31 March 2011

Cleaning stainless steel

An inexpensive and old fashioned way to clean your stainless steel appliances is to wash them with hot, soapy water and a soft cloth, then dry. To polish, rub with a little warmed (heat for 15 seconds in the microwave), plain flour on soft duster. Sounds strange, but it works.

29 March 2011

Marinated Lime Chicken

3 chicken breast fillets, diced
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh basil finely sliced

Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Squeeze limes into a medium sized bowl. Stir in vinegar, olive oil, basil and pepper. Place diced chicken into a ziplock bag. Pour lime sauce over top; seal and marinate two hours in fridge. To cook, pour marinade into small saucepan. Heat to boiling. Place chicken pieces into shallow oven-proof dish. Pour hot marinade over chicken. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until chicken is tender and cooked through. Serves 6.

You can substitute lemon juice for the lime juice, reduce to 3 tablespoons.
Thread the chicken onto bamboo skewers before marinating then cook as directed for a different way of serving.

28 March 2011

Knitting on a work day

Monday is a fairly heavy day for me, work wise. I like to do a thorough clean through of the kitchen, laundry and family room. After a weekend of the whole family being home they really need it. And there's always washing to do, as well as tidying up the rest of the house.

On top of my housework I have a lot of Cheapskates work to do to. Catching up on emails that have come in over the weekend, getting the website up to date, working on the newsletter and answering questions usually takes a couple of hours on a Monday.

Today I was itching to get it all done and I had a great time racing myself to see just how quickly I could get everything done. I even made a chocolate cake for afternoon tea. I know, I'm just a kid at heart, but I had a powerful motivator - I wanted to get back to my knitting.  I have a lovely new multi-coloured yarn to use and I was just dying to see what it looked like knitted up.  The urge to knit was intensified by a discussion I heard on the radio this morning about how fashionable knitting has become and how many young girls, and some not so young, are flocking to knitting classes in droves.

As an added incentive Mum rang to ask if she could borrow some knitting needles. She's put her spares away in a safe place and can't remember where it is. I've always said you should never put things in a safe place because they'll be gone forever, or until you don't need them anymore!

Anyway I had to sort through my stash of spare needles to find the sizes she wants. While I was doing that I decided that they all looked a little grimy and dusty so I filled the kitchen sink with hot water, added a squirt of dishwashing liquid and gave them all a good wash. Grimy and dusty they were, the water turned brown very quickly, a good reminder to always wash my hands before I start knitting. I swished them for a couple of minutes then let them soak for a few more, gave them another swish and drained the sink. I spread them on a tea towel to dry before I paired them up.

I was trying to think of something I had on hand to keep the pairs together when I remembered the kitchen junk drawer. I found just the thing - plastic sandwich bag ties - sitting in the junk drawer just waiting to be used. They are the ideal size to wrap around a pair of knitting needles. I've put the needles for Mum aside and the rest are back in the needle case, all clean and paired up. I just love having things neat, tidy and organized.

By lunchtime I was ready to sit down and knit so I turned the TV on and watched Born and Bred, a lovely program about a doctor and his family set in an English village in the 1950s. It's on Channel 72 on a Saturday evening at 6.30pm. We were busy on Saturday night so I recorded it to watch later. Today was "later".

Before I knew it, it was time to go and get Hannah. I packed a bottle of water for her, picked up my knitting and off I went. I was a little early so I sat in the car and knitted quite happily until she came down.  She just shook her head as she climbed into the car.

I can't help it. I like to have something to do and knitting is easy. It'll be winter soon enough and I'll start tapestry again, but in the meantime I'll keep on knitting. I think knitting has always been in fashion.

Singlet and T-shirt Shopping Bags

Instead of buying environmental bags for shopping just sew together the bottom of old singlets. You get different size bags depending on the singlet size, they take up very little room when folded and you are recycling old clothes.

You can use your favourite t-shirts to make great bags too, when they are no longer fit to be worn and you really don't want to turn them into dusters. 

They make great library bags, as they can be folded up and kept in your handbag or the glovebox. This is a fun way to recycle a child's favourite t-shirt into something useful when they don't want to give it up. 

To make the bag, turn the t-shirt inside out and line up the side seams. Stitch across the bottom. Reinforce this by stitching across again.

Turn the t-shirt right side out.

Lay the shirt flat, lining up the side and shoulder seams. Pin in place.

Take a medium size mixing bowl and place half-way over the neck line of the t-shirt.
Draw around the bowl. You should have a half circle, a little larger than the original neckline.

With sharp scissors carefully cut around the line you have drawn, being sure to go through the front and the back of the t-shirt.

Line up the armhole seams on both sides and pin in place.

Carefully cut around the inside of these seams, as close as possible to the original stitching.

Voila your bag is done!

27 March 2011

DIY Worm Farm

I love the creativity of today's tip. 

I decided a worm farm would be great for all the veggie/fruit scraps, but when I asked the stores, found they started at about $75. That set me thinking how I could get one - for nothing! I searched around for two black plant pots - large one and a one slightly smaller, and an old bucket. I put the larger pot inside the other one - it was too large to sink into the smaller one, then put them on top of the bucket (to catch the lovely liquid from the castings) so they became a conical shape. I added an old large pan lid, and bingo ! my worm farm was complete. The hardest thing was searching the garden for some worms to get it started - or you could go to the expense of buying the proper ones from the hardware store for around $25. Now I have a working worm farm for absolutely nothing.

