Tag Archives: Self-sufficiency & sustainability

Backyard permaculture – pre-design thinking

Now that I’m half way through my Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) theory, I’m about to take a really good crack at some intentional design in terms of applying permaculture principles in an average sized garden.

Below,  is the layout of the productive backyard that we now have after five-six years of ad-hoc design with permaculture principles in mind, but without really any formal or deep understanding.

[click image to enlarge]


My final PDC design project has therefore rather humble aims:

Moving this young backyard farm into maturity by giving it a vision and including:

  • removing the last of the invasive lower lawn for veg beds
  • creating more vertical veg growing space,
  • connecting it to the front yard which is now an emerging food forest too
  • solutions for unused wasted sides of the house
  • developing a natural play area for the kids

Bringing it all together as a whole,  is where hopefully having some idea of permaculture design principles will help so that I can see the space and the little areas of potential.

How we got to this stage

I wanted to capture where we are now, and how this young productive garden emerged, before I start my final design project for my PDC and for anyone else working on their PDC with a small space.

Six years ago we moved away from our 20 acre rural block, our dream hobby farm – into a house on about 890 square metres. We were in our 30s so not really traditional ‘downsizers’, but the property was situated precariously on a ridge top, had limited access and in summer we had a close call with bushfire without any access to water.

Leaving our farm was the hardest thing I ever did.

We left space, epic views, secret valleys, winter rivers, echidnas and wedge tailed eagles, space for orchards you could walk through and just everything I had dreamed of. We went to a normal street, into a normal house into a normal space that meant no more cows, goats or roosters or wild places.

I still have days when my heart pines to be back there, listening to the wind blowing through sheoaks.

But, as it tuned out, we were able to slowly create a more sustainable future. A slow retrofit is still in progress, starting with insulation and adding internal doors for example.

We now have less reliance on cars, can walk into the Main Street of our small town rather than having to drive everywhere,  could afford to upgrade solar hot water and power, have massively reduced electricity consumption and no electricity bills – even our house sewage septic system is recycled for viticulture irrigation. Instead of feeding cows and maintaining fences I food gardened.

We moved into bareness in the backyard – just rectangles of invasive lawn, 3 spindly young fruit trees and no soil. I was eight months pregnant and managed to throw a few veg seedlings in to settle in.


when we moved in
Soiless and souless


We both work professional jobs and have young children and yes, I have to be honest, ALL my free time over the last six years is mostly immersed in food gardening. Or reading about others about food gardening, or talking to others about food garden or thinking about food gardening.

My daughter described me as “mad about permaculture” on a poster describing their mums at school. Maybe I am mad putting all this heart in.

On days I was too exhausted with my baby son, I would be up early to watch episodes of Costa’s Garden Oddyssey I found on DVDs and it became a morning ritual with a baby and four year old.  I had a moment of understanding that this was going to take time and to start with the soil – to build soil – and be patient.

In 2012, I started lasagne gardening/sheet mulching this place to build soil . I borrowed books on permaculture from the library and dreamed of the backyard forest that this garden could be. It was imaginary.

There was no design, no vision, just a hazy idea of what could be daydreamed, the design emerged in the edges of everything else. It felt right to design informally in this way with dreams by the fireside, experiments and failures.

Bit by built we built structures, and after 4 years finally culminated in adding chickens . When they arrived I felt the backyard farm had become!

So, undertaking this PDC has given me an unexpected concern. I’m feeling doubtful about whether I’m suited to designing gardens properly on paper -with any precision. It feels…unlike me to garden on paper.  I’m trying though. I measured out my space last week to roughly get the plan I put together to scale. Sort of.

But I wonder if others feel this way. To be truthful, drawing it out first feels like it kills the wonder a bit for me.

But…what I want to encourage is simple. Start where you are. Right now. In whatever way it feels right to begin.

Don’t wait until you have “the dream acreage” don’t feel that you have to have big space to apply permaculture design. Learn now from the tiniest space.

