01 March 2021

Gathering the Fragments 28/02/2021

It is Monday morning here, I've just finished my Monday routine.  https://www.debtfreecashedupandlaughing.com.au/2011/05/housekeeping-on-monday.html

Last week we ate all our meals at home, using ingredients we already had or freezer meals, and just lately I've been even more conscious of making sure to use everything up. The poor worms in the worm farm aren't getting the variety they used to!

I added worm compost to some garden soil and a little leftover potting mix to make seed raising trays. Yes, it's time to start the winter veggies. Garden soil on it's own is too heavy for seeds, and I think that potting mix alone just doesn't have the nutrients to start strong, healthy seedlings, so I MOOed some. It is lovely - nice and fine, and a lovely rich colour. In went some cabbage and cauliflower seeds, they'll be ready just as we get back from our holiday later in the year. I also planted some parsnip seeds into buckets of this same mix. I always try to plant root veggies direct; root veggies don't like being transplanted so if you want to grow carrots or turnips or parsnips or other root veggies, try sowing direct and see how much better they grow. I'm the only one that likes roasted parsnip, but I put it in soup and stew and casserole mix so I put three rows of 12 in. If they all come up that will be more than enough for the next year for us.

Yesterday was the most glorious day for the last day of summer. It was warm and sunny, about 34C by mid afternoon.

I slept in until 9:04am! That's almost 10 hours straight, something I haven't done for so long. That meant I woke up feeling full of beans, so three loads of laundry (to get ahead on sheets and towels as this week is meant to be wet). Then we worked on tidying the back garden - pruning back tomatoes, pulling out things that weren't producing, feeding the fruit trees (I feed our fruit trees every week with worm tea and once a month with powdered feed). I swiped the cobwebs and swept the verandah while Wayne did the lawn edges and chopped up everything to go into the compost. Then I washed the outside windows with the broom and he squirted them with the pressure washer thingy - they are so shiny now.

Next was the decking and paving - I swept and he power washed. Those old pavers only look 20 years old now instead of 40! We dragged the furniture off the verandah and Wayne power washed it while I vacuumed then washed the cushions (waterproof but boy they get dusty).

While the vacuum was out I vacuumed the timber decking (my neighbours just smile now, they used to think I was a complete nut) then because the steam mop was already out I used it to steam mop them. They came up a treat.

Made sandwiches for lunch (late - it was about 2pm) and sat down for a few minutes.

Then the rest of the afternoon was odd jobs - putting things away, putting two boxes of Fowlers Vacola jars I was given through the dishwasher and then packing them away ready to use, marinating chicken for tea, in between planning a backyard makeover with Wayne and holding the tape measure and the ladder.

By the time we'd cleaned up after dinner I was zonked. But it was one of those absolutely lovely days where the work was constant, but the end result makes you smile.

Now I'm researching prices on the materials to do the backyard, and ringing to get quotes on some of the bigger jobs like moving gas and electricity (the rest we can do ourselves).

Were you able to gather any fragments this past week?


21 February 2021

Gathering the Fragments 21/02/2021

Well another week has passed, and those tomatoes are still green! I'm waiting, but not patiently anymore. I want to make sauce and pasta sauce; I want to dry some and turn the skins into powder for winter.

The capsicums and egg plant are slowly, slowly growing. I picked a couple of capsicum last week and chopped them up and put them into the freezer.

We had mostly salads this week, the weather was just hot. Towards the end of the week the salads were a little odd but that's OK, they were colourful and cold and we ate them. Nothing was composted from the fridge this week, everything was used up.

I made a batch of enchiladas, and the boys ate some for dinner and the rest became freezer meals. Nothing makes me happier than knowing dinner just needs to be thawed, heated and dished up when I'm busy.

I've been saving soap slivers and on Thursday they were whizzed up to a powder and put in a jar to make a batch of Cheapskates Washing Powder when it's needed. I say on the instruction sheet you can use any soap, and you can. Normally a box of plain laundry soap is grated to make the washing powder, but when there are enough soap slivers then they get used too.

Easter is only five weeks away, so I started on the Easter cards and some boxes this week. And yes, I was gathering the fragments to make them!

When I open a new box of tea, I save the white cardboard dividers. This week the bundle that was saved, and some that were cut from off-cuts of cardstock, were used to make bookmarks for the Reading Recovery program at a friend's school. They are quick to make, so when there are a few minutes to spare, it's easy to sit down, stamp a picture and quickly colour it in. This week they were stamped with frogs, bunnies or cars - just what I had at hand.

It's time to pull the zucchini out. The four plants have given more than enough for us to enjoy for the rest of the year, and they keep on producing. Some has been made into zucchini pickles, the rest has been sliced or shredded and dehydrated.

