15 October 2007

Blog Action Day

Today is the day when bloggers around the world (and the web) unite to focus on just one very important and relevant issue: the environment.

When it comes to the environment I try to do my bit. I recycle, have a compost heap and a worm farm, use companion planting rather than pesticides in the garden, walk or cycle whenever possible, we have switched all our light globes over and I've finally nagged the children enough that they know to turn lights off when they leave a room and to turn all appliances (except the fridge and freezer - go on, ask me how I know this) off at the wall rather than using the remote.

But I am sure that there is a lot more that I and my family could be doing. Nothing groundbreaking, but simple, everyday things that can become habit. I know that the "green" habits I have developed have and will continue to save us money, just the thing for a Cheapskate.

Using environmentally friendly cleaners used to sound expensive and hard work (to me anyway). Guess what? I use environmentally friendly cleaners and the work is no harder than it was with the smelly, dangerous chemical cleaners. You know the ones with the "pine forest fresh" scents and the "no scrub" action.

Commercially made, chemical-based household cleaners can eat up a large chunk of your household budget. There are cleaners for windows, mirrors, bench tops, cupboard doors, walls, sinks, enamel cook tops, ceramic cook tops, ovens, stainless steel appliances, wooden floors, vinyl floors, ceramic tiles, carpet, bathrooms, toilets, kitchens and laundries. You could almost fill a small supermarket with just cleaning items.

These days I use bi-carb, white vinegar, washing soda and pure soap to clean everything in our home, from the kitchen sink to the floors, bathroom and windows. I even use these ingredients to make my own washing powder to clean our clothes. Instead of spending $1,000 a year on cleaners, I spend around $60 and I'm not adding to landfill, or water pollution and I'm saving plenty of money.

Instead of spending your hard-earned dollars on these things, just a few simple, safe and cheap everyday items will clean your whole house.

The environmentally friendly and cheap ingredients I use are:

Bicarbonate soda a gentle, moderately alkaline, non-toxic abrasive which cuts through grease and oil because it reacts with the fatty acids to form a mild detergent. Use it to clean, deodorize and buffer (you can even clean your teeth with it).

Lemon juice is a natural bleach which can be used for stain removal, deodorizing and mould inhibiting. And lemons are free if you have a lemon tree or if you know someone who does!

Salt is a natural and gentle abrasive and disinfectant, that's useful for clearing drains and scouring utensils. It is very cheap and readily available.

White vinegar is a moderately strong acid that can remove bathroom scum and hard water deposits as well as discolouration from metals such as aluminium, brass, bronze and copper. It can also remove rust stains on iron. White vinegar will clean moss off bricks and concrete, just remember they are porous and it is an acid. Rinse well with water after cleaning.

Eucalyptus oil removes stains on carpet. Simply put eucalyptus oil in a spray atomizer, spray generously on the stain, and wipe with a clean absorbent cloth. It is also very useful for getting sticky stuff off almost anything.

I use these ingredients to make up these cleaning products for use in our home:

Window and Mirror Cleaner
1 part vinegar, 3 parts water

Put vinegar in a spray bottle and fill to top with water. Spray on surface. Rub with an old cloth nappy, lint-free rag, or sheets of newspaper. For outdoor windows use a sponge and wash with warm water mixed with a few drops of liquid soap. Rinse well and squeegee dry.

Vinyl Floor Cleaner
½ cup vinegar, bucket of warm water

Mop with a mixture of ½ cup vinegar in a bucket of warm water. The vinegar odour will go away shortly after the floor dries.

Copper Cleaner
1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 tablespoon salt, water, vegetable
oil (optional)

Mix vinegar and salt (a tablespoon of each) and apply to surface with a rag. Rinse thoroughly with water to prevent corrosion. Apply a little vegetable oil with a cloth and rub for a shiny appearance. Do not use this cleaner on lacquered finishes.

Drain Cleaner
½ cup bicarbonate soda, ½ cup vinegar, boiling water

This recipe will free minor clogs and help prevent future clogs. Pour bicarbonate soda down the drain first, then the vinegar. Let it fizz for a few minutes. Pour a teakettle full of boiling water down the drain to clear it. Repeat if needed. If the clog is stubborn, use a plunger.

Washing Powder
This has to be the cheapest and best value laundry detergent around.

Ingredients:
1 bar soap, grated
1 cup washing soda (Lectric Soda)
1/2 cup borax

Mix together and store in a sealed container. Use 3 scant teaspoons per load for a top-loader and 1 scant teaspoon per load for a front loader. You can use up the small slivers of toilet soap you collect if you like, ordinary bath soap or laundry soap. This recipe is ideal for using up all the leftovers you collect in the family bathroom. This detergent won’t produce masses of suds, but it will get your clothes clean.

Optional:
Give the washing powder an extra boost if you wash really dirty or greasy clothes by adding one small box of bi-carb soda to the mix.

All Purpose Cleaner

Combine in a clean spray bottle:
Two teaspoons of borax,
Two teaspoons baking soda,
1 quart water

Spray on, wait a few seconds and then wipe off with a damp cloth.

08 October 2007

So Long, Farewell

At 7.30am yesterday morning I said goodbye to my best friends and their two gorgeous babies as they walked into the Customs hall at Melbourne Airport to fly out to live in America. I am going to miss them like crazy. Even if we didn't see each other every week we still talked almost every day about everything going on in our lives. The last words I heard were "We'll be on Skype in about 24 hours" and they cheered me up no end. We have used Skype to chat for ages and it is just brilliant and free so I'm looking forward to chatting to them as they settle in their new home. Just have to remember the time difference (and I hope they do too, I'm not the most lucid in the middle of the night!). One good thing about the rise in the Aussie dollar is that visiting them won't be quite so expensive (I hope). The Internet will be very handy when it comes to researching cheap airfares, accommodation and car hire and I already have the specials page at www.disneyworld.com bookmarked :)

It was another early start this morning too, 5.45am, to get Hannah up and ready for her school trip to Canberra. Thank goodness I organized breakfast and her lunch last night. We were told that there would be no eating on the bus (fair enough too) and only one stop before lunch so I wanted her to have a really decent breakfast because of the early start and the long wait until she could eat. Crockpot porridge, and pancakes with peaches and yoghurt should have filled her up. Freshly squeezed orange juice (I used the left-overs in an orange cake)finished off her huge breakfast. Actually the boys had exactly the same as they had to get up at the same time. There was no way I was going to make two trips to school this morning, so the boys had to come with me at 6.30. There's a Golden Arches close by so we sat there reading the paper until it was time for them to walk to school.

I'm planning on getting her room spring cleaned this week. It will be so much easier without Miss Hannah putting things back as fast as I put them in the op shop pile. She has a favourite shirt, miles too small for her, that must be part boomerang. I put it out at least twice a year and next time I open the drawer it's back! Anyway the op shop pile will be huge this time, she's had a growth spurt that seems to have lasted for 3 months and nothing fits anymore. Thank goodness for friends with daughters a year or so older and their spendthrift ways. Hand me downs are fine and it's a bonus if they are recognized brand names and labels according to my fashion conscious almost a teenage daughter. Good thing I say.

The mending pile didn't go away while I was away unfortunately so I still have pants to hem, buttons to replace and even a necktie to re-stitch. It seems the only fairies that visited during our holiday were the dust ones. Did you know that you can remove a hem mark with white vinegar? The tip is in the Tip Store. Another great idea is nail polish to keep buttons on - this is one I will definitely be using when I tackle the mending tonight.