In 1999, my first veg garden in my 20s was a front garden patch of about 15m2 in England. We won a prize because it was seen as a novelty to grow veg amongst cottage garden flowers – but it was all the space we had. The design – intercropping – emerged from the limits. Limitation can be the spark.

Any space can be enough room to grow.

Make boundaries into horizons.

Inspiration hanging in my garden                              c/o Costa Georgiadis & Earth Garden magazine

Any space can be everything you need, if you can begin with valuing the potential of what you do have.  If you still need more trees, visit them. Or if you need wilderness (which yes,  I really do miss in my deepest soul) go forth and camp there, or join in an effort to plant trees there.  If you dream of more growing space, volunteeer in your local school or community garden.

And then come home to grow where you live.

And live where you grow.

And take your growing, where ever you go.




Upfront-worthy veg

We’re the hippies of the hood perhaps, with our mostly native rambling front garden but I decided to forge on a bit further and gently introduce some vegetables as it’s a great growing site. It’s a first for me in an Australian garden growing vegetables in the front (did it in the UK as we had a very small space).

With wallaby and kangaroo grass seeding, flax lilly’s dainty clusters of nodding blue and yellow flowers, red and yellow kangaroo paw in flower and the sweet scent of native frangipani trees it’s a hot colour riot of sight and smell right now. A bee haven.  Mingling scents of native frangipani, rosemary, lavender and lemon basil too. So why not even more diversity with some produce in the mix!

Hot spires of kangaroo paw – they love chicken manure

The first adventures into mixing some veg into the front (we don’t have street verges alas!) was sacrificing a bed that had mainly herbs. We inherited heavy clay soil in this front garden, so I took a patient year of soil prepping including worm castings, mushroom compost, direct deep composting of kitchen scraps first, before attempting any removal or planting. Removing the large woody herbs wasn’t too laborious once the soil had improved (previoulsy impossible baked into hard clay!) and the tomato seedlings have loved their freedom!

There will be more front veg planting to come, longer term plans for strawbale or timbercrete to replace wooden retaining walls – so much to do – and I’m converting a lawn at the back first – so my guess is this is it for a while in the front.  But by tackling one small thing at a time – like a yield of heirloom tomatoes, which have always been challenging in my backyard raised beds, you find that you can slow down enough to think about design more, rather than just rushing in to plant and change everything all at once. It gives you time to observe.

Front veg bed of heirloom tomatoes, lemon grass, lemon basil, zuchinni

Yellow kangaroo paw on a backdrop of lavender.
Dianella (flax lilly) and native grasses under the native frangipani tree

Why failing to grow is a yield too

Back in Autumn 2015, I tried growing burgundy Okra from seed and a late winter planting. Fail. Not just me either, I shared some seedlings and no one had any luck. 

I tried again in Spring, again sharing the few that had germinated through the local community produce share. I’m hopeful of finding out whether others had luck, because… one of mine made it!!!

As long as I can keep the chickens out of this bed, I think this little okra will be ok.

Growing is about failing, and failing is learning, because failing puts the details in your face, and asks you scrutinise the situation right there in front of you.  ‘Why didn’t this work?’ 

Moving on from failure, also requires you to stand back and look at the bigger picture, looking for a pattern, a clue to the myriad of complex interactions that take place just to make one tiny thing happen. ‘What am I missing?’

You learn something about the universe in these observations, something a bit hard to explain, but this recent article about The physics of life in Nature magazine by Gabriel Popkin stirs up what I feel.

So get out there, get your hands dirty and fail, because when one seed grows you will treasure and value it more than anything you own. 

You can take the girl away from the farm…

The beautiful personalities of three Australorp chickens settling into the backyard has been a thoroughly enjoyable part of the Christmas break. I can’t describe how much I love them. I wake up and can’t wait to say good morning to them.

Chickpea who turned out to be Chuckpea was swapped for a black pullet, at least…I hope she’s a pullet! It can be a little hard to tell, but we’ll just have to see. My youngest chose her name…Fluffy. So, Betty, Penelope and…Fluffy.

