31 January 2008

I had a tear in my eye as I waved them off...

After eight glorious weeks of holiday school went back today. I had a tear in my eye as I waved the kids off this morning, they never even looked back!

It is Hannah's first day of high school and it was a most definite NO when I suggested I help her carry her backpack and the extra bag to her locker. Miss Independent didn't realise it was for my benefit and not hers. That I needed to hang on to my baby for just a few minutes longer because I know that when I pick her up at 3.20pm today she will have grown a little more and need her mum a little less. Don't worry, I was just as soppy when the boys started high school too.

I was amazed to see just how much all three had grown over the summer. Poor Thomas put on his school pants and I just burst out laughing. My tall, skinny boy was about 15cm taller than he was in December! He looked so comical with his lovely grey wool three-quarter pants. He didn't see the funny side at all. Thankfully there was enough of a hem to let them down. Did you know you can iron out a hem mark if you use an pressing cloth and white vinegar? Dampen the pressing cloth with the vinegar and then iron it dry over the hem mark. The crease should disappear like magic.

Left to my own devices for the day I'm going to finish off the February Journal and get it uploaded and then I'm going to look into specific savings accounts. Number One son is saving madly for a car and all related costs for when he turns 18. I've found a Bankwest account that pays 8% interest and yet still gives him access to his money if he needs it as long as deposits are between $50 and $500 a month. At the end of they year they transfer the balance to a nominated account. Sounds a bit like a Christmas club type of thing, only the year starts from when you open the account. At the moment this is my pick, for ease of setting up, use and a reasonable interest rate.

Mum has given me more zucchini too. There's only so many zucchini slices, pies, quiche and breads my lot will eat so it looks like pickles it will be for this lot. I like zucchini pickles, they are quick to make and have a nice tang to them. And with only a couple of ingredients they are very economical too.

That lot should keep me busy and out of mischief for the day.

21 January 2008

I make no apologies

Yes Marion B., I do feed my kids gelatine sometimes. And yes, I do know what it's made from. I also sometimes feed them white rice, chocolate cake, saturated fats and if they are really sick and need them, antibiotics!

What I don’t feed them is artificial colourings, preservatives that have been banned in other countries because they are known carcinogens, or greasy, salt and fat laden convenience meals and takeaway foods and a myriad of other things that are not good for them.

Gelatine is found in a variety of foods, from yoghurts, sour cream, some cream cheeses, marshmallows, jelly/jube type lollies through to tinned meats and soups, even sausages. While I try very hard to stick to a grocery budget, I don't compromise on the quality of the food that I serve to my family. If it's at all possible to make it myself I do. I am fussy about what my kids eat.

If you are wondering if there is a substitute for gelatine, yes there is. Agar Agar is derived from seaweed and you can get it from a health food shop. I use Agar too, depending on what I'm making.

So Marion B, I make no apologies for the occasional use of 3 teaspoons of gelatine in a dish that they absolutely love. There are many worse things I could be feeding them!

16 January 2008

Homemade deli delicacies

There's a forum thread going at the moment about cheap deli meats and it made me stop and think about what I buy from the deli. Not much really: olives, feta, occasionally cocktail franks but not much else really because I can make most of our deli desires. Yes, I know it's unbelievable but I can and do and for the most part it doesn't take any longer than it does to take a number and stand in the crowd!
Most of you know that I had to learn to cook when Disaster Struck. I could cook a steak or sausages and veg of course but I wasn't a great cake, jam, pickle, pastry type of cook. I had to learn how to make these things and believe me I was blown away when I realised just how easy it was to put a piece of corned beef in the crockpot for a few hours and have sliced silverside for sandwiches for less than half the price of the deli silverside. Ditto with roast beef.
I buy a piece of beef or a largish chicken and roast it and then slice it with the electric knife once it's cold and use this for lunches, ditto with corned beef, especially if I can get it on sale.
You can smoke your own fish and chicken too and save a fortune on what you pay at the deli. It's another one of those things that is so easy I don't know why I haven't always been doing it.
You can make your own seasoned chicken loaf for about half the price/kg of the bought one and it's so much nicer and you know you've used real chicken in it. For ham lovers buy a leg or half leg and slice it yourself. Even taking into account the weight of the bone you are still paying about half the price of the pre-sliced or shaved stuff you can buy.
Make a brawn with your leftover meats and you can have it with salads or on sandwiches. It's another old fashioned meat but it's really easy to make. Trust me, homemade brawn is so much nicer than the stuff you buy from the deli, there really is no comparison.
The thing I've found with preparing these foods myself is that it doesn't take a long time and you don’t need to be a gourmet genius and it doesn't cost a fortune. I think that the last 40 years or so homemakers have been brainwashed into believing that cooking, baking and preserving are really hard and time consuming and require extra special skills and that it is easier and better for them to just buy what they need ready made. It's not.
If I can do it anyone can. I'll add the recipes and instructions to the Recipe File so you can try them out. I bet you'll be a convert too.
And as soon as I perfect homemade cocktail franks I'll let you know. That will be one less thing I will be buying from the deli and one more thing I can cross off my shopping list.

