Aussies Living Simply Challenge - Part Two - Transport.

The topic of this challenge is your transport.

 There is no public transport system where I live except the school bus, which doesn't suit my hours. Other ideas to reduce transport include reducing trips to town or grouping trips.

 Once again it is all about planning. If I am not thinking and planning, I could easily run to town 2 or 3 times a day because it is so close. BUT the kilometres add up. It is a 15km round trip and with my car and our current fuel price I have calculated that it costs about $2 to go to town and back.

 I budget $30 per week for fuel. Since starting our eco challenge I group my trips and drive economically. I keep putting $30 per week into the car even though I don't need to. By next week the car should be completely full and the change will go in my fuel money jar. The week after that I will put as much in as I can fit and then put the change in the jar.

The leftover fuel money will pay for our trips away. Some of you may argue that the car may be heavier and use more fuel if it is full, but I like the idea of it being full. If there is an emergency or blackout that cuts the fuel bowsers out of action I will always be ok.

In our house DH is riding the children to school. I would really LOVE to ride to work. I have a great bike. Work is 7.5 km each way. Getting there is not too bad, although there are parts of a busy road where there is nowhere to move off the road. Coming home is the biggest problem. It is dark when I am leaving work to come home and it's cold. I guess I will have no excuse when daylight savings starts. I am excited about the health benefits but am just not quite ready to get started !

Does anyone else commute by bicycle ? If so how far and how long does it take.


Home Made Take Away

Time Time Time

"I never have time for that......"

We all have the same 24 hours in a day. I read an interesting quote once that said something along the lines of ' never say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same time every day as Mother Theresa, Gandhi' etc etc ( must try and find the exact quote one day).

The truth is instead of people saying "I don't have enough time" they should say " I choose not to do that" or be totally honest and say " I usually waste my time watching television instead" or " I spend so much time on the telephone/ internet/ reading trash that I don't have the time to do things that may be more important".

So if we all have the same 24 hours - what do YOU choose to put into them. I choose, amongst other things, cooking from scratch because the benefits to my family are tremendous. My children are calmer, my budget is better and I have a sense of tremendous satisfaction from the efforts I put in.

I choose not to watch commercial television. I have never seen an episode of All Saints, ER, CSI, Grey's Anatomy or any other TV show that I hear people talking about. I can remember when Australian Idol was on and there was a picture in the Newspaper of Guy Sebastian and Shannon Noll - ready for the big night and I had no idea who they were! I thought they must have been sports stars of some kind.

I guess it is always a case of Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Poor Performance ( the six p's). I work four days per week and I work long hours. Weekends are often taken up with activities for my sons, like sports or outings. In the summertime we usually water ski from early morning until sundown. Therefore, as my Grandmother says, " when you have time, you do things for times when you don't have any time". This means that when you make a batch of biscuits you double or triple the amounts and freeze the leftover dough. I always do this on Mondays so if the biscuits run out mid week it is a five minute job to throw some more in the oven. Or you may have a 'cook up' and have some meals ready to go in the freezer to just heat up for times when you are too busy or too late home to cook.

Another important thing is to menu plan the week before, around your schedule. Have more involved meals on nights where you are home earlier in the day and quick meals like stir fries on the busy days. Sit down and make a really good list of all the meals your family likes. If you are stuck, go to the library and look at the food magazines and get some ideas to try. You may be surprised what you find.


My Grandmother's Ways.

This is my Grandmother, taken on 27 September 2004. She was 97.

 She turns 100 on the 15th July 2007.

She lived on her own at home up until 2 months before her 100th birthday. I love this photo because if you look closely she is taking the tomato seedlings inside overnight.

These are some of the notes I took when asking my Grandmother about her life. She lived on a property near Dubbo in Western NSW. If you remember the show "Outback House" that screened on ABC, my Grandmother's house was in that region. The house was also situated quite near to the property at Dundullimul which is now a national trust property. You can check them out here.

Here's how she described her morning. ( Forgive the grammar - it's typed as is ! )

" I’d wake up get dressed go to the toilet – which was up the paddock , come back and wash. The first thing you would do was make the fire in the stove and put the kettle on, cook some porridge or rolled oats or something. If we had fresh meat we would fry chops, lambs fry and eggs with a cup of tea. Then go and milk the cows – all four of them. You’d get a couple of kerosene tins full. We’d keep about a gallon out a day for cooking, drinking etc. The rest was separated to make cream and both milk and cream would be put on and boiled and left to the next day and churned for butter ( kept in a cool place). We had no fridge but we had a cooler. It was on the back veranda in the shade. There was Hessian on the side. It was standing on four legs and inside it had shelves. We used to keep the meat there or corn it.

Next, wash up the breakfast things. There was no running water. In 1936 when the house was built we had two tanks onto the house – 1000 gallons each that was used for everything. There was one at the bathroom and the other for the kitchen. We never wasted water. If we ran short we used spring water. – carried in buckets until we got a windmill that used to pump the water and pump it up into the tank. We got the windmill in 1938/ 1939 it was a southern cross. We also had pipes from the windmill to the garden and we had a thing to put the hose on and we had to leave the tap turned on all the time. Even if the windmill was turned off it would still move and dribble out water.
To wash up we had a fountain sitting on the stove, like a great big cast iron tea pot – it probably held about 3/4/ gallons. Half of it was on the hob ( brickwork around the stove) to keep it hot but not boiling. The teapot was also there.
We’d use that to wash up. When we came to Tanners Creek we had a cast iron sink like the one here. We had a drain that went down to the bank of the creek.

Next I would probably bake cakes for morning tea – for the men on the property. Then we’d have a hot meal at the middle of the day. I had a square dish about 15 inches squares. I used to make a sponge cake with six eggs 2 cups of sugar 2 cups of flour and baking powder because there was no self raising flour. You’d beat the eggs into a froth with the spoon. One day I got a hand beater and would use that. I’d cut it in half and put some jam – whatever we had and make a sponge roll.
The jam was home made. I’d buy a 70g bag of sugar and make jam out of whatever fruits was there – peaches, plums apricots, grapes, strawberry, passion fruit.

Washing Day

Sometimes twice a week or once a week depending on how many dirty clothes.
When the boys starting growing up I’d wash 6 shirts and they were starched. The trousers then you didn’t wash them – just sponge them down. They came home in good clothes The working trousers were similar to jeans. They used to call them ……. Dungarees it’s a bit heavier than denim. It was work clothes.
You’d soak them in the tub and get the washing board and scrub them . Each man would wear 3 sets of clothes each week.Get two days out of each set of clothes. They had athletic singlets and real old blokes had flannel shirts.

So on washing day there were 2 sets of clothes per person 3 sons and a husband plus their good shirts and white singlets or navy blue singlet.

To wash the clothes you’d scrub them, then boil them then rinse them if you didn't have a wringer you’d ring by hand. I can remember we had the clothesline between two trees. I remember one time the clothesline broke. All the clothes were filthy again. I had been wanting a proper clothesline for a while. There was a fair space of ground at the back of the house where nothing was growing. I measured where he had to put the line. I made it triangular to dry whichever way the wind blew. When we got a rotary clothesline it went in the centre.

The sheets were all done on the same day. I mostly had a spare pair of sheets for each bed.
There was also tablecloths etc to wash.

Washing day was always Monday. Old Mrs Wales used to say “if the washing is not done on Monday, the ironing on Tuesday the week’s gone and nothing done” that was the way of the old people back then.

If it was raining ….. you had a veranda you’d wash the important things and hang them.

Tuesday was ironing day. Take all the clothes of the line and fold them up. The clothes were kept in a cane basket. You’d have an ironing blanket or ironing sheet and put in on the dining room table. You had three irons – iron with one till it got cod and then get another etc. We then got a petrol iron which you’ d pump up.

Sometimes I went up to the sheep yards and things didn’t get washed up. Sometimes you had to leave things. One day someone came unexpectedly and I hadn’t done all the ironing and they had to have un ironed pillowcases. I felt so ashamed.

When I worked out in the paddocks I wore Jim’s pants with a belt on – his waist was twice as big as mine. "

The Home Management Binder

Some call it a home journal, or household notebook. I call mine my home management binder.

 It is the master plan for how I run my household. It is important that I balance all the roles that I am given and do my best to keep things running smoothly. Because I am spread so thin between my children, husband, work, friends and other family members I need to 'go to paper' so that my thoughts and ideas are not heavy in my head.

