You can do this



Day 17 of the challenge. Dinner tonight: leek and potato soup and homemade bread. (Above, pulled pork on buns, on the weekend with my sister Suzie.)

I am, I'll admit, spending more time than ever thinking about food. Voting in my mind about what to do with the very last onion. Whether the leftover pulled pork is better in a pie or in homemade pita pockets or what's going to happen when we run out of sugar. 

We are now officially out of fresh veg. We were out of fruit before my glorious friend Linda exchanged milk and an enormous bag of pears in exchange for looking after her two smallies. 

I'm a bit amazed at how fluid the barter economy is. As long as you have something to swap, in our case it tends to be eggs, sometimes bread or biscuits, you could much stay out of a supermarket indefinitely.

I was giving Adam a bit of a stocktake tonight as we're making dinner for friends tomorrow night and we have guests coming for the weekend. I wondered if it was time to chuck it in.

But actually, we still have food. Probably like you do. There's dried lentils and borlotti beans and polenta and cous cous and there's still flour and rice. I reckon we keep on until we lose our sense of humour about it. 

Tonight, after the kids had gone to bed and Adam had gone to Rural Fire Service training, I roasted off a big cup of peanuts and made them into yummy peanut butter. I made a vanilla rice pudding in little cups as treats for the kids tomorrow. I made toasted meusli. I made yoghurt. I turned my sourdough sponge (stage one) into sourdough (stage two) and left it to rise until tomorrow. It's time consuming. But I love this stuff. I'm so happy to be back in the swing of breadmaking. I didn't realise how much I missed it. 

Milk is my main issue, and there's a wonderful local farmer putting her gorgeously cared-for Jerseys up for auction in July. We're going to be there. (Of course I can't buy a cow without my Dad, and he's not back until June.) In the meantime, I ran out of milk over Easter and went up to the dairy I've been trading with, and there was a relief milker there. I'd never jeopardise the confidentiality of my arrangement, so I didn't even drive in. Hmmm. Another family might have just trained themselves off milk. Not this family. Particularly not my under-two-year-old. I drove over to a friend's place who trades milk for veggies from a different dairy, and asked if I could borrow a cup. They gave me three litres. 

I feel differently about leftovers now. When there's less, it means more. And time is valuable.

When a kid asks for jam on toast, and then abandons it, it's a hand-kneaded and baked loaf with homemade butter and hand-picked homemade jam for heaven sakes. That's 'expensive' chooks scraps. 




We're making everything stretch! The pulled pork re-appeared as a meat and vegetable pie. Delicious.


And with the leftover pie pastry and egg wash, the last of Karina's spinach and Leanne's leeks went, with my homemade cream cheese, into a pasty. Quick and easy. Fresh and yummy. No waste.





Melanie nailed it when she described her son looking at the pantry and saying there was nothing to eat. When she brought home the shopping bags there was no space to put the food. Exactly!

We're looking for instant. Convenient. 

And that's why although I'm not sure how much longer we can go without apples or fresh vegies, we'll keep going for a bit longer. It's good for us. And heck it's cheap. I bet we all have a good collection of dried beans in our pantries. I found a little box of papadums in a corner on the weekend and they inspired me to make a tasty green curry with pork and rice and papadums! (I had the curry paste already – no fresh ginger or lemongrass here at the moment! It was quick and delicious. Perfect fast food.)

Take away food isn't always that expensive, but it is extremely expensive if we're eating it while there is good food in fridge, freezer and pantry. Particularly if it's taking the place of something perishable. 

You could do this. 

If it wasn't arbitrarily dropped on you, like this challenge was, and you could be a bit prepared, I wonder if you could go a whole month without shopping at all. 

Could you?


32 Comments on “You can do this

Melanie @ M&M
April 11, 2012 at 11:20 pm

Great, great post! I am just in awe that you are still hanging in there. I don’t live in an environment that lends itself to bartering very well, but I did make an apple pie yesterday rather than tossing the smushy apples! My family was thrilled. Thanks so much for the link up as well. It’s nice to know someone is reading my posts. LOL!

April 12, 2012 at 12:52 am

I think this is amazing. I know I could do it, but the boys in my life would complain – I have a pantry full of food, but it’s not fast food and I always get the “Mom there’s nothing to eat.” To which I respond “Lazy! Try making something!” I love how you are using everything and how it all matters. We could all learn from this. Keep up the good work! Very inspiring!

