20 April 2018

Meal Plan Week 17, 2018

This week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Chicken

Monday: Chilli Con Carne, corn bread

Tuesday: Penne with Creamy Pesto

Wednesday: Homemade pie, mashed potato, peas, gravy

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Swedish meatballs

Saturday: Spanish rice, salad



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16 April 2018

Cath's Meal Plan Week 24, 2018

This week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Beef

Monday: Schnitzels, vegetables, tomato gravy

Tuesday: Spinach & Feta Ravioli, salad, garlic bread

Wednesday: Mexican meatballs, rice, green salad

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Muffin surprise

Saturday: Hamburgers, chips


13 April 2018

Meal Plan Week 16, 2018


Next week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Beef

Monday: Schnitzels, sliced potatoes and salad

Tuesday: Pasta Bake

Wednesday: Stuffed drumsticks, salad

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Curried tuna slice, salad

Saturday: Tomato Vegetable Soup, toasted crumpets


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06 April 2018

Meal Plan Week 15, 2018

Saturday Night  Sour Cream Pasta Bake
Next week we will be eating:

Monday: Sausage Wellingtons, mushroom gravy

Tuesday: Saturday Night Sour Cream Pasta Bake, salad

Wednesday: Meatloaf & vegetables

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Singapore noodles

Saturday: Homemade veggie burgers

In the fruit bowl: Bananas


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04 April 2018

How We Live Happily on Our Budget

I'd love to say it is easy and we live on our budget without even thinking about it, but that simply wouldn't be true.

We are human. There are times we want things RIGHT NOW PLEASE that we just don't have the cash saved up for, and I'll admit that I don't like it. Sometimes I suffer from the "I see it, I want it, I deserve it" mindset too.

But our lifestyle is what it is. We live debt free. We have everything we need, and as of today, want. We have worked hard to get to this point in our lives, and we do not ever want to be where we were When Disaster Struck, so we have a few checks before we go crazy with the spending.

Now we don’t stand in the store and tick them off, but they are always asked before we spend money that's not on our spending plan.

1. Is it a want or a need? – Sometimes, in the emotion of the moment, the difference between wants and needs blurs, but they are two very different things.

2. Can I find it used? – There are very few things we buy that are not used.  Underwear, shoes and tyres are the three things I absolutely won't buy used, otherwise as long as the item is in excellent condition and a fair price, used suits us just fine.  If something can't be sourced secondhand, then we do our research and look for the lowest possible price, and aim to never buy anything that isn't on sale (other than the basic grocery items from Aldi that we stock our pantry with).

3. Am I buying this out of habit? – We get so used to shopping that tossing things in the trolley or basket out of habit can really bust that budget. Shop with a list for everything, not just groceries. I have household and garden items on my shopping list, clothing, medicines - everything we need to buy. I'm so focused on getting what's on the list and crossing it off, I very rarely ever add anything to the trolley.

4. Will I be able to use the item for more than one task?  – How many times have you found something in your cupboard and realised you've only used it once or twice, or even worse, not at all? Or you can't remember why you bought it in the first place? Think about every purchase, and ask yourself:
• will you actually use it,
• will you be able to use it more than once,
• can it be used for other purposes,
• do you have the cash to pay for it ,
• will you still be using it in six months?

5. Is it worth going in debt? – Unless you're buying a house, then the answer is always no! When it comes to anything else (including cars!), if you don't have the cash to pay for it, then you can't afford it. Simple.

Working out your budget to fit your income may mean you need to trim a few things, but it's a much nicer lifestyle to trim a few things from the budget and be debt free, than to buy whatever you want and live with the ongoing stress of debt.

And if asking those questions is too daunting for you, remember the $100/24 Hour Rule:

If it's more than $100, wait 24 hours before buying it. Then, if you still need it or really want it, think about how you can afford to get it. Do you have the cash on hand? Will you need to borrow from the budget? Will you have to go into debt to buy it (credit cards, store loans etc.)? Can you raise the money to buy it (overtime, garage sale, use birthday money etc.)?

Most of the time you've changed your mind, realized you don't really even like it or just plain can't be bothered going back to the shop to get it and you've just saved yourself a couple years' worth of debt re-payments!


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03 April 2018

WHAT WE SPENT, WHAT WE DIDN'T SPEND AND WHAT WE SAVED WEEKS 8 - 13

I have been absent from the blogging world for the last six weeks, due to a rather inconvenient health issue that has had me going almost stir crazy from boredom. No TV, no screen time, no reading (especially my Kindle), wearing sunglasses almost constantly and eye drops - lots and lots of eye drops.

