Bluebirds on the Ground. Fiona, Northern Rivers, NSW, Australia.

In many ways, we are very fortunate. I work full time and we are beef farmers (small scale) part time and so we buy beef at the same price our customers pay – about $14-$15/kg hook weight – so yes, we still get to eat rib fillet for that price. Some of our customers have told us we need to put our prices up!! – the supermarkets sell mince for $20/kg, and steaks are up to $55/kg at the supermarket. We operate mostly organically so our price rises in terms of fertilizer have been minimal. However I’m aware of other farmers experiencing serious shock when trying to purchase fertilizer etc. That will no doubt filter through the system to consumers for both cost and availability in due course… I saw online that this has made it to the cereal aisle this week already….


We are looking at other areas that we can reduce our costs. I have moved our email to another provider that is cheaper longer term during the Boxing Day sales, and have looked at our phone/internet package to make sure we get the best deal overall. We have found our internet is tricky in the bush and expensive, but by being on the same (business) plan we can pool our data. We will move one of our mobile plans up a band next time as that will give us a MUCH better data amount for a better price than upping our internet. I try to combine trips to minimize fuel – we are a long way out from a regional town, so I generally try to only go every 2-3 weeks, and then it is most of the day – I go with a list for multiple stores! 


In the meantime, I have watched the price of lots of things go up significantly over the past year or so, and I’m expecting things to continue to rise a lot more. Having a decent store of things in the pantry has helped, and I’m trying to keep that level where I can. Once upon a time I would wait until Milo was on sale for $9/kg. Now, it is on sale for about $11.50 if I’m lucky. At the moment, I have milo so I’m not buying it. The cheese we like has gone from frequently on special for $7.50 to occasionally on special for $9.50 – when it is on special I buy a number of them. Most staples (flour, sugar, milk powder) have remained the same, but I’m expecting them to rise at the end of January when the “locked in” prices end. I have noticed most other things have gone up. Cordial went up from $3 per 2 litre bottle to $5 a bottle overnight. When you’re doing heavy physical work in the sun, sometimes you just need a sweet drink, so this hurt! Cream cheese went up a little, butter went up a little, sprinkles for the tops of cakes went up about 8% but I’m not convinced that the packet didn’t get smaller at the same time! The specials I used to rely upon are few and far between – tea for example – the tea I prefer hasn’t been on special for about 6 months! When I saw it on a good special last week I bought 2 boxes and was so excited!!! In hindsight, I should have bought more than 2 boxes…. Chicken has gone up from about $8.50/kg to $10.50/kg for breast fillet. 


I’m seeing consistent shortages, and not just toilet paper. Sometimes its rice, sometimes pasta, sometimes fresh fruit/vege (including what is in season). Last week it was chicken as well. I rely on my pantry/freezer to even out the supply shortages. Although the supply shortages were supposed to be over now that we’re moving to “Co-Vid normal” I’m seeing ongoing supply shortages anyway – no real change. Aldi reduced the toilet paper from an 8 pack to a 4 pack which is not terribly convenient when you are a long way out of town. It’s also more expensive. 


The pharmacist here sees the stock orders behind the scenes – I’m told some (fairly critical) cardiac drugs are no longer available in Australia for the next few months. Seems to me getting a couple of months ahead is sensible in those circumstances if you have prescriptions. 


The thing that upsets me the most is that the size of packets has gone down. Now I know that is a first world problem, but….. many of my recipes were based on the old sizing – for example, mars bar slice had 4 mars bars in it. But the mars bars are no longer the same size and I have not a clue in the world how much mars bar (in weight terms) should be in the recipe!!! I’d like to make it like my Nan made it for me, but now the recipe doesn’t quite work and it makes me cranky. I suggest when you get those recipes that include “1 block of this” you add in the grams/ounces in future. I’m trying to convert some of my recipes as I can.


