05 June 2021

The Day Disaster Struck

I was a happily married mum to two gorgeous little boys. We lived a comfortable existence. I worked part-time and we were renovating our home, slowly, as we could afford to.

We lived a very good life, going on holiday and weekend trips six or seven times a year.  Everything we bought, we bought new. We ate well, our fridge and freezer were always full, as was our bin each week when I plonked the contents of the fridge into it.  We drove a nice car. Our boys had toys, so many toys we could have opened a toy shop. And we had expensive hobbies (mine is creative tapestry, Wayne's is model trains).

Thankfully we didn't have a lot of debt apart from our home loan.

Because one Thursday my part-time job ended unexpectedly. It was a little upsetting, but after we talked about it that night we decided we could manage on one wage for a little while, at least until the boys were both in school.

And then the next day Wayne lost his job. Out of the blue, he was jobless for the first time in his life.  Oh my goodness, was I upset . I was so upset I made myself sick, and spent all weekend in bed. On Monday morning my very caring husband dragged me off to the doctor.

Turns out I was sick for a reason, and it wasn't unemployment. Baby number three was on her way!

So we had one mortgage, two toddlers and a baby on the way. We also had a half a house. We had started renovating two weeks before Disaster Struck.

I wish I could say that I mustered my resources and became an instant Cheapskate. Instead, I went into denial and shock for about six months.  It took that long for me to figure out that I didn't want to change our lifestyle, I really liked the way we lived.

To say we were stressed is an understatement. It took me those six long months to get my act together and realise that we could sink and lose everything we had worked for or we could change our attitude and our habits and get through what I thought would be a temporary hiccup. As it turns out that was one long hiccup - three years and 9 months in fact.

We survived, and from that disaster we grew stronger and much, much wiser and learned some valuable life lessons too.
We learned that we didn't need to have new clothes for every special (or not so special) occasion we went to.
We learned that little children really do have more fun with the packaging than the contents.
We learned that new babies will come when they are ready, whether you are ready for them or not. And that they don't need freshly decorated nurseries, lots of brand new baby clothes or new bassinets, bouncers, strollers, prams, baths or any other baby accessory that is fashionable.

We learned to shop for the things we needed and wanted on a very tight budget.

We learned to appreciate the things we had: books, videos, games, our own backyard and our own dining room.

We learned that being the first in our peer group to have home birthday parties started a trend - and saved money.

We learned that camping on the banks of Blowering Dam for free was the best family holiday we'd ever had and repeated it over and over until we moved away.

We learned that eating meals cooked from scratch was so much nicer than eating pre-prepared meals. And I learned to really cook, from scratch, with ingredients, not products.

We learned that little boys had as much fun riding their bikes around the block with their Daddy as they did at the play centre - and Daddy had more!
We learned that we could still wear stylish clothes, have holidays, give gifts and entertain - we just did it differently.

And we learned not to panic. Continuing to pay bills on time, being honest with our mortgage lender and sticking to a very tight budget (we had less $340 a week coming in) kept food on the table and a roof over our heads.

The day I realised saving my family was up to me was the day I vowed we would never, ever be in that position again.

From that day on we took control of our money, we stopped it controlling us.

We took a long hard look at our lifestyle and the way we were living and made some changes. We were stunned at just how much some of the things we thought essential were actually costing us - and just how unessential they really were. We cut right back and no one noticed!

In fact I had mums at playgroup asking me what we were doing. They knew we were both out of work, but they couldn't see the changes in our lifestyle. To all intents and purposes it hadn't changed at all. We still did most of the things we'd always done.  

There was a change though, and it was so simple: we ditched the things that weren't important to us so we would have the money to enjoy the things that are.

We became Cheapskates and we started living the Cheapskates way.

Twenty-three years on we are still Cheapskates and we still live the Cheapskates way.

We still live on a tight budget. We still account for every cent we spend. I still cook from scratch, grow as much of our food as I can, preserve the excess, make some of our clothes, buy in bulk, shop the markdowns first, save regularly, never knock back a freebie and the list goes on and on.

Our life is better than ever, better, I am sure, than it would have been if disaster hadn't struck.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

30 May 2021

Gathering the Fragments 30 May 2021

Well here we are in lock down again.

