Our Supermarket Free Month

shopping list

Prompted by a post on Down To Earth Mother we decided to sign up for Supermarket Free month in April (yeah, I know, I should have let you know earlier…). We agreed to steer clear of all supermarkets for the whole month. We almost made it! In the end we made one emergency trip to Aldi the night before Little Fearse’s birthday for cake supplies, other than that we managed to go for the whole month without stepping foot into a supermarket. Let me give you a brief overview in an annoying question myself, answer myself conversation.

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The cake that made us break our pledge. Worth it!

Was it hard? Yeah. It was hard.

Will we stick to it? Some of it. 

How long did it take us to go back to Aldi? One day. Just one. 

Was it cheaper? No. 

Was it convenient? Nope. 

Was it worth it? Yes, it was definitely and totally and absolutely worth it. It has entirely changed our outlook on food and our community and our resources. Not to mention helping us realise how little we actually need. 

Mostly we wanted to try and do this without changing the types of foods we like to eat. We have limited our use of Woolies / Coles (more about why here) over the past year to, mostly, the eco-nappies we buy for day care and outings and the disposable wipes we use for the same purpose. Unfortunately no other local stores stock the brand we like. This was our first challenge. I solved it by purchasing our nappies in bulk online from a small business. They were delivered next day. The nappies were cheaper than in the supermarket and the delivery costs were reasonable, even though I ordered two large boxes ($8.95). These should last us about 3 – 4 months. Until recently we have also been able to buy our preferred brand of natural dishwasher detergent from the same site. It has now been discontinued so we’re trialling some health food store varieties. We were not able to get the same brand of wipes but found something similar, though more expensive by about $3, in the local health food store.

We actively sought out alternative places to purchase the things we use a lot – flour, beans, pasta, tinned tomatoes, butter, milk. The health food store had a lot of these things but was quite expensive. I don’t mind supporting the store – it is a small business that has been around for a long time – but we can’t sustain buying these things there permanently. Since April ended I have taken to buying organic tomato paste (it is in a glass jar which I love for our zero waste challenge), organic tinned beans, Moo Goo products, tooth paste and our disposable wipes (we only buy one pack a month) from the health food store. I like the fact that you can develop a relationship with the people who work there. I had a great conversation with one of the women when I went in to buy hot cross bun supplies that made the difficulty I had parking, the fact that I had to go out of my way and also the extra $$ spent worth it!

I’ve also made a few trips to the Dandenong Market for flour, dried beans, pasta, pop corn, fish, bulk yoghurt (think soda bread for bulk baking quantities!) and spices. This is something I plan to continue doing when I can. It was easy and fun and pretty close to home. Little Fearse has become very interested in trains, so we might even catch the train there once in awhile.

We visited our local farmer’s market to see what we could purchase there. Most of the things available we are able to purchase at our regular Sunday market, but we were stoked to find a local guy who makes yoghurt. Unfortunately the yoghurt we bought (which was quite expensive at $8 a kilogram) went bad well before the use by date. I’m willing to give him another shot, but if it happens again we’ll be sticking to the Aldi organic yoghurt which is well priced and Little Fearse loves. Unless we need it in bulk for something, in which case I’ll buy it at Dandy market where it is $6 for 2 kilos. Yeah, seriously.

At a second farmer’s market in another near by town we found a local guy who makes apple cider vinegar. Stoked!

We opted to buy our toilet paper from Who Gives a Crap. This was recommended by DTEM and friends and was also sponsored by the Supermarket Free Month. We will continue to do this because the quality is good, the price comparable (somewhat) and postage fast and free (next day). We have room to store bulk toilet paper and I love that buying the paper helps others in third world countries have access to something we consider a basic need – safe, sanitary toilets.

We discovered our local green grocer stocks bulk spices, flat breads, milk, a variety of condiments, frozen berries and a large array of different types of flour. A handy little store which we have only previously been to for the occasional fresh food item during the week.

There were some things, like Vegemite, that we just had to do without for the month. I imagine this is something we’d be able to find online if we searched for it hard enough.

We started buying our bread at the local bakery earlier this year. It was one of those things that made us feel like fools to have done it any other way. The bread you buy in a supermarket is basically not bread in comparison. This, of course, will continue.

Those of you that are following along will know that we buy all fresh fruit and vegetables, plus cheese and nuts from the Sunday market. For two glorious months we were also able to buy our meat there, but the butcher has since bought a food van and left us meatless. When we need to buy fruit or veggies on a different day of the week, for whatever reason, we will go to the local green grocer. Occasionally I accidentally lose my senses and buy some fresh fruit from Aldi. This is something I have no intention of continuing (but we’re all human…).