My strategy has been: 


1.      Make a list of all the things that we need/use for us and the pets that is shelf stable. So toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, deodorant etc. I am trying to keep tabs on how long it takes us to get through those things so I gauge how many I need for a month/3 months/6 months etc. Any of those that are on special for 40 or 50% off, I buy multiple items of until I have enough for a number of months – things like this I try only to buy when on an excellent special, and I try to never pay full price for anything not staples/necessary; 

2.      For food staples, I do something similar. If it is something we use that will last in the pantry, I buy multiples when it is on sale – how good the sale is, and how often they are on sale determines how many I buy – if it is something we use/like that is rarely on sale or doesn’t come on a big sale I will still buy multiples even if it is only 10 or 20% off. If it is more discretionary (eg, the family favourite chocolate!) I will only buy more than 2 if the sale is 30% or more off. This pretty much works for most things apart from staples, and if it isn’t on sale and I can wait I just don’t buy it. 

3.      I have found that some foodstores/tiny supermarkets have some better prices on selected items– for example, the cordial in the foodstore is only $4.30 not $5. This is absolutely a case of knowing your prices! I used to have the prices written on my grocery list (I have a standard one that I just tick what I need) but I stopped that as I was having to change it every time I did the groceries and it was depressing!

4.      I am buying out of season – for example, sports drink/Gatorade/electrolyte powders are usually discounted a lot in winter, but not so much in summer – so I bought quite a few on special in winter and haven’t paid full price over Summer. Same with icy poles. The soup stuff including dry beans here is often cheapest in Summer, and end of season clothing is the same – seriously, a t-shirt is the same if it is bought now then if it is bought in 6 months time when Summer is starting again here!!! I’ve already compiled the list of things I need for Christmas baking and am starting to gather them and pop them in the cupboard when I see those ingredients on special; 

5.      Look at alternatives within the same supermarket – for example, salsa in the chip aisle was $3 a jar cheaper than in the Mexican food section this week. Tapioca flour in the Asian food section is way cheaper than in the specialty flour section.

6.      Look online – I have found to have reasonable buys for some foods, particularly harder to get gluten free stuff. You may need to buy more than you usually would, but that allows you to stock up. I’m also about to order from the spice warehouse – for those in Melbourne you have better options but if you’re remote sometimes buying online is not a bad option. 

7.      I’m trying to learn new MOO recipes. Ginger beer is now a firm favourite, and I’ll be ordering ground ginger online shortly to keep that up! Sweet n Sour, teriyaki marinade and butter chicken is next on my target list to learn to MOO, so if you have any recipes for either of these, I’m keen for you to share!!! I have made our own shampoo bars for years and haven’t bought shampoo for at least 5 years. I buy (very occasionally) store bought laundry detergent/napisan for my whites, but the rest of the clothes are usually done with home made options off your site J.

8.      When I go to my nearest city, I try to make a point of visiting one of the bigger outlets/warehouses – or several if possible. Golden Circle on the eastern side of Brisbane is a favourite and sometimes has some great bargains. Costco can be good sometimes but not all the time. I have been known to come home with a boot full of groceries! Keen to hear from others about their recommendations – I sometimes see what is available in Melbourne and get jealous!

9.      I have started making cheese. Cheese is one of those things that adds a lot to our food taste and I’m a fuss pot. I’m not great at it at the moment, but it is a work in progress. For the stronger flavoured cheeses I like I need a cheese cave and time and different equipment and I don’t have the means for that yet….. so where I can I make my own feta if milk is cheap. 

10. For baking I use a sprinkle of the nice flavoured cheese with more of the generic, and I’m generally trying to lower my use of the stronger flavoured cheese. Same goes for other flavourings – so I am trying to reduce my cordial use, milo use, etc.

11. I buy big packets of snacks/treats for my family but I am now portioning them out into smaller zip lock bags and where necessary I hide them!!

12. I got a couple of chickens for the eggs. I’ve also learned how to bone out a chicken which is a bit more economical than buying the pieces etc at times. Next time I do that I’ll weigh everything and calculate it and see what it looks like side by side….  This year I grew comfrey and sunflowers for the food for the chickens to try to reduce the feed. Our chickens move constantly so they are eating bugs and grass and I suspect consequently have a much more varied diet, and are eating a lot less feed. And they are fertilizing the paddock. 

13. I’m working on my gardening skills – I am NOT the worlds greatest gardener, but occasionally have success with home grown produce and saving my own (heirloom) seeds. I swap seeds when I have the opportunity to. I have been known to buy an heirloom pumpkin from the markets just to get the seeds!

