30 October 2010

Top 10 Stockpile Items

I am often asked what should be in a stockpile. Here are my top 10 stockpile items. You'll see they are all things that are used regularly and store well. By following the sale cycle and purchasing enough of each item when it comes on sale to last until the next sale, you'll be able to drastically cut your grocery budget.

  • Red meat
  • Chicken
  • Cereals
  • Cheese
  • Tinned fruit
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Pasta sauce
  • Baking supplies (flour, sugar, dried fruit etc)
  • Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste etc)

29 October 2010

Shop at ethnic specialty grocers

Most large supermarkets have an international foods aisle, with basic Asian, Mexican and Indian foods, but they come at supermarket prices.  Why not go straight to the source and save even more money.  Most of these wonderful little grocers rely on word of mouth for their advertising, a great recommendation and are able to pass on great savings to their customers.  You'll find a much larger range of spices, rices, pastas, vegetables and other specialty foods than at your regular supermarket and even if the prices aren't better, the quality of the food often is.

28 October 2010

A personalized recipe book

If you don't have the time (or the inclination) to handwrite all those recipes you want to try into a personalized recipe book, here's a handy tip that will keep them for you.  Take all those clippings from magazines and newspapers, and all those recipe leaflets you've collected over the years and photocopy or scan and print them onto nice paper. Put each page into a sheet protector to protect them from spills and store them in a 3-ring binder.  Use an insert binder and you can use clipart to create a cover page and spine for your recipe book. The entire project should cost well under $10 and it's easy to make multiple copies at the same time to use as gifts for family and friends.

26 October 2010

Fruit Salad Cake

This delicious cake can be eaten as warm as dessert or cold for afternoon tea. And it's fat, egg and dairy free!

¾ cups sugar
1 cup SR flour
½ tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
410g can fruit cocktail in syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup crushed walnuts or almonds

Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees Celsius.  Mix together sugar, flour and salt in mixing bowl.  Beat in egg, fruit cocktail and vanilla extract.  Pour into shallow, greased 2ocm square cake tin. Combine brown sugar  and nuts and sprinkle over top.   Bake for 40 - 45 minutes.  Serve plain or with ice cream or whipped cream if you're not watching your diet.

25 October 2010

Bath Toys

Why spend good money on rubber ducks and floating tug boats when you already have great bath toys around your home? Simply recycle plastic drink bottles, cups and colanders. The measuring scoops from washing powder float easily for lots of bathtime fun, and the caps from liquid laundry detergent also make great float toys. And don't underestimate  the fun to be had with a plain old wet facewasher.

24 October 2010

What vegetables should I plant?

First, you should think of what vegetables you and your family usually love to eat. Then choose the most expensive from the list - perhaps red or yellow capsicums as they usually cost more than the green ones, mignonette lettuce as they are more expensive than good old ice berg etc. To keep your food interesting try different varieties of your favourites like Five Colour silverbeet instead of common Fordhook, or purple carrots instead of the more common orange (they actually turn orange when they are cooked).  Just because you are growing vegetables doesn't mean your diet has to be limited. There are literally hundreds of different varieties of every vegetable so you can have some fun with your garden as well as save some money.

23 October 2010

The perfect afternoon tea

Hannah recorded a Martha Stewart show during the week and we watched it this afternoon and I was a little surprised to find that I know more about something than Martha does!

Some of you may watch the show (shown weekdays on 7Two) hosted by the 21st century epitome of housekeeping, but I don't so you can imagine my glee when I realised she doesn't know how to make real scones!  Poor Martha, she had eggs and sugar in the dough and had the scones spaced about an inch apart on the tray.  Then she brushed the tops with beaten egg and sprinkled them with more sugar.  The recipe she demonstrated as "real English scones" only bore a faint resemblance to what we know as scones, although they did look a similar shape when they were cooked.

Now I can make scones, both traditional and my favourite Lemonade Scones, and they are always scrumptious and never last long. In fact if ever there are any left the next day the boys split them, toast them under the grill and either top them with honey or jam and cheese and wolf them down in no time.

The recipe for Lemonade Scones is very easy and absolutely no fail. If you're a beginner scone maker try this recipe first, you'll love it.

Lemonade Scones

1 cup of lemonade
1 cup of cream
3 cups of self-raising flour

Preheat oven to very hot 220C. Add lemonade and cream to flour, mix to form soft dough, then place mixture on floured surface. Knead dough to a 2 cm thickness and cut with a floured cutter. Place close together on tray, brush with whisked egg and bake for 10 - 15 minutes.