I'm frustrated and upset, mainly because we are due to go on our trip to Tasmania in a few weeks and it's looking like this won't happen - again!

Anyway, there's no point in sooking or whining, or even feeling sorry for myself, apart from this, it has been a great week.

We had a little rain. Not enough to really break the drought, but enough to water the garden for a couple of days. I love saving water!

When it was announced that we might be going into lockdown again, I did a quick inventory to see what we needed - milk. So I quickly donned a mask and bought fresh milk. We're right for everything else, a benefit of keeping the pantry full.

I made focaccia for lunches. I used a half a red onion that was in the fridge, a couple of tomatoes that needed using, a couple of cloves of garlic from the garden and rosemary from the garden. It was delicious.

The weather cooled down towards the end of the week, so a big pot of soup was made. I used a soup pack from the freezer. These are so handy to have. I buy a bunch of celery, a bag of carrots, a couple of parsnips, pick a couple of turnips from the garden and two or three, depending on size, onions. Chop them all up and bag in 3 cup portions for soups. Sometimes I'll leave them in chunks, for meat soups; sometimes I chop them up smaller for chicken or vegetable soup. But being able to just pull one from the freezer on a whim, along with some stock, and make soup in a few minutes is such a blessing on a busy day. And homemade soup with homemade English muffins is quick, cheap and easy for unexpected visitors too.

I challenged everyone over on Cheapskates Chatter to keep busy during lockdown. My plan was to make cards, so that's what I did. The nursing home is asking for some and it's time to replenish the CWA stocks too. 

I also finished off some dishcloths.

We kept the fire going, even on the warm days, to keep the house warm. When we do this we don't need to use the ducted heating at all, and that's a huge cost saving on gas.

I noticed the price of petrol was coming down. Well of course it is, no one can go anywhere! My car was just under 3/4 full so I hunted down a discount voucher and went and filled it up. The price difference was 30c a litre, a saving of $4.50 that I moved to our holiday fund.

With everyone back working at home, they were looking for something more substantial for breakfasts. English muffins are easy to make (and they freeze), so are hot cakes (and they freeze). There was some sausage mince in the freezer so I used Gardenpat's recipe for breakfast sausage seasoning to make patties and made sausage and cheese muffins; then I fried some eggs (no oil - I love my new frypan) and made egg and cheese muffins; made a double batch of Mum's Secret Hot Cakes. I wrapped them in meal sizes and put them in the freezer. Then the kids just nuked whatever they wanted for breakfast. They feel like they're getting something special and it's so much cheaper than them ordering, which they had talked about doing! Bless their little cotton socks, that would cost them about $50 a week each - a ridiculous amount of money.

Lunches were toasted sandwiches. They made their own, they all have different lunchtimes. Easy.

I've been craving coffee and trying really hard to not drink too much so I made a decaf batch of Joy's Iced Coffee Syrup and I've been adding it to milk and heating it in the microwave - yum!

Drying the washing by the fire.

Saving the shower warm-up water.

Only doing full loads of laundry and dishes.

Writing any leftovers on the whiteboard so they are used up.

Fed egg shells and veggie peels to the worms.

Added some bones and meat scraps to the bokashi bucket.

Made sure to close the blinds and curtains by 4.45pm to keep the warm in and the cold out, and pushed the draught stoppers against the outside doors.

Made sure to just use a lamp in the loungeroom if the TV was on. That's plenty of light to knit by and my Kindle and Wayne's tablet give off enough light to read.

Gratefully accepted some brand new collapsible canisters from my Aunty. These will be great in the camper for flour, sugar, rice, cereal etc. and when they're empty they'll collapse down so they won't take up a lot of space.

Goodness, I need to jot things down as I do them. I'm sure there's more, but I can't think off the top of my head.

How did you gather the fragments this week?

28 May 2021

Make a Dusting Spray

Friday is cleaning day in my schedule - or one of them. You can find my housekeeping routines here.

Today I need to polish the furniture. It's usually done once a month, and that keeps it in good condition, but this month has flown by and with everything we've had going on, polishing the timber furniture just slipped off the to-do list and it will be June before I know it.

