31 January 2011


"As Monday goes so goes the rest of the week."

It's an old saying, one I heard often growing up.

Today was also the first day of classes for Thomas. It won't be very long before he graduates as a Civil Engineer, but today that does seem a long way off.  It felt like just a little while ago he was standing under the fig tree, getting his "first day of school" photo taken, all spic'n'span in his brand new uniform, hair combed, shoes shined and backpack almost bigger than him, with a grin as wide as the world on his little face.

Today he wouldn't stand for a photo (apparently I was being totally silly) and his hair didn't look too combed. And his shoes certainly weren't shined. But the grin was just as wide as it was that January day in 1998 when he did let me take a picture.

I shed a tear on his first day of school, and I shed another as he went off to get the bus this morning. Our lives have turned another corner, and the prospect is of new and exciting adventures ahead of us.

If the saying is true, then the rest of my week is going to be a doozy!

Does how your Mondays go dictate the rest of the week for you?

Did you have a good weekend to help start your week off?

Anything special on your agenda for the week?

Have a super duper Monday!!!

Sort your wardrobe

An easy way to decide what to keep and what to donate when tidying your wardrobe is to lightly stick a piece of masking tape on the sleeve (or leg) of everything in the wardrobe. Then when you take it out to wear it pull the masking tape off. At the end of the season anything with masking tape still attached hasn't been worn. You can then decide whether it's a keeper (some things are only worn on special occasions) or pack it up to toss or donate.

30 January 2011

DIY Seed Tape

Instead of buying  expensive  prepared seed tape from the nursery for your veggie seeds, make your own. Use a length of unbleached toilet paper (one roll makes a lot of seed tape) and drizzle a thin line of honey about an inch inside the long edge. Space the seeds according to the directions on the packet by dropping them into the line of honey. Fold the toilet paper over so it sticks to the honey and covers the seeds.  Plant the paper directly into the soil as per the instructions and water well. This works just like the pre-prepared seed tapes, for a fraction of the cost and no more wasting all those tiny seeds.

29 January 2011

Authentic eating

Just because we live according to a spending plan doesn't mean we can't enjoy eating out, we are just choosier about the where, when and what.  Explore traditional ethnic restaurants instead of the popular ones . Authentic is almost always better and cheaper. And the best way to find a good, authentic restaurant is to ask: friends, family, neighbours, colleagues, mums at school pick-up time, anyone at all. Often the very best ethnic restaurants are well-kept secrets.

One of our favourite well-kept secrets is a Chinese restaurant, Golden Park,  located at 690 Mountain Highway, Bayswater, Vic. We always get great food and great service for a price that well and truly suits our spending plan.

Feel free to share your favourite restaurant with us, we'll keep the secret!

28 January 2011

Play pantry roundabout

When you are putting the groceries away, play pantry roundabout and bring the oldest cans and packets to the front and put the new ones at the back. This means you'll be using the oldest groceries first, putting and end to the problem of finding jars, packets and cans with a best before or use by date of 1998 next time you clean your pantry.

26 January 2011

Keep a video record

Home and contents insurance policies often require proof of possession when you make a claim, or a record of all your possessions, but most of us never get around to compiling such a detailed written inventory. Instead of spending hours taking photos and recording details, walk around with a video recorder. As you are going through your home, explain what you see. If you have receipts and warranties, record them too. Then keep a copy on your computer and another in a safe place, out of your home in case of fire, flood or theft.  Make a calendar note to update it every twelve months when you renew your insurance.

25 January 2011

Lasagne Rolls

12 fresh lasagna noodles (can use dried, but not instant type)
500g mince beef (can use chicken mince)
1 egg
375g low fat cottage cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1 jar tomato pasta sauce

Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Brown the mince in a medium fry pan. Drain. Beat the egg and add the cottage cheese, mozzarella, parmesan and basil. Stir with a fork to combine. Add drained mince to half the pasta sauce. Cook noodles according to directions on the packet. Drain the noodles well and allow them to cool enough to handle. Lay the lasagna noodles out flat. Spread half the pasta sauce evenly over each of the noodles. Spread the cottage cheese mixture evenly over the pasta sauce leaving a little of the short ends uncovered. Roll the lasagna from the short end tightly up over the filling.  Place the rolls seam side down into an ovenproof dish that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with remaining pasta sauce. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until pasta is cooked and sauce is bubbling and heated through. Serves 6.