14. Mending – I’m trying to mend more where I can and make things last longer, even though I’m not great at sewing. We look at what needs to be repaired and then look at Youtube to figure out whether there is something we can do to fix it ourselves. We have found that that sometimes requires us to buy tools, but it is still cheaper than paying someone else to do it for you often and you still have the tools for the next time you need them as well!

15. The biggest savings for me have come with 2 outlays in the last 2 years– I did a homeopathy course at and have been treating the animals (and me when needed) homeopathically – it’s effective, safe, and significantly cheaper than buying drugs – in fact, it was such a good course I’m considering doing it again!! The other outlay is I signed up to the School of Traditional Skills – it’s based in the US around homesteading, but it has excellent online resources and classes on a bunch of things – MOO sourdough, herbal first aid remedies, chickens, milking goats, garden extension etc. I’m trying to do a couple of lessons each week, and they are just excellent. Some aspects don’t translate directly to Australia which I suspect is a lot hotter and drier, but many are really useful!


Finally, the other bluebirds that are posting and commenting are such an encouragement to me – so thank you to Annabel for doing this, and to all of you for being part of it. Please keep sharing!

Thank you Fiona!  You have given me a lot to think about so I know others will feel the same.  I have homework to do as I am checking out this School of Traditional Skills!    

Also for anyone wondering MOO = Make Our Own.    

We off and running for a new week!  Lets make it a good one! xxx   


  1. Hello everyone, just a sideline thought, not related to Fiona's invaluable information though. We live in remote S.A, 500km's from the border of W.A and 800 km's from Adelaide. Our town hasn't had a resident vet for about 25 years. During the year a vet comes here once a month for consults and operations/procedures etc. Recently our old cat of 17 years wasn't well. She tried to vomit up something big, but couldn't, possibly a furball, but not certain. She was also constipated and couldn't use her bowels, and hadn't eaten for about 5 days. I thought we might lose her. I would spend a lot of time just patting and comforting her. She was still purring which was a good sign. I usually try to keep a bit of a first aid kit, particularly at the start of covid. I decided to give her a very tiny amount of paraffin oil in a syringe down her throat. This helped and she was able to use her bowels on one occasion. She started drinking lots so I was very hopeful. I gave her a second dose of paraffin oil and she ate lots of scraps of fresh fish after hubby's catch. My point is, we don't have many options here, other than make a dash to a vet in a regional centre which is a 800 km round trip, at least a day or two off work, paying for a Motel overnight, and of course - the vet treatment, which may include X rays, etc which would cost a small fortune to say the least .It may at times - depending on your animal's situation, pay to use home remedies in the first instance, even if you have a vet nearby. It may save you many dollars.

    1. Paraffin oil is an old remedy and I'm glad you thought of it, can't do any harm and certainly worth a try when you're desperate.

    2. Robyne, I found your comments very interesting. My husband is originally from a small town "out in the middle of nowhere" in the western USA. I bought myself (and my son and daughter-in-law) a first aid book for pets. I bought them both used online. We've only had to use it once, but I feel a lot better having one. I hope that your cat recovers.

    3. Agree -I always google and see what comes up - in this case, I think paraffin oil, but possibly coconut oil also might be helpful.... I also have started keeping a notebook as a reference in future of what works and what doesn't

  2. Thank you for your tip regarding writing down the actual weight of products used in recipes, Fiona, rather than relying on the package size. Here in the UK we are also seeing 'shrinkflation' and it is very annoying when a much loved recipe doesn't work any more because of it, so I will definitely be taking your tip onboard!

  3. Thank you Fiona for such a thorough and well thought out review of how you save money and good ideas to follow. Really appreciate them! I enjoy reading new ideas and have been astonished at prices in different regions. $50 for a kilo of steak! Yikes! I bought a beef tenderloin last year I think it was $20 a kilo, and my husband cut it into filets and chunks for us to use. I was horrified at $20/kilo but figured it would last us a long time. Thank you again, Hilogene in AZ.

  4. Thank you, Fiona, for your practical and down to earth points. I like the idea of The School of Traditional Skills - have to check it out.
    Thanks to Annabel we find out the situations from different parts of the world - and your part is so different than mine - I learn how everybody is fighting for a good life and I am encouraged to do so. I was impressed how well you are managing the shopping, being so far from the town and, exactly how you have said - Please keep sharing. We learn a lot.

