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 This has been a journey of learning self reliance….one thing leads to another and formally frugal habits have been replaced by simple living, making our own cleaning mixtures, less chemical exposure, an appreciation for nature and our environment, searching for more free foods, the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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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 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.

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 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 🙂

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

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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.

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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!

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Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

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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”.

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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.

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Quarter Acres 1 year blog Anniversary – Growing your own groceries

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We are 1 year old this week 🙂 This reminded me of my first ever blog. I had no idea whatsoever of what I was doing and was actually just trying to start a journal for us of our efforts over a year….I thought I could just put it out “there” at a later date if I chose to !!!! Yes, I know, naive into the ways of technology and social media! I got 3 followers that day and wondered why and how that happened. Then I ‘got it’ and was panic stricken. That’s wasn’t what I had expected or was prepared for. I am (was) a rather private person and this was rather scary. But…what I had hoped for was that we learned something that others could benefit from  one day, hopefully – younger families would be inspired to grow some of their own food to help through hard times. After a year long journey of doing it ourselves and blogging, this is still my hope. These are hard times, insecure times for so many – this is one thing we can do to save a whopping amount of money. We eat far better now than we ever did buying food from a supermarket and we eat better than anyone we know. Good food, grown ourselves cheaply, much of it stored for winter and autumn, cooked well…it doesn’t get any more satisfying.

Over the course of the year I had met some awesome, awesome people who I am happy to call friends. I look forward to our conversations and reading of your lives and your thoughts….you special ladies know who you are and I truly appreciate your presence in my life xxx For all of you thanks for supporting and commenting, for reading my ramblings and for teaching me also, I learn alot from the blogs of others.

And because my intention always for this blog is to inspire struggling families I will add these links for some of my older posts for any newbies out there who are thinking of growing a little, or alot, for themselves.This food in the photo was grown here or is as cheap as food gets! And thank you Backyard Farmer for the starter, the bread is delicious 🙂 (and for an inspiring blog of your own!)

My  list of ‘best for value’ homegrown vegetables and fruit for kitchen and pantry

Growing your own food

Beginners Guide to Frugal Gardening

Beginners Guide to Frugal Gardening (2)


Thank you everyone for reading my ramblings 🙂

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Frugal Food – please share your tips :)

I have been wanting to do a Frugal Living post for some time and have decided to do this in a series of posts that I am hoping others will add to from their own store of tips for cutting living expenses…because I consider that those who read my blog (and myself) are a community of like-minded people and I often receive comments from others sharing their wisdom on frugality. Please do feel free to add yours in the comments section.

So, because my blog is mostly about food I’ll start here with a few of my own tips for eking out my food dollar.

1. Has to be growing whatever we can ourselves, wherever we can and with whatever we have at our disposal. Not everyone has a garden but there are many containers we can use to grow in from buckets to shopping bags to juice containers. Seeds can be taken out of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini etc to start off new plants. Explore the net for ideas and inspiration. I have articles here on frugal gardening for beginners.

https://quarteracrelifestyle.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/my-list-of-the-best-value-for-money-vegesand-fruits-for-the-home-garden-pantry/

https://quarteracrelifestyle.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/beginners-guide-to-frugal-food-gardening-1/

https://quarteracrelifestyle.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/beginners-guide-to-frugal-food-gardening-2-seed-saving/

There are other articles in the gardening section reblogged from others for ideas and inspiration.

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2. Foraging. Easier if you live near rural areas, there may be wild blackberries, apples, nuts etc just growing wild around you somewhere. This is a great article on food foraging http://www.realfarmacy.com/foraging-52-wild-plants-you-can-eat/. I can tend to be a bit shy about doing this but my husband is not, he is very quick to notice fruit trees that are un-owned and to raid them 🙂

3. Develop a from scratch mentality and rely little on convenience foods because we pay dearly for that convenience. For the price of pancake mix we can buy a bag of flour and a packet of baking powder that will yield a whole lot more than one batch. Make your own yogurt for 1/4 the price https://quarteracrelifestyle.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/crockpot-yogurt-yogurt-ricotta-and-labneh-yogurt-cheese/. Seeking information, improving our own cooking and baking skills pays off big time over the years, I am 54 and have raised my family but am still always seeking new, better, cheaper ways of doing things. I buy things like chickpeas, lentils and pulses because they are cheap and nutritious to cook with. Buying them dry, cooking a whole pot and freezing in cooking sized portions means I am unlikely to buy them canned for convenience sake.

