Thursday, September 20, 2012


Sorry to those expecting a craft post, or a light hearted picture post today. I try to keep this blog true to where I am in life, what makes me happy, and sometimes, what concerns me.

For lately I can't help but feel worried at the quickening pace the cost of living has taken. On a steady climb the past few years, it feels as if we have suddenly veered off onto a steep walking track, where the incline is unlike any that our present generation has experienced, heading into the direction of the unknown.

Supermarket prices have been steadily climbing. As has petrol. But it is the electricity costs, and just how much it has jumped up this financial year that is especially a cause for concern. Because we all know, that like petrol, it too will be passed on through the entire chain.

Several years ago now, I used to buy all our bread, laundry powder, paper towels, toilet cleaner, surface spray, nappies, tissues, several types of cereals, cordial, salad in bags, packaged biscuits and flavoured tubs of yoghurt. It's been a long time since I've regularly bought those things, and yet I've never seen our grocery bill climb so high.

We have solar hot water and yet our electricity bill is double what it was when we first lived in this house three years ago.

 I worry about what this will mean for us in the next few years. I worry about those less fortunate than us that are already struggling to make ends meet.

So what can we do? I've been asking myself this lately.

We already live fairly simply. With a fair sized vegie garden, though not very productive at this time of year, and with fruit trees that are yet to produce, the latter is more of a long term project at this point in time.

I buy bulk flour, from which I make most of our bread, pastry and other baked goods. I make my own laundry powder and clean with vinegar, bicarb soda and eucalyptus oil. We use cloth nappies, use handkerchiefs instead of tissues and use cloth napkins. All of which makes a definite difference in our grocery bill. And yet we are still spending more than ever before.

Local food is not really an option, except for meat. There are no local commercial growers, no local dairies, no local fruit shop. 

It is true that I like to buy better quality ingredients, and organically when I can, as I believe cheap, inferior food will cost us in other ways. But it concerns me that this is not an option for many, and for our family, for how much longer? Will our remaining quality producers struggle to survive?

Personally, we have discussed going off the grid. We've talked about buying a cow, keeping a pig, ducks and chickens. We know we need to install a greenhouse so we can plant things like tomatoes in now instead of November. We know we need to drive less. There are so many options to consider. Some small, but some requiring substantial amounts of investment.

Have these things been on your mind lately? What are your thoughts? Ideas?


  1. Tania, you are so right to be concerned, these things are always on my mind. Worry, worry, worry, it can take over, especially when it is having such an immediate and ongoing impact. I try to think of ways to reduce our reliance on electricity and the common food supply (supermarkets). Solar is next for us I think.

  2. Do you have neighbors that garden as well? If so perhaps they grow different things than you that and you could work a trade. We are definitely feeling the pinch of the higher cost of living and are thinking we will need to drastically downsize but we are "stuck" in a house in which a lot of work needs to be done and 10 acres of raw land... can't build and move to the land so we are hoping to sell but there are no buyers. Can't make repairs on the house as there is no money but we would have a little if we didn't have the land payment - it's like laying on a multi edged blade waiting to be sliced to bits but we muddle on and hope for the best. We are thinking things will get a whole lot worse before they get better and all we can do is revert back to the life skills we should have learned from our Grandparents. Hang in there - you are not alone in your concerns.

  3. Tania here is an interesting site they do a news letter too and people have loads of good ideas.

  4. I think about these things daily. I don't know how people with dependant kids manage 'cos we barely did ten years ago when all our kids were at home and now it is so much worse. It makes me cross when I hear that another price hike is coming..don't they realise that the same group of people are inordinantly affected each time the prices go up. People who have few money concerns or no children are not the ones to be affected for the main part...apart from pensioners. We all just have to do the best we can and hope that these big corporations and government entities hear us and see our pain. the way..I'm hosting a giveaway for a little girl's tote bag I made yesterday..if you're interested.

