truly alive within me. When I see products now, I check them over for quality, often they lack it and I know that I can make it better myself. There is a group of foods that I will never buy again although we enjoy them and eat them frequently. Making them at home is easy, cheaper, greener and we get a better product.

One of those foods is fresh cheese. Fresh cheese are those cheeses that are cultured and are allowed to stand to drain off the whey. Quark, ricotta, Gruth, cream cheese and panir are all fresh cheese and can be made at home with no special equipment and just a little time. Most of the world's older societies developed their own fresh cheeses, they're all called something different, many are very similar and most are made with yoghurt, buttermilk or whey.

I often make a yoghurt cheese similar to the German Quark. Hanno loves it and it costs only a fraction of the store bought product, which satisfied my frugal mindset. Often fresh cheese is a tad on the bland side and slightly tart but they are also excellent carriers of other flavours - like herbs, honey or fruit. To make this cheese, just make or buy some yoghurt. Yoghurt is yet another product easily made at home for much less that what you will pay in the shop but if you buy it a 500 gram (1lb) tub will make up two cups of cheese.

You'll need a large jug with a strainer that is lined with muslin, cheese cloth or cotton. Pour the yoghurt in and cover it over with the sides of the cloth. Place a plate on top with a heavy weigh, like a tin of fruit, on top and put it in the fridge. Leave for about three days and during that time the whey will drain from the yoghurt, leaving a firmish cheese behind. You can add salt, pepper and herbs to half, and something sweet to the other half - here I've added raw honey. It's very tasty, and a healthy topping for bread or toast. Don't throw the whey out, use it in your baking, instead of milk, for fine cakes, pikelets, scones and biscuits. You could also make ricotta from the whey and get two types of cheese from the one lot of yoghurt or milk.

And it satisfies my frugal mindset and my need for good wholesome food that I can make at home. If you haven't tried this yet, I encourage you towards it.

Fresh cheese is just one of the many things you can make yourself at home, and with practise and time, you'll produce food that is superior in quality and taste to those you buy at the store. The photo above shows my kitchen bench at the moment. I'm making red wine vinegar - from leftover wedding wine, and ginger beer from ground ginger, sugar and water. The ginger beer plant is now on its fourth day, it has just started to bubble and it smells divine.

I know we've all been told that what we buy is always better than home made, but don't believe that. It's a convenient lie that encourages a consumerist way of life. If you believe that lie, you won't develop many life skills and you'll always rely on other people to keep you fed. Take back your independence, be responsible for your own life and teach your family, by your own actions, that the home production of some common foods is a good start to a kind of self reliance that will build character and responsibility. This isn't rocket science - it's just learning new methods and understanding how certain foods work. So don't go back to the store for yoghurt, fresh cheese, vinegar, soft drinks or sodas, stay here with me in my kitchen and we can all make own own.

ADDITION: I want to thank all those readers who have bought Amazon books, DVDs and kitchen goods using my Amazon store. I appreciate your support very much and because of it, I will today order $30 worth of books. Good times!

ANOTHER ADDITION: Can anyone answer Ann's question?: Rhonda, I have been missing out on soft cheeses as I'm pregnant and we are told to avoid soft cheeses due to the risk of listeria. I'm wondering if any mums to be have consumed homemade soft cheeses taking every precaution with cleanliness in the kitchen or should we avoid homemade soft cheeses too?

ERM, YES, ANOTHER ADDITION: EcoMILF is having a giveaway. There is such a lovely story attached to this, take the time to read it and add your name to the draw. It closes tomorrow. Click here to read Meagan's post.


  1. Good Morning, Rhonda-Jean,
    We are enjoying the Ginger Beer (my neighbours too) - and have another lot brewing. It doesn't take long for my family to go through 3 litres!
    Just wanted you to know we had your Salmon Mornay for dinner last night and everyone loved it. It was a real hit, and so super-easy to make. It will become a favourite for us, I think. My 4 year old, Theodore - calls it 'Salmon Morning". :o)
    Thanks for sharing your recipes. I found some rennet last week and cheese is next on my list to make.
    Hope you're having a good day.
    Rachel L

  2. A great post (as always!). I'm going out of town to visit my daughter but when I come back I hope to make some cheese......I know how to do it and should do this more often.......And you're so right about needing to change the mind first, and then the other changes follow.