Contributed by Anne, West Pennant Hills

26 March 2011

Get a Head Start

Always start your entertaining with an empty dishwasher, a clean kitchen and an empty rubbish bin.  This ensures you don't end up with an overflowing sink of dirty dishes and an overflowing rubbish bin at the end of the night. If you are holding a big party or dinner, run the dishwasher on the fast cycle half way through the evening so you don't run out of clean dishes and to make clean-up easier.

My day off

I love Saturday. It's our day off, our day of rest after a usually busy week.  I like to lie in bed and think about the week that was and the week that is yet to be.

This morning I woke up, bright eyed and bushy tailed, at 4am. I tried to go back to sleep, I really wanted to stay in bed, but I'd been dreaming about my new book (the one I'm working on now) and just could not shut my mind off so out of bed I climbed.

Which is why I'm sitting here at 7am, typing away, with two and a half hours of solid, uninterrupted writing done. Hopefully Jo (my wonderful publisher) will like what I've come up with. I do love getting up really early and just listening to the quiet of the house and neighbourhood.  It's such a peaceful way to wake up and start the day.

 Everyone should have a day of rest, a day where you can relax and unwind and put the happenings in your life back into perspective. If you go, go, go seven days a week you burn out. You wouldn't expect to be at your paid employment seven days a week without a break, and you shouldn't expect to do your home work seven days a week without a break either.

It's easier than you might think to give yourself a day off. It does take a little re-organizing to be able to have a day off. I cook ahead if I can and clean the house on a Friday so there's very little housework to be done. I'll often put a load of washing through on Friday night and hang it on the clotheshorse so I can keep up and not spend all day Sunday catching up.

It's tempting to use the weekend to play catch up, especially if you work outside your home during the week.  Women, especially those with children, tend to do this. They spend all weekend cleaning, washing, ironing, shopping, cooking, taxiing children to sport, gardening and so on, without stopping. No wonder they look on their paid employment as a break!

If that is you, perhaps you need to renegotiate your work conditions, even if it's just with yourself. If you have a family they can all help with the housework. Even tiny children can pick up toys. We have always taught the kids that they are a part of our family and live in the family home so they are responsible for it's care too. Don't get me wrong, there have been grumbles over the years. They're good kids, but they are still kids. We simply explained that they could help and we could live in a nice, comfortable, clean home with a happy mum and dad, or they could sit on their tiny tushies while mum and dad did all the cleaning etc and they'd have a grumpy dad and a mean mum. They've seen me in mean mum mode so they always pitched in, they just needed a gentle reminder of why we all pitch in.

Saturday is the one day of the week I don't do housework. Ok, I do the dishes and make the bed (the kids make their own beds) and get meals ready but I don't wash, iron, shop, scrub, vacuum, garden, bake or any of the other chores I do on the other six days of the week.

Saturday is our day to spend time together as a family, and with friends and extended family, relaxing and rejoicing in our lives and being thankful for the many blessings we have received. I start praying for the next Saturday to hurry up and get here as soon as I wake up on Sunday morning.

It's the one day of the week I can sit down and read and listen to music without feeling the need to have something in my hands or to be off doing "something constructive". It's my day off and I love it and I thank God for it every week.

On a Saturday our meals are a little turned around. We have our main meal at lunchtime and a snack meal at dinner time. Saturday lunch is a special meal, we often have visitors eat with us so I like to prepare and serve a meal that is a little more exotic than our regular fare.  This week we don't have anyone coming for lunch. Wayne and AJ are at trains, it's the club's Open Weekend. They were up and off at 7.30 this morning.

I made Impossible Quiche yesterday so Tom, Hannah and I will have that with salad for lunch, with pumpkin soup for a starter. And for dessert I made a flummery with a raspberry jelly and evaporated milk (I make my own using powdered milk, it's a lot cheaper than buying a can). Flummery is an old fashioned dessert my mother used to make and we loved it. It's also very easy and deliciously cool.

I have fresh fruit - rockmelon, watermelon, peaches, white nectarines, grapes and apricots - cut up in the fridge to put on the table to nibble on after we've finished lunch. Our local greengrocer had some fantastic bargains on fruit yesterday so I splurged on all our favourites. We tend to stay at the table talking and laughing on Saturdays so having something ready prepared for afternoon nibbles makes my job a little easier.

The other special thing about Saturday lunch is that we eat in the dining room. I use my best linen tablecloth and good dishes. There's no point in having lovely things if you don't use them and using them is the best way to teach little ones how to care for and appreciate best things too.  Our kids have grown up knowing that Saturday is family day, and even now they are older, they still like to be home for Saturday lunch.

Much like the birthday person choosing dinner on their special day, Saturday lunch has become a family tradition.  Our kids are growing up so fast. No, let me get that right. Our kids have grown up so fast. AJ is 20 already! It won't be long and they'll be off making their own lives and creating their own little niche in this world and I'm thrilled for them, it's and exciting time and I'm pretty sure that when they have their own families they'll keep it up. 

