30 September 2010

Spring Cleaning Tip: Let your clutter pay for itself

If you are looking to clear out some knick knacks or perhaps even some holiday decorations in order to make room for new ones, consider a trip to the local trash'n'treasure market. Everyone is looking for a bargain and they just may be looking for something that you no longer wish to own.  Otherwise, you can always sell items at internet auction sites, including gumtree.com.au and ebay.com.au

29 September 2010

Question Every Expense

We often think we just can't live without that unlimited mobile phone account, or the gym membership, or the kids' babysitting or daycare. But instead of taking everything as a given, go through your bills one by one and see what you could do without if you HAD to cut your spending in half. Most people won't be faced with that kind of drastic reduction in income, but many Australians are dealing with that very scenario right now for one reason or another. If you know what bills you can get rid of straight away then facing a sudden drop in income won't be quite so scary.

28 September 2010

Saving flavoured oils

If you use canned products such as anchovies, sardines, stuffed grape leaves etc that come packed in olive oil, save the oil. Instead of throwing it into the compost save it in a small container in the fridge and re-use it for cooking. It's also great for making a flavoured vinaigrette. Just remember to keep the oils in separate containers and label them - you don't want to fry potatoes in sardine flavoured oil, but it's great for cooking fishcakes. You'll save money by recycling the oil and by not pouring it down the drain (you don't do that do you?).  By adding it to your compost you are helping to keep our waterways clean and clear and enriching the soil.

27 September 2010

Slow Cooker

There is a great discussion going on in the Member's forum at the moment about slow cooker desserts so I thought I'd let you know that I have a new favourite book. You all know of my absolute love of my slow cookers - I have two - so it will be no surprise to you to learn that I have fallen in love with "Slow Cooker" by Sally Wise.

Some of you may already have Sally's other books A Year in a Bottle and Out of a Bottle, two of my other favourite books. Slow Cooker is just as delightful to read and use. If you don't have them or haven't read them, get them from your library and immerse yourself in a warm, old fashioned foodie heaven with a slightly modern twist.

Slow cookers aren't just for winter and they don't just cook soups and stews. I use mine at least twice a week all year round, even in summer. They do make beautiful soups and stews, but they also cook the perfect corned beef, wonderful roasts, delicous puddings and even perfect porridge for a warm winter breakfast. So when I found this book I stood and read it (always a good sign for the bookshop). I didn't just skim it, I read pages and pages before deciding I would use my mad money to buy it. And I am so glad that I did.

It was thrilling to find out that I am not the only nutter with a collection of slow cookers, something Wayne thinks I made up. He finds it hard to understand why I'd need, let alone want, more than one. But then I point out that I find it equally hard to understand why he needs so many trains and that end the discussion quick smart.

Right now Italian Vegetarian Meatballs are simmering in the crockpot for dinner tonight. They smell delicious and Wayne will be home from work soon and I know he'll have a smile on his face when he walks in and can smell dinner cooking. I'm going to put them over mashed potato and green beans (from the garden) tonight. Do you all know that you get the creamiest, smoothest mashed potatoes if you use some of the water they were steamed in and a quarter cup of milk powder to mash them rather than fresh milk? No butter or cream needed if you use the cooking water. Any leftover water can added to the soup or stock pot or frozen to use in gravies, sauces and so on later. Don't pour it down the sink and waste all those vitamins and minerals. If you don't want to use it yourself, pour it over your indoor plants for a treat.

You'll find slow cooker recipes for baked apples, bread and butter pudding and apple pudding in the Recipe File. They are all delicous and just perfect for the slow cooker but my favourite is self-saucing chocolate pudding.

Slow Cooker Chocolate Self- Saucing Pudding
100g butter, melted
½ cup milk
1 egg
1 cup self raising flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
½ cup caster sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 cups boiling water

Combine melted butter, milk and egg. In a separate bowl, sift flour and cocoa together and mix in the sugar. Gradually add the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and mix well. Spoon this mixture into a buttered 6 cup pudding basin. Place a saucer upside down in the bottom of the slow cooker and sit the pudding basin on the top. Combine the cocoa and brown sugar together, sprinkle over the top of pudding. Carefully pour boiling water over the mixture. Cover and cook on High for 3 1/2 hours or on Low for 5-6 hours.  Serve hot with ice cream or custard.