I am thinking of the winter garden. What do I need? A plan so I know what seeds to start. Compost. To check the frost tunnel thingys (they had a proper name when we bought them about 15 years ago but I've long forgotten it) and make sure they are whole and in good condition. Trays. Paper pots. Seed raising mix (I usually MOO it). And time.  Paper pots won't be a problem, there is always scrap paper to be used up, and when that runs out, those toilet roll inners I've been saving will be put to use.

And I need to check our emergency supplies. I've been watching the disaster unfold throughout the USA the last week or so. So many people are struggling, suffering cold, going without water and power. While I don't expect our winter to be quite as cold, it doesn't hurt to think ahead and do some checking.

While it's still warm is a good time to get out the spare blankets and wash them, and dry them in the sunshine. Ditto sleeping bags. Ours have been in storage for a couple of years so getting them and the jelly beans washed and dried will be my job the next bright, sunny day we have. Making sure the candles are where they should be. Making sure the gas lighters are filled, ready to use.  Sending Wayne and the boys out to get a load or two or three of firewood before winter. Making sure the door and window seals are intact to keep warm in and cold out.

It's also a good time to clean out the pantry, check the fridge and freezer and make a note of any larder gaps that need to be filled. Since March 2019 I've been restocking the pantry as we use things, so that it is always fully stocked. It's not my favourite way to shop, I really like once-a-year shopping, but right now I feel the need to keep the pantry full so that's what I'm doing.

The baby blanket is slowly growing. Only a couple of rounds done on it this week, I was busy with other things. Hopefully the cooler evenings this week will encourage me to pick it up and do some each night.

Wow, looking back it was a busy week!

How was your week? What fragments were you able to gather?

14 February 2021

Gathering the Fragments 14/2/2021

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

We started another five days of hard lockdown at midnight on Thursday night. That means we can't travel more than 5km from our homes, can only shop once a day, and then only for essential food and medicines, are back to working from home (I was just starting to get the house back into order from the last work at home fiasco), can only leave the house for two hours a day and must wear masks indoors and outdoors when away from home.

Botheration! It ruined our plans, but we've been able to make other plans to use the time.

Some of the fragments gathered last week came from the garden. My garden isn't doing so well this summer. There has been a lot of rain (a good thing) but not enough direct sunlight or heat (personally that suits me, but the tomatoes are hating it). So I've picked a few beans every day. Picked a zucchini or two each day, and plucked basil leaves every morning.

No tomatoes, no eggplant and no capsicums - the three things I'm waiting on to make sauce and focaccia filling for the year. I have the jars. I have the lids. The pressure canner and stockpot are ready and waiting. Now I just need the produce. We have sun and heat predicted for this week so I'm praying it will be enough to get this produce ripe enough to use.

Other fragments used up were three almost stale wraps to make a small lasagne, just enough for our dinner, with two serves of leftover lasagne for lunches. Hannah took one serve with some salad for her lunch, I shared the other serve with Thomas for our lunch with some salad.

I grated up some bars of soap we don't especially like to use in washing powder. That filled the soap container and cleared a spot on the bathroom shelf.

Wayne repurposed the side of an awning into a tropical roof for our camper. Now it will help to keep the heat off, and also the sap and leaves and bird droppings that can stain. Cost: zero, he used materials he had. Saved: around $1,500 to buy what he made.

It's no spending month so I've been making cards using what is on hand. I challenged myself to see how many different cards I could get from one sheet of DSP. I think I did well, cards, a bookmark and some embellishments, and no scraps!






I used about two tablespoons of sour cream left in the container to make honey mustard chicken for dinner instead of using cream. I couldn't tell the difference and it meant not having to buy cream.

I've been saving the tea bags and letting them dry. They go into an old glass jar and I drizzle used cooking oil over them, just enough to moisten them. They'll be used for firelighters in winter. Firelighters aren't expensive to buy but they smell awful, so I'd rather use dry tea bags.

What fragments were you able to gather and put to use this week?

07 February 2021

Gathering the Fragments 7/02/2021

Not so many fragments gathered this week, but still plenty accomplished.

I'm praying for sunshine and some hot days to ripen the tomatoes and encourage the egg plant and capsicum to grow. We're getting plenty of rain, but the days are cool and cloudy, with the odd moderately warm day thrown in each week. My garden needs sunshine and heat!

February is a no spend month for Cheapskates Club, and so for me. It' s not exactly fair to expect Cheapskaters to no spend if I don't.  Not spending was easy this week, only a few salad veggies, milk and wraps were bought.

Hannah and I did do a mini op-shop crawl, but I didn't see anything I needed or wanted badly enough to break no spending month rules. Hannah picked up a Soda Stream for $5 and two genuine Moccona jars for $4 so she was happy.

