Bluebirds on the Ground. Cath from Melbourne Australia.
Today our post is from my friend Cath in Melbourne. `I first "met" Cath through The Cheapskates Club. To me she was a celebrity because she had been on TV many times. I think this is how I found her website. I joined the club as a full member and at that time we were living in Adelaide. The first evening I began to explore the savings tips and I immediately found a tip that saved us over $600 a year. This being ten years ago it was a massive amount, it still is, but it was such a lot! I will tell you what that tip was. For some reason I had no idea that prescription drugs varied in price across chemists/pharmacies and dramatically! I thought some chemists were more expensive than others for giftware and beauty kind of items but I thought prescriptions were some how kind of "standard." Boy was I wrong! Andy was taking a lot of prescription drugs and I had the receipts from recent purchases so I made a list of the names of each and the price. I took that list to two discount chemists, handed it to them and asked please can I have their prices for each of the drugs? Both of them looked up each price and wrote it for me alongside the prices I was currently paying. Both were so helpful. At home I compared and saw that on the prescriptions Andy was on (without counting any other possible illnesses during a year) changing chemists would save over $600 a year. Some said to me I will get less "service" but that has never been true. Our chemist is always available to speak to, ask advice and always advises anything we need to know. Since we moved to the country we support the local chemist in many ways and have built a relationship with him as well as I think this is really important. But for the bulk of Andy's prescriptions the discount chemist posts them to him monthly and it now saves us well over $1000 a year. Since this began ten years ago this one tip has saved around. $8,000. I continued to find savings every time I spent time on The Cheapskates Club and now especially from Cath's YouTube channel. Eventually I got to meet Cath and the rest as they say is history! But I digress.... over to Cath!
I am a Christian wife, mother, homemaker and small business owner and I believe that we are in the grips of a financial crisis that is the worst in my lifetime.
I don't think any of those times in the 1970s, 90s and then the GFC, hard though they were, are even close to what we are experiencing now and will continue to experience for years to come.
I live with my husband and two of our adult children in Australia's second largest city. Our daughter bought her first home 18 months ago and lives in a country town about 1-1/2 hours away.
Before I go on, I want to stress that if anything I say scares you, stop and ask yourself why. If you think anything I say or write is exaggeration, stop and ask yourself why.
I'm not exaggerating or using "click bait" (two things I am accused of weekly). Nor am I fear mongering or trying to cause panic. I'm saying what I see, and sharing how it is affecting my family, and how we are dealing with circumstances, in the hope that it will help you.
I only go out once a week these days. And I only go about 3.5km - it's an 7km round trip. The cost of diesel is prohibitive; as I write it is $2.05 a litre. That means it costs $143.50 to fill my car - that's two weeks grocery money to put it in perspective. So I go out once a week, to a small local shopping centre that has most of what we need - Aldi and Coles, a greengrocer, a bakery, a $2 Shop, a newsagent.
The bank has closed. As have both banks at the strip shopping centre I can walk too. My nearest bank is now 7.6km away. NAB (one of the major banks in Australia) is not only closing branches, but also ATMs, forcing people to online banking (conditioning the population to accept digital currency without question?). Other banks are also closing branches everywhere. And all while the banking industry is in chaos.
We have the Federal Government and the major banks all saying we don’t need to worry about what is happening in the rest of the world, our banks are secure. But for whom? And for how long?
Sure, in Australia bank deposits are government guaranteed up to $250,000 – but where is that money coming from when the banks fail? Our taxes only go so far, and they have already been stretched to breaking point.
When the banking crisis became major news a couple of weeks ago, we sat down and talked it over. What we have done is create a cash emergency fund. We still have our EF in the bank, but with the way the financial market has been the last three months, and with the collapse of so many banks in the last fortnight, we made the decision to withdraw some cash and create a cash EF. I'm not telling anyone to withdraw all their money from the bank and to stash thousands of dollars in their house but having enough cash on hand to give you breathing room if/when the banks collapse just makes sense. But be smart about it. Don't tell all and sundry what you have done, keep your mouth shut. Safety first!
And remember that Cash is King! I’ve noticed that even some of the more popular economic bloggers and YouTubers have switched their tune and are now suggesting people should consider moving to a cash budget. Yes, we should! Cash budgets are private. Think about that, and decide how much your privacy and independence is worth if you’re not sure about moving to a cash budget. During the pandemic we were told cash was dirty and some stores here refused to take it, demanding that all purchases be done by card. Plenty of people fell for that out of the fear that was being created about the dangers of cash, became so used to tapping or swiping a card for their purchases that they’ll happily move to a digital currency because they’ve already been conditioned and accepted it.
We are a pretty thrifty family, but we are cutting back even more. Nothing is wasted. We had watermelon over the weekend, and it was delicious. The first watermelon this summer because it has been too expensive. We have eaten the fruit and I have the rind soaking as I type to make watermelon rind pickles. Nothing is wasted – we simply can’t afford it.
Instead of buying a new t-shirt or relegating it to a gardening shirt when the one I wear for work had faded so badly, I bought a bottle of Rit dye and dyed it. Cost: $4.30 for the dye compared to, $20 for a new t-shirt.
