31 March 2010

Beginning to Budget

Start with small, achievable budget goals, ones that keep you motivated. Be flexible and realistic - don't aim for the stars straight away. You need to live within the budget you set so be sure to allow room for changes. Budgets are meant to be fluid, just like our incomes, they are not meant to be set in concrete for ever and a day. And try to include some "mad money" to keep you motivated. Being able to spend some money without having to account for it  can stop you from blowing your budget completely.

30 March 2010

Citrus Fresh

When you get that "something is off" odour in the fridge it can be hard to shift. Try slicing up a grapefruit laying it on an open saucer in the fridge.  This eliminates both new and old odours and leaves the fridge smelling sweet again.

29 March 2010

Sort it Out


The best way to save money in the laundry is to sort those piles of washing. Sort whites from colours and fluffy items from dark to avoid needing to do extra treatments; sort drying into piles of similar fabrics so that if you must use the dryer it’s on for as short a time as possible. Sort heavy garments from lighter garments, washing them first to give them more drying time. Sort washing into easy to manage groups to make hanging and folding easier. I always hang in "people" i.e. I hang all my things together, then everyone's clothes in turn. This means that as I take things off the line and fold them they are already sorted, ready to be put straight away. Putting the washing away is a breeze because it is already sorted.

28 March 2010

Homemade Insect Soap

Insect soaps are available in any organic gardening aisle, but you can make a homemade spray that’s just as effective for aphids, caterpillars, and other bugs. Add 3 drops of mild dishwashing liquid to 2 litres of water. Add 1 tablespoon of ordinary cooking oil. Pour into a spray bottle. Spray plants to the point of saturation, but don’t spray on blossoms.

26 March 2010

Dressing a Teenager the Cheapskates Way

Clothing is really important to a lot of teenagers, and they certainly don’t want their parents picking out everything for them, budget or not. However, fashion sense can’t be allowed to dictate the family finances. Still, it is possible to stick to a clothing budget without alienating your teen!

Teens know what they want, but they don’t always know how much it costs. Tell your teens how much you are willing to spend on clothing, then spend some time going through catalogues and internet sites to look at prices. Explain that if they spend half the budget on one pair of jeans…then they’ll be doing a lot of laundry! They might not be thrilled with the budgeted amount, but at least they’ll have the information.

24 March 2010

Freshening pillows and stuffed toys

With winter fast approaching, now is the time to get some "autumn" cleaning done before the weather turns.  Warm sunny days are ideal for washing summer bedding before it's put away and the winter blankets are brought out. It's also a great time to wash pillows and all those stuffed toys the kids have. You can wash them in the washing machine easily if you put them into a pillowcase. Wash on the delicate cycle with a gentle detergent and they will come out smelling fresh and they won't be a matted mess.  To avoid items coming out of the pillowcase during washing, use a hair tidy to close the open end. Choose a windy day and hang on the clothesline to dry.

23 March 2010

Hang Up Your Recipe Books

Use a clip type skirt hanger to hang a magazine style  or light hardback recipe book from your overhead cupboard door while cooking. This protects the book from spills and puts the recipe at eye level. The clamps on skirt hangers are heavy enough to hold the book in place and light enough not to damage the pages.

22 March 2010

Keeping a Busy Box to Keep Kids Occupied

Tip of the Day

With school holidays coming up, having craft supplies on hand can be a good thing, especially when your children are bored. Pull out the busy box and let them do a simple craft. You don't need to spend a fortune on craft supplies, however you can still let your children make crafts with everyday objects they find around the house. Find a box (any size will do to start with) and fill it with things that can be used for crafting. Egg cartons, wrapping paper, greeting cards, junk mail, fancy scissors (99c a pair at Riot Art), cheap glue sticks, PVA glue, glitter, chenille sticks, stickers - whatever you come across. Look in your cupboards and you’ll probably find everything you need for at least a few craft items.

You'll find some great age appropriate craft ideas at these websites:
http://home.disney.com.au/activities/
www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/
www.dltk-kids.com/
www.crayola.com

21 March 2010

Switching the garden beds

Tip of the Day

Plant rotation is important because different plants deplete different nutrients in the soil so now is the time to create next summer's garden on paper. You don't need to rebuild beds, just reposition the plantings. If you have had tomatoes in the same place for years, move them to another part of the garden. Rotating planting positions gives the soil time to recover. Planning also gives you the chance to figure out a garden budget and to grow from seed, so much cheaper than buying seedlings from the nursery.