We ate from the fridge and freezer this week, with leftovers being used up for lunches every couple of days. It keeps the fridge clean, and there's no waste. Any peelings have been going to the compost bin, and when we start eating more red meat I'll get the Bokashi bucket going again to be able to compost everything.

I've worked a little on the crocheted baby blanket, it is slowly growing.

Some cards have been made for the nursing home.

There was a small pile of mending that needed doing so on Thursday when my fingers weren't quite so clumsy I sewed on some buttons and hemmed a couple of pairs of shorts for Wayne.

Tuesday night was the first live show for the year, and it was lovely to be back and chatting with old friends. The break was much needed and thoroughly enjoyed, but I'm looking forward to the shows this year too.

What fragments were you able to gather this week?

31 January 2021

Cathering the Fragments 31/1/2021

Well this couldn't be a better named post - I have spent this morning doing just that - gathering the fragments, or what I could retrieve - from my laptop that I dropped yesterday afternoon. 

Drat these unreliable fingers!

I had a whole list of things to share; I'd been adding to the post all week in an effort to stay up-to-date with posting. It's all on the now-not-working laptop. I'm hoping a phone call in the morning will cheer me up and it can be repaired.  Seriously, three in 10 months is beyond ridiculous!

Anyway, here's what I remember of what happened last week:

lots of zucchini picked, grated, dried

two dish scrubbies crocheted from some scrubby yarn I found in the cupboard

finished off the dishcloth with enough yarn to make a scrubby. That's one whole ball of cotton yarn put to use from the craft pantry (thank you to Rosanne for that name, it sounds so much nicer than "the stash").

one blue dishcloth knitted using up some Bendigo cotton I had.

All our meals except for Friday night were cooked at home, using ingredients on hand. Friday was our 32nd wedding anniversary (and it was a dreadful day - keep reading!) so I ordered pizza for dinner. And it was delicious, with leftovers for Saturday's lunch.

Friday was a very wet day here. It poured rain almost non-stop for most of the day. I was sitting having a cuppa about 10am and I could hear a noise. Looked both sides of where I was sitting, nothing. Couldn't see anything in front. Turned around and we had an indoor water feature on the loungeroom wall. Water was pouring from under the cornice, down the wall onto the carpet. Yikes! 

This wasn't a little drip - it was a sheet of water running down the wall. OK - first thing - call a plumber. Wayne was on the other side of the city, plumber was closer. 

Second thing - take the photos off the wall, and move the furniture. 

Third thing - drag out towels - lots and lots of towels - to mop up the water. 

By this time the plumber was here and he climbed up on his ladder and fixed the problem immediately. Looks like the electrician didn't put three tiles ; back properly in December when he ran the lines from the kitchen.

So, while the plumber was still here, I called the electrician, explained what happened and he was just around the corner so arrived in under 10 minutes. 

In the meantime, the plumber had mentioned how fortunate that the water hadn't got into the meter box, and as he said this he opened said meter box door and everything fell out! He jumped back, yelled at me to move away - there were wires and meters and mushy chipboard just hanging there. 

Oh my goodness. I thought I was going to lose the plot. I raced inside to turn off as many appliances as I could; I couldn't believe we still had power in the house.

Plumber and electrician were wonderful, managed to get everything safe. Sometime this week the power will need to be turned off at the pole and the meter box completely rewired with a new meter and switches. When this happens will depend on the electricity provider. 

All I can say is I am so grateful the electrician acknowledged his tradesman made a mistake and is willing to fix it. And that even though there was a lot of water inside, the timber panelling that I don't really like was a blessing because it is oiled and the water just ran down it, it didn't soak in or there would be a bigger job to do. Oh and that the raked ceiling stopped water from pooling in the roof and then collapsing. 

The saying it never rains but it pours sure was apt on Friday.

If I can get the photos I took off my phone I'll add them later - just don't hold your breath, I'm a little nervous about doing anything right now.

24 January 2021

Gathering the Fragments 24/01/2021

A beautiful week. That's how I want to remember last week.

The world is still upside down in turmoil, but our home has been happy and busy; we are all just going about our days just doing what needs doing. We are blessed to be able to do that.

This month we have five family birthdays! Good thing the card and present boxes are kept full.

The nursing home has asked for more cards. I have some done, and will work on more during the week and send a small parcel off. We're hoping to be able to visit in March, so I'll be able to take more then.

I saw on the news on Friday night a farmer feeding his apricot crop to sheep because he couldn't get pickers. I was almost in tears - I would have gladly gone and picked enough for us and paid him for them; I wish local councils and state governments would allow this so at least the fruit isn't wasted (not that feeding the sheep is a waste, but I get really upset when it is dumped in landfill or ploughed back into the ground). I love apricots and they have such a short season and are so expensive, even tinned, that I rarely buy them.