  5. I agree Tania, it's scary and I don't see it getting better any time soon. The supermarket steals so much of our money and gives little in return, power is the really scary one for us. We have solar hot water and panels too but still our bills climb. I used to be the power nazi here, but lately I've been exhausted by my constant nagging and switching off, I don't know what else to do. We are doing ok at the moment but it's a concern for the future.

    cheers Kate

  6. I totally agree. We don't have the veggie garden yet but I really hope we can get started soon, we're also thinking about getting ducks for the eggs.
    For me I'm finding the food bills have almost doubled since the financial year, I used to be able to be very careful and get the majority of a fortnight shop done under $200 and it's become impossible to do a weeks worth for the same now.
    I'd like to cut meat out a few nights a week but my husband won't go for that.
    We only have one car and I do my best to walk wherever possible. I really wish I had some good answers but it is all pretty scary.

  7. I agree with you, it is scary. We just signed up for solar panels yesterday to help a little at least. We are getting a 4KW system installed in about 3 weeks time, hopefully that will help a little at least. We have basically done as much as we can in the house to cut the cost of electricity and solar was all we had left. We have only just recently moved here so as yet we have no veggie gardens but we have plans to basically turn our small backyard into a little "farm" to help us produce as much as we can. I have plans to make more of my own things as well. It is horrible when we are so focused on the almighty dollar all the time but it seems that we all need to be in order to survive at the moment. I get sick of telling the kids the word "no" when the "can I have" or "can we go" questions come up.
    I'm sorry I have no answers either, we just all have to keep sharing ideas and hope for the best I think.

    PS I love your blog :)

  8. it's not easy tania and it can become quite stressful at times. i think you do quite well at being resourceful and frugal in your kitchen. i always love seeing what you have been preparing. i don't have any answers. it certainly seems though that many people are looking for a simpler and more organic approach to life which is good. let's hope that our children and their children will one day benefit from this and not the latter with increased living costs. sadly with food and electricity those big companies have a monopoly. the simpler and better for us alternatives are never supported and invested in. this is a topic for long discussion so i won't go on too much. we are all feeling the cost of living. peter and i worry all the time. take care. xo

  9. I heard the term 'future proofing' recently and it really stuck a chord with me. As prices rise it will be the changes we make now that will help us in the future.

    We are waiting to have our solar panels installed and are saving up for a water tank in order to save money on water and electricity and be more environmentally friendly. We make do and mend. I make things from scratch. I have a veggie patch. Yesterday I swapped my home grown lettuce for fresh eggs from a neighbour.

    Partly I do these things so that we can afford for me to be a full time stay at home Mum, partly I do these things because I enjoy them. But when times get tough, luxuries like going to a concert or going away are the first things to go.

  10. So true Tanya.... I've recently returned from 6 weeks in Austria and was dismayed to see the prices of vegies in our shops when I got back. Almost $10 per kg for tomatoes? and $4.50 for a lettuce? Food is much much cheaper over there and I had supposed that perhaps I'd gotten used to the cheaper prices but your post reminds me that we pay too much here. Why? when we have such a great country to grow food in? Especially here in Tas..... yes the power prices do have a roll on effect and it IS a concern but why the huge difference between the two countries?
    I often wonder how our children are going to view the pricey life that we bequeath them?

  11. we've installed solar and now instead of paying an electricity bill they are paying us each month. We have to work the system by using most of our electricity at off peak times (at night and weekends) but with a bit of forward planning it's easy enough. It is a bit of an expense to install initially but it pays itself off. Have you considered putting together a local veggie group? We run a not for profit group where the group buys veggies wholesale from the supplier and split them evenly between us. Saves us lots of cash. Supermarket prices are really ridiculous nowadays.

  12. Tania...i have been doing a lot of thinking about this too lately!
    Like you i try to cut down the costs by baking bread and lunchbox goodies, making washing powder and cleaning products, using cloth nappies and keeping a vegie patch, we also keep a few chooks for eggs.I also try to do a lot of frugal fun activities with the twins rather than using many expensive paint and craft materials, i think many feel there must be these expensive materials for 'quality'fun which is why i blog about other more frugal and recycled ideas with the girls....however, our bill continues to go up too and wonder just what we are doing wrong?!!
    Electricity i fear is going to become something of a luxury good soon...not to mention petrol. I have no answers i'm afraid...except to say that i think we must remember that these small efforts and changes we make for our family and the budget is at least worthwhile and obviously necessary.
    I do worry what sort of world my girls are growing into though...

