Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Budgeting and Insourcing...play to your strengths...

$32 Strawberries...keep reading and you'll see why!

I often have friends visit, who cannot believe that we live so well on so little.

We eat well, we entertain well, we dress well, our daughter, and our youngest son (we actually have four sons, but the older three are all grown and married) want for little, and we travel overseas every two years or so.

There are many, many blogs out there these days on saving money, living frugally and reducing your carbon footprint.

But most of the families I know personally don't subscribe to them, and wouldn't dream of planting a vege patch or repurposing a pair of jeans into a tote bag. It's all too much trouble. Even if it's for the reward of an overseas trip funded by the bank account, rather than the credit card.

The problem is that upon first viewing, all of these things are 'too much trouble'. It's all a bit of hard yakka, as we say here in Australia.

So you need to start small, like I did. That said, you also need to choose your battles wisely. Can I tell you about some of mine? You might learn a thing or two.

When I commenced my money savings journey in earnest after many years of frittering my hard earned cash away on stuff that only made the retailers wealthy, I had a few false starts.

One of those was soap making.

I am a sucker for scented bath and body products. I never could go past a Body Shop or Bath and Body or Lush, without buying just a couple of things. These coupla things would undoubtedly run into double or triple digits in dollar terms, but what-the-hey....

So one of my early efforts focused on making my own luxuriously scented soaps.

Well after spending about $100 on ingredients and equipment, I was ready. Or so I thought. Measure this, weigh that...oops need something else. Dash out, get missing thing, go back to start. High anxiety, due to many, many warnings on the dangers of inhaling this or spilling that. Get soap made, leave to cure behind lounge, to great grumbling from The Musician Husband. Test at 3 weeks, notice great chunks of caustic soda...toss, start over. Eventually get something useable and nicely rustic, but family refuses to use it as it 'looks funny'. Dole it out as gifts to unsuspecting friends. Experiment over. That said, I did eventually have soapmaking success which you can read about here.



I had greater success with hand and body creams, which was a little more foolproof, but ultimately went back to the pharmaceutical stuff for the face as the face really, really needed it. All good on the body cream though, as well as pillow/linen spray, bubble bath, solid perfume, home made talcum powder, bed powder, and lavender bath bombs.

But it was the overwhelming success of my home made Limoncello which actually caused me to wonder if I'd missed my calling as a Grand Brewer. Maybe my family and friends are all just hopeless imbibers of exotic liqueurs, and they would have loved it not matter what!

I had similar epiphanies with my vege patch. Plant strawberries, get one strawberry, give up. Try again. Get 4 strawberries this time...calculate how much I spent on wicker planters, potting mix, wet granule thingoes, strawberry runners and fertiliser. Decide $32 per strawberry is false economy, and give up.

Tomatoes...same. I do have some tomatoes on a tomato plant in my front yard right now. But for the life of me, I can't make the tomato plant stand up with the blessed tomatoes on the thing. I've planted them in a posh tomato planter with it's own add-a-ring tower to guide the tomato. The tomato plant ignored it and grew off on it's own tangent, falling over and breaking at regular intervals. I've staked them, they fall over, I've tied them to a palm tree, they broke off. I don't know. Maybe fruit-ish things are not for me. The Musician Husband just kept asking me why I don't buy the tomatoes for $2.99 a kilo. A fair question. 'They taste better' simply garnered a raised eyebrow.

I've had better success with leafy things. I've got a lovely nasturtium happening and we do eat it in place of Rocket which we love. I also have a Wild Rocket, some asparagus, a finger eggplant and some chilli. All A-Ok. But I am the only one who eats those things and it's not like I'm saving a bomb by not having to buy them.

I've decided that people who make a success of this kind of lifestyle deserve a medal, really. Honestly they must do nothing else. I admire them and all, but it's just not for me. I can't for the life of me, understand how they grow enough strawberries, or use the oversupply of tomatoes and zucchinis. And I'm not being derisive, I am just asking myself the question.

Oh and did I tell you about my sewing adventures? Buy sewing machine at $250, buy numerous patterns at around $17 each....perhaps 10 of 'em, buy fabric. Look at instructions, recoil in distaste. Measure something? Overlock something? Hand stitch something else? Hmmmm. Not to mention The Musician Husband complaining about the dining table being set up as a sewing station. (Do you see a common theme here...) Okay, maybe on another day.