Most of our fruit trees are dwarf varieties in pots,  and they need to be well watered in the heat. Wayne set up a drip watering line for them (and me) so I don't need to worry or remember to run out and make sure they're not too dry. He put it through the whole veggie garden, all the beds, as well as all the pots. It has made a huge difference in time for me, and I know they are getting the right amount of water to stay healthy. At this time of year I feed the garden and pots weekly with either worm tea, compost tea or Seasol and they thrive. It will be interesting to see what, if any, difference it makes to the water bill.

The zucchini are producing prolifically. I've picked a handful every day this week, grated them and put them into the dehydrator. Right now it's all in a jar, when it's full I'll vacuum seal it. Then the grated zucchini will be ready to use in winter.

The tomatoes are slow to ripen, but I'm ready to make pasta sauce and bottle as many as I can. There will be more than enough for us to eat and preserve a good supply for later in the year.

The next flush of apples is almost ready on our tree, I'm watching carefully and taking note of where the flocks of birds are so I can beat them to the apples.

A friend gave me a huge bag of rhubarb, so it was all stewed. I had an epiphany when my hand was sore from chopping - try the slicer on the food processor - the whole lot was done in under a minute! Wish I'd thought of it years ago.

Downtime this week I sorted my box of yarn. I won't need to by cotton or wool for a while. Some things may be striped or odd colours, but I'm determined to use it all up before buying anything new.

Over the last two weeks my hands have been busy in downtime trimming face washers, crocheting scrunchies in school colours, trimming a hanging  kitchen towel and a tea towel and knitting some dish cloths, all made using what I had.





My chore for today is to cover the garden with shade, I use old op shop sheets, make up big salads and boil lots of eggs.  make up a bottle of iced coffee syrup and a couple of cordial and fill the ice cube trays; the heat is forecast to hit tomorrow and last until Tuesday. 40C in the city is about 45C here so cold food only.

03 January 2021

Keeping Fingers Busy

Keeping my fingers busy keeps me sane. Truly it does. Just sitting is horrible to me. The only time I just sit is when I am reading; any other time I may have a movie on or be talking to someone but my fingers are working on something.

Right now I'm busy crocheting. Since the 28th December I've been working on tea towels and hanging tea towels because they're portable projects. Of course I took my crochet away with me, lots of time in the car to work a tea towel or two and of course plenty of time around the camp fire to create.

Our camper needed some new tea towels, pot holders and hanging hand towels, so that's what I've been working on.
The tea towels I used were from my stash, bought on sale a while ago. The cotton I used to crochet the tops was a bargain, again from the stash, and bought from Arthur Dayley's, a discount store here in Melbourne, for $2.48 a ball. The middle of the pot holders is old bathmats (properly washed and dried in the sun - the best laundry sanitiser ever) that we no longer use.

It's relaxing to sit and crochet (or knit or cross-stitch or make cards or whatever) and listen to a pod cast or just put some music on in the background, or perhaps even a movie, but so many women, especially full-time homemakers, feel that they are slacking off when they do this.

They're not, you're not, I'm not. Keeping fingers busy is relaxing, but while I'm crocheting a tea towel or embroidering a set of hankies or knitting a rug or making cards I am also working on making something useful and pretty for our home, something that would otherwise have been bought, often at a much higher cost than what I can make it for.
This is a part of my homemaking duties. Don't go getting all uppity when I say that, it's just a term, we share the homemaking duties and responsibilities in our house; what you do in yours in up to you.

Summer is the perfect time to do these things. It's hot. It's sticky. And working outdoors is unpleasant. So work indoors. Keep your fingers busy adding to your present box or creating things you can sell (Wendy at My Abundant Life has a Facebook group for selling handmade crafts, Cottage Crafts for Sale  and I will be adding some of my items to the group very soon) to boost the family coffers, or make your home more comfortable. Just don't feel guilty when you sit to keep your fingers busy.

What I'm saying is don't think that you are wasting time when you sew a dress for your little girl or crochet trim on face washers for the bathroom (makes them last years longer) or whip up a pot holder from an old pillowcase. 
 
You're not. 
 
You are adding comfort and value to your home; you are working as a homemaker. You are not slacking off and if anyone dares to say so, gently and calmly point out what you are doing to improve your home and help your budget, that you are not being slack or lazy, but are working - gently and calmly, for the benefit of your family and home.

01 January 2021

Welcome 2021!


Welcome 2021.

If ever a year was wanted and welcomed, it is 2021. 

2020 is done and dusted. Packed away. Relegated to the history books. And there it can stay. It is a year I never want to repeat - thank goodness we can't go back in time.