The front cover has a wise quote from proverbs about the Proverbs 31 Woman. It says " She watches over the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness". When I was first married I tried to adopt this as a theme for my life. I must add that I always struggle with this ideal.

The sections in the binder so far are:

1. Family Finances: This is where I keep my budget, bills to pay, savings goals, debt reduction and net worth calculations.

2. Household Routines: I have been a flylady fan since 2000. This is where I detail my morning, afternoon and evening routines and have my overall cleaning and organisation plans. If you don't know what I am talking about visit http://www.flylady.net/

3. Shopping and Meals: This is where I have my grocery list ( I use a standard sheet in the order of the supermarket isles) I also have a list of favourite meals, menu planner (Although I generally use a magnetic fridge version), price book.

4. Travel and Organisation. This is where I keep my going away list, picnic list, camping list, first aid list, emergency preparedness list etc

5. Resources The final section is where I keep printouts of articles, ideas, budget tips, management tips etc. I am always on the lookout for ways to improve my family management and make my household run smoother.

One day I sat and asked my Grandmother detailed questions and took my laptop and typed out what she said. It took many days to complete this process. I will share her wisdom further on this website. It is a topic that is very close to my heart. I think that many families are out of control today because they have forgotten ( or never learnt) age old principles and methods of life management.

Living Simply Challenge Update

It has been extremely satisfying doing this challenge. Some things we have achieved, others we haven't attempted yet, but it is all a step in the right direction.

Here are the preliminary results:

* make up a food budget and take only that amount of money to the supermarket with you. - Done. I have $150 for groceries and this week spent $114.00. This is more than last week, but it includes extras for my grocery stockpile.

* create a menu plan for the week so you know what you need to buy for each meal. DONE - this not only saves you money , it saves time and your sanity because it stops you from getting to a weeknight later in the week and asking ' what on earth are we having for dinner tonight ?

* start tracking your spending. Done - usually do this anyway.

* start a grocery stockpile. I like this one and have done it at varying times over the years. My Grandmother always had a ' one up principle'. She had the item that she was using plus at least one more of it in the cupboard. When you finish the one you are using you put it on the list, start using the spare and then replace the 'one up' item.

* cook from scratch. - have been doing this for a while no.

* ban yourself from eating out or buying takeaway for this entire week. failed this one because I had to go to a farewell dinner on Friday night. I did only spend $20 though and that included a tip !

* shop for specials. - I always do this. I have had a price book for years. I will post some pictures of it soon.

* make your own shopping bags and fruit and veg bags so you're not bringing home plastic bags. Taking your own shopping bags is easy. The only problem that I have is bags for the fruit and veg. Loose potatoes, broccoli carrots etc are fine but it is hard to take loose pistachio nuts to the checkout ! I need some ideas here. Do you sew your own little bags for smaller fruit and veg/nuts etc? I often buy loose almonds, pistachios, beans etc and would appreciate some feedback.

* buy meat from a butcher, not a supermarket. Done. Luckily we have a great butcher in the little town I live in.

* stop buying individually wrapped or bagged groceries, like snack foods. Done.

* watch the unit price. - always do this using a price book. ( although once you have done your price book you will find that you just know your prices )

* look for and support products that have minimal wrapping. This has not been easy. Sometimes you are limited by where you live as to how easy it is to access particular products. Not eating preservatives does make this a little easier, in that it minimises your packaged foods anyway.

I am looking forward to the next challenge. I hope to maintain many of these principles.


My Baking Centre

This is one shelf in my baking centre.

Cooking things from scratch means you must have all your ingredients easily accessible all of the time. My baking centre is a cupboard right next to my stove. It is at eye height.

When I am cooking I can reach in for one thing at a time, use it and then put it back. This helps with the cleaning up process as well. I would like to have nice glass jars, but I don't have a lot of space and circular jars don't tessellate so I had to opt for rectangular containers instead.

Aussies Living Simply Challenge - Part One

" This week's challenge is to reduce the amount you spend on food, and as an added bonus, the amount of packaging on the food you buy. Our associated challenge this week is to reduce the amount of debt you have."

Our normal grocery budget is $180. We never spend this much, but I always allocate that amount. We then put the left over money into a jar and use it for times when we need extras, for example if visitors are coming or taking it on holidays so we can eat out etc. We usually spend between $120 and $150 per week.

