Frugal family budgeting (and sticking to it)

As the cost of living seems to rise every month, budgeting and how to manage money well as a family is a constant topic of discussion in our home. Like many, we cringe when unexpected things need repair or replacing, and we often look incredulously at how others around us seem to be spending money we simply don't have. 

How are they doing it?

To be honest, I'm not sure. Unless they are super wealthy, I suspect a lot of people are financially stressed beyond measure and are simply hiding it well, hoping things will resolve themselves in time because they don't know what else to do. But that's clearly a flawed strategy, given there are no solid signs that inflation is on the way down anytime soon and interest drops if they occur, will likely be very slow and small.  

Frugal family budgeting (and sticking to it)

Once upon a time, early on in our marriage, we used envelopes for cash. But these days so much is done via EFTPOS or automatic bank transfer the physical envelope system no longer works for us. Especially when we might be going in different directions at the same time. 

Recently we sat down and explored some apps to help us budget better and settled on a free budgeting app by the name of Goodbudget. You can set it up to work with your pay cycle and add various envelopes to suit your needs. Then as you spend money you manually add it into the correct envelope and list what it was for. There is a little maker on each envelope that tells you if you are ahead or behind budget. Then when the next fortnight comes around any areas you overspent on or saved in will be rolled into that fortnight. Great if you manage to save money, but less fun if you had extra costs. It updates in real-time so anyone who is sharing the app with you can see where the budget is at. 

It's been a game-changer for us.  

There are so many beautiful natural places to explore, even if you are in the city. There are free parks, beaches, national parks, forests, rivers, botanic gardens and more which are often quite closeby. 

I feel more control over our budget, and those little things that quickly add up are easily documented and kept in check. Because it updates in real-time we can see what each other is doing and adjust (if needed) our actions accordingly. I think one of the most helpful things about the app is the little tracker on each envelope. For example, this fortnight we have unexpectedly spent more on fuel than we intended at the front of the fortnight. The reasons were good, but it doesn't change the fact we are now significantly behind budget on our fuel budget and need to balance it out, so we are looking for ways to challenge ourselves to achieve that. 

Another thing we do as a family is cultivate contentment and enjoyment in what we have. I know I talk about this a lot but that's because I believe it is so incredibly important. We talk well about our home, garden animals and life. Anyone who has been following for a while will know our home is tiny, imperfect and a work in progress. But imperfection doesn't negate the ability to enjoy or value something. Life will never be perfect and most of us will never live in a magazine-worthy home. (heads up, stylists spend hours bringing in items to style rooms to make them look that way, even homes in magazines don't look like that on a day-to-day basis.) Despite the imperfection, we make the effort to highlight the things we do have and enjoy them deeply. 

enjoying a cuppa is a simple pleasure, and easily done at home.

Our lives and that of our children are bombarded with advertising and media designed specifically to create a sense of dissatisfaction in us so we will buy a lot of things, much of which we don't need. Generations of the past simply didn't have this level of advertising to contend with, so our generation has to work out how to pave a healthy way forward for our children.  In response, we need to proactively and deliberately cultivate a sense of gratitude and thankfulness about both the big and small things. Some ways we can do that are;
  • Cooking simple nourishing meals with love and care. 
  • Ensure beds are clean and comfortable and bedrooms are a cosy retreat. 
  • Comment positively about our children's favourite clothing items so they remember to appreciate what they have.
  • Op-shop, thrift and buy what we can second-hand. It's amazing what people sell cheap or give away. If you can be patient the exact item you need will often pop up soon enough. 
  • Read books to/with our children with patience (even if it is 'Where is the Green Sheep' for the one billionth time) 
  • Make our homes cheerful and comfortable in a way that suits our lifestyle. It doesn't have to be perfect. 
  • Hang the children's art in a cheap frame and swap it out. Our children love to give us things. Pictures, rocks and interesting tidbits are often all they have access to. We need to celebrate it! 
  • Arrange some thrifted or sentimental items on a pretty cloth so you can enjoy them on your table.
  • Light some candles to create a magical atmosphere at night. Kids love the twinkly magical ambience and it also sets a sweet, romantic mood for couples. 
  • Sit together and play a board game, cards/UNO regularly.  
  • Tend to a garden, whether it be a few plants in pots, a courtyard or a big garden. create a space you enjoy and invest time into it.
  • Go out in nature and enjoy all the free fun and beauty it has to offer. 
Cultivating contentment is a beautifully frugal way to live. We learn to become self-reliant on our own hands, imaginations and sense of creativity. We look to nature for entertainment, and we look for connection in relationships which inturn brings riches and joy beyond material measure. 

Another budgeting tip is being honest about where you are with your friends. Recently I had to have a conversation with a couple of dear friends that I could no longer afford to do our dinner out, even though we would go to a cheap place to eat. Though they are in a better financial situation than me, they thanked me for sharing with them and quickly made arrangements for us to eat at their homes instead. This week I will make up a jar of delicious pesto with fresh herbs from my garden. I'll pack it with some cooked chicken, tomatoes from the garden and a bag of pasta to cook up at their house so our meal is beautifully fresh. (I go to their place because they live in town and we meet while our children go to an activity) I may not be able to be generous financially in this season but I can be generous with my time, friendship, love and the resources we do have like my garden.  I can offer to help repair things or help them with things they might want a second pair of hands or eyes on. I have always found that when I dare to be entirely honest, those friendships that truly matter deepen and become something incredibly beautiful. 

