29 July 2008

Tail over turkey in an instant

Well here I am, sitting with my feet up, typing away. I'm not being lazy, I have a good reason for having my feet up in the middle of the day. I had a little trip last night, went tail over turkey and now my left foot hurts. I'm hoping it's just a sprain and not a break because while I enjoy putting my feet up when I want to, I don't enjoy it when it's forced on me.

I wish I had been a fly on the wall when it happened. After I had taken a moment to quietly assess the damage (read: bellow in agony and roll around on the floor LOL) I suggested politely that someone might like to remember RICE. I must have asked really politely because the three kids were falling over themselves to get up and in less than 20 seconds I had the rice canister politely handed to me. Honestly if I hadn't been in so much pain I would have laughed out loud at them. Way back when, or at least when I did my first aid training RICE was rest, ice, compression, elevation not the staple food of Asia.

Our youth club runs first aid courses for the kids so the next one I'll book my three in for the day. It's not cheap, around $105 for a one day St. John course, but the skills they will learn are skills that we all should learn. And $300 isn't much if it means they are able to help in an emergency.

One good thing that has come out of this little accident is I haven't been driving nearly as much and so I've used hardly any petrol this week, only about a quarter of what I would normally use. I'm just going to move the petrol money straight to our savings account and make what's in the car last until next week.

Hopefully the swelling will be down tomorrow and I'll be back on my feet. Then I'll probably want to sit and put my feet up!

13 July 2008

I'm just an old fashioned kind of girl

I'm just an old fashioned kind of girl, really I am. I may spend my days dallying with delight on my beloved laptop but at heart I prefer the simple life. As long as it comes with hot and cold running water, electricity, a washing machine, dishwasher and good vacuum cleaner. And of course, the Internet. I could possibly live with out a dishwasher or even at a pinch electricity but definitely, positively not without the Internet.

Why if it wasn't for the Internet Cheapskates wouldn't exist and I wouldn't have come to meet and know so many wonderful friends. It's the sharing part of Cheapskates that I especially love, the way someone can ask a question and within a very short time they'll have caring and wise answers from others who know exactly what they need. I love it.

I know I am old fashioned. I must be because I just love old fashioned food, actually it's the only kind I can cook. One thing I do really well is a Sunday Roast (it always has capital letters, it's a Family Tradition). Tonight we are having roast chicken with baked vegetables (potato, pumpkin and onion) and cauliflower with cheese sauce and peas for dinner. With gravy made from the pan juices. Yum.

And for dessert - old fashioned Bread and Butter Pudding. My old fashioned sweetheart will be in heaven, he just loves bread and butter custard for dessert. This one is especially nice because I used cumquat marmalade (thanks Keren, I am really enjoying this marmalade) on the bread instead of jam. It's given the dish a lovely tang (well I had to sample it to be sure it was OK to serve). I highly recommend using marmalade instead of jam in bread and butter custard.

If you prefer a modern twist on this old fashioned dessert, swap the bread and butter for croissants. Split the croissants, toast the insides, spread with apricot jam (or marmalade) and then follow your usual directions. Croissant bread and butter pudding is very morish so be warned, you won't be able to stop at one serve. Just thought I had better let you know.

Well I am off to make the gravy and dish up. Then little ole old fashioned me will be doing the dishes the modern way - in the dishwasher. I may be old fashioned but I do like my modern conveniences :)

12 July 2008

It has been so cold this week that I've had the fire and the central heating going to warm the house up. This cold spell was so unexpected, we've had the warmest June in 20 odd years here and the weather really has been mild. We haven't even had a frost yet but I expect they will come, probably just in time for the kids to go back to school! There's nothing quite like frozen fingers and toes in the mornings. I guess it's time to dig out the gloves and scarves and make sure everyone has what they need. Our school brought in a new uniform policy last year and I'm pretty sure that Hannah won't be able to wear her cosy scarf I knitted in Feathers wool, even though it is blue. I think it needs to be a plain navy, better check that today and get knitting if I need to. I have some 12 ply in navy that should do the job. I found a 500g ball of it at the op shop a couple of weeks ago for $2 and picked up intending to knit me some slippers. Oh well, at least it will get used.