24 January 2011

Easier Knitting

Knitting the first row of your project can be a little slow because the stitches are usually quite tight. To solve this problem use two needles when casting on instead of one. The extra width of the two needles ensures that the stitches of the first row will be able to be knitted easily. Alternately you could use a knitting needle that is several sizes larger than the one needed in your project to achieve the same result.

Contributed by Zofia Vandenberg

23 January 2011

What to do with lots of apricots and strawberries

I took a quick trip to Dandenong market on Friday to buy potatoes and onions. These are the two things I know I won't be able to grow enough of in our veggie garden and they are the two vegetable staples for my family.  Take away their spuds and onions and they feel really deprived.

I picked up a 10kg bag of potatoes for $8, 80c/kg is a fair price to pay for potatoes. The onions were a little more expensive, $10 for a 10kg bag, but still cheaper than in the supermarkets or my local greengrocer so I was happy to pay those prices.

It won't take us long to go through the potatoes, so they are just stored in the box in the bottom of the pantry. The box is lined with newspaper and the potatoes are spread in layers, with newspaper between each layer so they stay cool and dark. There is an old hessian bag over the top layer to keep the light out and let them breathe. They should be good for at least a month stored like this.

The onions though are another matter. Ten kilos of onions is a lot of onions. Some of them are in the pantry to use whole for baking. The rest of them I peeled and soaked in cool water. Half of them I sliced into rings, for salads, barbecues, burgers, casseroles etc. The other half I chopped, in the food processor, to use when I need a grated onion.  All the onions are now bagged in half cup lots and safely in the freezer.

I'm so glad I kept the ziplock bags from the last bulk lot of onions. They still had that distinctive onion odour so I didn't want to use them for anything else, but for more onions they are just perfect.  It might seem odd and penny-pinching to save ziplock bags and other plastic bags, but as long as they haven't had raw meat or poultry in them, they can be washed, dried and re-used over and over again. Just be sure to wash, rinse and dry thoroughly.

I calculated the savings on re-using sandwich bags a few years ago. By re-using (or better still, not using them at all) sandwich bags you save around $24 a year per person - not a lot, but think of  it as one hour you don't need to work. And what about all the bags that aren't going to landfill!

While I was at the market I had a quick look at what other fruit and veg were on offer. Prices have already started to creep up, much as has been forecast. I found a tray of strawberries (15 punnets) for $10 and a 5kg box of lovely apricots for $7 so I snapped them up too.

With so much fresh produce in the house it has to be preserved before it goes to waste.

I was up early this morning, around 6am, to get the work done before the house heated up. The strawberries were easy. Some I sliced into  a bowl for nibbling on. The rest I've made into strawberry jam. There are eight 500g jars of the most delicious strawberry jam cooling on the kitchen bench right now.

With the apricots I made half into jam and the other half I packed into bottles, covered in water and used the microwave method to seal the jars. I am a fan of microwave bottling. It makes preserving even small quantities of fruit so easy, anyone can do it.

The strawberry jam is just delicious.  We tried it this afternoon on fresh scones and it was hard to stop at just one.  Luckily I made a double batch with thoughts of putting some in the freezer. The boys made short work of them, so only a half-dozen actually made it that far. 

And I don't know why I am surprised!

Simple Seedling Pots

Approximate $ Savings:
We save money growing our herbs and plants from seed (much cheaper buying seeds than buying seedlings/plants). We also save money by using all our old milk cartons and yoghurt pots instead of buying planter pots. With the cartons, just wash them thoroughly, cut off the top and make some holes in the bottom (the yoghurt pots just need a few holes in the bottom). Then just fill them with compost and sow the seeds.
Contributed by Sarah Jones

Editor's Note:  You can also use toilet roll tubes as plant starters. Fill them with your seedling mix (bought or homemade), drop in a seed and when the seedlings are ready to transplant simply dig a hole and drop the tube in. The cardboard will decompose quite quickly and you won't be disturbing the roots of the plant at all. With the price of vegetables going up daily, it's a great time to start growing at least some of the food you eat.  Cath

Follow my adventure in growing all our veggies at www.myheirloomvegetablegarden.com

Fantastic Forum Thread:
The Gardening Challenge

The $300 a Month Grocery Challenge

21 January 2011

Ban the bottle!