Lisa A
April 12, 2012 at 3:54 am

I normally just lurk, but wanted you to know how inspired I am by your challenge and your rising to meet it. I planted a bunch of sprouty potatoes today, thanks to you. And I’m pondering just how long our family could go without shopping as well. Milk and eggs would be our sticking point, I think. Good luck and Keep Going!

April 12, 2012 at 5:14 am

I am living your challenge, well almost. So far in the last three weeks, I have only bought a few necessaries like light bulbs, detergent, etc. All food coms from the pantry, garden or farm. This post of yours could have been mine…. from the feelings about leftovers, the making dinner out of what looks like an empty pantry, and being inspired by what’s lurking at the back of the pantry. I love the way that I am more creative with my cooking when challenged.

April 12, 2012 at 6:39 am

Thanks Melanie, and you’re totally welcome! xx

April 12, 2012 at 6:41 am

I’m honestly not sure if the kids have fully cottoned on! But yes, if Adam mutinied I’d be out too. In fact, my Sydney friend who made up the challenge is now out – her husband went to the shops and stocked up and it was too tempting not to use the food!

April 12, 2012 at 6:42 am

Hi Lisa, nice to meet you! Are hens a possibility? I agree, they would both be my sticking point if I didn’t have a ready egg supply!

April 12, 2012 at 6:44 am

Ha! Yes we haven’t run out of lightbulbs yet and I still have the makings for detergent. Our issue is our ridiculous absence of garden! (Apart from Mum’s little one.) If we had a proper vegie garden this would make more sense! Oh for an apple tree.

April 12, 2012 at 6:44 am

Inspiring Fi πŸ™‚

Your food looks and sounds absolutely delicious. It reminds me a little of when travelling or camping – when all you have to think about is what you are going to eat for dinner. I like that simplicity.

and yep – we could go a month. We have done once before. It made me appreciate friends and community and also dried fruit. We ran out of fruit really quickly since then and since I’ve increased the stash of dried fruit in our pantry.

I’m enjoying your challenge. x t.

April 12, 2012 at 7:21 am

Why does this challenge terrify me??? Would love to do it and think I could for awhile, but man ………

alison @thisbloominglife
April 12, 2012 at 7:50 am

I’ve been thinking this over for an hour or so. We are totally stuffed with food in the cupboards and freezers. I think I would do ok for a week, and then I would freak out as we would be out of milk etc. and don’t have a network to barter with. The pie pastry looks amazing, any chance you would share the recipe or is it the one for the apple pie?

April 12, 2012 at 7:51 am

I’ve never bartered, but we’ve often lived from our stockpile for extended periods when the need has arisen. I don’t keep mine for Armagedden, more for the oh crap, I have a mountain of bills to pay and the car has broken down and the dog is sick. Then I feel very thankful that I stockpile.

I am really enjoying your posts about this.

April 12, 2012 at 8:40 am

I really liked your paragraph about the abandoned bread and jam. So true.

April 12, 2012 at 9:14 am

Wow Fi, I’m so impressed that you’ve not only managed to hang in there but you’re loving the experience and doing so well with it. Serious kudos to you. Keep going! x

April 12, 2012 at 10:16 am

It would depend on the time of year. I’m impressed that you are managing at this time of year as it would be the worst for us – the chooks are moulting and off the lay, the vegie patch is a post-summer mess of weeds and the odd pumpkin, all the lettuce has bolted. We could dig up some spuds from the odd patch here and there, and there’s still passionfruit, babaco and the last of the blackberries. There would be a bit of sorrel and some parsley. The family would go into revolt the third night of “sorrel suprise”, I suspect!
I must investigate these secret milk arrangements you folk have going on down there. There must be a Wollongong farmer who would make a similar quiet exchange…

April 12, 2012 at 10:17 am

Have you worked out how much money you have saved (not spent) in the past 17 days? Your bank balance will be healthier by the end of the challenge, that’s for sure. This has been such an interesting project and your cooked from scratch food looks amazing. You go girl!


April 12, 2012 at 11:18 am

I really admire your challenge. I’ve been trying to cook from leftovers, make things go further with food lately too. It sparks more creative cooking I find when you have to make do. Eggs and cream can do wonders for just about anything. I wonder if on a drive you might find some side of the road fruit trees (perhaps a little inland?) as we’ve done this before. Also many neighbours don’t use the fruit on their fruit trees, so are happy to give it away.