Cutting my own hair was another strategy. Armed with detailed instructions from a reputable money saving website and a sharp pair of scissors, I hacked my way to a visit to my hairdresser. I had to. It looked awful. I think my hairdresser is still chuckling to herself over that one.

Have I mentioned the breadmaker and the slow cooker? Both wonderful inventions. Did I also mention that the average temperature where I live is around 27 Celsius almost year round, except when it rises into the high 30's right around Christmas? Yes we have our chilly moments...they last about six weeks. Have you ever tried to have a slow cooker and a breadmaker on the go when the ambient temperature is in the 30's? That's a minimum of around 86 Fahrenheit. No way. We eat cold food when it's hot and hot food when it's cold. It just makes sense. So overall...useability factor...about 3 out of 10. We'll stick with yummy Poached Chicken Breast, thanks very much.

These days, I've accepted my limitations and my money saving strategies are more about cooking from scratch, shopping from my own wardrobe and online before even crossing the threshold of a retailer of any kind, making gorgeous gifts and preserves, and ensuring that my pantry is well stocked for quiet times in our business.

I don't spend on gym memberships when I can walk for free, I don't join weight loss programmes when I can Google how to eat sensibly complete with menu plans and recipes, I don't sit in stinky nail salons to get my nails looking nice when I can have a quiet moment in my own back yard painting my nails over a cuppa, I don't buy books or magazines when I can join the library or search the net, and I don't buy my children experiential gifts...I give them the gift of my own experience. I reduce my carbon footprint by walking for exercise rather than driving to the aforementioned gym and buying local where I can. I recycle, repurpose and buy pre-loved wherever possible.

So if you want to, as my blog title suggests, live a life of which your Nanna would be proud, look at where your hard earned cash goes. Make savings in those areas where you are humanly able, where your own strengths lie, and don't worry about what the rest of the world is doing. The important thing is to make small changes where you can. There is a Chinese proverb that says 'The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.' Amen to that.

Unless you're prepared to practice till perfect, don't make soap when you can make soup. Don't grow finger eggplant when you don't eat them, no matter how prolifically they grow. And don't plant strawberries in a $30 wicker basket. The birds and wildlife will still get to them before you do, no matter what they're planted in.

Take it from one who knows ;-)

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28 comments:

  1. Ha ha Mimi. I had a giggle reading that as I have decided not to plant many veggies from now on as I can't cope with the digging anymore and my success rate with growing some vegetables isn't anything to write home about. We have a Farmers Market starting up every fortnight so I will be frequenting that. Now...it really isn't that hard to make a good batch of soap although I must admit I just make my batches for ourselves. The men have to put up with my experiments. ;-)

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    1. I know Chel...digging is for the birds...or the gophers. My poor back and shoulders do not cope with digging. There was a time when I was out there with a crowbar, loosening the soil so my husband could come along behind me doing the digging. But the crowbar routine is beyond me too these days! Good on you with the soap. I do well with it too nowadays, but only because I persevered beyond those early failures...lol! Love, Mimi xxx

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  2. Well said Mimi! Learning where are skills really lie is the secret and then maximizing. Have a great week. Lynn

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    1. Exactly Lynn! That's the strategy! Mimi xxx

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  3. Hello Mimi. I am totally in agreement with you, that thriftyness is a style of life that is available to all of us if we work at it. Certainly we need early successes, and doing what is achievable is a great confidence builder.
    I want to tell my own story of the joy of building skills as a 'mature learner". When I went to my first quilting class I was so bad at it that I came home in tears! As an adult it had been a long time since I had to start from the beginning, and feel less than competent. Fortunately I found a different teacher who guided me in my baby steps and built confidence along the way.
    When I started making bread, I had one failure in every four or five loaves of bread! Now I can make bread with confidence. It took the failures to get me to the level of competence I now have.
    I have found that I can cook bread on the patio during hot weather -with an outdoor power point. I can even cook it in the slow cooker-turns out quite acceptably!
    In my experience, herbs are actually very cost effective things for novice gardeners to grow, as they are expensive in the shops, and you often find you are throwing away most of the bunch before they are used. I don't know how I ever managed without fresh thyme to pick for my cooking! Yet it grows pretty much like a weed in my climate. Parsley's fresh smell is so refreshing and I like it as a tisane with lemongrass. Mint is just gorgeous to brush against, let alone add to couscous or yoghurt.
    My garden gives me the same kind of exercise that others get from their gym, but with added tomatoes! Yes we do pick ours - and I hope that despite the rambling nature of your bush, you get to pick some too.
    Each crop, each season teaches us something -we love the challenge of it, and the learning is good for the brain!
    I didn't have a grandmother to teach me things, so I read books and blogs and don't let my fear of failure stop me from learning new skills. I am sure that is what you are doing too. Much love. E

