31 May 2011

Sausage Casserole

4 thick beef sausages
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 large carrots, sliced
1 tbsp  plain flour
1 400g can baked beans
1 cup beef stock
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
Salt & pepper

Brown sausages. Remove from pan and add oil. Fry onions in olive oil until browned. Sauté onion and carrot until onion is golden.  Stir in the flour, cook one minute.  Add baked beans. Stir well.  Mix Worcestershire sauce, mustard and sugar into stock.  Slowly stir into bean mixture, mixing well to avoid lumps in the sauce. Slice sausages and return to pan. Season to taste. Cook until sauce has thickened and sausages are cooked through.

Contributed by Pat, Concord

30 May 2011

A Million Free Quilting Patterns

If you love patchwork and quilting you'll love FreeQuiltPatterns.info  You'll find links to over a million free patterns and you'll really enjoy the Pattern Playground, where you can customise the patterns to suit your project.  With quilt patterns costing from $5 to $20 or more, finding a truly free pattern helps to keep the cost of your quilting down.

Website:   www.freequiltpatterns.info

Three dinners from one roast

I am often asked how we can afford to have a roast every Sunday, as though a roast is going to blow our food budget right out of the frugal category.  I'm happy enough to admit that roasts are very expensive, a leg of lamb can easily set you back $30, a beef roast can easily be $20.

If you only get one meal from one of those roasts then yes, it will blow your food bill to smithereens. I easily get at least three meals, often more, from one roast, without skimping either, and I'm feeding three strapping males plus Hannah and myself.

Take last night's roast for instance. It was a piece of beef, 1.6kg in size. I bought it on last week when Aldi had it on sale, it cost $14.38 and I'm going to get three dinners from it.

 I seasoned it and browned it all over in a little olive oil in the baking dish before roasting it in a pre-heated oven at 175 degrees Celsius. Oh, I put the meat on a rack and put 2 cups of stock and 2 bay leaves into the baking dish. If you do this, just make sure the meat isn't sitting in the stock.  The stock formed the base of the gravy.  Browning the meat before it goes into the oven gives a lovely flavour to the meat and leaves some nice bits in the bottom of the pan for gravy. By the way did you know that if you want your meat to really brown nicely it needs to be dry? Before you put it into the hot oil dry it with a clean dish cloth or a some paper towel.

We had roast vegetables with the beef:  potato, onion, carrot and sweet potato which I put around the meat for the last hour of cooking.

I used half the roast, thinly sliced for dinner. The other half was cut in half. One piece will be diced for tonight's dinner of a sweet curry. Usually I'd use lamb in a sweet curry, but as I don't have lamb, the beef will do.

To make the curry dice one apple, one onion and two sticks celery. Heat a little oil in a large pan (I use my wok) and saute the apple, onion and celery for 1 minute. Add 2 teaspoons curry powder (more or less to taste) and cook for 1 minute. Add the diced beef and stir. Slowly add 1 1/2 cups beef stock (from a stock cube is fine) and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup sultanas and simmer 5 minutes. Just keep an eye on the liquid, don't let it completely evaporate.  We'll have this with steamed rice and homemade naan.  There should be enough curry for 6 serves, so one will go into the freezer for a lunch or mufti dinner.

The third dinner from this piece of beef will be a shepherds pie (again, traditionally made with lamb but I have beef).  I'll shred the remaining piece of beef with a fork.  Into the meat will go a diced onion, some diced carrot, peas, corn, celery and zucchini (because I've just checked and these are the veggies that will need to be used up).  A gravy will be the thickener or binder for the pie. Once the gravy is made, and it will be quite thick, I'll add the meat and the veggies and pour the lot into a buttered pie dish. The topping will be a potato/sweet potato mash.  I'll brush the topping with a beaten egg and brown it in a moderate oven for about 15 - 20 minutes, until the top peaks are crispy and the filling heated through.  Again, this should make 6 serves, so another lunch or mufti meal for the freezer.

And there you have it - three meals from one roast, with everyone being well fed and no one going hungry.

It's easy to stretch any roast - chicken can be a roast chicken one night, sweet and sour the next and chicken enchiladas the next night, with the bones going into the stock pot. Or you could just have a roast chicken dinner three nights in a row!

If you cook a leg of lamb, you will have it as a roast dinner the first night. The second night make a curry (as above) or lamb kebabs, the third night it could be sliced and served with gravy or cold with a salad. Any meat left on the bone can be put into fritters and served with homemade wedges, a green salad and some chutney. And of course the bone goes into the stockpot.

If you have  a roast with a bone (I didn't last night)  you can stretch it even further by making stock with the bones. You can use the stock for soup, to make gravies, as the liquid for risottos, to cook pasta and rice, just about any savoury dish you need a liquid.

My $14.38 piece of meat will make 3 dinners (17 serves)  with the meat component being just 84 cents per serve. With that in mind, how can I afford not to put roasts on the menu?

29 May 2011

An Easy Way to Grow Carrots

Carrots are fun and easy to grow, especially using Annaleise's method. If you don't want to use old tyres try using green bags.  Carrots can be sown directly into the tyre (or green bag) successfully. And don't just stick to your common supermarket carrot - why not try some of the coloured or round or miniature varieties available to add some variety to your diet and your garden.

