Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

“I just can’t believe that you shop the way you do. It’s hysterical!”

Pantry door with Poppy.

I have a friend who I’ve known for more years than I care to think about. She doesn’t live near me, so when we were in the midst of all the lockdowns we didn’t see each other for months. So once lockdowns were over I was excited to finally clap eyes on her in person.

She and her husband came over for a coffee. She walked into the house, dropped her bag on the table and went over to my pantry door, throwing it open and standing there gazing inside.

I looked at Ryan26 and he raised an eyebrow.

She stood there.

I knew she was probably waiting for attention, but I asked the question anyway.

“Beks, are you looking for anything?”

She turned to face me, saying, “I just can’t believe that you shop the way you do. It’s hysterical!”


A bit of background…

Well-trdered shelf in pantry.

I’ve always bought our groceries in bulk. Back when the boys were little and we were living hand-to-mouth, it was a survival tool. In the years before Aldi came to Australia, I used to shop the specials at the supermarkets and buy 5 or 10 tins/packets/jars of our staple foods when they were cheaper.

This meant that, over time, we were eating a lot of our food at a discounted price. When you’re a struggling single mum with 4 hungry mouths to feed, not counting your own, every single dollar saved is worthwhile. Sure, it costs a little more up-front, but over time the groceries actually work out cheaper.

Having bought that food, it was imperative to keep track of it. No point buying bulk food to save money if you end up having to throw it out because you forgot about it! So my pantry was and is always well-organised. Everything stacked neatly, tins etc rotated with the newer ones going to the back so nothing goes out of date and labels to the front so you can see at a glance what and how many you have of everything.

I remember seeing an Oprah show back when the kids were small where she had a kitchen organiser go through people’s fridges and pantries. I remember him stuffing shopping bags full of one woman’s rotting produce from her crisper and saying, “If you don’t eat the food you bring home, you may as well take $50 notes and throw them straight into the garbage. It’d be quicker and it’d have the same result.”

I never forgot that.

Shelf in pantry.

I twigged pretty early on that the longer you stay out of the supermarket, the more money you save. It’s amazing how little treats get popped into the trolley whenever you go shopping. So if I make sure that my house is well-stocked with all of the things we use, then instead of going to the supermarket for inspiration each night for dinner, I can cook meals from what we already have.

Particularly now that there’s only 2 of us living here, I rarely go to Aldi more than once a week – and now that the garden is starting to ramp up, it’ll probably drift out to nearly once a fortnight. After all, if I don’t see those little treats, I can’t buy them! Money saved.

So my pantry has always been well-stocked. During lockdowns, this became a godsend. In between lockdowns, I’d drive to far-away shops like Costco and stock up on the essentials, which for this house is the Little Woofs’ dry and raw dog food, with coffee grounds and dried blueberries for the humans.

Lots of tinned sardines.
Sardines for the Little Woofs.

When I see tinned sardines in oil at Aldi, for example, I grab a heap because usually, only the sardines in tomato sauce tins are on the shelf. I feed the Little Woofs sardines every week… I’d hate for them to miss out because I didn’t think ahead. Tomato sauce with their sardines isn’t really their thing. (Is it anybody’s?)

What began as a survival strategy when the kids were small has morphed into a convenience thing now that I shop primarily at Aldi. There are no specials anymore, but the money and the time I save by not popping into the supermarket every day or so is worth the cupboard space I have for my zombie apocalypse stores.

Beks, however, is of a different mindset to me.

She and her husband are empty-nesters, so like my household, they’re also feeding just 2 people. The way we handle that job starts off the same, but then quickly veers apart.

We start off thinking about what we’d like to eat that night. Neither of us menu plans for the week or the month like some ultra-organised people do. We ask our husband/son their opinion (sometimes) and we make a decision.

Mine is usually based on what we have a lot of and what needs using up. At the moment, for example, we have a lot of diced chicken that I’ve put into 500g bags in the freezer. At least twice a week, I’ll be pulling out one of those bags to use.

Beks, on the other hand, decides what they’ll eat that night regardless of what’s in the house. She goes food shopping almost daily.

They also refuse to eat the same thing two nights running. Ryan26 and I have fallen into the habit of cooking one night, then eating the same meal again the next night, or freezing the leftovers if we need to. Beks just cooks half-portions of what she used to cook when the kids were home, so they don’t have m/any leftovers.

There’s no right or wrong to this. It’s just two different ways of tackling the “what will we have for dinner?” question that we all have to answer every day.

Shelf in pantry.

Beks turned away from my pantry and said, “I just can’t believe that you shop the way you do. It’s hysterical!”

I knew that there was no point in getting all riled up or defensive. She does her thing and I do mine. It’s all good. But I wasn’t going to let her get away with making a dig at me for no reason. A girl has to stand her ground in her own kitchen, after all.

I cocked my head to one side and said, “Comes in bloody handy during a pandemic, though. While everyone was dodging covid doing their shopping, I was here all safe and sound.”

