The Bare Essentials

When my son was 14 and my daughter was 9, we took off on our bikes and cycled the Loire valley (France) with little more than camping gear and a very tight budget for 4 weeks.    I realised how little we really need to live.  However, the weather was sunny, with a thunderstorm and accompanying shower almost every evening, admittedly we didn’t have to cope with cold extremes.  During that time, I enjoyed my only problems being deciding what to eat and how to navigate correctly so that you don’t find yourself circling an apple orchard for an hour.  We did things families should do – we sang, chased lizards, ate pastries in the shade of a tree (hmmmmm French pastries), laughed over our attempts at communication with the locals, had competitions to see who could catch the most mosquitos before we zipped up the sleeping bags at night, raced to keep ahead of the clouds, so we could get the tent up before that inevitable evening storm, and cycled around an apple orchard for an hour.

With just 7 months to go before we move, discussions are less about the dream, and more about the practicalities.   We’re having to make some realistic and sometimes harsh decisions about the use of our precious savings.  Questions about the bare essentials are now foremost in my mind.  How little can we really live on?  Could we live a moneyless life?

I’ve found Rachel’s blog especially helpful to get the process started.  For instance, she composed a list of food stuffs for an average adult in a year, and more recently listed essential kitchen utensils.   Inspired, I set about calculating what we’ve been eating over the last year.   The permaculture project would be designed to create a sufficient yield to meet these needs. I’m going to need to grow a lot of tomatoes and give up tea!  Although, it may be possible that with biodiversity in the forest garden, there will be lots of substitutions within this scheme.

Note: in the list, an item may be covered elsewhere.  E.g. butter calculation would be not only for sandwiches, but also for baking.


3650 tea bags

48 l soya milk

730 9-bars (seed bars)



10 kg butter

730 fruits (apples/pears/bananas)

122 days worth of sandwich fillings:

  • 36 kg cheese
  • 6 jars chutney
  • 26 kg hummus
  • 5 kg sprouts
  • 5 kg rocket
  • 26 cucumbers
  • 104 kg tomatoes
  • 156 eggs

122 days worth of soup:

  • 24 marrows/squashes
  • 78 leeks
  • 52 kg mushrooms

122 days worth of salad

  • 7.5 kg salads/lettuce
  • 8 kg olives
  • 1 kg sundried tomatoes
  • 26 cucumbers
  • 26 red & white cabbages,
  • 26 celery bulbs

356 loaves of bread:

  • 40kg brown rice flour
  • 40 kg buckwheat flour
  • 30 kg millet flour
  • 30 kg soya flour
  • 44 kg tapioca starch
  • 12 kg chia seed


13 kg risotto rice

13 kg basmati rice

156 potatoes (inc. sweet)

104 parsnips

26 swede/turnips

156 courgettes

52 aubergines

450 onions

78 garlic bulbs

26 lbs spinach/kale


26 l olive/rapeseed oil

52 peppers

104 chilli peppers

36 kg varied cheeses

26 kg beef

26 kg chicken

26 kg salads

10 kg lentils

10 kg chickpeas

10 kg beans

7 kg peas

52 kg pasta (and variants)

26 Ginger roots

1 kg fresh coriander

5 kg powdered or whole spices (turmeric, cayenne, garam masala, coriander, cumin, cardamon, mustard, fenugreek, cinnamon, nutmeg)

10 kg Herbs (coriander, marjoram, basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, mint, lemon balm)



5 kg salt

6 kg sugar

12 jars honey

10 kg seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, fennel, celery)

10 kg Nuts (pine, walnut, pecan, hazelnut, almond)

4 kg Coconut oil

26 kg oats

520 yoghurt servings

I have omitted the weekend crisps, peanuts, chocolate and ice-cream – we’re planning to get out of bad habits (?!?!)

In the meantime, I’m going to be working out how much of this we could become self-sufficient in and will report back later.










13 thoughts on “The Bare Essentials

  1. This is a very interesting list – thanks for sharing. It’s the kind of diet I am slowly trying to navigate towards, having recently taken a whole food workshop. My children are less enthusiastic about the idea however.

    Good to see you back blogging again 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

        1. That does look interesting. I think I’d like the freezer part too, I’ve been working towards more bulk cooking and preservation of food as part of the grander scheme. Thanks for the link, I’ll bookmark in case it starts up again.


          1. Heather did say it was the last time she was running that course, though she might do something similar in the future. I could email you the worksheets which include recipes, if they’d be of any use to you.


    1. It’s going to be very hard initially. It’s one reason we decided not to wait until retirement to get going. However, if a permaculture system is designed well, you create a self-maintaining system which requires less work (e.g. more perennials than annuals). As one of the permie gurus said “if you’re working too hard, you’re doing something wrong.”

      A lot of what I’ve been doing is to work out and learn about efficient ways of doing things. I make sourdough bread for instance, which takes days to set up. (I also wanted to make egg, gluten, yeast and dairy free – which took 4 months to get right). But now, putting four loaves in the oven is more efficient than one and is only 10 minutes work. It just takes larger implements to do it. So that guides what ‘things’ we need in the system.

      The reason for travelling before buying land, is to locate a community with whom we could interact – e.g. a transition town, eco-villages, where mutual exchange becomes possible, where things like cooperative oil presses, tool and seed banks can be established or already exist. I don’t plan on growing grains for example, but instead buying (or exchanging) large sacks to keep us going for the year. We’re going to do some Wwoofing, ( and hopefully in turn can host Wwoofers to help out. These work exchanges build on existing skills and knowledge (inc how NOT to do things) – I’ve learned a lot from others’ prior mistakes. E.g. I know a couple who had to re-position all their veg beds due to not considering the natural flow of water in their landscape. Now, those veg beds don’t need any irrigation system and half the plants don’t drown.

      Wow, I got carried away there!!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh gosh, very good question. There was no one pivotal moment. I feel like I’ve always known there was something desperately wrong with the way we live. I remember writing an essay about it when I was 16. The more urbanised a setting I was in, the more I craved nature which I did have the privilege of being very close to as a child. Permaculture, when I learned about it, just seemed common sense – and more importantly it made me feel there was something I could do to make a change. I hope I can pass something more than the mess we’re in on to my grandson. Che Guevara said that love was at the heart of being revolutionary and permaculture is a revolution based on a love for what we’re quickly losing. I know that people will be reluctant to let go of their mod cons and comforts, so I am trying to learn a bit more about the Venus Project and other ‘answers’,
          but ultimately, I think we’ve got to learn to be less anthropocentric, which permaculture is.


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