budget time, yet again

I remember this day so well. Decades ago. Op shop clothes, $5 shoes. With my youngest.

The cost of living is always going up. I'm so lucky that I really only have to provide for myself, albeit on a rather restricted income. I wonder how some families are coping. 

I am no stranger to being in a difficult financial situation

When I was a new young mum (many decades ago), the cost of basics, including petrol, had suddenly risen dramatically. It wasn't easy. My  clothes were from my sisters' ragbag. I would just mend them and they'd be fine. This actually caused a few family problems. And I'd use their old bikinis for underwear. But overall, I had very few clothes. All simple food cooked from scratch. So yes, times were tough. Our home was barren. 

Twenty years later, I had my third child. I was in a very bad situation. No home, so I lived in a community with friends. Two friends gave me some clothes to wear in pregnancy, making just two changes of clothes. My mum provided baby's clothes and nappies. I had a real anaemia problem and couldn't get a job. Social Welfare wouldn't give me any money until six weeks after baby was registered, and it wasn't much money. Not enough to live alone with baby, no matter how simply.

It was such a horror story. I had to be so strong to cope. 

So why write about it now? It often all comes back to haunt me, to be honest. And when I hear people who have plenty, moaning about not having enough, surprisingly I have very little sympathy. 

"Giving Back", with gratitude

But, I do have heaps of caring for those in need. Always. And I'm so grateful that I have not been in a desperate financial situation, for many years. I worked hard and long hours as a solo mother to escape being poor.

And it's why I've quietly worked in a Maori Healing clinic, where client payment is by donation, on and off for over thirteen years. I donate my time (which means not receiving money for the work that I do), as a way of Giving Back. To me, this is such an important aspect of life. 

Giving Back with no expectation of reward nor fame. It also keeps us humble. There are so many who do this, in a myriad of differing ways. Especially in Aotearoa (New Zealand). Covid really highlighted this.

To be honest, yet again, this was one of the things that really bothered me about a lot of the yoga communities. Where was/is the quietly Giving Back?

It helps not to be wasteful

This morning I cooked and froze my usual winter soup: red lentils and whatever vegetables are leftover from the past week. This time it was grated beetroot and baby spinach. Very sustaining and delicious. Ugly colour, but very yum. Always turmeric, and whatever spices might do. This time it was just coriander. If I don't have any home made stock, I add some Vegeta brand, a vegan stock powder. I was out of onions, but usually I have some onion granules on hand, just in case. 

I stew any fruit that isn't at it's best, and freeze it. 

For years I made my own yoghurt, adding extra milk powder to up the protein. I also sprouted mung beans, another great source of nutrition. Both of which I intend to do again.

A friend told me that she makes a stew - meat, beans, whatever, and to the leftovers, she adds more liquid and miso, to make soup. You can do this with beans too.

I recommend going to ethnic food shops, like mini supermarkets, or bulk bin places, and buying pulses, beans, rice and so on, as it's so much cheaper. 

I used to use ugly dried seaweed strands that I bought at an Asian shop, to make nutritious stock, when I was vegetarian. 

And for tough times, here are a few interesting food web sites:

** link here to nelliebswartimerationing. blogspot.com With lots of delicious recipes. Personally, I would exchange red or brown lentils for her oat stew recipes. It's a great kiwi site with tons of tips.

** link here to the 1940sexperiment.com. Again, fabulous, cheap, fill-your-belly type food. I was featured on it during covid. The link to that is here. Honestly, I was gobsmacked and truly humbled to be featured. 

** another great kiwi site, link here, thedestitutegourmet.com. Lots of free tips. You can also read her books from your local library.

** Legendary kiwi cook, Alison Holst, wrote some amazing earlier books helping her readers to eat more cheaply, yet healthily. Op shops sometimes have them. 

I have used one of her recipes for years, and I call it a quomlette (quiche-omelette): for each person use one egg. Mix with sour cream or cottage cheese, as much as you need. I add a wee bit of powdered mustard (another wee economy, rather than buying fancy mustards). You can saute some onion and/or vegies first; or use leftover vege. Pour your eggy mix over the vegetables which are in the pan, cook slowly over low heat. When the bottom is cooked, pop it under the grill to finish cooking it. Some cheese on top makes it extra special. 

** Edmonds cook book. Especially the older versions, which are now as rare as hen's teeth. No one gives this book away!! Learning to bake really does help the budget. (says she who has made a career of not baking). The book also has lots of plain recipes for everyday food.

My three adult son and daughters are all foodies, and great cooks. Clearly not inherited from me. I used to say to the youngest (now a mum herself): "life is not a restaurant". And I do believe that if we can get past that, we can be quite innovative with inexpensive yet nutritious food.  

p.s. any hints gratefully received.....

I definitely am interested in any feedback from any of the talks, meditations, or blog posts :))) xxxx


Link to my talks and meditations on Earth Elders: here.  Click "join" if you haven't already, then click the search icon there, and enter "Ratnamurti Saraswati". 

Link to Global Unity Festivals on you tube, here. I'm in the Wave 1, Asia/Pacific episodes.

Link to a post explaining Global Unity Festivals, here 

Also find me:

** yoga blog

** facebook

** swami ratnamurti/facebook

** twitter

** instagram

** pinterest

Link here to a guest post that I wrote, for My Bijou Life Online. Everything, blogwise, changed very positively, for me after writing this. I became more myself, online

Link here to a post about budget beauty

Link here to a post about budget food substitutions


  1. The Ashram taught us too well how to survive austerity. Mum you look so beautiful in this photo, you always did even with the op shop clothes xox

  2. Thank you. Any comment from you means so much :). Yes, sadly Ashram Life really lowered our standards. On the other hand - I always know that I can have porridge, milk powder, rice and dhal when I'm really impoverished - which is what I have done during poor times.

  3. Yeah good old rice dal and veges from the garden

  4. Rice and dhal is a staple for me! A couple of weeks ago, I had an upset stomach and one of the first meals I had after I recovered from it was rice and a very simple dhal. Although, these days, the price of both rice and of red lentils have gone up!

    1. When I'm unwell, I make a large-for-me pot of dhal, so that I have ready food. Rice and lentils - so far they haven't risen in price here

  5. I love your turmeric comment - I feel I can happily attempt a meal of almost anything if I can lay my sticky paws on either sumac, cumin, fenugreek or nigella, although I am VERY partial to a bit of the yellow joyfulness it's that little twinge of happiness from a jar isn't it. Often the simplest meals are the absolute best - and dhal is a perfect example, I actually have a recipe book of dhal recipes, the common denominator being the pusles and very little else needed to make them delicious. I think sometimes the more complicated and grandiose our lives and plans the less we notice or remember to be grateful for. The smallest pleasures can be the biggest joys

  6. You summed it up so well!

    "Life is not a restaurant"

  7. Beautiful photo. Your turmeric comment made me smile, a little pinch of something just makes a basic meal shine way more than something fancy I reckon and Ill happily admit to being a huge fan of sumac, or cumin or fenugreek or nigella seeds, those are my total favourites and Im a total sucker for dhal. Often our lives are over complicated and we fill it with "stuff" physical or mental stuff that clutters us up, when we have to go back to basics and are really scratching thats when we are also often our most grateful and creative

  8. Like you, I have little sympathy for those who have plenty and still complain. I once came across a dreadful example of this (I think it has scarred me for life!) - a family were saying they couldn't afford to go on holiday that year - so they had an in-ground swimming pool installed instead!!
    It sometimes seems to me that being "hard up" is simply a matter of perspective as most have no idea what it really means :)


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