Regional work in Australia

Doing regional, or rural farm work, will be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of your life in Australia. If you’re on a your first Working Holiday Visa and want to extend it for an extra 12 months, then doing farm work is an absolute must.

Farm work? This includes working in a regional area of Australia (list of regional post codes here) for a minimum of 90 days. After your 90 days are complete, you can apply for your second year Working Holiday Visa (click here to apply for an Australian visa). The 90 days need not be completed on one farm. You can hop around to as many farms as you’d like, as long as your 90 days are logged and completed.

Different farms require different types of work from their visitors and employees, so choose the one that best appeals to you. Also, feel free to do some research on the different areas of Australia you’d like to visit, and search for farm work in those areas. Some farms are ‘WWOOFing’ (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) farms. This usually means that your accommodation and food is paid for (by the farmer) in exchange for a little hard work on your part. You receive no wages, and depending on the farm, you typically work Monday-Fridays only. Wwoofing also means you’re working on an organic farm. Duties usually include planting (seeds, banana trees etc.) and picking (fruit, veggies etc.), as well as some household tasks (cleaning, meal prep etc.).

If you’d like the most financial gain, pick a farm that offers wages. Wages could be hourly or by quota. For example, if you’re picking apples or oranges you may be paid $10 per bushel picked. Other forms of farm work include dairy (which I heard from others can be the most challenging yet well-paid type of rural work), au-pair (living with a family and taking care of their children), as well as construction. Those working construction in a regional area will make the most amount of money. Traffic controllers can also find regional work (click here to read about finding construction work).

As previously mentioned, the rules of the farm all depend on the farmer. Some pay wages, some don’t. Some pay accommodation, others won’t. Many offer food and accommodation alongside wages ($$$!). Thousands of backpackers, as well as residents, do temp regional work to make a few bucks because it’s an easy way to save money as well.

For those on their first year Working Holiday Visa, whether you’re unsure you want to extend your visa or not, do your farm work (it will be a great experience), and complete it within the first 6 months of your visa’s commencing. You could easily look for farm work on Gumtree, as well as through any agency. For those looking on Gumtree, be sure to ask the farmer for names and numbers of 2 or 3 contacts who’ve worked on the farm previously. Call them and ask them questions about what their experience was like. There are stories of backpackers gone missing, so use your judgement and be skeptical. If you’re going with an agency you need not worry.

The most valuable resource is word of mouth, so chat it up with other backpackers (maybe you’ll be staying with them in the same hostel room, or meet them on a night out on the town). They will be able to give you their farmer’s contact info, as well an honest account of the day to day.

Next up… my farm work experience. A breakdown of where I went, what I did, and what I thought about it. Stay tuned!

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Eating Healthy on a Budget

Although Australia is quite an expensive country to live in, and dining out frequently could severely dent your budget, if you’re diligent you’ll find a way to stick to a budget while allowing for a little wiggle room.

1. Re-evaluate your health/fitness goals- Is there a certain diet you’re following (ie. The Four Hour Body, Paleo, Primal, Low-Carb) and what sort of foods would you be eating to support this lifestyle? Write a rough list.

2. Set a budget- How much money will you spend in a week on groceries for meals you’ll be cooking at home? How much money will you be spending on take away meals? Be flexible with this. You eating out will depend on how strict you need to be with your budget. I recommend setting aside some money for 3-5 take away meals every week.

3. Meal Plan- Now if you’re not the meal-planning type, then just hit your nearest grocery store with a rough list of foods that you’ll need for the week. If you have a knack for meal-planning then plan your meals accordingly and shop for those meals.

4. Shop- Your nearest Coles or Woolworths should have most of what you’ll need. But if your budget allows for higher quality meats and food grown locally, then I would skip the supermarkets all together and shop at your surrounding farmer’s markets. No matter which suburb/city you live in, you’ll more than likely find at least one in your area kicking off on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

Do also look for health-food supplement stores for high-quality vitamins and supplements or anything extra your typical supermarket wouldn’t carry. If you’re living anywhere close to a beach, you’ll find more than a few within range without a problem (near Bondi Beach, Byron Bay etc.).

