Frugal LivingJul 17, 2023
Being frugal is not cheap!
There is a difference between frugal and cheap. Frugal means being economical with regard to money and food.
Integrating Frugal Practices into Homesteading Lifestyle
Since self-sufficiency means survival without needing assistance from outside, and homesteading is essentially living sustainably, frugality is a vital component of homesteading.
My biggest aim is to own the farm myself, and if living frugally gives me the ability to pay more off each week then it's a no-brainer for me.
The idea behind sustainable living is to live by your own means, so not needing help or assistance or supplies from outside sources. Minimal living, growing your own food, repairing rather than throwing out and buying new.
Sometimes living frugally means buying great quality the first time so it lasts longer. Socks for example, I am so sick of terrible quality socks that get holes in them, I only buy good quality socks now.
Budgeting and Financial Planning for Homesteaders
Creating a frugal budget that aligns with your homestead's goals and values is very important. If you are a family that needs to have private health insurance, and here in Australia, our private health insurance is something we pay for ourselves, which is different to other parts of the world where it is sometimes included in salary agreements.
If private health insurance is something that you absolutely have to have then you need to make sure that your frugality aligns with those goals that you have. There is no point in living frugally to the point that it is causing you grief because you can't pay for the things that you feel you must have.
If wearing new clothes is something that you are very if you're very passionate about then you need to align your goals with that and you may need to cut back in other areas in order to afford the things that you feel you must have the new version of.
However, if you're the kind of person who can absolutely cut back on certain areas to pay for those important things then you should. Buying second-hand clothing from St Vincent de Paul or other second-hand charity stores is something that I love doing and I would encourage you to do it it's. The clothing there is usually in excellent condition and still has the tags attached in some cases.
Most importantly write it down. You need to record what you want to spend versus what you are actually spending.
It's impossible to budget if you don’t actually know what you are spending.
Also, look for areas you can increase your savingsI have a mortgage offset account that allows me to put the bulk of my money into and then I only move what I need into my spending account. That way I’m helping reduce the interest on my mortgage.
Gardening for Frugal Food Production
Planning is key to gardening. If you know that you will always use onion and garlic when cooking the best thing you can do is grow plenty of onion and garlic.
Stopping pests invading your garden will increase output, so sometimes you have to spend money to make or save money.
Seed saving and learning to propagate is the best way to save funds on new plants. You could potentially not have to buy seeds past your first harvest.
Composting is another way that you can save money by bringing in potting mix or seedling soil. The compost that you turn over on your own property is coming from your kitchen scraps and coming from your green waste. This means that you are not having to purchase anything you can add topsoil to your gardens from your very own kitchen. A huge cost-saving
Gardening tools & hand tools for gardening can be purchased from your local Green Shed second-hand however there are some tools that you may wish to purchase brand new. For example, the handy helper and I just purchased a brand new axe that was very expensive from Bunnings, our local hardware store. The reason we purchased this particular axe is it comes with a lifetime warranty and therefore we felt that the extra expense of buying the new axe was worth it in that we can always take it back if for example, the handle breaks, even 10 years from now we can take it back to Bunnings and get a new axe.
Raising Livestock on a Budget
I believe the main way to be cost-effective in keeping livestock comes from one of 2 ways, reducing feed costs and preventing medical costs.
The first way can be achieved by rotating pastures and ensuring there is sufficient feed in each paddock. With careful planning, you can move stock from paddock to paddock, prior to the grass being damaged or the manure getting too heavy. Resting that paddock while they are in other pastures means by the time the stock return to that paddock, the grass is ready to be eaten again and the parasites have been deprived of a host long enough to kill them.
Medical costs for livestock could definitely be reduced by you teaching yourself how to do things yourself.
For example, I'm no farrier and I cannot do my horse's feet however I can do my goat's hooves when they need a trim I am more than capable of cutting their hooves back and making sure that they're clean and tidy.
I'm also very capable of worming and drenching my own animals which is another added cost that you would have to pay the vet to do.
Shearing my Angora goats on the other hand something that I have not been able to teach myself to do. I did attempt to do it at one point and manage to cut one of the goats fairly badly. He handled it very well and was healed fine. However, I have come to the conclusion that it is better in this particular case to pay for a shearer to come in it's something that I may try and learn again down the track but at this stage, it's easier for me to pay somebody to do that job for me.
Don't be afraid to check at local feed stores to see who has a feed for sale cheaper. There is also nothing wrong with asking if there is a discount for buying in bulk that's an option that is available to you
Also managing your pasture rotation as discussed above, means that you will have to feed less bought feed and you'll be able to have them healthier because they'll be living on clean fresh pasture if you rotate well.
Medical costs can be managed by maintaining livestock health, thus preventing the need for medical intervention. Parasites, both external and internal, when managed many health issues can be prevented.
The biggest cost that you will have relates to healthcare for livestock in order to avoid having to pay veterinary bills. Vet bills can be huge, the best thing you can do is to keep your livestock as healthy as possible.
The pasture rotation methods mentioned above have been able to keep our parasite loads at a minimum. Healthy stock means they are less likely to need veterinarian care.
Preserving and Storing Food for Long-Term Savings
Not only will growing your own food will reduce costs as a fresh food source, but the ability to preserve your harvest to use later means even in the off-season you can reduce grocery costs.
My biggest expense before moving to the farm was groceries.
Without a doubt, the amount that I was spending at the local supermarket was more than it should have been. By growing my own vegetables and raising my own chickens for butchering I have been able to reduce that cost fairly substantially.
Once we are producing our own beef that will reduce again.
So work out what you can grow, and what you need to grow. Unfortunately, food is one of those things that you just cannot go without and therefore you need to ensure that you have a system for reducing the cost that you're spending at the supermarket but still feeding your family nutritious and healthy food.
While everyone loves fresh garden produce, when you have an oversupply through the main growing season, you will need to store the excess for when harvest time is done and the soil is resting.
Learning to preserve will be your best friend, and you don’t need to wait until your gardening is producing to practice.
Here in southern NSW Australia, we have cherry season around Christmas time. Most families around Canberra will stop and buy their Christmas cherries from roadside stalls, but once the holiday period is done, most people have eaten enough cherries to be over them for another 12 months. I go and buy my cherries after the rush is over, meaning I get them cheap, usually the stall owners are happy to sell a larger quantity at a reduced price to clear out their stock. I then take my cherries home and can them. I don’t grow them myself, but I do can them for use throughout the year.
The same can be done for any produce. Go to the farmers market later in the day on a Sunday, you will find prices marked down and pick up some real bargains.
Try your hand at preserving this way and you will quickly understand what you can and can’t do.
DIY and Self-Sufficiency Projects:
Making your own soap, laundry detergent and other household cleaning products is a great way to save money.
Animal shelters don’t need to be expensive and purchased as kit forms. All we use here are 4 solid posts cut from trees on the property, 4 smaller trees for the ceiling posts and then corrugated iron. We tend to collect any corrugate we find but we will buy it when needed.
I feel a real sense of achievement every time the Handy Helper and I get something done on the farm without outside help.
It might be a girl thing but knowing I can feed my family in the event of a domestic crisis gives me a real sense of well-being.
I have to say the real drive for me behind embracing self-sufficiency is the direct financial benefit that goes towards me paying off the mortgage for the farm much quicker than I would have if I was living above my means.
I also feel that in this day & age a lot of people do live above their means and they don't know their figures or their cost of living.
So the satisfaction of knowing that I am living below my means and therefore able to put extra money into the mortgage is a huge benefit for me
Creative Upcycling and Repurposing:
A great way to reduce costs is recycling and upcycling. Find your local green shed or tip/dump recycling area. They will have so many items they have salvaged and cleaned up for sale. The handy helper built my milking stand from a coffee table that I got from the local green shed for $5. Bargain.
I think most people trying to achieve a sustainable lifestyle are aware of how much waste the average person produces.
So I feel a bit like I am preaching to the converted, if you are reading this blog, you are probably halfway there if not all the way.
Sustainable Energy and Resource Management
We are completely off the grid for water, power, gas and waste. When you are responsible for ensuring you have enough utilities, you definitely get better at managing them.
Power considerations are not running electrical items overnight when the sun is not out.
This meant we ended up scrapping the dishwasher. I don’t like leaving the kitchen dirty before bed, but running a dishwasher overnight was too draining so we just got rid of it and wash by hand.
I don't put the washing machine on overnight either! In winter we tend to charge everything up and then turn as much power off overnight as possible, to prevent the batteries from draining.
Our gas is via a medium-sized gas cylinder that we collect ourselves. I could get a larger one delivered but we don’t use that much gas.
We have an old-fashioned kettle that sits on our wood stove in winter and in summer we could run the electric jug, you have no idea how much they draw in power! It's crazy.
But there are so many alternatives to normal utilities. Biogas units are available from Homebiogas for about $1433. I need to do more research on our situation, as these units do much better in warmer climates. But the idea of making your own gas from waste is amazing.
This same company also sell bio-toilets! Considering how much water is wasted by conventional toilets, I am very keen to get a bio-toilet for the ensuite extension that the Handy Helper and I are planning.
You can plumb your bio-toilet directly into the biogas digester giving yourself 1 hour of gas a day….. From your own shit!
Frugal Homestead Cooking and Meal Planning
Every time we are out, away from the farm and have to buy food, usually due to my poor planning, I cannot believe how expensive food is! I have no idea how larger families eat out, I’m guessing they don’t if they are trying to save money or minimise their living expenses.
So preparing food at home is the quickest way to save money.
Plan your meals around a core item, for me I start with beef mince. Because we are not yet harvesting our own beef, I still have to buy from the butcher.
So I buy 2 kgs of beef each week. This gives me spaghetti bolognese, chilli beef, beef patties and meatballs. Most of which can be prepped pretty quickly in advance.
I will then add one of our homegrown chickens, either as a whole roast or steamed using the meat for a pasta or rice dish.
The last 2 meals of the week are either canned tuna based or if I’m doing ok on the finances, fresh salmon.
And if we are really tight that week it's “breakfast for dinner” bacon and eggs! I sometimes do a quiche, especially when I have heaps of eggs.
I don’t make my kids eat breakfast, I know that’s controversial but most of us know that breakfast cereal companies are the only reason most people believe it is the most important meal of the day, and we don’t eat that processed crap. So my kids tend to have a couple of boiled eggs or ham and cheese on, mostly, homemade sourdough bread.
If your family is the kind of family that likes more variety then my suggestion would be to come up with either a fortnightly or monthly meal plan system and you know what by the time they've eaten 28 meals they are not going to remember that they always have spaghetti bolognese on the third Tuesday of the month, believe me, they will forget especially if they like spaghetti bolognese.
Alternative Income Streams and Bartering
I have discussed in other posts the best way that you can increase your income, is to diversify your income streams.
Having multiple income streams gives you the best chance of a steady constant income stream.
What I mean is money coming in from craft products, for example, soap, that you're making at home that won’t negatively impact your income in wintertime when you are not selling vegetables at the farmer's markets.
Trading or bartering with other homesteaders or farmers is also an awesome way to incorporate cutting costs into your homestead.
By trading with other farmers and other homesteaders you could be bringing in products that you're not making or growing or building yourself.
Using this system you reduce buying items that you cannot make because you can trade with a neighbour who does make it.
There are many communities out there, particularly on FB that you could join in that would give you access to people who want to trade or barter. You need to look for those in your area obviously the closer you are to the person the easier it is to do some trading and bartering.
Balancing Frugality with Enjoyment and Personal Well-being
What's the most important point about living frugally is that you shouldn't be doing it at a personal cost that is too great.
What I mean is if you have expenses that are non-negotiable to your well-being, for example having your hair done at the salon once a month. If that is really important to you then you must find a way to incorporate that into your living costs. That might mean that you have to sell a certain amount of produce before you can book in a hair appointment. That might be a real incentive for you to sell enough excess produce.
It's not worth losing your sanity over being frugal. If being frugal is causing you more grief than joy, it's not going to be sustainable and you're not going to continue to do it.
Finding ways to have hobbies when you are living frugally can be a little bit challenging for some people especially if you're not used to tightening the belt.
For example, if you're an avid book reader then my suggestion is either get yourself a Kindle. If you already have an Amazon membership, then you can access Kindle Unlimited, which is like an electronic library.
Or you could join the local library and borrow books rather than having to buy them. I also see a lot of community libraries around the suburbs of Canberra. Little bookcases are set up on corners where you can take a book and replace it with another book. I love this idea of communities sharing their books!
Sports is another cost, and it’s one that's hard to get around as they can be expensive.
Both my children are sports players so the best thing that you can do with sports is to try and look at what the costs are upfront. Secondhand sports equipment is a great way to reduce the outlay. Also consider using paid areas out of peak, so tennis courts nearby that you can hire at certain times for cheaper than during the peak hours.
You could also volunteer for kids' teams, as sometimes this will reduce their fees if you are giving some time to the sports club.
On the farm there are plenty of things that you could be doing walking, running, mountain biking. I have horses so I can ride my horse. Motorbikes are great but do come with some added costs. You have to maintain those and put fuel in them.
There are craft hobbies that you could do and earn a side hustle from.
I love making soap, and only do it for personal use but I am looking at selling excess. The sales might pay for all the supplies making my own home soap free.
I'm also a reasonable knitter, although I'm a terrible crocheter, knitting is something you could do as a hobby and a side hustle. I've also got a spinning wheel for spinning my own wool which I considered to be a hobby.
A future hobby I would really like to get into is patchwork quilting. It would be down the track bit as my current sewing machine would need an upgrade for anything more than repairing clothing.
The upgrade won't be happening until I can afford it and that's just not a priority at the moment.
Thrifty Homesteading Hacks and Tips
My biggest takeaway tip - only do what you can.
Some things, like soap making, are so easy to try, it’s worth having a go and if it's not something you see yourself doing don’t beat yourself up over it.
Try something else, find what fits your family and lifestyle.
Youtube is very useful for things like this. Search the “How To’s” and give it a go.
Another way to save a reduced some expenses is to find other people who can trade with.
So if somebody has particular mechanical skills you could ask them to help you with repairs on your car and in return you can either give them soap, cheese, milk, eggs, meat or vegetables.
Anything that you're producing that they are not could be of value.
I would absolutely love to hear any of your tips that you think a useful for frugal living.
Please if you have tips you would like to share, go to either Mojo Homestead or Not The Farmers Wife on Facebook or Instagram and let us know your frugal ideas.
I love the idea of sharing cool ways to be more frugal. You might give others an idea they have never seen before. It's a great way for communities to band together and give each other ideas that they haven't thought of already themselves.