  13. I have the same concerns as you and have found myself at a loss for what to do. I fear that our hands are tied in certain aspects of the bigger picture, though I am continually searching for alternative answers to some of the scarier questions. Everything you have mentioned that you have done and are doing are all wonderful steps and will continue to help you in the long run (and they all inspire me to do a bit more of what you're already doing).

    Two things you didn't mention that have helped us immensely are 1)putting together our own set of grow lights so we could start seedlings indoors earlier than usual. A greenhouse would work just as well, but we don't have the outdoor space and could spare a bit of room in our laundry room 2)Do you preserve your garden bounties in the warm months for use when the weather chills? As you approach your growing season, it is something to consider. Whether it is water bath canning, pressure canning, dehydrating or freezing, it'll all keep for later, which will help with those grocery bills :-)

    By the way-Thank you for talking about the hard things. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one thinking about such things.

  14. Hit the nail on the head as usual Tania. I worry a lot too. And it's like we're already trying our best to be as frugal as possible and yet the bills just keep rising regardless. Sometimes I wonder if it's just this part of the world that's suffering or if everyone else in the world is feeling the same? I have thought long and hard about going back to work part time to help with the finances but that in itself is fraught with problems.

  15. We are in the same boat as you. We are a one wage family and are using less of everything and I cook almost everything from scratch. despite this we are struggling to put food on the table some weeks. Its worse when things break down and are non-repairable-my lawnmower comes to mind! We have been talking for some time about taking the plunge and going off-grid, its just we faint at the upfront cost of it.

  16. we have swapped to solar electricity, and are hoping to get a small water tank, the garden and fruit trees are finally showing signs of progress fingers crossed we can keep them alive over summer (was just looking at weather info for the coming year, apparently its going to be lots of heatwaves, high bush fire risks, thunder storms and the highest temps we've seen in 3 years. bugger!)the rising costs of living is always at the back of my mind.

  17. I have been thinking about future proofing as well and have put solar panels on the roof, are fully self suffiecient with water and have a huge vegie garden and have chooks. We catch fish from the sea across the road from the house so that's some of our protein. I make all my own cleaners and stockpile when I see stuff I use on special. Then I shop from my pantry. There is a great website here in Australia called where loads of like minded people help each other out with ideas on how to save money in a variety of area.

  18. I read the SimpleSavings website and I am shocked at how much you have to pay for food in Australia/NZ compared to our prices in the UK.
    We have the same challenges, though, in that our fuel costs are rising - I recently changed our electricity supplier to cut the bill to a cheaper tariff, and within three months, they are raising our monthly payment - OK it is still less than the old supplier, but it is going up nonetheless.
    We live in a rural village with no mains gas so we rely on heating oil to run our boiler, and the price of heating oil is a constant challenge - we are always shopping around to find the best price, and there are various co-ops that we use to club together with neighbours to get lower prices too.
    Most of my work is done on a voluntary basis in the village school, the church and a gym club, and so I don't earn hardly anything. I have also been considering finding some kind of work, but I have some health problems which might make me unreliable in that situation - it is better for me to be able to work when I am able and to manage my conditions. The other trouble with working is that I am concerned that I would then have less time to do the moneysaving things which I do now, and could wipe out the extra income that I might make.

    We are clearly all in this together with you, Tania xx

  19. It is so great to hear all the positive things people are doing but there seems to be a lot of fear out there. This time of change needs to be seen as exciting as well as challenging. We have been spoiled rotten over the last 60-70 years. We now have the chance to put all those skills that all our ancestors have used back into use. We have the advantage of being able to access information from the internet and use technologies such as solar power. Fear not....humans have been surviving for a long long time without the luxuries we currently take for granted.

  20. Great post today Tania. It is getting harder and harder. You are right, we have done all the right things but still the costs rise...$9 - $13 a kilo for tomatoes is utterly ridiculous and I refuse to buy them...We do most of what you do, solar, rain water in storage, grow our own vegies, make laundry detergent, cleaning products etc.

    I dont know what else we are can do. The prices cant keep rising at the rate they are, how will people be able to survive, especially the poor?

