30 January 2012

Three keys ways to save time and money

Thanks to everyone who sent an order or an inquiry about buying my book. I've answered some of you and will answer you all when Hanno gets more information from the post office. We're trying to get the best possible price for you all but so far, for overseas sales, it's looking pretty expensive. I'll have more information this afternoon and I'll try to answer all the emails from other countries when I come home tonight.


Last week someone asked me if it is possible for those who work for a living to live a simple life.  The answer was a resounding and positive "yes!". I write about this subject from my own perspective and as we're retired folk, we have time to give to a variety of activities. However, what happens if you have less time? I know of many younger people living this way and many of them go to work most days and have two days at home - just like we used to.

This simple way of living is like a piece of elastic. You can stretch it every which-way and it will fit around whatever you're doing at your particular stage of life. You can live simply in the city, the suburbs or the country. You can be a stay at home homemaker or go out to work. You can be a woman or a man, a couple, single, or with a brood of children. The thing that will distinguish you from your contemporaries if you live this way is that you'll make a commitment to conserve rather than splurge, you'll recycle and repair, you'll see the value in eating local and seasonal food, you'll take your own shopping bags or a basket to the shops instead of relying on plastic bags, you'll be paying off debt rather than adding to it. Basically, you'll be stepping back from the cult of convenience and trying to become more self-reliant. And along the way, you'll develop several strategies that help you save both time and money so you have that precious duo to use as you need to.

I thought it would be helpful for some of you who don't have a lot of time in the home and newcomers to this way of living, if I went over a few of the day-to-day tasks that will save you money and time. You may believe, like the person who asked the question did, that you don't have the time for these kinds of things, but I'm here to suggest three key points to you and to encourage you towards them.

Stockpiling groceries, especially if you're in a large family, or even a couple like Hanno and I, will give you the convenience of having a cupboard full of groceries available to you 24 hours a day, most of which have been bought on sale. I recommend you start a stockpile. I started mine by putting aside a certain amount of money each week to buy whatever we used or ate that was on sale that week. I guess it took about three or four months to have my stockpile cupboard at the stage it is kept at now. We have enough non-perisable food, groceries and toiletries here to last us about three months. It's a great insurance policy - if a family member loses a job or if someone is sick, you know that you can still put food on the table every night.

My stockpile cupboard is above. That holds all the groceries that I've not started using yet. Below is my pantry, it is where I store the items I'm using at that time. As soon as something is opened, it goes from the stockpile to the pantry.

Don't forget to include your preserves in your stockpile. When you make jam or relish, try to make enough for six months or so. And don't forget your freezer. If you have too much silverbeet/chard or beans or whatever - either harvested from your own garden or bought cheaply at the market, freeze it. Preserves and frozen vegetables make a valuable addition to your stockpile.

The thing that will support you cooking from scratch more than anything else is to have the ingredients you need at hand. If your children come home from school and hand you a note saying they need to have some cupcakes for the school fair the next day, no problem. If someone drops by out of the blue for dinner, you won't be frantic wondering what you'll feed them. And it is a great time saver too. When you have that cupboard to the capacity to want, you won't have to shop every week. You'll keep scanning the sales flyers and shop only when you see a bargain, or to pick up fresh milk, fruit and vegetables. Your weekly shop will be replaced by a top-up shop once a month. There is a post here about how to set up a stockpile.

Those of you who don't make your own cleaners will probably be surprised to know that laundry power takes about one minute to mix up; laundry liquid takes a bit longer but it's much more economical. It takes me 15 minutes from start to finish with the liquid. That makes up 10 litres and that will see us through at least four months. I'm sure you'll agree, 15 minutes every four months is not much when you consider what a saving it is. Depending on how large your family is, that four months of commercial laundry liquid would cost about $60 in Australia, homemade will cost you about six dollars and you'll have ingredients left over for another batch. But it's the time saving I'm highlighting here. If you have the ingredients on hand, you'd be able to make up enough for months in less than the time it would take you to go to the supermarket to buy the commercial stuff. And it works! The recipe is here.

Don't forget to stockpile the ingredients for your green cleaners. If you have them on hand, you're more likely to get into the habit of using them.

It will take you less that a minute to fill a spray bottle with vinegar, that can be used as an all purpose spray and wipe type cleaner. Adding bicarb to laundry liquid and stirring it will take about two minutes and you can use that to clean the bath or sink.  As you can see, green cleaners can save you a lot of money. What I hope you realise now is that even if you work outside the home, you can make all these cleaners up in less than 15 minutes, then it will be a long time before you have to go through the process again. Not only will they save you time and money, they're a much healthier option for you and your family.