Watercolours From Make-up

Let the kids use old (or that very cheap from the $2 shop) make-up to draw pictures. They can use lipsticks and eyeliners for the outlines. The powders like eye shadow, blushers etc can be used as water colours. Give them a jar of water and a paintbrush and they can just dip, brush and paint to create watercolours. For softer shades and effects they can use the powders dry.
Contributed by Rachael, Rivervale

26 September 2010

Invest in the best tools you can afford

Spend more money now by purchasing better quality gardening tools and you will save in the long run.  Taken care of, they will last for years, saving you dollars because you don’t need to replace them every planting season.  Same goes for gardening gloves - they may seem cheap and disposable, but make sure you buy the best you can afford so they last all season and possibly longer.

25 September 2010

Perfect party food

Presentation is everything, especially with party food. Think about it. A sprinkle sandwich is nice, but, make that sandwich and cut it with petite cookie cutters into various shapes matched to the party theme and you have something spectacular. Even just cutting the sandwiches into a circle with a glass and then cutting the circles in half would work. Display them nicely on a glass plate with some red grapes or flowers and it's no longer just a boring sandwich but a delicacy that's a delight to look at AND eat.  Even the simplest party fare looks spectacular and appetizing when it's presented as though it's a gourmet delight.

24 September 2010

The Shopping List Challenge

Make a list and stick to it. If it’s not on the list, don’t buy it. Carry a pen and make sure you cross each item off as you put it in the basket or trolley. When everything is crossed off, count the items on the list and then count the items in your basket - they should be the same. If you have more items in your basket you have to put whatever isn't on the list back!

23 September 2010

Close the fridge door

Have you ever spaced out while looking in the fridge for something? No? Then surely you've watched your kids stand with the refrigerator or freezer door open while they ponder what to snack on? Each time you or your kids stand there with the door open, the cold air is pouring out onto the floor. You can understand this if you replace the image of cold air with water; it works just the same. Every time you let the fridge drain cold air, it takes that much more energy to re-cool the food inside once you close the door. If each person in your family does that once or twice a day, it adds up to energy wasted and money lost.

22 September 2010

Find bargains wherever possible

One of the best ways to save money is to keep your eyes open for money-saving opportunities and take advantage of them. For example, many of your day to day expenses can be reduced simply by changing your routine. If certain things are important to you, however, simply make your changes in other areas. Most people find that they save the most money from many small changes, not a single huge change, in the way they spend their money. Bargains are everywhere and can be for just about anything too so keep an open mind and watch your spending decrease and your savings grow.

21 September 2010

Same ingredients, different dishes

When you are menu planning and making up your shopping list, try to choose meals that use a lot of the same ingredients. Doing this you can buy in bulk where appropriate, stop buying lots of different ingredients you only use once and keep your pantry, fridge and freezer contents under control.

20 September 2010

Don't lose the cord

If your children have drawstrings in their pyjama pants or around the hood of a coat chances are at some stage they will lose the cord inside the casing. To stop them losing the cord, sew a large button on each end of the drawstring. This will keep the string from disappearing inside the casing, saving you a lot of time and stress.  Do this to swimming and library bags too, even if they have a sturdy knot. You won't have to spend time re-threading a drawstring ever again.

19 September 2010

A Prize Winning Sultana Cake

While we were having lunch today Wayne had the TV on, watching Landline on the ABC.  One of the segments on the show featured Show cooks.  It seems that show cooking has had a resurgence in recent times, with this year's ECCA seeing an increase of 180 entries.

And can you believe the youngest entrant was just four years old!

As they were talking about fruit cakes, and how to cut all the fruit, line the tins etc Wayne hinted that perhaps I could make him one of my prize winning sultana cakes.  Yes, I have won a first prize for sultana cake, not at an agricultural show, but at Group CWA, an honour I am still proud of.

Anyone who knows me understands why I am so honoured. I'm not a great cook and I really don't enjoy everyday cooking. I have a few recipes that I make over and over (if you check my menu plan each month you'll know what I mean) because I can make them very well.

Sultana cake is one of those things.  My top 10 tips for a prize winning sultana cake are:

1.Use the freshest sultanas possible.
2.Always soak the sultanas overnight, drain and let them dry for 24 hours.
3.Dust sultanas with a little flour before adding them to the mixture.
4.Add 1 teaspoon of lemon essence with the liquids - it gives a delicious flavour.
5.Line the tin with 2 layers of brown paper and then 1 layer of baking paper.
6.After pouring the batter into the tin, wet your hands and gently pat the top to even out. This helps to stop the top cracking during baking.
7.Always pre-heat your oven and make sure it is exactly the right temperature before you put the cake in to bake.
8.Never open the oven during baking.
9.After baking time is up, take the cake from the oven and if it is singing to you it is done. If it's not singing, put it back in for another five minutes and test again.
10.Let cool in tin for 10 minutes before turning out to cool.