Saturday is definitely my favourite day of the week.

Raspberry Flummery

375ml evaporated milk, well chilled
1 packet raspberry jelly crystals
1 cup boiling water
1 cup ice water

Dissolve the jelly crystals in the boiling water. Add the chilled water and set aside to thicken. When the jelly has thickened so that it won't run off a spoon, beat it with an electric mixer until it doubles in volume, about 5 minutes.  In a separate bowl whip the chilled evaporated milk until it resembles whipped cream.  Gently fold the whipped milk through the whipped jelly. Pour into a wetted jelly mould or serving dish and set in the fridge.

This is the lightest of desserts, so fluffy it just dissolves in your mouth, but tastes wonderful.  For the milk to whip up properly it needs to be very, very cold. Chill at least two hours in the fridge, overnight if you think far enough ahead. You can use homemade evaporated milk to keep the cost down, I always do. The sugar and fat content can be reduced by using light evaporated milk and sugar-free jelly crystals.

25 March 2011

Friday Fun

I can't believe it's Friday already! This week has just flown. Today is my swish n swipe day for the whole house and deep cleaning day for Hannah's room. It was easy to do this morning - she has been home sick most of the week, tucked up in bed. Can't get any easier than running a duster over the furniture and the vacuum over the floor. I did spend about 20 minutes on Monday morning putting away some clean washing (she usually does it but as she wasn't feeling well I thought I'd be nice and do it for her) and tidying the few things she left out. It didn't take long and made me feel better about the state of the room. I know, I know, OCD, but I like our home to be nice always and if I can get it the way we like it in just a few minutes then I am happy.

It is so much easier to do the little jobs as soon as they crop up - putting away the washing, taking the recycling straight to the bin, wiping a fingerprint off a door, straightening the sofa cushions and throws before bed - than it is to leave them until they turn into a huge task that takes hours.

Honestly, it is taking me less and less time to keep our home clean and tidy because I do everything regularly. By breaking the housework down to rooms and allocating each room a day I know the whole house is cleaned top to bottom every week and in under an hour a day. That may seem like a lot of time - 5 hours a week to clean our home - but that includes doing a load of washing and putting it out and the daily maintenance type chores (sweeping the kitchen floor, dishes, bed making etc). It is really easy to be a housewife when I know that by 10am I am finished my "work" and have the rest of the day to myself (and Cheapskates).

I have pea pods on the sugar snap peas and little baby silverbeet too. The lettuce are ready to start pulling the leaves off as we need them so they'll be a good addition to our salads. Plain old iceberg lettuce were only $1.96 each yesterday but they were awful, all brown spots and they'd had the nice dark green leaves pulled off too. Those dark green leaves are full of good things and we should be eating them, not throwing them away. They are nice if you wash and dry them then tear them up into a bowl, add some thinly sliced red onion and cucumber and toss with oil and vinegar.

I am just waiting for the next load of washing to finish to put it over the clotheshorse. The rain I've been expecting all week finally arrived last night.  Once that is done I'm going to be doing some scrapbooking. I think it's about time our wedding photos were properly displayed, we've only been married 22 years.  It's not that I haven't wanted to do it before now, life just seemed to get in the way. 

After lunch I think I'll put a couple of Impossible Pies in the oven for lunch tomorrow. They'll be nice cold with salad as long as the food fairies don't hit the fridge during the night :) While the oven is on a chocolate cake is in order and the last of the pita bread can be dried to use for dipping into hummus and tzatziki. Yum! Not much in the way of cooking today, we have plenty on hand and no visitors planned for meals this weekend, means I can have an easy Friday rather than a flat out one.

The postman has just delivered a parcel I've been waiting for. Three huge balls of cotton, one baby blue, one a lovely cherry red and one a red and tan stripe. The cherry and striped yarns are for dishcloths. The blue is for some bath mitts. I found a very simple pattern online and can't wait to get started, probably later this evening. The baths mitts I've seen in the shops are very rough and coarse, meant for exfoliating, but they are too harsh for Hannah's fragile skin. I'm hoping a nice soft cotton mitt will make her life a bit more pleasant.

The washing machine has beeped and that's my signal to get off the computer and start scrapbooking.

Bag it in Order

When you pack your groceries at the supermarket, pack them in order. Keep all the fridge items together in the cooler bag, all the freezer items together, produce in another bag, bathroom items together etc. If the teller is going to be packing the groceries for you, unpack the trolley onto the conveyor in the order you want the bags packed. This saves a lot of time when you are unpacking. You can pack straight from the bags into the right storage area, without having to go back and forth.

24 March 2011

Easier computer cleaning

Use baby wipes to clean your computer keyboard and the surrounds (do not use them on the screen!). They are also handy for cleaning light switches, door handles and telephones. They are gentle and so much cheaper than wipe specifically marketed to do this job.  To clean your screen use an old stocking, scrunched into a ball and gently wiped over the screen. Polish with an anti-static glass cloth.