Here's my "traditional" scone recipe, also very easy and no fail. You'll notice I don't put sugar into these scones, I think the jam is sweet enough. It also means that they can be used for savoury toppings without tasting odd. Try them with pickle and grated cheese or cream cheese and salmon, they are just delicious.

Traditional Scones
3 cups SR flour
90g chilled butter (not margarine), cut into 1cm cubes
1 cup milk
A little extra milk, for brushing

Pre-heat oven to 230 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray with baking paper.  Place flour in a large bowl. Tip chilled, cubed butter into bowl. Working quickly  and using your fingertips rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the milk and using a flat-bladed knife mix until just combined. Sprinkle a pastry sheet or benchtop with some flour and turn the dough out. Knead gently with your fingertips, shaping into a round. Using the palm of your hand flatten the dough to about 2cm thick. Cut into rounds with a scone cutter dipped in flour (this will stop it sticking to the dough). Place the scones onto the baking tray so they are just touching. Brush the tops only lightly with milk and place in oven. Bake for 10 -12 minutes until golden.

Serve warm from the oven with raspberry or strawberry jam and whipped cream.

My top tips for scone making:
  • Work quickly - from tipping the butter into the flour to getting the scones into the oven shouldn't be more than five minutes.
  • Always use butter - margarine will work but the flavour and texture are not quite as good.
  • Always use chilled butter so it rubs into the flour without melting. Soft butter melts into the flour, turning it to a greasy dough and producing flat, hard scones.
  • Use your fingertips when rubbing in the butter as they don't get as hot as your hands.
  • If you don't want to or are not able to use your fingertips, you can get a pastry cutter which will do the job for you. You'll find them at homeware stores for around $8 each.
  • Never roll the dough with a rolling pin - it will take the air out of the dough, making tough, dry scones.
  • Brush only the tops of the scones to help with rising.
  • Scones that are touching rise higher and bake more evenly than if they are spaced on the tray.

If you've never made scones, give them a go. They are so easy and you'll be the best hostess if you can whip up a batch of fresh scones with jam and cream for the perfect afternoon tea.

21 October 2010

Miracle Microfibre - It's Not Just Hype

Microfibre cleaning cloths are fantastic. But do they really save you money?  Research carried out by the University of California Davis Medical Centre way back in 1999 concluded that not only do microfibre cleaning clothes make your cleaning chores easier, they can save you a fortune. They studied the cost and performance benefits of microfibre mops against conventional mops and concluded that the microfibre mop, while costing more initially actually saved around 95% on cleaning chemicals, 60% on replacement costs over the lifetime of a conventional mop and approximately 20% on labour costs. They also discovered that using microfibre cleaning products uses less water too.  These days microfibre cloths range in price, but they all do a great job. Choose the cloth that best suits your budget and the cleaning job and you're sure to save a lot of money, time and energy.

I couldn't find any Australian research (apart from my own) carried out on the cost-benefits of microfibre v conventional cleaning. If you know of any, please let me know. I'd love to see it.

20 October 2010

How Fresh is Your Pillow?

I've seen it all now, folks.  Pillows that come stamped with a "change" date!

Tontine are now stamping their pillows with a "change date" so you'll know when it's time to buy a one. How handy is that? not!

Good pillows are necessary for comfortable and healthy sleep.I have nothing against new pillows and if you really want them and can afford them go right ahead. But whatever happened to using your commonsense? Surely you don't need a date stamped on your pillow to tell you it's time for a change. A distinctly ugly odour, a sore neck and a few sleepless nights should do the job.

I personally do not like new pillows. They are always too high, too soft or too hard - just plain uncomfortable, which is why I always take my own pillows when we travel (most of my overnight bag is pillows, even if I'm going to be staying in a great hotel). I would much rather renovate the pillows we have every twelve months or so.  It's a job for a warm, sunny day, just perfect for this time of year.  And believe it or not it's very easy to do if your pillows have a synthetic filling. Feather pillows and the new memory foam pillows take a little more effort but can be renovated yourself too.

Once a year seems to be the right length of time for my family, yours may need more frequent or less often treatment. You'll know what works best for you.