Now I've given away my secrets, I guess I should share the recipe too.

Sultana Cake

500g sultanas
250g butter
250g sugar
350g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1 tsp lemon essence

Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Cover the sultanas with water and bring to the boil (and yes, they were soaked overnight). Boil for 15 minutes and drain. Add butter to hot sultanas. Beat eggs and sugar together. Add to sultana mixture. Then add the sifted flour and baking powder. Add the lemon essence and mix well. Bake in a 20cm tin for about 11/2 hours. Test to see if it's done, if not return to oven for a few minutes and check again. Let cake cool in tin 10 minutes before turning out to cool on a cake rack.

Plan to Grow and Share

Plan your vegetable garden according to what your neighbours are planting so you can share your vegetables when they’re ready for eating. Often I’ve had too many of one kind of vegetable I couldn’t give away because my friend’s were ripe at the same time. These days we get together and plan our planting program so we all know what everyone is planting. We then plant enough for our families and a few extra to share. We all have a plentiful supply of fresh vegetables and save money, time and energy too.

18 September 2010

Farmer's Markets

Spend the morning browsing a farmer's market rather than at your local shopping centre. You'll get fresh air, exercise and fresh food. You may even discover a bargain or two or a new recipe or craft to try at home.  Ask lots of questions and learn some new tricks for growing and making your own food. You don't need to spend any money if you don't want to (although it is nice to try a new bread or cheese or pick up some really fresh veggies), just walking through the stalls can inspire you and show you new ways to use the things you already have for a new purpose.

Go to www.farmersmarkets.org.au/ to find a farmer's market near you.

17 September 2010

Double Up Shopping

When doing your grocery shop, for the week or fortnight double up on a staple such as tea or sugar. Store them in a separate place, and in a couple of months you will have nearly a whole shopping list of staples. I usually treat myself with the savings to something special. I also do the same thing with specials if I can afford to.
Contributed by Josie, Sydney

16 September 2010

Spring Cleaning

Spring Clenaing Tip No. 3 - Air Fresheners

Freshen a room with your own air freshener. Saturate a ball of cotton with your favourite scent and put it in an open container or put a few drops of scented oil on your light bulbs (the heat from the bulbs will create a fragrance in the air). Only use a few drops, 2 or 3 at most, for safety's sake.

You can also put scented cotton balls  in the vacuum cleaner bag while you vacuum.  If you don't like synthetic scents in the air, put 1/2 cup white vinegar in a small dish and leave one in each room. The vinegar will deodorise the rooms without any overpowering or annoying scents. And your home won't smell like a fish and chip shop either. Change weekly.  Don't waste the vinegar though, use it to clean your toilet or drains.

To deodorise and freshen your carpets, sprinkle liberally with bicarb soda, brush in with a soft broom and leave two hours. Vacuum up for fresh, deodorised and clean carpets.

15 September 2010

Save Money

Everyone talks about saving money, and often about how much they have saved. But have they really? Money isn't saved until it is safely in your Emergency Fund, Peace of Mind account or a Savings account. Until then it is just not spent.  Get into the habit of saving regularly - each week, fortnight or month, depending on how you are paid. It doesn't matte how much you start with - $2 will work - but you need to develop a saving habit. Once you are regularly saving your $2, you can increase the amount you save. As you see the balance of your savings grow you will be motivated to save more. The hardest part of saving is getting started, so be brave and start today!

14 September 2010

Baked Chicken Salad

This is a great dish for using up leftovers - chicken, that half an onion at the back of the fridge, that last of the mayo, the dregs in the potato chip packet. You can substitute corn chips or even pita chips for the potato chips too. I often serve this with buttered bread stick and a tossed green salad to round out the meal.

2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
2 cups celery, diced
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons onion, grated
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup potato chips, crushed
1/2 cup cheese, grated

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Combine chicken, eggs, celery, almonds, salt, onion, and lemon juice in bowl; fold in mayonnaise.   Turn into greased casserole dish; top with potato chips and cheese.  Bake for about 12 minutes or until salad is bubbly and cheese is melted.

13 September 2010

Preserve a Painting

If you have pre-schoolers or even junior primary school aged children then you will have drawings and paintings, possibly hundreds of them. It's nice to keep a few favourites and put them away in the child's memory box. To keep the  drawing from fading or smudging, give it a light spray with hairspray. It will dry in just a few seconds and give the drawing a protective coating to keep it looking good for years.

12 September 2010

A Nifty Veggie Box

I love wandering through the garden, picking the veggies for our next meal. Often I have quite a few, and I used to put them into a basket to make carrying them easier. I'd then have to clean them in my kitchen sink, sometimes creating quite a mess.