It's a wonderful habit to get into to do some batch cooking on the weekends. If you have a couple of spare hours, you have a cooking session and then you've got three or fours meals in the freezer to feed the family during the week.  When you come home, you know the meal is there, all you have to do is warm it up while the kids set the table. Goodbye takeaways and convenience foods! But I know that many of you don't have that spare time on the weekends, and even if you do, you're so tired, cooking is the last thing you want to give two hours to. 

Using homemade chicken stock in my cooking. Every time I make meals that are suitable for freezing, I make enough for two meals and freeze half.

But there is another way to squirrel away a meal or two without going to too much extra effort. There are many meals that you can cook on a week night that can easily be doubled up. You eat half straight away, the other half is frozen for later. Meals like meat sauce for pasta can be used for tacos or turned into savoury mince a few night later. Chicken curry, beef stew, soups, pizza, stroganoff, can all be made in large batches and the second half frozen. Any roast meat or chicken can be eaten as a hot roast one night and turned into a quick curry or stir fry the following night. If one chicken is enough for your family for one meal, then cook two at a time and save the second in the fridge. It saves electricity, time and effort. If you can get into the habit of cooking double batches, and you seal them up and mark them correctly, you'll often have a meal waiting in the freezer on those nights when you run late or you're just too tired to cook everything from scratch.

Making chicken stock from scratch.

Another cooking method that will save you time is slow cooking. Just load the slow cooker in the morning before you go to work, turn it on low, make sure it's on a sturdy surface and the cord is safety tucked away and you can leave it all day to cook. If you have a large slow cooker, make a double batch and freeze half of it.

These three key steps will help you get closer to your goals. They don't take a lot of time but by doing them, you'll save time and money. There is no magic fairy who will come down and transform your life to a more simple one, but these steps will help you get there. Once you've got these three key things as part of your life, you can move on to another three. Good luck!



  1. Thank you Rhonda, as a working mum I wondered if it was possible to do all the simple living basics. Yet again you have just inspired me to keep giving it a go and that it really isn't as time consuming as you think. Baby steps. Thanks for a great blog

  2. Hi Rhonda,
    I really love your posts and thought today's post was especially delightful. There's something about homemaking, doing for yourself and cooking for yourself that makes me really happy. I really like your pantry and stockpile. I noticed a couple of really interesting items.

    the first one is the Bragg's organic apple cider vinegar. I have a jar of the exact same thing in my cupboard here at home :) :) it's a wonderful product. I also noticed the "Bob's Red Mill" label on one of your storage jars. I like those products very much, too. Bob's Red Mill also makes quite a few gluten free products and what's really cool, is that it's made in a seperate facility that is 100% gluten free :) :)

    I make my own homemade organic chicken/vegetable soup in the slow cooker. When it's all cooked up/put away there's enough for about 12 meals ;) :) It's super tasty good :) :)

    Have a great week. Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  3. Another great post! Thanks, Rhonda. I'm wondering - could you possibly do a post on how you package food for a freezer? I'm considering buying a big freezer (right now I only have the one that's in the fridge, and it's way too small for a family of four), but I have no experience in freezing liquids like soup or sauce. Do you have to take care so that there are no "freezer burns"? What materials can soup be frozen in? Can you use glass jars in the freezer? Could you please tell more about how you organize your freezer? Any advice on freezers as such?

  4. Rhonda, you have a great blog,so helpful,and full of good ideas,I will be coming back often,I am already a follower. Blessings Jane

  5. I just made up another batch of your laundry powder last week - maybe I should try the liquid one day as we have a top loader and I always end up dissolving the soap powder before adding it anyway. Anyhow, the only ingredient I was out of on my list was washing soda. I popped into WW to pick a couple of packets up and, lo, there was lux flakes on special (not advertised I notice). So, I popped four of them in my trolley. Green cleaners and stockpile both ticked off:)

  6. Diana, there is a post on freezing here but I'm not sure if I wrote about glass. I'll have to get back to it later.

    Provincial Homemaker, a perfect example of what I'm talking about. Thank you.

  7. Hi Rhonda
    What good advice again. I work fulltime and try to live a simple life and have started a blog about just that. Funnily enough this morning my blog is also about making your own green cleaners lol.

  8. Thanks a lot, Rhonda, I found the post on freezing!

  9. It looks like the book depository in England will be stocking your book. They have no price available yet, but they offer free postage worldwide. It may be cheaper than trying to get it posted from England. Of course it won't be signed though!