01 October 2007

Fish & Chips

I've been slack about blogging the last few days. I seem to be well and truly in holiday mode at the moment and thoroughly enjoying it. It's hard to believe that we've been away a week already and have hardly put a dent in the holiday budget! There are so many fun things to do in Sydney that don't cost an arm and a leg. Our biggest expenses so far have been petrol (duh, it's school holidays here now and it's reflected in the price of petrol) and the motel in Cowra (and we found that on wotif.com.au and saved a bundle too).

I don't care what the oil companies say, petrol prices go up for the weekend and then up again for any holidays and school holidays are no exception. I am so glad I have been saving the fuel dockets - even an extra $2.80 in my pocket is something. Shopping at Aldi and the markets fuel dockets are hard to come by but Wayne's mum shops at BiLo (I miss BiLo) and Coles every week and she has very generously passed a half dozen on to us. Wayne still checks out the price at each service station and buys it where it's cheapest. Even on holidays he's a Cheapskater.

Today was glorious, sunny and hot, really hot! Our excursion today was up to Brooklyn, on the Hawkesbury for fish and chips - yummy. Because it was going to be so hot we packed extra bottles of water and took a second cooler bag with us and we were all grateful by mid-afternoon. My legs are a little sore from all the walking we did. Hannah, Mum and I followed the path around the water's edge for an hour or so and then back again while the boys went off to take photos and look for some trains.

They were waiting on a particular freight train to come through, apparently Wayne doesn't have a photo of the loco in his collection and it's one he needs to complete it. Another 67 photos taken today, thank goodness for digital cameras and only printing what you want. I shudder to think how much it would cost us in film processing. We buy the most amazing photo paper from a $2 Shop at Kmart Plaza in East Burwood and it's only - you guessed it - $2 a pack of 24 A4 sheets. After spending up to $30 a packet while we were working out which paper was the best I can tell you that the $2 is brilliant and we have even converted a couple of avid photographers over to it.

We had our fish and chips for lunch and boy were they nice. The fish was expensive but the chips were reasonable - a huge box for $5.80 and the 7 of us had some with plenty leftover. I'd buttered a loaf of bread and packed tomato sauce and tartare sauce (homemade of course) and some fruit so we had a feast under the palms until the wind came up and made it unpleasant. We took the old Pacific Highway home and stopped at Pie in the Sky for pies for dinner. They were delicious and I picked up some ideas for different pies to try in the pie maker. I'm pretty sure I could make 4 pies for the price of 1 from this very busy pie shop but we're on holidays and treats are part of the fun and what holiday budgets are for.

25 September 2007

On the road again…..

Wow it gets daylight so early in Cowra! We had the sun peeping through the curtains at 5.30am! Wayne was up and off before 6am with camera at the ready to take photos of the station and the view across the valley. With the sun on the frosty fields the pictures are stunning.

An hour later he was back and we were all waiting for breakfast before we hit the road. The boys could hardly wait to get to Bathurst – Mt. Panorama here we come! The Mt. Panorama circuit is much more interesting in person. Television really doesn't do the hills and curves any justice.

As we drove around the track we had a running commentary from Wayne. “We camped up there in 1987”, “this is the bend that Dick Johnson missed. He went straight over the edge”, “these concrete barriers haven't always been here, loads of cars would drive off the road” and so on all the way around.

I feel sorry for the residents. For most of the year they have peace and incredible views but I'm not sure that they are worth the three weeks of mayhem, madness and incredible noise that is Bathurst.

Next stop Lithgow with all its history. More photos of bridges and a visit to the rail museum. The highlight of our visit to Lithgow was finding some old diesel locos hidden away in a paddock on the Bells Line of Road. Allan and Wayne were in heaven!

We had lunch at Clarence at the Zig Zag Railway (of course!), picnicking in the sun. No steam trains running today, the train was being pulled by a rail motor. Pity, I love steam trains. We were talking a few days ago about how in the not to distant future young people and children won't know what a full size steam train is. They'll be able to see scaled down models (there are plenty around, Diamond Valley Railway, Wagga Wagga Society of Model Engineers etc) and ride on the back of them, but they won't see the majesty and feel the power of those huge steam locomotives.

From Clarence we went back across to Mt. Victoria and on to Katoomba. Echo Point is the place to see the Three Sisters. It was chockers with tourists and we were more than happy to blend in with the camera carrying crowds, lining up to take pictures of everyone with the main attraction in the background. Parking there is the killer - $3.50 an hour! We made sure we only stayed the hour, doing the short walk and avoiding the information centre and gift shop all together. Looking out off the point it was easy to see why the mountains were given their name. They really did look blue through the haze. I'm just not sure if it was from the eucalypts or if it was pollution! I'm hoping it was the eucaplypts.

Wayne gave the kids another history lesson as we made our way down the mountain. Wentworth Falls, Lawson, Blaxland and Springwood, the first settlement in the mountains. I'm not sure if it's because we're living in Victoria or not, but they didn't really know much about the history of the mountains and their exploration at all. Thomas is a bit of a history buff and he lapped it up, loving that Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson defied the thinking of the day and followed the ridges rather than the valleys and succeeded where others had failed.

It was a very easy day travelling wise, with lots of stops and plenty of sightseeing but I was very happy to reach Sydney and be able to sit down in a comfy chair with a cuppa. Tomorrow will be here soon enough.

24 September 2007

On the road

It's 5am and the alarm has gone off – ALREADY! It feels like I've just gone to bed. Wayne has jumped up and into the shower and the kids have all thrown themselves out of bed (I know because I heard the thumps as they hit the floor). Why can't they get up this quickly on a school day?

We are off on our holiday this morning. Up the Hume Highway, stopping at Glenrowan (this is a tradition, we stop here and have our breakfast), then onto Albury, Wagga Wagga, Junee, Young and overnight in Cowra.

We had a small break with tradition and decided to stop at the Golden Arches for breakfast. Hmm… It was a nice treat for the kids but I think we all prefer our own picnic breakfast. The queues were long and we had to wait for half our order,while the other half went cold. Not to worry, we were all making jokes about it and it was a good break and a chance to stretch those legs.

I haven't been along the Hume since the Albury bypass opened – what a joy to not have to stop and start at all those traffic lights. The only thing I'm going to miss is the stop at the park to watch the paddle steamer. Turning off at Gerogery, we followed the Olympic Highway (I'm old enough to remember when it was the Olympic Way) through to Wagga. We giggled over the sign stating 107kms to Wagga – we didn't know it had moved!

Of course all along this particular route we had followed the train line much to Wayne and Allan's delight. Every now and then we stopped so they could jump out and take a photo. Thank goodness for digital cameras, between them they took 143 photos! Lunch in Cootamundra, at the station of course, while they waited for the down-line XPT. The train was running 40 minutes late so we had a very lazy picnic in the sun and the wind. It was blowing such a gale the picnic basket blew over and milk and coffee went everywhere! Fortunately we keep a couple of old towels in the boot of the car, they came in very handy to mop up the mess.

A petrol stop made me very glad that we live in suburbia these days. At 135.9c per litre my heart bleeds for country motorists, especially when they have no choice but to travel such long distances. We continued on our journey, through Young, the cherry capital of New South Wales, and I thoroughly enjoyed the hill sides covered in cherry blossom. It was so pretty and a sure sign of spring time. And yes, we did get some photos.

Finally, much to Hannah's relief we arrived in Cowra. What a lovely town and there is so much for visitors to do. The Steam Museum kept the boys happy for an hour, and the Japanese gardens are amazing and well worth the visit but we had the most fun at the Fun Museum. This museum incorporates Railway, War and local memorabilia and it is so interesting. We were given a sheet with 32 things to find around the museum and it was the best thing for keeping the kids interested in the displays. They had to find things like an Irish teaspoon, a Kangaroo butter churn, a model of a steam train made from charcoal as well as other things and they had to search the information on the exhibits to get the answers. Even I had fun on this treasure hunt and it was educational to boot!