    Have a good week ahead, Laura_s_world from Romania

  5. Fiona and others who have shared their “on the ground” reports- you have all given me so much to think about and ideas to implement here in my home!!
    What a smart idea to grow your own sunflowers to add some to your chicken feed!! I have several packets of sunflower seeds and have now decided that I will plant those when our season is right to give to my chooks!!
    Sometimes, for those who don’t live as distant from stores, the thought is that the store is so close that we can always just run over and pick up supplies/food that is running low. It is so much wiser to have a well stocked pantry and freezer because that gives you peace of mind plus if you have the flexibility to replenish when price is a sale or in season, you don’t panic if something is out of stock in the stores!
    Thank you so much for sharing! I already have gleaned ideas from you on how to improve our little “homestead in the city”!!
    Gardenpat in Ohio

    1. If there are sunflower seeds in your chicken scratch mix - plant them! I've had the most success with those seeds rather than the proper packets and I have no idea why!!


  6. Your mars bars problem is familiar. My late Mother-in-law made a Milky Way candy bar cake when my husband was young and it called for 5 cent candy bars. Of course that changed and my MIL could never figure out how many of the new ones to use so they had to say good bye to their favorite cake.

    I had to change taco seasoning mix to a gluten free one for our adult son. I haven't ever found a homemade recipe we like. The one ounce packs are $1.38 at the store but I found a 24 ounce bulk container on Amazon for $7.95. That is crazy savings and I have found several deals like this by ordering from them lately so those who can get from them may want to check on things you use everyday.

  7. Thank you Fiona and Annabel for this informative and interesting post! We noticed some time ago that the size of the packets of graham crackers had decreased and we could no longer add just one packet in a favorite recipe. They have continued to decrease. We have found you-tube videos very helpful in making repairs. Just yesterday, one of the power windows on our vehicle fell down into the door while we were out running an errand. My husband knew what had happened so we stopped by the auto parts store and bought the appropriate part. He pulled up the instructions when we got home and made the repair while it was still daylight and warm outside. He knew rain and cooler weather were forecast for today.
    Wishing all the Bluebirds a lovely week,
    Elaine from Arizona

  8. Thanks for sharing, Fiona. You've given us lots of good information and ideas! Best wishes to you!

  9. Thank you for the wonderful suggestions---much to ponder for me...I find things to be much the same in the U.S. Prices are crazy. Thank goodness for ladies like you, Annabel, who got us putting things away in a pantry even before Covid. I think you had a medicine pantry (?) at the base of your old stairway in the old house? I wish I could see that picture again.

  10. Thank you for sharing Fiona!

  11. How interesting, your prices are almost the same as mine here in small city Saskatchewan. I agree on how sometimes the prices of things rise and yet the package shrinks.

    God bless.

  12. Thanks Fiona for such an informative post. I have read it a few times now, and each time I am learning something new. I think you must be closer to Brisbane than we are. I dont even think about heading there for any shopping. Distance and fuel prices make it unaffordable
    Food and fuel specials used to be a regular thing that you could plan around. We have noticed that this isnt the case anymore. We wait for $2 & $5 week at our Fresh and Save warehouse supermarket. We pick up lots of basics at a really good reduced price this way. These used to be once a month, now it is 6 or 7 weeks between specials.
    The shrinkflation that has been talked about is real. Having the size of items go down whilst the price goes up has been so annoying. I am looking more and more at the unit price rather than the item price these days.
    I love that you took the plunge and did the homeopathy course. It is something I keep umming and arhrring over. Maybe one day.
    Thank you again for you informative update

    1. The course only runs about every 6 months - next one starts in about 2 weeks. Has been such a lifesaver - have even managed to treat an "untreatable" serious injury to my pet this month - and saved having to put the dog down!! And it probably cost me about $2 outlay, but the vet basically sent me home with instructions to come back to have her put down when it got too much to manage!.

    2. I LOVE homeopathy. I use practical homeopathy meaning I use more than one remedy, sometimes many remedies, at a time. Remedies are like little soldiers - they march into the body knowing what their job is and get it done. Homeopathy goes by symptoms. Have a fever? treat a fever. Muscle aches? treat muscle aches. I have found that remedies will help each other.