The plastic bottles used to hold water are a much bigger problem than milk, cordial and soft drink bottles. I'm so glad everyone is drinking more water but there has to be a better way.

From today, the University of Canberra is joining Bundanoon in a ban on plastic bottles.  It's estimated this will stop a whopping 140,000 plastic bottles going to landfill each year. The ban will be phased in gradually and fully in place by the end of March this year. 

The University has spent the summer break installing bubblers around campus. Remember them? Old fashioned miniature fountains that you put your mouth over to catch a drink? And in a first for Australia, they have installed a unit that dispenses chilled flat or sparkling water on-tap into your own container (for a small fee of course). It's a far cry from the bubblers and troughs of my school days!

Drink bottles have come a long way since I was at school too. Back then they were white plastic with a screw-top lid that always leaked, no matter how hard we screwed it up or how well the bottle was wrapped in newspaper to stay cold.

Today we all have stainless steel water bottles we carry with us. Mine is a rather bright lime green, Hannah's is hot pink. The boys and Wayne are really boring - black, blue and red. Everyone is responsible for cleaning and re-filling their own bottle and it's a system that works well for us. Hannah re-fills hers are recess and lunchtime and keeps it on her desk at school. I keep mine on my desk to remind me to drink more water and it works, I get my 8 glasses a day.  My mother has a cute little bright orange steel water bottle she carries on her walks - it only holds 300ml, and is just the right size for her to carry on her daily stroll.

Back in 2007 I did some sums (you can read the whole article here):

* 1 x 750ml bottle per day @ $2.32 = $846.80 a year
* 750ml per day x $0.01/per litre = $2.73

Even paying $15 for an unbreakable, insulated water bottle you will save at least $825 the first year. And $850+ a year from then on. That's a good portion of tuition for a year (I know, I've just seen the bill for Thomas' first year at uni, and AJ's will arrive in the next few weeks).

Water is the cheapest possible drink and yet millions of Australians pay exorbitant prices to buy it in a plastic bottle, which they then throw away. Bottled water costs Australia about a half a billion dollars a year - yes, you read that right. Half a billion dollars! Imagine the good that money could do for flood relief. Or if it was used for hospitals, schools or public transport. Why is it we are so prepared to pay $850 a year for bottled water, but are reluctant to give that much in cash to those less fortunate?

Lets hope students embrace the opportunity to save some money and get their fill of clean, fresh water for nothing. And good on the University of Canberra for taking such a bold step.

If you are one of the many who habitually buy bottled water, perhaps now is the time to invest in a good, unbreakable water bottle of your own and re-fill it with tap water. And stop 140,001 plastic bottles going to landfill this year.

Try a new brand

Don't be afraid to try a different brand of your regular products in order to maximise savings. Buy just one to try, then if you like it you can buy more. If you don't like it you can go back to buying your favourite brand. Just remember to shop around and buy it on sale so you pay the lowest possible price.

18 January 2011

Tabbouli Salad

1 cup chicken stock
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup couscous
2 cups chopped, mixed, fresh salad veggies (tomato, cucumber, grated carrot, capsicum, cauliflower and broccoli)
1 spring onion, finely sliced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
3 tbsp lime juice
Zest from lime
1 tsp chilli powder (more or less to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan bring chicken stock to a boil and slowly add eggs while whisking. Cook until eggs are set. This only takes a minute or so. Remove from heat and stir in couscous. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Combine remaining ingredients and toss with couscous mixture. Refrigerate covered until ready to serve.

This is such a light tasting and refreshing salad, and goes beautifully with chicken or steak and is a lovely light lunch on it's own.

17 January 2011

Create a Craft Centre

For a quick and nifty craft centre, use a computer station. They usually have plenty of shelving and nooks and crannys for all your crafting tools and materials.  And best of all they are compact, so they can sit neatly in a corner.  Stick cutlery trays or small baskets onto the pull-out shelf to hold frequently used tools. A stick on light (you'll find them in $2 shops, they use batteries for power) under the bottom shelf will provide light onto the desktop for when you are working.

