26 February 2017

The Week that Was 26th February 2017

Dried the washing on the line. I love the smell of the sheets and towels when they come in from the sunshine, so much nicer than artificial scents.

Caught the shower warm up water in a bucket and used it to water the pot plants. I explained how I do this here.

Picked zucchini and tomatoes from the garden.

Made two loaves of wholemeal bread, sliced them and put them in the freezer.

Made a batch of Simple Soap and a batch of basic re-purposed soap and used a recycled Pringles can as a mould.

Went through my wardrobe to see what I need for winter. Felt strange, it was 33 degrees while I was doing it, but my clothing budget needs to stretch a long way this year. Hannah did her wardrobe at the same time and I've inherited a couple of tops, a vest, 2 scarves and a jumper that she's never worn. That generous donation means I just need to get some new socks, a pair of runners (mine have finally collapsed after 12 years) and either track pants for around the house or the fleecy to make them.

Big W used to sell ladies basic track pants for $8 a pair, but they've changed the style and the fabric and put the price up. It takes 1.10 metres to make a pair for me, so if fleecy is on sale for under $8 a metre I'll make them. I already have the non-roll waistband elastic in the sewing box so they shouldn't cost any more. Bonus will be I can make them to fit properly.

Made some craft kits to put on the Etsy store.

Made two get well cards, a thinking of you card and a birthday card. That's at least a $4 saving (if I'd bought them from a cheap shop), up to $20 if I'd bought them from a card shop. Cards are so expensive to buy, but I love to send them to special people.

This week I've been batch cooking for future meals; now there is room in the freezer, thanks to the Freezer Challenge, it's time to start getting ahead again. Tuesday I made pasta sauce x 5 and put four containers in the freezer. While I had the big wok out I made four lots of taco meat and froze them in meal sized lots too.

Thursday morning I did an interview for Mamamia.

Skipped the half price specials this week due to No Spending Month, after realising we have plenty of the things I had on my list, or at least enough to last until the next sale cycle. Thank goodness for a grocery stockpile.

What did you do to save money, time and energy this week?



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24 February 2017

Cath's Meal Plan - 26th February - 4th March 2017


This week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Lamb

Monday: Fish, wedges, coleslaw

Tuesday: Macaroni cheese with vegetables

Wednesday: Sweet & Sour meatballs, rice

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Haystacks

Saturday: Enchiladas

Having Fun at Aldi

Last week was just fabulous.

Even the (really, really) early start on Wednesday couldn't dampen my enthusiasm. Nor could the humidity in Perth. It was so humid I thought I was back on Cape York! And then when we arrived in Adelaide it was so cool I put a jacket on - and counted my blessings because the week before it was over 40 degrees.

I had so much fun at the three Aldi workshops and met so many really lovely people and was finally able to put faces to names I've known for years, I just love my job!

I was doing my three favourite things: talking, meeting old friends and showing them how they really can trim their grocery budgets, without compromising on quality, taste, texture, colour, health - you get the idea.

I was on my Cheapskating soapbox and had a willing audience - it was almost as good as heaven to me :)

Wednesday afternoon Today Tonight in Perth invited me to Mirabooka Square, where I met a lovely Aldi newbie, Juliana, and showed her just how easy it is to feed the family for less at Aldi. We made a meal plan, whipped up the shopping list and off we went.  Lots of fun and along the way we converted another Australian homemaker to shopping the Cheapskates way at Aldi.

One of my monthly grocery top-up shops, to replace what was used from the stockpile
Over the three workshops 79 people were introduced to shopping the Cheapskates way at Aldi. Some were already Aldi shoppers, but only for the things they recognised. And some were new to Aldi, never having stepped foot through the doors before.

Oh boy did I have fun introducing them all to Aldi's range of exclusive brand products and shopping the Cheapskates way.

I talked about the products I love and the ones I don't.

I talked about the two tiers of products found on Aldi shelves.

I explained how I buy some things in bulk (for example dishwashing liquid, tomato soup, pasta).

