Growing our own food – frugal food, self reliance and the learning of new/old skills.

Things are so tough for many out there right now and it heartens me to see so many young ones returning to the habits of older generations, growing some of their own food. This may end up a long post for regular readers who have heard it all before but this is for those who are thinking maybe they would like to try for a garden, or grow on what they are already doing.

When we moved here there was just lawn and we shopped like everyone else. This was 3 months after we moved in, a wee vegetable garden had been put in (bottom corner) Excuse the dead branches by the house, this was Roger thinning out a dead vine!

IMG_0033 Our garden has grown over the years but it was only last summer we decided to really go for it and see how far we could go with “eating from our section”. This has been a journey of learning self reliance….one thing leads to another and formally frugal habits have been replaced by simple living, making our own cleaning mixtures, less chemical exposure, an appreciation for nature and our environment, searching for more free foods, the trading and sharing of our excesses and helping others.last summer

So, here where we are now (actually taken last summer).

We are fortunate that Roger works on a farm and can get meat – for those of you who can’t work in farming though it’s all relative, he earns a low wage, the meat is counted in with it. I don’t eat alot of meat and basically no-one needs to eat alot of it. Much of our diet can be grown at home with eggs, vegetable, fruits and berries….nuts if you are lucky enough to have a large section. Our diet comes from a garden that’s probably 1/8 acre. This is why we do it, this was my shopping last week for two people.


I already had 2 bottles of milk in the fridge bought the week before on special. The avocados were cheap so I got 10. The spices and seals were for preserving. The wee tins of fish are for me. We can’t grow bananas. Roger prefers this brand of softened butter opposed to the butter/olive oil blend I make sometimes. Dates, raisins and raw peanuts are healthy additions to our diet. Basics like sugar, flour, vinegar etc are bought in bulk. The bread is Rogers favourite. Few of these things are necessities, but desires. I also had cheese already, and a little coffee I bought up on special. Just about everything I buy is bought in bigger quantities when on special eg the avocados here. I also don’t show the pet food here.

Seeds and buckwheat are bought from the bulk store and I will go every week or two and stock up on stuff like this…coconut, brown rice, dried beans, baking soda etc.


This is basically our shopping for the week…things like toilet paper and soap are purchased in bulk when cheap. We spend on average around $40 – $60 per week on our food and some weeks all we buy is milk. A few years ago our Health Dept put our a brochure for shopping on a low income and it was estimated $70 per person is the least a person could live on foodwise in NZ and this would be for a very basic diet, nowhere near as healthy as we eat.

Garden produce is either frozen, pickled, bottled or made into sauces, jams, chutneys…or boozy drinks! An old disused laundry has been crudely converted into a store room, a would be larder…(note the earthquake proof shelving as last year alot of bottles and jars just slid off shelves)



I still have a couple of months preserving to go then the majority of our food is stored for the remainder of the year. In fact, we could survive from our food stores and garden etc until next summer (9 months) if need be…and still be healthy.

I sometimes also make white bread for Roger and freeze some, three loaves can be made for $1.80.Image

Every few weeks I am tempted to buy something like this – a deli pack the supermarket sells cheap. This all cost $7.95 and their are foods we don’t get…salami, ham, quiches so I don’t have to cook tea a couple of nights. All of this can be frozen. Served with salad they all make a good meal for those nights Wendy doesn’t  be bothered  cooking / making her own quiche or Roger would just like toasted sandwiches for a change.



 Again these are just desires.

Truly we could survive from our garden if need be. We preserve summer fruits and vegetables to eat through winter. We preserve nice things to eat because we can, because they add variety, nutrition, a taste of summer through the cold months. If we wanted we could just freeze everything but we make our preserves because we appreciate the flavours on what could otherwise be quite a limited winter diet.