This Sunday we had homemade mac and cheese for dinner, but usually, Sunday dinner is pancakes. It's great fun for the kids and incredibly thrifty. You can add fruit and yoghurt to make it healthier. I got chicken for 9.99/kg, pork for $7.99/kg from Aldi this week and potatoes for $2/kg at Coles. The OC shampoo and conditioner our family uses was for sale this week at Coles too. If you can buy an extra of items when they are on sale you will have them on hand to get you through until it next comes on sale. I'll bake a simple vanilla butter cake for a sweet treat one night when the oven is already on to save gas. 

If you are feeling the pinch like many of us are, be honest and face up to it. Clawback control wherever you can and make a plan. Ignoring the reality won't make it any easier. (I know because I tried for a bit) There are many ways we can cobble together a beautifully simple life that truly reflects our values and who we are in our heart of hearts. But it's something that needs to be created slowly over time, it can't be purchased from the store. 

I hope this finds you well. If you feel like sharing how you're cobbling together a life that resonates with you and managing your budget I'd love to hear about it, I'm sure others would find it helpful too. Because I'm taking a social media break for Lent, I won't be sharing this post on the usual social media platforms. So if you know anyone who this conversation might benefit, please do feel free to send them this way. 

Much love, 

Budget-friendly resources

This is an excellent Budgeting app available in your app store for free. 

A recent post I wrote on this topic. 

Rhonda Hetzel has two excellent books about frugal, green, simple living and also a comprehensive blog. Have a search through and you will find a wealth of information on how to write and implement a budget in great detail. 

Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape
A straightforward, not too dry money guide. Check out your local library first. 

reducing social media use

In the Christian tradition as we come into the period of easter many denominations observe the period of LENT. I usually don't manage to observe lent, well not strictly. There are times I have given up certain items like sugar, but to be completely honest, I never manage to last the full 40 days....because well...chocolate exists and it is good. 

But this year after a period of prayer and contemplation, I am reducing social media use by deactivating Facebook, though I still have Messenger. I have increasingly found social media to be a black hole of wasted time. Time I want, need and desire to spend on other things. The reasons I am on there are valid and good. I love to see photos of friends and family and hear about what they have been up to. Facebook marketplace is an excellent resource for sourcing second-hand items and Facebook helps me keep up to date with upcoming local events. But it is also full of clickbait, trashy stories, people arguing and needless advertising. When I am stressed or tired I find myself turning to scrolling rather than reading a book, making time for quiet prayer, or going into the garden. I will, however, continue to blog as it is a form of creating and writing is something I find great value in. I won't be uploading blog posts and reminders to social media though. I'll be going old school and relying on readers to check in if and when they remember. 

For me, social media has simply become a bad habit. I wonder if anyone else feels the same? 

It seems many of us struggle with the balance of technology, so much so the technology itself is now being built with alarms and reminders we can set to help us monitor our usage however. I am not particularly convinced about their helpfulness as it doesn't serve giant tech companies' bottom line to keep us offline. 

If we do a quick Google search there are plenty of studies like THIS that are available to read which link to an increase in generalised anxiety which coincides with high levels of social media use. We also know it leads to increased dissatisfaction in the way we feel about our life as we are bombarded by constant advertising of beautiful/fun/interesting things to buy, see and do designed to lure us away from what we have right in front of us. For me, social media has become a mostly unsatisfactory experience. Thankfully it is an experience that lies entirely within my control, which is why I’m focusing on reducing social media use for Lent. Time will tell if it’s a practise that extends beyond that. 

When I look at previous generations, the struggles and distractions we face in the modern world are so very different. I'm deeply thankful for instant communication with those I love, and the wealth of information available at my fingertips. But the flip side is we need to learn new skills that allow us to resist the temptation of mindless scrolling. People in the past naturally had periods of quiet built into their days. Once phones and televisions came into the landscape, they had wires, there were few channels and it wasn't as portable as it is now. I can't help but wonder if the lack of quiet in our lives is adding to the generalised anxiety many of us experience. 

Those who have been reading along for a while might know that I have a history of chronic pericarditis. Recently my heart was playing up a little and I was struggling with dizziness and palpitations. After investigation and a trip to the cardiologist, I was given medication to take as needed, and he recommended I get a smartwatch with ECG functionality and alarms. After years of avoiding a smartwatch, I have conceded defeat. I am hoping It will not add to the cyber distraction from which I am trying to escape. But my cardiologist said he gets at least one person weekly whose smartwatch has picked up AF, prompting them to seek advice and allowing them to receive early treatment. Thankfully my parents generously gifted me one, as there is no room for such an item in our budget. I feel it is ironic timing given my desire to escape technology. Ha! 

So throughout this period of Lent, I am hoping to increase the time I spend in prayer and contemplation. In writing in my journal, blogging, reflecting on scripture, gardening (when it's cool enough), spending time in creation, and re-establishing good household routines that serve our family well. 

Much love,

Edit: Here is a useful link of practical ideas on how to reduce mindless scrolling from Zen Habits.


Simple homemade curtains

The school holidays have come to an end and we have been organising all the back-to-school bits and bobs. William is off to trade school, Angus is off to high school and Henry goes into year 5. All of the boys are off to different campuses, and to be honest I am not entirely sure how we will juggle it yet. For now, we are crossing our fingers and hoping it's not total chaos. It's the first time Henry will be at a school without his big brothers, and I feel a little nervous for him. I don't know why, this is the kid who walked himself into kindy, insisting he didn't need any help from me. 