16 January 2011

Time to Trim the Tomatoes

If you have tomatoes growing in your veggie garden you may have noticed that the lower leaves are starting to turn yellow. Don't worry, this is quite normal. Just give the lower stalks a trim, taking off the yellow leaves. This will allow the plant to put all it's energy into growing nice fat, juicy tomatoes. It also helps air circulation, important during humid weather to prevent disease.

14 January 2011

Avoid "buy now, pay later" and "6 months, no interest, no payment" schemes

You see them advertised all the time - buy now, no payments for twelve months or six months interest free offers for big ticket items.  If you are clever you can pay it off on time and you have used their money free. But be aware: this is a sales gimmick meant to make the store and finance company money, not you. These offers can end up costing you more than you would have if you paid cash (and don't forget you can always ask for a discount for cash and save even more) and often more than the item is worth.

If you can take the cash you would have used to buy the item and bank it until the payment is due and then pay it off, great. But remember: these offers are extremely dangers because if you miss a payment or can't pay the full balance on time you will get slugged with interest from the date of purchase, often with outrageous interest rates.

Unless you are extremely strong willed and very good at saving, avoid these offers like the plague. Instead work out how long it will take you to buy the item with cash. Then shop around and haggle the best possible deal. It will be well worth the wait.

13 January 2011

The guest room in a bag

I'd love to have a home with a guest room, but that's just not going to happen any time soon. Which could cause me some concern as we often have overnight guests. Thankfully Thomas gives up his room without complaint, but it is a teenage boy's room.

I can turn it into a guest room in around ten minutes with my handy dandy guest room in a bag. In a large zippered bag I have a full set of "guest" linen. It holds one set of sheets, a quilt with matching pillow shams, a blanket, two towels and a face washer and two pillows, with a ziplock bag of guest soaps and a water carafe, tumbler and cover.

Each time we have overnight guests I can quickly grab the bag and remake the bed and put out clean towels without having to worry about where the sheets are and do the match the pillow slips, or if I can find spare pillows and blankets.  Once the bed is made all I do is layout the towels, fill the carafe and put it and the glass on the bedside table.  Instant guest room!

When our guests leave, everything is washed, folded and put back into the bag, which is kept on the top shelf of the linen cupboard, ready for next time.

12 January 2011

The Rule of Wallet

One of the easiest ways to cut your spending and end the debt cycle is to use cash for all your purchases.  Obviously there will be times when you will need to use a credit card (but a debit card is a better option) or have direct debits from your bank account (mortgage, utilities etc) but those things are generally not impulse buys.  You will find that you become less and less reliant on credit cards, be less inclined to overspend, not be tempted by impulse buys and have total control over where your money goes and how much of it goes.

Make it a rule of your wallet - if you don't have the cash, you don't buy it.

11 January 2011

Nifty Needles

It seems my post on knitted dishcloths has created a desire to learn to knit in lots of Tip of the Day readers. Tracey Lyons is just one reader who has asked where she can go for knitting lessons.

I learned to knit when I was about seven or eight years old, at my mother's knee. She started me off with 12 ply yarn and big and No. 8 needles. The very first stitch I learned was of course garter stitch, or plain knitting stitch. It's the stitch that forms the basis of all knitting and so is not only the simplest but the most important.

The other stitch you should learn is purl. This is the stitch that gives knitting the smooth fabric look. These two stitches form the basis of all knitting stitches. Learn them and you will be able to learn any number of decorative stitches to use in your knitting.

Knitting has become fashionable again so finding a "learn to knit" class should be easy. I just typed "learn to knit" into Google and I'm still recovering from the shock. There are plenty of places offering lessons, one I clicked on offers three two hour lessons, in a class of six, for $150! 

I suggest you find your local wool shop (good old Google will make it easy, or look in your local paper) and pop in. If they don't have a list of classes posted on the front window or door, ask about them. Knitters are a very friendly and chatty bunch so they'll be more than happy to help you find a class to join.