 Sharing food with others means they share in return. These pears and oranges came from friend, lemons we pick from an unowned tree down the street. These apples came from a wild tree by the farm.Image

At present I am doing a juice, salad and soup detox so am living on vegetables from the garden, along with dried beans/legumes and feeling good for it on the third week. I am not starving to death and am surviving well 🙂


Eggs supply alot of nutrition and with eggs and vegetables you always have a meal.


We also just got bees to get our own honey….this lasts forever, is a healthier alternative to sugar and the bees will help pollinate the fruit etc.


To put food, our shopping habits and what we really need to survive into perspective, I like this. The healthiest and happiest looking people I think are those from Mali who have (by comparison to western diets) a very basic diet sitting in front of them.

What people eat in different countries around the world

We grow herbs in the garden too, these can be used fresh, dried, used for skincare or remedies. I am still learning about the use of herbs and do not get enough time to really get into it but herbalism really interests me, I have a whole lot of learning to do in this area!


Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

Rose and Calendula Hand Cream


I recently bought a book on foraging in NZ and what wild weeds, herbs, fruits etc can be used and the making of medicines etc. This I found at a secondhand book store for $2.50, a quick flick through tells me I will be reading this avidly over autumn and winter to learn from. Besides personal interest in this sort of thing I have to say this – I am not convinced the economy will pick up any time soon, things could get alot harsher for everyone, us included. We believe it is our responsibility to be able to fend for ourselves if need be. Basic necessities in life are food, warmth and shelter…you have to add water. Many are living now on social security and benefits because of the high unemployment rates and existing poverty by the new working poor, so many in fact it is not sustainable.

Another depression or war would force so many to find food where they can. W want to learn how to survive if the need be. Sounds terribly pessimistic but I’d rather be knowledgeable than naive or ignorant if the “shit should ever hit the fan”.


This month I have been doing an e-course I won through another blogger, Lois, at Living Simply Free . The course has been really interesting and was offered through Handcrafted Travellers. This young couple are very inspiring and have a great ethos, that of living off the land. I am ashamed to say I have not finished the reading but have it all stored to do so, I have just simply been too busy but I feast off their site!

In this course we have learned about embracing simplicity, experiencing quality v quantity, resistance and learning to say “No”, chemical free cleaning, getting rid of plastics, herbal beauty, handcrafted and natural clothing, learning new skills, earthing, the importance of Vit D, limiting technology for your health and wellbeing…in general self reliance and living in harmony with nature. They have a beautiful site and have much of interest to say, they also run many courses.

Another blogger I follow and whose post I recommend here is Rohan from Whole Larder Love. Read here how he jackhammered through concrete slabs to start his garden and honestly, this guy has a lovely blog…he lives off the land, fishes, hunts, runs classes and sells his vegetables. Also very inspiring.

We also practice self reliance in other areas too, which will be the subject of another post to come, this is already too long!

And so, after 15 – 18 months, this is where we are at 🙂 I will stress here, we are not feeling we deprive ourselves of anything. If we want it we will buy it, we enjoy the food we eat, I cook really nice meals and we like the fact it costs us so  little.

41 thoughts on “Growing our own food – frugal food, self reliance and the learning of new/old skills.

  1. Great post! Very inspiring to see all you’ve done and all you achieve. Even though we are in a different situation with young (and unfortunately fussy) children and still need some lawn for them to run on, we are lucky to have a little more land and intend to do all you do and more (if we can).
    I agree that the economy will not pick up. We have been living on borrowed finances for too long. I mean, if every single person went to the bank and drew out the money they have there not everyone would get their cash. Funny money in zero’s and one’s. Sadly for us now, those who lived through and clearly rememer the “Dig for Victory” campaigns of WWII are passing on now or already gone, along with their experience and information and those that survived the depression have passed on too. I was only reading last night about my grandmothers family (an uncle who has gathered the family history sent me all the info) and how they did better than most as they could use all their food tickets to buy meat as they grew their own veggies in Padstowe Sydney in the 1930’s amidst all the farms.
    Keep doing what you do. You’re doing a fabulous job. It’s awesome being a prepper without being a crazy prepper if you know what I mean. 😉


    • Thanks Jessie 🙂 Yes, definately not a crazy prepper but we have the confidence to know we would have enough skills and knowledge between us to get buy and we are learning more as time goes on.

