Frugal Food like the old days

In today’s society of instant gratification, seldom do the people take the time to make food for themselves. Here is my argument. When I worked in South Yarra a year ago, the first thing some of my co-workers did before they got to work was go to a local Cafe and buy a coffee (in a disposable cup) and a muffin for breakfast. Then, at morning tea the regulars headed for the snack trolley for more cakes or a meat pie. Then at 2pm it was off to lunch. All of this prepared food must cost them a small fortune. Here is the maths as I see it. Coffee + Muffin = A$6.00, Meat pie + Cake or doughnuts = A$5.50, and lunch at a local Cafe = A$12 to 20.
So this lifestyle, if continued each working day, costs between $117 to $157 a week, and oh, those calories! I am not saying that some of the people I used to work with are a bunch of fatties, I am simply stating that from my point of view, it looked like normal practice and probably is the norm in most city office environments. For all I knew they could have exercised every day to keep fit, so the high calorie intake was cancelled out. The point that I am making is that the money they could save could have been used for better things.For example, compare this weekly spend to the cost of buying a few basic groceries, like cereal, milk, coffee, bread, sandwich fillings etc, all of which will last for a week with only one person consuming. This would save them at least $100 a week (I am being generous). Better still if you still crave for that muffin in the morning, buy a box of muffin mix for $3 and make 6 muffins to a box, and put them in the freezer for breakfast. Oh, so very simple. Think of what one could do with all of these savings. One could pay down some of their credit card debt, or make an extra mortgage payment, or if renting one could save for a house deposit (if so inclined).

I regularly go that little bit further, by baking bread regularly, and Kim and the girls bake cakes, scones and biscuits for lunch boxes. I take my lunch to work at least four times a week (a man has to have a treat once in a while), whilst Ben has never bought his lunch from the school canteen. It all adds up when you have a family of six mouths to feed. Even Amy, Adam and Megan, when going to Uni, work, and High School respectively, take a home-made lunch most days. Now that I think of it, we eat very cost effectively and eat healthy food most of the time. I suppose with such a large vegetable patch, it is hard not to!

Kim has recently been watching a lot of the TV show “Little House on the Prairie” that she bought off of eBay, and she loves the characters and the simple life it portrays. Now, because of the show, and all that baking Caroline does, Kim has a baking bee in her bonnet. She is a great baking cook. This morning, she made a Streusal cake (tastes great) and a batch of scones. The recipes were taken from an old 1992 book, first published in 1963, called “The Dairy Book of Home Cooking” that she bought from the milk man when she lived in the UK (remember when we had milkmen here in Australia!). To show how simple it is to make scones, here is the recipe;

  • 225g Self raising flour
  • half tsp salt
  • 50g Butter or Margarine
  • 150ml Milk

Sift flour and salt into a bowl, rub butter into flour until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add all of milk, and mix to a soft, but not sticky dough with a knife (?). Turn on to a lightly floured work surface. Knead quickly until smooth. Roll out to about 1 cm thick. Then cut into 7 or 8 rounds with a 6.5cm biscuit cutter (cookie cutter for Americans reading). Transfer to a greased baking tray. Bake at 230 degrees C (450F) for 7-10 minutes or until well risen and golden. Cool on a wire cooling rack. Then spread with home made jam and scoff the lot (I added this bit in).

The scones were so yummy, that Megan and I had to have one each for morning tea, smothered in Gav’s strawberry jam. I believe that it is the simple foods in life that are, and taste the best! And simple, sustainable living is much more gratifying than the instant type I mentioned at the beginning.


  1. says

    Hi Gavin,

    I loved this post because I am right there with your thinking! We make so much of our own things now. It’s not only cheap, it tastes far better! I laugh now because when I go to friends house they apologise for the fact that they have made a cake for afternoon tea ( and then have to whisper) “but it’s only a packet mix”. LOL – like they’ve let me down!
    Cost is a definite factor but so too is the satisfaction of making something and enjoying the ‘fruits of your labour’ whether it be scones, cake our home brew!
    By the way, I am really enjoying your posts.

  2. says

    There’s nothing like the taste of “real” food cooked at home is there? And yes, you do you use a knife to make scone dough, LOL. In the “olden days” the ladies had large, flat-bladed, round-ended knives they used for just that purpose. I forget why, I think it has something to do with incorporating the milk and flour into a dough without pushing the air out of it so they don’t end up hard and biscuit-y.

    Cheers, Julie

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