02 September 2015

Living off Our Stockpile Part 2

As the stockpile grows I need to be more creative with the storage - we live in a pretty average house, meaning lots of empty space and not a lot of cupboards!
I've added more sugar, honey, tuna, baked beans, tomato soup and plain flour and toilet paper to the stockpile this week.

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.

I've started:

Lettuce - Ice Berg
Spring onions
Mini cabbages
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)
Vietnamese mint
Rock Melon
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.

These frames will support the climbing beans as they grow. I have more of them that will support the tomatoes too.
I'll start another 12 tomatoes in a month and that will stagger them to produce all summer and into the autumn next year. This keeps us in eating tomatoes and I have enough to make sauce, semi-dried tomatoes and bottled tomatoes without having a huge glut to preserve all at once. It also means that we get our own fresh tomatoes well into winter - this year the kids were still picking tomatoes while we were away in June; because I don’t buy tomatoes out of season I am very grateful for the few we get in winter.

Seeds planted in recycled toilet rolls, the put into a recycled blanket bag to act as a mini hot house 
The seedlings are all in toilet roll planters (just recycled toilet rolls) that can be planted straight into the garden. These are really good for plants that don't like to have their roots disturbed (beetroot, carrots, turnip, parsnip, spring onions and so on).  Because it's still not very warm I put them into blanket bag hot houses and sat them on the back verandah.

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.

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  1. Wow Cath your stockpile is pretty huge, i cant wait till ive collect even half of that lol Ive been digging over my little veg patch to get it ready for planting to. Im also trying to strike some capsicum seeds, ive never done it before and i can see them poking their lil heads through already. Im hoping to get Tomato's, beetroot, capsicum, leeks, zucchini's ,peas and cucumber at least in by the end of September and im going to try coriander again ( for the 4th time) and see if i can have success this year, im so excited to start growing some of our food :)

    1. It has to be huge Karen, we're a big(ish) family of 5 and I'm hoping it will feed us next year with only buying fresh milk, cheese, eggs, the fruit and veg we can't grow and maybe some meat/chicken. Or we toss the kids out to fend for themselves and it will feed Wayne and I for two years easily ;) Not sure they're quite ready to take the plunge and move out of home yet though.

      I can't grow coriander either, or sweet potato and I love sweet potato. I've tried and tried and it just dies. But we can grow other things, and that's more than a lot of people even try to do, so we're both ahead already :)

  2. I just love how organised you are. It's such a great motivation to get myself as organised as you! Thanks for another great post Cath :)

    1. It's easy to be organised if you just remember to put things back the way you found them - or so my Mum always says! I like things neat and tidy, I don't function in a muddle, although the rest of the family seem to find it easy :) One thing at a time Rebecca and you'll get there. And remember,what works for me or someone else may not work for you so feel free to adapt the ideas you come across to suit yourself. Once I started doing that instead of trying to fit our needs into someone else's organisation it was easy :)

  3. I LOVE your stockpile Cath! I have started cleaning out and organising my pantry so I can keep adding to my stockpile.

    I admire your vegetable planting plan and I hope it goes well.

    I managed to get tomatoes right through winter this year, I picked a couple only yesterday. I have planted some tomato seeds and they are up, now I just wait until its a bit warmer. I am using leftover guttering from Phil's shed to plant things like baby spinach and leafy lettuces. I will place this under our shaded area outside.

    We had rain yesterday and today so I will be out in the garden tomorrow to pull out the remaining weeds while the soil is wet. I grow celery, it is like a weed and comes up everywhere when it rains. I use it a lot in our green juices. I usually grow carrots, but not this year as they are pretty cheap to buy. I do grow potatoes but not enough to keep us supplied with them all the time,we would need to grow an awful lot.

    We are thinking about getting a plum and peach tree too. We only have nectarines and apricots in stone fruit. Wendy suggested I try a raspberry bush, so I am thinking about it. I will go and price one this week. I bet they will be too expensive...

    Happy gardening,


    1. The stockpile is growing Tania, getting bigger by the day almost. It's been a great motivation for me to sort out cupboards and shelves and find storage for things.

      Don't you just love having fresh tomatoes in winter and not paying for them? I think home grown veggies, especially tomatoes, taste so much better than anything you can buy from the supermarket or greengrocer. I used to have the strawberries in guttering, then I moved them to a couple of beds. I'm thinking of herbs in the guttering this year or perhaps the lettuce - something with shallow roots.

      I don't have the space to grow enough potatoes either. I usually plant 6 - 8 bags and then just really enjoy them and buy the rest we need. And carrots are the same. I can get 10kg for $3 so I slice, shred and cut them into slivers and freeze them. I've never had celery grow like a weed, I'd love that!

      Are you a Diggers Club member? They have raspberry canes at the moment. I don't grow berries either, again space is the issue. I need to get the most food I can from the space I have so vertical space is for beans, peas, squash, tomatoes and this year the pumpkins! After they took over the yard last year I've decided they can climb a trellis this year. Hopefully you'll be able to get a couple and have your very own home grown raspberries - what a luxury!

  4. All those oranges, I would be also using the rinds to extract the orange oil in vinegar or meths for cleaning. You growing lavender from cuttings is a revelation - I am going to have to research how to do that.

    1. 65kg to date Phil - that's a lot of oranges :)

      I use the whole orange, rind and all, in baking and marmalade. I don't juice them, we don't drink juice. I have put some peels in vinegar, or saved to make candied and chocolate peel from the fruit we eat. I have the bottom of the fridge full of lovely fruit for us to eat. Oranges will keep for weeks in the fridge.

      Most of them though have been processed for baking or made/will be made into marmalade for Christmas hampers. Mum now has a freezer full of oranges or bags of processed oranges. Frozen oranges make great ice blocks in summer, they only take a few minutes to soften enough to be able to separate the segments and eat them like little ice blocks - then the peels will be either put into vinegar or candied.

      Lavender from cuttings easy - snip young shoots, strip them of the flowers and 3/4 of the leaves. I sit them in a glass of water until they start to shoot, then put them into pots. Keep them somewhere sunny and a little warm - mine are in the kitchen - until they start to shoot new leaves, then move them outside. Once they are about 15cm high they can go into the garden. So easy, if I can do it anyone can.

      Some folk just put the cuttings straight into a pot of soil but I don't have as much success with that method.

  5. Hi Cath you are an inspiration I love reading all the tips will certainly try to use as many as I can
    Marlene Holmes

  6. Hi. I just started reading your blog and I am inspired. I live in Southern California and we have a problem with moles/gophers digging up our plants and grass. Do you have any ideas for starting a garden that will be safe from these pests? Also rabbits and squirrels?
    Brenda Towey

    1. Hi Brenda and welcome!

      We don't have gophers or moles but we do battle with rabbits, possums, foxes and birds (and the birds make the most mess!) here in Melbourne.

      How big is your garden going to be? I have raised beds - they are 600mm high - about 24 inches and I love them. They're high enough that I don't need to bend to work in them and keep most pests away.

      Or you can make a spray up using water, dishwashing detergent and tabasco or similar hot sauce and spray the plants every couple of days.

      I've also heard that they don't like the smell of blood and bone type fertilisers. That would serve a double purpose - keep the pests away and help keep the garden soil healthy.


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