So 2021 is here.  I plan on changing 2021 to be a great year for my family and our household.

A new year always makes me smile; it's a happy thing to look forward to. We can't change the past, but we can change our future; and this year that's exactly what I'm going to do - look forward and change our future.

I'm going to look forward to building the stockpile.

I'm going to look forward to learning more canning techniques so we can have more shelf stable food in the pantry.

I'm going to look forward to the Autumn, Winter and Spring gardens, planning what seeds to start and when to start them. 

I'm going to look forward to more crafting and creating.

I'm going to look forward to each day, whatever it may bring, knowing that I have the skills or can learn the skills to get through.

I'm going to look forward to keeping our home happy and calm, and my family cared for. 

I'm going to look forward to a new year, with new opportunities every day, to take advantage of those opportunities and waste nothing. 

Happy New Year everyone, may 2021 be blessed for us all.

09 December 2020

Happiness Homemade: Almost Free Marmalade

I've called this post almost free marmalade because it was almost free. 

The fruit is off our orange, lime and lemon trees, and they've well and truly been paid for with a few years of good crops. But I did have to use sugar from the pantry, 3 kilos all up, so the cost is $2.84 - not bad for all these lovely jars of marmalade to add to the pantry.

Marmalade is a favourite of mine on hot toast, but there are so many other uses for it too.

Use it in bread'n'butter puddings instead of jam - makes a humble pudding something spectacular.

Use it as a marinade for meat - just melt it with a very little water, perhaps a tablespoon per good dollop of marmalade, and brush over a roast for the most amazing flavour. It goes well with chicken, beef and ham.

Add a teaspoon to each muffin cup before baking for a surprise centre.

Make stuffed French toast with it and serve with a dollop of cream or ice-cream for a delicious, different dessert. Just make a marmalade sandwich, dip in egg wash and fry in a hot buttered pan like you do for regular french toast.

Mis it with pan jucies to make a falvourful gravy.

Give it away! Have you seen the price of homemade marmalade? If you can get a jar for under $8 you've found a bargain. 

I use the microwave marmalad recipe, from the Jam Recipe File on the Cheapskates Club website. It's quick, easy and a small enough batch to be able to do one or two at a time and not get overwhelmed.


Author: Cath Armstrong

Microwave Orange Marmalade

Ingredients:

  • 275g oranges
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 500g white sugar, warmed

Instructions:

  1. Cut the oranges into quarters, and remove pips. Put pips and lemon shells onto muslin square and tie with string to make a bag. Finely slice oranges and put in a 3-litre microwave safe bowl (or bigger if possible to prevent splashes) with the bag, lemon juice and 300 ml boiling water. Cover and soak for 1 hour. Add 200ml boiling water. Microwave on high for 20 minutes, stirring after 10, until peel is tender. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Microwave on high for 25 minutes until setting point is reached, stirring every 5 minutes. Be careful as the mixture can get very hot. Stand for 15 minutes, then stir and ladle into hot, sterilised jars and seal while still hot.


Don't Stop Stockpiling! Be Prepared!

I'm watching the people around me, especially now that the hard lockdown has been lifted here, and I am shaking my head in confusion.

People have become complacent. In just a couple of weeks, they’ve forgotten the need to build pantries and keep them stocked; to keep on learning and practicing self-reliance; to build their skills (homemaking, gardening, cleaning, cooking, sewing, knitting, crocheting, preserving, budgeting, even basic mechanical skills (can you check your radiator? Steering fluid? Change a tyre?) and home maintenance skills.

Don't be complacent. Don't stop watching the world around you. Don't stop building your pantries. 2020 is almost over, but the effects of this year will linger for a long, long time. Unemployment is still high; there are still food shortages (yes, there are - next time you're at the supermarket pay close attention to what is and isn't available).

I don’t know what the coming winter will hold, but if we are prepared, if we've been wise enough to build our pantries, then it won't matter. Lockdowns can happen, we'll be able to eat. We'll have the meds we need. We'll be able to keep our homes clean. The garden will be OK because we've prepared with extra seeds (great to use but also handy to barter).  Complacency wasn't our problem; we are preparers.

Take this summer season to build your pantry. To restock. To get ahead! Summer is the perfect time to do this. Fruit and vegetables are plentiful and cheap; you can often find them free if you keep your eyes open. Be prepared to barter - offer a jar or two of lemon butter for a bucket of lemons. Or a jar of pickles for a bag of zucchini and capsicums. Perhaps a jar of jam for a bowl of peaches or nectarines or plums. Watch markets for very cheap produce, then preserve it.