I just dunk them in the bath with warm, soapy water, let them soak, rinse and dry flat. The trick is not to wring them, that just ruins the filling, and to let them drip dry flat. That's why you are best to choose a warm day  for your pillow renovation. The next, and most important thing, to remember is to make sure they are thoroughly dry before you start using them. You don't want to end up with a mouldy pillow under your head.

Keep your pillows fresh between renovations by airing them in the sunshine once a month. Just peg them to the clothesline for the day and give them a good shake before you put them back on your bed. They'll smell like the sun and be delightfully fresh, and you won't have spent a cent.

The sceptic in me wonders at the helpfulness of Tontine and the company's concern about your health and well being. Personally I think this is such a clever marketing ploy - how many people are going to buy their stamped pillows and simply put them in the bin when the stamped date rolls around, irrespective of whether or not their pillow is doing a great job. And these pillows will go to landfill - for health reasons you can't donate them or sell them.  You can even register online to receive an email reminder when it's time to change your pillow!

It's another great way to convince those sheep-like people, who don't want to think for themselves or take responsibility for their own life, to buy new pillows. Pillows aren't cheap - even at $10 each we have 14 in our house (we all have two each, and four for the spare beds). That's $140 every couple of years, just on pillows! Actually in two years time it will be more, I'm sure they won't stay the same or drop in price.

Now I'm over my awe, I won't be buying any new pillows according to a change-by, use-by or best-before date, I'll be doing just as I always have and renovating until I feel my pillows are beyond renovation.

My advice to you is to use your commonsense, and give renovating your pillows yourself a go before you rush out and buy new ones.

Greetings Workshop at Home

If you are following our Christmas Countdown, you'll know that Christmas cards are done early in the countdown. You don't need to buy them, nor do you have to be particularly creative or crafty, as Cheryl's tip shows.

When our first child was born we made our own Christmas cards. We used "Greetings Workshop" software, but there are a lot of different types of software around. Using A4 paper we put a photo of us and the new baby on the front cover. We personalised the cards including other photos and printed a letter on the inside to let people know what we had been doing during the year. We had so many comments about the cards, we have done them this way every year since. Every year people 'watched' the children growing. It was cheap but more than that it was very personal and relatives and friends loved it.
Contributed by Cheryl

19 October 2010

Irish Potatoes

These potatoes are delicious and very easy. They also transport well so are perfect for taking to pot-luck dinners.  If you have any leftovers (highly unlikely, they are really good) fry them in a non-stick pan the next day and serve with a fried egg for a quick and tasty meal.  You won't need to add any butter or oil to the pan, there will be enough in the sauce.  The addition of dill adds a lovely flavour to this simple dish.

1kg potatoes, washed and cut into wedges (no need to peel)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter, melted
1tbsp lemon juice
1tbsp chopped parsley
2 spring onions, finely sliced
3 tsp dried dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Put the potatoes and water into a covered casserole dish. Place in oven and cook for 45 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.  Drain and return to casserole dish. Combine melted butter, lemon juice, parsley, spring onions, dill and seasonings. Pour over potatoes and return to oven to heat through, about 15 minutes.   Serve.

18 October 2010

Keep it Cool

When you need to grate a semi-hard cheese such as cheddar, pop it into the freezer for a half hour or so before grating. This prevents the cheese from turning into a total mess on the back side of the grater.  Chill and grate butter as well when a recipe calls for dotting the top of the casserole or when making pastry with butter.

17 October 2010

Lazy Sunday

It really has been a lazy Sunday here today. I didn't get out of bed until 9.30am! I didn't even hear or feel Wayne get up this morning. I usually wake as soon as he gets out of bed, but not today. The busyness of the last few weeks has finally caught up with me and I am tired.

So, instead of doing the laundry and ironing and some baking for the week I've spent most of today on the lounge, working on the website and my new book and getting some other articles ready for an upcoming project. I didn't even get lunch, Wayne brought it to me on a plate and I ate right here, where I am now.

It's still cool outside, not cold like it was yesterday, but cool and damp and a little windy. Every time the sun breaks through the clouds I think I'd like to get up and go and check the garden then it clouds over and looks miserable so I stay here.

Yesterday was so cold we lit the fire again and it's been going ever since. We are so blessed to have the fire. It does a great job of heating the whole house, but I use it to dry the washing (Hannah did a load of laundry) and keeps a pot of water almost on the boil all day, just perfect for a quick cuppa, washing the dishes or adding to the bath for a soak.