The last couple of weeks have flown by. I have been chipping away at decluttering and sorting out the boys' wardrobes, along with various other spaces. Living in a very small home as a family of six requires constant refinement. "Stuff" can quickly accumulate which makes functioning efficiently almost impossible and incredibly frustrating. 

When the afternoons are hot, I have been sewing, reading or writing. I whipped up these simple homemade curtains for Elsie's room and have also caught up on some much needed mending. These curtains cost me $21 to make and were a fun project. As you can see Elsie is very happy with them! 

Many years ago some ladies from church passed on a couple of bags of scrap fabrics, and they have been blessing me ever since. To make these I rummaged through my fabric stash and cut each square 10"x10".  I chose that size because I had some specific scraps I wanted to use and 10" was the best use of them. The rod is simply a pretty branch cut to size, you can't see it well in this photo, but it has a white/grey bark and looks a little like birch. It adds whimsy to the space and reminds me of books like Brambly Hedge. Given we live in a yurt in the bush, it feels apt. 

Patchwork curtains

It's my understanding that traditionally patchwork was done to make the most of scraps of fabric left over after making dresses, linens and other household items. It's only in more recent times that we buy new fabric and cut it up to do a patchwork project. Whilst I love all the pretty coordinating fabrics you can buy, there is something that resonates deep inside me when doing a task similar to what our great, great grandmothers would have done. Using scrap fabric that has been carefully stored away for years, left over from projects done by women I will never know. There is a piece of one of my grandmother's vintage pillowcases in there, as well as two squares from the little cloth bag Elsie's May Gibbs quilt came in. When we use what we have, thrift, or source second-hand items, our home ends up containing dozens of other people's stories. Things find a new life in our homes, and our family becomes a part of that.

Front of the curtains

  • Measure window. If your window is small like mine you might like to go floor length or keep them cropped. Either way, you might like to plan your curtains to sit 10-15cm above the window, with the tabs sitting above that. My curtains sit about 20cm below the bottom of the window. I added about 1/3 of the window on for the width. 
  • Cut squares to the desired size (I used 10" x10")Layout and arrange until you are happy with the placement of pieces. I find it helpful to take a photo at this point in case I get interrupted and my rows get jumbled
  • Pin each row carefully
  • Straight stitch each row together with a 1cm seam allowance
  • Pin rows together, line up your seams and sew. Iron. Now you will have the front. 


My tabs are rectangles cut about 15cm wide and 20cm long and I cut ten of them. 
  • Fold tabs right side together, sew long edge with 1cm seam allowance
  • Turn right way out, iron ensuring the seam is in the middle on one side. Once attached this will ensure the seam is hidden inside the tab.

Back of the curtains

You can use anything for the backing you like. An old sheet, thick cotton drill, calico. The thicker your fabric the more light blockage you will have. However, I chose calico as it is cheap and gives a nice hang to the curtain. I figured if I wanted better light blockage I could always pop a basic roller blind behind them.  

  • Lay out backing fabric on a large flat surface, wrong side up
  • Lay patchwork curtain top over it, wrong side down
  • Working from the middle, smooth and occasionally pin fabric ensuring the same tension is on the top and bottom. 
  • Cut backing
  • Place ironed tabs between both pieces of fabric at the top and carefully pin. Now you want to pin the outer tabs 1cm in from the edge so that when you sew the curtains together they are free and will line up nicely when hung.  
  • Pin three sides, leaving the bottom open as you will need to turn it out. 
  • Sew, taking extra care to secure the tabs at the top. If your curtains are heavier, you might like to stitch the top twice to reinforce it. 
  • Turn the fabric out, fold the bottom hem in with a 1cm allowance and pin. Press carefully. 
  • Now you just need to topstitch around the whole lot, which will ensure it sits well and they are ready to hang! 
I hope those instructions make sense, I forgot to take photos of each step along the way! 

Much love

frugal abundance and beauty amidst the challenges

Our garden has been producing quite well though things are coming to an end after a hot and humid spell. The cucumbers have been attacked by downy mildew but were abundant this year. They have fed us, our friends and Grants wood roaches generously. I've got cherry tomatoes popping up everywhere, pumpkins are ripening and the capsicum, chilli, herbs and eggplant are in abundance. I've not timed the planting of lettuce well and we are currently waiting for seedlings to mature.

Making moussaka, packed with homegrown veggies and herbs. 

In truth, though there is goodness to be found in the garden, it is looking a bit beaten by the heat. A little like me. The past few weeks my heart has been playing up for the first time in many years. It has been throwing long runs of dicky beats which are not ideal. I have had various investigations and the results were concerning enough that a trip to the cardiologist is on the cards. However with rest, good nourishing meals, prayer from dear friends and working harder to escape the heat and not push myself, it seems to be righting itself. For the remainder of summer, however, the garden is on the back burner. Will and Grant have taken over the heavy lifting and Henry and Angus have been helping with the smaller tasks. 

It has become clear over the past couple of summers, that my body cannot cope with the intense humidity and heat we experience here, to the point this year it is putting excess strain on my heart. The yurt is a hot building which only exacerbates the problem. Grant is finally starting on the deck extension and hopefully by next summer there will be a large, well-insulated master bedroom/office to escape into during the hottest part of the day, or we will have to work out plan B. Perhaps installing a large solar-powered air conditioner in the yurt, even if it requires borrowing money to do so. 

The garden has grown alot though many of my flowers have come to an end. It all needs a good prune, feed and freshening up before Autumn. 