    Take care,


  21. We too are thinking of the future, my husband reads and reads and the things he is learning are frigtning. I worry too I know that we will all eventually be having to go back to living more simply. At present we are trying to manage on my income and some income I make working casually. My partner has been unable to work since May, he has had no income since August we are really making big cuts on our spending. I cannot buy a coffee and am budgeting $100 a week to feed six of us. I have been so surprised at how much I can make that stretch. I still buy organic chicken, mince and bulk bought organic staples. I have to shop at Aldi or I simply couldn't do it. I make so many things from scratch and I am actually taking great pride in what I can do. The hardest thing is saying No to the kids when they ask for all those extra things, that is really hard. If you can take any comfort from the idea that People like yourself will be Ok in a global financial crisis, you have so many skills that will see you able to push on. These skills will be useful for bartering and for keeping your costs down.
    I think going off the grid sounds fantastic!
    Keep smiling :)

  22. I really get what you're saying, Tania. Those are all some of the reasons why we sold our last property. There were some bigger contributing fatcors that I won't go into here but the icing on the cake was the cost of living and how much it had zoomed where wages hadn't. Although we have moved to more land we have down sized the house and mortgage and the rates have been cut by half as well as cutting costs on water bills {none here now which is great} and a few other things. I was a big organic shopper and would spend a lot on groceries. two years ago, when our financial difficulties hit, I had to start buying plain brand stuff. I was mortified. But, as things are now better and I'm able to buy better food again and support our local people a bit once again, I've learnt how to be much more humble and way less judgemental on what people put in their shopping trolleys. It's so hard to buy healthy food and promote locally grown goods when you're financially strapped. I don't think I truly understood that until I was in that spot myself. I hope you guys are doing OK and not feeling the pinch too greatly. It sure is a tough road to travel xx

  23. Hi Tania,

    Love reading your blog – I haven’t commented before, but this post struck a chord with me so I thought I’d chime in.

    My wife and I live on an 825 square meter suburban block in Downer ACT. We dream of having some acreage to live out our vision of self sufficiency but it is impractical at the moment, so we make do with what we have.

    We are fortunate in that both of us work at the moment, myself on a wage and my wife as a successful home business operator and we take home a good amount. We don’t have kids just yet but that is on the cards for very soon, and when this time comes I’d like to leave the job that I don’t enjoy and help my wife with the business while looking after our kids.

    Since buying our house, we’ve been gradually implementing green improvements, to the point where our solar hot water system, along with our energy efficiency measures have reduced our electricity usage by 71% - documented here -

    Last year we also installed double glazing, wall cavity insulation, and improved the ceiling insulation which all came at quite a cost, but now the cost of natural gas to heat our house for three whole months of Canberra’s winter is less than $75 (this excludes the supply fee and $15 worth of gas for cooking).

    We also keep 6 hens for eggs, have planted 28 fruit, nut and olive trees of all sorts in the backyard, with plans for even more, and have about 50 square meters of land dedicated to raised bed veggie plots.

    Although these improvements have cost us a substantial amount, the theme has been to make the most of these ‘good times’ to future proof us against harder times to come, whether self imposed (i.e. collapsing down to one wage), or forced upon us in terms of economically difficult times.

    The other extremely important focal point for us is to shed our mortgage debt, and at the end of this year we will have paid down more than half our mortgage with the bank – saving us substantial amounts in interest and giving us years of breathing space for the future. It has been quite difficult getting to this point, especially slogging it out in a job that I find soul-destroying, but we are slowly realising our dream and we can see a light on the horizon.

  24. Looks like lots of us are very concerned as we well should be! We have had our 3rd electricity increase this year and it's not just the price of electricity that keeps going up but also the price of the admin component....what do they expect us to do when we can no longer afford electricity I wonder? Are they pushing us into solar energy period you have to wonder but who can afford to swap over right now? Crazy...we have something like the 3rd most expensive electricity in the world! What's that about I wonder??? Now get your tomatoes in NOW any which way you can...grow them in doors on window sills if you have to instead of a green house as tomatoes are expected to be $12 a kg this season???? I feel like we are in a depression of sorts but maybe not from lack of employment but soaring living and housing costs and wages that aren't rising to feels like we are all going to HAVE to just stop spending money and really buckle down. Supposed to be an extreme summer this year as well...far out...I'm planting up every seed I have in the hope that some survive and bear fruit. Do what you can I say and stay clear of the shops and online stores I say....oh and invest in a moonshine kit....will see you through merrily and not to mention be an excellent side line ;)

  25. Like other have said, this post rings a cord for me. My husband and I talk about it all the time and I wonder how people cope.