Until I had a bright idea!  I found an old wooden box, about the size of an apple box and replaced the base with flywire. Now the freshly picked veggies get deposited into the box and I can hose away any dirt and bugs before taking them inside. To save the water I sit the box over the corners of one of the garden boxes and let the water drain into the garden.

10 September 2010

Search for Discount Codes

Before purchasing goods or services online, do a quick search for  discount codes (the online version of a coupon). Often you will find a code that will give you a discount off the price, free shipping, even a gift with purchase or an item upgrade. All you do is enter the code into the relevant field on the order form before going through the check-out.  It can be worthwhile taking two minutes to do a quick search as you shop.

09 September 2010

Squish and save

I had an email from Cheapskater Shelley, asking if I could solve the riddle of how her household could go through so much toilet paper.  The answer is almost unbelievably simple: squish the roll.

Saving on toilet paper is especially important if you have children. They tend to use far more than they should. Before placing a roll of toilet tissue on the holder, squish it flat. This controls the amount of toilet paper that comes off by stopping each time it comes around to the bent part.  You'll find your TP consumption will drop dramatically as there is no more free-rolling.

07 September 2010

Gluten Free Lemon Slice

This recipe is similar to the no-bake lemon slice made with Marie or Nice biscuits.


half a 415g can condensed milk
125g butter, melted
250g gluten-free cornflakes, crushed
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 tablespoon lemon juice
grated rind of 1 lemon OR mandarin

250g pure icing sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons lemon juice
a little hot water

Mix the slice ingredients well. Press into a lightly greased dish.  In a separate bowl, bash the lumps out of the pure icing sugar. Add 2 tablespoons of melted butter and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Mix well. Very slowly add a little hot water until the icing is soft enough. Spread over the slice mixture. Refrigerate for a few hours. Cut into fingers.

Note: You can substitute 250g gluten-free rice cookies, crushed, for the gluten-free cornflakes in this recipe.

06 September 2010

5 Tips for Using Hot glue

Hot glue is very handy, but it can be messy to use.  These five simple tips make using hot glue safe and convenient.

Drip catcher
Use a clay pot saucer to cradle the end of your hot glue gun. All the drippings are caught inside the saucer, saving your tabletop.

Don't get burnt
If you put hand cream on your hands before you hot glue something, the glue will not stick to your hands, preventing burns.

Fix a mistake
You can correct a mistake that you did with hot glue by placing the object on wax paper and microwaving for 1 minute (remember...no metal in the microwave). The glue will soften and you can easily fix the mistake.

Safe glue stick storage

Store your glue sticks in an empty, clean peanut butter jar with cone incense. The glue sticks are neat and tidy and when you are hot gluing you get a pleasant scent.

Cleaning up the strings
To remove glue strings from your hot glue project, simply use an embossing tool to melt them away.

04 September 2010

Rainy day fun

Have fun spending time with your children on rainy days. Something you can do together is create works of art from shaving cream.  Shaving cream art is fun, easy and cheap for a special rainy day activity. Using a vinyl tablecloth or plastic placemats just spray some shaving cream on and let the kids use it like finger paint.  When they've finished their picture or design, take a photo of it. Then they can smooth the shaving cream over and start a new picture. Generic shaving cream is perfect for this activity. And best of all it's easy to clean up too.

Make a dreary day into a fun and exciting day with your child.

03 September 2010

Bag a bargain online

On the third of September, 1995 shopping as we know it was changed forever with the launch of ebay.com  Since then online shopping has taken off in leaps and bounds and has proved extremely popular. In fact you could very likely purchase your every need and want online if you cared too, perfect if you're feeling a little like a hermit.

The same rules apply for shopping online as they do when you pop to the local shopping centre and ensure that you always bag a bargain:

1.Know what you want
2.Do your research.
3.Know your price limit and stick to it.
4.Check return policies and guarantees on the product.
5.Check the reputation of the seller.

02 September 2010

Spring Cleaning

 With warmer months just around the corner, it's time to think about spring cleaning. Whether you want to clear some of the winter clutter or just feel like a change in scenery, spring cleaning can make it happen. Now is the perfect time to clean out the garage, linen cupboard and wardrobes.  As we all know, this can take a lot of work but a few simple tips can make your spring cleaning experience a breeze.  Every Thursday through September I'll post a Spring Cleaning tip to help you get on top of this seasonal ritual.