Our timber furniture is a mix of new, old, and antique, and it all takes a bit of work to care for it. I use this spray. It's a MOO, from way back in March 2018 MOO Month, and I've used it ever since. It is amazing!

I wipe the furniture over with a barely damp cloth, then I spray directly onto a clean polishing rag and wipe it all over the furniture. Spraying onto the rag makes it easier to get into the nooks and crannies and corners and carving on the furniture.

Then I let it sit for about 5 minutes, grab another soft cloth and polish until it gleams. It sounds like hard work, but it's not. If it was hard work I wouldn't be doing it!

It's really easy to make, and you will have all the ingredients in your cupboards so no need to buy anything.

I use a recycled spray bottle.
Pour in about 1 cup water.
Add 1/4 cup white vinegar and 2 teaspoons olive oil and up to 20 drops of lemon or lavender or orange essential oil.
Put the lid on and shake, shake, shake to mix the vinegar, olive oil and essential oil.  Do this before you add any water and you'll have less chance of separation. Once you add water, give it another good shake and shake it up before you use it.

You can spray this directly onto timber furniture, or onto the polishing rag - whichever suits you best.

Buff it off with a clean, soft cloth and your furniture will gleam.

This is a great in-between polish, I give all the timber furniture a proper oil polish just once a year.  I followed this program and it works:

Step 1. Polish your wooden furniture every day for a week.
Step 2. Polish your wooden furniture every week for one month.
Step 3. Polish your wooden furniture every month for one year.
Step 4. Polish your wooden furniture once a year.

In-between I use the dusting spray once a month. Our furniture isn't flash or fancy. It is what we like - solid and comfortable and well a lot of it is old. But it looks nice (well we like it!), because we take care of it.

This system will revitalise wooden furniture, and rejuvenate and protect it. Yes, it takes a while to get through but it will be worth the effort. Your furniture will always look great and stay in good condition and really - once a year isn't that hard to do is it?

24 May 2021

Gathering the Fragments 23 May 2021

What we did to save money, time and energy last week, and to use up what we have:

Went to card day and came home having learned a new card layout, and with a big tub of margarine (thank you Maureen and Joy).

Cooked corned beef from the freezer and used the leftovers to make Corned Beef Pie. It was a small piece, so not enough left for another meal of corned beef, putting it into a pie stretched it to another dinner and two lunch serves.

Cooked fish cakes to use up the soft potatoes in the pantry. One large tin of tuna, a large onion, a good pinch of herbs and an egg combined with six mashed potatoes made 15 large fish cakes.  Total cost: $4.70 To buy the same would have cost $42.00 from a local deli!

Made a big pot of chicken soup using up veggies from the fridge, MOO chicken stock and a half a small chicken fillet. This was lunches for four days, with toast.

Made choc coated peanut butter fat bombs and brownies for afternoon teas.

A yarn order arrived so I've been restocking the basket in the kitchen and the shop with dish cloths.

Used an app to find the cheapest fuel in our area. I used to top up once the needle hit the half-way mark, these days I'm topping up when it drops under 3/4 tank. Now that may seem like I'm always at the servo, but I don't drive very far or a lot, so it can take a few weeks for me to use that quarter of a tank of petrol.

Made a batch of Lunchbox Cookies using margarine a friend gave me and MOO condensed milk. That brought the cost for the whole batch down to $3.05 for the batch. I baked half the dough and froze the other half for later.

Made vegetable soup using up carrots, zucchini, pumpkin, potatoes, onions, spring onion, celery and beans from the crisper and a jar of tomatoes. I didn't have any stock in the freezer so I added two good tablespoons of Vegeta stock powder. It was delicious, and even though the days were a little warmer this week, it was still cool enough for soup for lunch.

Hannah and I shared a take-away meal on Thursday night. The boys were having pizza, and we don't like pizza, so we always have something they don't like. This week I was tired and achy and frazzled so we ordered a pasta dish from a local pizza shop and she went and picked it up. The serves are enormous, we both ate our fill and there was enough left for her lunch on Friday. So $14.95 made three meals. $5 for a take-away meal isn't too bad and it was a treat (and really, really nice pumpkin gnocchi).