    We make everything from scratch (cooking, cleaning), use handkerchiefs, have solar, use electricity as much as we can during off peak. We have 4 established fruit trees, 1 well established almond tree that came with the house. I've put in new fruit trees and berries this winter. And am working on a vegie patch to plant next month. We hope to get chooks for eggs soon too.

    Heating is an issue for us - we dont have a wood heater and even though this year we've tried to use our ducted as little as possible our bill was still extortionate for winter. Luckily we can pay it but I know others who cant :-(

    We too are future proofing and looking heavily at going off the grid. We installed a solar tracker recently and are slowly accumulating batteries. We hope to put in a bigger water tank. We are saving to put in underfloor insulation and wall insulation.

    I used to be able to feed us on $100 per week (with food allergies) and that is now up to $150. And the price of food just keeps going up *sigh*

  26. Somehow I haven't found our grocery bills going up, despite me lately changing to gluten free, dairy free foods. I shop at Woolworths (Sydney) and some (but not all) fresh foods are the same prices or less than they were 20 years ago, when I had to memorise fruit and veg prices because I worked in a fruit shop. In fact I find some fruit and veg so cheap that I feel for the farmers. Some are definitely more expensive though! The thing I am conscious of spending a lot on these days is school expenses. We are at the local state high school but still have to pay for camps, band fees, materials for school assignments, it all adds up on top of the school fees.
    It is wise of you to be thinking and preparing for the future. Was reading the Down to Earth book again and Rhonda reminds us to work now, (thinking of home and garden) while we have energy, because when we are older it will be harder.

  27. Hello Tania,

    This is becoming a major concern of mine as well. Especially in regards to electricity. I don't understand how it can go up so much when we hardly use any! Madness! I have just copied down your recipe for washing powder and I look forward to trying it. It is one little way to save extra.

    A couple of ways I have had to save money is by switching from the lovely Barambah organic milk which is $5.60 for 2 litres x 5 a week, to the Aldi milk which is now permeate free and only $2.00 for 2 litres. The other saving is switching from organic flour which I usually pay around $4.00 kg for to the Aldi unbleached Australian flour which is only 79 cents per kg.

    I still really love my organic products but are having to choose more carefully what I spend my money on.

    Great post!


  28. It's true so true. It's such a worry. I have been moving over to a simpler, cleaner life for a while tiny bit by bit. MAking things from scratch is not only good for us but saves money. I took up sewing for fun but that saves too. Yes we turn off power where appropriate but I know we can do more. We have a tiny yard but just installed a vege patch. We have a water tank already and a guy coming out to quote us on solar panels next week. I would love a couple of chickens but the yard is small. Seems there is a move towards the simple life for many.

  29. People need to become much more humble with their standard of living also. I'm tiring of seeing families on news reports complaining of electricity prices whilst you can see in the back ground rows and rows of down lights illuminating kitchen cupboards (!) with power guzzling appliances all over their bench tops. Not to mention the multiple plasmas including in the kids rooms. It's not that I think people should have to miss out on pleasures in life, we are fortunate in Australia to be able to have a good life, it just makes me wonder when we became entitled to cheap electricity to fund really what is quite a lavish lifestyle. Admittedly there's some things I personally use that aren't needed, I don't think people should have to go back to the stone age I just think most of us could reduce our bills by quite a lot if we reviewed what was actually necessary and realised what should be left as a luxury not an entitlement. My opinion certainly doesn't apply to people who struggle to pay bills even going without heating etc I feel a lot of compassion for them, I just wonder where did the 'middle class' go these days, it seems a lot of the time an average wage earner is living an affluent lifestyle they can't afford. I would love people to stop competing with each other & lead a simpler, more sustainable life while still enjoying a few privileges we are so fortunate to be able to have in this country.