Spring Cleaning Series Tip No. 1

If you are storing away your winter clothes, consider using plastic storage containers that feature snap-on lids. These can be found in at most department and hardware stores and even some supermarkets and are very inexpensive. Use a different container for each type of clothing i.e. one for long-sleeve t-shirts, one for cardigans, one for jumpers, one for winter trousers and so on. Label each container clearly so you can easily find a garment if you need it before next winter. Storage containers are very important to keeping your clothes dust and discoloration free, which may otherwise be a problem if they are left hanging in the wardrobe from one season to the next.  If possible choose containers that stack for ease of storage. See the June 21 2005 newsletter for more ideas.

01 September 2010

Cut Back to a Fortnightly Garbage Pick Up

I'd like to be able to say it's a beautiful spring day, but it's not. It is cold, wet and miserable. I think today is the saddest day we've had since winter began. There's a little breeze, just enough to blow the drizzle into your face as you walk, so the water dribbles down under your collar.  And the rain isn't heavy enough to stay indoors, instead it's just heavy enough to make the roads slippery and walking unpleasant.

So, instead of working in the greenhouse as I'd planned, I am sitting, wrapped up in a rug, working on other things.

There's a pot of pumpkin soup on the stove and a quiche in the oven. Both will go down well for tea tonight.  Neither are on my menu plan but the pumpkin needed to be used up and for some reason I had a surplus of eggs, cream and mushrooms in the fridge. They had to be used up. I hate waste and have a constant battle to cut down on the amount of garbage we have.

My aim is to get down to one bin a fortnight by the end of the year. This week it was only just over half full, so I could have waited until next week but we have Father's Day on Sunday and then Tom's birthday on Thursday so there will be more garbage than usual.

Thankfully we don't use a lot of things with huge amounts of packaging. We don't have styro foam trays because we buy our meat and poultry in bulk.  We don't use a lot of tinned foods so cans and tins are kept to a minimum too.  And because we use green bags for groceries and I carry my trusty string bag with me for other shopping we don't have a lot of plastic grocery bags. I usually have to buy plastic bags if I need one unless I save the odd veggie bag. Using my recyclable veggie bags I don't even have those anymore.

We reuse or recycle as much of our household rubbish as we can. All milk and soft drink bottles (not the lids, they don't recycle) are flattened and put into the recycle bin. Veggie peelings, food scraps, the vacuum cleaner dust and shredded newspapers are put into the Bokashi bucket or the outside compost bin. Papers are shredded and used as mulch, put into the compost or made into fire lighters and if we've done all those things and still have paper then it goes into the recycle bin. Magazines are taken to my favourite op shop and if we ever get large cartons then I drop them at the local recycling depot. They don't charge for paper drop-offs

Cans are opened at each end and flattened to recycle. Glass jars and their lids are washed, have the label taken off and put away for summer and autumn preserving and jam making. I haven't bought jars in years since I saw Isabel Webb, author of  5 Minute Bottling, demonstrate microwave preserving and realised they can be reused safely.  AJ was a baby in the pram so that's at least 18 years ago and a lot of bottles reused and recycled.

Wayne even recycles the ashes from the fire. They get dug into fallow garden beds, used to clean the glass on the fire door and sprinkled in the compost heap.

We haven't always been so conscious of the amount of rubbish we add to landfill, but I think that until a few short years ago most of us thought it was only "hippies" or anyone living an "alternative lifestyle" that cared, and even then we thought they were slightly odd and eccentric.

It wasn't the green movement or even a burning desire to be kinder and more caring of our environment that brought about a change in our thinking. Instead it was finding ourselves jobless, with two and a bit children (Hannah was on her way) and barely enough money to pay the mortgage and buy food.

That's when I became conscious of how much of everything, not just money, we wasted and how that impacted on our lifestyle.  The food alone we wasted kept our grocery bill at around $100 a week, twice what I had to spend on food (remember, this was 16 years ago and $100 a week was a fairly luxurious grocery budget) - something had to change and change quickly.

Well the change wasn't overnight, it took a few months, but bit by bit we trimmed our spending and as a result we trimmed waste.

The realisation that living like Cheapskates was also "green" came as a pleasant surprise. And ever since I've been on a mission to save money and be less wasteful, hence my goal to halve our rubbish output.

The garbage truck has just been so I can run out and bring the bin in. And maybe next week I won't put it out after all.

Pool Your Resources

I have teamed up with some friends to pool our resources and save. I grow oranges, passionfruit and some vegies and share the crops with everyone in the group. A friend who keeps chooks supplies the eggs. Another friend works as a market researcher and includes us in her jobs involving free samples. We all take cuttings from the others' gardens and share expensive appliances e.g. garden mulcher. This ensures we all stay in touch often and saves us loads of money.
Contributed by Tracey, Northfield