Alternatively Spotlight run classes in-store. My local Spotlight has knitting classes starting on 4th February, four two hour classes for $70, much better than $150! You'll need to contact your local Spotlight for details if an organized class is what you want. Just be aware that there will be a fee involved and the intention will be that you will buy your supplies from the store, which isn't always the cheapest or best value option.

Another source of lessons could be your neighbourhood house or centre. Give them a call and ask if they have a knitting group going. If they don't, ask about starting one. There are bound to be others in your neighbourhood who want to learn to knit and knitters who would love the opportunity to meet with others and share hints, tips and ideas. You'll get the best advice from an experienced knitter.

And if you can follow instructions a beginner's knitting book will do you just as well. They usually have step-by-step instructions with pictures to make everything very clear. A beginners book will also have information about knitting needles and the various types of yarn available.An old favourite is Patons Learn to Knit, available from any good wool shop.

To get you started, here's a link to a .pdf with the basic stitches, starting with casting on:  Learn to Knit instructions

You won't be surprised when I suggest you just pick up a pair of needles, size 8 (or 4mm) and some 8 ply crochet cotton and make a dishcloth for your first knitting project. They are so easy, just cast on 40 stitches and knit. Knit until you have a square or the cloth is about the size you want to use. Cast off (your instruction book or the .pdf will tell you how) and voila - you have your very first dishcloth.

Over the years I've knitted dozens of dishcloths. Some I keep and use, some are given away as gifts and some have been donated to school stalls and church fetes. It's fun and relaxing, and eases my creative demons, as well as being something useful and attractive.

Knitting dishcloths is a definite good thing in my opinion.

Egg and Potato Salad

This potato salad makes a lovely side to a bbq steak, rissole or piece of chicken, but it's hearty enough to be a meal on it's own with wholegrain bread too. It also carries well in a lunchbox with a freezer brick, making it great to take to work or send to school.

500g potatoes
500g sweet potato
3 hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup low fat mayonnaise
2 tbsp low fat sour cream
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 medium onion, finely diced

Wash potatoes. Peel sweet potato. Cook potato and sweet potato in microwave for 13 - 15 minutes until fork tender. Cool and then cut into chunks. Combine mayonnaise, sour cream and cider vinegar. Mix together until thick and creamy. Gently toss diced onion through potato, stir through mayonnaise mixture. Shell eggs and cut into quarters. Very carefully, so the eggs don't break up, stir them through. Chill until ready to serve.

10 January 2011

Finding everything's place

We all know that the best way to be organized is to have a place for everything and have everything in it's place. But how do we easily identify each "place"?

Binder clips! You might know them as bulldog clips. Everyone knows they are just brilliant for keeping papers together and I use them as neat little photo stands on my desk. They are also the ideal label for all manner of items - on bookshelves, in the fridge and freezer, the pantry, the linen cupboard and the craft cupboard and anywhere else you store things.

Simply stick a label across the back of the clip (trim it to size) and then slip the clip over the end of the shelf or the spine of the book, edge of the container or wherever you want to put your things. It holds fast and best of all if you want to re-arrange your storage the clip can be moved in a flash.

If you have a labeller it's even easier. The labels should easily fit across the back of the clip, no trimming necessary.

Using binder clips to label where your things go means you can easily move them to another spot without having to worry about the label - it just unclips and moves to the new spot along with your things.

And binder clips are cheap, especially now during the back to school sales. They also come in different sizes (I find a  medium size is the most used as it fits over the edge of most shelves) and colours if you like to colour code your belongings.

09 January 2011

Let your plants breathe

While jamming plants in is a great way to get the most from your garden bed, it can also cause problems. Avoid planting your vegetables too close together, it really isn't good for them. The seed packet or label on the punnet of seedlings will tell you how far apart to plant. Follow the instructions, they are there for a reason. Good air flow between the plants can help prevent many types of fungal diseases. It also makes it easier to mulch, weed and water, not to mention harvest those delicious veggies when they are ripe.

08 January 2011

Overdoing the entertainment

Are you guilty of over-entertaining your children (or yourself)? I know I was for a while. I had them busy doing things every waking minute. There was playgroup, crafts, play dates, sports, music lessons, art lessons, even extra tutoring (as if school wasn't enough!).  I had coffee mornings with friends, craft groups, CWA, Bible Study groups.