I’ve already had that heart-stopping moment of believing they were gone.  I arrived later home than planned from the local Christmas twilight farmers market.  The darkening garden was silent. The coop, empty…

Then, a gentle chicken-sleeping sound. I found them snoozing up high in the lilly-pilly tree. Such a relief to scoop them up and plop them into their safe night house. Foxes are plentiful around here in wine country.

Ah, they are already in my heart, these three.

chickens (2).jpg
My idea of having a drink with girls, sitting in the garden talking to chickens


We’ve had the first special gift to them via me.  I was excited to find a cockroach in my potting shed, caught it and delivered it with the speed of a pizza delivery guy to the  girls. Betty is the boss and so Betty dined on cockroach and we shared a knowing glance of mutual understanding.

We’ve also, already  had that chat, about vegetables and boundaries. It’s related to the chat that you have with cats about not eating any creature that appears in Wind in the Willows.  In particular, with chickens, we discussed the unauthorised harvesting of onions and beetroot. It happens. They love the raised-ness of raised-beds of course, and saw me scratching around planting, and so took it, naturally, as the invitation they had not actually been waiting for. It’s their nature, their gift. They did a brilliant job, really very gentle.  Just in case they get a little exuberant under the spell of the harvest festival time,  I’ve erected a sort of pacifist form of barbed wire so that forays into the vegetables are by invitation only for now. I know they will outsmart it. I know what it looks like. Wooly rainbow bunting that says “The place for chickens to party and feast is up here by these vegetables!”bunting (2)

Sleeping arrangements

You know what it’s like when families or friends converge on a house. Who gets which room, who gets which bed. Chickens are no different.

In the past we had the luxury of a chicken shed larger than my present garden shed, with multiple height perches and a large flock. Luxury in a tin shed of epic proportions.  There was plenty of room to sleep anywhere. However, now with a smaller night house, space is limited and every space has a single purpose.

With the arrival of Fluffy, Betty and Penelope had to establish their authority. During the day this was with the odd peck and being punished for daring to share some watermelon. By night, Penelope and Betty both began to sleep in the nesting boxes, banishing Fluffy to sleep alone on the perches.

It isn’t a good idea for chickens to routinely sleep in the nesting area because they poo at night, making the area a little unsuitable for egg laying. It can also discourage them from laying as egg laying is usually a bit of a cosy private affair, with a bit of flapping around and shouting it from the rooftops afterwards to announce it.

I observed their interactions each day, and noticed in the last few days that the relationships between the three, had steadied and grown. Fluffy had earned her place in the hierarchy and all three were getting along swimmingly, each finding their role. Fluffy was no longer an outcast.

This signalled to me, that they would be willing to sleep in the same space together. So, tonight, to discourage Betty and Penelope from sleeping in the nest boxes,  I attached cardboard to a piece of squared wire and slotted this in at around 8pm (summer time in Adelaide) as they were trying to settle in for sleep. Then at about 11pm, I checked on them by torchlight to make sure they were all asleep together on the perches and gently and quietly remove the partition. Will this work? I have no idea!

Although I let them out of the night house around 5am every morning, they are just before point of lay and who knows when the egg-laying urge will strike, so I don’t want to leave the removal of the partition until morning at this special time in a chicken life – the first egg should be a special and safe experience for a hen.

If there’s a lot of poo in the nestboxes and a chicken sized indentation in the straw when I check in the morning, it means they probably moved in there overnight and I’ll have to leave the removal of the partition  until morning.

I think after a few nights of this, hopefully they will stop going into the nest boxes to sleep.

If anyone has any other genius tips for discouraging crashing out in the nest for rest, let me know.

Evolving design: backyard farm with permaculture design ideas

It’s fair to say that I’m still learning a lot about the micro-climate of our back garden after five years of growing here.  I’m also still learning a lot about permaculture by revisiting and thinking about the principles a lot.

With the chickens now a new part of it, I did a quick messy sketch, to review where things are at, and to think about where things are going.