20 March 2010

Digital fun

Tip of the Day

If you have a digital camera and photo software, teach your children how to use it, including uploading to the computer and saving them. A lot of photo software has the capabilities to do all sorts of fun things with pictures such as creating photo collages, photo cards, photo calendars and once you get going on all this, the ideas are endless!

19 March 2010

If you can buy it, you can more than likely make it!

Tip of the Day

Making most of what we eat from scratch has really cut our costs. In return I have been able to make my family healthy foods for less than half of what I could buy them for, and I know exactly what is in it and where it has been. No need to worry about some 14 letter ingredient that I have never heard of and cannot pronounce and no more worrying about allergies. Just about everything you buy can be made at home. Make a list of the ingredients on the packaging of your favourite foods and go home and make it. There are lots of MOOs in the Recipe File for nicer, healthier and cheaper bought foods.

18 March 2010

Top 7 Ways to Cut Grocery Costs Part Seven

One of the easiest ways to cut costs and save money is to cut your grocery budget. Yes, you have to eat, but there are plenty of options. It is the one are of your budget that you can manage to the very cent without starving. This is hint number seven in the series.

Use your price book
The concept of a price book is most likely new to you. It's not something we Australians have used as a part of living the Cheapskates way until recently. But it sure makes shopping and saving money easy. Simply by recording the price of every item you buy in a little notebook, you have a ready reckoner of just where you'll be able to get the very best price. When you buy an item record the price. Then, when you go to buy that item again, check your price book. If the price is lower, buy it and record the cost in your price book. If it's higher then you'll need to decide if you need it immediately or can wait until it is on sale. When you make up your shopping list, write down beside the item how much it costs (based on the price book) and  tally it up at the end. This will help you stay within your grocery budget.

17 March 2010

Top 7 Ways to Cut Grocery Costs Part Six

One of the easiest ways to cut costs and save money is to cut your grocery budget. Yes, you have to eat, but there are plenty of options. It is the one are of your budget that you can manage to the very cent without starving. This is hint number six n the series.

Ditch the store loyalty
This obviously isn’t feasible for everybody, but it is something that you should think about. Most of us live within easy access of the three major supermarkets (Coles, Woolworths and Aldi) and at least one or two of the smaller independents. Shopping only at one supermarket will cost you money.  To follow the sales cycle you need to be prepared to shop multiple stores to get the lowest prices and best deals.  Shopping multiple stores will give you a better idea of prices and a better idea of what a good sale price is. You don’t need to always shop at multiple shops, but it does pay to at least divide your shopping between the two biggest in your area.

For country Cheapskates, shopping locally can be expensive simply because of the lack of competition. If it is at all possible consider doing a big shop in your nearest big town once every four or five weeks and stocking up.

16 March 2010

Top 7 Ways to Cut Grocery Costs Part Five

One of the easiest ways to cut costs and save money is to cut your grocery budget. Yes, you have to eat, but there are plenty of options. It is the one are of your budget that you can manage to the very cent without starving. This is hint number five in the series.

Bigger isn't always cheaper
Buying in bigger packages isn’t always cheaper, so make sure that you are getting the best deal. Unit pricing helps you compare brands and package sizes to find the cheapest price but for stores who don't show unit prices carry a small calculator or use the calculator function on your mobile phone and work it out yourself.  And remember a “sale” isn’t always a sale.

15 March 2010

Healthy Eating

I am on a healthy eating kick. Not that we were eating unhealthily but we could be doing better.

Hectic schedules, mostly mine, have meant that our meals have been thrown together quickly and not really thought out. That in turn meant that I would look at the menu plan, grab the meat or whatever rout of the freezer and cook it, with either some vegetables or a salad. Or even resort to takeaway!  And that's where our healthy eating crumbled.

We have always been big veggie eaters. Lots of them, all different kinds, cooked in lots of different ways. Did you know that there are hundreds of ways to serve potato? Or carrots, cabbage and zucchini? And that peas and beans can be used as the basis for vegetarian dishes, not just as a token green side on a plate of meat?

Salads for us have always been a full meal with a side of meat, chicken or fish if I felt like it. Until recently, when the meat portion has taken over, and the salad has become a lettuce leaf, slice of tomato, sliver of cheese and half a baby beet.