What happened was my gorgeous little people became so busy doing things that they forgot how to be happy and contented unless they were being amused by something or someone. They lost the art of being a child.  They were over-entertained and over-stimulated. They didn't have time to relax.

I was always rushing from one appointment to the next. There were a million things I wanted to do but I just never had the time to do them. I was always running.

I realised very quickly that one or two organized activities a week was more than enough for them, for me and for our budget. The kids learned to have fun by themselves in the sandpit or on the floor with the Lego. They learned to play with each and next to each other, sharing toys, games and books.

I learned to slip, slop, slap and watch them from the kitchen window when they were outside. I learned to let go of the over-supervising and let them play like, well like little children should.

I learned to say no and stick to it. I gave up the things that I didn't really enjoy or have time for. I found I made time for the things I really, really enjoy, and still do.

Our lives changed, dramatically. There was much less stress because there was much less running around. Less expense. Less having to stick to a strict timetable. We all relaxed and became a much happier family.

It's not easy to stop. We all want our children to have the best of everything and to have what their friends have. But all that organized activity is stressful, for your children and you.

Choose one or two activities that they really love, that you can afford and let them enjoy those. For the rest of the time let them be next to you, learning about life the way you want them to, or enjoying the solitude of their own company.

The whole family will benefit.

07 January 2011

Have you been overcharged?

You don’t have to put up with being overcharged at the checkout. We are all human, and errors are going to happen. It’s how they’re dealt with that makes the difference.

What are your rights if you have been overcharged?

From the ACCC website "Most of the major supermarkets in Australia have signed up to the Scanning Code of Practice, a voluntary code designed to protect you from errors in checkout systems. Signatories are required to ensure their checkout systems are price accurate. If a product incorrectly scans at a higher price, you may be entitled to receive that item free. Where multiple identical items are purchased, you may be entitled to receive the first item free of charge and the remaining items at the lower price.

If you believe you have been overcharged:
• Check your receipt
• Return to the store as quickly as you can, with the receipt and the goods.
• If you can’t return immediately, ring the store and speak to the store manager about the problem. Let him or her know that you will be returning the items and will require at the very least a refund.
• Ask what the store policy is on overcharging or incorrect scanning and make notes if you need to.
• Don’t be afraid to speak up, but always be polite and courteous. Treat others the way you’d like them to treat you.
• And if you can’t resolve the dispute with the store, contact the Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA)

06 January 2011

The 12 Step Plan for Dealing with Dirty Dishes

Dirty dishes cost you money, and lots of it! When the dishes are piled in the sink and on the bench, it is much harder to put a meal on the table. The thought of doing the washing up first takes away the desire to cook a meal. You would really like to cook dinner yourself, except you can't, because the sink is full and you don't have any clean dishes! And you know that ordering dinner will cost double or even triple what it would if you were to prepare and cook the meal.

Get into the habit of washing up at least once a day. It's easy, trust me. And it doesn't take that long either - 15 minutes at the most, even for the largest of families. You can do anything for 15 minutes, even dishes. Ok I admit defeat - you can't hold your breathe for fifteen minutes, but you know what I mean.

Here's my 12 step plan  for dealing with dirty dishes without using a dishwasher:

1.   Have the compost bucket and the rubbish bag handy.
2.   Clear the table and immediately scrape the plates - put the compostable scraps in the compost bin, the rubbish in the rubbish bag.
3.   Stack the plates next to the sink: dinner plates, bread and butter plates, bowls. Collect the glasses and cups and stack them next to the plates. Pile the cutlery together.
4.   Turn on the hot tap and give the sink a very quick swipe (you don't want to wash dishes in a dirty sink.
5.   Put in the plug, add a squirt of detergent and half fill the sink with hot water. Add cold water until it is bearable for you to put your hands in (or skip the cold water and wear rubber gloves).
6.   If you have a double sink, half fill it with hot water.
7.   Dump the cutlery in the sink and wash. Place it in the clean water to rinse, remove and let it drain on the side of the sink.
8.   Wash the glasses and mugs, rinse and let drain.
9.   Bowls and side plates are next.
10 .Dinner plates last.
11. By now the cutlery should have drained and be almost dry - polish it with a clean tea towel and put it away. Then do the bread and butter plates and bowls, followed by the dinner plates. Leave the glasses and mugs until last and they should just need a very light polish with the tea towel.
12. Wash up the pots and pans, dry them and put them away.