When you get 500g of fruit, turn it into a small batch of jam or marmalade. Or puree it and dehydrate it for a fruit leather. Preserving doesn't mean you need to have kilos and kilos of produce and spend hours and hours working in a hot kitchen.

I'll often do a small batch of jam while I'm cooking dinner. It takes about the same time.

When I get a tray or two of tomatoes or carrots or a couple of bunches of celery, I'll slice them and put them in the dehydrator.

Working in small batches is easier than trying to find a whole day to dedicate to jam making or dehydrating or canning. And preserving small batches stops waste too; you're less inclined to have the zucchini in the fridge go soft while you wait for the rest on the plant if you make a single batch of pickles to use them up.

But don't forget the things you need to buy too. Are there gaps in your pantry? Do you have enough yeast? If not, add it to your shopping list and buy it now. Put it in the freezer if you're worried you won't use it in the next few months. If your dried fruits are running low, now is the time to replenish them. Aldi still have 1 kilo packs of mixed dried fruit for $4.99 - this is a great price. I like to keep at least 12 packs on the shelf at a time. That's enough for me to make one fruit cake a month during the year. If I have the spare cash, I'll add more for puddings too.

What about tinned soups? I keep tomato and cream of chicken/celery/mushroom in the pantry. On my yearly shopping list I have 8 trays of tomato soup and 12 trays of chicken (they come in trays of 6). That's enough for a year.

This year, due to the weird shortages, lockdown, and a dozen other things thrown at us, I've been restocking as we use things from the pantry. I won't be doing a big yearly shop between Christmas and New Year. Oh, I'll still be stocking up, and filling the gaps, but my focus will be on getting things that we use that will run out fast in a crisis.

You may well be feeling normal, or almost normal. You might think that life is almost back to what it was like in January 2020. That's great. Just don't become complacent.


We have seen empty supermarket shelves. We've seen the limits on medical supplies and the restrictions on OTC and prescription meds (and in some areas these are still in place). We have seen the empty butcher stores, and paid the high prices for basic cuts of meat.

Right now, life in Australia is good. That doesn't mean it can't all change in the blink of an eye. Don't be scared, be prepared.

Take the opportunities that come your way to build your pantries, and secure your  food supply. Then you can be assured that if another lockdown happens, or some other emergency (sudden unemployment, illness, a flood or cyclone or whatever), you'll be able to feed your family and keep your home clean.

Whatever you do, don’t become complacent.

Be prepared!

06 December 2020

Gathering the Fragments 6/12/2020

Oh boy has this week been busy! But good busy. You know, the busy where you go, go, go and at the end of the day are exhausted, but can see lots of progress and many accomplishments.

Each day has started out early in the morning with watering. We had a few drizzles of rain, not enough to really water the garden properly. So, even though the mornings have been chilly, I've been out there as the sun is just peeing over the mountain, enjoying the cacophony of bird sounds, in the peace and stillness that is dawn. And the garden is thriving.

Lots of flowers on the tomatoes, teeny tiny zucchini that will need watching because they'll become giant zucchini in no time, flowers on the egg plants, little mandarins and oranges and even very cute little apples on the fruit trees. The beans have gone crazy and are climbing - I keep expecting Jack to appear to climb up them!

In the kitchen we have been doing a little each day to finish it off. I've been chipping away at tiles; Wayne has been painting and cutting cornice and sealing gaps. It is coming together beautifully.

The ovens have been well and truly tried and tested. Christmas cakes. Shortbread. Biscuits. MOO wedges. Pizza.

In quiet moments I've picked up my crocheting, adding trim to some tea towels, and making a couple of hanging hand towels in Christmas patterns. While I sit and do this, I put my ear buds in and listen to my favourite You Tube shows.

Milk bottles have been rinsed out over the tomatoes before getting squished and put into the recycle bin.

Presents have been wrapped. The Christmas stockings are out and I've been filling them, ready for Christmas Eve.

What couldn't I get this week? Baked beans! It seams the humble baked bean has gone AWOL. Well at least at the three Aldi stores I went to trying to find them. I may have been able to get them at Coles or Woolworths but 65 cents a can compared to over $2 a can for the brand name, well I can make them from scratch if we really want them.

I picked up a bowl of lemons from the side of the road. A neighbour had put them out, so I stopped and took some on my way out. On my way home they were still there so I figured you snooze, you lose, and stopped and picked up the rest. I'll take them down a jar of lemon butter as a thank you.

There is always something to do. Something to cook. Something to clean. Something to plant or weed or water. Something to sew or knit or crochet or yes, even mend, life as I gather the fragments and add them to our home is never boring.

29 November 2020

Gathering the Fragments 29/11/2020

Life has been busy.