On a more positive front, the wood roaches are finally doing well and breeding up and Grant recently doubled the number of boxes they have to give them the space they need to grow out. Their shed is now a fully insulated building and they have three forms of heating to ensure their temperature is steady 24/7. They have heat pads under their tubs powered by solar, a slow-combustion wood fire for freezing winter nights and a fancy thermostat-controlled gas heater on a timer.  Hopefully, they breed like crazy to repay us so we can afford the growing number of things we need to improve/mend/build in the not-so-distant future. 

Due to the ever-increasing cost of living, I have been pondering how I can bring in a little income. I am hoping to submit more articles to Grass Roots magazine and have recently sent in my first for the year. Hopefully, it passes muster! Grass Roots is an excellent Australian magazine all about sustainable living, gardening, keeping livestock, preserving, seasonal cooking, DIY and more. I highly recommend checking it out. It's packed with interesting and practical information which is rare in today's world where advertising seems to overtake content in most magazines. If you are curious but your budget is tight, pop over to your local library. Most libraries stock it and if they don't, they can probably order it in for you. 

For Christmas, my parents gave me some money and with it, I bought this sweet little vintage desk for $60. It's wonderful to once again, have a dedicated work space for writing and study. This is also where I set up my sewing machine. I am hoping having a quiet-ish dedicated space to write will help me once again get into a steady writing groove. So far so good.  

As it’s a new year, I have been tackling our budget and working out where I can save money, I was reminded that it is more important than ever that we normalise living more simply. One for the good of the planet, but also on a personal level. Many people are struggling financially and are under enormous pressure. Mental health issues are on the rise and people are lost on how to move forward in these challenging times. 

But there are many small things we can do that will help put us in a better place. 

A dollar saved is often more valuable than a dollar earned because when we save a dollar, we get to keep the entire thing. Whereas if we earn a dollar we need to pay tax on it and we only get to keep part of it. Living simply doesn't mean life needs to be grim. In fact, it can help us to create a life that is the very opposite of grim. Though it might require tweaking the lens we are looking through. There is beauty in knowing how to cook budget-friendly, nourishing meals from scratch for those we love. Learning new skills, facing challenges and looking for creative solutions all help us feel good and are empowering. When we feel empowered and confident in ourselves, we have hope that we can get through the hard times. We can be proactive and courageous in making decisions that will help put us in the best situation possible, even when things are really hard.  

If you are struggling in these challenging times, please know you are not alone. Seek knowledge, don't be too proud to accept help and look to those who have the skills you think might help you transition to a more frugal and sustainable life. Don't be scared to change or try new things, what's the worst that could happen? I find great comfort that many generations before us have faced difficult times and got through them. 

If they can do it, so can we. 

Much love,

Feeding a family on a budget

Feeding a family on a budget is a challenge that many people are currently facing. With the cost of living and the rate of inflation going up before our eyes,  I thought I would share some ways we as a family of six work to keep our grocery bills down. 

Firstly going to the shops is a two-hour return trip for me, so I tend to minimise the number of shops I go to. If you are in town, you might find that sourcing specials at various supermarkets each week can save money further. Generally though, minimising the trips to the supermarket is significantly better for your budget, as it reduces the temptation to buy unnecessary or extra items. 

I do a fortnightly shop at Aldi and then the next fortnight I go to Coles. I shop online and click-and-collect when I can. For a top-up mid-week shop (milk etc) Grant nips into our local IGA. Overall I find Aldi a big cost-saver, though they do not have everything we like to buy. 

seasonal veggies picked from the garden

Shopping online allows me to; 

  • Take my time in planning the shop and not feel rushed or under pressure by having a toddler with me, reducing impulse buys. 
  • Saves time and reduces temptation.
  • Look closely at specials and plan meals to maximise these. 
  • Double-check what's in my pantry and fridge to ensure nothing goes to waste.
The first thing I do is look for meat on special. Meat is one of the most expensive items we buy so rather than plan meals and then buy ingredients, I buy the ingredients I can get which are the best value for money and then plan meals to suit.

When buying meat, I buy it in the biggest portions I can afford. Buying larger portions and cutting it up yourself to suit your needs can save a lot of money. I can buy nice a cryovac piece of pork for $13-$15/kg depending on the cut compared to pork steaks at $20/kg. Alternatively, you can often get cryovac blade roast on sale for $15/kg compared to blade steak for $18-$20/kg at Coles. As a one-off occurrence, this might not seem like a big saving but over the weeks, months and years these savings add up considerably. I then cut the meat as I need it. 

Many people are daunted by the idea of cooking a large piece of meat but they needn't be. It's not difficult nor time-consuming to quickly section up a large piece of meat, especially if you have a good sharp knife. I also find that cryovac meat is more tender, as the cryovac process allows the meat to age well for longer. 

Shopping locally

In an ideal world, I would shop at all the independently owned places and buy directly from the farmer. Realistically we are a large single-income family without the freezer space at the moment to store half a cow. If you can manage it, it's an excellent way to go. 

However, I do go to an independent fruit and vegetable shop for all of our veggie needs. I find the veggies better quality and significantly cheaper. It is also easier to see what is in season and grown locally. If you are on the Mid-North Coast check out The Growers Market. They are excellent value for money, super friendly and offer old-fashioned service, even taking your veggies to your car for you. 

Depending on where you are you might have access to bulk whole food outlets or CSA's. Do your research and work out what suits you and your budget best, there are all kinds of options. 

Buying or growing seasonal fruit and vegetables means you it can be worth preserving some to put away. Here I am making oven-baked semi-dried tomatoes. I can make them much cheaper then I can buy in the store. 