After a visit to the specialist last week, I'm now allowed limited screen and reading time - thank goodness!

So this next week will be catch up on missing blog posts, I apologise in advance, because they will be LONG, but by the end of the week all should be caught up.

This is what we spent:

Groceries: $217.16
Petrol: $48.43
Chemist: 69.70
Doctors: $397.10
Magazines: $17
Easter: $27
Oven handle: $51.40

Spending, even on the necessities, has been limited, although the grocery budget did have more convenience groceries added to the list. It helps not being able to drive, and being housebound and so avoiding the shops.

Petrol spending was way down, due mainly to the fact I simply wasn't going out, and so not driving. I was able to shift $431.43 to the holiday fuel fund, giving it a healthy boost for our trip.

Easter was the most expensive ever for us this year. All our hot cross buns were bought - I usually bake them. I gave in and bought Easter eggs from Sweet As at Knox City because I just couldn't make them, and then filled the baskets with gold bunnies from Aldi. It was still a lot less expensive than some of the posts I've seen, but it sure put a dent in our special occasions budget.

An unexpected expense was the handle on the oven door. It snapped in half as I opened it one night. Thankfully we were able to source a new replacement (a miracle as far as I'm concerned for our 35 year old oven!) and Wayne was able to take the door apart and fit the new one. We have a spending plan category for household maintenance and repairs, and this expense came from that category.

With just six weeks until we leave on our trip, we'll be eating down the freezer and living solely off our stockpile, buying just milk for as long as I can (until the fruit and veg in the pantry and freezer run out). We may be eating some strange side dishes, but I'm sure we'll survive. My plan is to do a big shop the week before we leave to restock the freezer and pantry for the kids while we're away.

Total spent: 572.20
And moved to savings: $431.43

Remember, money isn't saved until it is safely in the bank. Until then it is just not spent - hence my "what we didn't spend" list and making sure I move money from the relevant categories into our savings accounts.



01 April 2018

IT'S TIME TO WASH THE WASHING MACHINE FOR MARCH

There is an easy, cheap and energy efficient way to keep your washing machine clean and in tip top shape, and it works. It's the method I've been using for 29 years.

First thing you need to do is find out if your washing machine actually has a lint filter. My HE machine didn't, my new machine does, so check your handbook to find out if your machine has a lint filter.

If your washing machine is a top loader it should have a lint filter in the agitator.  Pull out the top of the agitator and it should have some kind of little bag or basket attached to it.

Gently take it off and give it a good clean. You may need to empty the lint out of it first. Then rinse it under hot water. If you use fabric softener then you will also need to soak it for a few minutes in white vinegar. Fabric softeners leave a film over the mesh that actually stops the water from getting through. You need to get rid of this build up.

Front loaders have different lint filters - check your handbook to find out where it is and how to get to it.

If you empty and rinse the lint filter after every wash you'll stop those black flakes of gunk that sometimes appear on your washing - that's the old muck out of the lint filter flowing back up into the bowl. Yuk!

While the lint filter is soaking, get a cloth and a bucket of warm water and add a splash of vinegar (about 1 cup). Use this to wipe around the top of the bowl, under the lid, over the outside of the cabinet etc. Don't forget the inside of the agitator and the fabric softener dispenser. If it's particularly grungy, sprinkle with bi-carb and use this as a scouring powder. Just watch your fingers - the edges of all those ridges and rims can be sharp (guess how I know!).

Put the lint filter back together and replace the top of the agitator. Then run your washing machine through a full cycle on the longest and hottest wash cycle (this is the only time I use a hot wash) and add a full 2 litre bottle of vinegar to it. Don't add any clothes or other detergents; let the vinegar work its magic. The vinegar will remove the scum and gunk and any hard-water build up in the bowl and hoses.

Wipe over the outside of the machine with a damp cloth and dry.

You washing machine will sparkle inside and out. Do this on a regular basis and you'll extend the life of your machine and save on costly maintenance calls.

My handbook suggests every 100 washes, for me that's about every two months because of the amount of washing I do. For my mother it's every six months or so as she only does two loads a week. If your family is larger you may need to do this more often. It may seem like a tedious chore but it is worth taking care of this most useful household appliance.

Think about what you'd do if you couldn't use your washing machine for a week - hand-washing, paying for the laundromat -and you'll see the benefit quickly.