We can also recommend a visit to the Country Music Museum (you should have seen the looks on the kids' faces when I told them we were going there!). Even if you're not a country music fan (we're not particularly) it is interesting and quite interactive too.

Tthe Alabaster motel, the only one we could find with a family room that actually slept 5. was our overnight accommodation. I wonder who decided that families were limited to 4 members? It was lovely, spotlessly clean and the cheapest we could find too. It was booked it before we left on wotif.com.au and saved $34 off the rack rate. made me very happy and it was so easy.

We all fell into bed exhausted at 9 o'clock. Day one of our holiday was great!

14 September 2007

Back to winter

It is absolutely freezing here this afternoon. Gusty winds, showers (yay!) and dark, brooding skies all encouraged me to bring in some wood and light the fire. It's so cold I've made some hot chocolate mix ready for when the kids get home from school. Hannah has swimming this afternoon so she will be cold and damp and looking for something to warm her up. A hot chocolate and then into the shower will do wonders for her. Luckily this is a bulk mix because my boys love hot chocolate and they'll have two each. Thank goodness it's cheap and easy to make. Hannah has a camp next weekend too so I've bagged some up for her to take with her. I'll make some marshamallows for her to take too. Funnily enough these are cheap and easy to make as well.

I love living the Cheapskates way. There are so many things that are easy to make at home, from scratch that are much, much cheaper than buying them. This week I've made pizzas, bread, steak and mushroom and apple pies, yoghurt, seasoned wedges, double choc chip muffins and shortbread. Goodness when I see that list I feel exhausted but it was really easy to do and didn't take long. With two children that have allergies and food intolerances reading food labels is a priority in our home. I love that by spending time cooking instead of shopping I know exactly what my family are eating.

Sunday we will be celebrating Thomas' birthday with the family and I'm hoping for a nice warm day because I've planned a bbq. When I did the shopping last month I made up a bbq pack and put it at the back of the freezer just for the party. There's a reason I planned a bbq :) Somehow cooking it all inside just won't be the same, especially as it will be me doing the cooking and not Wayne!

31 August 2007

Not so budget friendly bikkies

Our school Home and School committee does a lot of fundraising throughout the year so that the kids have great playground equipment, extra tools in the classroom, fantastic excursions and incursions and incredible Interest Group activities and I love to support them in their endeavours, I really do.

When Hannah brought home her newsletter folder and neatly tucked inside it was an order form for the latest fundraiser – biscuit dough in a bucket, ready to use or freeze, I was happy to have a look at it, all ready to tick some boxes and buy some to support the Home and School. Ho hum!
The selection sounds lovely: Golden Light, Chocolate Chunk, Oatmeal Raisin, Ginger, White Chunk Macadamia and ANZACs. For $13 ($14 if I order ANZACs) I'll get enough cookie dough to make 50 – yes 50 – biscuits!

Ok, maybe I really am a mean Cheapskate but even for a good cause I cannot see the value in paying $13 or $14 for 50 biscuits, especially when the Member's Centre has recipes for the same biscuits and for a lot less than $13 (Lunchbox cookies run about 100 cookies for under $5).

I'm still trying to figure out how to tell them diplomatically that this isn't a fundraiser, it's highway robbery with a bikkie sweetener at the end and I prefer to make my own thank you very much.

27 August 2007

Billycarts and blisters

We spent yesterday at the annual Weetbix Billycart Grandprix. The kids each enter a school team and they have an absolute ball. I'm sure it's the best $9 we spend all year. To see hundreds and hundreds of kids (of all ages, including some who should probably know better) having fun the old-fashioned way is fantastic.

These are real billycarts. No motors to make pushing easy. This is real, physical work and those little legs must really ache the next day. And don't think the driver gets off easy, they don't. In fact I think the driver has the most dangerous job – some of the stacks around the course yesterday were quite spectacular.

The weather was fabulous, sunny and warm and the crowd was so well behaved. We ate our picnic (homemade rolls, cream cheese spread, crisp lettuce and slice smoked chicken – yum) and drank our thermos of coffee while everyone else lined up to pay $2.50 for a bucket of chips or $5 for a small plate of pancakes! With some nice fresh ginger kisses for dessert we were sitting pretty, up in the grandstand right opposite the start/finish line.

Hannah's team came second in the Leader Dash for the grade 5/6 age group so they were very excited. They didn't fare quite so well in the actual race, a huge crash put them second last but they still had fun and after all that was the point of the day. Every one of them was at school today, tired and sore and blistered though they were.

It was a great day, cost hardly anything and we all had so much fun. I can hardly wait til next year.


15 August 2007

Spring is early

Today I feel like spring has come early it's so sunny and bright. Sunshine is such a mood lifter isn't it? I get so energised on sunny days and today is no exception.

So far I've whipped through our usual morning routine, dusted and tidied through (amazing how sunshine shows up dust on furniture), tidied the linen cupboard (this was a job I've been putting off for ages), hung out three loads of washing (yay – sheets and towels all out in the sun) and put some muffins in the oven for snacks and lunchbox treats.

We had a frost this morning and the backyard looked stunning with the fence and grass all silvery and shimmering in the sunlight. Aren't we blessed that we can admire the beauty nature provides us free? Can you imagine how much that picture through the kitchen window would have cost me this morning if someone could figure out a way to charge for it?

This last lot of wintry weather encouraged the boys to ask for warmies for watching TV and doing homework so this afternoon I'll be cutting and tying fringes around two new fleece blankets. I'll post a picture of the finished warmies later on.

Anne Ferrier emailed about the apple slinkies, with a question about the gadget. I'll post a picture of this too so you can see what it looks like. We are still going through apples at a great rate of knots, the novelty hasn't worn off. I even caught Wayne making one last night!

Julie and I have been busy working on new features for the Member's Centre including the Article Archive and the Recipe File. I can't wait to get them finished, especially the recipe file and I know you'll love them.

If you have any suggestions for the website please let us know. We've created a Suggestion Box and I can't wait to see what you come up with. You'll find it in the Menu (on the left hand side of this page) so please, whenever you think of something, add a suggestion and we'll see what we can do.

10 August 2007

Frugal Friday

Friday is usually my day out with Mum. I really look forward to it (actually I really look forward to morning tea). Today I am at home. Thomas is sick, not really, really sick, just sick. You know when your kids are too quiet, too still and just don't look right? Well that's Thomas at the moment. I'm keeping an eye on him just in case he is coming down with the flu, especially as it's particularly nasty this year.

With a sick boy I wasn't too keen on going out and leaving him at home so I have spend the day here. It has been rather nice. Two loads of washing done, out and dried (thank goodness for such strong winds), floors swept, mopped and vacuumed, lounge has been dusted and the bathrooms have been cleaned. A sparkly clean house is such a nice way to start a weekend.

Hannah asked for potato pie for dinner tonight, so it's been made and is ready to pop in the oven. The ratatouille is simmering on the stove and I have even put a loaf of bread on. Fresh baked bread is so nice with this dinner and really easy with the bread maker.

I found some “senior” veggies in the crispers so they are in the crockpot with some stock from the freezer and a tin of tomatoes and we will have soup for lunch tomorrow. I may even get another loaf of bread made.

Instead of going out just for milk I made some powdered milk up and added it to the half a bottle of fresh in the fridge. That will see us through until Monday if I use powdered milk for cooking.

Because the kids have been eating apples this week there were a few oranges left in the bowl, starting to look a little sad. They were perfect to use in an orange cake and this recipe is one of our favourites.