23 March 2011

Surf and Save

In the old days we had to go from shop to shop collecting prices when researching the best prices.  Don't waste time doing this, get online and search for your bargains. You'll be able to do it in the comfort of your own home, saving time, energy, petrol and money. Once you've found the cheapest price, print the page and take it with you when you go to buy the item. It will be a handy backup if the in-store price is higher than the online price.

22 March 2011

Rise and Shine

I am not a morning person. No, let me clarify: I am not a sociable early morning person. I do like to get up early and you'll often find me at my desk or tucked up in my favourite chair reading or sewing at 4 am.

I love the peace and quiet of the house in the early morning. I can hear the kitchen clock ticking and the trucks rumbling down the highway 2 kilometres away. I know which neighbours leave for work early and I know when the garbage truck is coming and can run to put the bin out if we've forgotten.

The old saying "early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise" is true. When I'm up early I can take my time getting my day arranged, getting the jobs that need concentration out of the way before the usual day-to-day chores and routine kick in.

Back in the olden days, it was normal to up at daybreak. There were chores to be done before the business of the day began. Chickens had to be fed, cows had to be milked, bread had to be made.  With modern life and conveniences the need to be up with the roosters disappeared. There was no need to be out of bed so early, and I think it's a shame, because with that we lost the joy of early mornings.

Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you should be up at 4am, working flat chat. But so often I hear the complaint that there's no time to bake or tidy the house or get the ironing done, when in fact if you were to get up just 30 minutes earlier each day, how much could you accomplish.

When the boys were little and Hannah just a tiny baby Wayne was working at a feedlot. He would be up at 3am and leave at 3.30am to start work at 4am. I'd get up when he left and feed the baby. Then once she was asleep again I would start my chores. I could dust and polish and sweep and wash the floors without little boys running in and out. It was the perfect time to bake too. Much as I loved baking with the boys sometimes it was nice to be able to get it all done in a fraction of the time and without the mess. I'd even do the ironing if there was any.

I especially loved getting dinner ready. Meat would come out of the freezer and if there were any veggies to peel or wash I'd do them and put them into the fridge. As those of you who have had little ones in the house know, dinner time is not the time to be peeling potatoes and thawing meat.  Getting it prepped and out of the way early in the day saved us from takeaway many nights, especially if Wayne was working late. 

By around 5am I was finished - my household chores for the day were all done, bar making the boys' beds.  The rest of the day was mine, mine, mine!

That's when I'd boil the kettle and make a cuppa and sit and relax until I heard the patter of little feet as they bounded down the hallway looking for their breakfast.  And our day began.

I still love getting up early and getting the day underway.  Having the beds made, dishes done and floors swept early in the morning keeps the house respectable. Getting a load of washing on the line saves me from spending the whole weekend washing, drying and ironing (or supervising the troops as they do it).  It only takes a minute to check the meal plan and pull the meat from the freezer and scrub some veggies.

Actually none of these chores takes more than a few minutes each but they all have a huge impact on our home and the way I feel about it. When our home is clean and orderly our days are too.  If I can walk out the door at 8:15am, knowing the basics have been done, the rest of the day is a breeze.

If you don't believe me, try it. Get up earlier. Try getting up just an hour earlier and see how much easier your day is. It may take you a while to get into the swing of things and really enjoy those 60 minutes, but remember it takes 21 days to create a habit. Once you've done it, you'll be amazed by how much stress one quiet, early morning hour can eliminate from your life.

Marinated Lime Chicken

3 chicken breast fillets, diced
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tbsp lime juice
4 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons basil

Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Squeeze limes into a medium sized bowl. Stir in vinegar, olive oil, basil and pepper. Place diced chicken into a ziplock bag. Pour lime sauce over top; seal and marinate two hours in fridge.  To cook, pour marinade into small saucepan. Heat to boiling. Place chicken pieces into shallow oven-proof dish. Pour hot marinade over chicken. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until chicken is tender and cooked through.

21 March 2011

Moving in the opposite direction

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more
violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction.”

-- E.F. Schumacker

When we chose to live as Cheapskates, we chose to move in the opposite direction - to our families, to our friends and neighbours and to our community in general.

At the time it was out of desperation. Nowadays I like to think it's because we are not only older, but wiser, and recognise what lifestyle suits us best. We are homebodies. We love our family and spending time with them, and that includes our extended family and friends. We like our home to be warm and welcoming. And we like to live beneath our means.

I don't think there was, or is, any genius involved, just a desire to live the lifestyle we want.

When we first started our journey to frugality very few people knew. I told my mother and Wayne told his parents. And they smiled oh so patronisingly at us and said "good for you" in a condescending way. They even laughed out loud (kindly of course) at my money saving efforts and made jokes about my abilities as a cook. And as a gardener. My mother, bless her, even laughed at my efforts to make our clothes. Ok, some of those early efforts were a little funny, but my skill grew with each garment made.

We were moving in the opposite direction to them and yes, it took courage. We were moving towards consuming less, spending less and living life more simply.  It was a way of life we had never experienced before. We lived a consumer life. We bought what we wanted when we wanted. We didn't think twice about buying the latest gadgets as soon as they hit the shops. We spent a fortune on our kids, on clothes and toys.  It never occurred to us to look for these everyday things at garage sales and op shops.  The only things we bought second hand were from antique shops and cost a fortune.  I understand their scepticism. 