The chicken coop is located in shadiest spot of the garden, on the lower level, underneath a large lillypilly tree.  This is also a favourite climbing tree for our children. I like the feel of this as the central point of the garden, and there are tomatoes shoved in underneath the plum tree nearby, and anywhere there is a spare space, so the edges are suitable mixed.

With temperatures at the moment over 40 degrees for many days in a row, shade is really important for chickens, so having the tree as shelter was obvious, but the location decision was made simple because there was no room anywhere else.

With the chickens now involved in the garden, planting around their coop for shade is important (currently using hessian and shadecloth attached to the wire) as the summer sun rises over the hills in the east then bakes both levels of our garden.

So my thinking is a comfrey border around the chicken yard, and much more vertical space for climbing fruits and trying out some berries. Also mulching over the invasive lawn on the lower lever and putting in more raised beds at some stage would be great.

The south-eastern corner is the wild zone. There are native trees, and some drought tolerant plants including hollyhocks, protea, native violet and grasses that provide sheltered passage from the moss-rock wall where blue-tongue lizards are often seen. You can often hear and see them crunching over dry leaves going to and fro. Between the rocks are tough plants including natives like wooly bush, running postman climber alongside pincushion and king protea to attract birds.

The only struggle is the baking hot summer sun on the raised veggie beds, so insulating them a little is in my thoughts too. The two beds that are wicking beds fair better in the south-eastern corner, but the one near the gravel garden struggles.

I feel very contented now the chickens are here, no eggs for a little while yet, but their personalties are already making a huge impact.

And… the fig tree we planted into a barrel has baby figs!!

Branch by branch: backyard chickens

I can hear it. That sound, of happiness and curiosity that I’ve missed so much. Those dark intelligent eyes and witty ways. Absent from my daily life for five years.

Three chickens joined the garden yesterday, and my heart is brim full. Still cautious and alert in their new surroundings, so only a quick photograph snapped of Chickpea:


This morning was the first morning they were there when I went out into the garden (usually around 5:30am).  Part of my routine  in the veg garden was attending to them and it’s hard to describe the feeling of happiness. It just seems to be part of sunrise, part of life, part of the rhythm of morning, to be greeted by chickens.  It feels like an age old tradition, marking the dawn and dusk.

From memories of their presence in past times on the farm, to travel memories;  disembarking an overnight train from the hot hustle-bustle of Mumbai, up towards the cool mountains and on first stepping off the long haul journey of the night,  emerging out of the hot train to the cool sound of happy chickens on the train platform. They are just a delightful presence. Eggs are a bonus, I’m in it for their personalities. 🙂

I love how chickens so aptly, make you feel like a stupid human too. Chickpea has already proven that she is the clever one. Escape from the pen is a simple task by leaping up onto the roof. They will soon free range with supervision, but in these first few days making sure they know the coop is their base is important.  So this morning was quickly rigging up some rooftop discouragement and coaxing her back into the pen with a freshly-picked strawberry. She will already come close if she sees me with a strawberry. Today I sacrificed a lot of strawberries for new friendships.

There are three ladies, all big and beautiful Australorps. Chickpea is black, Betty is a blue and Penelope is a splash. They came from a local family-run farm property five minutes away and you could tell the owner loves and cares for her chickens. Although alert to their surroundings, they are surprisingly calm.

They will be such an important step in the garden in terms of contributing to the slow progress of permaculture design. It’s actually working now, I can feel it, but I can always see ways of using the space better and learning something new about what I’ve observed. Creating some vertical growing spaces are in my thoughts as well as planting crops near the new coop.

Oh, and every new coop needs a name, so that was made very early this morning.

the bothy

I am just finally able to feel it – it’s a backyard farm. Things grow here.

Small and slow: garden to farm

Having been here at our house for around five years, after downsizing from a large property, it has felt at times like a slow journey to transform  a garden devoid of anything but a few fruit trees into a backyard farm. Looking back at what I began back then, learning about building soil in the Winter of 2012, it seems a long time ago.