A friend shared the instructions to make pot protectors, so I've been crocheting a set for Hannah, and a set for me. I'm going to use them in my Pyrex bowls and to separate my good serving bowls so they don't scratch or stick (as glass and Pyrex does occasionally when it is stacked).

We still caught shower warm up water.

We still ran the dishwasher only when it was full.

Laundry was done when the washing machine was full.

Washing was dried inside by the fire.

We kept the fire lit and the ducted heating off.

On sunny days I made sure the blinds were wide open to warm up the house, and closed them around 4pm when it started to get cool.

All our meals except for Thursday were made from scratch, using our food storage. All our breakfasts (pancakes, oats, muesli, McMums), all our lunches (toasted sandwiches, soup, ruebens, eggs on toast) and 6 of our 7 dinners. I kept a thermos of boiling water next to the kettle for tea and used iced coffee syrup to make coffee in the afternoon.

Lastly, I had a brilliant idea on Thursday, of course all my ideas are brilliant! I suddenly realised it was almost the end of May and for whatever reason I started to panic that the present box was empty. Off I went and dragged it out of our wardrobe and tipped it out onto the floor. It wasn't empty! Little piles of things started to appear. You know, like with like. Dishcloths, tea towels, hand towels, soaps, pot holders, jar openers, pens and notebooks, socks, hankies and all sorts of things. The piles had me thinking I needed to streamline my gift book so I could see at a glance (a shorter glance than I had been using) what I had for who for which occasion.  So I'll fess up and say that was a tad more complicated than I thought, or rather, than it needed to be. But I'll soldier on. And in the meantime I'll keep adding to the present box, and Christmas, birthdays and the expected new babies will be well and truly covered for the next year at least.

19 May 2021

Gathering the Fragments Catch Up

It's been a while since I posted here. Not that nothing has happened, but life gets busy and I have other commitments that absorb all, or most all, of my time.

But that doesn't mean I stop Cheapskating. It's when life gets crazy hectic and frantic that I need to stay focused and on track. It is so easy to "just this once" order takeaway for dinner or zip through a drive-through or buy new jeans instead of mending the ones I already have, I'm sure you get the idea.

It's times of crisis that I tend to become even stricter with our spending.

So since I last posted we've had a few trips to Sydney for family. Sadly, Wayne's mother passed away in March. Thankfully we were able to get to see her just a few days before she went to sleep.

Wayne and I finally managed to get a few days away. The only cost for this trip was the petrol, and it's a part of budget. Food came from home, and we free camped in our camper. We did spend a little in Bright for coffees and I had some fun in the op shops in Bright and Myrtleford, but that money came from our mad money, not our household budget.

The summer garden is finished. The last of the capsicums and eggplant are about ready to harvest. Tomatoes didn't do too well this year, but the beans were amazing and so plentiful there were more than enough to dry for seed next spring. 

The orange tree is loaded with fruit and it is starting to turn orange. Marmalade on toast is one of my loves, I can't wait to make more (last year's batch is gone already).

Looking to the future I've been hunting for canning jars, lids and rings. When I see them in op shops or on market place I snap them up. A home preserver can never have too many jars, lids or rings! I found lids and rings at Spotlight, a brand I'm not familiar with so I only bought one box to try. That may have been a mistake, when I go back there may not be any left. It's a risk but better than being stuck with things I can't use.

Hannah has bought a house, so we've been hunting for furniture. We have had fun shopping for furniture and all the other things she will need. Her best find so far has been an almost new Dyson upright vacuum cleaner for $50, and two tallboys and two sets of bedside tables, brand new, for $100.

The preserves shelf is full of jams. I've made raspberry, blackberry, mixed berry and strawberry with either homegrown berries or frozen bought on sale. I've sold 7 jars, that money went into the slush fund. There were enough zucchini to make a double batch of zucchini pickle, so 11 x 500g jars are now on the shelf.

I've dehydrated celery and zucchini, and peas/corn/carrots mix and carrots.

I've been restocking the pantry as things are used, instead of waiting for my yearly shop. I feel the need to keep the pantry stocked, so as we use something it is replaced. If I find something we use on sale, I buy as many as I can. 2020 was a hard year; I believe that 2021 and the years onwards are going to be harder and I like to be prepared.

