11 January 2009

Good food, good friends, good fun!

From the start of Daylight Saving until the end, we cook outside. A few years ago we invested (and yes, I consider the purchase an investment) in a good bbq, complete with side burners, rotisserie and roasting hood. If only the stove inside was as good! I love it, the house stays cool, the kitchen stays clean and there are usually no pots to clean up!

We usually have friends or family or both over at least one night during the week to share a bbq with us. It's a simple meal of meat and salad and maybe bread, eaten outside. Very relaxed and casual. Perfect Aussie summer entertaining.

We had friends over last night for a bbq and it was a beautiful night. Warm enough to sit outside until late (it was after 11pm when we came in) and just talk and laugh and enjoy each other's company. The thing that made it extra nice for me was the fact that the kids didn't leave the table either. They all played on the wii before we ate, and I fully expected them to jump up and go back to it when they had finished but they didn't. They sat and joined in the conversation and laughed and made jokes and even had some interesting points of view. It was so nice to have all the kids - 8 of them aged between 13 and 18 - share so much time with us.

I very rarely vary the menu for a barbecue. Tossed salad, coleslaw, potato salad, buttered bread, sausages and burgers. Nibblies are a dip and crackers, cheese cubes, pickled onions, diced sausage, carrot and celery straws. Simple and easy to prepare and I always have all the ingredients in the house, so I don't need to run out and buy anything. For dessert I usually just bring out the fruit bowl and everyone helps themselves. Last night we had watermelon and fresh pineapple, sliced and arranged on a platter as well as the fruit bowl of apples, oranges, bananas and mandarins to finish off.

While we were talking the subject back to school supplies came up. All the kids had ideas about what they needed and what they should have and I was thrilled to see that they were all happy to keep what they had and just replenish to fill in the gaps. The three girls have planned an afternoon to get together and cover last year's folders so they can use them again, but have them looking fresh. They tried to talk the boys into it, but it was no go. Oh well. They've asked us Mums to keep the junk mail for them and warned us that they'll need glue and contact and that they'll probably make a terrible mess. I'm pretty sure they'll clean it up and if it gives them an afternoon of fun and friendship and saves a few dollars I'm all for it. I'll print off the instructions for covering books for them and while they have the contact out they can cover the textbooks that need doing too. That will save me doing a job I loathe - I always end up with just one bubble that won't go away and it annoys me for days.

Today I'd like to get some more cordial made and another lot of ginger beer started. I'm still amazed at how much cheaper it is to make drinks from scratch. I saw ginger beer in the supermarket (on sale too!) for $1 a 375ml bottle! I get 24 600ml bottles for around $5, sometimes less, depending on the price of the ginger. For about a half an hour of my time and very little effort I am not spending around $33 on soft drink!

That's a fair whack of anyone's grocery budget. How much do you spend on beverages for your family? Have you ever worked it out? If you drink Coke for instance (it's just an example, and believe me there are more Coke drinkers out there than will admit to it or it would've disappeared years ago), and have a 1.5l bottle a day you're spending $19.46 a week just on one drink. If you are having trouble keeping your supermarket bill down, look at how much you are spending on drinks and try to find alternatives.

One thing that helps keep the drink bill down for us is a simple rule: no softdrinks before noon, only water and milk. After noon drinks must be cycled: a drink of water, then of milk, then of water then a softdrink, then water, then milk, then water, then a softdrink. Fizzy only for afternoon tea and with dinner. It works, believe me. Even Wayne sticks to the drink rule, bless him!

In our house softdrinks include fruit juice, cordial, magic cordial and fizzy drinks. Keeping a jug of water in the fridge encourages drinking during summer. Float some lemon or lime slices in the top, they scent the water and make it more refreshing on a boiling summers day.

Leftovers for dinner tonight, rather than our usual Sunday roast. There are sausages, burgers and salad left from last night's bbq so we'll finish those off and save the roast for another night. I'm going to make a dessert tonight too - shock, horror, I don't often make desserts - there are some berries to use up and some cream and there's a pavlova in the pantry that needs to be used up so we'll have a decadent end to our leftover dinner, the perfect end to a lovely Sunday.


  1. Hi Cath,

    Just wondering with the ginger beer, would it be possible to use old screw top wine bottles? With all the wine drinkers in my family I should be able to get a stock pile rather quickly rather that spend the money on homebrew bottles.

    Thanks Mel

    p.s. new cheapskater who has become obsessed over the last few weeks :)

  2. Screw top wine bottles should be fine. Just make sure they are scrupulously clean and that they are done up as tight as possible.

    Once you have the homebrew bottles, you just need to replace the lids as required.

    And I think your obsession is perfectly normal - Cheapskating becomes addictive over time.


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