There won't be a roast for tea tonight, I forgot to take it out of the freezer yesterday. Instead I have ribs on the stove, bubbling away. I love ribs, the smoky bbq flavour of the sauce is one of my favourite things but no-one else is all that keen on them so they don't appear regularly.  We only have them now because they a cut that was included with the last side of beef we bought. This particular recipe is a "cheat" for bbq ribs and only takes two hours from start to servings. I'm going to make some seasoned rice to have with them, a lazy side dish option for a lazy Sunday. I wanted to get a photo of the ribs plated up but the hungry hoards couldn't wait so hopefully next time.

Cheats BBQ Ribs

2.5kg beef short ribs
250g tomato paste
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp dried onion flakes
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Put the ribs into a large, heavy saucepan and cover with cold water. Cover and bring to the boil. Turn heat down and cook for 1 hour. To make the sauce place the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan, stir to combine and bring to the boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Turn heat down and simmer for 15 minutes. When the ribs are cooked drain and pour sauce over, turning to coat each rib. Heat a grill (bbq or heavy fry pan) and grill the ribs, turning frequently and basting with sauce for 15 minutes. Serve with seasoned rice.

I'll put this recipe in the Recipe File too, so you'll be able to find it when you want to try it because it really is delicious.

While I've been sitting doing nothing all day, I caught up on a whole lot of paperwork that's been sitting on my desk for days, and even managed to do some filing. For a world that claims to be moving towards being "paperless" I seem to get more and more paper every day, even without junk mail. I used to joke that our electricity bill would be a lot cheaper if they'd leave the junk out of the envelope and just send the bill, now I'm not so sure I'm joking.  We've moved to getting as many bills and newsletters as we can via email and still there is so much useless paper flooding our home day after day. Whether it's recycled or not, the environmental cost of all this useless paper is huge. If you know a way to control it let me know because I'm stumped.

Drought tolerant doesn't mean "don't water"

While we all want to conserve water and have nice gardens, just remember that while there are many plants labelled "drought tolerant" they still need water.  When planting, even drought tolerant plants, remember that they will need regular watering for at least the first year until they are established. After that, as long as you have selected the right plants for your zone, they should be able to exist on the natural groundwater and rainfall.

16 October 2010

The road trip isn't so long if the kids are quiet

It's easy to keep the kids entertained in the car, whether the trip is short or you're on an epic road trip, and you don't have to knock them out or travel at night either. Letting them have hours of Gameboy time isn't necessarily the best way to keep them quiet, but talking books are. Most cars these days have CD players and/or tape decks, so go to your local library and borrow some talking books. Choosing a couple of their favourite stories will keep them quiet between rest stops.  Another option is DVDs. If you don't have a portable DVD player, you can use a laptop computer for their favourite movies. There are adaptors you can get that will plug in to the cigarette lighter to keep the laptop charged - you don't want a fight if the battery goes flat.

15 October 2010

Variety is the Key to Menu Planning

You don't have to cook/eat big meat and 3 veg meals every night. Try having meat and 3 veg one night followed by stir fry, quiche, noodle soup next night. Omelettes, poached, scrambled eggs are great too. Try adding different fillings i.e. grated cheese, chopped tomato n herbs, tuna/salmon, leftover meats to eggs for flavour.

You can peel and cut up fresh potato, carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato cover with cold water and store in an airtight container in fridge. Boil, steam or micro vegies while grilling chops, steak or fish. Turn griller on first, get this cooking, have shower or cuppa or something stronger!!! Then start cooking vegies.

Use a packet sauce to make different flavoured gravies to dress up meat. Remember, its only 5 nights you need to prepare for each week. That's 1 meal of grill and veg, 1 meal of stir fry, 1 meal of quiche, 1 meal of meatballs, 1 meal of Asian noodle soup. You haven't even used an egg dish yet!!! Don't forget you can always grab a bbq chicken on your way home and micro those fresh vegies you've prepared ahead if you get stuck late at work etc. Home made toppings on a pre prepared fresh pizza base are good fun too! Freeze a few for quick meals too!

Contributed by Pauline

14 October 2010

Eggs-idental Spills

If you accidentally drop an egg on the kitchen floor, don't make the sticky mess worse by wiping it up. Instead, cover the egg glob completely with salt. Leave on for about 15 minutes. Simply sweep or wipe up with a paper towel.

