Each month in the Low Tox Club we create an eBook covering a multitude of topics that often come up in conversation in the Low Tox Club Facebook group. The Low Tox Club is a space for Low Tox Life Podcast listeners, loyal readers and newbies to the site who are looking for an online hub to guide and support their low tox goals and enjoy a safe chat space with like-minded folk. You can join us here. This is a snippet of one of the eBooks we created, inspired by the financial strain so many of us faced in 2020, and continue to do so in 2021. We decided to focus on something a lot of you felt was a big priority right now, which is being wiser with our cash across all areas of leading a low tox life. For years, western culture has cast being good with your pennies as being stingy/mean with money/acting ‘poor’ when you don’t need to be/being ‘tight’ and sure, we all have experienced that dinner party with friends where 7 people are more than happy to split it evenly, knowing it all evens out in the wash with friendships, but there’s one friend who says “I had an entree, not a main so I don’t see why I should pay the same”.
It’s time to make frugal a bit sexier – a worthy cause, whether you’re needing to financially buckle or whether you see wasteful habits in a shinier light and you’re feeling there are some new habits you might like to try. So, let’s have a look at what frugal is perceived to be and what it could be, shall we? Once seen as ‘stingy, tight, poor, unable or unwilling to ‘make the most out of life’ with all that’s on offer, it’s time to come back to the true meaning of what it means to be frugal – either because we need to more than ever right now on a personal, financial level, or being we have recognised the need to on a deep level, for our planet. When you look in the dictionary this is what you’ll find: “Frugality is the quality of being frugal, sparing, thrifty, prudent or economical in the consumption of consumable resources such as food, time or money, and avoiding waste, lavishness or extravagance.”
I’m struggling to see why it isn’t a totally fabulous blueprint for a good life. It doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to a lovely dinner out, a trip with friends or family or a high quality item when something needs buying… It’s more the foundation for our thinking, if frugal in nature, means we protect our financial position and grow our savings – good thing! – and we protect the earth by burdening her much less.
Frugal food prep and execution is one of my favourite things. I remember the revelation of draining the juices from a roast into a jar and refrigerating it. Then, using the fat that sets at the top to bake the best potatoes I’d ever tried and using the jelly at the bottom to add flavour punch to a soup or sauteed veggies – How had this gone in the bin all my years prior? What a waste when for such tasks as these, I’d use ‘new’ butter or olive oil and ‘new’ broth or stock powder. This isn’t being tight with money, it’s being a genius, don’t you think?
Creative Corner Cutting to Spare Your Food Budget Here are 12 of my top money-saving tips and tricks to reduce your food bill.
#1 – Avoid buying processed packet snacks. Ok, it’s an obvious one and most of you are across this, but it is someone’s first day of looking into their food mix somewhere, and skimming over the beginner’s stuff can sometimes lead to overwhelm and a lack of deep understanding of why we’re choosing the wholefood approach down the track. Deep understanding = greater success in habits changed. Low nutrient, ‘filler foods’ that leave you wanting more 30 minutes later when the sugar + salt + fat trifecta of processed foods wears off. They make out like it’s cheap but it costs your health and it costs you more because you’re hungry for more in no time. Clever and dodgy they are, they’re also very enticing to a busy mum’s eye as she hurriedly walks through the aisle… awareness is key, take a breath and keep moving.
#2 – Start adding a little more in the healthy fats department – especially for rapidly growing kids. I’m not suggesting you go Keto/Low carb, these are things to discuss with health professionals, but I am saying, often satiety = a lack of deeply satisfying nutrition, especially once you’ve worked on gut issues. Adding olive oil, coconut oil, a little extra butter, full fat cheeses, avocado, a handful of nuts as a snack instead of crackers… it’s a great way to stave off hunger yet give them some dense nutrition and delicious flavours. Adding fats allows you to better absorb your fat soluble vitamins A, E, D and K from vegetables and other foods, too so there’s a diminished chance that your child – or you for that matter – circles the pantry or fridge like a vulture hoping for something every 10 minutes! It ends up therefore saving you money on your snack budget. You just need less of them.
#3 – Take note of GST. Another place you save by focusing on your produce purchases is your 10% G.S.T in Australia – did you know if you buy almond MEAL it has a G.S.T but if you buy whole almonds it doesn’t? There’s 10% saved on all the produce instead of buying ready meals, snack packets and ground nuts / nut butters, jams, chutneys or more.
