29 April 2010

Be a nerd with a smile

Be a nerd – take a calculator with you when you do your grocery shopping. Or you could just use the calculator function in your mobile phone. We already know (or if you don't you do now) that not all packaged foods are priced equal, regardless of appearance.   According to Choice Magazine, the unit price of 1.2 kilos of Pedigree dog food works out to be 22% more expensive than the same product in a smaller tin. So much for buying in bulk being cheaper!   And packaging may appear to be the same size, but always check the net weight of the contents. You may be surprised to find as much as twenty percent net weight difference in two packets with the same dimensions.  Always work out the unit price if you don't know for sure and you'll smile when paying  the lowest price. We'll recognise you at the checkout because you'll be the nerd with the calculator, the full trolley and a huge grin!

28 April 2010

Take ten minutes to save $100

Each week as you do your menu plan and shopping list (after you have inventoried your fridge, freezer and pantry) take fifteen minutes to check the specials and sales at your supermarkets. Use the junk mail or get online and check their websites to find who has what you want at the best price. Don't forget to look for substitutes -- your brand may not be on sale, but an identical product under another brand may well be. Check prices and special offers such as BOGOF, two for one, three for two, even coupons that could increase the value of your shopping dollar. Doing this can shave up to $100 (or more) from your food bill.

27 April 2010

Choosing what organic foods to buy

Certain fruits and vegetables grown using pesticides have been shown to retain high levels of chemicals, even after washing. Root vegetables are especially good at sucking everything out of the soil they are grown in, including toxic chemicals used as fertilizer. Most of us can only afford a few organic items, so opt for the organic versions of the high-chemical foods, including: carrots, beetroot, potatoes, turnips, apples, capsicum ,celery, grapes, nectarines, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, pears and potatoes.

Some foods that generally don't retain pesticide residue after washing include: asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, kiwifruit, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapples, oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit.

Of course you can slash your organic food bill drastically by growing your own food.

26 April 2010

Socks on the Loose!

Escapee socks can be a serious annoyance, especially if you have uniforms to wash. One good tip for minimising missing socks is to place all socks and underwear in their own basket and then wash together as a weekly load. Keep a bucket with a lid for sports socks that need to be soaked and dump them in it each morning. Then the night before wash day, fill it with hot water and soaker, put the lid on and let them soak. Tip the whole lot into the machine along with the rest of the load the next morning.

Sort and hang them in pairs so that when you take them off the line they are folded immediately. This way you should always have pairs of socks, putting and end to those that magically disappear. You should find this a better way of keeping socks together than simply washing them in with everything else.

25 April 2010

Mulch, mulch, mulch

Summer is over but it's time to mulch the garden again, in preparation for winter, especially in frost zones.  Mulch not only helps with water evaporation, but it can offer protection from wind and frost too. Adding a thick layer around your winter veggies (leave a small area clear around each plant) will also help to insulate the soil, keeping it warm for good growing.  You can use bark, straw, mulched autumn leaves (and there are plenty of those around), even stones as mulch, you don't have to rush out and buy it.

24 April 2010

Constant Compost

An easy way to ensure a never ending supply of lovely compost for your garden is to have two compost bins on the go. The first one will be the one you are using, it is already full of delicious compost. When you start to use it, begin to fill the second compost bin. As you add more garden clippings, leaves, peelings, shredded paper etc give each layer a light dusting of blood and bone. Your compost will be rich and chock full of good things for the soil (and your precious plants).

23 April 2010

Plan ahead for supermarket success

It makes sense to be properly prepared to do your weekly or fortnightly grocery shopping. Before you set out for the supermarket, do a quick pantry and fridge inventory and plan your meals for the week around what you already have. Then use your meal plan to create a list to shop from, adding the ingredients and items you don't already have. When planning your meals, and your shopping list, make sure you include only the foods you need for optimum health and nothing more. It's the things we like but don't need in our diet that cause the grocery bill to rise.