14 January 2008

The week that was

I can't believe it's been over a week since I last posted. This week I've done two magazine interviews, one newspaper interview and two radio interviews! As well as tried to keep up with emails (I'm sorry if you're still waiting for a reply, I will get to you) and keeping the website working and keep my gorgeous family at least fed and with clean clothes.

If there is one thing I love doing it's talking abut the Cheapskates way of life. As a result of all the publicity the Cheapskates Club has lots and lots of new members (welcome everyone, I'll be in touch soon), proving our point: Australians are becoming more and more aware of the need to save money, time and energy to have a life and they are finding the benefits of living the Cheapskates way really does pay off. I'll shout it from the rooftops (or talk to more journalists) as long as the message gets out: you can be debt free, cashed up and laughing if you live the Cheapskates way!

Last week was quite busy and if I'd only stuck to the plan on Friday I would still have my beautiful Bendigo Pottery teapot! I reached into the cupboard Friday night to get the food cover out and because I was in a hurry I just gave it a gentle tug. Ok, well it wasn't quite a gently tug, I was in a hurry, and as it came tumbling out of the cupboard it pulled my beautiful teapot with it. Smashing, spout end down, onto the floor. I just stood there and stared at it. Wayne has it on his desk hopefully to glue it back together again. At least it will look nice with flowers in it, even if I can't use it.

If only I had stuck to the menu plan then I wouldn't have been in a hurry to grab the food cover and it would never have pulled the teapot out of the cupboard. I changed the menu plan because I just couldn't be bothered making fritters, peeling vegetables and then making a gravy. I wouldn't have been in a hurry if I had started to prepare dinner as soon as I changed the menu, instead of 20 minutes after dinner should have been on the table. The burgers were nice but I'm not sure they were worth my beautiful teapot.

Remember last week I told you about the laundry disaster? Well that leak under the laundry sink spread further than I originally thought.

I had two boxes of Duo under the sink, at the back under a roll of plastic bags. They were there for emergencies or when I was just to frazzled to whiz up some more detergent. Unfortunately they were soaked by the leak. I can tell you now that I was so annoyed with myself for putting them under there instead of in the store cupboard that I could have jumped with frustration. Just the thought of having to put two kilos of bought detergent in the rubbish bin was enough to annoy me, so much so that I left them sitting outside on the verandah.

There those two boxes have sat for a week. We've had some really hot weather this week and the soap powder had dried to a solid lump so when I walked past it again this morning I had a brainwave and decided I'd just whiz it in the food processor and make soap powder again. Unfortunately the stuff had set harder than cement and not even dropping it on the floor broke it up enough to whiz. BUT the solid block was perfect for grating, on the finest side of the grater. The result: 10 minutes grating and 2 kilos of washing powder and $3.58 saved (I bought it on sale for $1.79/kg) and one happy Cheapskate.

On a much cheerier note the cool change arrived about noon Friday. We even had a few minutes of rain to damp down the dust and freshen up the grass. I raced around opening the curtains and blinds and winding windows out to let the breeze through. The weekend has been lovely and cool so it was a goo opportunity to catch up with some household chores I'd let slip during the heatwave. Now everything is spic and span again, the house looks lovely and that has really put a smile on my face.

Let's hope this week isn't quite as hectic.

06 January 2008

Well that cool change was short lived….

The cool change I've been waiting for since Thursday hasn't arrived. I must be getting old because I really don't like this hot weather at all. I like cold days, where I can take a jumper off if I get too hot. I could apply that same thinking in reverse to manage hot weather but I'm not sure the neighbours could cope with me going topless in the heat.

Keeping the house cool enough to stay in has been a trial. Thank goodness we only have two north facing and two west facing windows, it really helps to keep the heat out. I've been getting up early every morning and closing the doors and windows and pulling the blinds and drapes shut to keep the sun out. The ceiling fans have been turned on early too to keep the cooler air circulating. Another thing that has helped has been closing the doors to rooms we aren't using. So bedroom, bathroom and laundry doors have been closed during the day and it's made a big difference to the temperature in the house. At night I've opened up all the windows and doors and kept the fans on until we've gone to bed and the house has cooled down beautifully, enough for us all to sleep.