#4 – Cook up big batches and get that freezer into workout mode – fun fact: A freezer is more energy efficient when it’s packed to the rafters. If you’re vego, this is about soaking 2 cups of chick peas in one soaking, and cooking them up to make a big hummus batch AND a chick pea curry AND some toasted chick peas in the oven for snacks. That kind of time saving, money saving do-more-in-one-effort mentality saves you two very precious things: Time and money and equals more time for the most precious of all: People you love and self care. What’s not to love about striving towards that, right? If you’re an omnivore, could you invest in a chest freezer if you have the space and become a part of a buying group at your butcher’s with a cow share or whole lamb option near you yet? Huge savings and meat is usually around $10-15kg as an average – cheaper than the grain-fed mass farmed beef in Australian supermarkets hurting animals AND planet with the intensive approaches. Let go of expensive muscle meats. I buy oyster blade on bone ($12-18kg depending on the place) or brisket, mince, livers for pate, sausages, shoulders for when we eat meat though we eat less meat now and more veggies…. mostly slow cooker things and mostly bone in, so you get added nutrients in that meal. All of this adds up to you being able to trade up to better quality, more sustainable practices while getting superior nutrition. Win win!
#5 – Start planning. We waste on average 1/5 of the food we buy. That is ANOTHER 20% cost saving right there if you get better at planning. So, to stop wasting food I suggest a ‘waste list’ on the fridge so you can start to become more conscious. I’d also suggest doing up a rough plan. Don’t be hard on yourself if plans change – just pick up the next day and jiggle it around a bit. There is always butter aplenty or coconut oil or SOMETHING in a healthy fats world at breakfast and lunch to keep my energy slowly burning and stave off hunger between meals – again: we save the snack money and invest it into better meals.
#6 – Reinvent meals a different way. Like my Tamari Chicken Drumsticks, which morph into a san choy bow 2 days after (a break of a day in between these meals for new flavours) and then I grab a simple leftover from the night before with a nutrient rich salad.
#7 – Reuse bones to make double the broth Ie, 2 x 12 hours broths reusing the bones for the second batch. The fancy French name for this is remouillage, which means ‘re-wetting’. Beef bones give you goodness for up to 72 hours. You’ll then have jar upon jars of stock to make a super quick soup with a few spices and coconut cream, and some leftover bits of meat or meatballs. Stretchy stretch that budget! NOTE: If you have histamine intolerance or a sensitive tummy, short cooked broths are best for just 3-4 hours.
#8 – GROW, GROW, GROW – do it for me, as someone yet to secure that garden bed I’ve dreamed of! I visited a very poor community a few years ago to discuss a food program and what I found was that everyone was using their precious pennies to shop at the ‘food bank’ which was full of 2-minute noodles, factory white bread and instant coffee. Then I took a little tour of the streets and they all had big back yards. Back yards with grass on them make no sense when there’s malnutrition, sky rocking diabetes and mental health issues galore. When there’s space to create your very own food as medicine, it’s about one of the most rewarding things you can do – we do it at my mum in law’s farm and grow garlic there too for boutique commercial sales. It makes you feel so darn CLEVER to grow something! Save your seeds and dry them on the window sill OR check out a seed catalogue like Eden Seeds in Australia.
#9 – Use EVERY SINGLE BIT of the vegetable. I used to go to friends’ houses and see them top and tail veggies and like, an INCH off each side???!!! Stop the madness – that’s food! Keep all the veggie scraps in a jar in the freezer to add to stock so you don’t have to use ‘edible’ veg. Scraps are plenty for stocks. And ends of carrots and beans are perfect for bulking out soups and curries so I find myself keeping a pyrex of the ‘to use in a blended/mushy thing’ where you’re not going to see the beggar’s offcuts in there and a big tub for endy bits, bones and onion skins for stocks and broth batches.
#10 – Save animal fats for frying – this is tragic that we ‘drain’ fat – it’s good fat to use again to saute an onion or roast a potato, meaning you save on the butter or olive oil or coconut oil you would have used in that step. I cringe at the memory of painstakingly soaking it up with a kitchen paper towel and binning it, a ‘tip’ learnt from my mum. Not these days! We are now the ‘what’s in this jar again’ family with all sorts of fridge treasure to braw from.
#11 – BUY ONLY IN SEASON. I get caught out sometimes at the counter with a $15 organic capsicum and go “woooah, OK didn’t realise it wasn’t in season”. It costs a lot more inputs in farming to grow something when it’s not meant to be grown – or it costs a lot in transport to ship out of season produce to a region. Buying in season is less expensive and the plant is more alive – it just makes sense – financially and nutritionally.
#12 – Buy the most nutrient dense version of things, i.e., swap table salt for mineral rich salt. Swap white rice for brown rice. Swap vegetable oil ‘spread’ for real block butter. Swap pale iceberg for a darker leafy green. All of these tiny swaps mean increased nutrients and a greater satisfaction between meals therefore again saving on the snack front.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN…
Do a fridge audit and determine what foods you need to use up. Start adding your odds and ends to a pyrex container in the fridge and see what you can create.
Low Tox. Happy Planet. Healthy People.