When I stepped on the scales on Sunday I saw the result of my careless attitude and lack of planning. In my busyness I figured that as long as there were vegetables on the plate we were eating properly. Not so, according to the scales and my clothes.

And so I am back to looking after my family first, home and garden second and work last. If my family isn't healthy and our home clean, tidy and organized then my family isn't happy. If my family isn't happy, then I am not happy. And if I am not happy everything falls in a heap.

This week I have increased our fruit and vegetable intake, almost doubled it in fact, and drastically reduced the amount of meat, chicken and fish we have been consuming. Before you write to me and tell me that we need meat, chicken and fish, let me assure you that we are getting plenty of protein, and iron, and whatever else they supply. All I have done is gone back to serving the recommended portions, a piece of red meat or chicken no bigger than the palm of my hand. I have a BIG hand, so it's still probably larger than the recommended portion.

So far no one has noticed or if they have they haven't complained. A much appreciate side benefit is the dramatic drop in the grocery bill. I did my big shop last week and it came to $144.68 for the month's groceries and that included some meat and fish.  We still have plenty of greens in the garden and mum and I have been swapping. I give her a bag of eggplant and capsicums and she's keeping us in tomatoes and beans.

Now for something not so healthy but lots of fun - gummy worms. My kids love gummy worms, especially the sour ones but they are rather expensive and not so good for those of watching what we eat. In the spirit of MOO I did some research, found a recipe and in typical Cath fashion completely changed it to come up with my own version of Sour Gummy Worms. They've passed the kids' taste test so here's the recipe. Try them, they really are yummy.


Sour Gummy Worms
Ingredients:

1  85g box of jelly crystals
3 tsp gelatine or agar agar
1 tsp citric acid
1/2 cup water

Method:

Mix all ingredients in a small sauce pan until it resembles play dough. Cook over a low heat until everything has melted. Once completely melted pour into a well greased 20cm square cake tin and freeze for 5 minutes. When very firm tip pan upside down to remove. Cut into "worms" with a pizza cutter or very sharp kitchen scissors. You can then roll them in sugar or leave as is. They won't last long!

Notes:
*We like green worms, but any colour will do. Use whatever jelly crystals you have in the cupboard.
*We also like them very sour. You may not. Adjust the amount of citric acid to suit your personal taste.
*If you don't use jelly crystals but make your own jellies with a fruit juice base, increase the amount of agar agar (or gelatine) and use fruit juice in place of the water.

I have an uncontrollable urge



...to cook! Not like me at all. Don't get me wrong, I love being able to give my family dinners that are tasty, nutritious and look nice on the plate, and of course cheap.  But let's face it, cooking dinner for the same people whose tastes rarely change is just plain boring.

If Wayne and the boys had their way it would be steak or sausages and mashed potato every night. Hannah loves salads and pasta. I like variety and as I am the mother, cook and the cleaner I get to choose what we eat. Hopefully it's at the very least nutritious.

I've just made toasted sandwiches for AJ's lunch (he has late Uni today) and really there's not much you can do to a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich to glam it up. But that gorgeous boy (who is really at 19 a man already, where did my baby go?) just told me I am a great cook. Over toasted sandwiches. I almost burst into tears.

When I think of the disasters that he and the others have had to eat (a particularly distasteful salmon and rice dish springs to mind) with barely a complaint it makes me want to lift my game even more and produce even better meals for them. Within budget of course.

What caused this urge? I can't be certain but it could be the lovely Donna Hay recipe book I was given, or watching Julie and Julia on DVD or even finding the Martha Stewart show on TV each weekday afternoon.  It could even have been finding my mother's Commonsense Cookery book when I was tidying the kitchen cupboards a few weeks ago. Perhaps it's my goal to make our meals healthier than they have been.Or any combination of these things.

It kind of goes hand in hand with my cooking from scratch ethos.  I don't have many recipe books that use packet mixes or convenience foods (the only one that springs to mind is my Edmonds Cookery Book and that's only because it recommends Edmonds brand products).

All my cooking hasn't cost very much. Keeping a stocked pantry and freezer help. And of course choosing the recipes to suit the ingredients in the house. Last Tuesday's effort was a delicious vegetable moussaka, made with onions, celery, tomatoes, eggplant and capsicum from the garden and topped with a deceptively simply b├ęchamel  sauce. It was so good and there was leftovers. They disappeared at lunchtime the next day.