If you have some friends who raise chickens but you don't/can't for whatever reason can you barter for some eggs? Are you able to fix machinery? Service a car? Can you sew or bake? Most of us have all kinds of skills that someone else needs. It's just a matter of investing in a reciprocal relationship. 
  • Picking fruit from an elderly neighbour's tree in exchange for homemade jam/preserves.
  • Do a day's work in exchange for produce
  • Trading baked bread/homemade goodies (farmers are often incredibly busy and tired at the end of the day!)
  • Doing bookwork
  • Managing online/social media accounts
  • Babysitting
  • Trading mechanical skills
  • Trading mending/sewing/knitting skills.
  • Feeding farm animals to allow farmers a much-needed night or two away
The key to bartering is that it is a relationship built on mutual exchange and trust. I have a friend who I do a little social media/computer work for in exchange for some meat. They give their roosters to a work friend who pays them back with curries made with the rooster for their freezer. 

With our friends, I feel like I am getting the good end of the deal with beautiful pasture-raised meat but they feel grateful for not having to sit in front of a computer which they hate. Win-win. 

Know your prices

If you keep track of how much you spend on things, you will know a good deal when you stumble upon it. Unfortunately in Australia, our grocery market is dominated and controlled by three main companies that pay the farmers low prices but then upmark their products considerably. 

Many people love to shop at Aldi and some of their lines are better priced than Coles and Woolies, especially their snacks and processed foods. However, if you can't get out of there without stopping in the middle aisle to pick up things you had no intent to buy, it's not saving you any money. 

Supermarket sales are usually advertised on Wednesday nights and start Thursday mornings. If you watch them for a while you will find the sales cycle through. If you can buy an extra few items of necessities you know you will use, you can work out a system that over time means you're never paying full price for many things. This is especially useful with items like eucalyptus oil/lavender oil/tea/coffee/chocolate/toothpaste/toiletries/soap/canned goods etc which all have a long and stable shelf life.  

Learn how to make the basics from scratch

I cook a lot but I am not a fancy cook. Meals are nourishing but simple. Soups, stirfries, stews, salads and oven bakes. If I have the oven on, I try to use it for more than one thing. Many things can be cooked in the oven easily, like sausages. I used to fry them in a pan but now I whack them in a big baking tray and cook them in the oven while the potatoes cook, turning them a couple of times. 

The key to keeping your sanity whilst cooking from scratch for a bit family is to keep it simple. Butter, sugar, honey, flour, cocoa, milk, dried fruit, nuts, oats, jam, baking powder and chocolate chips can be turned into an endless array of treats. I have a couple of basic recipes I tweak to suit almost any situation. 

Kids can bake treats, they often love to do it. It's good to get them involved in the kitchen where ever possible. 

If you run out of bread, scones will get you through till you need to go to the shop for more than one thing.  This should be avoided as each time we go to the shops we are bombarded with advertising and the temptation to stray off-budget. Rhonda Hetzel from Down to Earth has a good scone recipe in her book, or you can find it here. Scone recipe

A good butter cake recipe will see you through most of your cake needs. Add apple and cinnamon for an apple tea cake, banana for a banana cake (just add the milk last as you will need less) cocoa for a chocolate cake. You can ice it with traditional icing or decorate it with fresh cream and strawberries, or spread some melted butter on it and sprinkle cinnamon sugar. The flexibility is endless. 

Another great money saver is homemade muesli bars. A box of muesli bars is between $6-$10 depending on the brand and size of the box. But you can make them for just a few dollars and double the volume. 
When it comes to homemade muesli bars, I don't buy fancy/expensive ingredients to add to them. As long as you keep the volume of dry ingredients to wet, they should work out. I usually add a combination of choc chips, sultanas, chopped nuts, and chopped dried fruit, depending on what I have on hand. 

Another great snack is homemade popcorn, it is especially great as an afterschool snack. You can make a massive bowl of it for next to nothing. There is no need to buy microwave popcorn packets, just buy the kernels and pop them in your biggest pot over the stove, shaking regularly. Add butter and salt and you have a simple, healthy, quick snack. 

Growing your own herbs

Even if you live in a small space, or have an apartment with a balcony, you may still be able to grow some of your own herbs. Parsley, oregano, coriander, spring onion and basil are all a great place to start. Herbs from the shops are expensive and don't last well in the fridge. However, they add a big punch to a dish and can turn even the most simple meal into something really delicious. If you are not a confident gardener, it may be a great place to start. 

Managing expectations

Unfortunately, kids are bombarded with advertising and can develop their own set of expectations of what they think is 'good' food. In our home, we talk about homemade food being better, and shop-bought items being the lesser option. Grant backs me in this as he is genuinely excited by home cooking and treats and the kids have developed the same sense of enthusiasm. 

I try and ensure each meal has something each child will happily eat, and I don't shy away from challenging foods. I have found that slow acclimatisation to challenging foods over a long period has ensured my children eat most things. For example, Henry doesn't like fresh tomatoes, so I only pop 1/4 of a cherry tomato in his salad. I don't care if he slathers it in tomato sauce. As long as it is eaten, it's all good. Alternatively, each child can pick one thing on their plate they don't like. As children grow their ability to rationalize increases and it becomes easier to encourage them to eat a wider variety of food. Elsie has been my fussiest child, and I often have to feed her dinner or things she is not enamoured with. However, over time, encouraging her to just try one bite has helped her to be more adventurous when it comes to food. She will now eat a spoon with veggies and meat on it. Once her initial hesitation has passed, she will often exclaim that it is "very yummy Mummy!" 