Orange Cake
1 Orange
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs 1
1/4 cups oil*
2 cups SR flour

Place the whole orange, sugar, eggs and oil in a food processor and blend well. Add sifted flour. Whizz until flour is mixed into orange mixture. Bake in a greased and lined loaf tin at 180 degrees for 45 min until cooked.

*Olive oil gives a very moist cake but can leave a “taste”. I like to use half vegetable oil, half olive oil. The result is a lovely moist cake without the taste of the olive oil.

It has been a very frugal Friday with no money spent today and only minimal petrol used (just to get AJ and Hannah to and from school). The house is clean and tidy and smells lovely with the soup cooking away and the aroma of fresh baked bread. It's Friday and we have the whole weekend ahead of us. I am feeling very contented.


03 August 2007

I forgot to get the groceries!

I have had a particularly busy couple of week, what with one thing and another but really HOW could I forget to do the grocery shopping? I do our big food stock up every fourth Friday without fail, much to the family's relief. This month I forgot that it had been four weeks since I'd stocked up.

I was so busy running in and out that I only half noticed that the pantry and freezer were getting low. I did notice that we were out of Weet-bix and had a chat with the boys about eating them as a snack and perhaps cutting back. My boys are so loving, they just agreed with me and promised to cut back on their “cereal” snacking. It honestly never occurred to me that we were out of breakfast cereal because I hadn't been to the shops.

If I hadn't done some banking and wondered why the house account had so much money in it I would probably still be living and wandering around in sweet oblivion . I panicked for a moment and wondered what bills hadn't been paid. Then I realised the date and as they say the light went on.

So the shopping has been done. Supplies were picked up at Aldi, the fruit market and the butcher and everything on the list was bought. Just the same as I would have if I had done it last week. I spent exactly what I had budgeted for four weeks of food and household and my secret plan is to stretch it to five weeks again! August has five Fridays this year so if I'm “forgetful” again then my grocery budget will be looking quite healthy.

As we are planning on taking the kids away for a couple of weeks during the September holidays this money will come in really handy for some extra treats. If I keep stretching the shopping by a week until the end of the year I will have saved enough money to buy the school books and new uniforms and I can then put the money that's been allocated in our budget for this purpose straight into savings.

Hmmm thinking… thinking…

30 July 2007

Weekend roundup

Hello Cheapskaters it's a new week and it's going to be fantastic, I have already had some great money, time and energy savings (and after last week I needed them too).

It was Hannah's birthday on Friday so of course we had to produce the traditional birthday cake, large enough for the class and all the staff. With all the running around I was doing already and facing the funeral on Friday afternoon I simply couldn't face baking a birthday cake, even one as simple as our Favourite Chocolate Cake . I knew that buying one would be expensive but Hannah looked so sad when I suggested icy poles instead. Then I remembered a discount cake outlet – Factory Direct Cakes. They are one the way to my mother's and I was driving past on Thursday anyway so I called in.

I am so glad I did. They had the perfect birthday cake all ready for me to buy and it was only $18. Now I know that if had ordered this cake from Michels or another bakehouse it would have cost me at least $48 (I've priced them before when I've been feeling a tad lazy). I was so thrilled. I also picked up 12 cheesecakes for $20. They are seconds but with my hungry hoard they won't notice that the piped cream is crooked. That equates to just $1.66 each – even cheaper than generic from the supermarket! Into the freezer they have gone for easy desserts and take-a-plates.

Saturday night the house was filled with sleeping bags, mattresses and lots of giggling girls in PJs. Did you know that 12 year old girls can eat more pizza than 16 year old boys? Luckily homemade pizza is cheap and quick to make. After tea they settled down, snug in their sleeping bags to watch Annie and Annie II on DVD. We only had to roar at them a dozen times before they went to sleep (ok they weren't that bad and everyone was asleep by midnight, including me).

We had hotcakes for breakfast and I think they were all impressed that they were just like the McDonald's hotcakes, only in a seemingly endless supply. If you haven't tried the hotcake recipe yet, give it a whirl. It's really easy and really yummy. While you're in the kitchen try the pancake syrup too. It is better than McD's and way cheaper than any bought syrup.

Sunday afternoon we went rollerskating. It was so much fun and the girls had a ball. If you are looking for a birthday party idea this one is the easiest and best value for money I have ever found. You can book a party for just $11/head for 2 ½ hours of skating, skate or blade hire, food and a stack of vouchers for free admission and lessons for each child and the birthday child receives a gift. Best of all was I had to do nothing but take lots of photos and leave the mess behind.

Made up another batch of washing powder this morning. It cleans the clothes so well, I can even use it on Wayne's work clothes and know they are clean. And without added fragrance it doesn't upset my asthma or make the kids itchy, always a bonus.

Petrol was down to $1.15/litre this afternoon and it's only Monday. Hopefully when I fill up tomorrow it will be even cheaper. Every little bit helps. I'll add the change to the money tin. It's getting heavier everyday. I can't wait until it's time to open it.

Dinner tonight was mock Continental Pasta & Sauce. There was some chicken left over from dinner last night and I was a little pushed for time. I was tempted to call Wayne (on the mobile cha ching cha ching) and suggest he bring home fish and chips (cha ching, cha ching, cha ching) but after I found the chicken and had a little think it was just as easy to whip up curried chicken and noodles and much, much cheaper as all the ingredients were in the house. I had put a loaf of bread in the breadmaker earlier so we had lovely fresh bread with our dinner. It was just delicious and there is enough leftover for my lunch tomorrow :).

We didn't get a chance over the weekend to have our chat about funeral plans. We were too busy, well that's what Wayne told me anyway. I fully intend to have this chat with him. I'll just have to pick another time.

27 July 2007

Making money on a funeral

We have had a long and very sad week here. Early on Sunday morning we lost an old and very dear family friend and while he had been ill for a very long time and we knew that the end was close it has still been a shock and incredibly sad for us, although as it has turned out it has also been a funny and happy week too.

Derek was a very caring and loving husband and father and he made sure that his wife would be well provided for. Just last week he was at his solicitor's office making sure that everything was in order and that Barbara wouldn't have to worry about a thing, even to the point where his funeral was planned down to the hymns and flowers. And it was also paid for.

It's never nice to think about our own mortality but we are mortal and we are going to die sometime and in all fairness I think that we should prepare as much as possible ahead of time to make such a sad time a little easier for our loved ones. This could just be the control freak coming out in me, but I think not.

I'm not being morbid and I'm not saying we should all run out and select a casket and a plot. Just that a few minutes spent in checking insurances, updating wills (you do have a will don't you?) and putting any particular requests in writing won't hurt you.

The events of this week have had me thinking. Wayne's Granny had the right idea. After his Grandad died, Granny sold the farm and bought her unit. She also arranged her funeral. She chose a casket, arranged the plot, chose the hymns and the church and requested no flowers. She was a very frugal lady and couldn't bare the thought of spending money on flowers only to have them sit outside with no-one to enjoy them. Granny also paid for her funeral and the money was put into a trust fund to cover any price increases.

Granny Armstrong came from strong, sturdy stock and lived for 31 years after she made these arrangements. When Dad and his two brothers where settling her affairs after the funeral they were absolutely gobsmacked to receive a cheque from the funeral director – for the balance of the funeral trust fund. Granny's money had been in trust so long that it had not only covered the cost of her funeral but made a profit for her estate! She would have loved knowing that she made money on her own funeral.

With the cost of a bare bones, no frills funeral being around $4,000 putting a little aside each week to cover costs may sound morbid but when you think about it could your family find that much money in just a couple of days? Especially when they are grieving?

