Living Better on Less or with Less.

‘May you live in interesting times-‘ is a Chinese proverb or maybe it’s a curse.

 

woman in gray tank top showing distress
Life is stressful right now

 

We certainly are living in interesting times right now, as we live with bad and then worsening news, day after day.  But some people have had it much worse. They are our grandparents or great grandparents who lived through both shortages and war. Their wisdom can help us now as they had learned how to stretch their budgets and make a dollar go further.

With incomes disappearing and shelves in the stores emptying these tips can help us.I am not a dietitian,  a cookery expert or pretending to be superwoman. But I have been living on a limited income for a while and along the way, I have learnt how to improve my quality of life without spending wads of cash! These life skills can help us now

two adult women beside each other
Older people have much to teach us.

Do you know how to shop?

Any fool can spend money, but how do you plan to feed yourself for a week? Apply your intelligence to the project and consider a rough menu plan for the week. I cater for 2 adults, while you may cook for more, or you may eat alone.

Today shopping can be a bit of a lottery,  and you may have to adapt to what you is available in the shops. I usually stock up on bread when I can and store the extra in the freezer. It stores perfectly and can be toasted from frozen.

Know your shops and your products.

If you live in a high-priced suburb, consider shopping in your nearest cheaper area, if you can get there and not break restrictions. Not all supermarkets are the same!

close up photography of cheese
Cheese is a great basic.

 Cheese  Don’t leave that tempting big I kilo  /2.2 pound block in the fridge though, or your savings will simply disappear. Cut it into four 250gm/ approx 8 oz pieces. Leave one in the fridge and freeze the others. Grated cheese goes further in sandwiches. Cheese keeps perfectly well in the freezer.

 Chicken It is generally cheaper to buy a frozen chicken than either a fresh one or the chicken pieces. It‘s easy to cook, put it in the oven and forget it for an hour and a half or so. It should provide one or two meals and maybe some leftovers to go in soup or sandwiches.

 Oatmeal Poor students in Scotland used to be sent to university with a sack of oatmeal. It’s filling and can be eaten hot or cold. Hot as porridge and cold as a basis for easy home-made muesli. My next post will be  Recipes for the Needy Greedy. I buy store brand Rolled Oats (not quick oats). Of course, the name brand oats cost two or even three times more.

If you can read or watch YouTube, you can cook!

Australians spend about one-third of their income on convenience foods, takeaways, and supermarket ready to eat meals. If you are like me, they can end up leaving you still feeling hungry. Maybe you never learnt to cook, but it’s not too late. If you can read, you can cook. Look for simple recipes online or watch on YouTube Avoid like the plague complicated recipes with a yard-long list of ingredients. Some recipe leaflets fall into this category!

photo of woman holding pan
Cooking can be fun!

The Kitchen: you know that room where the fridge and the microwave are.

Simple equipment can cover most of your cooking needs.It’s better to discover what you cook and buy what you need. A fridge is pretty much essential; a freezer (even at the top of the fridge) is great, a microwave speeds thing up but is not essential.

Quick meals and snacks.

Easy and fast lunches or dinners include the following:- Baked potato-Super speedy in the microwave, but still feasible in the oven. Takes about I hour. Top with grated cheese or baked beans. Serve with a salad or 2 vegetables. Make some fast scones, or fruit crumble and cook at the same time. Pumpkin scone recipe and fruit crumble recipe in the next post.

Tinned salmon or tuna, for salads, sandwiches and easy bakes.

Any variety of toasted sandwiches! Cheese and tomatoes on toast (use tinned tomatoes)

pizza on the black plate
I prefer to use warm tinned tomatoes to top my cheese toast

Sardines (from a store brand tin ) on toast.

Easy pizza using pitta bread, Lebanese bread or a readily bought base, tomato sauce or ketchup to thinly cover the base and whatever topping you like cheese, tomato, ham, salami, etc.

Mince can be used in a host of quick meals especially spaghetti b- bulk up by adding red lentils. Cottage pie, cook mince with gravy and put in a pie dish topped with mashed potato and bake in the oven until the top browns.

Quick stir fry: any vegetables chopped fine, bits of left-over meat or sliced ham. Soy, oyster or chilli sauce to taste. Serve over 2-minute noodles (the low-fat variety) take 2 minutes to cook.

Vegetables –  but what is in season if you can, otherwise frozen vegetable make a perfect substitute- quick and easy and no waste.

Eggs, boiled, poached, scrambled or fried. Add a couple of sausages and some baked beans to the eggs for a hearty meal. Serve on toast.

 

Proper Meals

selective focus photography of beef steak with sauce
The traditional meat and vegetables

Cooled sliced roast meat can be frozen.  I freeze in 100gm /4oz lots, which can be quickly reheated on a plate over simmering water (5mins.) Roast vegetables freeze perfectly and can be reheated in the microwave or refreshed in the oven. Details for roast meat on recipe sheet, i.e. cooking times and temperatures.

You don’t have to make it all yourself.

I like to cook- sometimes. Other days I am too tired. I keep a couple of jars of sauces that I can quickly transform into a meal. For example, Chicken Tonight Curried Chicken with Vegetables Sauce does not have to be used with just chicken. I halve the quantity (for 2) and freeze half in a plastic bag. With the rest, I make a curried prawn dish.