It's time to clean the dishwasher for April


It's that time again - the day to give the dishwasher a bit of TLC. I did ours this morning and now it's sparkly and clean, ready to keep our dishes sparkly and clean.

How to clean your dishwasher:

Step 1.  Place a dishwasher-safe cup filled with plain white vinegar on the top rack of your empty dishwasher. The vinegar will help to wash away the loose, greasy grime, sanitizes, and helps remove the musty odour.

Step 2. Sprinkle a cup of bicarbonate soda around the bottom of the dishwasher. The bicarbonate soda will help freshen the smell of the dishwasher as well as brighten up the look of the inside of your appliance by removing stains.

Step 3.  Using the hottest water available, run the dishwasher through a cycle – except for the cup of vinegar, the dishwasher needs to be empty.

Now that the dishwasher is clean and running right here are a few tips to keep it that way until the next cleaning.

Run a bit of hot water in your sink before running the dishwasher. You will get cleaner dishes if the water starts hot. You can collect the water you run and use it to fill the kettle or for watering plants or other purposes. Run the water until what comes out of the tap feels hot.

Make sure your water starts hot enough. Set the thermostat on your hot water service to 50 degrees Celsius. Water that is cooler than this won’t be hot enough to clean properly and water that is any hotter could scald.

A routine dishwasher cleaning is a good habit to get into. Mark it on the calendar to do regularly each month, the same day you do the drains and the washing machine.

30 March 2018

Meal Plan Week 14, 2018

Mediterranean Salmon Patties
This week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Lamb

Monday: Lamb fritters, gravy & vegetables

Tuesday: Mexican Lasagne, salad

Wednesday: Salmon patties, chips & salad

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Sweet & Sour meatballs, rice

Saturday: Mock Fish, wedges, salad

In the fruit bowl: bananas

In the cake tin: Boiled fruit cake, scones, chocolate cake

Mediterranean Salmon Patties

Ingredients:
1 x 415g can red salmon, drained, skin and bones removed
70g feta, chopped
1/2 avocado, stone removed, peeled, chopped
1/3 cup loosely packed chopped fresh continental parsley
2 tbsp finely shredded tasty cheese
2 tbsp bought hummus
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
2 tbsp olive oil, extra

Method:
Place the salmon, feta, avocado, parsley, cheese, hummus, chives, lemon juice, oil and fresh breadcrumbs in the bowl of a food processor and process until just combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Divide mixture into 4 equal portions and shape each portion into 8cm patties. Place patties on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. Place the breadcrumbs on a plate. Coat both sides of the patties in the crumbs. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add patties and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes each side or until golden and heated through.

24 March 2018

Meal Plan, Week 13 2018

Cream Cheese Patties
This week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Chicken

Monday: Cream cheese patties, salad

Tuesday: Spaghetti Bolognese

Wednesday: Wellington Loaf, scalloped potato, greens

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Sausages, vegetables

Saturday: Muffin Surprise

In the fruit bowl: bananas

In the cake tin: No Bake Choc Chip Slice, Lemon Slice


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06 March 2018

MOO Month - Deli Treats for the MOOing


Well it is March, and that means it is MOO  month. I love MOO month - trying new MOOs to enhance our Cheapskates way of living without impacting our budget at all; just because we watch our spending and live within our means, doesn't mean we need to miss out on the finer things in life.

One of the things I love to MOO is smoked chicken, another is pastrami. Both are favourites with my family. We love either on sandwiches, on a foccacia, in pasta sauces, on pizzas and even on a tray with some olives, cheese, semi-dried tomatoes and veggies sticks.

Sadly, both are hard to find. Supermarket delis used to sell both (for a price, of course), but now only selected delis at the larger supermarkets stock pastrami - smoked chicken is almost impossible to find. If you have an independent deli nearby, you not only have a gourmet goldmine, but you have access to the most delicious deli items, including smoked chicken (in all forms) and good pastrami.

Of course, both these deli treats are simple to MOO, and you don't need a special smoker, although if you have one, or access to one, brilliant. A simple electric frying pan, a metal jar lid and a cake rack will do the job too.

MOO Smoked Chicken

I  buy chicken fillets on special, and pay no more than $6/per kilo, then brine them and smoke them. Smoked chicken, last time I priced it at the deli, was $22/kilo! It pays too MOO.