      I wish I had started all this when my kids were young and I struggled, but I didn’t. I wish we had more land, I wish we could get solar power here, I wish we were younger and had more energy and stamina…but we have what we have – no more, no less 🙂 Making do with what we have is what it’s all about!

      I am always interested in family history stories, of those who have gone before. I have researched my own and it is terribly mixed, Irish brothel owners among them! But, we also have German Quakers and the Quaker lifestyle has always interested me (bar the religion side) We also had ancestors who were pioneers here, some farmers but another side sailed into Wellington with 13 kids and lived on Petone Beach for 2 years, had another 3 kids and lost two in their time there. All very interesting. But it is the courage and resilience of all these ancestors that is what really interests….and how far we have grown from that. I remind myself of that when I am preserving on odd days I wish I wasn’t, I am not doing it in Victorian dress or have 16 kids to cater for 🙂

      You do a great job too, you are still young and can educate your kids in the meantime, that’s a biggy!!


  2. RT says:

    You certainly have accomplished a lot in a short period of time. I’m certain you have learned a lot, too, in that time. One thing that I really appreciate is that you do so much on just a little land. So many people think you need a lot of space for a garden but it’s just not true. Keep up the good work … and keep blogging – I love hearing about your efforts!


    • Thank you 🙂 We had always wanted a lifestyle block but have come to realise we don’t need one, we can accomplish much here with a little forethought and a whole lot of determination 🙂 Alot can be done in a backyard 🙂


  3. And that is why your blog is so very inspiring! You do it on an average size section, while you both hold down outside jobs and you are not in your 20’s any more! Your posts are always so honest – no matter what you are sharing with us – you have a heart as big as a mountain and a partner with a heart that is just as big. You research, you compare, your trial and then share your results. I love that! Anyone, no matter their age or station in life, if they wish to try out being even the teeniest bit self sufficient could do no better than read all your posts and tag along behind you.

    I agree with your statement about the economy. The days of more, bigger, better and faster are gone. The world is changing. There are generations coming along behind us with a surer grasp on what is good for the planet and her peoples than I have seen in a long while. There are huge numbers rallying behind the call for proper food, locally grown food and pesticide free food. There are thousands living off the grid, or almost so. All the old skills are being resurrected from knitting and sewing to wood turning and carpentry. So many young people have learned to cook in recent years where their parents never saw the need to learn. It is heartening and allows me to see a new world rising out of the chaos and uncertainty of this one.

    I don’t think in terms of an apocalypse – but I do think in terms of a turning point, one where humanity will learn to live in harmony with each other and with the earth. I really believe that is where we are standing now – so when ‘bad’ things happen, they are just another step on the path to lead us to where we need to be.

    Fabulous post Wendy – thank you so much for being here! 🙂


    • Aw!!! You are very generous in your support and comments, thank you Pauline!!

      I don’t think we are heading for an apocalypse either, not at all. But we will face a turning point and yes, it needs to happen in order for humanity to survive. Things will get worse before they get better, the steps as you say.

      I love to see what all the younger generation are doing, I really do. It gives me hope! If politicians would only get on side around the world, instead of power playing, how much better that would be. I guess it pains me to see people struggling because I have been there, I learned at 16 how to undo jerseys to knit for my kids because I needed to. I often went hungry so they could eat….I wish I had known then I could actually garden! I know struggle, it’s not nice – that’s the only reason I do this blog now really.

      Thanks Pauline 🙂


  4. We are a bit envious about all you have to grow and trade – we spend much more than that here, in Hungary, per week for groceries. Ah, the irony of life 😉

    Can’t wait to experience life in another hemisphere!