Curried Prawns Stir fry some onion, capsicum and mushrooms until tender, add either chicken, prawns or even tuna to the sauce. Serve over rice; I prefer to use brown rice; it takes longer to cook (30 mins) but has better nutritional qualities.

 

Baby Food and Kids Meals. 

Lots of grown-up foods can be pureed for baby. Best of all YOU know how much-added salt and sugar there is. Those tiny jars and packets soon add up to a hefty sum.

girl eating cupcake while sitting beside woman in blue denim distressed jeans
You know what is in the food you make yourself.

 

Children often eat better if given a small portion, and then offered more, if they ask. Cut sandwiches into quarters and remove the crusts if they hate them. Sneak yogurt into their diet with my recipe for Jelly Delicious, which magically separates into two layers.

Bathroom and Laundry essentials

Please consider that YOU do need a deodorant/antiperspirant as a basic. Buy one and USE it.

Laundry:

white textile
Washing dried outside smells fresh,

Experiment to find a soap powder that cleans your clothes without emptying your wallet. Wash only full loads in the machine. Hang clothes inside out if drying outside to prevent fading. Limit or do not buy clothes that need dry cleaning. Replace costly fabric conditioner with a big bottle of white vinegar, it removes soap scum and leaves fabric soft.

Soap – look and you will find plain wrap soap. Unwrap and leave it to harden so it lasts longer. For even greater savings cut the bar in two. Will your quality of life be compromised if you buy generic toilet rolls?

Kitchen sponges and cloths- work just as well and last twice as long if you cut them in half. Washing up liquid-  always rinse out the empty bottle with warm water to get more liquid to use.

Toothpaste simply ignore the commercials; you can brush your teeth perfectly well with a pea-sized blob of toothpaste. It is the time taken brushing, not the toothpaste that makes the difference.Have you tried the generic shaving foam? It works perfectly well, as do the home brand razors.

Hair  Do you need to shampoo every day? Consider using less shampoo, how much dirt could there be in one day? Some thick shampoos work just as well if when the bottle is half full, you add about half as much water. The same trick works with conditioner.

Skincare for everybody: male or female

person applying hand cream
Use sun cream every day!

No, not wonder creams advertised by a fifteen-year-old.. The best thing anybody can do for their skin is to wear sun cream every day. Australia has an incredibly high skin cancer rate which should be reason enough to wear sun cream. Additionally, you will stay looking younger longer- think of a prune and a plum. The same fruit, one just exposed to the drying effects of the sun.A basic 15+ or higher sun cream can cost little, so buy it and use it.

Libraries  May be closed now, I was so sad to see our local library close., another link with normality gone . You can still access material online. Books for adults and children and escapism is in order right now

The Next Generation of consumers.

Encourage children to critique what they see on television. Even quite young children can understand that ads are not programs. Once they grasp the concept, they can be quite discerning. Teenagers have a better understanding, but it does not necessarily translate into not wanting the latest fashion or gizmo. Honesty is the best policy here; tell them what money they can spend and that anything else they will have to earn .If they blow the money don’t bail them out, let them learn the lesson.

The Moody Blues and the Mean Reds.

Sometimes not being able to afford things  or find things gets us all down. We can critique the culture all we like, but now and then it feels as if life SUCKS. Have a good old moan and groan, really exaggerate with ridiculous statements, and see if you don’t find it all a bit absurd and start to feel better.

 

bare feet boy child couch
Moody blues and mean reds.

If, however, every day is a struggle, you are not seeing any joy in life, you might be suffering from depression. Life won’t get better unless you make an effort to do something about it.  And of course,   if you are depressed it’s hard to motivate yourself to do anything. Don’t let it go and sink into a spiral of depression.

Talk to friends and family (if you have them). Find a forum online. Treat yourself gently and do not make any hasty decisions. Try and find a purpose in life, have something to love, (a plant, a pet, a person?) and have a belief in something (a religion, a cause, bettering life for others?). You, and your life, matter and it should not be all about money. If things are what makes people happy shouldn’t all celebrities be awash with happiness?

Please feel free to share your own thrifty tips. We are all in this together .

 

 

 

Author: soniabellhouse

Sonia Bellhouse is the author of Fire & Ice, a Scandi-timeslip romance about ice dancing, Norway and Vikings, published by Daisy Lane Publishing. She is also a contributor to Passages a short story anthology published by Serenity Press in 2018 and a contributor to Writing the Dream, an anthology for published writers produced by Serenity Press in 2016. In 2012she won two major awards in the inaugural Rockingham Short Fiction contest. Sonia's articles and stories are published in various magazines both in Australia and the UK. These include Good reading, Today's Bride, That's Life! and That's Life! Fast Fiction in Australia and Yours, The People's Friend and Best of British in the Uk. Sonia worked as a book reviewer for two years. An avid reader and writer of multiple genres she facilitated a local book club for eleven years. She reluctantly decided to give it up, to concentrate on her writing. Sonia is a long time member of a writers group, regularly engaging authors to present workshops to the group. Sonia enjoys catching up with friends, ignoring the ironing in favour of playing with her cat and learning new things. She's taken several online courses with Future Learn and The University of Iowa for both writing and non-writing topics.