  10. Thanks for great post Rhonda! Just yesterday my 15 year old son was complaining over my use of AJAX cleaner. "Do you REALLY HAVE to use that horrible smelling chemical stuff mum!!" It got me thinking, perhaps I could... And the other day you said your soil was no good at the beginning but you worked on it, my soil is all clay and rocks too, perhaps I COULD WORK ON IT, you are so clever lady, and resourceful.. ;-) I´m thinking, perhaps I CAN TOO....

  11. I think this is great advice for those that are busy with a working week. Before I had kids and worked I remember doing big baking days where I would happily bake cakes, slices, biscuits and pies all day long to stock up the freezer.
    Thanks for the reminder about stockpiling. I need to start doing this again. Though I have quite a lot to fall back on in the pantry I need to be a little more organized with this when I shop.

  12. Great post Rhonda. Sometimes I could almost weep for joy when I open my freezer after a long day of work to find bean burgers, pesto, soup etc...

    Have a great day everyone, Madeleine

  13. Excellent post. We had to get back to basics due to an accident. At first we were quite shocked, but the more we learned, the more we provided the more blessed we were.

    It is such a joy to be in our early forties and have learned this lesson. It is a joy not to be working to pay for a home we are gone 40-50 hours a week(to make money to pay for the house).

    It is a joy to walk amongst the gardens, the animals, and to watch the sunrise and sunset, because we have slowed down.

    By the way, we were suburbanites. We had little to no training on living on less, making our own, and self sufficiency. It is possible. It has made our marriage stronger, our relationship with our children better.

    Thanks Rhonda for this post!


  14. Jo, how do you know that? I looked on their site and there is no listing for it. There are a million other Down to Earth books, but not mine.

  15. Rhonda - all great ideas . i like the stockpile idea . I live in Melbourne . I am hoping to come to one of your book signings in person . Thanks for the great ideas

    Emma - a full time working mum

  16. You have reminded me of a few basics Rhonda with this post so thank you!
    When i worked fulltime the slowcooker was my best friend and i always did a Sunday bake of lunchbox treats and a few meals for the freezer....didn't always want to do it but was so thankful during the week!
    I have learnt to stockpile the cleaning goods as the supermarkets often seem to be slack about restocking washing sode, lux flakes etc...i often wonder if there is a reason behind this!!!

  17. Hi Rhonda!

    I wanted to ask a bit more about stockpiling savings? I am finding stockpiling some things problematic and am seriously questioning whether financially it makes sense to stockpile certain items... as I am seriously trying to control our budget at the moment (with a new mortgage looming over our heads!)

    Non food items which won't spoil- such as toilet paper etc I definitely think is a good idea to stockpile if you can get them on a good sale and you have the room to put them... also food items that keep for a long time and require no fridge/freezer space i also think are a good idea... but some food items- especially those that take up freezer space i wonder about...

    given the costs of running freezers (i should mention i have an extra freezer and am considering buying another one on top of that!!) i seriously weigh up what is allowed that premium and expensive place in my freezer!

    i particularly wonder about cheap items like flour and pasta (not bread flour which is pricier, but stock standard flour)... flour isn't expensive to buy from any supermarket at this point, and do savings from stockpiling it outweigh what you are paying to freeze it? electricity costs being as outrageous as they are? not to mention the slight tainted taste the flour will pick up in the freezer? (i find no matter how well i wrap my flour, if it goes into a freezer that has meat in it, it inevitably ends up tainted tasting)

    meat on the other hand, if you can buy it cheaply on sale is definitely worthy of my stockpile freezer space... because i can save hundreds of dollars on meat by stockpiling (with no adverse effects to the product taste- as long as it's wrapped properly to protect against freezer burn)

    I am also trying hard to find a balance between stockpiling and using... it's hard to get that balance just right where you are using things before they spoil or you're not storing them too long that the freezer costs end up more than what you paid for the actual item in the first place...

    at the moment i am struggling to find this balance... i am trying to use my fowlers vacola a lot more this year to stop fruit and tomato sauces etc from taking up premium freezer space (as it's a cheaper way to store it)- i can also see it more easily on my shelf than i can in the freezer to ensure i use it... but still i don't think i have the balance just right yet...

    ahhh sometimes i wish i didn't think about all these things so much!

    Amy :)

  18. I just noticed that Borders http://www.borders.com.au/book/down-to-earth/27339602/?gclid=CLLmifyS960CFWNKpgod6GFstw has your book with free delivery, Rhonda as well as Fishpond of course which also has free delivery worldwide. Not sure if Borders has free delivery outside Oz. I was wondering where you bought the container you have your Bicarb in as I have been looking for one everywhere. Love your pantry!