The dishes are done and in fifteen minutes! If you have someone to help you with the drying and putting away it might only take you ten!

So you can leave your kitchen spotless, wipe over the benches and clean the sink. Sweep the floor. Take the compost to the compost bin and the rubbish to the rubbish bin.

Now stand back and bask in the glory that is a clean kitchen, and all done in just fifteen minutes!

05 January 2011

Building a Cash Stash

An easy and almost painless way to build savings, and build them quickly, is to stash cash. Start by emptying your pockets or purse of silver every night. Put it in a money box or an empty jar or an old sock - anywhere you can stash it. When the container is full bank the money into your savings account. You'll be amazed at just how much you can save very quickly. If you earmark the money for a specific goal (it may be to pay for next Christmas, or a family holiday, a new TV or to pay off a debt) you'll stay motivated as you see your savings grow.

If you want to get serious about saving cash you may choose to save all coins, or all gold coins. Some serious Cheapskaters save all their $5 notes and I'm sure you all know about our '50 Box' savings.  Building savings takes time but more importantly it takes regular additions and stashing cash is a great way to get into the habit of saving.

04 January 2011

Sultana Broccoli Salad

This salad is unusual but very tasty. The flavours improve with standing so be sure to make it at least two hours before you are going to serve it.

500g chopped fresh broccoli, stems and flowers
1/2 cup sultanas
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, unsalted
1/2 red onion, finely diced
2 tbsp bacon bits*
2 tbsp natural low fat yoghurt
2 tbsp low fat mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp sugar (or Splenda)
1/2 tbsp cider vinegar

Combine broccoli, raisins, sunflower seeds, onion and bacon bits. Mix yoghurt, mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar together and add to broccoli mixture. Gently toss through salad to coat, being careful not to break the broccoli. Chill 2 hours before serving.

*Note: Bacon bits can be found with the herbs and spices at the supermarket. You can substitute 2 tablespoons of no fat, diced bacon that has been cooked until crisp.

03 January 2011

A Basic Knitted Dishcloth

I love my knitted dishcloths. They are incredibly tough on stubborn kitchen "gunk" yet gentle on my good china and glassware. They are also very therapeutic to knit, easy too. I use cotton or bamboo to knit my dishcloths, which may seem expensive. The advantage is that they outlast bought sponges, can be bleached (if necessary), stand up to prolonged use and once they've been used in the kitchen and passed on to the laundry and bathroom they are put in the garage to use on the cars, where they are the best thing for scrubbing bugs off the duco without chemicals or damaging the paintwork.

Even a beginner can knit a dishcloth, this basic pattern is in simple garter stitch and can be finished in one or two nights in front of the television.

You will need:
3.75mm knitting needles
1 ball 8 ply crochet cotton

Cast on 44 stitches.
First row:  Slip first stitch, knit to end. Turn.
Second row: Slip first stitch, knit to end. Turn.

Repeat these two rows another 42 times, making 88 rows in total. Cast off. Weave ends in.

02 January 2011

Cheap Scarecrows

You can use unwanted CDs as coasters, hang them as shiny decorations for festive occasions or even use them to decorate the wall in your computer room (make a collage of them). But my favourite use for them is in the veggie garden. They make great 'scarecrows' in the garden and hanging from fruit trees. I use them in our veggie patch to keep the birds away from the tomato plants and in the apple tree to keep the Cockatoos away from the new apples. They work a treat as environmentally friendly pest control.

01 January 2011

Pack a Picnic for a Mystery Tour

Having fun does not always have to cost heaps. When our children were small we would pack a picnic that the children had helped to make - then when in the car we would take turns on which direction Dad would steer the car. When coming to the first intersection we start - Dad would pick a turn next intersection Mum would have a turn we would each have a turn till we would decide that it was time to stop have a look around and have lunch.  Jo-Ann