Living on a Pittance

I set myself a challenge recently to feed a family of three on $70 per week, including most of my cleaning products. I put away $10 a week of that to save up for a bulk meat purchase.  I also wanted shop as ethically as I could, to incorporate organic produce where possible and free range meat. While, within my budget, I have not been able to buy my fruit and veg organically (a challenge I may set myself later in the year), I have been able to purchase all my meat free range and grass fed.


I have been reading a lot about food since becoming a parent which has been making me grow in my food philosophies. I have been changing our diets to a more strictly wholefood diet one step at a time and I am still slowly making changes. Our wholefood ways started off with making my own yogurt, and stock and changing the way I shop. This has both saved us money in some areas, whist costing a little more in other areas.

At the same time, I have become passionate about wasting less, shopping locally and eating our own home grown food. My husband and I purchased a compost bin to recycle our scraps and have created a vegetable garden. We are slowly turning our whole yard into an edible garden.  One day, hopefully we can venture into keeping chickens!

Here are some tips I have picked up along the way for living on our budget (some of the tips relate to living increasingly in a sustainable manner). Many of these ideas not only help the environment but also your wallet:

In the Kitchen and at the shops:

  • Buy free range/grass fed meat in bulk and utilize cheap cuts. There are lots of good online retailers in Melbourne that will even deliver. My meat comes from  a farm in Victoria
  • I also look for discounted free range meat in the supermarket that is near its use-by to supplement my meat purchase and utilize your freezer.
  • Use the whole animal! Buying a whole free-range chook is cheap. I roast it, use the left overs for lunch meat and the bones for stock.
  • Avoid the supermarket.  I buy as little as possible at the supermarket as I find the products there expensive, especially fruit and vegetables. Instead I shop at the green grocer, online, and  through buying co-ops
  • Limit the amount of processed foods bought (saving money and packaging). The only processed food we buy is milk, cheese, oil and flat bread, along with some other occasional items for cooking
  • Eat in season. It is cheaper and better for you!
  • Bulk up meals with vegetables. We try and eat at least 5 veggies at dinner (with lots of different colors ) and we also have vegetables in our lunch
  • Make your own baby snacks. My child eats only homemade snack with his favorites including veggie muffins, zucchini slice, falafel, and salmon patties.
  • Make your own yogurt. It is easy and it saves me $5 per liter of yogurt
  • Make your own stock. It is easy in a slow cooker and heaps cheaper and more nutritious then buying stock
  • Make your own pasta sauce for the freezer for quick an easy meals! I always have a batch of tomato sauce that I have made in the slow cooker, full of veges that I adapt to different meals such as curries, pasta, Mexican etc.
  • Try buying dried beans and chick peas. It’s much cheaper then canned. Although you have to soak them and cook them, you can do this in big batches and portion them in the freezer to add to a quick meal.
  • If we want a treat, we make our own. Its lots cheaper then buying processed foods and you can make it healthy. We make our ice-cream by whipping up frozen fruit with yogurt!
  • Have a vegetarian meal once a week
  • avoid buying things with ingredients you cannot pronounce or have a long list of ingredients
  • Grow your own veges! We have loved doing that this season and had lots of success with silverbeet, zucchini, rhubarb and snow peas. It is lots cheaper than buying organic produce and less food miles!
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  • Grow your own herbs. If you are not a green thumb, start practicing growing with herbs. It is much cheaper than buying fresh herbs and you have a supply all the time. I love having a steady supply of rosemary, parsley, chives, mint, oregano and basil.IMG_2944[1]
  • Make friends with people in your neighborhood who grow things. Our lemon tree is not ready to fruit but one of our neighbors gives us some lemons. In exchange we have delivered her some of our zucchinis!
  • Buy organic produce from a co-op. Of some of the staples I buy I do this from a buying group which makes it cheaper.
  • Use reusable shopping bags (including for fruit and veges, or where practical simply do not put your fruit in a plastic bag for weighing)
  • Add a No Junk Mail sticker to your letter box. That will get rid of any temptations that you might splurge on and reduce your waste!
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  • Recycle!
  • Get a compost bin.  Your garden will thank you as you make  nourishing soil for your vege garden and you can reduce your waste by putting kitchen scraps, newspaper, brown mushroom bags, toilet rolls and egg cartons in it.

For Cleaning:

  • Make your own cleaning products using vinegar, bicarb soda, tea tree oil and lemon. Its easy!
  • Use re-usable dish clothes
  • Avoid cling wrap and foil (use re-usable containers or tea towels to wrap things)
  • Use the clothes line to dry clothes!
  • Invest in a water saving front loading washing machine

For Baby:

  • Use cloth nappies. There are lots of good modern cloth nappies about that are very easy to clean. Whilst the set up cost can be a lot at the beginnings you quickly make that money back in not buying disposables. Helps the environment and your pocket! I use Green Kids nappies.
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  • Whilst you are washing nappies, you may as well wash wipes. I use face-washers and they come out sparkling clean. Not to mention they are better for babies bottom then commercial wipes!
  • Breastfeed your baby. You save lots of money and give your baby a great gift! (I totally understand that there are women who cannot do this due to physical reasons and circumstance)
  • Shop at baby markets and op shops. I almost buy exclusively second hand for my child. I can find really good quality things at baby markets, many of which are new or barely used. There are lots of baby markets around Melbourne that you can Google.
  • Ask for hand-me downs and borrow big items!
  • Avoid the baby aisle at the supermarket. I have never bought baby food as baby has always had what we are having. (The book Baby-Led Weaning is great).
  • Tell other’s that you do not mind gifts second hand. My friends and I know that we have no problems receiving gifts for our little one second hand. You waste less, receive some beautiful things and save money!
  • Look out for free activities for children at the local library or through church groups

For us:

  • Try making your own personal care products, such as shampoo and conditioner and liquid soap (using re-usable containers), or find a natural soap provider (see links below)
  • Have one car per household and maximize public transport.
  • Try and get your bills and paperwork send to you via email or through your internet banking to reduce paper waste
  • We are trying this year to only buy clothes from op shops/second hand. We have had great success at Savers and other op shops. We have saved lots of money in the process. I have even bought some clothes from the op shop new with their tags on and my husband’s work clothes!
  • A campaign I like for this year is a ‘year of ethical fashion’:

If I’m looking for things to wear I will only:

A)Buy from ethical makers or
b) Buy second-hand or
c) Make it myself  or
d) Wear things I already own or
e) Borrow or swap garments with friends

(Find out more at Meet Me At Mike’s)

Some books and websites that I like:

  • Frugavore by Arabella Forge. This is a fabulous reference guide with recipes about “how to grown your own, buy local, waste nothing and eat well”.  She talks about how to compost, how to grow veges, how to raise chickens and how to use the whole animal.  (also check out
  • Wholefood for Children by Jude Blereau. I love Jude Blereau’s books and she gives great recipes and tips for cooking with wholefoods
  • Gnowflins – “Gods natural, organic, whole foods, grown locally, in season”. There are lots of recipes on this site to get you started.
  • DIY Natural – This site has some tips for making your own cleaners and personal products
  • I Quit Sugar I have enjoyed some of Sarah Wilson’s recipes. She has lots of whole food and refined sugar free recipes (although I don’t use stevia)
  • The Hazelnut tree This is a great site for handmade soaps in Melbourne, including shampoo soap, moisturizer, lip balm.
  • Shop Ethical: At this website you can buy an ethical consumer guide (or get a mobile app) which gives rankings to various brands in the supermarket at to how ethical the company is