Having the fire going means I've been able to get all the washing dry in just a few hours too. I so love my big clothes horses - nice wide arms and lots of rails to hang things on. Now I just have the two of them. Up until this year we had one each and I kept them in the bedrooms over the heater vents in winter. It was handy having everyone's clothes in their rooms. The kids were good at pulling the dry things off and putting them away or in the boys' case putting them straight back on! And it did help to keep the washing and drying under control. Another thing I'm using this winter is the hooks in the ceiling. When we moved into this house there were hooks in the ceiling next to the heater flue and as they don't stick out at all and blend in with the timber we left them. I've been hanging the shirts and trousers on their hangers in the hooks and letting them dry up high. They not only dry really fast but because they are on hangers they just go straight into the wardrobes, no ironing necessary. I can even dry Hannah's pleated school skirt like this and not need to iron the pleats down. I love those hooks!

Wayne did have to clean the glass in the heater door for me this week. He used some scrunched up newspaper, dampened a little and dipped in the ash from the fire. Scrubbed over the glass and wiped off with another piece damp newspaper and the door was shiny clean and just radiating heat beautifully. Those old tips from years ago really are worth remembering.

The three kids had a surprise on Tuesday when the postman came. Their Granny had sent them some money each, just in time for the boys to go to the movies! They had planned to meet their mates at the local cinema to see a movie and I was going to pay for their tickets. Granny saved me having to do that, they paid for their own tickets and bought some nibblies too, although they did meet the boys early and pop across to the supermarket for their drinks and corn chips rather than pay the snack bar prices. They were going to walk home and save me some petrol and some time but it was absolutely pouring (yahoo!) when they came out so AJ called and asked if I'd pick them up. Kudos to him, he remembered to ring on the mobile (free calls between us).

Hannah is hanging on to her money. She wants to go to Big W and buy an itunes voucher with her money. They are on sale, $50 voucher for $30, during the toy sale. That's a 40% saving for her and she's so excited. She has been saving up for a real itunes voucher and her gift from Granny has given her enough to buy two. She's one very happy little girl at the moment. We'll be off to Big W tomorrow so she can do her shopping.

I've been kept busy this week too, talking to Kelli Brett on ABC radio Southwest WA and sharing some of my favourite ways to save money over all. Kelli asked for a recipe too so I gave her my favourite Quick Curried Sausage recipe, which we had for tea on Wednesday night. I love curries at any time but especially in winter. This one is really quick, really easy and really, really cheap.

Quick Curried Sausages

1 sausage per person
1 potato, peeled and cubed
1 piece pumpkin, peeled and cubed
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 cup peas
2 tbsp curry powder - adjust to suit your taste
1 tbsp butter
440ml can coconut cream

Brown the sausages and remove from pan, set aside to cool. Melt butter, add onion and curry powder and cook until the onion is transparent. Add the other vegetables to the pan and cook two minutes, stirring constantly. Turn heat down to low. Add coconut cream and stir through. Slice the sausages into 1cm thick slices and add to pan. Stir to cover with sauce. Simmer over a very low heat 10 minutes or until vegetables are cooked and sauce has thickened slightly. Serve over steamed rice with pappadums or naan bread.

To make this a low fat recipe, boil the sausages for 5 minutes to remove fat, drain and cool. Use a non stick pan and use 1tbsp water instead of the butter to cook the onion. Substitute a can of low fat evaporated milk and 1 teaspoon coconut essence for the coconut cream.

Thomas had the gang over yesterday for a movie marathon. They are such a nice lot of boys and no trouble at all. Just keep up the supply of food and drinks and they are happy. Typical 15 year olds. The popcorn maker had a good workout, I think I made four lots in all during the day. I'm pretty sure they were just inhaling it like it was oxygen it disappeared so fast. I had some party pies in the freezer but no sausage rolls made up. Party pies, sausage rolls and pizza are standard fare at these gatherings so I didn't dare alter the menu. With my last order of mountain bread (did you know you can order it online and save over $1 a packet, and delivery is free?) I also ordered the recipe book and it has a fabulous recipe for sausage rolls in it, using mountain bread. The sausage rolls were so easy to make with the mountain bread and they cooked beautifully. I'm not sure I'll ever use pastry for them again, especially as the mountain bread is much cheaper than pastry. And slightly healthier too.

A journalist with Womans Day rang at lunchtime for a chat and she was a little startled by the noise in the background. Once I explained it was the sound of 6 teenage boys grazing she understood and we went on to have a really interesting talk about the changing profile of the average grocery trolley in recent times. We had a giggle at the perception some people have that buying generic brands or shopping at Aldi or NQR or other grocery clearances is what "poor people" do. If only those grocery snobs knew what we Cheapskates know about getting more bang for our buck!

06 July 2008

Sunday happenings

We ditched the menu plan last night. Hannah was sleeping over at my mother's with my niece and it was our turn to collect the bread for our church so there were only four for dinner and it was going to be late.