I also talked about the no questions asked, 60 day money back guarantee (Aldi really do stand by their guarantee, I've tested it).

I mentioned how Aldi was the first supermarket chain in Australia to introduce unit pricing and how easy it makes comparing brands and sizes and how Aldi is the first supermarket in Australia to be completely free of all artificial colourings across the entire range of its own brands.

I talked so much that by Thursday night my throat was scratchy and my voice was hoarse. By Friday morning I couldn't talk, and there was still one workshop to do. Lots of rest, lots of fluids and lots of soothers helped and I had a little voice by Saturday afternoon, ready to head off to Westlakes and meet more lovely Cheapskaters.

We had a crew from Today Tonight in Adelaide follow us around the store, asking lots of questions. You can watch the video here.

There were lots of questions at all the workshops. Some of the questions asked were:
What are haystacks?
Am I employed by Aldi? (I answered this one in this week's newsletter)
Do I really only shop once a month?
How do I catch shower water (that one was from left field)?
How do I manage to keep the fruit and veg good between shops?
Do I buy meat from Aldi, because I always talk about Tasman and Australian Butcher?
Does Aldi really stand by the no questions asked, 60 day, money back guarantee?

Over the next few days I'll try to answer them for you, starting with this one.

How do I catch shower water?

Well the short answer is in a bucket. The long answer is that each bathroom has a bucket used just for catching the warm-up water. The bucket is put under the showerhead before it's turned on and it catches the water until it warms up. This is good, clean water so I will either pour it into the washing machine or use it for watering pot plants. I've been known to put a clean jug under the shower and then put it in the fridge when it's full to use for drinking water.

And that's how I catch the shower water. No secrets, no special containers. Just a bucket in the shower.



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23 February 2017

Why won't My Yoghurt Set?

It's a cry I hear at least once a week.

I wish there were a simple, straightforward answer, but there isn't.

I can give you some hints that will help to ensure you make a successful batch of yoghurt every time.

This is my MOO yoghurt recipe.

To make 1 litre of yoghurt you will need:
A clean 1 litre jar with a screw top lid
A wide mouthed thermos that will hold the jar
2 cups milk powder (either full cream or skim, it’s up to you)
2 tablespoons natural yoghurt (this is the starter)
Cool water (tap water is fine as long as it’s not really cold).

Half fill the jar with cool water, add the milk powder and the 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt. Put
the lid on and shake well to combine. Make sure there are no lumps of milk powder left. Fill the
jar to the top with more water, seal and shake well. Shake it really well, for at least two minutes. You need the starter and the milk powder to completely dissolve.

Place the jar in the thermos. Pour boiling water around the jar until it reaches approximately 2/3
of the way up the sides. Put the lid on the thermos, sealing it tight.

Set aside for 8—12 hours, depending on how thick you like your yoghurt. Once it has reached the
consistency you like, place the jar of yoghurt in the fridge to cool.

If your yoghurt doesn't set:

First off, check your thermos. I have two: Easiyo and  Aldi. These thermoses don't seal tightly, but the lid does sit right down on them. If the lid on your thermos doesn't sit right down, it could be leaking the heat needed to set the yoghurt.

Did you use skim or low fat milk powder? Commercial yoghurts have thickener added, that's what makes even the low fat versions "thick and creamy". If you like a thick and creamy yoghurt then full cream milk powder is the answer.

Is your starter old? If you've been saving some of each batch as a starter for the next batch you may find that over time it will weaken and finally just not work. After every five or six batches I suggest you use a fresh bought yoghurt as your starter. If you don't want to eat the leftovers, you can freeze it in ice-cube trays to start other batches.

If your yoghurt isn't as thick as you like after 12 hours don't stress. You can safely leave it to set in the thermos for up to 24 hours. Your yoghurt won't stop thickening until it is chilled.

The weather can play a big part in a good set or a runny fail. Too hot, too cold, too humid can all determine how long and how thick your yoghurt sets. In winter try wrapping the thermos in a towel for extra warmth and then topping up the boiling water every six hours or so.