When we were back on our feet we kept living frugally and really embraced the Cheapskates lifestyle.
It would have been very easy to slip back into the consumer and spendthrift habits we had swapped for resourcefulness and thrifty ways.  It is easier to walk into a shop and just pick up the item or items I want or need and pay for them, ignoring the price.

What It's not easier to do is worry about how to pay the bills when they come in, or how to put food on the table and clothes on the kids' backs. It's definitely not easier to try to scrape together the money for the mortgage payment each month.  I would be doing these things if we hadn't made the decision to move in the opposite direction and find easy ways to spend less.

It has taken courage (and patience, tolerance and more than a little humour) to listen to well meaning people criticise my children's lunchboxes, or their hand-me-down clothes. It has taken courage to ignore the  abusive emails when I've suggested shopping around and haggling when buying big ticket items or threats to have my children taken into care because our lifestyle is abusive (it's not, they are perfectly healthy, happy and now thank goodness two of them are legal adults!). 

Over the last 16 years I have learned that I can do things myself, I don't need to always buy what we need or want.  Perhaps that has taken courage. I rather think though that it has just taken persistence and continual movement in the opposite direction.

Organizing your books

Books should be stored in bookcases. Store them, sorted alphabetically by genre, with the spine of the book against the edge of the book shelf. This will keep dust from landing on the shelf edge. Donate any books you no longer want to charity (or put them into the Cheapskates Book Club) so that others can enjoy them.

20 March 2011

Tool Storage

Keep your garden tools neatly stored in large, upright containers. A large terracotta pot filled with sand is perfect for keeping trowels and other small garden tools clean and sharp and they'll look attractive in the garden too.

19 March 2011

Join a Book Club

Approximate $ Savings: $240 - $360 per year

If you enjoy reading and meeting new people you may wish to look into joining a book club. This is where a group reads a selected book and then meets to discuss it. They usually meet once a month. If you are considering this it would be worth asking about these at your local library. I found that my library organises these for free. They also organise for you to borrow the book each month - so there is no need to purchase it. The group reads one book per month so this saves me approx. $240 - $360 per year (based on the cost of a new book).

Contributed by Xanthe

18 March 2011

Before Buying Search for Discount Codes

Approximate $ Savings: 10% off Internet purchases (or more)!
Whenever using the Internet to purchase goods or services, always do an Internet search for a discount code! Quite often there are current codes that allow you 10% off, free shipping or a free gift with purchase. Well worth a quick search on Google or similar!

Contributed by Kellie

17 March 2011

Sticky Ends

Always have trouble with that one roll of tape and finding the end of it? Stick a button on the end, then when you use it, just move the button.

16 March 2011

Examining Spending Habits Finds Savings

The challenging economic times have forced our family to examine everything we spend our money on, to see where savings can be made. For instance:

1. Instead of buying meat from the supermarket every week, we're making a monthly trip to Victoria Market, about an hour before closing time, to snaffle the best bargains and the best quality meat.

2. Instead of buying coffee and a muffin every day, we're using the coffee machines at the office and baking our own muffins.

3. In this sizzling Melbourne summer heat, I carry a reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go (it stays in the work fridge during the day), to avoid buying drinks as I wait for the trains - when they decide to show up!

4. Before leaving home for work, we turn all appliances off at the wall except for the fridge/freezer.

5. I avoid taking my purse with me if I'm going for a walk at lunchtime or popping out to a meeting - I can't be tempted to buy anything if I don't have any money/cards on me!

Challenge yourself to examine EVERY way you spend money to find savings. As Cath says, we don't have to go without if we implement practical changes and plan ahead!

Contributed by Kate Ashmore

15 March 2011

5 Minute Marshmallow Slice

250 g pack marshmallows
120 g butter
Five cups muesli* 
100g dried apricots**

Melt marshmallows and butter together. Chop apricots and mix into the cereal.  Add the marshmallow mixture and stir well to combine. Pour into a baking paper lined slice tray and place in fridge to set.

*If I don't have muesli, I use crushed Weetbix or a combination of crushed Weetbix and rolled oats.

**Substitute sultanas, glace cherries or mixed fruit for the apricots.

This slice freezes well.

14 March 2011

Thank Goodness for the Slush Fund

Today is the Labour Day holiday here in Victoria and it is a perfect autumn day. It's the kind of day when you just want to be out in the sunshine. Which is not where I've been all day!

AJ had Uni today and of course being a holiday I decided to stay in bed and read. Oops! The poor kid set his alarm, but slept through it. It was 9.28 and I suddenly realised he hadn't stuck his head in to say good-bye. I fairly flew out of bed and down to his room. There he was, sleeping so peacefully - until I screeched "you've slept in" and he was up and out of that bed in 10 seconds! His first lecture started at 10, so Wayne drove him. Thank goodness he doesn't have too far to go and that he was home. I'm not sure the sight of me in a hurriedly thrown on tracksuit is something anyone should see in the morning!
Wayne was chuckling when he came home, turns out quite a few people slept in this morning, the queue to turn into the car park was miles long!