When I redid our budget a couple of weeks ago I cut the amount to $150. I shop with cash and I menu plan before hand so I know exactly what I need and what we are eating throughout the week. Not eating preservatives and cooking from scratch has made a HUGE difference to our grocery bill. Last week I spent $68. This included meat and fruit and veg. I was amazed.

Anyway, as far as the ALS challenge goes - these are the things that I will attempt to do, or in some instances are already doing:

* grow some of your own food.

* make up a food budget and take only that amount of money to the supermarket with you.

* create a menu plan for the week so you know what you need to buy for each meal.

* start tracking your spending. Every time you go out, take a small notebook with you. Write down every item you buy and how much you spend. This will give you a good idea of where your money is going. When you do this for a few weeks, you'll see your money spending pattern emerge. Once you've identified your weak spots, you can start fixing them.

* start a grocery stockpile.

* cook from scratch. Processed and precooked foods cost much more than basic ingredients. Don't pay someone else to cook for you, do it yourself and save.

* include at least two meatless meals a week.

* ban yourself from eating out or buying takeaway for this entire week.

* shop for specials. Go to a few different supermarkets in your local area to cherry pick their specials, and then finish your shopping at your regular store.

* buy vegetables and fruit from roadside stalls and farmers markets.

* ask around your neighbourhood to see if there are any local people selling food. You may have a neighbour selling eggs, honey or organic vegetables.

* make your own shopping bags and fruit and veg bags so you're not bringing home plastic bags.

* buy meat from a butcher, not a supermarket. You'll find it's probably cheaper and fresher, and have less packaging. Ask the butcher to wrap your meat in paper. No plastic sheets or bags.

* stop buying individually wrapped or bagged groceries, like snack foods.

* buy larger packs and decant into smaller jars.

* watch the unit price. Check out the price per gram or piece. Just because it's packaged in a certain way, doesn't mean it's cheaper!

* look for and support products that have minimal wrapping.


Simple Savings Newsletter

There are lots of budgeting websites but most of the content is American.

This website is the best one to use for saving tips. The ideas are sensible and the savings are real. I particularly like the wealthy habits calendar. It brings lifestyle back into balance.

Check it Out:

Ideas From Our Family Meeting.

We held a family meeting last Monday to look at our lifestyle. The boys ( 6 and 8 ) love the idea of an eco challenge.

Here are the areas we will concentrate on:

Here are the ideas that we brainstormed:

1. Energy
a) Turn off lights when not in use
b) turn off appliances at the wall
c) Have shorter showers
d) install energy efficient light bulbs
e) use re-chargeable batteries

2. Watera) shorter showers and water saving showerheads
b) catch cold water when waiting for hot to come through – use this to fill water bottle and kettle
c) wash up in the small sink
d) flush when necessary
e) install water tanks

3. Transporta) Ride bikes to school and work
b) Limit trips to town – by planning and grouping trips
c) Get Dad to ride motorbike to town for smaller items/ errands
d) Walk
e) Find cheaper fuel, drive more economically

4. Garbage
a) Compost Food Scraps
b) Stop Getting Plastic Bags
c) Buy items with less packaging

5. Consumption
a) Don’t buy unnecessary things
b) Work on a cash budget
c) Use things sparingly-
d) Do instead of buy – make it yourself.

We will add to these ideas as we go.

What I find interesting is that everytime I think along these lines I think of living like my Grandmother on her property in 1940. There was no ' trendiness' about living self sufficiently it was just the done thing. We need to return to the old fashioned way of living for health wealth and happiness reasons.

The other thing that hubbie and I discussed when we were making this list was memories from our childhood. What struck us was - that the garbage bins we had were those tiny metal ones with the round lid - but today - people fill a giant wheelie bin every week. We also remember the butcher wrapping meat in paper and having paper bags or boxes when you did your grocery shopping. The bags and boxes were then reused a number of times then burnt in the fire. I don't know too much about carbon emissions and perhaps an open fire isn't now considered environmentally friendly - but in my opinion it was far better than shifting and burying tonnes of plastic rubbish around our garbage tips every year!