      I'm going to share some information that might help others get started. There is so much information available free on the Internet for learning homeopathy. Just start reading and doing. Don't be afraid of it. It is so beautiful ... it won't hurt one. I've been learning and using it for the past 10 years.

      It is very helpful if one knows how to muscle test ... takes the guesswork out of homeopathy. Muscle testing is asking the body what it needs ... what remedies to use, how much, how often. Believe me, the body knows! Google self muscle test and there will be many options. As a follower of Jesus, I don't get into "spiritism" or iffy things. I'm just asking my body what it needs. My friends and I have found the sway test and/or a pendulum (I call it a swing - a needle on a thread, necklace, a tea bag, anything that will swing) to be so helpful.

      If one is truly interested in using homeopathy, a materia medica that explains remedies/what they are used for and a repertory that details a list of remedies for a particular ailment are needed. I like Robin Murphy's Lotus Materia Medica with a small repertory in the back the best. Kent's repertory is very detailed. (Both are available on Amazon.)

      God created everything with its own energy pattern. Homeopathy is using energy to heal - like treats like.

      The more a remedy is diluted and shook, the more potent it becomes. X = 10 (1 drop to 9 drops); C = 100 (1 drop to 99 drops); and M = 1,000 (1 drop to 999 drops). Thus M is much more potent than X. 30c is a very common potency with 200c being next. I have some all the way to 50M.

      By turning pellets into liquid it saves on getting too much sugar (gives me migraines), saves money, and extends the life of the remedy for years.

      I take a dose of sugar pellets and put them in a 1 oz amber dropper bottle and add 20% alcohol 80% water. I use vodka, usually 40% alcohol, so 1/2 vodka, 1/2 filtered water, and shake it 100 times; shaking is vital. The shaking puts the energy into the water and it becomes medicine.

      Just before using a liquid remedy, give it 3-5 shakes to "wake" it up. I add remedies to my coffee and drinking water (a sip becomes a dose) or I put drops under my tongue.

      When the bottle gets low, add more vodka/water and shake 100 times - all it needs is at least a drop of remedy in the bottle.

      Remedies are getting harder to come by so I've been beefing up my remedies. I purchase most of mine from Ainsworths in the UK. They have an amazing number of remedies. (The UK Royal Mail was attacked and no mail was being sent out of country for a few weeks but that has been fixed and they are mailing out of country once again.)

      Homeopathy is so efficacious. With the world situation the way it is and meds harder to get, it is a really good idea. It truly is amazing how homeopathy can help one heal!!

      Below are some links ...

  13. Hello Fiona 👋 I too live in the Northern Rivers of NSW (Lismore) I didn’t know anyone else in this group was from my area, so happy to “meet you”

    I agree 100% with everything you have said about the food prices and shortages in our area. I would like to add we are also paying astronomically higher for fuel in our region and I have no idea why 🤷‍♀️ We travel a fair bit and see fuel minimum 10 cents a litre cheaper as soon as you get up the great dividing range, it’s crazy!

    I had a giggle when you mentioned the milo, I used to be the same! Now I can’t remember the last time I bought it because I can’t bring myself to pay the “new” price! We are on our last tin and I have teenage boys who love it so I guess sooner or later I’m going to have to pay up 😩

    I’d love to know how to purchase some of your meat, if you want to publish the farm name I can look you up!

    Thanks to you and Annabel for taking the time to write about the state of the nation and the world!

    From Cheryl

    1. Hi Cheryl, are you on the facebook page? I can PM you farm details through there I think....

  14. Fiona, your article was very informative. We each have different circumstances and live in different areas of the world, yet we are all suffering the high rise of prices on some items. Thank you for sharing with us.

  15. To lejmom

    The medical cabinet picture is on September 8, 2021 blog. Just scroll down

  16. I love, Fiona, that you tackle provident living from all sides- food preservation, MOO-ing, mending and taking care of things you have, smart shopping and mostly, good old-fashioned working at keeping your home running within your budget during really challenging times!! I’ve gleaned several good ideas from your post! So thank you, Fiona AND Annabel!!

    Gardenpat in Ohio


Post a Comment

Popular Posts