  19. Fairy from Organised CastleJanuary 30, 2012 6:04 pm

    Hi Rhonda

    I just wanted to add my voice to reassure busy people that a simple life is definitely possible. I am currently working 38 hours/week plus another 25 hours/week of travel time. A stockpile is definitely the best thing you can do along with cooking bigger quantities. We do not arrive home until about 7.20pm and always eat dinner between 7.30 and 7.45. 10-15 minutes dinner prep is all that is required. I have yet to make laundry liquid - it is on my 'to do list' but I use bicarb and vinegar to clean almost everything.
    Cooking, sewing, mending and gardening are part of our lives and we love it.
    Now just need to pay the mortgage off and then retirement here we come.
    Thanks for your informative and inspirational posts.

    I hope you don't mind if I put my blog address here as Blogger will not let me post as my Wordpress account.


  20. Thanks Rhonda for your practical advice and small steps post. I often feel overwhelmed by trying to make big changes all at once. It was a good reminder to take things a little bit at a time. Thanks. Racheal

  21. Thanks for this Rhonda, a timely reminder!

    I worked full time all last year, and will be doing so again for the whole of 2012. After that, who knows? I'd like not to have to - so I could do with saving as much as I can now, and learning to do as many things myself as possible.

    A stockpile is something I'd like to have, but never got round to really. I'm not sure where we'd put it! We live in a city, and walk to the shops every couple of days - but I'd prefer it if that was just for fresh stuff. Hmm, might have to rethink the kitchen a little...

  22. Hi Rhonda

    Great post.

    One thing I'd add to that is focus. It can be hard to live simply unless you are focused on doing it. Sounds silly to say, but I found it too easy to stray from simple living when I was tired or too busy and it usually meant takeaways or gadets or shopping followed. It was something that I was trying to fit into my life around everything else.

    It was only when I had a big financial goal to accomplish in a short space of time that simple living and to a great extent frugal living became a way of life. It became central and everything else pivoted around it.

    When you have a strong reason for doing it, things drop into place.

  23. I think the steps you encourage are wonderful, Rhonda! Personally, I think confidence is a major factor in making lifestyle changes. A window box of kitchen herbs that are actually used, or a single thriving tomato plant in a pot, is more confidence-building than a big garden (or any other project) that overwhelms and (gulp) may fail.
    I also find the smallest successful change - doing just one little thing that works - often opens the gate!

  24. Nanna chel, I bought that container about 20 years ago at Woolworths. I think it's a Decor large salt shaker.

  25. I just love seeing pictures of your cabinets - you are so together. Some of my cabinets look pretty good, but never all of them at the same time. My big freezer will be in good shape, but the one on the fridge will be scary. And even though my garden is tiny, it can be scary too. I am making headway though. I am. I am.

    brenda from ar

  26. Having a stockpile has gotten us out of strife more times than I care to remember. Most recently, during last years floods. It relieved a huge amount of pressure knowing that we had enough resources to live off the grid for a while. The only downside was losing about $400 worth of meat. That has taught us a valuable lesson, stockpile non-perishables until your heart is content, but beware of having too much in the way of perishables.

  27. I love your blog! Thanks for the advice...I'm planning to try the laundry detergent. I wll let you know how it goes. I'm having a giveaway over at my blog - feel free to enter it will be something different each month. Take care! Dawn in Tennessee


  28. Hi Rhonda, I made your washing liquid for the first time last week. We worked out that not only will it save us about $33 a batch (we buy fairly cheap washing liquid), but that means that even for a slow poke like me (it took about 30 mins for me to make it), that works out to be $66 an hour for my labour, which is a fairly good hourly rate! And on top of that, each batch means 5 less plastic containers. AND, it seems to work just as well as the stuff we buy! All good :-) Thanks, Rhonda!


  29. In case this information can help someone: For me it helps not just to do the do aheads and keep them in the freezer but to list what I have made and where in the freezer they are located! :). Also to list simple meals I can make from the stockpile. I usually do not need the reminders to get together a quick good meal but for those times of stress and hurry it sure is a help! I also have a list of all our favorite meals for when I am trying to remember meals we may not have had for a long time or ones that use things we have at home to use or in the garden. Inside the front leaf of my 3 favorite and much used cook books I have a list of what we cook from that book and the page it is on for quick reference. Thanks for all the information and encouragement Rhonda. :) Sarah

  30. I love your blog! I am a new follower and I am learning so much. Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us.

  31. Rhonda you've been an inspiration:


    I work full time and try my best...

  32. great submit, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector
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