Saturday night I tried a new taco filling, using refried beans and only 250g mince. It was so yummy, no leftovers at all and marked a winner by everyone.

I haven't decided what new recipe I'll try this week, but I am having lots of fun looking through the recipe books.

Top 7 Ways to Cut Grocery Costs Part Four

One of the easiest ways to cut costs and save money is to cut your grocery budget. Yes, you have to eat, but there are plenty of options. It is the one are of your budget that you can manage to the very cent without starving. This is hint number four in the series.

Use that shopping list
That is why you made it, so stick to it!  If it's not on the list, don't buy it. The only exception would be for something you know you need but haven't listed and that you don't have a substitute for already at home or on the list. You have already switched to a cash grocery budget so adding things that are not on the list is going to blow your budget out of the water and possibly leave you embarrassed at the checkout.

14 March 2010

Top 7 Ways to Cut Grocery Costs Part Three

One of the easiest ways to cut costs and save money is to cut your grocery budget. Yes, you have to eat, but there are plenty of options. It is the one are of your budget that you can manage to the very cent without starving. This is hint number three in the series.

Menu planning
Knowing what you are going to prepare for dinner and writing down all of the ingredients you need from the supermarket will not only keep your grocery budget on track , but it will save you unnecessary trips which inevitably end up with you impulse shopping and spending more in the process.  It also avoids the “It’s 4pm and I have no idea what is for dinner!” urge to pick up takeaway or eat out. With a menu plan you will end up with more time, less stress and more money. Doesn’t get any better than that!

13 March 2010

Top 7 Ways to Cut Grocery Costs Part Two

One of the easiest ways to cut costs and save money is to cut your grocery budget. Yes, you have to eat, but there are plenty of options. It is the one are of your budget that you can manage to the very cent without starving. This is hint number two in the series.

Watch those sales
It is unbelievable how much money you can save by watching the sale cycles! My rule of thumb as far as non-urgent items is if the item isn’t on sale..I will not use buy it unless I know for sure that I will need it before the next sale or before the next shopping day.  If you don't want to shop the sale cycles, check the loss leaders each week. Loss leaders are the items supermarkets mark way down to get you into the store to buy other overpriced items, usually located at the ends of the aisles.

12 March 2010

Top 7 Ways to Cut Grocery Costs.

Tip of the Day

One of the easiest ways to cut costs and save money is to cut your grocery budget. Yes, you have to eat, but there are plenty of options. It is the one are of your budget that you can manage to the very cent without starving. Everyday for the next week I am going to share one of the top seven ways to cut your grocery costs.

No. 1. Cash
To stick to your grocery budget (and who doesn't?) the easiest and most effective way is to move to cash budget. Good old fashioned notes and coins. It will save you a heap of money, ensure you only buy what you need and stop those impulse purchases on the spot. You will have total and complete control of your grocery budget, without the emotional and psychological pulls of a credit card. If you haven't tried it, I recommend that you do. You'll be amazed at the power you have over your spending.

11 March 2010

Homemade v Jars

For a long time I wasted an awful lot of money buying jars of sauce. If I felt like "chicken tonight" I'd just stop off at the supermarket on my way home and pick up a jar of sweet'n'sour sauce or honey mustard sauce or cacciatore sauce and some chicken and we would have Chicken Tonight. Just like the ad said, it was easy as cooking the chicken and dumping the jar of sauce over the top.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I could make a sweet'n'sour sauce or something as exotic as a honey mustard sauce. They would be way to complicated and time consuming. The jar was the best way to go.

I am a child of the 70's when  the marketing gurus were really pushing convenience.  No one made their own sauces any more. It was much more sophisticated and modern to use jars. Cooking from scratch was old fashioned and denied women their freedom or some such nonsense. I was a thoroughly modern wife and wanted to stay that way. I know, I should have known better. But I didn't. I believed the ads.

And then Disaster Struck and I had to figure out how we could maintain our lifestyle on no income and without going without the things we liked.

Out came the recipe books and I was gobsmacked - and that doesn't happen too often - at just how simple those rather expensive jars of sauce were. And how easy it was to make a version that left the jars for dead.

Hmmm...