I have been busy. Hannah and I have been shopping for new clothes for her. She needed a black outfit to wear on Wednesdays when she does her VET course. The uniform is black - trousers, skirt, dress, jumper, blouse/t-shirt - she can wear whatever she likes but it must be black.  So after breakfast and a quick tidy up off we went and we only had to go to one shop!

Kmart had a clearance sale on with racks and racks of clothing for just $5 a piece. She is now the very happy 15 year old owner of two lovely black t-shirts, a gorgeous skirt and a really nice jumper, all mother approved and for the grand total of just $20! That's the kind of clothes shopping I like.

While we were out we decided to do the weekly grocery top-up a day early (I usually do it on a Tuesday morning) and popped into Coles. Apparently we arrived at just the right time because all the meat was marked down so we had a lovely time picking up packages of really, really cheap meat. Rump steak down to just $8/kg, whole fresh chickens (No. 20) for just $7 each, and more. I stocked up on the steak and the chickens, they were too good to pass up. Wayne sliced the steak for me as soon as we came home and it's now neatly packaged and in the freezer with the chickens.

I keep a "slush fund" for occasions just like this, when I find a bargain we can use. The slush fund covers the cost without having to go over my grocery allocation.  I add the leftover grocery money to the slush fund and let it build up until I need to use it. On my grocery tracking sheet I have a column for slush fund so I know how much goes into it each month. And this helps to keep the grocery budget balanced too.

Last month I didn't use all the grocery money and was able to add $32.65 to the slush fund.  The groceries don't always cost what I budget each month, sometimes the bill comes in under and occasionally they cost more. That's when the slush fund is really handy. I can go over my allocated amount for the month by however much is in the slush fund and still not go over the allocated amount for groceries for the year.

I also have a petrol slush fund that works on the same principle. I allow $75 a week for fuel, sometimes  we don't do a lot of driving (long weekends and school holidays spring to mind) so it doesn't cost as much to fill the car. The excess is kept in the slush fund for those times we do a lot of driving (I may have to go into town or travel for stories, or we go to Shepparton to SPC etc) and our fuel costs increase. It also helps cover the fuel costs when we go on holiday or for train, tram or bus tickets when we use public transport.

At the end of each year I look over the grocery tracking sheet and the fuel column in our Spending Plan and decide whether the allocated amounts need to be adjusted. If the grocery bill is consistently lower by more than $10 per week, I lower it for the next year.  Ditto the fuel bill, although the way costs are going up I don't think it will be dropped next year. I may find myself walking more and driving less so it can stay the same.  Petrol was the same price as diesel here last week!

There is no point in allocating too much money to a category when it can be useful elsewhere. All it has to do is cover the cost for the week/fortnight/month/year.  As long as you have the bill covered, you are right. For example it could be used to help build your Emergency Fund or to pay down debt (or both) rather than sit in the grocery (or fuel) categories and roll over from month to month to a slush fund, effectively costing you money  (the interest you pay on the debt you carry). 

Living the Cheapskates way gives you options and flexibility in your Spending Plan, that's why it works.

It's been such a sunny, pleasant day it seems odd to be making soup, but that's what I did this afternoon. I cut one of our pumpkins this afternoon and instead of dusting it with cornflour and putting it in the fridge I decided to make pumpkin soup.  Did you know that if, when you cut a pumpkin, you take the seeds and soft centre out and then dust the raw surfaces with cornflour it will last for weeks in the fridge? It's handy to remember when you have an excess of pumpkin and don't feel like making soup.

Pumpkin soup must be the easiest soup to make. I just cut up the pumpkin and a couple of onions and cook it in either stock (from the freezer) or water with some stock powder added, until the pumpkin is cooked. Then I whizz it through the food processor. And it's done.  My stockpot makes 8 litres of soup, so I put 2 litres in a Tupperware bowl in the fridge. This is my lunches for the week. The rest goes into Tupperware containers in either  single portions for lunches and snacks later on.

While I was in the cooking mood I made some muffins too. Apple and boysenberry and some raspberry and white chocolate for a treat.  The cake dome looks lovely full of nice fresh muffins.  It won't stay that way long though. Tom just called and he's bringing some friends home for tea.  They're actually coming to play games on the Wii, but they'll stay for tea, they always do.  And we'll have muffins for dessert!

Scrapbooking Tips and Money Savers

Approximate $ Savings: $0.50 - $20.00

Scrapbooking is an addictive and rewarding hobby, but it has a tendency to be pricey, something I couldn't justify as a single parent. Instead of giving up I started to source my own embellishments and supplies from a wide variety of unusual places.

• Op Shops have been a gold mine for me - check their craft section, they usually have a plethora of interesting items.

• Second-hand Books - it took me a while, but I've warmed to the idea of cutting up worn books with interesting pictures/borders/fonts/etc, they can be found at Op Shops, Garage Sales, Library Sales and sourced from friends and family.

• Craft Stores - take advantage of VIP sales, end of season and store damaged stock.

• Discount Stores - many of these stores now stock a scrapbooking selection.

• Finally don't forget to keep your eyes open during everyday travels! Everything from gift wrap to the spare buttons that came with your new shirt can add visual interest to your scrapbooking.

