In the Freezer

When this most recent bout of COVID lockdown started in the Greater Sydney Area in June 2021, I decided that I was not going to go shopping until I emptied my freezer and pantry. This solved several problems. I was able to avoid the germy world while using up resources that had already been created and thus reduce food waste. I figured I had enough leftovers, frozen veggies and pantry staples that it would not be too much of a challenge. 

UFOs

Step 1 was to do an archeological dig and conduct a freezer audit.  I threw out the UFOs (unidentifiable food objects) that were suffering from freezer burn and no longer edible. The rest of the containers were stacked in neat piles and I retrofitted some labels. Labelling should be mandatory but it is a step that I approach with annoying inconsistency. Present-Robyn has way too much faith in Future-Robyn’s ability to identify the blocks of various curries and casseroles. 

Resourceful use of some freezer items – frozen raspberries became jam.

Meal planning is one of my happy places and when I cook I generally make 4 – 6 serves. Eat one for dinner, put one in the fridge for tomorrow’s lunch and then the remainder in the freezer for “later”. The trouble is I have a tendency to delay the later. Rather than cook a couple of nights a week, I cook every night, until my freezer is full and I have run out of containers.  There is a direct inverse relationship between my Tupperware cupboard and my freezer. The fuller the freezer (VF = volume of the freezer contents)  the emptier the Tupperware cupboard. (VT)

VF = 1/VT

Mission accomplished

This propensity for food hoarding has paid off over the lockdown and I have for the most part avoided the germy world of supermarkets. After 6 weeks, I have finally extracted the last of the pre-prepared meals. (Yippee!)

My quest has not been 100% successful as I was forced to seek out some fresh fruit to avoid scurvy (and boredom).  In addition to the fruit, I purchased fresh milk as needed but apart from this, I have made do with what I had. The freezer is not yet completely empty as I still have some frozen pastry sheets some bread and a few other odds and ends, but I can see the bottom. An astonishing feat. I still have a way to go to empty the pantry but that’s OK we’re under stay at home health orders until the 28th August at least.

With an empty freezer, I can start work on the pantry! Hallelujah! Tomorrow, I can cook again! 

Oh wait! That means I’ll have to go shopping and face the germy world, lucky I’m fully vaccinated!

Using up an old cauliflower.

Tree change to slow living

Last week I introduced my new series about slow living and making a tree change to Armidale in northern NSW. Before I start packing, I need to get my ducks in a row. The biggest “ducks” are having somewhere to live and a job. I am trying to open my mind to all the possibilities. However, deep down the sensible voice keeps telling me not to take too big a risk. I still have a mortgage to pay, I’m sixty and getting a new job might not be so easy as keeping the one I’ve got. I don’t want to end up poor and homeless which is an unfortunately common scenario for single women my age. Sure, I want to live simply but I still want to eat!

A blurry image of grass blowing in the ewind

The day job.

My current day job is secure and satisfying yet very reactive. Dealing with teenagers and their families everyday is draining. The idea of changing jobs gives me so many things to think about! Do I need the same sort of job as I have now, earning as much as I do now? Do I want to stay in the same intense people-centric job? Could I scale back? Could I get a job selling widgets who don’t yell at you and bully each other on social media? Could I go freelance? I’d like to. 

Some options for a tree change

As any good list maker like myself does, I sat down and came up with some scenarios. Ranging from going the “whole nine-yards”, selling everything, buying a tiny house and living off the grid, right down to doing nothing and staying put. Then, there is everything in between. Renting my place, renting something cheaper up there or even sharing with my family.  Here are two of the options I came up with from riskiest to safest. There were 7 other options in between!

Go really hard  – tree change deluxe model

  1. Sell up
  2. Buy a tiny house
  3. Find somewhere to park it – you might need to rent someone’s backyard 
  4. Grow veggies and chickens
  5. Live off the grid
  6. Get rid of most of your stuff
  7. Quit work –  go freelance!!!

Safest – Stay here – do nothing.

  1. Keep your stuff
  2. Keep working
  3. No veggies or chickens
  4. No cost.

Complex property decisions

It’s complicated by the fact that while the housing options in Armidale are more affordable, the gap between there and my current property is not huge. Probably not enough for me to  come out of the transaction debt free. 

The better news is that rent is cheaper and if I rent my place I can cover the mortgage and other related expenses. (just!). If I do sell I will never be able to get back into the coastal property market without winning the lottery. Ackkkkk!!!!!

I also have to acknowledge that I have the privilege to make these decisions in the first place.

Are my expectations too high

The best case scenario would be to be debt free and able to retire or at least work less than I do now. Then I can explore freelance work and a simple lifestyle. I don’t want to go backwards in terms of my finances but I don’t want to be separated from my family waiting for the magic unicorn of a job to appear.