I found the cotton yarn I use for the dishcloths online. Even buying from overseas, and the exchange rate and paying for delivery, it was $106AUD cheaper than buying it here, without delivery. Sadly, in this instance the cheaper option won.

A local discount store had lots of lovely colours of 4ply crochet cotton for $2, so I used some of the leftover craft budget from last year and stocked up. This is the cotton I use on tea towels, face washers, hand towels to trim them and $2 is a bargain - about a 75% saving over buying it from a wool shop.

Op shopping has been fruitful too. A Corningware baking dish for $3. A bunch of original Moccona jars and doyleys for $11. Large Tupperware lettuce container for $2. A crochet table topper for $3.

For the house I used cushion covers I had in the cupboard to make new seat covers for the kitchen chairs. There was some fabric leftover so I made a couple of new pot holders. Waste not, want not. I bought the cushion covers for $4 a while back, so I think that's a pretty budget friendly reupholstering project.

I've been making bread rolls for lunches. Cheaper than buying them and making them fresh each day keeps everyone happy. This is an old recipe, and uses mashed potato, but the rolls are so light and fluffy and delicious - no complaints about heavy bread with this recipe.

Made a loaf of raisin bread. Wayne likes raisin bread for a snack but a loaf is rather expensive from the bakery. I add extra spices and use mixed dried fruit and a diced apple (when we have apples - they're too expensive at the moment).

Zested and juiced 3kg limes from a neighbour. We like lime juice and zest in the rice for burritos and I use it to make lime butter (same as lemon butter to my taste, just a little paler in colour).

Found some card bases I use for the nursing home cards so we cleared the shelf. They have been out of stock for months and I was down to the last packet, so I'm very happy we could get more. Two packets for a friend and six for the nursing home.

We still catch the shower warm up water.

We still wait till the dishwasher is full before running it.

We still wait till there is a full load of laundry.

We still line dry or use the clotheshorses.

We still prefer to use the slow combustion fire for heating rather than run the ducted heating. Why not use the heat source that is paid for rather than have to pay again?

We still cook from scratch for most meals.

I have been craving roast lamb. Lamb legs are so expensive, way out of our budget, but I splurged for Mother's Day and bought one. It was hard - $44! At least we'll get a few meals from it. We'll get two roast dinners from it, either a shepherd's pie or sweet lamb curry (or both) and soup.

Our local Coles has a clearance section in the dairy cabinet and we always check it. We picked up three chubs of salami and 11 packets of bacon for $1 each - and all have plenty of time before they're out of date. The boys will use the salami on their pizzas, and most of the bacon has gone into the freezer for Muffin Surprise or quiche or pies.

I have started more lavender strikes. Some will be for the garden, some will be to sell in the spring. Lavender plants are around $8 each from the nursery so I'm keeping a lot of money in the garden budget and potentially making some too.

We still wait for cheap petrol day to fill up. Right now I'm keeping all the cars full, not letting them get under 3/4 full unless petrol is ridiculously expensive - I noticed yesterday it has gone up again to $159.9/litre here - ouch! Using the app I was able to find ULP for $129.9, so I filled my car.

I gave in and coloured my hair! I know, it took years to grow out, but I think the last 15 months muddled my brain and I went nuts one day and coloured my hair. Mind you the colour was $1 on the throw out trolley at Coles, so it was a bargain (of sorts!).

I have been wanting more mesh sheets for the dehydrator, but the mesh has been out of stock or too expensive. Last week I finally gave in and looked it up - Spotlight had them and a 30% off sale so off I went. So glad I did - yes, they had the sheets I originally saw, but they also had other sheets, same size mesh but 2-1/2 times the size on clearance for 50 cents each. You can bet I cleared the shelf. When I went to pay for them the lovely lady told me that as they were on clearance they were half marked price so my 10 sheets of mesh cost $2.50. Now there is plenty for the dehydrators and for the craft drawers.

Wow, when I look at the list, it's quite a bit. How have you been gathering the fragments to save money, time and energy?

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


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


  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!