One thing that I love about my frugal life now is that feeling of independence from the world of consumerism. It didn’t happen over-night, but as my skills improved and my mindset changed over the last 8 years, I have slowly learned to be less dependent on supermarkets and shops. This has helped me feel more secure as when the shelves were empty or there were shortages over the last 3 years, I didn’t really feel any impact at all and adapted. Here are some of the ways that I have learned to be less reliant on the supermarket.
Grown my own food.
One of the things that people buy a lot of but is often thrown away is salad, fruit and vegetables. When you buy them from the supermarket, they all have eat by dates on and have often been picked weeks before but kept fresh with chemicals in the packaging. They have also often been sprayed with chemicals. I started by just growing tomatoes and salad leaves when I had a flat. Later I had two allotments but these became too much work as I grew older and so I now just grow in tubs and buckets in my garden as a lot of it is paved. I produced enough fresh food to last me probably 9 or 10 months, last year. People seem impressed with this but it is actually a new thing to buy your vegetables from the supermarket and not to grow your own food. The industrial Revolution is often blamed for people stopping growing their own food as had previously been the custom, but even in my life time I remember very few supermarkets when I was smaller and they were probably the size of the ‘Express’ supermarkets now as they tended to supplement what you grew yourself. My grandparents only had a yard in their terraced house in the city but they still grew swede and potatoes for winter and salad for the summer months. My father grew rhubarb and beans and sometimes other vegetables. A lot of people would not have cars and some weeks a local farmer would come round the streets with his truck and you could buy what he was harvesting at the time. I remember sitting on the door step ‘podding’ peas or topping and tailing gooseberries for hours.
I love growing my own food as it allows me to just walk outside and pick fresh organic food and I tend to eat more vegetables as I don’t want to waste them. This is good for my health. I can also grow what I want and have a wider choice like purple carrots or yellow tomatoes. Seeing everything growing also helps me feel secure as my food is in my control. I also save money and can afford things that would not be in my budget, like berries. Learning to sow crops in succession and preserve, has helped me have a supply of nutritious fresh food all year.
I am still not a brilliant forager, but the addition of free food from nature, even the simple things like apples, brambles and cherries have made a big difference to our nutrition. Wild garlic pesto is also used in our food plan at least once a fortnight and these are all things that many people would be able to identify. As my skills have increased I have added leaves to my salad, nettle seeds and dock flour to my bread and a lot of things that I thought of as weeds (like nettles and dandelions), are used more in my every day cooking. Elderflowers, rosehips and sloes provide me with preserved treats.
Besides subsidising my food I forage things like horse chestnuts for laundry soap, wood, dried leaves and pinecones for the fire. I would never think of buying a bag of kindling from the supermarket.
I have already touched on preserving but I no longer have to buy dried herbs as I dehydrate my own, I make my own cordials, bottle my own spaghetti sauces, bottle my own fruit, jams, pickles, make my own pesto and use the freezer to freeze a lot of my home grow food. I hope to learn to preserve more next year and intend to bottle more of my produce and dehydrate different items.
Cooking from scratch
I have never really bought ready meals, and make all my own meals from scratch, but over the last 8 years have learned to make my own bread, yoghurt, wraps, pesto, cordials, cider, biscuits, cakes, sweets, pasta sauces, ricotta cheese, butter, cereals and other things that people fill their supermarket trolleys with. I have also learned to make my own icing sugar, brown sugar, rice milk, oat milk and so when I do shop in a supermarket, the items I need are minimal. I do still have to buy some staples but will often buy these from discounted stores rather than supermarkets.
Making my own cleaning products
I make my own cleaning products, washing detergents and use cloths rather than paper towels and this reduces the products that I need to buy. This is better for the environment as well as my purse. I am still learning and want to improve this area further.
We enjoy preserving, baking and growing and I often will swap something we have produced for items that I can not produce such as eggs or hard cheeses.
Having a well-stocked pantry
A lot of weeks in the summer I do not need many ingredients as I am eating a lot out of the garden but I still stock up with staples such as flour, rice, pasta, sugar and things like tuna or cheese (which I freeze). I also buy things like toilet rolls and eggs in bulk. This means I shop from my cupboards and freezer and so when the shelves in the supermarket are empty it does not impact on me.
Making home remedies, toiletries and beauty items
This is only my second year of trying to make things like this, but this year I intend to try making my own deodorant, face creams, lip balms, cough medicine, and similar items to reduce my shopping even more and because they are kinder to the environment.
Making own clothes and furniture
Mr S has built cupboards and made furniture and shelving units in our home which have saved us shopping. A lot of people make their own clothes and this is one area that I have no skills in at all, in fact my needlework teacher refused to teach me any more as I was so bad. Despite this I am determined to learn to knit or crochet in the next few years and I am going to have a go at sewing starting with learning how to make a draw string bag which is my goal before Easter.
Saving my own seeds and taking my own cuttings and making my own compost
Every year I save seeds from things I have grown or eaten and every year I take cutting to produce new plants. These I use to grow new food or flowers or to give as presents. I do buy a few different packets of heirloom seeds each year so that I know that the seeds that I s save will be good stock. Making my own compost from kitchen and garden waste saves me having to buy lots of compost each year.
I reuse packaging to make other items. Plastic milk cartons make shovels for the compost, plant pots for small plants or labels. Cardboard is used on the fire or to suppress weeds. Fruit cartons are used to sow seeds in and meat trays are used as drip trays. Polystyrene is used in the bottom of buckets to stop them getting too heavy and to use less compost, bags are washed out and used for freezing things in. Tubs are used to store things in the fridge and tin foil trays are used to cook in. Old envelopes are made into writing pads…..and the list goes on. By recycling I don’t have to buy new items and go to the shops.