Here's how to smoke chicken, it's a pretty simple process:

1. Soak the chicken in a brine.
2. Smoke the chicken in a smoker.
3. Simmer the smoked chicken in stock.
4. Vacuum seal and freeze.

As I mentioned above, it helps to have a smoker but it's not strictly necessary. You can make a simple smoker using an electric frying pan or you can buy a simple contraption that goes on the barbecue.  I started with an old Sunbeam frypan I picked up on hard rubbish of all places, a couple of old Fowlers Vacola lids, an old cake cooler and a bag of wood chips from Bunnings.

1 kg chicken fillets, breast or thigh, skin off
1/2 cup salt
1.5 litres cold water
Wood chips - flavour of choice (I buy them from Bunnings or Anaconda or BCF - wherever they're cheapest)
3 litres chicken stock - MOO is tastiest but not essential, choose a good stock though, not stock cubes and water

Step 1. Make the brine. Stir the salt into the 1.5 litres of cold water until it has dissolved.

Step2. Put the chicken fillets in the brine. Make sure they are completely submerged. If they aren't be sure to turn them every 20 minutes. Let them sit in the brine for at least 2 hours, but no more than 24 hours, in the fridge.

Step 3. Prepare your smoker according to the instruction booklet.

Step 4. Take the chicken from the brine. Dry the fillets with a (clean) tea towel or dish cloth or paper towel if you use it.

Step 5. Put the chicken into the smoker and cook for 45 minutes - 1 hour at 105 degrees Celsius (around 225 Fahrenheit). Don't be tempted to lift the lid on the smoker, or open the barbecue - you'll just let all that delicious smoke out and your end result won't be quite as delicious. Just let the meat smoke away.

Step 6. Put the chicken into the brine and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes until cooked through. Cool in brine. Store in fridge for up to 7 days or freeze immediately.

This meat will keep in the fridge for up to 7 days. I slice it, vacuum seal it (you can double wrap in clingfilm) and freeze in 100g packets. It keeps in the freezer for up to six months. An electric knife makes slicing so much easier if you have one.

MOO Pastrami


Pastrami was $18/kilo last time I priced it. I buy corned silverside for $5 - $7/kilo (the price varies through the year - I try to stock up when it is cheapest and freeze). Again, it pays to MOO.

Ingredients:
1.5 - 2kg piece of corned beef - trimmed into two or three logs roughly the same size - don't trim the fat!

Brine:
2 litres (8 cups) of water
200g coarse sea salt
100g sugar or honey
2 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp or so of pickling spices

Smoking:
1 small jar whole grain mustard
1 small packet coriander seeds
1 small packet black peppercorns
To smoke your meat, you’ll need a kettle-style barbecue or a kettle smoker or something of the like, plus wood chips.

Step 1. Brining. I use corned beef, which is already brined, but I do it again. It intensifies the flavours and makes the meat much more tender.  Put all of the brine ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it cool completely. Place your meat in a large bowl with a leak-proof seal or double zip-lock bags.  Pour the brine into the bow or bag, press out the air and seal. Store in fridge for 5 days, turning daily.

Step 2. After five days, drain take the meat out of the brine and pat dry. Crush the coriander and mustard seeds (I put them through the coffee grinder, you could use a mortar and pestle or a small food processor) roughly. Spread the mustard over the meat, covering all of it.  Take a sheet of greaseproof paper and spread the crushed spices over it. Roll the meat in the crushed spices, covering as much of it as you can. Press the crushed spices into the meat with your hands if necessary - just make sure they stick.

Step 3. Heat your smoker according to the instructions. Smoke your pastrami for 2 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 70 degrees Celsius. The important thing here is to keep the heat low and slowly bring it up to temperature, for a more tender pastrami.

Step 4.  Just before the pastrami is ready to come out of the smoker, pre-heat your oven to 120 degrees Celsius. Prepare a baking dish with a roasting rack by pouring in enough water to come up about 3cm.  When the pastrami has finished smoking, remove it from the smoker and place it on the rack in the baking dish. Cover tightly with foil, you want the meat to steam.  Bake at 120 degrees for 3 hours. You might need to top the water up, I check every hour or so and top up if necessary.

Slice your pastrami thinly and enjoy hot (delicious with mash and steamed greens or on a roll with mustard and cheese) or cold.

This meat will keep in the fridge for up to 7 days. I slice it, vacuum seal it (you can double wrap in clingfilm) and freeze in 100g packets. It keeps in the freezer for up to six months.