I was thinking of this as I cooked dinner tonight. Another menu plan deviation, but I felt like "chicken tonight". Honey mustard to be exact, with hassle back potatoes, green beans and roasted corn cobettes.  I was thinking how easy it is to make a really delicious honey mustard sauce and just how much cheaper it is than buying a jar, about $2 cheaper all up. That's a lot of money, even if you only used one jar a week. $104 a year, around a week's grocery money, gone on just jarred sauce.

My honey mustard sauce is delicious, much nicer than any bought version we have tried and it takes around 3 minutes to make.  Sometimes it would take me that long to get the jar open!

The recipes for my version of honey mustard chicken and sweet'n'sour sauce are in the Recipe File.


So what homemade versions of "jar" sauces do you have?

Simple scratch disguise

Tip of the Day

Make your own inexpensive cover-up for those horrible furniture scratches. Just mix instant coffee and cool water into a thick paste and rub into the scratch. It hides the nicks and scratches on your dark wood furniture beautifully

10 March 2010

Homemade Fabric Softener

Tip of the Day

Ingredients:
2 cups water
1 cup white vinegar
2/3 cup hair conditioner

Method:
Stir everything together and pour into a bottle. Use two to three tablespoonfuls per load, depending on the size of your washing machine.

This is a great fabric softener and is a good way to use up any conditioner you have that you don't like. You can use cheap conditioner and it works. And of course the cheaper conditioners come in fragrances such as strawberry and green apple if you like your washing perfumed.

09 March 2010

Easy Chopping Garlic

Tip of the Day

If you have to chop garlic by hand and don’t want it to stick to your hands, put a little drop of vegetable oil on the clove and then begin chopping. The garlic pieces won’t stick to your skin or the knife.

08 March 2010

How I spent the Labour day holiday

It's so nice to have a long weekend, especially in the middle of a very busy school term.

I did have plans to spend time today working in the garden, extending the veggie patch. Instead we spent the morning cleaning up the aftermath of Saturday's storm.

It was a doozy. I usually love storms but this one was ferocious, not like the storms we would normally get this time of year. The wind was howling, so loud we couldn't hear ourselves speak outside. The graceful gum trees in the bush behind us were blown almost horizontal in the constant force of the wind. No gusts of wind. And no chance to spring back up and brace for the next blast. Just one long, continuous howling gale.

And then the hail came. Without warning, chunks of ice were suddenly falling from the sky. Not the cute little hail stones we are used to, but huge, hard chunks that looked like blocks of white butter falling from the sky.

It lasted a long time. Almost half an hour of pelting hail and howling wind, followed by a torrential downpour of rain, too much too soon. One awful, very loud crack and the ceiling in Hannah's bedroom started to leak. Then it started in another spot, and another and another, until we had nine buckets in there catching the water pouring through. The hail had broken two tiles, shattered them into small pieces, which left a gaping hole in the roof.

The gutters, already filled with ice, couldn't handle the rain and they overflowed. The eaves along the east side of the house became waterlogged and collapsed.

The roof on the verandah couldn't stand the pounding and gave way in seven spots, dumping ice on the tree ferns.

And my garden. My precious babies were buried in ice, blown by the wind and drowned by the rain. And yet when I was able to go and check, there was only one capsicum on the ground. Some of the plants had lost a leaf or two, but the eggplants were still there, without a blemish, the capsicums were hanging on, even the parsley was starting to perk up.

Unfortunately the greenhouse was torn to shreds. Two of my seedling boxes were blown off the table and some of the styro boxes were actually blown out of the greenhouse and down the yard.

The apple tree that was stripped of it's fruit just over a week ago was on Saturday stripped bare of it's leaves. They looked like  a lovely light green carpet over the lawn.

We are so much better off than many of our neighbours. Wayne was able to replace the tiles (thank goodness we had spares) and the carpet in Hannah's room is almost dry. The wet insulation has been lifted to dry and there is only a faint watermark on the ceiling.

The garden will recover and I've already started to work out how to fix the greenhouse. All those lovely leaves will do well in the compost and the apple tree was starting to drop it's leaves anyway.

I was rather tired by lunchtime though so something fun inside seemed to be in order.

Out came the sewing machine and the pile of UFOs in the hall cupboard. I managed to finish off the handtowels for the kitchen and they look so lovely. The Disney embroidery turned out especially nice and suits the pink of the towel too I think.  I even had a cute little pink button in the jar, just waiting to be used for something special.

Please excuse the fingerprints on the grill door!

There is a How To... with the pattern and instructions for making these hand towels in the Member's Centre if you are interested. You can get two kitchen towels from one regular hand towel, with just a scrap of fabric needed for the topper.

Fabric Serviettes

Make lovely cloth napkins out of old shirts.  You can use any pattern fabric and they will look great on your dinner table,  They will also reduce the need for paper serviette. Faded plaids and checked patterns look especially great.

Make them from favourite shirts so everyone has their own set of napkins. I did this with an old shirt of Hannah's that she just loved and wore almost to the point of it falling apart. Now she has serviettes made from her favourite shirt and we all know that the pink plaid napkins are for her use only.

To make them wash the shirt and then simply cut 30cm squares from the fronts and back. You can hem or overlock the edges or for a more casual look stitch a 1cm border inside the edge of the fabric and fray the  ends.

07 March 2010

Now is the time to stock up on cheap (but nice) chocolate

It's almost Easter, the supermarkets have had hot cross buns since boxing day and Easter eggs have been out since early February.

If you use chocolate for cooking (I'm thinking the topping on a caramel slice or in a lovely hot chocolate) then you'll know that it has become rather expensive of late. I used to use the 1c/1g rule and buy on sale but it's been a long time since I've been able to get a 100g block of chocolate for $1.

Until I did the grocery shopping on Friday. Aldi have their Easter range in store now. They are selling 125g milk chocolate bunnies for just 79c each. And I can tell you that the chocolate is just lovely - not quite to Lindt quality, but almost. In the interest of my readers I had to sample it before I could tell you about it ;)

 
Just 79c for 125g of good quality chocolate - who said you had to eat it for Easter?
 
That equates to just $1.58 for 250g of good quality milk chocolate. I've just jumped on Coles Online and Woolworths Homeshop and the cheapest block of chocolate was a 100g block Cadbury Dairy Milk for $1.49 on sale (regularly $3.26!).

These eggs disappear fast, I know from past Easters, so if you like chocolate and can get to an Aldi, now is the time to stock up.

Just remember where you hide them!

Keeping everything neat

Tip of the Day

If you’ve ever spent several frantic minutes searching for your keys on your way out the door or looked everywhere for that hammer just to hang up a few pictures, you know that being disorganized can eat up a lot of your time. It can cost you money too. Having to buy replacements when you already have what you need but just can't find it is a waste of money, time and energy. Tidy cupboards, under sinks and even your garage or garden shed and put the things you want to keep in boxes or bins with labels so that you’ll be able to find them when you need them.

06 March 2010

A delicious homemade cracker recipe for you to try

I've been asked over and over for a recipe for crackers, one that is easy to make and that actually makes crackers rather than just a savoury biscuit. This recipe is so simple, and made with everyday pantry ingredients. It has a delicious nutty flavour from the sesame seeds and bakes to a delightfully crisp cracker, perfect for dips or using as a base for savouries.

Crisp Sesame Crackers

Ingredients:
2 cups quick rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
3 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup cold butter
1/2 cup ice cold water plus one tablespoon if needed

Method:
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius.  Grind the oats about 1/2 cup at a time in your blender or food processor. Do not over-process. The oats should be coarsely ground.  Add the flour, sesame seeds, sugar, salt, and baking powder and stir to combine.  Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.   Make a well in the centre and pour the 1/2 cup cold water into the well. Stir with a flat blade knife until the mixture comes together. Add the extra tablespoon of water if required, then knead just until you have a ball of dough, do not over knead. Roll the dough out to 3mm thick. Cut crackers into circles with a cookie cutter or glass. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Prick the crackers in two or three places with a fork.  Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until the crackers are baked and dry. Let sit on the cookie sheet for five minutes and then remove them to a wire rack to cool.

Tip:  The secret of crisp crackers is a long, slow baking time. The crackers need to cook long enough for all moisture to be evaporated from the dough.

This recipe is also in the Recipe File, in the Cheapskates Club Member's Centre.

Avoid the Paint Mess

Tip of the Day

When doing other messy jobs, keep plastic sandwich bags nearby. If you have to answer the phone or the door or even scratch your nose, just slip your hand in a bag and avoid spreading the mess.