Am I expecting too much? Does making the tree change to living simply and slowly mean you have to be broke? I know I am overthinking it. Should I just chuck it in and take the plunge?

I know I would have 30 years ago, because I did. 

Slow Living 2.0

Mudbrick house

This post is the first in a new series about slow living

While on my blog sabbatical over the last month, I  have been doing a lot of reading, podcast listening and Youtubing about slow living only to realise I had been down that path before. A path I chose with my Ex in better times. It’s a way of life I’d like to return to and by chance it looks like that may well happen. 

I’m planning on moving to Armidale in northern NSW in the next 12 months, once I get the ducks of life in a row. This time it was not my idea but one I’m happy to embrace. I’m following my family as they move to the region. I don’t want to be away from them, especially my grandson. An added bonus being that the move and the preparations provide a wonderful theme to write about here!

This week a back story about Slow Living 1.0.

Fast Living – Setting the Scene

In the years from 1991 – 1994  my (then) husband and I decided we needed to change our life and slow things down.  We had a one year old baby. He was working for a large Australian bank. (Which bank? Not that one, the other one) I was on maternity leave from an even bigger multinational oil company.  (The one that smashed an oil tanker against Alaska). 

My job involved a lot of travel. It was high speed and had long hours. His job was also high speed, with long hours but without the travel, unless you count the 4 hour daily commute. Interest rates were close to 20% and the Sydney housing market was booming.  

We had lots of money, no time and plenty of stress.  Sounds familiar heh? 

Internal frames go up.

The first slow steps

Before our baby was born we had decided it was important that one of us be the primary carer. We didn’t want our baby to spend most of their time with strangers, no matter how well trained and caring. We were ahead of our time because that one person did not have to be me. The Ex was open to staying at home so he could combine parenting with part-time study and fulfil his long term desire to get a uni degree. 

Serendipitously, our tree change journey was made possible because at this time we were living at my grandparents’ house paying well below market rent. We were renting our own house at a higher market rate.  Living there, much closer to the centre of Sydney,  cut the Ex’s commute by half and although we had less money on one wage, we managed comfortably. 

At first our goal was simply to change our occupations to something less frantic and more meaningful. A contributing factor for me was the Oil Company’s response to the Exxon Valdez incident. It left me cold and disgusted. The disaster was swept under the carpet with disturbing rapidity. I felt that their response did not align with my values and wanted to leave. A restructure of their business model meant I was able to take a generous redundancy package so I had an unexpected windfall on top of my maternity leave. 

Step 1 saw me heading back to Uni to do a Diploma of Education so I could teach. A much more meaningful and family friendly occupation. I was able to do my Diploma part time and on a campus not far from home. Besides taking Bub with me when they were very little, we relied on a combination of friends and neighbours to babysit. The Ex stayed with his work for the time being.

Hand built mudbricks

Green shoots start sprouting

As part of the Diploma, I did a subject on sustainability and became very wrapped up in environmentalism. My enthusiasm no doubt boosted by the oil spill. I became obsessive about the impending doom that climate change would bring. I wanted to be greener. A lot greener.  This desire to live a greener life led us to the next steps. After the baby was weaned and I started working as a teacher, the Ex quit his job and stayed at home to be the primary carer. This was a very courageous step. Back in 1992 there weren’t many stay at home dads around and he bravely continued to take Bub to playgroup.

He copped an enormous amount of flack for our decision, especially from his dad. I was really proud of our trail blazing lifestyle. Splitting up with rampant consumerism gave me a sense of power. It excited me to be with someone who was challenging gender stereotypes, and pushing back against the toxic norms. 

You’ll see echoes of this in my way of life now. My Year of Zero, my Eco Hacks and my desire to be more sustainable are throwbacks to this time. My decision to have only one child was deeply rooted in the desire to reduce my environmental footprint.

Plans become reality

Once we recognised the need for change, we started planning the move. Dreams and big talk turned into reality. The journey was incremental and multifaceted. In recounting it here it’s hard to remember the ins and outs and the exact chronology. One decision was layered over another. Ideas became blended and bent. This post can’t capture the whole convoluted story, only the overall result.

We sold our house, bought a two hectare patch(~5 acres). By January 1994 we had moved in with my mum in Bellingen on the mid north coast of NSW. In July that same year we were living in a half built mud brick house and by 1996 we had chickens, a veggie patch, a cranky old cat and a Labrador puppy.

By 2000, we were back in the city, trying to patch a broken relationship and pursuing a different dream. I’m at pains to point out that the slow living wasn’t the cause of the unhappiness. That unhappiness was for many other reasons, some of them a direct result of the previous fast living.

In hindsight, the journey was smoother than you’d think and while things eventually went sour between myself and the Ex, I really have to thank him for following my dreams and making this first tilt at slow living a reality.

We never did finish our mud brick house!

More about my plans for Slow Living Version 2.0 in the coming weeks.