From building soil, raised beds, setting up worm farms, a small compost bin, planting fruit and nut trees, getting into a rhythm of learning about growing my own seedlings and establishing some zones in the garden, and reading a lot about permaculture and how to transfer that thinking in a practical way, into a small space. It’s been a constant and ongoing thing. It’s not there yet, but that’s the whole point. It never will be. Constantly evolving and growing.

I now grow so many  heirlooms seedlings,  (mostly Diggers varieties) with such success that I regularly have heirloom seedlings to share regularly though the local community share table, and I’ve started a small monthly seedling and produce share at my work too.

And now, a major milestone is on the horizon. Chickens will be joining us in our backyard very soon!  At this point, the backyard farms begins to be feel like one.  Just the thought of having chickens again makes me feel wonderfully excited.

The back corner of the garden, deliberately wild is a favourite haunt of resident blue-tongue lizards

I think there will be differences in keeping chickens in a backyard (no wedge-tailed eagles or foxes trying to raid the coop). I expect to have to unlearn some of things I think I understand about keeping chickens. So despite keeping chickens on the farm, I’m not approaching this venture like I know what I’m doing. I’m on the wait-list at my local library for the book Backyard Poultry Naturally by Alanna Moore which has some great reviews. There is always room for re-learning what you think you know.

With less space, more care and planning is required to give chickens what they need for happiness. This is why the long wait to bring them in.  I’ve allowed the garden to mature into shady pockets, the soil to build and deepen, trees to grow and for intentional little wild zones to develop,  just right for curious and clever chickens to explore when they free range.

Under the plum tree, might seem overgrown, but this will cause a lot of delight for chickens when they arrive.

In the past few years brown snakes have been nesting on the vacant block next door (none sighted this year so far), so keeping our back garden rodent free is a priority.   This is why I invested in a grain feeder . On the farm, we weren’t so careful about the odd grain scatter, snakes were a daily encounter by the dams etc, but it feels important with children around, and a smaller enclosed space, to not invite snakes to a dinner party by encouraging mice. So, a bit of an investment to begin with seemed like a sensible idea.

So now, the tomatoes have the first blush of summer, the trees are laden with plums, daily small harvests of zuchinni, speckled bean pods hang on the vine, oranges and mandarins are green with future promise, corn nods its head in the breeze, strawberries burst into sweetness… and as soon as we have the coop set up and ready..the patter and scratch of chicken feet and their gentle happy ways will add to the cycle.

It does take time, all of this, but for me, growing is part of being connected to not just food production, but the small and beautiful details of life.

These heirlooms
Infinite in diversity
Harvest picked by hand

Reducing household food waste

This week, I took part as in interviewee this week in a very interesting  Food Waste research study about household food waste and was shocked to think about some of the statistics.

“Research by the NSW Government shows that the average NSW household throws out $1,036 of food per annum. In looking at food waste around Australia, Do Something calculates that Australians throw out $7.8 billion of food every year. That’s a huge waste of money! “(Food Wise)

Although in our household, we put some scraps in the worm farm, not having chickens anymore means that I dispose of a lot more that I would like to at the moment.  It was reassuring to feel that personally, I think we’re doing okish. It made me very keen to hurry up and establish a garden compost area, that’s for sure. Once I stopped to think about what I wasted, even though I make conscious efforts not to waste food, I decided I wasn’t going to leave my efforts at being interviewed.

What I found particularly interesting is beginning to really see the psychology around food waste –  I  realised that this was the angle  coming through the via the interview questions.

I had a moment of realisation that my philosophy around food could do with a bit of tweaking because:

Composting food that was edible into your garden or worm farm, just because it started to spoil before you ate it – is still a gross waste!

my kitchen

If your worms eat food that went off because it languished in the cupboard or fridge, it is a waste of an edible resource that has taken a lot of energy to produce, travel and store for consumption.  If you consider that parts of the worlds population suffer from hunger and starvation,  you start to realise that managing food waste is not just about composting and recycling. It is more importantly to look at purchasing and storage. Buying perishables in quantities that you actually need to use or learning to store them properly to reduce spoilage, preserve them for future use. Never buying something you won’t use, just because it’s a bargain. 