Contributed by Jessica

13 March 2011

Free Liquid Fertilizer

If you want to save on liquid fertiliser, save all the water you've used to rinse out your empty milk cartons, beer bottles, jam jars, tea pots, vegetable water etc and give it to your indoor plants, pot plants or border plants, they love it! And not only will you save yourself from going through liquid fertiliser/food so fast, but you'll even save a bit on your water bill!

Contributed by Jessica

12 March 2011

Dinner with Friends

Our family meets every Wednesday night for dinner with three other couples. We have a roster which explains what each couple needs to bring, i.e. main, salad/veggies, dessert, wine/bread. We have done this for three years. Great fun, great food (always something different). It is always at our house as we have a young son. I always use my best dinnerware and the others get an evening out. Works well for everyone. Even my son has been on the roster. Cheaper than a restaurant, more relaxed, and we can laugh as loud as we want!
Contributed by Megan Flood

11 March 2011

Cheap food may be unhealthy, but healthy food can be cheap!

Everyone knows (or should by now) that most cheap food is if not entirely void of nutrition, at best borderline. It's the food that no health orientated person would touch.  This is the stuff that often features on the first page of the grocery sale flyers - the chips, soft drinks, processed meals. What we tend to forget is that most of the healthiest food is also the cheapest.  Stock up on in-season fresh fruit and vegetables when they are at their peak - and their cheapest. By remembering portion control you can buy better quality red meats, fish and poultry and save money too. Whole grains and legumes are cheap and good for you. They also make great meals on their own and are perfect for stretching others.  There are plenty of inexpensive options when you look for cheap and healthy.

10 March 2011

Matching Sheet Sets Easy to Find

Do you get frustrated looking for matching sheets, pillow slips etc? Here's an idea, once you have striped the bed and washed your bedding fold the two sheets, and put them all folded together inside the pillow slip. Next time you are looking for a matching set - it will all be together and you can see it at a glance in your Linen Cupboard. Same applies for doona covers, put the whole set inside the matching pillow slip - easy as !!
Contributed by Kellie

09 March 2011

Porridge! masses of porridge!

"Geoff Capes: That's it, I've got it, I've got it!
PC Rupert Leekie: What have you got, Mr. Capes?
Geoff Capes: The solution. What does Supergran have every day to keep up her super strength, 
and what hasn't she been having every day since she got grounded?
PC Rupert Leekie: I give up, Mr. Capes.
Geoff Capes: Porridge! masses of porridge!
Edison: That's it, you're right, Mr. Capes!"
~~Source Unknown~~

I was lying in bed listening to 774 ABC this morning, as I usually do before I get up for the day. The conversation was about generic groceries and whether you can really taste the difference between a branded product and a generic, but that's a topic for another post.

One texter  (is that the right name for someone who uses SMS to send messages?) caught my interest. She was complaining about Homebrand (which is the Woolworths line of generic products) rolled oats. She bought them because they were cheaper and tried to cook them. She gave up because they wouldn't cook and go soft, and she'd had them on the stove for at least 5 minutes.

I guess she didn't know the difference between instant, one-minute and rolled oats.  Having a Scottish mother meant we had porridge for breakfast all year round and we loved it.  Mum would use her big saucepan to cook the oats until they were smooth and creamy and then dish them up piping hot, with a spoonful of dark, brown sugar and a drizzle of milk. Yum.

These days choosing your porridge can be confusing, there is quite a choice on the supermarket shelves.

Instant oats are usually in single serve sachets. Just add boiling water, stir and eat.

One-minute, or quick cooking, oats are usually cooked in the microwave oven or on the stove. You add some oats and water to either a bowl or a small saucepan, and cook for one minute.

Traditional rolled oats are easy to cook too, they just take a few minutes longer and they are my favourite winter breakfast.

If you are time poor in the mornings, cook your porridge overnight in a slow cooker. Then when you get up in the morning, breakfast is ready. Just add a little milk and a drizzle of honey and enjoy.

Slow Cooker Porridge

This method requires a little more water than stovetop cooking.

1 cup rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)
2 1/2 cups water
Pinch salt

Place the rolled oats, water and salt in the bowl of a slow cooker. Set on low and cook a minimum of 6 hours up to a maximum of 8 hours. If you turn the slow cooker on before you go to bed you'll have yummy, hot porridge ready when you wake in the morning. Just add a little milk and enjoy.  Serves 4.

Overnight Porridge

This is another easy way to prepare rolled oats and is especially good if you don't have a slow cooker or only want one or two serves.  This makes one bowl of porridge, double it for two.

1/3 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup milk
Pinch salt


Combine rolled oats, milk and salt in a cereal bowl. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight. When ready to eat, remove from fridge and microwave one minute on high. Stir, heat another 30 seconds. Add a little more milk if desired and enjoy.

Traditional Porridge

1 cup rolled oats
2 cups water
Pinch salt

Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Slowly bring to a simmer over a low heat, stirring all the time. Allow to simmer for  5 - 7 minutes or until porridge is thick and oats are cooked, stirring constantly to prevent lumps and keep porridge creamy.  Makes four hearty serves. This is my favourite, with brown sugar and milk.