When I was pregnant with AJ, all those years ago, I developed a craving that didn't go away. You need to realise that at the time we were living in a country town, where the only thing open after 7pm were the pubs, and no, I didn't develop a craving for beer. What I did crave was a doner kebab with the works - lamb, salad, garlic sauce and tabouli. I craved them for months until finally, just before No. 1 Son was born a kebab van opened in the car park of the pub on the highway out of town. It was the other side of town to where we lived and it didn't open until 11.30pm but my darling would sit up on a Friday night and at 11.25 he would rug up (it was winter after all) and drive to the pub to get me a doner kebab.

I've been hooked ever since, I love them. Unfortunately they are rather expensive and since moving to Melbourne they've been hard to find. Until now. A new kebab van has opened, not too far from home and they are the best kebabs I have ever had. Wayne and I had one each for dinner last week while the kids were out and oh my they were nice. The meat was so tender, and the sauce was just garlicky enough. They were wrapped in the softest and freshest bread. Are you getting the picture yet? They were perfect.

So, last night, after dropping off the bread we decided on the spur of the moment to have kebabs for dinner. I decided we the takeaway budget had enough in it to cover the $28 required and we pulled in. And you know what? It only cost us $18. We bought a large container of lamb, a large container of salad and a small container of sauce and brought it home. I had Lebanese bread in the freezer so while the meat was re-heating and the sandwich toaster was heating up the bread thawed in the microwave. Ten minutes and we all had delicious, hot kebabs. We saved $10 - ok we saved $9, because the bread was originally 99 cents by putting the kebabs together ourselves. Best part was there was enough meat leftover to make another three kebabs today for lunch. I'm so excited to know that I can have kebabs as a treat every now and then and they won't break the budget. I highly recommend Ali's Kebabs, situated in the service station on Mitcham Road, opposite Coles supermarket in Mitcham if you ever have kebab craving.

Thomas received an unexpected invitation to go to a spur of the moment 16th birthday party today. He didn't get the invitation until yesterday afternoon and straight away went through the present box. He came up with a battery charger and a set of re-chargeable batteries and was really excited about it. I was too because if he hadn't found anything it would have meant money in a card or racing to the shops and both would have cost more than the battery charger and batteries - they were bought with a bonus Coles gift card I was sent so they didn't cost me a real cent. Gotta be happy with that.

We didn't have far to go to the party but we used the new Eastlink freeway anyhow. We only have three more weeks to use it, then we'll be back to our usual routes around town. There is no way known I can justify spending 99 cents each way to get to my local shopping centre or the post office, even if it will only take me three minutes. Taking 12 minutes and saving $1.98 a trip seems a much better option to me.

Sunday night is always roast night in our house and would you believe that I forgot to get the roast out of the freezer last night! I had a scrounge around and found some tandoori flavoured chicken pieces so we had those and baked vegetables. Very yummy and as the chicken was marked down to $6 it was a relatively inexpensive meal too.

I can here the rain on the roof as I'm typing, it sounds lovely. The forecast is for a few days of rain so here's hoping the bureau's got it right, we sure could use it.

03 July 2008

Take 5

I was so excited this morning to see an interview I did a few weeks ago published in this week's Take 5 magazine Budget Blitz. Please forgive the horrible photo, I'm not as stuffy as that picture makes me look, really!

Now the secret is out, everyone will know just why we started living the Cheapskates way. When I talk about living the Cheapskates way it is because in the beginning we had to and now we do from choice, we like being free to make the choices that suit us best. I have every intention of being a Cheapskate for the rest of my days.

We are into the fourth day of the school holidays and we still haven't been out or spent any of the holiday money I had put aside. The kids have been busy playing games or catching up on their DVD watching. Limiting the time spent on computer games and TV during term time sure does make them a lovely treat during holidays (and it saves us money too!). No doubt by the weekend they will be ready to get out and get active.

I was talking to Joseph Thomsen (ABC Goulbourn Murray) yesterday about how to keep the kids entertained during the holidays. We were both lamenting the hold technology has over our kids, although we were both happy to admit that it does have its advantages too. One of my favourite ways to keep the kids amused is to get them to prepare dinner. They have to menu plan and cook and serve the meal. And clean up of course, it's not a holiday for mum if she has to do the cleaning up too. We will have some interesting meals over the next week or so but at least I won't have to prepare them.

Another thing we have done this week is drag out the cards and play snap and I've been teaching Hannah to play solitaire. I'm finding that all those old fashioned amusements are coming back into favour as everyone looks for ways to stretch their budget. Keeping the kids amused doesn't have to be expensive and it's nice to know people can be Cheapskates without even realising it. Imagine how good they'll be when they do realise?