The kitchen has gone in. We are still putting the finishing touches on it - the new cornice, the tiling, deciding where everything will go. As we're being real Cheapskaters and reusing the existing tile, I've been chipping away at what was removed for the new cabinets, a little each day. It's almost impossible to match what we have (c'mon, they're 35 years old and even though they've aged well and are back in style, new tiles really do stick out). Little by little I'm getting there. We only need 33 to do the job, so it's gloves on and chiselly thing chipping away to clean up the old tiles so they can be reused. Doing a little each day, around the other things we need to do, is getting it done.

This week the fridge had lots of bits: some corn kernels, a couple of boiled eggs, a bit of potato salad, half a cucumber, one lonely barbecued sausage, that needed to be used up. These became my lunch for two days, and it was delicious.

For the first time in months we were able to meet face-to-face for our card making day. It was a beautiful day! And productive! Using what I had, by the end of the day there were 12 cards to add to the box for the nursing home. Fragments of paper and cardstock were used up to make the cards.

Each time a milk bottle was emptied, it was filled with water and poured over the tomato plants in the garden. Not only were they watered, but the little bit of calcium in the rinse water is good for them, it helps stop blossom end rot. It cost nothing and only took a minute to do, saving having to buy a specific fertiliser.

I was hoping to get some bread crusts to make crumbs, but it seems they're a popular snack this week. Oh well, maybe next week.

Priceline had an online sale over the weekend, so I took advantage and saved 50% on my make-up, Wayne's shaving gel that he especially likes, some toiletries for stocking stuffers and my moisturiser (when it's half price it's cheaper than the Aldi alternative and as Aldi doesn't do sales, I stock up). And to make it even better, I put it through Hannah's order, received another 10% off and free delivery! That's the bathroom stocked for the next twelve months.

 We really want it finished this weekend coming.

Another fragment that was gathered this week - jars! Lots and lots of lovely jars of all sizes and shapes, courtesy of my friend Joy. Now I have plenty for the summer pickles/relishes/jams/mustards and for the Christmas hampers.

15 November 2020

Gathering the Fragments 15/11/2020

I've just realised I skipped 6 weeks of blog posts.

I've been busy folks, and even the hour it takes to put a blog post together and get it uploaded has been an hour I haven't really had to spare.

But just because I don't post, doesn't mean I have stopped living the Cheapskates way. I've been busy gathering the fragments and building our pantry, creating a bigger veggie garden to feed us longer and for less, and gathering the fragments.

What did I gather this past week (I can't remember back for six weeks, after a while this lifestyle becomes habit and just happens)?

Silverbeet from the garden, to dehydrate.

A single serve of spag bol sauce to add to a tin of tomato soup to make tortellini for dinner. The tortellini was a half price mark down from the freezer. Wayne likes tortellini and ravioli as a change, and it was a quick and easy use it up meal.

Scraps of cardstock to make bookmarks.

The hard end of cheese that was grated into a white sauce to make cheese sauce. Don't throw the hard ends out, even if they look ugly and dried out and yellow - they are still good to use in cooking. I keep them in the freezer ready to grate into a sauce.

A jar of Decaf that was looking a little sad became the base of a bottle of Iced Coffee Syrup. Delicious and with the weather warming up, its nice to have a cold coffee in the afternoons.

Parsley that was starting to go to seed has been harvested and is hanging in the sunny kitchen window to dry.

Lavender from the garden is hanging in bunches to dry. The lavender was gorgeous this year, the first year it has really bloomed since it was planted. These are lavender plants I grew from strikes I took from my mother-in-laws garden three years ago and planted out. This year has been good for them, they have tripled in size and just looking at the side garden makes me smile.

It's been so long since I bought petrol or did a big grocery shop that I didn't have a discount voucher, but petrol was down to 112.9c, the cheapest it's been around here I think this year, so I filled all three cars (mine, Wayne's and Hannah's) up over a couple of days.  Not so much gathering the fragments as saving around $18 on my car alone, so well worth the effort.

All this adds up. Don't ever think that that one thing you do really isn't worth the effort. Saving lavender from the garden for instance means I don't need to buy it to use in the house. Picking parsley from the garden when it's plentiful and drying it (I just hang it in bunches in a sunny window) means I don't need to buy it. Taking five minutes to make a batch of washing powder and then another five minutes to make a batch of Miracle Spray saves over $100 a year! For 10 minutes of my time!

When you add up all the little savings you make each day, then each week, then each month, at the end of the year you have kept a lot of money in your bank account.

If you're not convinced, keep a record of the fragments you gather and how much money they keep in your bank account, and see just how valuable those little savings really are.