And don't be tempted to skip the salt! Porridge needs salt, just a tiny pinch. Leaving out the salt is the mistake most people make in this health conscious age  and that is why most of them don't like traditional porridge. Without the salt it is just a thick, bland blob. Add those few tiny grains of salt while it's cooking and it is a warm, creamy, flavourful winter breakfast delight.  Trust me!

When One Comes In, One Goes Out

Keep your home and your life clutter free by using the one in, one out principle.  Whenever something new comes into the house, something similar must leave.  For example when you buy a new blouse, make sure you take an item of clothing you no longer wear to the op shop or pass it on to someone who will wear it or recycle it into something else you need. This really keeps the clutter down, saving you time and money and stress from living in an over-crowded environment.

08 March 2011

Eggplant & Zucchini Parmigiana

This casserole is a deliciously different way to use up the glut of zucchini that is happening in backyard vegetable gardens at this time of year.  It takes less than ten minutes to put together, using everyday pantry ingredients and costs under between $5 - $7, depending on the price of the cheese and the vegetables. If you grow your own, the total dish costs about $4.70!
1 eggplant, thinly sliced lengthways
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced lengthways
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
juice of 1 lemon
180g grated Parmesan cheese
2 jars pasta sauce (bought or homemade)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Spray a lasagne dish with cooking spray and rub with the crushed garlic clove.  Assemble the following layers in this sequence:  eggplant, zucchini, onion, sprinkling of lemon juice, spread of pasta sauce, generous sprinkling of cheese.  Repeat layers until you reach the top of the baking dish or run out of ingredients. Finish with a layer of pasta sauce and a generous sprinkling of cheese.  Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve as a main dish or as a side vegetable dish.

07 March 2011

Simple Soap

This is a very easy soap recipe, ideal for the beginner soap maker as there is no mixing caustic soda or precise measuring.  Be sure to use Lux flakes, don't substitute another laundry soap.

4 cups Lux flakes
1 cup milk*
1/2 cup powdered milk*
Pure essential oil for fragrance (optional)

1.  Spray your soap moulds with cooking spray, this stops the soap from sticking.
2.  Add the Lux flakes to an old stockpot or large saucepan.
3.  Add 1/2 cup milk and stir over a low heat. Continue stirring and adding milk until all the soap flakes have dissolved.
4.  Keep stirring until the soap reaches the consistency of mashed potato, quite thick and lumpy. This is when you add the milk powder and stir. The milk powder will make the mixture creamy and smooth.  It should be a pourable consistency.
5.  If you are using essential oils, add them now.  Depending on how strong you want the scent to be, use between 2 and four teaspoons of pure essential oil.  Stir well to mix the essential oil through the mixture.
6.  Pour into your moulds and leave for 24 hours to set.
7.  Remove from the moulds and place soap on a cake rack to cure for at least a week. The longer the soap cures, the harder the cakes will be.

*I use silicone cake moulds as they are relatively cheap and available from $2 shops and the different shapes make pretty soaps
*Keep this pot just for soap making, do not use it for cooking food in once it's been used to make soap.
*Milk - you can use either cows or goats milk in this recipe
*Milk powder - full cream gives the best result. Skim can be used in a pinch but the soap won't be as smooth and creamy and won't have a rich feel to the lather
*This soap doesn't create a huge lather, but rather a nice, silky froth
*Only use pure essential oils if you are going to be using this soap for hands, hair etc

03 March 2011

Caring for your wooden chopping boards

Time and again wooden cutting boards have come out on top in tests to find the most hygienic chopping board. This is because wood is porous and draws in fluid, including fluid that may contain bacteria. The difference with a wooden board is that the bacteria that are drawn in die. Plastic boards may seem more hygienic but bacteria breed in the marks left by knives.

  • To keep your wooden chopping board in tip top shape wash it in cold, soapy water after each use.  Never use hot water to scrub your board, it will darken the timber.
  • Never leave it to soak - remember timber is porous and it will soak up moisture and swell.
  • Always rinse after scrubbing
  • Dry with a soft, clean tea towel and prop against the back of the sink or a wall to air dry completely before storing.
  • Never, ever put a wooden chopping board in the dishwasher - dishwashers and wooden utensils of any kind do not mix.
  • Oil regularly. There are specific oils you can buy for this purpose or you can use a vegetable oil. Vegetable oils are fine but you may find your board requires more frequent scrubbing as the oil becomes sticky. There is also a possibility of the oil becoming rancid if you don't use and wash the board regularly.
With proper care your wooden chopping board will last a lifetime.

01 March 2011

Lemon Impossible Pie


250g butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup plain flour
3/4 cup light sour cream
Zest of 1 lemon

Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Grease a 25cm pie plate or tart dish. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs slowly, beating well. Fold in sour cream and lemon zest. Add flour, mixing well. Pour into prepared pie dish and bake 30 minutes. Do not overcook as this will cause the base to be dry.


1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup caster sugar

Combine juice and sugar and cook over a low heat until sugar is dissolved. Poke holes over the top of the pie with a skewer. Pour the syrup over the hot pie.