Changing habits.

So, my brain has been ticking over since Wednesday, I’ve decided to try and turn this into a project of sorts for our household.

Think about it. If we are on average, spending $1000 a year on wasted foods to line our bins, or feed our worms our fertilise our garden, we definitely should be motivated to make changes to the way we buy and store food. Not just for the environment, and ethical reasons, but for our household budget.

My little plan for little changes

The average weekly shopping bill in Australia is apparently around $200 week;  $400 a fortnight.

I think I maybe spend less than average on our food ($140 per week for a family of 4 which includes fruit and veg,  fresh and frozen plain seafood, lean meat). I’ve not included nappies or cleaning items  etc.. in this.

Changes I have already made

About a year ago, I consciously stopped buying all pre-processed food for the freezer, and ready-made sauces and packets. No pasta sauces (except the odd jar of pesto until my basil takes off) . It makes things slightly trickier, but I have always had a well stocked spice cupboard, as as long as you keep your stocks of basic staples up, making your own sauces is really only a tiny bit more time intensive. The quality of the fresh fruit and veg went up as I stopped purchasing it from a supermarket.  (I love going to the local farmers market, but doing a family sized shop on a Saturday morning with two young children is quite difficult). Approximately 50% of our food budget is on fresh veg and fruit (from First Froots which is market fresh and stores easily for a fortnight and longer).  This bill will drop over spring and summer as our veggie patch starts providing, particularly this year with the big beds.

a cheeky meal from my veg patch

I buy less meat that ever before, despite our family being larger now and pad it out with things like lentils. I just don’t feel the need to eat lots of meat. I’ve always been a lover of vegetarian meals and have always used chick peas and other pulses for adding volume to meat meals too. We eat red meat and chicken on average, once a week and fish  2-3 times a week – veggies are consumed daily.

I also changed my concept of fast food by buying a tiered steamer just after my second child was born. Fast food in our house (if I haven’t thought about dinner) is steamed vegetables and fish (15 mins) or alternatively, on the cook top I like to make something like a quick lentil dahl (25 mins) using tinned lentils.

Sometimes we get Chinese takeaway on a Saturday night and this is really our entertaining budget and is a nice treat, so I’m not seeking to change this just yet, however it is of course a waste to buy takeaway, if you then waste edible food because it wasn’t used. Hmm. That’s one to think about, especially as I have all the lovely flavours for Chinese stir fry in the cupboard. Still, it is nice not to have to cook on a Saturday night.

I am home during the day at the moment, but I mostly don’t start cooking until just before 5 as I’m all doing housework or gardening . I’m not great at cooking during the day or even thinking about food beyond the next day.

Change 1: If I planned ahead more, I know I could consume less, so this is my first change to  make. Meal planning.

Meal planning. It strikes terror into me. I don’t want to think about food that much! It must be done. If I can properly pre-plan 3 meals a week this will be a significant change for me. By meal planning, I could reduce my dependence on tinned chick peas and lentils as I could use the supply of dry pulses that I have, but hardly ever use because I never think ahead.

Another thing of dread – school lunches! I have a daughter about to start school and need to get creative with lunches as I have so far managed to send no pre-prepared food in the three terms at kindy. I make her kindergarten lunch twice a week which is:

  • wrap or sandwich (with cheese, spinach or rocket leaves, tomato, cucumber, sprouts, tiny bit of ham or chicken, hummous and tsatiski) or couscous salad
  • snacks: chopped veggie sticks, plain popcorn (popped in the morning using brown bag method), sultanas, pepitas, rice crackers, plain yoghurt
  • fruit