4. Shopping. I buy house branded (cheap branded) flour, cocoa, toilet paper etc etc rather than more expensive brands, the quality is often the same, they are often packaged by the same companies. I get to the checkout and look through what I have…there is nearly always something I have picked up on impulse that I will return because I no longer feel I need it. I stock up on different things on special each week and will forego something else in order to buy 1/2 dozen (or more) somethings that are extremely cheap if I use alot of it eg coffee on extra special. I check that an item on special (often a leading brand) isn’t still dearer than a cheaper brand. I don’t buy anything I couldn’t make myself cheaper. We don’t get coupons here now but I remember years ago spending ages before I went shopping cutting out coupons. I base meals around what I have and what is on special rather than just buying random foods to make up meals I feel like and I always write a list of what I NEED, there is always room to accommodate specials too good not to stock up on.

5. Make use of the freezer. I will buy something like a 1 kg packet of bacon on special and split it down to use in odd recipes to eke it out. I use mine alot for freezing leftovers to use for another meal eg a smallish amount of meat or chilli sauce sauce can be mixed later with pasta and topped with cheese sauce for another meal. Excess grated cheese can be frozen. A large pot of soup can be frozen in serving sized quantities, Fruit given from a friend can be cooked and frozen, extra sausage rolls, leftover homemade scones, milk bought cheap…virtually anything can be frozen.

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My Provident journey has started a series on using the freezer, find the first one here http://myprovidentjourney.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/provident-uses-for-your-freezer-dairy/

6. Minimise food waste: Don’t purchase more than you can realistically use, store well, either freeze or plan leftovers for another meal. Be creative…my husband cooked a few nights ago and used leftover sliced lamb on toast with barbecue sauce and cheese, grilled…I thought it sounded weird but it was delicious, leftover sausages are nice like this too or sliced, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and fried lightly. Fritters, quiches, frittata, pies, soups are all good ways of using leftover meats and vegetables.Baked goods can be refreshed in the oven, or re-crisped. Turn over ripe bananas into cakes, breads or fritters…I will also make a carrot cake or dog biscuits out of softer carrots , or they go into soup. The list in endless here.

7. If using alot of citrus save the peels in cheap white vinegar for cleaning.

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8. Porridge is the cheapest breakfast cereal on the market and is nutritious. Rolled oats are great in baking and homemade muesli and muesli bars. I wouldn’t be without rolled oats in my kitchen, or shredded coconut. These form the base of muesli and many times I have made it just because I have odd quantities of dried fruit sitting in the cupboard (or lots of my own dried) This recipe will use any dried fruit, nuts etc in the cupboard https://quarteracrelifestyle.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/homemade-toasted-muesli-with-figs-walnuts-and-feijoa/

9. Preserve, make jam, sauces etc. If you have access to large amounts of fruit or vegetables at times learn the skill of preserving, jam making etc. I buy jars from thrift shops, garage sales…friends save them for me. If you can’t bottle them they can be cooked in syrup and frozen, some fruits such as berries and plums can be frozen as is. Your first ever batch of homemade jam is something to be proud of…I will just share a story of mine 🙂 I was very young and left a large plastic salad server in the pot to stir with – never to be seen again and that batch had to be thrown out, trust me no one can do worse than that, so give it a go!! Only months ago I lost a whole batch of cranberry jelly to the floor, I am still trying to be an expert preserver!! If you are dreading Christmas  now is the time for many to make homemade jams etc that would make nice Xmas gifts, they keep for over a year.

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10. Distinguish between wants and needs. Supermarkets are chock full of yummy things we’d all like to be able to afford and this can be hard to begin with but when things are tight we can’t afford to come out through the checkout with a heap of not such great buys in favour of good nutritious NEEDS and staples. I used to drink only ground coffee but that is no longer affordable and now instant seems perfectly fine (yes, in this house coffee is needed), I don’t need the magazine I often go to throw in, neither do I need the flower oil I used to use in my hair. These are only things I desire, not needs….realising of course that very OCCASIONALLY some little thing is needed as a morale booster because sometimes you need chocolate, or the magazine. Sometimes I get fed up with going without but generally I can manage to get through with only the milk and toilet paper I went in for! I haven’t always been like this and had to learn alot of discipline but it’s actually really rewarding to end the week well knowing I have managed to shop this way.

11. Develop a survivor mentality in dire cases of needing to save money.  There is poverty and there is voluntary simplicity and I have done both…at the same financial level. I am now choosing to live at a level I previously found very stressful (but I’ve been worse) and we are thriving….it’s just taken a different mindset and we work hard at making it work because it needs to. In saying that I have always had a roof over my head. Most would agree there are 3 basic necessities in life food, warmth and shelter and I am always aware many don’t have these things and I am gratified I am not one of them. We can afford shelter, we get free firewood and grow most of our own food. We both agree we live abundantly, but we live within our means and it all takes work. We can afford insurances etc only because we buy few groceries. Not everyone can do this but thinking outside the square and doing what YOU can do well can make a difference.