If  your yoghurt doesn't set as thick as you like, don't throw it out and waste it. Use it to replace the liquid in cakes, pancakes, muffins, white sauce or custard or add it to milkshakes or smoothies. .

Don't give up. At less than half the price per kilo of even the cheapest bought yoghurt, it is well worth persevering and fine-tuning your yoghurt making skills.


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19 February 2017

The Week that Was 19th February 2017


A short week this week as far as home tasks went anyway.

I was up at 4am Wednesday morning to fly to Perth for the start of the Aldi workshops. That was a very long day!

Before I left the men in the family home alone (I'll admit to being nervous, Hannah is usually here to supervise) I made sure the house was clean and tidy and that there were meals ready to just be heated so they wouldn't be tempted to buy take away.

The meal plan was adapted and Tuesday afternoon I made spag bol, curried chicken, pizza bases and sauce, a batch of Haystacks and meat pies. While I was doing that I had dough in the bread maker and made two loaves of bread that was sliced and frozen. Tom printed the "mini meal plan" and stuck it on the fridge so whoever was home first would know what to get for dinner.

There were no leftovers and no complaints when I arrived home this afternoon, and the kitchen was clean and tidy too, so all good.

At the last minute Hannah decided to come with me and I appreciated the company but what I really appreciated was her skill as a navigator, getting us around Perth and down to Mandurah, and we didn't get lost once! Picking up the hire car I just asked if there was a cheaper car available, as there wasn't when I booked. Yes! Saved $7.50 a day, $22.50 in total just for asking a quick question.

I do as much as I can to keep the cost of workshops down, and part of that is meals while I'm away from home.  We took snacks and breakfasts with us, and plates and cups. Once we landed we were able to get disposable cutlery and ingredients for our lunches and teas. I think we ate for the entire trip for less than two take-away or cafĂ© meals, and we weren't eating junk.

What did you do to save money, time and energy this week?



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17 February 2017

Cath's Meal Plant 19th - 25th February 2017


This week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Chicken

Monday: BBQ sausages, salad

Tuesday: Vego Pasta Bake

Wednesday: Devilled Chicken Wings

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Hamburgers

Saturday: Corn Fritters & salad

13 February 2017

Handmade Christmas Week 7


It's not that I haven't been working Christmas the last couple of weeks, I have. I've also been super busy getting Mum organised and settled and working with my brother to make the wisest choices for her ongoing care, and that has been exhausting.

I rescued some boxes from the kitchen and a brown paper shopping bag to be made over into gift wrapping. I also saved the ribbon and bow from a beautiful gift I was given. They're gold, and we all know gold can be used for any occasion so recycling them into "new" embellishments make sense.
And I have friends saving me the plastic containers that nappy/laundry soaker comes in. They are perfect for holding  Cheapskates Washing Powder. Most of the brands come in white containers with peel-off labels. I've made my own labels, one with the name of the product and one with the recipe that I'll stick on the opposite side.

While I was in a creative mood I've made some jam labels too. Sticking with the French provincial theme, they're black on white in a pretty cursive font. I'm using labels I bought at a $2 shop and they seem to be sticking to jars without a problem.
The figs are finally ripe so while it was cooler on Friday Hannah and I made some fig jam. My uncle loves it, and I always put it in his hamper, and another friend tried it last year for the first time and keeps asking for more so it's going in his hamper too.

Two dishcloths have been added to the present box and I've started a baby blanket, using wool from Mum's stash. It's a simple square in white, pink, lemon, blue and mauve.
I posted a link to a video that shows how to make very cute Barbie clothes and shoes (those little shoes are so cute, and super easy to make). I don't have any little girls to make them for, although I'm thinking I may just get out my scrap box and make some anyway. Here's the video

How are you going with your handmade Christmas? 



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12 February 2017

The Week that Was 12th February 2017

This last week has been a teary week for me. It's finally really hit me that Mum won't ever be going home, that she won't ever do all the "mum" things she's always done for me and with me, my entire life. And I'm sad. I'm sad for me and I'm sad for her too.
I haven't been straying too far, but I have been busy.