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    1. Hello Earthmotherwithin. I am so pleased to see you! I cannot believe you ever doubted your quilting skills...look at you now! You're right...that's a lesson in itself. My breadmaking days are behind me unless I make the effort to make the gluten free stuff. It's not more difficult than a cake, but it's remembering to do it! I couldn't agree more on the herb growing. Growing our own herbs saves us an enormous amount of money and adds so much to the pleasure of the meal. It's the way to go! And fruit trees. Mine are yielding figs, mulberries, cumquats, lemons, limes, mandarins and kaffir lime leaves and fruit for potpourri. I love it. The latest additions are olives, avocados and blueberries. We shall see how they fare. But so far, the fruit trees are much less effort and far greater reward than veg! And in terms of saving money, they make a lot more sense. I love your attitude that a failure shouldn't stop you learning. So very true. I'm glad you stopped in and commented. Love, Mimi xxx

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  4. Sweet friend, I thoroughly enjoyed this post {{smiles}} And I am giggling about your cutting your own hair...did you really? I did when I was a wee little girl, but have not tried it again. Although I got a pixie hair cut yesterday and oh my....I have no words. If I feel brave I shall share a photo on my blog :)

    Thank you for the tips, dear one. Much love to you!

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    1. Hello Stephanie Sweetness! Yes, I really did cut my own hair! I do not recommend it! You would look so lovely with a pixie cut. All the focus will be on your pretty face now. Love, Mimi xxx

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  5. Such a funny, charming, and interesting post, Mimi! I've had a few flops, too...especially when trying to grow our own food. It is so difficult! The soil isn't much more than rocky clay here, and it is always sooo hot! My hubby bought me a soap making kit approximately a year ago, I've yet to put it to use, maybe this year...so glad you've shared your trial and errors!

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    1. Hello PP! Yes, there certainly is a skill to growing food. How did the pioneers manage?? The home made soap is divine if you're game, and a kit makes it very easy. Give it a go. At least you can say you've done it...lol! Love, Mimi xxx

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  6. That did make me laugh! I've had various similar experiences too. But we find that buying Needs not Wants, growing vegetables (yes!), making soups and freezing lots, are all ways to save money

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    1. Elizabeth, I'm glad to have given you a giggle. I like your strategies. Very sensible indeed! Mimi xxx

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  7. Oh, I so agree and have been there! Great post!! Both my daughters were determined to make their own baby food with the birth of their firstborn. I didn't say anything and waited....needless to say it was too much money and time to bother! Live and learn!

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    1. Hello AnnMarie...yes that's another one. It's wonderful if you can do it, and even better if you have a willing Nanna or Grandma to do it for you, but otherwise, it's something that gets lost in the chaos of caring for little ones, isn't it! Thanks for the encouragement. Love, Mimi xxx

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  8. Thank you. I beat myself up all the time because: I don't have the time to invest in learning some of these things, I don't have the money for the equipment needed, I've tried multiple times and failed because it's not my gifting from God. So rather than look at the ways I am succeeding, I often time get upset because I can't or I don't have, or it's not my gift. This post is truly beautiful. I'm going to pin it so when I'm feeling down that I don't have the yard space for even a small garden, I don't have time to learn knew things because I homeschool and have all four of my daughters still at home, or I've tried and failed so many times, I can look back at this and realize, it's ok. Concentrate on what I can do and enjoy life. :)