We now buy our meat, mostly, from the local butcher who can tell us where everything is from and what it was fed when it was alive. He also makes a wide array of his own sausages, much to Little Fearse’s delight (pineapple, cheese and chicken? Ugh.).

We buy organic butter and milk at Aldi, along with their wholemeal pasta, passata, frozen peas, water crackers, Vegemite, sanitary products, sometimes chocolate, sometimes ice cream. The reason we chose Aldi is because we don’t want to support what Coles and Woolworths does to local suppliers (pulls the price down, down, down…until it is entirely unsustainable). We have reservations about Aldi, most of which are echoed in this post, so why not go there and read that? 😉 (Was that super lazy of me? Yeah.) We also shop at our local IGA sometimes. We go to the supermarket about once a month, sometimes dropping by quickly for milk or butter outside of those shops. Going super market free wasn’t a huge leap for us. By making gradual changes we’ve really made this a lifestyle we can sustain and adapt to our foodie desires.

As a side note, this was a great opportunity to try making our own stuff, from mustard (marginal success) to biscuits to cereal. There is a lot we can make here at home that is good quality and tastes pretty good. The best about that, of course, is knowing what goes into it. I was surprised at how easy it was to find recipes for things that I wouldn’t normally even consider making myself.

Have you ever tried going super market free? What do you think the biggest challenge would be for your family if you never used a super market again?

Mama xo

PS Reading back, I kind of feel as though someone had challenged me to get as many DTEM mentions as I could into this post. This is not so, but if you haven’t read Jo’s blog, I highly recommend it (clearly). It is well informed, well researched and well balanced.

30 (+4 bonus) MORE day care lunches

I read a few family food blogs. I read them for inspiration but more for admiration. I love looking at the perfect little lunches they serve their small people. They use shapes to create cute sandwiches and add little notes and flags and smoothie pouches and turn them into crazy scenes and wild animals. I love that stuff. I don’t do that, though. What I do is put together foods I know my little person loves. It looks similar every time, but she doesn’t seem to mind.

When reading these blogs I have noticed that they get a lot of criticism around the ingredients they use (organic is too expensive, non-organic is unhealthy), or the quantities (too much food or not enough food), or not covering all the food groups. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m just Mama Fearse, setting out to feed Little Fearse food she loves that is mostly healthy and nutritious. Every one of these lunches also comes with a bottle of water and a smoothie (usually banana or mango if it’s in season).

Our last post, 30 days of Day Care Lunches for a 12 Month Old has been our most popular by about 1000 views. Parents out there are looking for ideas for food to feed their kids. I hope our new list gives you some new inspiration.

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TOP ROW: 1. Popcorn & cheese, cherry coulis & plain yoghurt, veggies & home made hummus, summer fruit salad, 2. Pumpkin muffin, veggie & cheese salad, pikelets with strawberries, nectarine, 3. Boiled egg, tuna and butter bean salad, yoghurt apricot balls, blueberries & plain yoghurt, twirly apple, frozen peas & steamed carrots.
MIDDLE ROW: 1. Chicken & bacon casserole, apricot, whole meal wrap, steamed carrots, 2. Apricot and kiwi fruit salad, berries in plain yoghurt, pop corn, papadams, 3. Close up of the twirly apple.
BOTTOM ROW: 1. Steamed asparagus, home made chicken nuggets, 2. Frozen peas and fresh tomatoes, egg and bacon pie, papadums and summer fruit salad, 3. Guacamole with capsicum, organic corn chips, pumpkin muffin, blueberry and sweet lemon salad.