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02 March 2018

Meal Plan Week 10, 2018


Next week's dinners are easy, and quick. Looking at the calendar, it is going to be a busy week. Wayne and AJ are getting ready for a long weekend train exhibition, I have a couple of late afternoon appointments and we have visitors coming. Quick and easy it is!

This coming week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Lamb

Monday: Lamb wraps

Tuesday: Vegetable lasagne, salad, garlic bread

Wednesday: Curried Tuna Slice, salad

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Corn Fritters & salad

Saturday: Enchiladas

In the fruit bowl: Lemons, bananas, grapes

In the cake tin: Lemon Coconut Slice, White Choc Cornflake Squares

White Choc Cornflake Squares

Ingredients:
60g butter
300g marshmallows
125g white choc chips
3 tbsp milk powder
5 cups cornflakes

Method:
Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows and chocolate, cook 7 minutes or until mixture melts, stirring constantly. Sprinkle the milk powder evenly over the mixture, then add the corn flakes and stir until all are well coated.

Press mixture in pan and press down to an even, compact layer.

Allow to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes before cutting into squares.


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23 February 2018

Meal Plan Week 9, 2018

Mac'n'Cheese - freezes beautifully for a quick meal on a busy night.
No baking this week, it has been too hot to have the oven on. We've been eating meals and snacks from the freezer, and lots of fruit (grapes and peaches have been a great price at our local greengrocer) and the boys haven't missed the baking at all (and I certainly don't need the extra kilojoules).

Everything except the salad and the veggies for Sunday's roast will come from the freezer, making it a very easy week meal-wise. Just thaw and if anything needs to be heated it can be done in the microwave or for the quiche, the pie maker (they are muffin sized quiches rather than one large one).

I planned this easy week ages ago and pre-cooked what I could when I was cooking other dishes with the same or similar ingredients and cooking times/methods. Then they were quickly cooled, wrapped and frozen, waiting to be gobbled up.

This coming week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Chicken

Monday: Salmon quiche, salad

Tuesday: Macaroni cheese with vegetables

Wednesday: Schnitzels, potato bake

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Haystacks

Saturday: Homemade Subs

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18 February 2018

WHAT WE SPENT, WHAT WE DIDN'T SPEND AND WHAT WE SAVED WEEK 7


This is what we spent:

Aldi: $23.14
Coles: $5.40
Medical: $129.80
Craft: $1.00
Groceries: $4.00

Craft: $1 - the last of the big spenders, who shouldn't have been spending this month. Carol was able to source some ribbons and buckles at a rock bottom price (50c for  the buckles, 5c/2 metres of ribbon). I took the $1 from my mad money.

Medical: $129.80 - this is the OOP from a specialist visit this week. We have a medical section in our spending plan so that we can afford to visit private specialists when needed. The Medicare refund of $182.10 went straight back into the medical account.

This is what we didn't spend (and what was moved into savings/slush fund/holiday fund):

Coffee: Wayne is still using the Keep Cup and we are both still having iced coffee in the mornings. I've been making up Iced Coffee Syrup, using expresso from my machine and MOO vanilla extract. Total cost: $3.82 for 1 litre of coffee syrup, that makes 20 iced coffees (I use 50ml per drink). Our iced coffees cost just 40 cents each (200ml milk costs 20c, 50ml syrup is 20c). Between the two of us, over seven mornings, we didn't spend $52.50 on iced coffee this week!

Groceries:  $4 - this bought 500 walnuts and 500g almonds on clearance (the greengrocer was closing down). A saving of $13.75 on the walnuts and $12.93 on the almonds, a total of $26.68 not spent on nuts for baking.

Birthday card: I made a card from materials in the craft cupboard. The cardstock, papers and embellishments cost $1.20. To buy a similar card would cost $8+ to buy. $6.80 wasn't spent on a birthday card.

Petrol: Another week with minimal driving, so no petrol needed or bought. $80 moved to the holiday fund.

Meals:  We didn't spend $376 again on takeaway this week and all our meals, including lunches, were made at home using ingredients already on hand. We didn't blow $446 on food this week!

Ebooks: I downloaded 11 new ebooks for my Kindle, all free. At an average of $4 per ebook, I didn't spend $44 on ebooks this week.

Total spent this week:  $163.34
Total not spent this week: $655.98
And moved to savings:  $80.00

Remember, money isn't saved until it is safely in the bank. Until then it is just not spent - hence my "what we didn't spend" list and making sure I move money from the relevant categories into our savings accounts.