    (BTW, do you make up the weird words we have to copy? Today I couldn't make out the first one AT ALL. Just a muddle of letters.)

  3. Hi Rachel, good to hear your enjoying the ginger beer. It's such a good drink. Please tell Theodore that I think Salmon Morning is a much better name and I'll be calling it that from now on.

    Kristi, enjoy your trip. And no, those weird words are from Blogger. LOL

  4. This is such a wonderful post--thanks for sharing. And of course, how can you go wrong with cheese?


    Jennifer in the USA

  5. Hello, I read all your posts and they always remind me of my dear grandother who had do all that because she lived on a farm far from shops. But, with more and more food being manufactured in factories to be low cost, expnsively packaged and heavily promoted, we are crazy not to revisit Grandma! She smiled a lot too! Cheers.

  6. I love cheese, i have made your quark cheese but i would love to venture off into something more stinky.
    (i read your blog post as "Home production and the frugal midget"
    I do have the flu though...
    Love Mel

  7. Rhonda I have recently become aware of my developing frugal mindset. Now my want or need thought's are followed by how can I make or create this ...
    Before I discard something I am wondering what else I could possibly use it for.
    I din't have these thoughts a year ago, nor did I have a line of empty milk bottles waiting for their second uses, a cupboard full of waiting empty glass jars or a box - full of recyclables like cereal boxes and cardboard tubes that will be great craft supplies.

  8. Such an inspiring post! Thank you. :)

  9. I love this type of cheese - I make it and roll it into little balls. I then make my own Dukkah and roll the balls in the Dukkah, put in a jar & cover with olive oil. It's very nice spread on biscuits as a snack...

    I call this cheese Labna.


  10. Rhonda, I have been missing out on soft cheeses as I'm pregnant and we are told to avoid soft cheeses due to the risk of listeria. I'm wondering if any mums to be have consumed homemade soft cheeses taking every precaution with cleanliness in the kitchen or should we avoid homemade soft cheeses too?

  11. Good Morning Rhonda,
    I was wondering if you have already posted about how to make the Ricotta from whey? I have made the yogurt cheese before but as it is really difficult to buy nice ricotta where we live, in the Central west of NSW, I would like to have a go at making my own.
    Thank you,

  12. Dear Rhonda,
    Thankyou for sharing your recipes. I already confidently make soap and pickles and jams, but am very hesitant about cheeses. I don't know why? A long time ago I made yogurt, but the family thought it wasn't as good as store bought and complained heaps. I'm going to try again this week, but I would dearly like to be confident and be successful with yogurt, cheese and icecream!
    Thanks to you, I only shop once a week, use home shopping bags, weekly menus and am proud to say that recently when I couldn't buy food for 10 days had no problem using pantry and freezer items and could have gone a full fortnight! Very good for me with lots of hungry mouths and Coeliac Disease to cope with! Grow a few vegies too! even though I'm smack bang in the city! Thanks for your encouragement!

  13. Hi Rhonda. Soft cheese making is on my list of things to do this year especially after doing a cheese course one Saturday a while back. Re the frugal mindset: it's interesting how having it changes one's approach to food and consumer items, shopping (other than the necessities) has become a chore for me and I avoid it like the plague. I shudder when i think how much money I wasted when I earned so much more than I do now.

  14. Dear Ann,
    I am an R.N. in the U.S. Usually, what doctors mean when they advise pregnant women to avoid soft cheeses is fresh, unpasteurized cheeses. Cheeses made from pasteurized milk of any age or texture should be safe, as should unpasteurized cheeses that are aged for 60 days or more. You should probably double check to be sure that this is what s/he meant. Listeria is serious, but very rare.
    Good luck with your baby!

  15. Well, I've only made cheese myself once so far, but I consume raw milk daily and we're told to avoid it because of the listeria risk as well. I've done so with my last two pregnancies and am with my current pregnancy as well. It's a personal decision where you need to way the potential benefit against the potential risk, in my opinion. And obviously, I believe the benefits outweigh the risks myself. That said, I know the family from whom I buy my milk and their seven children drink it. They are very clean in their production which ups my confidence in consuming a raw product.