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    1. Melinda, I am so humbled by your comment. My idea is that whilst we all need encouragement, we also need someone to say it's okay to fail, or not try, or give up sometimes. Sometimes we just have to tally up the things we are good at, and be thankful. Especially in the blogging world, it's very easy to become overwhelmed and discontented because there are so many talented people out there. I had an epiphany recently when one of my most favorite bloggers (nobody listed here to the right...one of the BIG bloggers), introduced us to her 'team'. She added that she is (and always was) a professional in her field, and that many of her photo shoots are professionally styled. What a dodo I was not to have picked that! It was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I admired her so much, thinking she was just another person like me, making it up as she went along. But no. I think there are many instances of 'professionals masquerading as amateurs' out there in Blogland, and we need to be aware of that. I prefer to share my failures along with my successes. It may not be motivating for everyone, but hopefully it lifts the burden from the shoulders of others, as that little bit of knowledge did for me. Thankyou so much for your lovely comment. Love, Mimi xxx

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  9. Aww I really enjoyed your post today Mimi! These are all great tips about saving money!
    Thanks again for joining and sharing at our Monday Cooking and Crafting with J & J!
    Enjoy the week.
    Julie xo

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    1. It's always a pleasure to visit you and Jess, Julie. Mimi xxx

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  10. I had a good chuckle about not planting eggplants if you don't eat them! That is exactly what happened in our first veggie bed. Someone told me that they were easy to grow in Summer and they did grow and fruit, prolifically, problem being that we don't really like eggplant:) Now, I plant what we eat and use. Lesson learned! Great post:)

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    1. Meg, I know, right? It makes you wonder why they're so expensive at the supermarket! Thanks for the great comment. Mimi xxx

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  11. Girl, you made me smile! We've lived the life haven't we? I imagine you've been at this about as long as I have. I've learned to pick and choose what I'll actually do and not just dream about!
    Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage
    Living on a Short Shoestring Budget

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    1. Lol Laura. It sounds as if you've travelled the same path! Yes, doing is far more constructive than dreaming. I know someone who calls it the Fantasy Self. We all have a Fantasy Self who effortlessly accomplishes all manner of things. The reality however, is often very different! Thanks for stopping in. Love seeing you! Mimi xxx

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  12. Dear Mimi, this gave me a good giggle. Particularly relate to those expensive sewing projects....that don't quite cut the cheese. I've had my fair share of headpiece disasters too!!!
    As for the garden I have had great years and then a dud! Can't pick it. The only thing I am sure fire with is cooking. Love your work, lovely Mimi. Xx

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    1. Dearest Flora! How are you my lovely! Yes the sewing. I do love sewing, but I no longer have the patience for the labour intensive stuff. There was a time when Vogue were my favourite patterns, and linings and princess seams and bias cut this and that were my forte`. Alas, I can't cope these days. If it has straight seams, and can be completed in one day, I love it. If not...well...sigh...it goes. I cannot imagine a Flora Fascinata headpiece being any kind of disaster...I'll have to take your word for it ;-) Love, Mimi xxx

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  13. Dear Mimi - I had a knowing smile reading your post today. Pure gold. I'm no sewing genius, gardener or craft maker for that matter but related on so many levels albeit I do love my slow cooker.

    For me I keep the pantry stocked and eat out very little. Home cooked meals are always better and I save the eating out for the occasional fine dining. Most of our designer furniture is second hand and eBay and Gumtree have become my friends for buying and selling you just need to know your market. For the big ticket items I always bargain with cash - and never pay full price. Like yourself we also travel overseas every year or 2 and it's well worth the small sacrifices.

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  14. I think a lot of us grew up in families that kept chooks, had a big vegie garden, fruit trees, wood stoves, everything cooked from scratch, mended, repurposed, made do and handed down. I did! It was a lot of work and when my parents retired they got rid of the chooks, minimised the vegie garden, put in a heater that operated with the click of button, cut down the fruit trees as they'd done their work and enjoyed good holidays, new clothes and wining and dining with friends. Everyone wondered how they could do that in retirement but it is exactly as you say, save to your strengths and you should have some left over to be able to play.
    Janiebabe

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  15. Dear Mimi, this gave me a good laugh this morning. I have strawberries growing (under wire) next to my clothes line- I get to eat about 2-3 a week- so much for the jam I was planning to make . I also have a gifted tomato plant that seems to have a mind of it's own. No matter how I tie it up it still ends up draping itself across the pathway. It is however loaded with fruit so everyone is happily side stepping around it.
    My work days have been cut back from 4 to 2 days per week and after following your blog for a while now I have decided that I will not look for another job but will instead use the time to try 'insourcing'. Thank you for the inspiration and the confidence to give this a try. Bev

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  16. SUCH a great post! :)

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

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I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx