31 August 2012
Instead, you can try some green alternatives, such as vinegar and bicarb soda added to the rinse cycle (use about 1/4 cup of each) will keep your wash clean and soft. As a bonus they'll keep your washing machine clean too.
If you must use a dryer (try not to, apart from the carbon footprint they are jolly expensive to run) eco balls (bumpy rubber balls that separate clothes in the dryer and keep down static) or even just one or two tennis balls (cheaper, you probably have them lying around and they do the job) will keep the washing fluffy and soft when it comes out.
30 August 2012
Why not be prepared and start a wrapping box? It's a simple thing really. I have a real Cheapskate wrapping box - just a plain, old, brown cardboard box that fits on the top shelf of the cupboard. But this box has saved me a panic over and over again.
What's in the box?
My wrapping box has sheets of wrapping paper (bought at the market 6 sheets for $1) and a variety of cards for all occasions (these are 50 cents each from the thrift shop). It also holds rolls of sticky tape, pretty stickers, and ribbons and bunches of silk and dried flowers to decorate gifts. I use plain scissors and two pairs of fancy scissors to make decorative edges around cards and gift bags. Also in the box are rubber stamps, stamp pads, texta pens, gel pens, glue sticks, liquid glue, tubes of glitter glue and bottles of glitter.
My children love the wrapping box because we save the funnies from the Sunday paper, sheets of butcher paper, coloured cards and envelopes. They love decorating the wrapping for the gifts they are giving.
All of these things have been bought at markets, $2 shops or discount stores on sale. I top the box up once a year, usually between Christmas and New Year when everything is on sale.
It's such a relief to know that you have a stock of wrapping papers, cards and ribbons on hand. Life with a wrapping box on the top shelf of the cupboard is such a joy! And no more last minute, panic buying trips, on the way to the party!
Start a wrapping box for your family this week (it doesn't have to be glamorous, but you could let the kids decorate it), and surprise everyone with the gorgeous gifts you present, for only a few cents worth of wrappings.
29 August 2012
You will get great bargains and sometimes even unique or special items that make fantastic and memorable gifts for a fraction of the recommended retail price. Store them in your 'present box' until it's time to give them away. No one will ever know that you didn't pay full price for them - unless you tell them!
28 August 2012
1.5kg chicken thigh fillets, skin off
½ cup green capsicum, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
180g tomato paste
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp sweet basil
¾ cup chicken stock
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp water
Oil the base and sides of the slow cooker. Place chicken in the bottom. Combine the tomato paste, crushed garlic, oregano, basil, pepper and chicken broth in a small bowl. Next layer the onion, capsicum, tomato paste mixture, and seasonings over your chicken. Top with the diced tomatoes. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. After 7 hours, combine the cornflour and water. Stir into chicken mixture and cover. Finish the last hour of cooking.
24 August 2012
As companies begin to vie for their share of holiday sales, these companies begin to bombard us with deals and steals. If you are like most individuals, the mere thought of spending any more money is painful. However, whether you buy that toy or electronic gizmo now or you buy it later, chances are you are still going to buy it.
Sign up at as many websites as you can stand receiving emails from – a great tip on this is to create a separate email account just for this purpose. Thereafter you can delete the account as opposed to unsubscribing to all those retailers.
23 August 2012
You don't need to buy expensive prints or even more expensive paintings to adorn your walls. In fact you probably already have some amazing art work right in your home, ready to create amazing works wall decoration.
Children's artwork. Frame several of the best of your child's drawings or paintings and hang them in an informal grouping on one wall.
Maps, charts and sheet music. Frame and hang maps or charts of your favourite destinations, or the sheet music to your favourite musical. Or look for old music books and sheet music and frame it. I found an old copy of my very first music book and framed my favourite piece from it. It looks great and reminds me every day just how much I love the piano.
Postcards. These are becoming rare in this day of electronic mail, so create a collage and frame it or put just one in an extra special frame and hang it to display a record of your travels.
Seed packets. Arrange seed packets on a cork board and frame it for a unique country look.
Tickets. Save tickets to sporting events, concerts, even train or plane trips and frame them. Create a collage or stick to a theme - save the tickets to your team games and frame them to show your support and create a conversation piece.
You don't need to spend a fortune on frames either - look for old frames at op shops and garage sales, re-finish frames you already have or get creative and make some yourself.
22 August 2012
Use these three tips to get that credit card debt paid down quickly and save a bundle into the bargain.
1. Cut up all but one of your credit cards. Freeze the other one in a four litre ice-cream container of water. Stop using the remaining credit card. This way you'll actually be paying off more than you are spending.
2. Pick up the phone and negotiate with your credit card company for a lower interest rate.
3. Pay biweekly (fortnightly) instead of monthly on the due date. Take the current minimum payment and halve it. Pay that amount each fortnight until the card is clear. By paying fortnightly you make an extra monthly payment in a year and reduce the interest charges dramatically.
21 August 2012
This is a really lovely, fresh dip that takes just five minutes to put together. I tend to leave the chili sauce out if there are children who will be digging in, other times I leave the coriander out if I don’t have any at hand. If you don't have 3 bean mix, use kidney beans, they are just as tasty.
2 cans three bean mix, drained
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 large avocado, peeled and diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 tbsp chilli sauce (optional)
1/4 cup coriander, finely chopped
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Combine the ingredients for the dressing together, whisking well. Set aside.
Mix all the dip ingredients together in a bowl, tossing well to make sure they are evenly combined. Add the dressing and toss. Serve with corn chips or plain pita chips.
17 August 2012
Here are five common grocery items you can cross off your list because they are easily replaced by something else you already have or are totally unnecessary in a Real Food diet.
1. Fruit juice. Even 100%, all-natural, organic juice. It’s very high in sugar and is just not essential to your diet. Your whole family will be healthier if you replace the juice with water and encourage them to eat the whole fruit. Have a plate of mixed fruits on the table for each meal and watch it disappear.
2. Sour cream. Plain yogurt can do all the same things sour cream does, so why buy two different products when one will work just as well? MOO your yoghurt for greater savings then use it to replace cream cheese too.
3. Soft drinks. These days we don't even have them for special occasions. Even the drinks with fruit juice added have far too much sugar or worse still, sugar substitutes. You don't need them.
4. Cold cereals. We all know the sugary kids’ cereals are bad for us, and hopefully, if you've been following the Real Food Challenge, you’ve already eliminated those from your diet. But even the healthiest cereals – which are grossly over-priced – are generally full of sugar and over processed ingredients (including HFCS, flavourings, colourings and preservatives). There are lots of other quick breakfast options: granola, rolled oats, fritters, smoothies, toast, hot cereal, boiled or poached eggs, fruit and yoghurt, ground rice porridge, MOO pancakes or muffins.
5. Anything in a cute little individual packet (or a bulk-buy box). You know: chips, biscuits, muesli bars, fruit leathers, crackers, etc. They are very expensive, not very healthy and there are much nicer, healthier alternatives such as pita chips or zucchini chips, or for a sweet treat Sweet Potato Chocolate Cup Cakes, fruit salad, dried fruits, dips and veggie sticks.
16 August 2012
15 August 2012
If you struggle with budgeting physically divide your money. Some very organized and disciplined folk can do this on paper. Their Spending Plan will show an amount in one column and they can quite happily carry it over to the next month. But there are others who need a more physical separation of money because if it's there it's meant to be spent.
Here are there techniques you can use to separate your money:
1. Envelopes.This is one of the oldest forms of budgeting and it works. When you get paid simply withdraw the total amount you need for your spending for the week/fortnight/month and then divide it into various envelopes, according to your Spending Plan. You might have an envelopes for groceries, petrol, phone, tuckshop, kinder fees, clothing, electricity, gas etc. That money is then used to pay for those items. When it's gone, it's gone and you have to wait until the next pay day to spend from that category.
2. Bank Account method. This is similar to the Envelope Method, using different bank accounts. You might have a general household account where you deposit the money for every day expenses, a savings account to use as your Peace of Mind account for those large, irregular expenses (replacing the washing machine, dental work etc), an account for special occasions such as Christmas and family holidays and an account for their Emergency Fund.
3. Direct debits or payroll deductions are other methods that help you to set aside funds for purposes other than immediate spending. You can set them up yourself to cover the bills (mortgage, utilities, loan repayments etc) quite easily. The money is allocated as soon as your pay hits your bank account and what is left is yours to spend (or save or invest).
14 August 2012
This pudding isn't a dessert, it's more like a cheat's souffle. Serve it as a starter or as a side dish. Either way it's very nice and very easy.
250g fresh breadcrumbs
300g grated cheese
4 large eggs
1 tsp prepared mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Grease a 20cm casserole or souffle dish with butter. Combine the breadcrumbs and cheese in a mixing bowl. Heat the milk and butter in the microwave or over a low heat until the butter melts. Pour over the breadcrumbs and stir to combine. Whisk the eggs with the salt, pepper and mustard. Stir into breadcrumb mixture and then pour into the prepared casserole dish. Let the mixture stand for one hour. Bake for 40 minutes, until the pudding has risen and the top is golden. Serve warm.
Notes: When I make this I use wholegrain breadcrumbs. The wholegrain breadcrumbs make a slightly heavier pudding than white crumbs. I prefer wholegrain as it makes a slightly healthier pudding and it's the bread we have.
When it comes to mustard the original recipe called for English mustard. Again I use whatever happens to be open in the fridge - English, American, French or Dijon. I wouldn’t use wholegrain mustard as the seeds would spoil the look of the baked pudding.
You can also make this pudding with low-fat milk and cheese if that is what you use.
13 August 2012
Gift cards are all the rage and they certainly do make gift giving easy. How to present them so they have that "wow" factor is problem though. You can spend $3 - $5 to buy a cute little envelope or box to present your gift card, or you can make this little envelope, in around 5 minutes, from craft supplies you probably already have at home.
These cute little envelopes make opening the gift card as much fun as opening a gift.
You can use felt, cardstock or even heavy wrapping paper to make your envelope. Choose a material to suit the occasion or the personality of the recipient.
To make the envelopes:
1. Cut a strip of felt, card or paper about 1cm wider than the gift card and twice as long plus 3cm.
2. Place the card in the centre of the felt. Fold up the bottom end of the felt and fold down the top end, adjusting the card so the top of the felt strip overlaps the bottom. Crease the folds by pressing with your fingers.
3. Remove the card and hot glue the bottom pocket together along the side edges.
4. Cut a vertical slit in the top flap for a buttonhole. Glue a pretty button on the bottom pocket opposite the slit.
5. Slip the card into the pocket and close by folding the top down and over the button.
Use pinking shears or decorative scissors to cut the strips for an attractive finish to the side edges.
10 August 2012
Not everyone is an expert gardener, which can sometimes stop a potential future gardener in his or her tracks. Gardening, however, is just like anything else that you are not familiar with – if you don’t try it, you will never know how to do it. You will never know whether you like it, or how successful it will turn out.
When you are learning how to drive, you take lessons and practice. When you begin the gardening process, it is best to start out small, read up on the subject, and talk with other people who have years of expertise behind them. Other more seasoned gardeners have little tips and tricks that you can add to your wheelbarrow of gardening knowledge.
It is best to begin your gardening endeavors with the basics. Some simple lettuce, one or two varieties of tomatoes, and a vegetable or two is just fine to begin your new hobby. Not only is gardening a great way to save money and eat fresh (with no pesticides), it is also an amazing way to get the whole family involved. If you have younger children, it teaches responsibility while the young ones can literally see the fruits of their labor.
Lettuce is nice to start with. It is easy to grow and even better it will grow all year round and with so many different varieties you don’t have to stick to good old ice berg. Lettuce will grow in a garden plot but it will also grow in pots and tubs, hanging baskets and I’ve even grown it in old guttering hung on the fence.
Prepare your soil prior to planting your lettuce. Sometimes using compost at the end of winter will better prepare your soil for planting of your lettuce. Organic soil that contains natural plant food can be found in any garden store and will keep soil moist. Choose a patch of soil that is not entirely in the sun. Part sun and part shade will work just fine.
There are many varieties of lettuce, but perhaps loose-leaf lettuce would be the best bet to begin your garden. Plant your lettuce seeds approximately 6mm down in your row, separating them by 2cm gaps. Your rows can be about 30cm apart.
When weeds begin to sprout, gently pull them by hand as roots for lettuce are very delicate and using a garden tool might uproot your lettuce. Be sure to keep your lettuce seeds watered, but do not overdo it. Your soil needs to be moist, not sodden.
When your lettuce leaves begin to sprout start picking the leaves when they get to about 5cm tall. As you pick the lettuce leaves from the outside, you will allow newer leaves room to grow. The more you pick, the more they’ll grow. Your lettuce will keep giving for months.
Growing just lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers will give you basic salad ingredients for the summer, cutting around $170 off your grocery bill for just for the summer. Your seeds will cost you under $10 (I suggest you buy heirloom seeds) and you’ll have more than enough to keep you in salad veggies for the summer and with succession planting through into autumn, cutting even more from your grocery bill.
09 August 2012
Before there were chemicals, people learned to clean their homes quite well. By using certain natural products, they were able to remove stains, fight odours, beat back dirt and bring a radiant shine to windows. Nowadays, most people won’t use a product unless it comes off the shelf in a spray bottle.
If you are interested in creating a safer and more natural home, then consider making your own cleaning products. You probably have the items necessary in your kitchen right now. If you don’t they are easy to get.
There are many advantages to using all natural cleaning solutions:
- they are inexpensive
- they do the job just as well if not better than store bought cleaners
- they won’t be harsh to your surfaces while removing the dirt
- many have natural antibiotic properties to sanitize as well as clean
- they can be less dangerous.
LemonsLemons serve many purposes. They can be used as astringents for facial cleaning and make blonde hair shimmer when the juice is added to warm water and used as a rinse.
Notice that you see a lot of lemon scented cleaning products on the market. They bring a look and scent of clean to your home. Cut out the middleman and use an actual lemon instead. The acid in the juice can break down and remove stains.
Full strength, lemon can be used to remove soap scum and hard water stains from your bathroom fixtures.
It can also clean copper pots and pans. Add some bicarb soda to half a lemon and you have a handy scouring tool for your bath. Mixing it with olive oil creates a polishing solution for wood furniture.
Sprinkle stubborn rust stains with salt, damp with lemon juice, sit the article outside in the sun and let the lemon work its magic.
Don’t waste the rind, grate it and store it in the freezer to use in cooking and baking, as a garnish and a decoration.
And before you consign the lemon to the compost, sit with your elbows in the “cups”. The lemon will whiten and soften them, an old fashioned beauty trick that works wonders.
Bicarbonate sodaWe know that it can be used to fight back against an upset stomach but it also works as a non-abrasive cleanser. Apply it to a wet sponge and scrub your tub, sink and toilet. Add some vinegar to create a cleansing paste for tougher stains. Think about your refrigerator and how you use baking soda. It can be used as a natural deodorizer in the kitchen and the bath.
White VinegarI hinted about vinegar above. It can help to keep your digestive system running smooth as well as unclog your drains. Pour bicarb soda down a clogged drain followed by vinegar. The bubbling action helps to break down the clog. Follow with hot water to flush it away. Vinegar and water can be used to clean your vinyl flooring and countertops. Don’t worry about the smell, it goes away after it dries. The same mixture can be used in a carpet steamer to get rid of stains on your rugs. Salt, vinegar and water can be combined to clean away mildew from surfaces.
You don’t have to ruin your health or your budget to clean your home. Try these suggestions for homemade cleaning products and see just how well they work, and just how much nicer your home is without the fake perfumes from the commercial cleaners.
As with everything, if you really don’t like the results you can always go back to your original products.
But unless you give them a try, you’ll never know, will you.
08 August 2012
These purchases are usually planned for or expected, they're not the spontaneous "I see it, I want it, I think I'll have it" type of purchase. These spontaneous purchases can be managed with the $100/24 Hour Rule.
Often the stress of making a major purchase is so overwhelming that people simply throw up their arms and buy whatever they find first. This isn’t a great way to make an important decision. You’ll no doubt be left with at the very least with buyer’s remorse and at worst a blown budget.
Instead, consider these three factors before making any major purchase and ensure you’re happier with your decision.
1. How Much Do You Have To Spend?
This should always be the very first question and ideally you’re looking at paying for the item with cash. If you absolutely have to finance it, how much can you afford and still achieve your financial goals? How long would it take you to save the cash if you focused on just saving for this item? Can you wait that long, or make-do with what you have until you have the cash saved?
2. What Features And Functions Does Your New Item Have To Have?
Start with the must haves first. Then, if you have room in your budget to add on some luxury features you’ll know how much wiggle room you have. Ignore the bells and whistles until you are sure you have your basic requirements met - let the salesperson talk and demonstrate by all means, just don’t lose sight of what you really want with the purchase.
3. Overall Buyer Satisfaction
Let’s face it; some purchases are more rewarding than others. Before you buy, consider how much pleasure the item is going to offer you or how much value it will add to your life. For example, a new refrigerator may or may not add much to your overall quality of life.
Sure you need a fridge but do you need the most expensive one? For most people, material things don’t bring pleasure. Experiences do however provide pleasure. Evaluate the item and decide how much it will actually add to your life. You can then create a more reasonable “emotional” budget for the item.
For example, let’s say your car dies and you need a new car but upon evaluating the overall buyer satisfaction you decide that you’d much rather continue saving money for that luxury around Australia holiday than spend hundreds of dollars a month on car payments. This decision changes your budget.
You may be able to afford $500 a month on car payments but you may not want to spend that much each month.
Buying big ticket items can be stressful and overwhelming. Asking yourself these three questions before you start shopping can help you approach any purchase with a clear and logical plan, ensuring you get the item you want at a price you can truly afford.
07 August 2012
I have been making these cup cakes for ages, and until last weekend no one knew they had sweet potato or flaxseed in them. They are so good, and so much like little mud cakes that unless you know they are packed with lots of goodness you really won't know.
If you want to get some extra nutrition into your family, without them knowing, and still give them a sweet treat, try these little cakes. The secrets are to make sure the sweet potato is very soft and very well mashed, almost a puree, so that it combines completely with the dry ingredients, and to beat the oil/egg/flaxseed mixture for at least 5 minutes, so that it is very thick and fluffy. Do not be tempted to skimp on the time or your cakes will be dry, hard little rocks.
1 cup of mashed sweet potato
1 ¼ cups of spelt flour
¼ cup of unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon of salt
½ cup of buttermilk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup of olive oil
½ cup of raw sugar
1 large egg
3 tablespoons of flaxseed meal soaked
2 tablespoons of water
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Prepare patty pans.
2. Prick one medium sweet potato with a fork (a lot) and cook in microwave for 5 minutes turning every minute.
3. Combine dry ingredients into a bowl (flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt
4. Combine buttermilk, vanilla and sweet potato until well blended. If you want to keep the sweet potato a secret, make sure you get rid of any sweet potato chunks no matter how small.
5. In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium high, beat the oil while slowly adding the sugar. Add the egg, flaxseed meal and water – 1 at a time. Beat for 5 minutes. This is important, don't be tempted to skip this step or even shorten the time.
6. On low speed add the sweet potato mix, then the flour mix.
7. Use a 1/4 cup measure to fill patty pans and bake 15 – 20 minutes. Test after 15 minutes, as these cakes do not take well to being over-cooked.
8. Cool on a cake rack, then ice with your favourite chocolate icing.
06 August 2012
Glitter is fun to use. It adds sparkle and shine, and wonderful colour to lots of different craft projects. Kids love to use it on posters and cards and on dough crafts. Mums love to sprinkle it under the Christmas tree or on a bedside table as fairy glitter and watch little faces light up with wonder and delight when they see it.
The problem is glitter is expensive. And it gets absolutely everywhere. Well not this homemade glitter. It's so cheap it's ridiculous, is really easy to clean up, safe for kids to use and can be made whenever you need it because it only takes about 15 minutes to prepare.
To MOO glitter you will need:
- Table salt or sea salt, depending on whether you want fine or chunky glitter
- Food colouring
- Small bowl
- Biscuit tray
- Baking paper
- Air tight jar
Line a biscuit tray with baking paper. Spread the salt on the tray. Bake for 10 minutes. Let the glitter cool on the tray. Store it in an airtight jar, and use it just as you would regular glitter.
02 August 2012
For very long term storage, peel, slice or dice and freeze in ziplock bags in 1/2 cup portions. They are then ready to use straight from the freezer, saving you a little time when you are cooking and preserving onions that may otherwise have gone soft and sprouted in the pantry.
01 August 2012
You'd think with all the technology available to us that living the Cheapskates way in 2012 would be easy, or at least easier than it was in 2010, or 2007 or 2002 or ever really. But that technology doesn't always make it easy, it quite often makes it harder.
We are bombarded by advertisements on the TV, on radio, on our computers, via email and even on our mobile phones telling us we need this gadget or that gizmo will make our lives easier or we really want the latest thingamajig. We are told almost every minute of every waking hour that we must buy the very latest must have craze.
So, to help you stick to your Spending Plan when tempted, ask yourself these questions:
- 1.Would my parents or grand-parents have needed this item?
- 2.Would I really use this item enough to get full value for money out of it?
- 3.How will buying this item affect my savings goals?
- 4.Does it cost more than $100? If so, apply the $100/24 hour rule.
When you forget momentarily that you are living the Cheapskates way, ask yourself those four questions. I guarantee they'll get you back on track in no time.