  30. It really is a concern here too. One wage doesn't stretch like it did a few years ago and I too try to do all I can to cut the costs of living. It's hard when your ideals collide though. Whilst trying to save money on the groceries I am confronted with buying the vast anmount of Coles and Woolworths branded items (mostly imported ingredients). It's cheaper in the short term yes but like you said, will our quality Australian providers be able to survive. I'm still buying organic dairy and chicken and fruit and veg but just scrimp on all the non essentials and make as much as I can. Have you got the book, "Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila"?. Fantastic recipes for just about everything! Have a lovely week :) x

  31. Hi Tania:)
    Thanks so much for this far as I can determine no blog writers are addressing the real hardship issues (please correct me anyone if Im wrong:)I read a lot of the self-sufficent blogs and they are all wonderful and Rhonda's Down to Earth I believe has been life changing for many people who are struggling more each day.
    This is just my thoughts (should write my own blog maybe:)I truly think everything is going to get a lot worse,we have over consumed in every aspect of living!The only key is to go back to living simply,it is the only way in the future for ourselves and our families to have any chance of riding out what is to come.It blows me away when people think this is just a phase and things will get better again:(
    Thanks again, Carleene:)

  32. Tania this is a great topic and it's been interesting to read back through all the comments. At present we seem to be okay but bear in mind that we came from NZ where we were earning next to nothing and struggling to make it from one week to the next. That said, I have always cooked from scratch and made my own cleaners etc which I think helps keep costs down tremendously. In regards to power, I was raised with a father who was very, very frugal about power usage and have picked up his traits in this area and again, compared to the cost of electricity in NZ we find our bill here on the low side.
    One Area that we are struggling with being on the one income is saving a decent deposit towards our first's been a long time dream of ours which seems to get further and further from our doesn't help that we'll be transferring back to Qld next year which means taking a pay cut. If we ever do reach that goal all the hard work and making do will have been all worth it :)

  33. This is EXACTLY why we're moving to the country. We have 4 children to put through private school, i'm a housewife & my husband is on a low income. So we're going solar & my job will be to provide produce & yes, a milking cow, for us all. Raising 4 teenagers who are very athletic & hungry could be very expensive. I'm grateful i did cloth nappies & breastfed, saved us a fortune!! We recently purchased a diesel car too, HUGE difference, HUGE!! Love Posie

  34. Believe it or not, but I think it is purely because we rent that we are surviving. Our rent compared to cost of owning a mortgage is affordable. I don't know how homeowners do it. Doesn't stop me pining for my own place though! We cut costs by wanting less. Having said that, we could still cut costs further. Thanks for this insightful discussion (really enjoyed all the contributing commenters too!). BTW, I have barely blinked at blogs for weeks now but I searched yours out and have enjoyed visiting today, catching up. Have you published your accidental crockpot ricotta recipe? I'd like to give it a go. And you have inspired me to try the school house tunic. Really like reading your words and absorbing your pics. xx

  35. I missed this post Tania whilst we were away but glad I scrolled down and read your thoughts, and all the comments by your readers. seems so many people are experiencing the same dilemma. We are moving to 13 acres in the country end of next year. We are building a n sustainable house, and will have chooks, a veggie garden, fruit trees and try to make most of what we need. my husband even wants a cow to milk! I try and make most cleaning products and have only just converted to homemade laundry powder. I sew a lot, mend alot, and make homemade gifts all the time. we also really want to teach our children skills that will last them all their life! Great post Tania! xx

  36. We moved 6 months ago to a rural property with no town water and solar panels that provide all of our electricity needs. We received $32 back from the company last quarter!
    It is certainly a concern as prices continue to rise. And as you say, how are those less mindful than you actually coping? How will they do it?
    I think community living and being self sufficient either on your own or with others who you love and trust around you is ideal. We do this with a few close families. We are also getting our veggie patches under way to provide us with more of the essentials. I also make my own laundry detergent, clean with basic natural cleaners and am generally mindful of what I am buying etc.
    I love reading your blog and look forward to following your journey with this closely. It's certainly a tricky situation.

  37. If you haven't already, I highly recommend you read the Down to Earth Blog. She's also from Austrailia. Recently wrote a book about her & her husbands own journey to living simply.
    Love your blog ;)


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