BIG tub of Vegemite. Yum.
The offending tub of Vegemite. She’s right – it IS big.

She looked back into the pantry and said, “It’s funny, the way you have a bucket of Vegemite here.”

I chuckled. “Won’t have to even think about buying more for years!”

Coffee grounds etc in a thermomix jug.
Coffee grounds etc in the thermomix jug, ready to be blitzed for the worms.

She shrugged and I moved past her to put the kettle on. She saw the bowl of used coffee grounds and eggshells that we have beside the kettle. When the bowl is full I blitz the contents and dig them into the veggie gardens to feed the worms. In turn, they feed my veggies, which in turn, feed us.

Circle of life. Hakuna Matata.

“You DO know that it’s not normal to have coffee grounds just sitting there?” she said.

“Of course it is, Beks… when you’re a permaculture household,” I said. I don’t know if she’s up to speed on what permaculture is, but as her husband came in from outside the conversation moved on.

As I made the coffees, Ryan26 and I exchanged a simple shake of the head and a smile. Ahhh Beks. Every now and then she has to try and take a dig…

We know why we run the house the way we do, and we know that the things we do work well for us. For me, the comfort of having a well-stocked pantry and zombie apocalypse cupboard gives me a sense of security that is a beautiful thing to live with.

It’s simply another tool for designing my life so that my retirement is stress-free and comfortable. And yes; 11 months in, retirement is still bloody wonderful!

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call a fat psychic?

A four-chin teller.


  1. Aussie HIFIRE

    We have a fairly similar pantry situation to yours, plenty of stuff that we use regularly stacked up by date. My wife shops differently though, there is a bunch of stuff that she always gets from Aldi, but then with the regular 50% off specials at Coles and Woolies she will stock up on whatever we regularly cook from there. Our local shopping centre has all three in close proximity which is very handy! Obviously there is still a time cost to doing it that way, but it saves quite a bit of money for a family of four.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Absolutely it does.
      It’s a shame that we can never know exactly what we’ve saved over the years, but I’m sure it would be considerable.

  2. Maureen

    “She goes food shopping almost daily.“ The time cost of this lifestyle choice has me shook.

  3. Kathy Aylward

    My sister shops daily for their dinner however me, I think I can’t be bothered going to the shop what’s at home we can eat or can I whip up a home made pizza. We have a panty with ingredients vs packets so we can make most things and my teenagers love it. I go to the bulk food store to get the ingredients and buy what we need. I agree the longer you stay out of the supermarket the more money you save. Every time you step foot in a supermarket you can easily spend $30-$50 on next to nothing and a few times a week or fortnight that sure adds up. I love how your son gets it and knows the value of the home grown veggies, the thermomix and a stocked pantry. Have a good week.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Thanks! You too.
      I’m going on another Little Adventure in a few days, so I’m looking forward to that. Seems weird to be able to … just jump in the car and go.

  4. Loretta

    Ahh good friends who are comfortable saying whatever pops in their heads!!

    For years my son would complain “there is no food in the house, only ingredients”. We never kept a ‘treats/junk food’ drawer or cupboard, so if you wanted choc chip cookies you’d have to make them yourself 🙂 And we have a bowl on the benchtop with scraps for the chooks and a food waste bin for my compost bin.

    Am typing this comment outside Aldi, before popping in to get a bottle of their cheap vodka to make limoncello for Christmas presents!

    • FrogdancerJones

      We used to have a teacher who used to make limoncello for Christmas gifts. We were sad when she moved to another school closer to home…

    • Claire

      Haha my boyfriend says the same thing ? no food only ingredients in the fridge!

  5. sandyg61

    My kitchen pantry only has the current item in it but I have a store cupboard for the extras. I shop at Aldi fortnightly and then WW or Coles each week for the half price specials we will use. I write my shopping list and then shop the store cupboard first. We are only 2 now as well and bulk meat shop about every 6-8 weeks. I do meal plan weekly but mainly to know where my freezer stocks are.
    We have worm farms for the vegie gardens so yes we have a scraps container on the sink.
    I remember a friend of my sister discussing money issues but not believing that I would turn the sauce bottle upside down and then add water before adding to a casserole for flavour!!! Each to their own.

    • FrogdancerJones

      I think we’re the same person…

  6. steveark

    I’m not sure how the pandemic impacted grocery shopping? We just open the store app, pick out what we want and then show up when they tell us, text we are there and they come put it in the trunk of the car. No contact, covid free shopping exactly the same as before the pandemic and the same now after it seems to have disappeared around here. What did the pandemic do to that process in Australia? Since we are retired we alternate weeks of who does all the cooking, clean up and any grocery shopping.

    • FrogdancerJones

      We call that process ‘click and collect’ here.
      Aldi doesn’t offer it, but Coles and Woolworths do (I think.)
      I just like having a stockpile of groceries here. It makes me feel all Laura Ingalls Wilder – though it’s probably a holdover from when I was so very poor when the boys were little. Knowing I have enough food to feed us makes me sleep better at night.

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