There has been a musty odour in the laundry for a couple of days. At first I put it down to the pile of beach towels that never seemed to shrink so I put Hannah in charge of getting them all washed and onto the line. Still the odour lingered. I cleaned the inside of the washing machine with washing soda and vinegar. I wiped over the outside of the washing machine with white vinegar. I checked the freezer was still working (one of my greatest fears is that the freezer will die) and wiped it over too. I washed the floor with water and some eucalyptus oil. I could still smell that musty odour and it was really annoying me. This morning I bent down to get the container of washing powder out from under the trough and I found the cause of the musty smell.

Apparently the join from the washing machine hose to the drain wasn't quite water tight anymore. All the cleaning rags were damp and mildewy (yuk) and the cartons of laundry soap were a soggy mess. Luckily the ice cream container was away from the direct drip or I would be making washing gloop right now.

Thank goodness it was easily fixed. Wayne took his tool box and worked his magic with it. Well not really magic, he tightened the screw around the bracket that was holding it into the drain pipe and then wrapped it with waterproof plumbing tape. Problem solved and odour gone (I put the cleaning rags through a wash cycle with some vinegar and bi-carb).

The back to school frenzy has started, with flyers being dropped in the letterbox a couple of times a week. We've gone over the stationery lists and the flyers and there were only two things we needed to buy.

The first was a set of watercolour pencils. At Officeworks a set of 24 costs $19.95. Campion Books (an educational book shop) sells packs of 24 for $11.95. Our local $2 shop sells a pack of 36 for $6.00 so that's where we bought them, saving at least $5.95.

The other thing we need to buy is a scientific calculator. Again, Officeworks was the most expensive at $19.95. Kmart had a cheaper one at $16.95. Aldi has scientific calculators for $7 starting this coming Thursday so we'll get one of those and save $9.95. We'll spend some time this week re-vamping pencil cases, rulers and folders that we have and everyone will be set for the start of the school year. And I won't be battling the shops the week before school starts either.

There are some really cute school book labels available online. Hannah has been busy printing them out and using her new watercolour pencils to personalize them. She's also made some new labels for her pens and pencils too.

Today's Savings
I haven't been out in the car since Friday, so no petrol used for two days. In fact I haven't filled the car up since 11th December. I didn't believe it had been that long, I had to check the receipts to be sure. That's almost 4 weeks and I still have half a tank! That's $320 still in the fuel budget, just from walking to the shops and planning our trips. That's amazing.

I'm part of the January Grocery Challenge (it's in the Forum) and thoroughly enjoying it. This week so far I've only spent $16.65 of the grocery money, so a savings of $128.35 for the grocery budget.

We ran out of the orange cordial I made on Tuesday, it's been so hot. This morning I made some Magic Cordial instead of putting it on the shopping list. Saving of $1.69 on not buying cordial and using what we have at hand. And it's better for the kids too.

I found some carrots hiding in the back of the fridge so I washed them and cut them into straws and put them in the freezer. Have you noticed that carrots have been quite expensive lately?

Added 3 tsp gelatine and an extra 500ml water to the jelly to make 1 litre from 1 pack. Only saves about 30c but the jelly isn't as sweet and everyone can have a reasonable serve for dessert.

Took the shirts off the line as soon as they were dry and put them away immediately. No creases in them so no need to iron. Saving on electricity and my legs.

It's amazing how little things can save so much and without any extra effort involved.

03 January 2008

It's taken a few days but I've come up with a New Years resolution

I am inclined to find New Years resolutions a waste of time. Most resolutions made are worthless, they are simply empty words either spoken or scribbled down and then promptly forgotten so I don't "make" them.

I would rather make goals. The potential is so exciting.

Something I'd like to do this year is actually write down the Cheapskate ways I do things. For instance using things on hand rather than rushing out and buying more stuff, getting three meals from one chicken by using up every part, saving water by catching it in a bucket and using it in the washing machine and then re-cycling it onto the grass are all Cheapskate ways to live.

I can't guarantee that I'll post every day, I get busy with the website and of course my family. But at least once a week I'll post my Cheapskates ways and the calculated savings.

Maybe by the end of the year I will have saved $5,000 just by living the Cheapskates way.