  5. What a wonderful post. You and your husband should be proud of all the hard work you have done to turn your yard into a wonderful garden. I can just imagine strolling along and picking fresh herbs and vegetables. Love all of the items you can and freeze. While it does take work, if you have a garden, chickens, and bees… you really can eat well all year long.


    • Thank you 🙂 When I told my husband a “garden of Eden” would be neat I think he took me literally 🙂 He has done himself proud. It’s not orderly, but quite wild, and we both like that – and yes, you can eat all year long. It does take alot of work but (and I sometimes need reminding of this lol) work doesn’t kill one and it yields great outcomes.


  6. Lisa Madden says:

    Hi Wendy, I’ve just updated my email as I had totally forgotten to change it when we moved. Wow you have been so busy. You got bees!!!! Keep up the amazing work on your blog. You have inspired me yet again with some great ideas. Lisa x


    • Oh, hey Lisa!!! 🙂 Nice to hear from you and thank you. Yes, we got bees, they are very interesting really when you don’t just think of them as stingy things. I hope you are well and settled in your lovely new home 🙂 xx


  7. Your blog is inspirational, Wendy! I do grow some fruit and veggies, but would love to also preserve and freeze as you do – and spend so little on groceries! I often can’t believe the amount of money I have spent on groceries in a week! Your blog is encouraging me to rethink that expense – and I thank-you so much for that. xoxoxoxoxox


  8. Very inspiring, we are doing something similar blogging about our journey to a more sustainable lifestyle. At the moment we grow some of our own veges and herbs, we make our own bread, do our own baking and I also make our own cleaning procucts and cosmetics. I want to be able to show people that making your own products doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. Our website is
    So great to follow what you are doing.


    • Thanks Angela. I have you on my bookmarked list already but haven’t checked it out recently. I just had a quick squiz over and smiled, I am making lavender balm today 🙂 I love making homemade cleaners and skin care, it’s my favourite part of all this.


  9. ditto to everything Pauline said above! No one can say it any better than her:-) I enjoy visiting your blog, but this week I was away from my computer and missed ( again) a post that just makes me get all excited about growing on city lots again + being sustainable!!! I think you home is beautiful! It looks so inviting and what a great place to sit and watch the seasons move on…:-) great post!
    I have to say one thing more….how do you do it all and hold down two job between you! Look at that bounty it truly is amazing!!!!


    • I only work 2 days a week at the moment (and wasn’t supposed to be working at all) but have found it hard to keep up this year and Roger has damaged his knee and needs an operation….he hasn’t been able to do alot there the last month or two. We’re both feeling the effects of alot of work. We wouldn’t have it any other way though but I do hope next year I won’t be working. The money is handy but we can manage without it if need be.

      Yes, Pauline does have a way with words, she is such a thoughtful commentor 🙂

      How is your pup ? I’ve been thinking of you.


      • Well, you are working full-time in the garden:-) I am finding that all this sustainable living is a full-time job! I feel that way after the growing season and I am grateful for winter sometimes to get things done inside that are neglected all summer.
        She is hanging in there + moving a bit slower each day. She is just not ready to go + I know she wants one more growing season with me… I know I will have to decide soon, but she is telling me not yet…my son was home from college today + he said, “She is not as bad as buddy( our other dog we put down in 2009) was before he needed to be put to sleep.” I know she can’t make it another winter, but as the days are becoming warmer she is eager to be outside. She likes being by my side:-) It is hardest on my husband…
        Sorry to hear about your husband’s knee…that is so hard. My husband got hurt a few years ago and he can’t do as much. It is hard on our bodies, but it does feel good when we do get it done:-)


      • Yep, I am looking forward to winter really, everything around the house is getting left behind. we have 3 lots of visitors coming over the next few weeks and I am cringing for the need of a jolly good clean!!!

        Well, that’s all the better if you can keep her a bit longer, the sunshine and warmer weather will help her heaps. Old Bob would like in the sun every chance he got 🙂

        This ageing thing is just a blasted nuisance! lol..