This is the same as our lunches at home, except sometimes I also cook pasta or rice or couscous at lunch as my 16 month old isn’t a sandwich or salad fan yet. It’s going to be harder when it’s 5 days a week instead of 2 and I’m going to have to start making flapjacks or muesli bars. I do buy oat-based ones for home and have avoided sending these in her lunchbox as I know she will eat them first. At the moment, it’s usually only the small tupperware tub of yoghurt that comes homes and is wasted. Everything gets eaten at kindy, or as a “picnic” when at home. Also, part of being at home was an idea that I could help my husband out by making him a lunch to take to work, but so far, this hasn’t happened. Making lunches 5 days a week for school, I’m hopefully that I can make all four of a packed lunch so that we all eat the same thing regardless of where we are. That means no more dilemmas about whether to make a big filling tea, or something light because we’ve all eaten differently at lunchtime.

Change 2: Routinely making some time to make more: muesli and grain bars, biscuits and dips

Also, although removing most of the pre-processed food from our shopping significantly reduced our bill but I could go lower. My approach to shopping is to buy premium quality but less of it. So I would rather use less cheese but have great stuff, rather than a giant block of average cheese. The block I buy is $8 – $9 which is very expensive, but it has less salt than all other cheeses which is very important to me and I just cut it very thin!  I would find it hard to compromise on this, particularly my preference for local or farm dairy foods; I like to buy A2 milk; local free-range eggs; free range local ham and premium cloudy juices. I still buy pre-made hoummous and tsatsiki, and biscuits and crackers. I do make sure that I have a tin of spaghetti and baked beans in the cupboard for emergencies, but again, I do have the ingredients to make my own, so I could change this.  I know I could spend less on shopping if I properly monitored it and planned more and also make better sized batches, freeze them and not have the ‘use by’ issue, especially with dips. One challenge at the moment is that my oven currently doesn’t work and I’m finding that difficult in terms of it being tricky to bake or make large batches of meals like moussaka to freeze ahead, but I have been using the Weber Q to ‘bake’ using the indirect method. Cooking outside is harder though, but as the weather gets warmer, this will get easier and eventually I’ll sort out the kitchen oven!

Steamed market-fresh simple veg – my favourite fast food

Change 3: Learn more about which fresh fruit and vegetables are suitable to freeze and the techniques for freezing them.

As I don’t buy frozen pre-prepared foods, I have a large freezer which currently only has icecream, a few loaves of bread, some sausages,  plain fish fillets, frozen berries and some homemade breadcrumbs. I buy so little meat that I only freeze meet for about a week before taking it out to use. I almost wish I could turn it off, but I think a better strategy would be to put it to better to use. I use the freezer to preserve cooked foods, but my knowledge gaps is with using it to preserve any fresh produce (fruit and veg) that I might not use straight away. (e.g this week I have half a bunch of celery left that I just haven’t been able to use and it went off. There are techniques to freezing celery and had I known them, I could have put the unused celery into the freezer when I used the first half at the start of the week – duh!) This will be important knowledge for me if my veg patches turn out as big as I intend!

Change 4: Accountability – I’m going to try and keep track of food and food waste in my household over Spring and Summer and perhaps even keep an honest tally of what is thrown away.

I think this is really the only way to get a good concept of what we do waste. I’d love to work out how much money we save and then do something cool with that money.

I’d love to spend closer to $100 a week, and even less than that in the height of the veggie patch growing season. I don’t know if that’s unrealistic. I’ve found a blog called $120 food challenge by Sandra Reynolds with tips for feeding your family for $120 a week. I’m very excited about this idea.

I also know from the experience that my worst track record for buying convenience food was when I worked full time, before having children. I know that when I’m back in full-time work with 2 school -aged children, all of this idealism may seem like a rosy phase in the dim distant path. It gets so hard when you are not in the house by day. However,  this is why I want to change my apparent hate for meal planning now. Now is the time for change. If I can teach myself to plan meals, then it will be less of a chore, and then when I do end up back in full-time work, I’ll have taught myself tips and techniques to keep going.

Small steps, small changes and slowly. Let’s see how we go.