  1. Biscuits with vegemite and cheese (a good back up if you’re not sure if your wee one will eat the other foods you’ve offered – Little Fearse is a little fussier now she’s getting older and more determined)
  2. Papadums
  3. Celery and peanut butter sandwiches
  4. Lemon risotto
  5. Home made Baked beans
  6. Oatcakes (Little Fearse likes these plain as much as she likes them with vegemite or peanut butter and they are pretty easy to make at home.)
  7. Twirly slinky apples (after some debate on our Facebook page we bought one of these gadgets second hand…we have used it several times a day since purchased.)
  8. Mini apple pies (stew apple with cinnamon, no sugar needed – puff pastry again)
  9. One eye (bread with the centre cut out (BP uses cute animal cookie cutters) and fried with an egg in the middle -better warm, but still fun cold)
  10. Sultanas, the ultimate sweet snack (or other dried fruits)
  11. Fried rice
  12. Kidney beans, diced capsicum and corn with guacamole and lime juice [to keep it fresh] – add some plain corn chips for the full nacho experience
  13. Banana salad with yoghurt and honey
  14. Mini lasagne pin-rolls (thank you Pinterest)
  15. Eggplant Pizza
  16. Cheese and grated apple sandwiches (the apple goes brown, but it still tastes good and she doesn’t seem to mind)
  17. Vegemite and cheese OR spinach and cheese triangles (puff pastry…easy!)
  18. Flatbread roll ups with chicken, cheese and spinach leaves (or whatever combination you like…she tends to dissemble these anyway!)
  19. Mini cheese and vege pizzas on English muffins
  20. Rice and tuna casserole
  21. Home made cheese twists (use puff pastry for this, too) and hummus
  22. Home made chicken nuggets and wedges with guacamole
  23. Plain yoghurt topped with stewed fruit / berries / berry coulis (if you find some  cheap overripe berries)
  24. Chicken drumstick with peas (be sure to check for small bones, there is at least one sharp bone in a drumstick that we like to remove first – of course you may like to remove the chicken from the bone yourself)
  25. Left over roast meat and veggies in a wrap.
  26. Banana bread (or zucchini bread, or bread made from whatever you have a lot of at the time)
  27. Tuna or salmon patties (made with mashed potato, bread crumbs, herbs and lemon juice)
  28. Pikelets with a little jam or peanut butter
  29. Jacket potatoes (topped with veggies and cheese and tomato salsa)
  30. Fruit crumble (made with whatever is in season – we do a lot of apple and rhubarb crumble over the winter and peach in the summer)
  31. Pop corn (unseasoned)
  32. Egg and bacon pies
  33. Fruit and yoghurt balls (I buy these at the market and will occasionally give Little Fearse one or two in her lunch as a special treat)
  34. Home made dips with broken up wraps or veggie sticks (or papadams or biscuits or whatever) – one of the big changes since our last entry is that LF now has the motor control to manage a spoon or dipping foods into other foods.

I’d love to hear from you, too. What do your kids love in their lunches? What have we forgotten, or not thought of yet?

Mama xo

Our BNN celebration

Last weekend we held a “thank you’ op shop themed BBQ for our friends who have supported our Buy Nothing New journey. Every time someone takes the time to talk to us about our Buy Nothing New lifestyle it is really touching to us. When people ask questions, or tells us we’ve inspired them to make a change it helps us to feel that we have made progress and that our small contribution is worthwhile.

We invited our friends to wear something silly or serious they’ve picked up second hand along the way. Many came in outfits that included second hand items – handed down hats, pretty brooches and bright blazers. And then there were our friends who came dressed entirely in op shop outfits and looked both fabulous and fun. We had a great time choosing our own outfits.

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BP found most of his outfit (robe and boardies) at our local second Savers. The jersey was purchased second hand at a Brooklyn flea market. I found my dancing costume (great for spins with Little Fearse) at Savers, too. Little Fearse’s princess dress and chicken hat were a lucky St Vinnie’s find that I thought were ridiculous. Little Fearse thought they were BRILLIANT. I tried them on her for size one day earlier in the week and she refused to take them off, chucking a spectacular tantrum when she had to have a shower that evening. She knows what she wants, our daughter.

I finally felt like I found my food mojo on Sunday. We planned a simple meal of local meat and a few simple salads plus barbequed veggies and corn. That week a few great recipes popped up in my feed from Mamabake and I added those to the menu. I cooked from the time I woke up until the time we all sat down to eat and I was happy with all the food we provided. I feel like it was a bit of a foodie break through for me.

The best of all was where most of the food came from. It was really something to be able to serve local or home grown foods to our guests, showing that our food habits really have changed in our first BNN year.

Our menu included the following home grown goods:

– Jimmy’s lettuce and spring onions

– Pam’s zucchini

– Dave’s olives (which I pickled, successfully!)

– Tanya’s cherry tomatoes and beetroots

– Dad’s lemons

I was also able to offer guests Emma’s beetroot chutney, Tanya’s onion relish, Dad’s & my pickled lime, Dad’s quince chutney, local green tomato chutney and the Wedderburn Community tomato sauce. The eggs were local (bought at the market) and the meat was from a butcher who is now selling at the market and sources his meat from local(ish) farms with good practices. Almost all the other veggies were from a local grower who sells at the market. The fruit was also bought at the market, but not locally grown. Our gorgeous Barb made a passionfruit sponge to go with our fruit platter. It was the crowd favourite – who can resist a perfect passionfruit sponge?