      • 🙂 ain’t that the truth…my mother told me, “Well, when I am gone then you are the “old one”…yikes! My heart is young I don’t want to be the old one-lol


  10. I am in love with this post Wendy! I want to roll around with it on the floor in sheer lustful joy :). THIS is exactly what people want to learn! Not “hand over your bank account details and we will eke out a few tips over the next year to keep you paying…” people need to learn that it isn’t hard to do, that anyone can do it, that you don’t need a lot of land and that it pays off. People get reinvigorated. They get hope, sometimes for the first time in a LONG time and they start to see possibilities where prior to growing their own veggies etc. they can only see hopelessness. Look at all your garlic! I am drooling! 🙂 Those deli items are a dead set bargain and you would be nuts to pass over them. Occasionally it doesn’t hurt to have something sitting there to eat when you are knackered out of your bones or just plain “meh”. Buying at such an amazing price is reward itself 🙂

    Are you on Somers detox plan? It worked amazingly for me and I was never hungry at all :). Your “Mali” link couldn’t be displayed but I am imagining that you got it from that series of images of what a family in different countries ate where they were standing behind tables with their usual food on it? Pinky (my sister) just sent me over some of my grans old herb books. She was always nose deep in them and grew an amazing array of herbs for all kinds of uses 🙂

    I am with you on the fan and want to be in a place where we could survive on what we have and share with others. Thats why I need to be learning all about veggie (and other food plant) production. I am in the process of sourcing day lilies at the moment. The old fashioned kind that people keep digging out in frustration and hauling off to the tip (but not in front of me because I would have just hauled them back to Serendipity Farm in bliss! 😉 ) as they are edible! Day lilies, canna lilies and dahlias all have edible tubers (and the day lilies are almost completely edibe from the flower down). I am learning about perennials that we can plant that will make our 4 acres bright, beautiful AND productive. I am trying to fool the native animals but I think I might have a long battle ahead of me (I am going to put tyres around my artichokes this year…ugly but necessary. Might paint them bright colours so at least I get SOME colour 😉 )

    I am off to Pin this so that a much wider audience can be exposed to this precious information. You really are leading by example 🙂


    • Well, thank you for Pinning 🙂 And you make me think of a cat, rolling around purring when something nice happens 🙂 🙂 I am glad you liked it.

      There you are, I learned something, I had no idea you could eat lily bulbs. That is a great way to beat the critters and fool them off your food!!! And they are a most beautiful showy flower 🙂

      How nice to have your Gran’s old herb books! I am fascinated by herbalism and really want to do alot more with them, time (and energy systems) have been against me this year but the next month or so should see me researching, and doing, in this area.

      I haven’t followed any particular diet plan but read a bit and decided on a course of action. BUT, though I feel ok with it and not at all hungry it has made little difference to my inflammation problems and fatigue. I have just started to introduce other things back a little because I felt 4 weeks was long enough to trial it. After talking with Pauline she felt I might be eating too much fruit so will keep that lower but honestly, there was no difference and I had hoped for some 😦

      Yes, I think the deli buys are a good thing 🙂 Sometimes you just get over cooking and want some time off, or to eat something someone else has cooked. Roger rarely cooks so something like this is my day off stuff. We have actually been out for tea a couple of times recently…. the bliss!!!!!! 🙂 🙂


  11. Faye says:

    I have just come across your site and am enjoying it. Earlier this year we started growing vegetables in our front lawn and we had lots of successes! Included was a whole lot of spinach which I had as green smoothies with cheap bananas and our own parsley. What do you put in yours? Keep up the good work!


    • Hi Faye 🙂 Thanks for your comments 🙂 Where abouts are you?

      We grow all the vegetables, berries and herbs that we eat and most of our fruit (with the exception of bananas and avocados and mushrooms) We counted 52 different varieties last year. We started with just a small patch and 8 years later our whole section is in food garden now. Our was all just lawn when we moved here now there is hardly any 🙂 The growing bug gets you!


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