Leather boots and shoes are polished after every wear now. Keeping them clean and polished will preserve the leather and we'll get more wears from them. New work boots for Wayne are $215, the boots I wear are now $300! And they are hard to get - even the Australian made boots are out of stock almost constantly in the sizes we need (I was looking for new boots a month ago and there weren’t any in my size).
Power bills are crippling. In the last quarter of 2022, 30% of Victorian households defaulted on their electricity bill. Thirty percent! If that hasn't woken up the Government that it needs to take back control of essentials services nothing will; instead all they can offer is platitudes and a small handout (not knocking it, but again that money has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is our taxes – and that just means that taxes will go up). That means that 30% of households had their power disconnected, leading to a reconnection fee on top of the bill they couldn't pay.
We are all even more conscious of the power we use. The only appliances left on when not in use are the fridge, freezers, dishwasher and cooktop. Everything else is turned off at the wall and if possible unplugged.
We use one lamp in the loungeroom of an evening, and it doesn't get turned on until it is too dark to read.
We boil the kettle twice a day for our hot drinks. The boiling water goes into a thermos and we use that for our tea and coffee during the day.
We are all using the solar chargers for our phones, laptops and tablets.
I laughed when we came home last week after a few days away, free camping by a lovely lake, and the dishwasher was full. Straight away No. 1 Son said “it wasn’t full so we didn’t run it”. They are very conscious of the need to be wise with our power use as it comes at a high cost.
I have brought the electric frying pan out and use that instead of the oven for baking veggies and small roasts etc. It even heats up pies nicely if you put them on a rack so the air can circulate.
The slowcooker and pressure cooker cost just a few cents an hour to run compared to the oven. I've always used them, but if you have these appliances and don't make use of them, you'll notice a difference in the power used when you start.
We have used the air-conditioner this summer, on the hottest days. I checked with our power app and running the air con for the day adds between $6 - $7 a day to our bill. We don’t run it every day, only on the hottest of days when we can't avoid it. Last Saturday was very hot - it made it to 38C in our suburb, and I was hosting cards, so the air con was on. I moved $8 that night straight into the bill account to cover the cost.
Moving into winter, we won't be using the ducted heating. Instead, we have been collecting firewood since the end of last winter, building up a supply so we can use our slow combustion heater to heat the house. It will dry the washing too, and heat water for dishwashing, drinking, cooking. We collect firewood because it is so expensive to buy. We have a chain saw and a log splitter and we don't mind working to save money; we turn collecting firewood into a day out.
The shortages have me keeping a running "need" list. When we need something and I can't get it, it is written on the list and I keep looking for it. This takes time, about 20 minutes a day at the moment, searching websites and browsing flyers to try and find the things on the list at a price we can afford. Then I get my husband to pick it up, or one of the kids, if they are already out and about. Our daughter lives in a country town and she can often get what I can’t and vice versa, so we are constantly messaging back and forth about things on the list. I think this will become common as more and more people wake up and realise that they can't get what they want, or need.
I also think it will be the beginnings of a strong barter/swap economy - I have spare boots you need and you have a woollen blanket I need so we can negotiate a trade. I see this economy becoming more and more popular as more and more things disappear from our lives or simply become too expensive for us.
Some of you may already know me, so you'll know that my pantry is always stocked, and that I am always stocking it. I've been preaching and teaching pantry building and self-sufficiency and frugal living for 23 years; it's not something I just jumped on during the pandemic crisis, or when talk of the looming financial crisis started about 2 years ago (and it's already happening folks, looming is a propaganda word Governments and media and financial "experts" are using to keep you ignorant of the facts - do your own research).
I shop with a list and stick to it. I do look for marked down food and grocery items, but since Christmas there have been fewer and fewer, with the prices often only marked down 50 cents or $1, even on past BBD items.
Meat is expensive. We are eating more mince meals, and I'm stretching roasts as far as I can. Brisket has been the cheapest meat the last few weeks at $11.99/kg, so I've been buying them and cooking them up, either in the slow cooker, the smoker or canning the meat. I'm waiting for chicken to come on sale, we are almost out of frozen and canned chicken so I am scanning flyers and websites every day, and when it does come on sale I will be buying as much as I can to fill the freezer and pantry shelves.
The last time I bought chicken (September 2022) it was $6.49/kg - now it's $10.99kg - $16.99/kg depending on where you shop. Mince is on sale for $10.99/kg (Costco has mince for $9.99/kg but you do need to factor in the membership fee of $60 and travel costs). And portion sizes have become important! I am making sure I get the right number of serves from each recipe, even stretching them to get an extra serve where I can.
Last week I couldn't get cheese. There wasn't any. I counted the cartons of eggs - 7 in total. Toilet paper is up and down, some weeks there is none, the next week there will be half a bay. Frozen vegetables are also up and down in supply while prices just go up. Some frozen potato items are still rationed.
After talking with Annabel, I decided to take a quick visit to my local Aldi and Coles. It was disheartening.