There was an item on our news yesterday about a primary school in a poorer area of our country who are teaching life skills such as food gardening, cooking from that garden for lunches many of the kids can’t supply themselves, making fire bricks from shredded newspaper etc. These children are already learning how to make something from nothing, how to be self reliant etc….the teachers told how the kids are so much healthier for it, how much more animated they are and how they are all striving to learn as much as they can. I loved this because God knows, it’s needed there, it’s needed everywhere at present.

So please, do share your tips here or link to your own blog of a similar nature, my list is nowhere near comprehensive and there is alot to be learned from each other. Food tips only as I will do another for household etc. Don’t be shy, your tip might be the only one another can use:)

The word for Wednesday was . . .

A great post on frugality, thanks Linne 🙂

A Random Harvest

. . . waste

I’ve been lazy/busy and so this word should really be for the week, not for Wednesday. Oh, well, I hope you all forgive me . . . (note: there are other thoughts in here besides strictly waste-related ones . . . those darn ‘blades of grass’ . . .)

What sparked this word was this:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jun/05/wasting-food-stealing-poor-pope

I very much agree with the Pope on this and am thrilled that he is calling for global financial reform and other positive changes. This is very good news, if it is followed up by action.

I see waste so often; at work it was amazing. I got in trouble for suggesting that if people weren’t going to eat their ‘dated’ yogourt, etc., that they let me know and I would see it got to someone who would use it. I worked in the natural and organic food business some…

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Pumpkin and Spinach Chickpea (Garbanzo) Patties

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I found this recipe on the net a couple of years ago and change it to suit whatever I have in the garden or as leftovers, unfortunately I can’t remember where I got it from to link it to it’s rightful owner. It’s such a versatile and inexpensive recipe.

I buy my chickpeas from a bulk food store, cook and freeze them in serving sized packets. This is alot cheaper than buying canned and I prefer the taste of them.

1 tbspn oil

1 med onion

2 cloves of garlic

Small zucchini, grated

400 g – 500 g chickpeas

2 – 3 slices of wholegrain bread made into soft breadcrumbs

2 tbsp peanut butter

1 egg yolk

1 1/2 tsp curry powder

3 cups cooked vegetables (I used 11/2 cups cooked pumpkin, 1 1/2 cups finely shredded raw spinach)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander (or other herbs)

1 tsp salt and little pepper

Fry onion and garlic till soft, drain well. Squeeze all liquid out of grated zucchini. Using a food processor make breadcrumbs then add chickpeas and process till crumbly but still some texture to peas. Tip into a bowl and add all other ingredients, mixing well. Mixture should be like a hamburger consistency, able to shape into patties. If too wet add more breadcrumbs. Fry on each side till golden.

We had these served with chutney, jacket potatoes, salad and beetroot. They also make a great vegetarian hamburger, or with salad as an open sandwich…or just cold out of the fridge! I vary them every time, sometimes leaving the curry powder out depending on what is in them.

Added 2 weeks later, toasted bread with salad and shallow fried chips.

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Growing herbal teas

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I love my hot drinks so it seemed a natural extension of what we do with our food to grow my own herbals teas. I was paying $3 – $4 a packet for them, they are now off the shopping list. I haven’t experimented with any blends as yet but would like to in the future. I often drink fresh leaves but for convenience I also dry alot.

Lemon Balm: Calms anxiety & stress

Feverfew: Good for arthritis and migraines. Does need a bit of honey as quite bitter.

Parsley: Good for flushing out toxins, as a diuretic and for joint pain

Sage: For joint pain also good for feelings of stress or agitation

Marshmallow: Is supposed to be good for asthma, chesty coughs and bronchial conditions, I have made some but haven’t tried this yet.

Strawberry leaf: High in magnesium, thought to lower blood pressure slightly

Mint: Promotes sleep, is good with lemon balm for anxiety, nervousness. Put sprigs of each in a pan with water and simmer for 5 minutes.

Rosehips: High in Vit C and a nice fruity taste.

Rosehips for tea and skincare

Rosehips

A great site that has all the info on herbal teas is http://www.teabenefits.com, they discuss the benefits and also possible dangers / contraindications for all.

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The only cleaning liquid I use

The only cleaning liquid I use

Is malt vinegar with a small squirt of organic detergent.

I tried white vinegar and baking soda but for the harder areas eg soap scum on bath, this just meant hard scrubbing. I made this a few months back when I had run out of white vinegar and converted.

It’s cheap, works very well and is chemical free.