13 October 2010

Drink Can Saving

A friend told me you could fit over $600 in $2 coins in a drink can which I found hard to believe so thought I'd give it a try. When the tab is pulled off the can you can only fit $2 coins in the opening...5 cent coins will also fit but the goal was to see how much a can of $2 coins would add up to. I washed and dried the can and started adding the coins. Low and behold by the time the can was full there was over $640! I ended up getting a larger beer can and that can holds over $700. I've got to the stage where I can't spend a $2 coin, which probably isn't a bad thing. After seeing the amount the drink can held my friend has been saving her $2 coins as well and it came in very handy with unexpected car repairs.

Contributed by Dianne Keen

12 October 2010

Slow Cooker Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Everyone needs a simple recipe they can pull together in a few minutes, but that looks and tastes as though they've spent hours in the kitchen. This casserole is it. You can assemble the whole dish in around 10 minutes, 5 if you're really quick, and then just leave it in the slow cooker to simmer away all day.

4 chicken breast fillets, skin off
4 slices Swiss cheese
4 slices ham
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup milk

Flatten chicken fillets. Roll a slice of ham, slice of cheese and a chicken fillet together. Fasten with a toothpick to hold closed. Heat butter in a frying pan and brown chicken on all sides. Remove from pan and place in crockpot. Mix chicken soup and milk and pour over chicken. Cook on low 4 - 5 hours. Add more milk to sauce if necessary.

Notes:  I have used tasty and Mozarella cheeses for this recipe with equal success. I would use whatever was on hand.  I also use homemade cream of chicken soup rather than a can, simply because I don't often have a tin of chicken soup handy. This dish works equally well with cream of mushroom and cream of asparagus soups.

11 October 2010

Camera Stable Table

Fill a small ziplock bag with rice and keep it in your camera bag. It makes a great stable surface to rest your camera on when you want to take time exposure photos or you want to be in the photo and don't have a tripod. Just put the bag on a stable surface and rest the camera on top. Voila, a steady camera and a steady shot!

Contributed by Stuart, Sydney

10 October 2010

What's to eat?

Do those words frustrate you as much as they do me? Seriously, AJ and Tom have lived with me long enough to know my answer. "Nothing".

The one thing we are never short of is food. The pantry is full. The fridge is full, ditto the freezer. The stockpile shelves and cupboard are full to overflowing. And yet they stand before me and ask "what's to eat?".

What they are really asking is "why isn't there a plate of food in the fridge with a note saying 'Tom, please eat me'.

There isn't because I'm not that nice a mother. And because they are 18 and 19 years old, well capable of finding something to eat for themselves. They just don't want to.

Maybe I am a nice mum after all. I took pity on them this afternoon and did some baking. Now there's a chocolate cake in the cake tin, a craisin (dried cranberry) cake on the cake stand and a batch of choc chip lunchbox cookies in the biscuit jar. There's also a dozen hardboiled eggs and a tub of hummus in the fridge. Surely they'll find something to eat now?

If you are wondering about the craisin cake, it came about because we are out of sultanas and I'm not due to go to the shops until next Thursday.

I used my Sultana Cake recipe, substituting craisins for the sultanas and skipping the overnight soaking. The cake is a pale shade of pink and smells lovely. It's still cooling so I haven't tasted it yet but I think it will be nice. I'm tossing up whether to do a cream cheese icing for it, but will probably leave it as is. Un-iced it will keep longer and won't need to go into the fridge.

At least it'll last until the boys find it - then I won't need to blink or it'll be gone!

Don't forget the flowers

A sure sign of a healthy garden is the birds, bees and butterflies flitting from plant to plant. But these garden lovelies need nectar, the nectar found in flowers, to survive in your garden and thus do their job.  While growing only edible plants or low maintenance and low-water gardens appears to be eco-friendly, these gardens do not offer the habitat these garden helpers need. Without some flowers or at least nectar and pollen producing plants, your garden cannot flourish.  There are any number of flowering plants that are both low-water and low-maintenance so remember to include them in your minimalist garden plan.

09 October 2010

Perfect Party Food

Keep it simple. The last thing you need on a busy day is for you to be running around like crazy trying to make cherries flambé or tiramisu with crème frache. However, with a little creative planning, you can make something spectacular and still be able to take great photos of the party guests and birthday child eating your birthday spread. There are so many recipes available at your fingertips that are not only delicious but easy to make with items you probably have in the house or can pick up in your local supermarket at minimal cost (another key!).  Our standard birthday party fare is all mini foods, simply because kids at parties just don't eat.  We have mini sausage rolls, party pies and mini quiche, fairy bread (the grown ups really go for this), dip and carrot straws, with birthday cake and frog-in-a-pond for desserts. A punch is easy to make and always popular - try Fairy Nectar or Precious Gem Punch.  Whatever party menu you choose, remember, especially for a kids' party, just keep it simple! 