5. Scope out the best takeaway’s- Here are a list of fast food restaurants that won’t do too much damage to your wallet while keeping your healthy eating in check (starting with my favourites). Individual meals average from around $10 to $18 depending on how you customize them to your liking:

THRIVE– Clean eating at its finest. And may I say absolutely delicious. The founders of Thrive follow a Paleo or Primal-type philosophy which you could read more about in Mark Sisson’s popular book The Primal Blueprint. They use only free-range and grass-fed proteins and the most delicious smoothies. They also have a small range of clean Paleo desserts if you’re feeling like a treat (try the Banana Coconut donut… it’s yummy). The best thing about Thrive is that you customize your meals to your preference. Choose a few sides, choose your protein, and few extras if you’d like. You can take a peek at their menu on their site here and scope out their locations around Australia.

Thrive, Canberra
Thrive, Canberra

Mexican eateries- I find these to be the easiest and cheapest way to get a healthy meal in on the go. For those low-carb fiends, skip the tortillas and go for a burrito bowl without the rice and added guac. Not a fan of dairy? Pass on the cheese. Ask if you can sub rice for extra veg. These franchises listed below have locations all over Australia

Mad Mex 

Guzman Y Gomez 

guzman3
Guzman Y Gomez

Zambrero  

Grill’d Healthy Burgers– If you’re itching for a delicious, satisfying, incredible burger that won’t bust your belt buckle then look no further. With locations all over Australia and a menu that uses fresh, local ingredients and grass-fed beef, you’re sure in for a treat. Low-carb goers can opt for the low-carb bun option, or skip the bun altogether. Try the Summer Sunset burger or the scrumptious sliders! Sweet potato fries? Yes please. Grill’d also supports their communities initiatives with a percentage of their profits going to local initiatives.

Grill'd Healthy Burgers
Grill’d Healthy Burgers

BOOST Juice BarsGreat stall to hit up post-workout or for a mid-day pick me up. Multiple locations in most major cities and Westfield shopping centres. A yummy menu of nutrient-dense smoothies and juices, as well as a selection of small meals like wraps and yogurt parfaits made with fruit. Try the Weekend Warrior!

Boost Juice Bar

6. Restaurants $$$- You should definitely save enough room in your budget for a nice restaurant date. That could be with a mate, your partner, a Tinder date, whatever the occasion, it’s important to treat yourself. Usually you’re pretty safe no matter where you eat at a restaurant. If you stick to protein and veg, you’re ok. For those of you who are vegans or vegetarians, there are still plenty of options. Just take a walk around your neighbourhood or give it a Google.

Closing thoughts

It’s definitely possible to eat healthy on a budget. May take some research and preparation, but it’s definitely worth it. As always, if your diet is extremely strict then your best bet would be to prepare all your week’s meals from home. Tupperware will be your trusty mate so stock up on a set or two and take an hour or two every week to cook your meals and freeze them until you’ll need them. This will also help you save a bit more coin.

If you have any more tips on staying healthy on a budget, or experiences from other take-away’s, comment below!

Sydney Experiment No.1

I went home (Toronto, Canada) for Christmas and returned in Sydney in early January 2013. I had a week and a half before taking off to Melbourne to visit some friends and family. One book inspired me to take up a one-week challenge: to live on $100 (AUD) for one week. Sydney is an EXPENSIVE city to live in. If you’re working you’ll be fine (generally speaking). But I decided that for that week I’d revel in my new-found freedom and take every morning to ask myself: “What the hell do I want to do today?” And so came the inspiration for the challenge.

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The $100 would need to cover rent, food, lunch/dinner dates, nights out, shopping, transportation or any other ‘surprise’ expenses.

All I can say was that these last 7 days were the most eye-opening, awesome and spontaneous days of my life. And for those interested in learning a few things about saving some money in Oz—as well as having a laugh or two over my ridiculously frugal attempts to protect my wallet—then these next  7 entries are for you.

Starting next week I’ll be posting 7 posts everyday… one for each of my challenge days. Stay tuned and if you have any feedback for me—or are simply interested to see what went down—comment below! 🙂

And don’t forget you can connect with me via Facebook, Twitter or at iwtkangaroo@gmail.com.