I also put realistic, smaller serves on their plates. They can always go for seconds and it reduces food waste which is a huge money saver. I hate to throw out perfectly good food. 

How are you coping with the cost of living chrisis? What cost-saving tips can you add to this list? 

Much love,

reflections and looking forward

Happy New Year dear readers, may 2024 bring much beauty, peace, love and good health to us all. 

2023 was a mixed bag for most of us I think. On one hand, we found new friendships and community which has brought immense beauty and joy. I did a permaculture course and returned to theological study. Both of which built my confidence and helped me find direction as I entered a new decade of life. We spent a lot of time developing the garden, got a milking goat and continued to make small progress on the farm. Our family continues to grow and the children are all doing well. William enters year 11 this year and will be moving to an excellent trade school, Angus starts high school, Henry is in year 5 and Elsie has just started a lovely family daycare one day a week while I attend lectures. 

On the other hand, we have watched wars erupt and continue across the world, the world economy is struggling, and interest rates and inflation have risen hugely. Good, hard-working families are struggling to put food on the table and pay their bills at a rate we haven't seen for a few decades. We too feel the pinch and though Grant has now got perhaps the best job he has ever had, inflation and the cost of living has claimed a large part of his paycheck. We were hoping to be able to invest money into farm infrastructure this year. Unfortunately, that has been minimal. Though it's disheartening, we are incredibly fortunate to have enough. We have a sweet little affordable home, have nourishing food in the garden and on the table and we can keep up with our expenses.

On the homemaker front, I confess I have struggled with motivation this year. Whilst I continue to cook nourishing meals every night for our family, more convenience foods have crept in as snacks. As a coeliac, I can't eat a lot of the baked goods I used to eat. Whilst I could make them gluten-free for our whole family, the cost would go through the roof as gluten-free flour etc is substantially more expensive than normal flour. This means we have been buying biscuits/muesli bars/bread etc. Nutritionally this is not as good due to processed foods containing flavours and preservatives, it is also more expensive. But I haven't felt like baking things that I cannot enjoy with everyone. But this year I would like to get back on track. 

Grant and I have also struggled with tiredness and disheartened. (No doubt a better diet would help!) Things have often seemed to be two steps forward and one step back. We have not chosen an easy life and starting an off-grid farm entirely from scratch on a limited budget while raising a family's a lot. This year that caught up with us. There have been times when we talked very seriously about throwing in the towel and selling up. There are often not enough hours in the day or money in the bank to tackle the big things that need doing. 

But despite the talk, we cannot bring ourselves to give up on this beautiful property. Instead, we have developed a clearer, simpler plan moving forward. Reflections garnered after doing a Permaculture course through Melliodora. Hopefully simplifying the farm, moving to growing out steers and selling off the boer goats (you can read about that HERE) will help free up a little time. If we won lotto I'd be quick to hire a good fencing team that's for sure! And I'd buy Grant a 4WD tractor with a slasher and post-hole digger. Oh, how I dream of good fencing, being able to rotationally graze them with ease and keeping livestock out of the places they are not meant to be.

Tax time brought some much-needed relief and we were able to buy the materials we needed to finally finish off some important projects, fix up the cars and visit family in South Australia. Grants wood roaches have been a constant source of frustration. They bring in good money when they are breeding well, but we have not been able to keep their temperature and environment at the optimal level needed. He has built them a shed, given them heating pads running off their own solar system with lithium batteries and a wood heater for cold winter nights, but the temperature in their room still fluctuates too much. They are breeding and growing but not as well as we know they can. After much research, he has now bought them a thermostat-controlled gas heater on a timer, insulation and exterior cladding. Using gas isn't our preferred option, but hopefully, between the wood fire and the solar heating pads, the temperature will remain steady. If they don't take off now I'll be feeding them to the chooks and I'll move into their room myself! Grant's on holiday at the moment and he's begun on the insulation and cladding. I cannot wait to get that job finally ticked off. It will in turn, hopefully, fund other farm projects. 

In hindsight, we should have completed everything for the wood roaches first and got them running perfectly before attempting any other farm projects. But that is the value of hindsight, isn't it? 

While Grant is home we took a few days to do a job that was low on the importance list, but high on my sanity list. We finally clad the master bedroom wall which was just studs prior and painted both downstairs rooms including the old, stained up-cycled beams. It now feels bright and clean and I’m motivated to tackle some much-needed decluttering which constantly needs to be done with a big family. That and after clearing out the rooms to do the painting, the rest of the yurt looks like a certifiable disaster zone…

I picked up an old set of solid timber shelves with a toy box attached for $50 from Facebook Marketplace and painted it the prettiest ballerina pink for Elsie. Next, I’ll paint her little wardrobe, whip up some sweet patchwork curtains from my scrap fabric pile and my dear friend Sally from Jembella farm has inspired me to make an up-cycled rag rug too. Buying a second-hand, properly made wooden piece of furniture and painting it is worth the effort rather than buying cheap, modern flatpack furniture from the closest chain store. And making something our own instils a sense of satisfaction and pride that you simply can't buy from a store.

Well, Hoopla is waiting not-so-patiently to be milked so I best be off. 

Much love, 


Designing a property using permaculture principles

Recently I finished a permaculture course with David Holmgren and Beck Lowe over at Melliodora and I thought I would share some of the processes that went into our permaculture property plan. Some of the people in my class did beautiful artistic and very professional design plans on their computers, but alas that is not my skill set. Mine is somewhat rudimentary, but it does the job.  