Precious Gem Punch
Make ice cubes by freezing blackcurrant or grape juice. Just before serving add the ice cubes to 2 litres of apple juice and 2 litres of lemonade in a punchbowl. The precious gems floating on top will glisten and glow.

To make the “gems” even more special, use different shaped ice cube trays.

Fairy Nectar
3 litre can sunshine punch
2 litres lemonade
2 litres dry ginger
1 tin apricot nectar

Freeze small pieces of fruit (pineapple, strawberries, mandarins) in ice cubes. Just before serving add the ice cubes to the punch. Float some washed and dried mint leaves on the top of the fairy nectar.

08 October 2010

How long does food last?

Before you fill your cupboards with bulk items, you may want to review the average "life" of those products you are considering purchasing. Ask yourself if you have adequate storage space, freezer space, and how much your family enjoys the products you are purchasing.  This is a list of the average life of some common pantry and fridge/freezer foods.

Meat & Poultry - Uncooked:
Chicken/Turkey - 9 months
Steaks, beef - 6 to 12 months
Chops, pork - 4 to 6 months
Chops, lamb - 6 to 9 months
Roasts, beef - 6 to 12 months
Roasts, lamb - 6 to 9 months
Roasts, pork and veal - 4 to 6 months
Stew Meats - 3 to 4 months
Ground meats - 3 to 4 months
Organ meats - 3 to 4 months

Dairy Products:
Butter/margarine - 6-9 months
Cheese, soft and spreads, dips - 1 months
Cheese, hard or semi-hard - 6 months
Eggs in shell- Do not freeze
Ice cream - 1 months
Milk / Cream- 3 weeks

Dried Food Items - Shelf Life:
Baking powder/bi-carb soda - 18 months
Bread Crumbs - 6 months
Cereals - 6 months
Flour/cake mixes - 1 year
Gelatin/pudding mixes - 1 year
Herbs/spices - 6-12 months
Milk, nonfat dry - 6 months
Pancake/pastry mixes - 6 months
Pasta/noodles - 2 years
Potatoes, instant - 18 months
Rice, white - 2 years
Sugar, white - 2 years
Sugar, brown, -  4 months

07 October 2010

Get that Bling to Sparkle

A simple way to clean jewellery, particularly diamond rings, is to mix 1 part cloudy ammonia (found in the cleaning aisle of the supermarket) to 1 part hot tap water. Sit the jewellery in the mixture  for 15-30 minutes in a well ventilated area and then rinse off with warm water. Dry with a soft cloth and your jewellery will sparkle.  The ammonia can be used neat but the hot water seems to help loosen any grime.  Do NOT use on pearls or Mother of pearl jewellery.

05 October 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

This pie is delicious and is a nice way to serve leftover roast chicken too. Just substitute the leftover chicken for the chicken fillet. As it will already be cooked you can skip the first step in the method.

Serves 4 - 6
Cost $5.29


2 sheets puff pastry $1.20
1 chicken breast fillet $2.30
1 onion, diced . 20c
1 small carrot, diced .20c
1 stick celery, diced  .10c
1 tin cream of chicken soup  $1.29 (or use the equivalent of homemade mix)

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Cook the chicken fillet, remove from pan and set aside to cool. Sauté the onion, carrot and celery in the pan the chicken was cooked in, being sure to scrape up the brownings. When the chicken is cool, shred the meat with a fork. Add to the pan with the vegetables, stir in the cream of chicken soup and mix gently until well combined. Grease a pie plate and line the base with one sheet of pastry. Add the filling and top with the second pastry sheet. Trim and crimp the edges to seal, either with a fork or using your fingers to pinch the edges closed. Cut four or five vents in the top of the pie.  Brush top with a little water. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired. Cook in a hot oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until golden brown on top and base is cooked through.

04 October 2010

Sewing, Craft, Fix-its and More!

