As you know, since November I’ve been working and living in Brisbane during the week and returning to the farm (and Pete) on Friday afternoons. Even though there are many temptations to spend money in the city, our savings account has continued to increase, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on frugal city living, starting with food.
stir fry lunches ready to go
Every day I watch my work mates leave the office to buy lunch. When I started the job here I decided I would not be buying food and so far I have stuck to this even though I only have a limited kitchen in my unit. I’ve written before about our habit of freezing leftovers, and that is how we avoid buying lunches, there is always something in the freezer to take for lunch. I have also taken frozen leftovers to eat for dinner through the week and Pete has that option too if he doesn’t feel like cooking. Each weekend we cook up a big batch of something in the slow cooker and top up the freezer supplies again. We cook things like casseroles, curries, soups, bolognaise, chow mien, stir fries (the last two not in the slow cooker). A roast or a packet of 12 sausages will also last us through the week, with a few extra veges cooked at dinner to take for lunch. Buying lunch is not only expensive ($5-6/day at best, up to $15/day if you get something fancy), but there is also the temptation to buy high fat, high sugar junk, anything you make at home is going to be better food. Homecooked meals only cost a few dollars a day, so its possible to waste huge amount by buying lunch each day compared to bringing something from home.
The other way to save money is to make and grow your own. Now I realize that its harder to grow your own veges in the city, but at least give it a try, even if you manage to grow a few things, they will save you money, and many people do have successful gardens, so it must be possible (sorry I can’t provide much advice in this area). But apart from veges, the thing that always surprises me is when I see people buying yoghurt, this is something that you can make at home very cheaply and easily. Even if you just use Easiyo packets you will still save money, but if you progress to my milk powder method, it will cost you only a few dollars per litre. Here's my yoghurt instructions if you want to give it a try. If you have time, making your own bread also saves money, even if you buy organic flour like I do, its cheaper than the supermarket bread (the good bread, not the nasty cheap stuff) and doesn’t contain all the additives, see my bread making instructions here. I could also go on about fermented fizzy drinks and pickles and sourdough cake starter, but they are not so much necessities as bread and yoghurt!
In the city there are actually more opportunities to buy cheap fruit and veges compared to the country because the farmers from all different regions bring their produce in the city. We go to our local farmer’s market at Nanango once a month and support local farmers as far as possible, but there is often not much variety grown locally. The Brisbane markets have far more variety and its much cheaper to buy directly from growers than from a supermarket. If you buy locally and in season, you will save money too. I have been enjoying the Wednesday markets in the Brisbane CDB in Library Square. The key is to use what you have at hand rather than trying to buy everything required by a recipe, no matter whether it is in season or not.