This week I've:

Picked figs from Mum's fig tree and made fig jam.

Made a birthday card for an extra special friend.

Donated DVDs that we no longer want to the nursing home.

Saved $45 on name labels for Mum's clothes by MOOing them with white bias tape and a laundry marker. It was hot on Wednesday so I sat in the family room, under the fan with the air conditioner on for a couple of hours and stitched them all in place.

Cooked all our meals from the pantry, fridge and freezer ingredients.

Bought four Christmas gifts for $2 each from the Post Office on clearance. They are vintage board games, and Myer sells them for up to $19.99 each!

Made a set  of cards and a matching box to send to Wayne's Aunty Elaine (of Elaine's Easy Pastry fame).

Made pita chips using pita bread from the freezer, garlic salt and oil and onion dip using MOO plain yoghurt, dried onion, a pinch of garlic salt and pepper for Tom's Super Bowl party on Monday. The boys all brought drinks and snacks to share (they even brought paper plates, cups and a roll of paper towel to use as serviettes).

Finished the printing for the Aldi workshops in Perth and Adelaide later this week.

Saved shower water, dried washing on the line or the clothes horses and all the other frugal habits I do without thinking about them each day.
 Wayne and I have been talking over the last couple of weeks and we've decided we'd like to do another big (for us anyway) trip next year, so we've chosen to go back to Cape York. That means of course that we'll be saving like crazy to make it possible, both in time and money. And that means I need to go back to when Disaster Struck and become extra frugal again. Here I was enjoying the last couple of months back on our normal income and we're voluntarily going back to last year's tight budget! I'll post the revived budget later in the week, although not much has changed.

What did you do to save money, time and energy this week?



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10 February 2017

Cath's Meal Plan 12th - 18th February 2017



This week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Beef

Monday: Mini meatloaves, salad

Tuesday: Spinach Ricotta Ravioli, salad

Wednesday: Tandoori chicken, salad, naan bread

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Tacos

Saturday: Homemade Subs

03 February 2017

Cath's Meal Plant 5th -11th February 2017


This week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Chicken

Monday: Fishcakes, gems, coleslaw

Tuesday: Spag bol

Wednesday: Cream Cheese Patties, salad

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Stir-fry

Saturday: Pan-fried sandwiches & salad

30 January 2017

The Week that Was 29th January 2017


True to form, Telstra very kindly were doing whatever it is they do and we had no internet for most of yesterday. Very frustrating!

Last week we saved money, time and energy a few ways:

We had a decent shower of rain which meant the garden didn't need to be watered for a couple of days.

Dried the washing on the line.

Redirected the grey water onto the back lawn.

Caught shower warm up water and used it to water the hanging baskets and pots.

Made two batches of cupcakes to use up packet mixes I was given, one chocolate, one red velvet. Consensus is they're not as good as made from scratch (and I expect they'd be a lot more expensive too).

Made four lots of pizza dough, rolled out, par-baked and froze them for February's pizzas.

Made ciabatta using a mix that was given to us - yum!

Made cinnamon banana bread.

All the usual cleaning, filling of cars with petrol etc.

Made breadcrumbs using the crusts in the freezer while the oven was hot from the cupcakes.

Saved lots of packaging to restyle into gift packaging.

What did you do to save money, time and energy last week?


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27 January 2017

Cath's Meal Plan 29th January - 4th February 2017


This week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Lamb

Monday: Mexican Meatballs

Tuesday: Pasta Bake

Wednesday: Honey Mustard Chicken

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Haystacks

Saturday: Muffin Surprise

23 January 2017

A Handmade Christmas Week 3

This week I've already added three soap sacks to the present box. They're so pretty in pink cotton. I've matched them with some of the heart shaped soaps I made last week and the old fashioned bath salt sodas.   They'll go into the gorgeous vintage style tin tubs I have in the present box to make bath time pamper kits.