20 September 2020

Gathering Up The Fragments 20 September 2020

I've been saving the empty toilet rolls, filling them with seed raising mix and planting seeds in them. One of the things that keeps our garden going for months is succession planting, so having seedlings ready to plant regularly throughout spring and summer means we don’t have blank spots. Raising seeds in paper pots,  they can go straight into the garden when they're ready. This stops any shock to the tiny plants, and I think they grow faster and stronger without having their roots disturbed.

There were some almost empty bottles of shampoo in the kids' bathroom, so they were upended and drained into one bottle. Yes, it will be a Heinz variety shampoo  so if they won't use it on their hair, it will be handy in the laundry for treating stains.

Bread bags were saved to use as rubbish bags.

The boys finished a box of cereal so the liner was carefully opened up, washed, dried and put in the drawer to use freezer film.

Two small parcels were delivered, in very sturdy boxes. Normally boxes are cut down and put in the recycle bin, but these are strong so I've kept them to post the nursing home and CWA cards. They won't be damaged in these boxes, and with the "if it fits, it posts" policy for the prepaid post satchels, it won't cost any extra to post them either. Until the borders open and lock downs are lifted posting is the only way I can get the cards delivered.

I think that's about it for last week. Being conscious of how much and what and when and where things are being used is making a huge difference to the "bits" that are left. With a little more planning, in time maybe there won't be any fragments left to gather, and no money wasted!

A really good thing is happening since I started this gathering and using up of the fragments in our household - there are fewer fragments!

I'm thinking this is because I am really conscious of quantity. Of how much I prepare for each meal, of the amount of preserved food I open to use in a recipe, of making sure to use just what I need for a project so there are no leftovers or scraps.

This past week I used a little leftover sour cream in the mashed potatoes instead of milk and butter. They were so good Wayne commented on how nice they were. I'll remember to do that more often when we have sour cream.

I made a stack of greeting cards using just scraps. Really - just strips of paper and cardstock no more than 6mm wide, arranged on some cards. I think they look nice and bright.
 


16 September 2020

A 2020 Christmas - Same, Same but Different

Not to put to fine a point on it, but if you aren't already preparing for Christmas, and you expect it to be the same, you're in for a big disappointment.

This is 2020 - the year of chaos. We've had bush fires that devastated a huge portion of our country, then came the rain and the floods; a pandemic that's caused huge unemployment; lockdowns that have kept us in our homes; stock shortages; food shortages. Our world and our lives have been turned upside down and inside out.

So this Christmas won't be the same. It will be a little different. But guess what? Every Christmas is different, even if it's the same. 

Our families change. Kids grow up. We welcome new family members. Our tastes change. So while things are the same, they are different.

This year is no exception. 

But with all the talk of shortages - and not just from me but from the boss of Woolworths and the Farmer's Federation and even our PM - if you want Christmas to be the same but different, you need to start now. 

Start making your shopping list. Start buying the shelf-stable foods you need, or the foods that will freeze. Get them when you see them because there's no guarantee that they'll be available in December.

If you are stuck in lockdown, you'll need to shop creatively. Try online. But look to your local community too. There are lots of wonderful small businesses within 5km of most Melbournians, and most Australians. Look in obscure places for gifts. Try newsagents and pharmacies. Look in the local florist and see what gift ideas they have. Even your local supermarket will have some gift ideas.

Think about making your gifts. 

Jams, relishes, pickles, caramelised onions, preserved lemons, MOO vanilla extract, MOO mustard are all easy to make, and can be made in bulk. They don't cost a lot to make, they don't need any special equipment but they are always well received and will save you a fortune. Have you checked the prices of gourmet jams lately?

Then there are spice mixes. Taco seasoning, Greek lamb rubs, spice mixes can all be made and jarred very cheaply.

If you have oranges, lemons or limes (or all three) you can make and bottle cordials. 

Popcorn - plain, flavoured or caramel corn. Or go really Aussie and make a big batch of Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs. Package in cellophane bags for a fun gift or stocking stuffer. 

If you knit you're limited only by your imagination. Dish cloths, fingerless gloves, knee rugs, beanies (yes I know it's summer but winter will be here before you know it). 

Crocheted items make lovely gifts too. I've been working on doyleys and coasters and table runners. Crochet the trim for tea towels, hand towels, face washers, pillow slips or even a t-shirt. 




 Sewing gives you so many options. This year jar openers are in the present box, along with pot holders, hot pads, aprons and tea towels. Pillowslip dresses are easy to make and so cute on little girls. A Christmas pillowslip could become a Christmas Day dress. Then there are bags, purses, backpacks, pouches and pencil cases. Again, you're limited only by your imagination.

Don't put it off, thinking you have plenty of time. The time may be there, but the items you need may ot be. 

We usually start our Christmas countdown in October, and we will be doing it again, with the aim to be completely finished with Christmas preparations by 30th November.