I really want to get our own veggie patch underway this year. I’m quite overwhelmed by the thought of starting it off, as I’ve had little success with growing anything in the garden previously. In fact, I had to hide three pots of dead plants before our guests arrived on Sunday! I have an old bath and bricks donated from a friend to create a raised bed, probably at the back of our BBQ area, where there is a lot of sun. Any tips or tricks (or good starting points) much appreciated. I’d love our next celebration to include foods from our own garden.

Thanks to all of you who were not able to come on Sunday, too. Every comment or view gives us a thrill!

Mama xo

PS This year we are sharing a photo a day of something we are grateful for, inspired by Hailey at 365 Grateful. We are doing this on our Facebook page. Please like us if you want to keep up with our grateful photos. Our Facebook page is a companion to our blog. We often share stories, post photos, ask questions and post links to things that we think our fans will enjoy reading. We’d love to include you in our social media community as well as our blog community. xo

I want to join a commune.

I have found myself, lately, thinking a lot about community and even thinking back wistfully on my share housing days. Is that a thing, being nostalgic about share housing? I had two really great periods share housing.

During one of these times I shared a flat that my Mum owned (a lot less landlord stress) with the girlfriend of one of my brother’s friends. We became really close and although the period was probably only a month or two, I still look back on the time as pinnacle in my early independence. My house mate worked shifts and I’d stay up to kick it with her for a few hours at the end of her shift. There was a lot of midnight snacks and tarot readings. I can’t remember cooking together, but I can remember the first time she went shopping. The fridge was so full of food afterwards that I had to photograph it. It had never looked like that when I was doing the shopping. There were about five different types of cheese in there. In my mind, food really does equal love.

The other great share housing experience was years later when my best friend from childhood and I shared a house in our mid-twenties. We advertised for a third house mate and after a few false starts a cheeky Irish lass moved in. We definitely did a lot of cooking (one pot, not quality), we discovered Not Quite Right supermarkets and dined out on practically cents. We watched lots of trashy TV, drank lots of crappy wine. We shared one really great Christmas together there. We even had a little garden we sort of, kind of neglected. During that time Big Poppa lived near by with two of our mutual female friends, so it was kind of like living in two ideal share houses simultaneously. At his house I did lots of house hold cooking and dishes (because everyone else was allergic or something) and it was a really enjoyable communal place to be most of the time, too.  It was a really fun time, but like all good share houses it came to an end all too soon and was followed by the progressively more angsty (or typical) share housing experiences for both Big Poppa and I. Eventually it led to both of us taking the leap (read: risk) of moving in together.

Lately, probably partially due to my food funk, I have been longing for a commune. Specifically I have been longing for a gaggle* of exuberant, sociable friends to spend time with in the kitchen and share the house hold chores and enjoy listening to daggy music and lying around in the sunshine when we get a chance. Mostly, I’ve been longing for that gaggle of friends in the kitchen, because I’ve had so many failures lately, even of things that are usually my easy go-to meals. I want someone to teach me how to make tortillas and someone to help me cream my sugar and butter so my biscuits don’t go floury and flat, and I want someone to help me perfect pizza dough and make my own bread and explore vibrant new salad ideas with and share that bottle of wine.

When I read about times long gone I feel as though this was much more a thing – households were more open door. People knew their neighbours and spent time with them. Maybe the past always seems more ideal (I’m sure my memories of share housing are coloured rose by the passing of time).

Mama xo

*I’m not entirely sure why, in this scenario, my friends are geese.

Illness and food.

This week I have had a touch of gastro. It’s never pleasant, but neither is it the worst case I’ve seen (or experienced). The thing that has got me is the absolute lack of desire to look at food, think about food, plan meals etc. It’s so hard to care about food when you’re sick, and this coupled with the guilt that I should care about food for Little Fearse all the time has made me feel quite glum.

In honesty, for weeks now I’ve felt really blah about food. I work really hard to provide Little Fearse with balanced meals at all the right times through out the day. I love thinking up new awesome ideas for her day care lunches. I peruse recipes like they’re going out of style (many of them probably are) and ear mark pages, fill books with tabs, write lists for shopping and plans for menus. I’m just not following through at the moment.

What do you do when the food doldrums kick in? Do you go into ultra organised mode? Do you buy more convenience food? What are your easy go-to meals? I’d love some advice that could help drag me out of this cooking rut.

Blurgh.

Mama xo