  16. I just wanted to second what Aimee said. I think it's law in Australia (I don't know where Ann is, however) that all soft cheeses be pasteurised which removes the risk of Listeria. I would double-check with each purchase too, but I would tend to think that purchased soft cheese would be less of a risk than homemade - and it hurts for me to say that! And ditto Aimee again... Listeria is rare, and can cause no symptoms at all in a healthy person, but for an unborn baby it can be fatal.

  17. I have a neighbor who has chickens, I love to watch them and they remind me of you. This is probably a silly question, but I was wondering if you can call chickens by name like you would a dog. How smart are they?

  18. Thanks for the cheese recipe- I'll be trying that this weekend. I love the idea of making my own labna- my husband would fall in love with me all over again. Thanks for the mention about my giveaway and you're on the draw list- good luck! Meagan.

  19. Hi

    Thanks for that - and I would appreciate it if we could have the recipe/method for making ricotta from the leftover whey please...


  20. Good morning.

    I always look forward to your musings! Thank you.

    Like Grannie Annie, I too am interested how to make ricotta from whey. I really must get started on making cheese, any cheese!!


  21. Hi - Having recently conquered my fear of jam making (and it turned out very successfully too), I like the idea of having a go at making soft cheeses too. Your method looks really easy to do, and the results look gorgeous.

    This is probably a really dumb question but does the yogurt have to be full-fat or can a low-fat version work just as well.

  22. Rhonda Jean -- You were supposed to keep the cat in the bag! One of the great advantages of making fresh cheese is that it REALLY impresses your friends, who have no idea how easy it is.

    Or at least they didn't, until you gave it away.

    My favorite kind: paneer for saag paneer.

  23. I love yogurt cheese! Can you tell us how to make other cheeses? Thanks and love your blog. catie

  24. Not quite in the frugal mindset yet..... I had got as far as "Boursin is expensive hmmm" so added baked garlic and fresh herbs to quark :-). Did not think about making the yoghurt myself - now I will !

  25. Great timing for this post, Rhonda. I have been thinking a lot about making cheese.



  26. We love yogurt cheese sweetened with honey - yum! I like to use the whey for soaking grains (per Nourishing Traditions).

  27. I think those blanket statements about what to avoid eating during pregnancy are for the "everyman" general public and are overly cautious. I don't believe French women eschew soft cheese and an occasional glass of wine nor do Japanese women avoid sushi, and so forth. Use your common sense about purchasing from a good source and maintaining cleanliness and you and your baby can benefit from fresh, yummy foods. Congratulations, btw!

  28. My two best friends are both 1. pregnant and 2. medical doctors. They both live fairly sustainable lives and adventure into non-pasteurized foods but both were avoiding soft cheeses altogether until recently and they are now only consuming pasteurized versions.

    I don't know enough about the safety issues involved (bacteria is something I simply prefer to not think about) but I generally assume blanket warnings are just that. Blanket warnings. Some people will be fine given good cleanliness and adequate precautions - others may not be.

    Everyone will have the "something" that they ignore the popular advice. I think you just have to be careful and know the risks (and the benefits).

  29. I have started making more food from scratch - i made your icecream recipe (and condensed milk for it) yesterday and it got thumbs up from everyone - three 'delicious' and one 'just like the real stuff from the shops' (which was meant to be a compliment ... I think ;) )

    just recently the kids were listing (in awe) all the things i can make - and then they said - 'can you make real cheese, or just the yoghurt stuff?' so...a new challenge!

  30. I would love to know how to make ricotta from whey. It's so expensive in Japan that I never buy it.

  31. I am so glad that you gave us the instructions for making quark. My german aunt had it at her house, and it tasted very good. She does a lot of homemade things too.

  32. kudos to this incredible post. i'm a new reader and this post just absolutely sang to me.

  33. Listeria information can be found at http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/foodmatters/listeria/

    The problem is that listeria can grow at fridge temps and after pasteurisation.

    Do people really say that "what we buy is always better than home made"? I've heard a lot of rubbish in my time, but not that one!


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