I've also saved a couple of small jars to use for sugar scrubs.  I'll paint the lids (they're yellow at the moment) and make some labels to pretty them up.

I know the tubs cost $1 each (I cleared the shelf!). The soap sacks cost 60c each to knit, using cotton yarn I already had. I used soap supplies from the cupboard to make the little soaps and by my calculations they cost 25c each. I have muslin in my fabric stash that I bought when Hannah was a baby, and I'll use lavender from the garden to make the sachets, I estimate they'll cost around 30c each to make (and I'll use recycled, free ribbons). The brown sugar and olive oil I'll use for the sugar scrubs was given to me, and I'm recycling jars so no cost for these pretties. I have some white tulle to make a scrub puff (leftover from a birthday party) so again, no cost to make these. The total for these bath time pamper packs will be around $2.40.

I know similar gift sets sold in Target this Christmas for $29.99 and for $49.99 at the Body Shop - with fewer items in them!

I've finally decided on a theme for this year's gifts - French Provincial shabby chic. I work so much better with a plan, and it was the tin tubs that swayed me, but it really wasn't hard because I just love this look.

I'm thinking off white, cream, pale pink, deep rose red, lavender, blue and white, rose petals, ribbons, lace, ruffles, decoupage, monograms, distressing - my imagination is working overtime and I just keep adding to my list. It helps that I have lots of yarn, fabric and paper in those colourways too.

Late last year Wayne's father gave Hannah a bunch of lavender from her Granny's lavender garden (Granny is now in full-time care, so this is extra special). She was going to dry it and use it in sachets but I took half of it and planted it into a small pot to strike. I did this with some Lavender the lovely Maureen gave me too, with great success. All this to say that later in spring I'll be harvesting lavender to make sachets to go into the pamper kits too.

Sometimes packaging gifts can be the challenge so I'm always looking for ideas and materials and Mum bought new hankies on Thursday. They came in clear boxes, wrapped with navy blue satin ribbon. Needless to say I snagged the boxes and the ribbons for my wrapping box, they'll be perfect for packaging biscuits or meringues closer to Christmas.

Have you added to your present box this week? Have you started making your Christmas gifts?


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22 January 2017

The Week that Was 22nd January 2017

I've accomplished more than I thought I had this week. Sometimes caring for a home and family and watching the family budget becomes so much of a habit that we don't realise just how much all the little things we do are worth.

Downloaded some free ebooks from Hundred Zeroes for my Kindle.

Kept the house shut Tuesday as it was very hot. We only had the air-conditioning on for about three hours later in the afternoon when the house became hot and stuffy thanks to shutting up early.

Made four loaves of English Muffin bread. Sliced, wrapped and in the freezer. This is enough toast bread for a month. Cost: $2.60, or 65 cents a loaf - cheaper than the cheapest bought white bread. The ingredients all came from Aldi, except the yeast which I buy from The Kitchen Pantry in Croydon.

Another branch of the apple tree came down Friday morning leaving more apples on the ground. Most of them are small, and not quite ready to be picked. Wayne collected them in buckets for me and I'll be making applesauce next week.

Made two Piglets, one to take to cards and one for the boys to enjoy, using MOO condensed milk and ingredients from the pantry. Piglets (when we bought them) were $3.50 each. I made two slice trays for $4.90. Each tray makes 12 piglets (shop size, I cut them smaller, they are very rich and very sweet). ! If wasn't convinced before that baking is worth the time and effort, I would be now. Piglets take around 10 minutes of actual hands on preparation. Going on bakery prices I saved $79.10, on an hourly pay rate that is $474.60!

We had two days of good rains so no need to water the garden.

Picked more zuchhini. Grated and in the freezer.

Used grey water to keep the back grass green.

Dried the washing on the clothesline.

I was able to spend time in the evenings knitting. I've used up some of the cotton from my stash to make soap sacks this week.

And yesterday was our first card making day of the year. I spent more time talking than card making, but I'm happy with the cards I made.

What have you done to save money, time and energy this week?



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