Secret stash

Posted July 25th, 2008 by Penny Wise

We're baaaaack! Here I am, back in my little spot by the fire having just polished off a bowl of soup. Just three days ago I was floating about in a saltwater pool surrounded by palm trees! What a wonderful, hectic trip we've had. One of those holidays where you need to come home for a rest! Not that we're complaining, mind. We all absolutely loved it and fear not, I shall tell you all about our trip as soon as I get my brain back! First however, I must tell you about the other, somewhat smaller trip I made this morning – to the supermarket!

Usually I really don't enjoy going to the supermarket at all, but today was different. Not only did I have to replenish our empty fridge and pantry following our two-week absence, I was planning to STOCK UP. I've been dying to do this ever since we had the pleasure of hanging out with Fiona and her family in the Sunshine Coast last week. We were determined to have a great holiday, while still remaining as SS as possible and I think we achieved this really well. We made sure our accommodation had a fully equipped kitchen, as we refused to spend a fortune on food and wanted to do as much of the cooking as we could ourselves. A main concern was catering for the boys' wheat/corn/gluten intolerances too, so as soon as we could, we went grocery shopping.

Normally, dragging my three grumbling males around the shops is a truly dreadful experience but this time we actually found it heaps of fun! Everyone loved checking out all the different products and couldn't believe the huge range in variety compared to little old NZ. Although, as Liam pointed out, this may not be necessarily a bonus. 'You can see why Simple Savings is so big in Australia', he said as we left Maroochydore's Sunshine Plaza. 'There's so much stuff here to buy, everyone would be broke if Fiona hadn't started it!'

We couldn't believe how fresh and delicious all the food was on the Sunshine Coast. Everything just tasted better and far from being hard to cater for, Liam absolutely thrived on all the glorious 'nude food'. In fact, he never stopped eating the entire holiday! One thing I do admit to being envious of is the larger quantities available in Australia. Even in the supermarkets, things are much easier to buy in bulk. Learning how to bulk buy has been on my 'to do' list for some time. There are some things I routinely buy in large quantities, such as bread and milk for freezing and all our meat comes in bulk. Then of course there's toilet paper! But until now, that's been about my limit, although I did pick up 15 kilos of rice the other day. Thank goodness the Savings Forum made me aware of the global rice shortage! On my last trip to the supermarket before our holiday, I was stunned to see there was no rice whatsoever, just bare shelves and an apologetic sign. So I went to Bin Inn and picked up three 5kg bags quick smart!

Anyway, it wasn't long before we caught up with Fiona and Matt and their beautiful kids. I loved wandering around the garden together and couldn't believe all the different fruit, vegetables and herbs all happily growing in their lush environment. Some of them I had never even heard of! Fiona very kindly offered us some meat and pantry supplies, which I was very grateful for but I was somewhat bemused when she led me to the garage to get them. She opened the doors to a large metal cupboard and – WOAH! So that's what a bulk pantry looks like!

I don't know why but I had always put bulk shopping in the 'too hard' basket. Daft really isn't it? I mean, we grow our own food, enjoy a wonderful 'nude' diet and have taken pretty much all our SS changes in our stride apart from that one. I've also become so accustomed to the $21 Challenge way of using up everything first, I hadn't even really thought about building stocks up. For starters, what was I supposed to buy? Looking at Fiona's cupboard, it all made sense. I could well believe it when she told me she only has to go to the supermarket every two months. Instead of taking her little ones off food shopping every week, she and Matt get to spend time with them at home instead. That thought really appealed to me, I had never thought of the effect that the physical act of going shopping has on your family life before. As Matt said, so many of us are just 'too busy being busy!' The bulk clincher for me came a couple of days later, when after an unbelievably hectic day, Matt almost singlehandedly served up the most delicious dinner for SEVENTEEN people, with barely an hour's notice! Egads, if that was me I would have been running around like a headless chook, or have just given in and gone and got takeaways but not after seeing that. I want a bulk pantry of my own! It just goes to show how much my mindset has changed since becoming a Simple Saver. I used to covet things like shoes and handbags – now I covet pantry storage!

Fiona uses a lockable metal cupboard from Bunnings to store her bulk goodies in. Both pest proof and kid proof, I've been dreaming about getting one ever since. The only problem is – I've got nowhere to store it, although I'm still nagging Noel to help me find somewhere. We don't have a garage and there's no room in the laundry or even in the back porch. Still, undeterred I picked up a few extra things at the supermarket today – nothing too major and only if they were on special but at least it's a start and will add up to a valuable saving in the long run. Even the fact I now have six packets of rice crackers instead of the usual one or two means I won't have to run off to Mr Patel's so often when Liam runs out of snacks. I even bought my wine in bulk! I figured it made more sense to stock up when it was cheaper and got six bottles for $30, rather than three for the same amount had I waited until we ran out. I finally 'get' bulk buying – and I learned it from the Miser Extraordinaire herself!

The only thing is, like I said I don't have anywhere to put it really. So while the boys were at school and I was putting the shopping away, I gleefully created a 'secret stash'. Don't laugh, but it's in the office filing cabinet at the moment, plonked on top of all the paperwork! It's a start and I guess it will do until I get my dream bulk pantry. If Noel sees I'm serious and notices how much less frequently we need to shop, hopefully he will come around to the idea quicker and help me create some room for it. Failing that, he could always build me a garage, we do need one!

Noel and I were surprised to find that overall, Australia is more expensive than NZ – apart from cheese and fuel, that is. Seems like it's not just us who thinks so, according to new reports about the world's most expensive cities. In that case, Aussie $21 Challengers should be extra proud of themselves for their efforts to stay within budget! Talking of the $21 Challenge, get this! The National Budgeting Federation of NZ have printed an article in their Budgetline magazine this month. Even the Federation national office have given the $21 Challenge a go! While the information they had been given/taken on board regarding the rules of the Challenge was not 100% accurate, overall they did find it a positive and empowering experience and encouraged budgeters to get their clients to give it a go. Wow!

Apparently the weather was absolutely dreadful the entire time we were away but the sun has been shining non-stop since we arrived home. However, not for long! Apparently a particularly nasty storm is due to hit our shores tomorrow, so I am going to sign off for now and get our huge pile of holiday washing dry while I can. I promise to update with more details of our Aussie adventure very soon!

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