Wayne and I are going to sit down this weekend and at least have a talk about this. He won't like it one little bit but I know we'll both feel happier for at least having the talk

20 July 2007

What a week

It has been a very muddled week here in the Armstrong household. I had a very busy week planned with lots of work to be done and appointments to be kept on top of the usual things that go on around here. I didn't need a visit from my old friend Murphy but he called in anyway.

I woke up on Sunday night with a shocker of a toothache and ended up having some major dental work done at 6.15pm on Tuesday night. That threw a spanner in the works let me tell you. I was booked on 9am with David & Kim on Wednesday morning so all I can say is thank goodness for excellent dentists, strong painkillers and incredibly talented hair and make-up artists at Channel 10. Mum assures me that no one could tell that my face was lopsided, with the right side twice it's normal size :).

It's great to be able to get the Cheapskates message out. Living the Cheapskates way is something to be proud of and wherever I go I love to hear the stories of how ordinary Australians have turned their life around with the Bill Paying System or the monthly menu plans or any of the tips and ideas in the Tip Store. They really do make a difference.

I did manage to get Thomas some new long pants. He has grown about 10cm in the last couple of months and all his pants are now stunning Capri length. Which would be fine for me but he's a 14 year old boy and he just refuses to believe me when I tell him he could be setting a new teenage trend. For $13 he's now the much happier owner of a pair of black jeans and navy blue cargo pants and yes, they are long enough.

Coles have been advertising Arnotts Shapes for 99 cents a box this week so I called in this afternoon and picked up half a dozen boxes and promptly hid them in the Christmas hamper. Between now and Christmas we have four birthdays and of course Christmas and they will be very handy to have on hand for snacks. Hiding them in the hamper means that the food fairies won't find them until I bring them out of hiding and I'll still have my bargain snacks to serve when I want them.

It's time to start adding to the hamper each week now so that come December I won't need to shop for groceries. I love avoiding the supermarket during December and January and by adding one or two of my regular staples to the hamper each week the cost is absorbed by that week's grocery money. When December finally arrives I won't need to go grocery shopping and so I will have the whole month's grocery money to put towards savings. Yay! I could do this with the meat budget too and have that money left to add to the savings stash if I try. All I will need to buy will be fruit, vegetables and dairy products.

I may be calling this a hamper but it's nothing flash. Just a large cardboard box in the bottom of my wardrobe. Out of sight, out of mind, especially with hollow legged teenagers in the house.

15 July 2007

Sunday savings

Stayed in bed for an extra half hour this morning. Saved on gas (didn't turn the heater on) and electricity (no lights on either). When I woke up I decided it was too cold and miserable to get up so I snuggled back down under the doona.

It was so cold and dark when I woke up this morning that I just snuggled back down under the doona for another half hour. Bliss. The savings were in gas (not turning the heater on) and electricity (ditto for lights, it really was dark).

Once I did leave my cosy bed I put a load of washing on. I am sure it breeds in the basket there is always so much of it. Once the cycle had finished it went over the clotheshorse next to the fire. By this time Wayne was up and had a roaring fire going so I could turn the central heating off.

The fire was beautiful and warmed the whole house in no time. The washing dried quick smart too, even the jeans were dry in just three hours! A trick I learned a long time ago to speed the drying process is to put a sheet or towel or other largish item over the top of the clotheshorse. It acts like a tent, trapping the hot air inside and drying the washing in super quick time.

With the school holidays coming to an end and after 16 days of not really caring what went on (I didn't care about anything except paracetamol, lemon juice and honey) it was time to take control again. Wayne and the kids did a great job managing while I was sick and didn't even go over budget which was a fantastic effort being school hols and having a houseful of extra kids.

Supplies of baked goods were definitely low and eggs, cheese and fresh milk all needed to be topped up so it was off to Aldi for Hannah and I. Milk at Aldi is still only $2.99 for 3 litres and I can get it all the time. Coles sells milk for the same price but unless you are there as it's unpacked you miss out. I am so proud of myself – we walked out of Aldi with a dozen eggs, a block of cheese and two bottles of milk, absolutely nothing else. We thought about Melting Moments but decided we can make them at home and end up with a lot more biscuits for much less money so we passed on them.

Just as we were leaving I remembered that Coles had 1.25kg tins of Milo for $7.99 – a real bargain. We haven't had Milo for so long so we stopped off at Coles for two tins of Milo. I put half of one tin into a canister in the pantry and put the other half a tin in the store cupboard in the laundry and one tin has gone straight into the Christmas hamper. The kids will make the Milo last longer if they don't have a lot to use. Sneaky aren't I?

It's birthday time with Hannah starting the round of family celebrations in a couple of weeks. We looked at invitations in the $2 shop, and we looked at invitations at The Warehouse and didn't see any she liked or that I would pay for so home we came. We spent a couple of hours playing around with the scrapbooking papers, stickers, letters and embellishments and made our own. Total cost: nothing. Everything we used was left over from scrapbook layouts. See, hoarding can pay off.

I put a roast in the oven for dinner, along with some muffins and a log cake. We all like our Sunday roast and I know Wayne looks forward to it each week. With Thomas still away there were plenty of leftovers for lunches. I forgot Thomas wouldn't be home for dinner so there were extra roast vegies too. I love cold roast potato and pumpkin. They went onto a plate for my lunch tomorrow. Yum.

We have had a very peaceful and quiet two weeks owing to my dose of flu but it's back to normal on Tuesday when school goes back. I will miss having the kids home but at least I will be able to get some work done :).

13 July 2007

I have a stalker!

In case you’ve missed it I’ve been in bed, ill, with the flu for over a week. Hmm. While I’ve been lying, quietly and meekly suffering on my own, the kids have been home from school on holidays.

School holidays at our house always includes extra kids, and that’s ok. They are all fantastic kids and can look after themselves reasonably well so they haven’t been any trouble. They even managed to leave some food in the pantry and freezer.

Anyway, it’s been over a week since I’ve been to the bank or the post office so I thought it time to get moving and do something useful. I gave mum a call and picked her up on the way past so I had someone to share the joys of the queues with (and maybe a two-for-one coffee after we’d finished).

As it turned out, Mum needed a few things from Aldi so we popped in on our way to the café. As we tootled around, me pushing the trolley and Mum picking up her bits and bobs I kept noticing a lovely, blonde lady walking past us. And every time she walked past she would look closely at us, smile and keep on walking.

Well seeing as I’m such a spring chicken and never forget a face I thought she had to be an acquaintance of Mum’s and that Mum hadn’t recognised her. She kept walking past and I kept on smiling and nodding as we tootled by.

Anyway, long story short we were standing in the queue (how come they put in extra long conveyor belts to speed up the checkout process but it still takes ages?). Sorry, I digress. Back to the story.

We were in the queue, waiting to unload and I commented to Mum on how according to my price book, the Ricies had gone up yet again and they were in a different box, when this lovely lady let out a shriek and nearly gave me a heart attack!

“It is you, it is you. I knew it was you. How are you?” She was almost jumping up and down on the spot she was so excited. I on the other hand was almost terrified out of my wits, my heart is still racing!

As it turns out Fran is a Cheapskates Club member and she recognised me from the old website and some TV segments. She just didn’t know how to approach me, so she kept walking past, trying to pluck up the courage to say hello.

I am SO glad she did. I love to meet fellow Cheapskates, even in Aldi on a cold, wet Friday morning. The three of us had a lovely chat in the queue once I realised she wasn’t going to attack me. :)

If you ever see me out and about please, please say hello. You don’t need to be shy, be proud that you’re a Cheapskate and remember you’re not alone.
Oh, and I am really, really glad that I washed my hair and put some make-up on before I went out, at least I looked a little better than I have lately.