22 April 2010

Anzac Biscuits

Anzac biscuits used to be called Soldier's Biscuits because they were made by the wives and mothers of soldiers and sent to them in food parcels. The biscuits had to withstand slow travel by sea, without refrigeration, for up to two months and still be edible. And so the recipe of rolled oats, sugar, coconut, golden syrup, flour, bi carb soda and water was developed.

Ninety-six years on, ANZAC biscuits are still popular and loved by Australians.

ANZAC Biscuits


1 cup plain flour
1 cup rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp bicarb soda
2 tbsp boiling water

Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Combine flour, oats, coconut and sugar. Melt butter and golden syrup. Mix bicarb soda into boiling water and add to the butter/golden syrup mixture. Pour into dry ingredients and mix well. Spoon walnut size dollops of mixture onto a well greased biscuit sheet, leaving room for spreading. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until golden in colour. Cool on a cake rack before storing in air-tight containers. Makes approximately 1 1/2 dozen biscuits.

20 April 2010

The perfect poached egg

Poached eggs on toast are great for breakfast, but getting the eggs poached to perfection can be tricky. If you have a bamboo steamer (you can get them from any Asian grocer for just a few dollars) you can use it to cook your eggs, quickly and easily. Fill a wok with water, put the bamboo steamer on it. Use a small dish, sauces dishes are ideal, for each egg. You can also buy silicone egg poachers which would work too, although they are quite pricey. Place the dishes into the steamer and pop the lid on. The eggs should be ready in five minutes, depending on how hard you like the yolks. Simply slide the egg from the dish onto hot, buttered toast and enjoy.

19 April 2010

How to treat a dried stain

Dried-on stains are generally harder to remove than if they were treated while still fresh so it pays to treat stains fast if at all possible.  When it's not, and the stain has dried, you still have a chance of removing it if you follow this method.
1.With a damp sponge and working from the outer edge to the centre, wet the stain.
2.Make a stiff paste of bicarb soda and water.
3.With your fingertips gently rub the bicarb paste into the stain. Leave ten minutes. Don't allow the bicarb to dry on the stain.
4.Rinse completely under cool water. Wash as usual.

18 April 2010

Happy Plants

Life can be hard on indoor plants as they can suffer from lack of fertiliser and natural light. To keep your plants happy and healthy and your decor fresh, keep a variety of plants in the same size pots and rotate them between inside and outside. This means they all get a chance to recover and stay looking good.

17 April 2010

Stained Glass Craft Activity Keeps Kids Busy

I love doing craft with my grandchildren, but sometimes the thing that they would like to do can be quite expensive. I save  glass jam jars etc., clean them, soak the labels off and let them dry. When the kids comes over we look through colouring books and they choose a picture from the book that will fit inside the glass jar - a flower, cat, dog etc. We use this as a template to draw on the jar with a marker. Then we collect different coloured nail polishes and colour in the picture through the jar. Remove the picture from the jar. Once the polish is dry we get a tea light candle in a metal holder and put in the jar, and sit down to afternoon tea. The nail polish is cheap and dries very easily and once the grandchildren leave you can remove the painting from the jar with nail polish remover and have a new design painted for you next time they come to visit.
Contributed by Victoria, Avonsleigh

16 April 2010

Not just for news

Newspapers are incredibly versatile in the garden. For example use them to keep the wet season weeds down around your fruit trees or as a mulch layer in flower beds. Just lay wet papers down, fairly thickly (a layer of about 10 pages works well), straight on top of the weeds.

15 April 2010

Timing is everything to save

The day and time of day you shop can also save you money. Try to do your grocery shopping mid-week. The new weekly specials begin on a Monday but most supermarket and specialty shops do their own comparisons with their competitors so often you find more things are on special in the middle of the week or on weekends.

Shopping later in the day can also save you money at the supermarket. In particular bakery items, meat, and dairy items are often heavily marked down in the early evening (check the schedule with your supermarket). This is a great time to buy and you should stock up for future use. If you freeze these items on the same day you buy them not only will you never run out,  but they will taste as fresh as the day they were bought. The same applies to barbeque chickens. They are often marked down to half price or less just before closing time and they too can be frozen. Great for an emergency dinner, or for adding variety to a soup next week!