Aldi had very little in the way of fruit and veg, although the prices were OK, not great deals, but not as expensive as they have been. There was very little meat, and prices are up. There was very little in the way of cheese (and as a note: know your prices. The Aldi cheese slices at $4.29 a packet on the surface look cheaper than Coles, but the weight has gone down from 500g to 432g - the per kilo price is just 1 cent cheaper than the Coles equivalent).
There was no butter. No eggs. No hard block cheese. The only grated cheese was mozzarella. There was no tinned tomatoes, or tinned tomato soup. Only one full tray of baked beans (that is now in our pantry). The only frozen veggies were 1 kilo packets of peas/corn/carrots, baby peas, sliced green beans and corn cobs. No frozen potato chips or wedges, half a section of sweet potato wedges. No flour. Two tins of olive oil.
Tinned diced tomatoes have gone up 10 cents a tin to $1.10 a can at Coles. On one can that's not a huge impact on your grocery bill, but if you use three tins a week, that's $15.60 a year. Again, on one product it's not a huge impact on your grocery bill, but if every item on your list went up just 10 cents, that's potentially hundreds of dollars a year you will need to find just to continue eating as you have been.
On that note, for Australian Bluebirds, tinned tomatoes and tomato products are going to be in very short supply for at least 12 months as SPC/Ardmona have stopped production of tomato products. The floods last year wiped out tomato crops and they haven’t been able to source enough to run the lines. Stock up when you can.
There are shortages of food, toiletries, medicines, pet foods, cleaning goods, lumber, car parts, baby formula (again), furniture and just about everything we use and need in our day-to-day lives. It can’t be denied. Yes, the shelves may have stock on them, but is that stock what you need? What you normally buy? If Brand A had disappeared, Brand B may still be available, but there are now twice as many consumers trying to buy it. There are shortages!
But your government (wherever you live) won't admit that - they will still tell you inflation is under control and just because you can't get what you need, there are other things you can get.
Too bad your kids want to be fed, but all you can buy are gumboots.
Remember: control the food, control the people. Don’t let anyone control your food!
My advice is to keep growing a garden; learn new skills – how to mend clothes, darn socks, fix a leaking tap, dehdyrate veggies, make jam, how to stretch meals, bake breads, grow food.
Don't stop filling your pantry. Don't stop stockpiling. Stock what you eat and use first. When you have your pantry full of those things, then look to keeping a small stock of things you could use for a trade.
I don’t ever share photos of our pantry, I don't believe it is safe, and I would advise against it. But I will tell you that our pantry has increased so that we now have a two year supply of what we need and use. I don't believe that is greedy or selfish, but rather I know that when the shell grit hits the fan by the handsful, I will be able to feed my family, keep them clean, keep our home clean, and continue to grow and preserve some of what we eat. There will also be some to share with family who think I’m weird right now, but will happily accept our help. It will ease the stress and take away the immediate pressure of struggling to find basic needs, or to afford them.
With prices rising so rapidly, rents and mortgages going up by thousands of dollars a month and wages stagnating, it may become the reverse shortage - plenty of food but so expensive people won't be able to buy it because they won't have the money.
We are already seeing that here. Steak $68.99 a kilo - a week's grocery budget on the meat portion of one meal for a family of five - only the very wealthy can afford those prices and at those prices they won't be very wealthy for long (or perhaps yet another passive aggressive way of turning people from eating meat to eating bugs and factory “grown” meat?) Or how about potatoes $4 a kilo? Ouch! Rice is now over $2 a kilo. Pasta at Aldi is 89 cents per 500g. All these little increases are having a devastating effect on grocery budgets, and this on top of rising rents and mortgages is crippling millions of Australian households.
It is not being selfish or greedy to stock your pantry as full as you can; it is sensible and wise and good stewardship.
We need to be smart. We need to be preparers. We need to be consistent with preparing. We need to do our own research. We need to keep learning.
We need to be as independent, self-sufficient and self-reliant as we can be because in the end, we can only rely on ourselves and what we have prepared. Governments aren’t going to help us. Charities are barely coping now, when this crisis worsens, and it will, they won’t be able to cope.
Preparing isn’t showing a lack of faith. It is wise and smart, and trusting that God will supply our needs, so we need to be open to how He supplies those needs.
It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.
Joseph prepared during the seven good years for the seven lean years.
The Children of Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years, preparing by collecting extra manna on a Friday so they could keep the Sabbath.
Follow your instincts; listen to the little voice that tells you to plant more potatoes or get towels now.
Be a preparer and don’t stop praying or preparing.
Lastly, question everything, even the words I have written. Do your own research so you know what is truth, and what and who you can trust.
Thank you so much Cath!
You can find Cath's Website here The Cheapskates Club. I strongly recommend 31 Days Of MOO (Make Our Own) as you will find so many things that you can simply make at home and save an absolute fortune! There is also a free newsletter.
You can find her blog here Home Among the Gum Trees.
The candles I made recently were from an idea Cath gave me on her YouTube channel.
And her YouTube channel here The Cheapskates Club.
I would love it if you would show your support and like, subscribe or sign up.
The week is going well, we had a little bit of rain, I am working on apples, pears and basil... and my cows are due to calf! See you on Friday! xxx