April 12, 2012 at 1:49 pm

I am always surprised at what I find at the back of the pantry when I clean it out and put it all back in neatly. It’s a job I have been meaning to do, but being pregnant and then with a newborn, I haven’t gotten around to it. You have inspired me to make it a priority and see if we can’t use more of it up and shop less, or use that money to stock up on the essentials. πŸ™‚

April 12, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Hi Fi,
This challenge is excellent. I think my stockpiles of legumes and my pressure cooker would see me through a few weeks of dinners. I think a scheme like this Fruit Rescue in the Southern Highlands could be an option for fruit – we need one of these locally –

Perhaps we could barter some of your blogging know-how for some apples from my Green Box order, to help us revamp the Green Box website? Email me if you’re keen πŸ™‚

April 12, 2012 at 7:12 pm

I have soooo much food in my cupboard and freezer yet for some reason this idea fills me with terror. What would i do! Crazy i dont know what i find so concerning i might have to give this some more thought.

Christie-Childhood 101
April 12, 2012 at 7:23 pm

You are amazing! How do you feel about a family of boarders πŸ™‚

April 12, 2012 at 8:09 pm

I can’t believe how well you are doing! It’s inspirational!

April 12, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Its funny, one of my dearest friends and best barterers lives NEXT DOOR to the local supermarket and she was in a spin about it closing for Good Friday. Funny. You could totally do it. Big bag of rice. Thats my tip.

April 12, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Only if you promise to go into labour down the back paddock. Really test out our self sufficiency?!? xx

April 12, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Very inspiring , one day after we get our vegie garden growing I’d be tempted to try it ….

April 13, 2012 at 11:55 am

It is the apple pie one! i.e. my standard, which i think was Nigella’s originally. Half the fat to flour: so for this one 250g plain flour + 125g cold butter, in a food processor with one egg, then bind with cold water. Quicker than defrosting a bought one! xx

April 13, 2012 at 11:55 am

I haven’t, but I should xx

April 13, 2012 at 11:58 am

jane we HAVE to organise this type of thing round here!! Have emailed you about trade for blog-know-how for apples, LOVE to, don’t know much about blogging though! πŸ˜‰

April 14, 2012 at 6:13 am

Stockpiling has saved us more than once…
when Hub was unexpectedly jobless because the company he worked for just didn’t open up one Monday and never again.
When the refrigerator died (luckily, I had coolers and a freezer still) and we had to spend $800 we hadn’t planned for (lived with coolers for 3 weeks to save up enough cash and lived off the pantry & freezer to add our food budget to the cause).
When we were robbed, including cash, TV, microwave, guns, heirlooms, etc. as well as having to repair the damage.
Expensive car repairs.
And most recently, Hub mostly out of work for 3 years with me working sporadically – between freezer stockpile and pantry stockpile we were able to keep our monthly grocery budget for feeding 6 (mom, 3 adult males, 16 & 13 year old males – hungry guys) to $150 a month.
We are now on government assistance (food stamps) and they think we need $943 a month for food! I am using that buying power to restock.
Things we had the hardest time replacing when things got really tight and the stockpile was getting low: fats – butter, lard, coconut oil, olive oil; powdered or canned milk; canned or dried fruit, nuts, seeds; sugar; cheese; chicken feed. These are things we are focusing on now. With the chickens, we don’t need to buy eggs but one must plan how to feed them and I’m doing my research on that.

For those totally freaked by the whole idea, start by just planning a week where you don’t do any shopping. Make a menu, do some cooking ahead so you aren’t tempted to do take away, make snacks for the kids & lunches, make sure to make at least one meal from stuff in the back corner of your pantry. It will amaze you how capable you are and how liberating it is.

April 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Following your challenge has inspired me to be more conscious of what I buy. have been making do as much as possible and stretching food as far as I can. I remember when I was a child my grandparents always bartered with friends and neighbours to meet their needs, it’s something I think we could all be doing more of.

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April 16, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Food plays vital role in every person’s life. You share such beautiful and delicious dishes with us. Its look is too good and amazing.

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April 25, 2012 at 7:39 pm

I read your amazing blog. Its really very nice and you done fantastic job. Because Brade make at home is not very easy. And You done this work so I appreciate your work.


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