I had to pick up some dry cleaning on the way home. I get the kids' blazers drycleaned twice a year, the rest of the time I sponge them and then steam them in the bathroom to freshen them up. Works a treat and saves me $11.90 twice a year.

While I was out I popped into Coles to pick up a few things I can't get at Aldi and there just happened to be a "throw out trolley" opposite the milk cabinet. I can't resist a throw out trolley so I had a lovely trawl through Ambi Pur thingos down to $5 (why waste your money? Spray some of your favourite essential oil onto cotton balls and hide them behind photo frames, in curtains etc to scent your home. Much cheaper.), Shrek toys (who needs them?), fancy jams, some hair colours and some little sandals.

Well the little sandals were very cute, pink with lilac flowers and blue with pink flowers so I gave in to temptation and bought them. They will be perfect for Lea-Anne's little girl next summer and best of all they were just 60 cents a pair! I couldn't go past that bargain, especially at a saving of $5.39 a pair. I bought three pairs of them in three different sizes and they'll be perfect for the sandpit and the beach.

All in all it's been a lovely afternoon. Coffee with Mum, I've met a "new" old friend and picked up a fantastic bargain to boot!

Now I'm off to make hamburgers for dinner. This week's menu plan has gone out the window but at least I'll have the ingredients on hand for another week.

11 July 2007

School holiday savings

So far these holidays have been very, very frugal for us. Everything we have done (and we have done plenty) has been free or very low cost.

I put away (as part of our budget) $5 a week for school holiday treats so that extra food or videos or movies don’t eat up our entire entertainment budget and it works quite well.

So far we are half way through our two weeks and until today we hadn’t touched the treat money. I have been fighting the flu for about 10 days so the kids have had to keep themselves amused. And they have done well.

Hannah has had girlfriends over to play and have afternoon tea. They decorated some straw hats and filled them with pot pourri from the craft cupboard accompanied by lots and lots of giggles.

Then they helped to make the scones for afternoon tea (lemonade scones, 3 ingredients and really, really easy). With jam and cream and hot chocolate (made with powdered milk) they were a hit with the girls and the boys who came out of hiding as soon as the scones were out of the oven.

Of course Thomas had his sleepover with the boys and they almost ate me out of house and home but I didn’t have to do a grocery run, we made it through with food to spare. J

Today we splurged and went to the movies. We have a cinema about 10 minutes from us but tickets for the four of us there would cost $60, plus nibbles and a drink.

A quick look online and the movie we wanted to see was also showing at a cheaper cinema about 15 minutes from us. This cinema sells adult tickets for just $8.50 and children are children’s price until they are 15, so $7.50. I was able to get four tickets for $32, almost half price.

This worked out really well. I was able to buy my petrol from the independent discount service station (saved $2.80). We took drinks and popcorn to eat from home, avoiding the outrageous prices at the Candy Bar – saving about another $40.

While we were there I was able to run into Safeway and pick up two tins of Nescafe for just $12 a 500g tin, an excellent saving of $7 a tin. Wayne drinks instant coffee but he’ll only drink Nescafe and it can be expensive.

When the movie ended I was tempted to stop off in the food court and buy lunch. It was crowded and the selection didn’t really appeal to us so the kids decided mini pizzas at home would be just as good. Potential savings there about $30 and I was so proud of my three kids.

I have really enjoyed the holidays so far, in spite of the flu. And I have really enjoyed the fact that they have been very low cost.

10 July 2007

Hotcakes for breakfast

Oh boy am I a fantastic mother. Well according to our 4 overnight guests I am. I snuck out of bed early this morning (and it was very cold) and made a batch of

Thomas had asked if I would make pancakes for brekky as a special treat so I obliged. I set the table with plates, cutlery and an assortment of jams, honey, pancake syrup, whipped butter and put a platter of warm, fresh pancakes in the middle.

As James said “Mrs. A it looks just like in a restaurant”.

They didn’t last long; six hungry kids can sure devour pancakes.

If you’d like to try them, here’s the recipe:

1 cup SR flour
3/4cup water
2 heaped tablespoons milk powder
2 eggs, separated

Beat the flour, water, milk powder and egg yolks together. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until stiff. Using a metal spoon fold the egg whites into the batter.

Heat fry pan or griddle until hot. Using a ½ cup measure pour batter onto lightly buttered pan or griddle. Cook until bubbles form and start to pop on the top of each pancake then turn. Cook for further minute. Place a clean tea towel on a cake rack and sit pancakes on tea towel until ready to eat.

This recipe makes about 8 medium pancakes.

For breakfast this morning I tripled the recipe and it made 25 medium sized pancakes.

Sadly there were no leftovers for the freezer.

09 July 2007

School holidays

Boy they come around fast! We are into week two of the holidays already and with the weather being so miserable, cold and wet (not complaining, very grateful for the wet so just commenting) we are all stuck inside.

Hannah has been well entertained and amused with trips to visit Grandma, movie outings with friends and visits from her girlfriends so I haven't heard and “I'm so bored” cries from her.

The boys on the other hand have had it very quiet so far with no outings or treats (AJ has been getting in plenty of study and Thomas is supposed to be studying).
So being the kind mother that I am I suggested they get some of their friends over.

I now have a houseful of teenage boys, all equipped with sleeping bags and laptops (boy kids have it good these days) all set to have a gaming marathon. The family room has mattresses on the floor and each mattress has a boy and a computer parked on it and they are playing away to their hearts content.

My challenge for the next couple of days is to feed an extra half dozen mouths without having to do a grocery run.

Lunch was easy. I pulled bread rolls out of the freezer and put them on the table along with butter (whipped it goes much further), jam, peanut butter and Marmite. I sliced a tomato, shaved some cheese (again it goes much further if it's shaved) and sliced up some of the leftover lamb from last night and put it all on a platter. I made up a batch of Magic Cordial (from Sue Dengate's recipe) and added a bottle of mineral water to it, some ice cubes and lemon slices to jazz it up. Under a $1 for 2 litres of fizzy drink.

Afternoon tea is my next challenge and I think it will be popcorn, mini muffins (from the freezer) and milk. I'll mix half and half fresh milk and powdered and the boys can make milkshakes if they want to as there are plenty of flavourings in the pantry.

Dinner will be vegetable pasta bake and garlic bread. I suggested salad to Thomas but he just looked horrified so I guess it will only be Wayne and I having salad.

The boys did ask I could please make hotcakes for breakfast and so I'll get the batter ready before I go to bed and then it will be quick and easy in the morning. I'll have to make up some more pancake syrup tonight so it will be ready to pour on the hotcakes in the morning.

Ok now I am organised and inspired I think I will go and make up a dip and some pita chips now and then I think meals and snacks will be covered.

If I can get them into bed as easily as I've worked out what to feed them I will be one happy mum.


24 June 2007

Sunday morning

Well it's chilly but oh, so sunny this morning, almost like a mid-summer morning.

It's true what they say about sunshine affecting moods, I have already done one load of washing and hung it outside (for the first time in a couple of weeks) and have another one in the machine. I love the smell of clothes that have been dried outside in the sunshine. They really smell clean and fresh.

With the very light breeze blowing at the moment I'll be able to get them in just after lunch and do the ironing too. Not my favourite job, so if I can get it done on a warm (well almost, it's going to be 14 here today) afternoon it won't seem like such a chore.

Sunday dinner is always a roast in our home and tonight it is chicken. I alternate between chicken and lamb and occasionally throw in a piece of beef if it's not too expensive. We'll have roast veggies too - potatoes, pumpkin, carrot and onion with peas and corn and homemade gravy. Homemade stuffing too.