05 March 2010

Zipping Up and Down Freely

Tip of the Day

It is time to get the winter woollies out of storage and ready for the coming cold. If you have zip front jackets or hoodies the zip may have become stubborn and sticky over the summer. Just rub a lead pencil up and down both sides of the zipper and it should glide with ease.

04 March 2010

Ditch the Trolley

Tip of the Day

A great way to stop impulse buying during those quick supermarket trips is to not use a basket or trolley.
You can only buy what you can carry, usually no more than what you went in for. Try it in department stores too and see just how much you don't buy.

03 March 2010

The Full Pantry

If you've been a Cheapskates Club member for a while you will know that one of my favourite places for buying bulk dry-goods is The Full Pantry.

Located in the Melbourne's outer eastern suburb of Croydon in the Croydon market shopping centre, The Full Pantry was the only place I could find when we first moved back here that sold bulk quantities (real bulk quantities, not those supermarket sized "bulk" packets) of gluten flour.

Anyway, on Tuesday Wayne came home with a flyer, so excited because he had found somewhere he just knew I'd love - The Full Pantry!

Bless him, he looked quite dejected when I said I shopped there all the time. Then he looked stunned as he asked "do you drive all the way to Yarra Glen just to buy flour?" and confused when I said "no, just to Croydon."

Turns out they've opened another shop (yay) in Yarra Glen and he was working there doing the locks (after all that is his job) when he decided I would really love shopping at  a real bulk dry-goods store.  He's right I do absolutely love it.


 I not only get my gluten flour there, but other flours, grains, nuts, beans and lentils, soup mixes, dried fruits and TVP.

The Full Pantry is the only place in Melbourne I have found that actually sells loose TVP. I can buy 5kg at a time without a hiccup.

So, if you live near Croydon or Yarra Glen and want a really good dry-goods store, I wholeheartedly recommend The Full Pantry. It's a family owned and run business with great prices.

You'll find the new shop at the Yarra Glen Shopping Centre, Shop 38. It's open Monday-Saturday.
The Croydon shop is located at Centro Croydon, Kent Avenue, Croydon.

Stay Organized

Tip of the Day

If you’ve ever spent several frantic minutes searching for your keys on your way out the door or looked everywhere for that hammer just to hang up a few pictures, you know that being disorganized can eat up a lot of your time. Clean out cupboards, under sinks, and even your garage or garden shed and put items you want to keep in boxes or bins with labels so that you’ll be able to find the items when you need them.

02 March 2010

You don't need Mr Muscle!

I have just seen an ad on TV for Mr Muscle drain cleaner. Guaranteed to clear blocked drains and leave them sparkling clean and draining freely.

If you have seen or see the ad, don't rush out and buy it. You don't need to. Most likely you already have everything you need to clear a blocked drain and keep them draining nicely without having to buy a bottle of something.



 
Flush the drain regularly to keep it clean and clear of gunk


To help dissolve scum and hair in sluggish bathroom basin and bath drains, pour a mixture of 1-cup salt, 1-cup bicarb soda and ½ cup white vinegar into the drain. Then let stand for 15 minutes and flush with 4 litres boiling water followed by flushing hot tap water down the drain for 1 minute. You can repeat this process if necessary. Hint: Salt will keep small roots from taking up residence in your pipes.  (This tip is in the Tip Store and my book.) 

Much easier and safer than pouring a chemical down the drain.


I do this once a month in the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry. The drains never block or become sluggish and they don't smell horrible either.

Bun and Butter Custard

Fruit buns are yummy fresh and delicious toasted. But what do you do with the stale leftovers? Use them in a bread and butter custard. Just cut the buns in half, butter, spread with a little marmalade (trust me - it's great) and lay them in the bottom of a greased casserole dish. Then make a custard with eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla and pour over the top. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon or nutmeg. Bake in a bain marie (place the casserole in a baking dish of cold water that comes about a third of the way up the sides) in a moderate oven until the custard is set, 35 - 40 minutes should do it.

01 March 2010

Personalized Keepsake Gift

For a personalized gift for an engagement, wedding, christening, twenty-first birthday or other special occasion turn the invitation into the gift.  Buy a photo frame and a mat in colours that compliment the invitation and frame it. If you can't find a mat to suit, cut one to size from scrapbooking cardstock. It comes in a myriad of colours and can be bought by the sheet.  This turns an invitation into a piece of memorabilia artwork that can be kept and displayed.