Family aims for a green Christmas

GOOD LIFE: The Craigs lead a self-sufficient, green lifestyle in their suburban Mt Albert home.
GOOD LIFE: The Craigs lead a self-sufficient, green lifestyle in their suburban Mt Albert home.

A green-fingered couple is carving out a self-sufficient-lifestyle in suburban Auckland. Julie Craig shares her family's secrets to a green and simple Christmas with reporter Jess Lee. 

You won't find the Craigs hunting for a turkey in the frozen food aisle of the supermarket this Christmas.

In fact, you are unlikely to catch them in a supermarket at all.

Julie and Derek Craig have been living sustainably in central Auckland for more than a decade and things are no different during the festive season.

Instead of a traditional roast turkey with all of the trimmings, their family will tuck into a fresh poached fish, homegrown roasted vegetables and homemade tiramisu on Christmas Day.

The part-time teacher and her gardener husband switched towards a more self-sufficient lifestyle in order to save money and set an example for their two children.

"We make as much as we can because otherwise we have to pay for it," Mrs Craig says.

They grow their own fruit, vegetables and herbs in their garden and make everything from pasta, cheese and sausages to sweets and beer.

"When I grew up we were extremely poor and often there was no food in the cupboard," she says.

"I remember going to my grandparents and there was always trifle - so the comfort of the garden and the homemade things was huge as a result."

It is clear before you even pass the Craigs' front gate that this is no ordinary corner of suburban Mt Albert.

Even their berm is full to the brim with wild flowers and greenery and alive with bees.

"Everything we've got in here has got to have some benefit. It has either got to feed us, shade us or be beneficial to another plant."

Recipes from wartime and Depression era cookbooks have helped shape their shopping lists.

"They used all basic ingredients, there's nothing fancy," Mrs Craig says.

"I add garlic and ginger and things for our taste but it allows me to be really frugal instead of going to the supermarket."

Gift-giving is also much simpler under their roof. Homemade lollies, muffins or cakes gifted on pretty plates go down a treat, while handmade dolls are a hit with children, she says.

The family decided two years ago to forgo the supermarket entirely for a whole year and live completely off their garden while bartering for any other items they needed.

Nowadays when they do need to buy something they choose to support local stores and growers.

Cutting back on essentials and changing their habits wasn't easy but it's all been worthwhile, Mrs Craig says.

"At the end of the day you can have as much money in your bank account and, sure it helps, but the greatest thing is having a community and people have forgotten about that," she says. "People put up fences and close themselves in, and I understand that, but you have to be in touch with people that are near you and value them."

Sadly this will be the family's last Christmas in their rented house as it is being put on the market. But Mrs Craig is confident they will be able to build it all from the ground up, once again.

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