I've been on the grocery challenge this month and the pantry and freezer are looking good, far less cluttered and crowded. The shelves in the pantry are slowing showing up again and as they appear I'm wiping them down so they will be ready for re-stocking.

It's kind of satisfying to see nice clean shelves and canisters, waiting to be filled.

01 June 2007

The great grocery challenge starts

As it is the first of June today I've started the great grocery challenge.

A look through the pantry and freezer and I am certain that we will get through the month without having to buy anything other than fresh milk and perhaps cheese and eggs.

This is going to really help me get the pantry and freezer cleaned out, both jobs I have been putting off. Mystery meals may well be on the menu towards the end of the month.

So I know what to re-stock the pantry with I've stuck an inventory on the wall. As each item is used up I'll add it to the list – but only if it's something we use regularly and will continue to use.

There are quite a few odds and sods hanging around, sample packs of soups, herbs, drink mixes, cereals (Hannah can take these on camps) etc to use up too. I think I'll spend the weekend with my recipe books out and find some new meal ideas to try and use up all these bits and pieces.

If you'd like to join us on the Great Grocery Challenge, it's not too late. Jump in here and introduce yourself, we'd love to hear from you.

29 May 2007

Sunshine state bliss

Balmy Brisbane has been my base for the last two days and the sunshine and warmth were bliss after chilly and damp Melbourne. I met two of our incredible Cheapskates Club members, Rhonda and Gabee.Their warm welcomes and hospitality to Louise and me was so nice and their help with our research and story is very much appreciated.

Rhonda is a very talented Cheapskate with some great ideas. She's been able to become a stay at home working mum because of her frugal habits and her story is inspirational.

Rhonda told me that living the Cheapskates way gave her the opportunity to set up her business at home, rather than having to work for someone else.

She's also passing her knowledge on to her children. Her teenage daughter is following in mum's footsteps and has set up a jewellery making business. She is sourcing her supplies from all around the country, getting them for the very best prices she can.

Gabee has two little boys and her Cheapskates lifestyle lets her stay home with them too. While I was visiting with Gabee and the boys the mail arrived and she was very excited to get the electricity bill.

It's not often a bill goes down, but Gabee's had and she was proud as punch.

09 May 2007

Will the mending never end?

In our house the mending pile just breeds. No matter how often it's done, or how much is done there always seems to be more.

Perhaps I should be grateful to have healthy active children who play sports and ride bikes and spend time outside and a husband who is fit and healthy enough to be able to work with his hands and tools in a physically demanding job.

I know I should be grateful and I really, honestly am. But that mending pile! Well there are times when I wish they all just sat in chairs and never moved.

Wayne came home with the front pocket and side seam of his pants ripped open. His phone was the cause – it caught on the edge and just ripped them. The sewing machine will get some use this week after all.

Some school shirts are missing buttons. Hannah can help me stitch them back on while we watch some TV and chat.

Then Thomas came out with some socks, actually a pile of socks that have holes in the toes and/or heels. Looks like I'll be darning for a few nights. And hopefully that will be the end of the mending pile.

At least until the next little accident

07 May 2007

A proud mummy moment

Just as I was putting foil over the top of the casserole I was getting ready for the oven tonight Hannah came into the kitchen and stopped next to me.

She looked at me with a big smile on her face and said, “You don't waste a thing do you Mum?” Her compliment was so genuine it just made me beam.

And vow to keep on re-using foil until it falls apart.

06 May 2007

Sunday savings

*Hannah and I hit a couple of garage sales today. We had a list of things we were looking for jeans for her, a larger food processor for me, and lamps for the lounge room and of course anything we could add to the present box.

We had a lot of fun for just $27.

We came home with:

*2 pairs jeans for Hannah - $2
*1 table lamp for the lounge - $5
*1 large Tupperware mixing bowl & lid $0.50
*1 large Tupperware square round & lid (this size is ideal for storing stock in the freezer) $0.50
*1 Baby Born travel cot (like new) - $2.50
*1 Brum magnetic car set in a tin case (new) - $2.50
*1 small “road map” carpet - $4
*1 large (new) “road map” carpet - $10

*A friend dropped in with some breadsticks for us so I’ve made up 10 parcels of garlic bread and popped them into the freezer. We love garlic bread so this will be a nice addition to some of our dinners. Best of all is the cost: about 30 cents for the butter and garlic powder, the bread was free! Gotta love free food and the good friends who share so willingly.

*I love the taste of butter and we are using it more and more but it can be a little pricey compared to margarine so I whipped it with some powdered milk, oil and water to make sandwich spread. Very happy, doubled the quantity for approximately 50 cents and it only took two minutes. Made garlic butter with some and put the rest into a butter dish to use on lunches this week.

*Made some instant puddings for lunches. Used powdered milk, cornflour, sugar and vanilla essence. Added boiling water and stirred to thicken. Worked a treat and everyone will be happy with a treat in their lunchbox.

*Took the school uniforms off the line while they were still a little damp and ironed them. No need to use ironing aid, they came up beautifully, even the boy’s trousers and Hannah’s skirt.

*Tackled some more mending. Where does it come from? The alternative was to spend $48 on workpants for Wayne. Ten minutes at the sewing machine and they are as good as new. Saved $48, very happy.

03 May 2007

Soup weather

We have rain today and it is quite cool, cool enough to make we want soup. Soup is my very favourite winter warmer food and it's easy to make and really, really cheap too.

Out came my trusty crockpot (I just love my new one, it's a 6 litre so I can make lots of anything in it). Slow cookers are perfect for soup making, just set and forget for the day. The house smells so good when soup is cooking.

Anyway, I digress. Into the crockpot went some sliced celery (including the leaves), carrots and onions, diced turnip and potato, a tin of tomatoes I whizzed in the food processor, a couple of fresh tomatoes that were going a bit soft and some mushrooms that were getting a bit wrinkly.

I love the Italian soup mix ($3.90/kg from The Kitchen Pantry, Centro, Croydon, Vic) because it has a great assortment of beans and lentils. A cup of this soup mix thickens the soup beautifully and adds colour and texture. The beans and lentils are good for you too. Add 4 litres of water and let it simmer away until you're ready to eat it.

When I serve this soup I make Parmesan bread to have with it. Use thick sliced bread, one or two slices per person. Butter one side and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan. Grill until the butter has melted and the edges are starting to crisp, it only takes a couple of minutes and you have a really tasty side to go with your soup.

Enjoy

02 May 2007

Sweet chilli chicken strips

We love sweet chilli chicken tenders, the pre-packaged chicken strips you can buy in the deli section of the supermarket but they are so expensive – almost $20.00 a kilo. Even on the markdowns they are too expensive for us so tonight I made them myself.

I already had the chicken fillets defrosting so all I had to do was cut them into strips and crumb them.

The bought product has rice bubbles in the coating so I added a handful of slightly crushed Ricies to 1 cup of shake-n-bake mix and then stirred through a teaspoon of chilli flakes (the kids don't like them too hot).

The next step was easy - dunk the strips in milk, the coating mix and into the fridge for half an hour to let the coating set. Baked on a greased oven tray in a hot oven for 25 minutes, with a couple of turns so they browned evenly and they were just delicious with our salad.

I'll definitely be making them again, and laughing at my savings too.

29 April 2007

Sunday savings

*Hung the washing over the clotheshorses because believe it or not it's actually raining. Water is falling out of the sky. Hooray!