14 April 2010

Best ever tile and grout cleaner

Combine 2 parts bicarb soda, 1 part borax and 1 part very hot water to make a thick paste. Wearing rubber gloves, apply this to the tile and grout. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes then scrub with a stiff brush. Rinse well with cool water. Dry off the tiles and grout with a soft towel. You'll find borax in the cleaning aisle of your supermarket.

13 April 2010

Breakfast is ready

If you really like the variety of flavours and convenience of instant porridge but find it expensive when buying for a family, try making your own. Buy the family-size rolled oats (not quick oats) and use your crock-pot! We do this and it tastes great. Measure into your crockpot the normal ratio of one cup of oats to two cups water (this gives four regular or three hearty serves). We add cinnamon (about a teaspoon to every triple batch) and sometimes some dried apple or chopped dates or chopped dried apricots and flaked almonds. Turn the crock-pot on low for about eight hours (overnight) and wake up knowing breakfast is already taken care of in a very yummy way. We have also added brown sugar when in the mood. Or perhaps use golden or maple syrup as a substitute. This is by far our best and easiest breakfast when considering savings, convenience and nutritional content.

12 April 2010

Who left the tissue in their pocket?

That's the question that echoes from laundries all over the country, especially during the cold and flu season.  Renegade tissues can coat an entire wash in minute pieces of white fluff that simply refuse to be shaken free. The solution is to simply to place the load in the dryer before folding and putting away (dry the clothes on the clothesline as usual). Let the clothes tumble on the cool cycle for ten minutes, remove from the dryer, give each piece a good shake, clean the lint filter and then place the load back in the dryer for another five minutes to make sure all the tissue is gone.

11 April 2010

Growing Garlic

Garlic is one of the most used ingredients in cooking and it is also one of the most expensive to buy. It is so easy to grow, and does equally as well grown in pots or garden beds and now is the time to plant. Choose Australian garlic - in the supermarket you'll notice it is more expensive than imported Chinese garlic BUT it will grow. Imported garlic has been treated with chemicals to inhibit sprouting and to bleach the cloves. It may be cheap but it's not the best available.

Garlic likes a free draining soil, so prepare the soil with lots of compost, turning it over and digging down to at least 20cm. Then simply break the garlic into cloves and plant each clove pointy end up about 6 - 7cm down. Cover lightly with soil, measure a hand span and plant the next clove.

In a few weeks green shoots will appear and grow. Feed once a month or so with liquid seaweed and give a light to dressing of blood and bone. When the leaves start to turn brown the garlic is ready for harvesting. The heads will start to dry and form the papery skin we recognise. Always dig your garlic rather than pulling, pulling could damage the cloves, causing them to rot. Brush off any dirt and hang the garlic in a cool, dry spot to dry off completely. Your garlic should last at least six months if stored correctly.

I love growing garlic, in pots and the veggie beds, because it really is easy and low maintenance.

10 April 2010

Shopping Competition

Statistics show that where there is an Aldi supermarket, Coles and Woolworths in the same complex or near by are generally cheaper than Coles and Woolworths in a shopping centre where there is no Aldi. The same applies to specialty chicken shops, butchers and greengrocers. So even if you don’t plan on shopping at Aldi, at least try to shop at a centre where there is an Aldi.

08 April 2010

For a sparkling toilet

Turn the water off at the cistern and flush the toilet. The toilet bowl should be empty as no water was allowed to fill after the flush. Spray full-strength white vinegar around the inside of the toilet bowl, making sure you get it up under the rim. Sprinkle with borax. Let this soak for 30 minutes. Scrub with a stiff toilet brush to get rid of the ring and stains. Turn on the water at the toilet tank, allow the tank to fill and then flush to rinse.  You will find borax in the cleaning aisle of your supermarket.