Approximate $ Savings: $30
The ribbons that are sewn into the shoulders of clothing are very handy indeed! I personally don't use them and find them highly annoying so they are cut out of new clothing as soon as it arrives home! I keep them in a designated box so I know where to find them when needed. One of the best things about these ribbons is the variety in colour and the myriad of uses they have. They are great for scrapbooking, craft projects, hair decorations, quick fixes and so much more! My daughter has a strappy sun dress which she loves to bits. The strap from one shoulder snapped and I was unable to repair it. Rather than try to find the dress and replace it totally ($30 new), I got out my ribbon box and created 2 new funky straps for the dress so they would match. My daughter was ecstatic that she still had her dress and that it had received an upgrade. I was MORE than pleased with my handy-work and for saving over $30!

Contributed by Tenille Harrison

03 October 2010

A Wonderful Gift of Fresh Eggs

A dozen fresh eggs, what a wonderful gift
Thomas had some friends over this afternoon and one the boys brought me a dozen farm fresh eggs, straight from his own chickens. I was so thrilled when he gave them to me,  to think this young man knows me so well that he was comfortable enough to give me a dozen eggs as a hostess gift. Not that I think he knows what a hostess gift is, but he was pleased at my joy and I am more than pleased that my boys have such gorgeous friends.

Andre has 20 hens and as well as keeping his own mum and grandmother in fresh eggs he has enough to be able to give them away. When I suggested he could sell them he just shook his head no. He has the chickens because he just loves working with animals and he loves being able to gift something of his own to special people. In this materialistic, self-centred world, isn't that a nice attitude?

So, with a spare dozen eggs I did some extra cooking this afternoon. There's a lovely bread and butter custard for dessert tonight and 10 individual quiche of various flavours in the freezer for lunches. I gave the already recycled carton back to him and have just added 12 crushed egg shells to the bokashi bucket. Nothing  about this gift has been wasted.

It's Tomato Time

It's almost time to get your tomato seedlings into the ground. You can plant them out as soon as the risk of frost is gone.

Prepare the soil by digging over and removing any rocks and clumps. Dig in lots of compost and organic matter and water well.

If you space the plants about 1 metre apart you'll ensure good airflow, reducing the risk of disease. And remember to mulch well.  A simple trick is to plant them just a little deeper than they were in the pot to encourage a good root system and a strong stem.

And lastly remember to feed them regularly with liquid fertilizer like a seaweed mix or use worm castings or compost tea.

02 October 2010

Daylight saving starts tomorrow morning

Don't forget to put your clocks forward one hour before you go to bed tonight. Daylight Savings starts at 2am tomorrow morning for the ACT, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

And for those who bemoan the "lost" hour, you'll get it back on 3rd April 2011 when we put the clocks back!

Search Your Family Tree

Most of us know two or three, sometimes four generations of our family tree, but tracing our ancestry back any further can be a little confused.  A great activity that can include everyone in the family is to trace your family tree.  Start with what you know - you and your family, your parents and possibly grandparents. Then go back further by asking older relatives for their memories.  You can use resources like ancestry.com.au to fill in more blanks or contact your local genealogical society for help. You can add as much detail as you like and go back as far at you like.  There are plenty of computer programs around that can help you put the information together or you can use a simple spreadsheet.  Once you've finished put it all together in a book for family members.

01 October 2010

Buy Nothing New month

Today is the start of this month long challenge, the first Buy Nothing New month for Salvos Stores. Of course it fits perfectly with the Cheapskates philosophy too.

We live in a throw-away society, where very little is made to last beyond a couple of years or a few uses and nothing is made to be repaired. Instead, just about everything from paper plates to computers, clothes to washing machines, is disposable, made to be thrown away when it stops working.

This throw-away mentality hasn't made our lives any easier. Instead it has complicated them, adding significantly to the cost of living and creating stresses unknown just a generation ago.

So for the month of October, just 31 short days, the challenge is to ignore the tendency we all have to throw things away and buy a new whatever. This month we are going to extend the useful life of the things we buy, learn just how easy it is to find what we need second-hand, used, repaired, recycled or renovated.  Just so long as we don't buy anything new.

To help you get started here are 10 tips for Op-shopping:

1.Shop with a plan and a list.
2.Be open minded.
3.Look for quality.
4.Don't be afraid to try new, unknown brands.
5.Always try things on.
6.Leave the kids at home.
7.Know your local op-shops opening hours and sale days.
8.Go often and with cash.
9.Think creatively - look for ways to re-purpose the items you see.
10.Think ahead - stockpile great buys for future use.