*Unexpected visitors for lunch so added some TVP to the curry and made a batch of cheese muffins to stretch it. Very pleased with this, the curry was leftovers from the freezer. Just what we needed for a wet, cloudy Melbourne Sunday.

*While I was on a muffin making roll I made it a double batch to freeze for lunches and whipped up a lemon meringue pie for dessert. I found a few frozen lemon juice ice cubes while I was digging in the freezer for the curry. Wayne loves lemon meringue so he's happy too.

*After our guests left I tackled the pile of mending. What do boys do that they rip the seat of their pants so often? All easy thank goodness. Trousers mended, ironed and back in the cupboards waiting to be worn.

*The house is feeling a little chilly so I put on a jumper and pair of socks instead of turning on the heater. It would have been easy to flick the thermostat but it's much cheaper to put on warmer clothes.

25 April 2007

Anzac biscuits

Ingredients:
100g (4 oz) butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 tablespoons of boiling water
1 and a half tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda
1 cup of rolled oats
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup (4 oz ) plain flour
1 cup (8 oz ) of sugar
Method:
Combine all dry ingredients except bi-carb soda Add melted butter. Stir in soda mixed with boiling water. Place in spoonfuls on greased tray. Cook in moderate oven about 20 minutes. Allow to cool. Store in airtight container.

23 April 2007

Window washing wonder

Well I gave in this morning and washed the windows! We have major roadwork happening in our area and the dust in incredible.

I've been staring at dirty, dusty windows for weeks and today it finally got to me. I had to clean those windows and without using the hose or a lot of water.

So armed with a 4 litre ice-cream container filled with hot water and a splash of vinegar, the banister brush and the squeegee from the bathroom and off I went.

We have a lot of windows in our house and I wasn't sure I'd get through them all with just the one container. I was wrong. My method of dipping the banister brush in the water, scrubbing the window then using the squeegee to clean it off worked like a charm.

I managed to wash the two kitchen windows, two laundry windows, the three in the meals area, the three in the dining room and the huge lounge room window as well and the windows in the front bedroom with just one 4 litre container of water.

When I was finished the water went onto the garden - every little drop helps these days.

My windows are sparkling, the sun is shining through them and theirs not a dust spot or streak in sight. Boy am I happy.

16 April 2007

Homemade fun

Hannah has kept herself busy the last couple of days making a house for her Bratz dolls.

One cardboard box and some help from Dad with cutting out the windows and doors and she was happy.

She mixed up some paint for the walls (easy to make at home and very cheap) and scrounged some scraps of fabric from the sewing cupboard for the curtains and it looks really nice.

Who said we had to spend $100 on a doll house for her to play with?

28 March 2007

Freecycle

Well today I bit the bullet and finally listed some things on Freecycle. We aren't using them anymore and they are just taking up space and gathering dust so it's best they go to a good home where they will be loved and used.

Freecycle is just great for passing things on when I don't know anyone who can use what I have to offer. There is always someone who is happy to receive our offerings whatever they may be.

If you haven't tried Freecyle (www.freecycle.org.au) go to the website and have a look around. You can list your unwanted goods and someone will come and collect them from you. Then you can search for things you may need and get them for free – a win-win for everyone.

15 February 2007

Quick and easy dinner

Thomas is in heaven tonight. I made a huge dish of mac and cheese for dinner, with plenty of leftovers. It's his very favourite meal and as far as he's concerned we just don't have it often enough.

It's such a frugal meal too. Today the total cost for 12 serves was a low, low $3.63 or just 30 cents per serve.

I try to have at least two really cheap (ingredients wise) meals a week. They really help to keep the grocery bill down and under budget. When I come in under budget, I add half the surplus to the slush fund and half to our savings so I have real motivation to keep the shopping bill low.

05 January 2007

Water wise habits

With water being so scarce (Melbourne's water supply is under 48% of capacity) and restrictions so tight I have become even more aware of the amount of water we are using in the house and what it is being used for.

Both showers now have permanent buckets in them to catch the overflow. I scrounged a great big, really old kitchen timer from my Mum and each shower is timed to be 5 minutes. I turn the timer as soon as the bathroom door closes, so they'll need to be really fast if they want to get any time under the water.

Instead of mopping the kitchen and bathroom floors every day, I have put some vinegar and water into a spray bottle and pinned a microfibre cloth to the mop head. Now I just squirt the spots and run the cloth over them. The floors are staying surprisingly clean, so maybe I've been working too hard all these years. A once a week mopping with hot, soapy water and the floor mop will do for deep cleaning.

I've cut washing back to absolutely full loads only. Soaking whites and stains is now done in a bucket rather than the laundry sink. This saves on soaker too.

Hannah has made cute signs and we have laminated them for the toilets:
“If it's yellow, let it mellow.
If it's brown, flush it down.”

We have dual flush toilets, but I've also put small bottles of water in the cisterns. I'll let you know if it causes any problems.

I've put a smaller basin in the laundry sink for hand washing. I found that the bigger the basin the more water we seemed to use. I've asked the kids to watch the water level – no deeper than the second knuckle on their index finger. That should give them plenty of water to wash in.

And don't think Wayne has escaped. This weekend he's going to do a “leak check” of all the taps and pipes, inside and out, and the toilets. As far as I know we don't have any leaking taps, but I'd like to be sure about the pipes and outside taps.

I've filled a jug with water and put it in the fridge. This is for drinking, no more running the tap until it's cool or turning the tap on then getting the glass under.

These are all only small savings, but from little things big things grow so add all these little things together and we will save a lot of water.

04 January 2007

Some simple savings this week – January 4, 2007

It has been so hot here this week that we haven't been tempted to go out. Gotta love the savings when you stay at home! Not only do I still have almost a full tank of petrol in the car, but I've been using up all the odds and ends in the fridge and pantry rather than go out.

The kids wanted McD's for lunch yesterday; they were going to use their pocket money to buy it. Instead we did a freezer rummage and came up with bread rolls, frozen fish filets and some sliced cheese that is too strong to eat on it's own. It's perfect when it's cooked though.

Hannah made us all delicious (and hot) McHannah's Fish Burgers for lunch and they were delicious. The rolls were .40c each x 6, the fish filets were $3.90 (I checked my grocery tracker for the price) the lettuce was free from the garden and the dressing was probably no more than 50c at the very most. The cheese was free, given to us by a friend whose family didn't like it. So six huge, delicious fish burgers cost $6.80 – far cheaper than from the Golden Arches and much nicer too.

Dinner was free – we cleaned out the fridge, using up all the leftovers. I just put everything out on the table and everyone helped himself or herself to what they wanted. It was fantastic, cleaned out the fridge and made an easy dinner with no cooking for me.

There was great excitement earlier this week when we realised that the Officeworks sale had started. I love stationery, new notebooks, packets of pens, paper clips, glue sticks, rulers, coloured pencils, dividers and anything else related.

I did a quick stocktake in the filing cabinet and the desk drawers and realised that really apart from maybe a couple of glue sticks, there was nothing I needed. I could even fill the boys' school needs from what we had on hand. The temptation was there though.

I couldn't resist and went for a look. Wow was I disappointed. There was nothing I wanted, nothing to tempt me and nothing I needed. I left empty handed, I even put the catalogue back. Potential savings? At least $20.

I didn't feel like going out in the heat to do the grocery run today, so I called Wayne and asked him to pick up the milk, cheese and eggs on his way home. Not only saved me time and petrol, but I'm sure it saved me some money. He came home with 3 bottles of milk, one block of cheese and 2 dozen eggs. Grand total of $18.49 spent. By sticking to our menu plan and being careful to use what I have on hand I won't need to go back to the supermarket until next Friday!

I'm happy with the money I haven't spent so far this week.