07 April 2010

It's not what you can't have, but what you can afford

We don't use the "B" word (budget) very often in the Cheapskates Club. It scares most people, focussing their thinking on all the things they can't have rather than all the things they can have because they have a budget.  Instead, Cheapskates have Spending Plans. Spending Plans show you all the things you can afford to have right now. Spending Plans also let you own those things immediately, rather than just renting them when you buy with credit.

So, when you think about your Spending Plan, don't see it as about being what you can't have. Instead, look at it as a plan for you to have the things you want. And when you are working out your Spending Plan, don't deprive yourself.  Build in the odd treat and some "mad money" and sticking to your Spending Plan will be easy.

06 April 2010

Weevil Free

There is nothing so disappointing as opening a new packet of food only to find it is infested with weevils. There seems to be an unusually large plague of weevils (and other creepy crawlies) at the moment and while we can't tell if they are in the food we buy until we get it home, we can do our bit to control them. To keep your pantry and food weevil free, put it straight into the freezer for a week when you bring it home. Leave it in the packaging, it will be fine. They are in flour, cereals, rice, grains even pulses.  Freezing will stop the breeding cycle and kill any live weevils in the food.

After a week you can either transfer it to clean, dry, airtight containers and keep it in the pantry or leave it in the freezer. Choose a canister or container with a tight seal to keep out air, moisture and any bugs that happen to be flying around. Adding a bay leaf to each canister will also act as a deterrent, as will sprinkling bay leaves on your pantry shelves.

05 April 2010

Cleaning Up Not-So-Washable Crayon Stains

Little children love to draw and crayons are the easiest medium for their little fingers and developing fine motor skills but they can mean ruination for clothing.  I am sure that just about everyone has seen the list of miracles that a can of WD-40 can perform. I was and still am sceptical of most of them, but this WD-40 tip really does work.

If the garment is going to be ruined by the crayon stain then you have nothing to lose by trying this. Spray WD-40 onto the stain to saturate it. If you think you will be able to rescue the garment, spray an inside seam or hem first to test for colourfastness. Let it rest for about 5 minutes then rinse thoroughly under running water. Pour some dishwashing liquid onto the stain and gently rub in with your fingertips, moving from the outside in to avoid spreading the stain. Rinse and repeat each time the dishwashing liquid takes up the colour of the crayon. Keep doing this until all the crayon has been removed then wash in the hottest water the fabric can take.

04 April 2010

Chilli Bug Off

Even if you don’t like spicy foods, you should plant a row of hot chilli plants in your garden for their bug repelling effects.

Place a handful of dried, hot peppers in the food processor, seeds and all, and grind to a dust. Wear rubber gloves and take care not to get the dust on your skin or eyes. Sprinkle around garden plants to repel ants, slaters and other pests.

The chilli plants are attractive and make good borders for garden beds as well as being productive and useful in the garden.

02 April 2010

Make Your Own Easter Goodies

Instead of spending a lot of money on chocolate and prepackagedlollies etc, make homemade cookies (use rabbit shaped cookie cutters) and other sweets to be enjoyed as part of your celebration. You can buy chocolate moulds for around $2 each and they can be re-used yearafter year. Then buy chocolate when it's on sale and make your own Easter eggs. You can fill them with Smarties etc if you like. To join the two halves just run some melted chocolate around the edges and hold themtogether for a few minutes. If you have a lot to do, you can make a few each night, they don't take long.

Contributed by Linda, Nunawading.

01 April 2010

Stacking Dishes

This is a good way to use up that packet of coffee filters sitting in the cupboard taking up space. When you stack your good china plates or bowls on top of each other in the cupboard, place a coffee filter between each china piece to prevent scratches or chips. If you don't have coffee filters, you can use cloth serviettes (I have half a dozen sets that were wedding gifts) or even bubble wrap odds and ends from parcels. Putting something between the layers of crockery will also stop fragile items from sticking together and breaking when you try to take them apart.