I will need to start looking to restock the freezer with meat soon. I've been waiting for mince and lamb to come on sale, as soon as it does I'll be able to buy up. I've put money aside for a meat shop and I've been watching the Tasman emails, as soon as the prices drop I'll stock up. Keeping us in good meat and chicken is the one thing I think I'll struggle with on our reduced grocery budget but I have a plan in mind that works on paper. I just need to test it in reality, then that problem will be solved (hopefully) for 2016.
While we have red meat, chicken or fish 4 - 5 nights a week, we don't eat as much as most people. And meatless/vegetarian meals or freezer meals 2 - 3 nights a week keep the cost down too.
Over the last two weeks I've refined the inventories - they are done. Now I'm working on the shopping lists, spreading the cost over the next four monthly shops so my planned stockpile will be finished by December, and using just our regular grocery money. It all looks good on paper, so this week I've started planning how to keep us in fresh food without having to spend money.
One of the easiest ways to eat well and save money is to grow your own food, that's a no brainer really.
I've had a garden for years. Of course over those years it has developed into a much bigger and more productive garden than it was in the beginning. Until July this year it fed us year round without a break.
Because we were away for all of June and some of July I didn't do any succession planting, instead harvesting what I could before we left, leaving the rest for the kids to pick and then pulling the plants out when they were finished after I came home.
That means that right now in the garden there is very little other than some fruit (lemons, mandarins, oranges and limes), the catnip I'm nursing along to make bug spray for summer, a little parsley and Vietnamese mint and the strawberries.
So if we are to get back to eating from our garden and having enough to preserve for next winter I need to get seedlings started and quickly.
I started the tomatoes a couple of weeks ago, and they've come up. They'll be ready to plant by the end of September, once the soil has warmed up a little and the days are sunnier.
The last two weekends I have had some time to potter so I've weeded and the boys dug through compost to ready the beds for spring planting and they look so tidy and fresh.
But more exciting still I have been able to get a lot of seeds planted.
Lettuce - Ice Berg
Beans - Lazy Housewife, Giant Stuttgart and Rattlesnake
Capsicum - Chinese Giant and Quadrato D'Asti Giollo
Cucumbers - Lebanese and Gherkin
Tomatoes - Amish Paste, Mortgage Lifter, Giant Throwing (I can't remember the correct name, but they are huge and so meaty - great for salads and sandwiches)
Lavender (from cuttings)
Because there is nothing in the garden I've started 12 of most things. In three weeks I'll start another six lettuce and cabbage and start zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli and bok choy, then start another six of each three weeks after and so on. This way we'll have a steady supply all through spring, summer and autumn next year of these veggie we eat all the time.
Tom is also keen on putting in some more fruit trees. At the moment we have apple, lemon, lime, orange, mandarin and grapefruit trees. He thinks plums and peaches would be nice to have and he's right, they would be. It was his idea so he's in charge of finding suitable trees at a price we can afford to extend our little orchard.
Not having to buy fruit and vegetables saves us a lot of money - at least $40 a week. When tomatoes are $7 a kilo at Christmastime, I'll have plenty to pick, I won't be rationing them. Ditto cucumbers, zucchini, capsicums, cabbages and every other vegetable you can buy at the supermarket.
I usually only buy potatoes, carrots and onions (and I always buy them in bulk and preserve them). This year I'll also be buying celery. It takes a long time to grow and that garden space is valuable when I can buy bunches of celery for $1 each and I've just had an email to say they're $2 for 3 bunches at Bush Park F&V - 67 cents a bunch so I'll be buying a few right now to freeze for next winter.
I'm also buying more oranges. Bushy Park have dropped the price to 5 cents a kilo for today only and that is too good a price to pass up. At that price I'm happy to just juice them, but I'll make more marmalade and freeze whole oranges and processed oranges too. I rang Mum to ask if she had room in her freezer because mine is full. She has so as soon as they're processed I'll run them over to her house and fill up her freezer :)
I'm feeling much more confident about keeping us in fruit and veg now. I can see the garden beds filling with food, food that I won't need to buy, and it gives a very nice feeling. And planting more than usual, so I will have plenty to preserve for winter and spring next year, is reassuring too.