If you have a larger property it is easy to want to jump in and do all the things. But that approach is often not the most sustainable. Doing anything fast usually requires a massive amount of resources and it is also incredibly hard work which brings with it high levels of stress. To me, sustainability is not only about what materials we use and how we consume, but it needs to take into consideration the personal cost.

I remember several years ago listening to a podcast that interviewed Mathew Evans from Fat Pig Farm. He talked about an area in Tasmania that was attractive to people wanting to live a sustainable and self-sufficient life. They would come full of passion to grow and raise all their own food while stepping lightly on the earth. They had such beautiful and noble goals, but several years later they would often end up burnt out and separating. The pressure and exhaustion of trying to do it all have taken an irreversible toll on their family life. This story stuck with me and serves as a reminder that living sustainably is not only about caring for the earth, but it's also about making choices that are sustainable for us emotionally, physically and relationally.

What is Permaculture? 

Permaculture is a set of twelve design principles created to help guide people to live well on the earth with a focus on caring for the earth, sharing the earth's resources and while also caring for people. Permaculture is a movement that came about in the 70's through the passion and wisdom of Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. 

Permaculture is about more than gardening. The permaculture movement is incredibly broad and whether you are old, young, single, a couple, have a family, renting, live in the city, live in the suburbs, are on a property or travelling around the country there will be permaculture design elements you can apply to your life. 

There is something for everyone, in all seasons of life. 

Permaculture encourages us to consider the life we want to live and filter the choices we make through a process that helps us to be better connected to the earth, what resources our choices will require and how to connect to our community in a meaningful and authentic way.  

You can download free-to-use free to use graphics and find out more about permaculture HERE
One of the great things about permaculture is people all over the world are living out the 'people care' aspect and there is an abundance of reading material available for free, from the library or on YouTube. 

Designing a property using permaculture design principles

Throughout the design process for our property, sustainability was a priority. Not only with the way we design the practical elements of the farm but the things we do here need to be sustainable in a practical and emotional sense too. The reality of our situation is that Grant currently works full-time off the farm. This is for several reasons. One Elsie was little and I wanted to be at home with her but two Grant is the highest earner and raising a family and setting up a farm is expensive, no matter how frugal and careful we are. If one of us has to be off the farm full time, we may as well bring as much money as possible to justify the time spent away. He also loves his job and I love being at home with the children so it works on all levels. I have also returned to part-time theological study which I can do externally with the hope of one day getting some kind of pastoral care/chaplaincy work in the future. 

Instead of trying to do it all, we focus on the things that will bring the most value to us as a family, and that which we will enjoy the most. With that in mind, my permaculture design focussed predominantly on our house paddock which is a few acres. 

Because we are busy, things can easily be overlooked so it was important to me to design the house paddock in a way that increased incidental supervision and observation. In the house paddock I wanted;
- deep litter chicken yard
- anti-avery orchard (covered to deter birds/possums)
- a shady garden for a child-friendly play space, lots of herbs, easy pick greens, pollination, relaxation
- maincrop vegetable garden
- greenhouse
- some grass for the guineapigs and for kids to play on


Stacking Functions

Stacking functions is a major design component of permaculture. How can we do things so they require the least amount of energy and resources whilst maximising the functionality? How can we ensure systems work together in a beneficial manner? 

One of the things we have done is to design the chicken yard so the chickens can access the orchard in the future and the main crop area in times of rest. The chickens can eat insects, scratch up the soil, eat rotten fruit etc which is great for the chickens, the soil and the fruit trees. 

Current site plan of our yurt site. 

This is our current house paddock design. Prior to this winter, there was very little garden, it was mostly mowed pasture with a couple of garden beds. I had tried to garden in the past but it took us a few goes to get the design right. Each failure brought us closer to understanding what we wanted and what would work for our family. Over winter we were busy bringing in rocks from around the property to create garden beds and then each fortnight bringing in either a load of compost or gravel for the paths. It has been a slow and steady process done as finances have allowed. We wanted curved paths and stepping stones so as the garden matured it would feel a bit wild and magical for the children. So the children would be drawn into the garden and really want to explore it. 

Long term permaculture garden plan

Along the southern fence there is a wormwood hedge which has natural flea and parasite-repelling properties, because it will grow through the fence the chickens and the goats can help themselves. I can also easily harvest it for chicken bedding when required. The chicken yard also shares a fence to the house yard so scraps can easily be tossed over the fence to them. 

Realistically, minimising the effort required to do a task means maximising long-term success. 

The compost area has been redesigned to utilize rodent-proof bins in the future. It is also near the gate which will be our main parking area so scraps can be taken out on the way to the car. I will probrably set up an area for compost teas here too. 

The design is very compact and interconnected to utilize incidental supervision. This is so I can keep an eye on the animals and so the dogs can patrol against possums and foxes. The dairy goat yard is close which means it is easy to keep a close eye on labouring does and newborn kids. During the day the goats are free range, and are only secured overnight. The milking shelter was a pre-existing structure on the back of the woodshed. It was built when we extended our solar system and it makes sense to utilize what we have whenever possible. It's a little low but I am only short and sit down to milk so it works well for me. 

Hoopla in her milking shed, trying to push past me so she can forage.

Good fresh milk from Hoopla.

Retrofitting the yurt

Initially, when we bought the farm, we intended the yurt to be a short-term home for our family, with the long-term plan to build a home on the north-facing slope, which from a permaculture design sense is probably the better site. We then intended to rent the yurt out as a farm stay experience, to host  WWOOFers in it and for interstate friends/family to stay in who sometimes visit for a week or two.  