Carbon Cops - Coming to ABC TV

I am really looking forward to this show starting on ABC. I hope it is like the Eco Challenge on SBS. Here are the details:

" Carbon Cops is a new enviro-science TV series that wants to help you save money and combat global warming. Each episode will feature one household that will have their home's structure, appliances, vehicles and habits assessed for energy efficiency. They will then be challenged to make physical and lifestyle changes to significantly reduce their energy use.
The first episode of Carbon Cops goes to air on Tuesday, 26th June at 8.00pm on ABC TV."

Cutting The Carbon Challenge.

I have seen that the 'Aussies Living Simply' people are hosting a carbon challenge. As you can see from my past entry, this is something that we are interested in. I might just add that I am not completely convinced about it from a global climate change position, as I think there is always political spin or points to be gained once governments get involved, but I am interested in it because of the balance that it brings to life. It is almost like permaculture for your life. You do things such as ride the bike to work and it affects your budget, your health and the environment. It brings everything back into balance.

So, we will give it a go. Any steps forward that we can make will be worthwhile to bring back the balance. Here are my beginning stats from this link http://www.aussieslivingsimply.com.au/infusions/forum_threads_list_panel/viewthread.php?forum_id=60&thread_id=5211&rowstart=0

If everyone lived like me, we would need 3.9 planets.
Global hectares required to sustain my lifestyle = 7.4
global hectares
Food 4.2
Transport 0.5
Shelter 0.9
Goods/services 1.8
Total = 7.4


The Eco Challenge - Inspiration For A Lifestyle Change

Recently, a programmed aired on SBS called "The Eco Challenge". It was a show about two families who initially had their water, electricity, garbage collection and vehicles taken away and then given back one by one if they could meet particular usage targets. Our family got involved while the show aired and we tracked our electricity, water and vehicle usage. The 8 year old son really enjoyed doing this.

More recently we have been thinking about foods and additives. We were looking at my Grandmother's recipes ( she is 99 years old) and thinking that - there were no additives in her day - everything was made from scratch. She also operated under the principle of "Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Poor Performance" ( The Six P's). If she was late home and hadn't cooked a family meal, she could never just duck into town and buy a pizza !

Then... we started thinking more..... take riding your bike for example. If you approach it from a 'green living' point of view you might ride a bike to work or school or to the shop because you want to cut your pollution emissions. If you approach it from a frugal point of view you might want to cut your spending on fuel. If you approach it from a health point of view you might want to get fit, stay fit or lose some weight. Regardless of your viewpoint the reality is that living more of an old fashioned way is a winner all round !

So, we started on Monday. We didn't drive to town ( which is a 13.5km return journey) we walked to the boys school and picked them up and walked home ( 15 minute walk each way) and yesterday Hubbie rode with the children to school and then rode to pick them up. He then took his motorbike to town to do his errands rather than take the car.

So..... all steps in the right direction. Hopefully the results of this new style of living will be... health, wealth and happiness along with a sense of achievement. My biggest challenge will be cutting our grocery budget and not driving to town on the 4 days that I work. Hmmmm have to give that one some more thought.


Food Additives and Perfect Pancakes

A couple of years ago I attended a presentation by Sue Dengate, author of Fed Up. She is an advocate against food additives in food. I was very impressed by her presentation and by all the anecdotal evidence on her website http://www.fedupwithfoodadditives.info/. Well, I think it definitely makes sense and I see a real difference in my 6 year old son when he eats particular foods. One of the other reasons I find it such an attractive way of life is that it is "old school". It is a simple as living life like the 1940's farming family. In these days there were no packaged foods and everything was made from scratch. I will blog more about this at a later date. Today I want to share my perfect pancakes with you. You won't find any packet mixes or preservative 211, colouring 140 or flavour enhancer 621 here

Perfect Pancakes

* these are sweeter pancakes to have with maple syrup

1 1/2 cups of Self Raising Flour

1 tsp bi-carb soda

2 tbsp sugar

1 egg

1 1/4 cups milk

4 drops vanilla

Mix it all together so there are no lumps ( I use a hand blender) and pour into a hot pan. Wait until bubbles form and pop on each pancakes and then flip. Serve with real maple syrup.

April Theme: Re-organise and Transition

In the Southern Hemisphere, April is in Autumn.  The days here are still warmish, but there is a sneaking whisper in the wind. That whisper ...