Today's savings:

Not enough of any washing to do a full load. Will wait until tomorrow – saving electricity, water and detergent. Saving possibly $1.20

Needed cream for the pav. Stretched the half bottle I had by whipping with gelatine to increase the volume. Worked a treat and a side benefit – the whipped cream didn't fall. Saving $0.99 (the cost of a bottle of cream).

No chips or crackers for the dip. The oven was already on so cut the crusts off bread slices, cut each slice into four, sprayed with olive oil, sprinkled with herbs and baked them until they were dry and crisp. They were delicious; I'll do this again. Saving $1.69 by not buying a packet of chips.

Had lunch at Mums. Saving $4 here.

Brought the leftover salad, lamb and corned beef home. Used them for dinner. Saving $5.

Total savings today $12.88

02 January 2008

Make a promise to yourself......

.....that no matter what, if you have chosen to live the Cheapskates way, you will no matter who says what to you.
Often in our journey through frugality our lifestyle, our sense of pride, responsibility and even our ethics are questioned by people who don't understand the choice we have made. The Cheapskates way of life isn't the lazy choice by any means. Nor is it hard.
Cheapskates have made a conscious choice to focus their money, time and energy on the things that are important to them, not the things that the Jones' think are important.
For some of us paying off a mortgage in double quick time is the top priority, for others it could be having the money to buy a new car every two years or take the family on an overseas trip every Christmas. The difference is that Cheapskates are prepared to forgo things that aren't essential or important to them (pizza on Friday nights, cappuccino every day, designer clothes on a whim, magazines, movies etc ) so they can enjoy the things that are.
We don't feel deprived at all. If we want pizza we can make it (try my fanstastic pizza dough) or buy frozen on special and add our own gourmet touches and still be saving money. Looking good is easy, clothes don't have to cost a fortune. Shopping wisely keeps us well-dressed and within our budget and it doesn't take any longer that traipsing through the shopping centres looking for full-priced clothes.
Whatever your reason for living the Cheapskates way be proud of the choices you have made and stay focused on your goal. In the end you will be the one who's debt free, cashed up and laughing!

01 January 2008

First Grocery Challenge for 2008

We've started the first Cheapskates Club grocery challenge for 2008 today and I've posted the list of challengers in the Forum. It's not to late to join in, it's never too late to join a Cheapskates Club challenge. You can sign up here to start 2008 off with a savings bonanza, we'd love to have you.

I actually started yesterday. We needed milk and cheese (can't live without our cheese in this house) so off I went to Aldi and spend a grand total of $16.65 for milk, cheese and a lettuce. I'm hoping this will be the last of the grocery spending until next Monday.

If I can stay away from the supermarket, butcher, green grocer and of course my favourite market then will have $63.65 left from this week's grocery money. Maybe if I'm careful I can find school shoes for under $63.65 for one of the kids and then I won't need to spend the money in the school budget on shoes which means that I can add it to the school camp fund and have head start. This is a big year for school camps for us, all three kids have camps this year and they are not cheap!

Well that's a plan - not quite the original but I think it's a better one. Now I really want to not buy any more food this week. Nothing like a good incentive for motivation is there?

I posted in the Grocery Challenge Forum about the huge bag of oranges I had in the freezer. I took them out after breakfast and would you believe the boys have eaten two each frozen. If I had given them frozen oranges and told them to eat them they'd have looked at me like I was nuts. Teenagers!

Anyway the cordial is made and in the fridge and I've saved the pulp and skins to make some muffins and an orange cake this afternoon after it cools down. I've put a huge bowl of orange jelly in the fridge so we'll have a nice cool dessert tonight. I know it won't last long, jelly is Thomas' favourite food. He'd live on it if I'd let him :)

I'd best get off this computer, the family awaits. We're off to the beach for a picnic, meeting my brother and his family and looking forward to a fun day. Lucky this is a grocery challenge and not a petrol one!


I have a brand new blog and I am so excited. I love to be able to share my thoughts and blogging is the perfect way for me to get them out really quickly. My new blog ties in so well with the Cheapskates website and for a complete technological nincompoop like me it is a dream to use too. I can add the posts whenever I feel like it. Can you hear Julie cheering? She is our ever so patient tech guru and now she has one less job to do.

I expect that I'll be blogging about anything and everything to do with living the Cheapskates way. If it will save you (or me) money, time or energy I'll be blogging about it. If it helps you to be debt free, cashed up and laughing I'll be blogging about it.

On this blog you can leave comments too, so I'll be able to hear what you have to say. While this is a blog and not a chat group, you may find that I'll be commenting on your comments from time to time so if you add me to your Favourites list you can check back easily to see the latest entries.

And welcome again to my blog.