However, due to the current economic and political environment, we have decided to extend the yurt, utilizing recycled materials where possible. We will then retrofit the yurt into a more energy-efficient and fire-resistant building, leaving the north-facing hill as pasture for livestock for the foreseeable future. 

The pros to the yurt position are that it’s well-placed for bushfire resilience at the bottom of a valley near a permanent creek.  As we are off-grid this area gets more shade which is particularly desirable in our hot climate. The shade is more valuable to us in summer than the extra sun in winter, as we have an abundance of wood in our forest for the wood oven in winter. Keeping cool is significantly harder due to only having a small solar system. We can gravity feed our water to the yurt utilizing the western hill and there is flatter ground on the yurt site which is easier for gardening. 

In hindsight, would we choose a yurt? I’m not sure. It is certainly not the best “permaculture design building” around by a long mile. 

But, we were a family of then 5 who moved 2000kms away from home and couldn’t afford to rent a house for the duration a build would take. We needed a home fast on an incredibly small budget.  After camping for 4 months, I didn’t have the emotional bandwidth left to tackle a slow DIY natural build. We chose a yurt because it is essentially a timber-framed building that can be clad in timber or perhaps plastered at a later date. Though the circular shape does make that a little more challenging, it is commonly done.   

Other permaculture thoughts...

I have done an extensive, property plan including fencing plans, water plans, bushfire resilience and more, but it might be a bit long to share here! 

If you are interested in permaculture, I'll pop some links below of some excellent places to start though there are many more. These are challenging times and becoming better connected to your local community, utilising community resources and building up household resilience and sufficiency are all good things. 

Much love,

simplifying the farm

Hello there! I am doing a terrible job of keeping up with this blog for which I apologise. It has gotten to the point there is so much to write about I don't actually know where to start. 

We are deeply thankful the season has broken and we have had some good rain. The creek is at a trickle, but it is better than bone dry. Our creeks dried up for a couple of months there and we were forced to cart water 1000L at a time from the river nearby. It was not ideal. The bushfire season started early and began to hit hard, thankfully in our area it seems to have slowed with the recent rains. Being the sub-tropics we get most of our rain in the summer months. Our pasture is looking green again which is both essential for animal feed but it also helps to add a protective element against bushfires. 

I have been busy finishing up my theology study for the year, which has been a blessing. I have enjoyed returning to college immensely and I have three subjects left to finish a diploma of theology. Next semester I will be doing two subjects and an intensive which means it will be complete by the middle of the year if all goes to plan. Eventually, I hope it will help lead to a chaplaincy job or something similar. Time will tell, I'm not really sure where I will end up at this stage, but I am enjoying the process. As Elsie grows bigger, it feels right to return to study. 

Amongst my studies there have been baby goats to welcome, a dairy goat to milk, the garden to tend, foxes to try and deter along with the tasks that go hand in hand with being a family of six. The endless cooking, driving and washing takes place amidst the usual arguments, laughter and joy of time spent together. 

One week seems to blur into the next and so the years progress. 

We have been in a period of reflection and re-assessment when it comes to the farm. We have been here for nearly 5 years and there are unfinished projects all around. Time is by far our most valuable asset. It all takes endless time. There are composting toilets to empty, rubbish to keep sorted and cart away, water to pump to the header tank, solar to tinker with, cars to repair....the list goes on. 

When we bought the farm it took every dollar we had. Soon after COVID hit, and the world changed as we knew it. With it came job insecurity and financial strain and now we are battling mammoth inflation. Turns out it wasn't an ideal time to build a farm, but perhaps there never is a perfect time. At least it is never boring, eh!

Since doing the permaculture course we have had some great discussions and done some meaningful reflection on what our family needs in this season. One was a garden, which we have made excellent progress with. We also need more space. The aim was always to build a new house eventually, but given the economic climate that is no longer in our reach. (I may have mentioned this before, apologies if I am repeating myself!) Instead, we are going to build a deck with a couple of rooms on it, as well as a large undercover outdoor space. 

But building at that scale takes time. A lot of time. Grant is our primary earner, farmer and builder. Although I hope to contribute financially in the future, I am currently the primary carer, cook, gardener, homemaker, keeper of small animals and nurse of sick and injured children and animals alike. I do what I can to minimise the load on Grant so he can tackle the big things, but we are both finding ourselves tired and constantly chasing our tails. 

Progress is painfully slow. 

This leads us to the question; 'What can we put down in this season to make progress on the things that truly matter?' To be honest, there isn't a lot we can put down, but we can simplify a little in various areas and all those little things add up. We do need to keep some livestock to keep the grass down, and although we love the boer goats they are more labour-intensive than cows. They require better fencing which takes longer to move on a weekly rotation and are generally more needy. So after a few weeks of deliberation, Grant has started to list our flock. We love goats and hope in the future to have them again, but for now there is an extension to build, fencing to improve, wood roaches to work on, a workshop to improve and only so many hours in a day. The goats are one area we can simplify.

The day-to-day homestead management side of the farm mostly falls to me and the children. There are tasks I really enjoy like looking after the chickens, milking our dairy goat Hoopla and gardening. These jobs provide food and nourishment for our family and are of high value to us. We will keep Hoopla the dairy goat, as well as buy a second goat to milk and keep her company. Goats are herd animals and shouldn't be kept alone and we enjoy her good raw milk. 

Well, the sun is shining and there is a beautiful breeze, which can only mean one thing when you live off-grid with a big family - it's time to do the washing! 

Hopefully now college is finished for the semester I will be able to catch up on what has been happening here. I hope this finds you well. 

Much love, 
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