Since I was young I have always been a keen gardener. Unfortunately the soil where I live is very hard and I have had no success in the past at growing carrots. I needed a way to solve this problem as I spend lots of money throughout the year buying organic carrots. My solution was to get old tyres from my local tyre store (they usually give them away for free or a very small charge) and fill them with soil and compost, and then plant the carrot seeds on top. As the soil has been built up, I now have delicious carrots that are very healthy and big. This year I have tried planting potatoes with great success. The tyres in my garden are a great space and water saver also. 

Contributed by Annaleise, Mahoney

Pretties for my wardrobe

Don't they look pretty?  And because I've recycled things I already had, instead of costing $20, they cost a big fat $0.  I can live with that.

During the April Get Organized challenge I very bravely tackled our walk-in robe.  It was a complete mess, very disorganised and decidedly over-crowded. I came to the conclusion that we just had too many clothes. And shoes. And handbags. And coats.  Alright, I came to the conclusion that I have too many of all those things.  It's OK,  I went through everything and donated a lot. Then I went through what was left and donated more. And after I'd dropped those bags off at the op shop I went through once more and found a few more things I  no longer liked, wore or needed and donated them too.

Which means that now the wardrobe is very tidy and there is room for everything to hang neatly, without getting squashed and creased. It was as I was hanging up my remaining few garments (not really, I still have far more clothes than I need) I noticed that the coat hangers were looking a little worse for the wear.

These hangers really are vintage, they're older than me

Some of these coat hangers are as old, perhaps a few months older, than I am. My Great-Grandma  knitted them for me when I was just a baby. They are knitted in that lovely old-fashioned loopy pattern, some pink and white, some blue and white, although they are a little yellowed by age now. The padding in them has collapsed and some of the knitting has worn and is turning to holes. It's time to lash out on new hangers.

I priced some at Dollar King, a local $2 style store last Thursday. Padded, satin covered ladies coat hangers were available in packs of 6 for $5.99, or packs of 3 for $2.99, so $1 each.  I need around 20 but I am not prepared to pay $20 just for coat hangers, especially when the actual hangers are fine, it is covers that need replacing.

I've been busy knitting hanger covers the last couple of weeks because I knew this day was looming.   Knitting coat hanger covers is a great way of using up scraps of wool which I just happen to have bags of (thanks Mum!). They are really easy, quick and you can let your imagination run riot with the colour ways.

The padding on these old hangers was well and truly gone. Grandma had used strips of cloth, it looked like it may have been old pillowcase or sheeting, tightly wrapped around the hanger in layers to pad it.  I thought about using strips of old t-shirt, then found some odd pieces of quilt wadding so I used them instead.

To make a cover for an adult-sized wooden coat hanger take a pair of 4mm knitting needles and cast on 20 stitches. Knit until the cover measures 30cm. Cast off loosely.  That's it. I told you it was easy. Of course you can pretty them up by knitting in a lacy pattern or adding in stripes of different stitches.  Moss stitch looks nice in a plain colour. You can knit contrasting or blending stripes. Use your imagination and see what you come up with.

To cover a hanger, pad it with wadding or strips of old (clean please) t-shirting or other fabric. Fold the cover in half to find the centre. Slip the hook through the centre of the cover. Turn so the seam will be underneath the hanger. Using ladder stitch and matching yarn, sew the cover seams together.

To cover the hook I just cut a length of wool, threaded it onto a darning needle and worked a row of blanket stitch around the hook, pushing it down tightly to make sure the hook was completely covered.

28 May 2011

Stuff those boots

Boots are back in fashion and now the weather has turned to winter they are coming out of the wardrobes. I love my boots, they keep my feet dry and hide the fact that I'm wearing  extremely unfashionable, but oh-so-cosy, big, thick hiking socks. I love that I can wear a dress or a skirt in winter and still keep my legs warm. But sadly keeping them in tip top shape can be expensive. Boots flop over when they don't have legs in them! Instead of buying expensive boot stuffers (and yes, there are such things available) I use rolled up newspapers to keep the legs straight.  Use your local paper (it's free) and keep it rolled up with a rubber band at each end. Then just slip one paper into the leg of each boot.  Pool noodles (those long, coloured foam tubes for the swimming pool) also make great boot stuffers when they are past their pool use by.  Boots are expensive and keeping them in shape will give you many more years of wear for your money.

The Great Chocolate Pudding Experiment

The kids gave me these cute little jelly cups because they match the colours of the website and my blog.
A few days ago a question was asked on the Member Forum for a chocolate pudding recipe. As usual, one of our talented Cheapskaters shared a recipe, which led to some questions.

In the interests of all things Cheapskates, and because I too happen to like chocolate just about anything, including pudding, I volunteered to make the pudding to see how it turned out.

After a few attempts, it turned out very nicely. No complaints from anyone, and no leftovers. I re-jigged the recipe a little to suit our tastes and the results of the second taste test were even more positive if that's possible. This time the testers were arguing over who was going to scrape out the saucepan and lick the spoon.

This is the final recipe:

Chocolate Puddings

1 litre cool water
1 cup skim milk powder
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornflour
1/4 cup cocoa
1tsp vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan, whisking to remove all the lumps. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring constantly. Turn heat down and simmer 1 minute, or until the custard is thick. Cool slightly then pour into serving dishes. Makes 8  1/2 cup servings.

My notes:
1.  You can use fresh milk instead of the water and milk powder, this will increase the cost.
2.  One cup of sugar may seem a lot, but this pudding seems to need the sweetness. You can substitute Splenda or another sugar substitute if you prefer.
3.  I use Homebrand cocoa and it is quite strong and can leave a bitter taste, hence the vanilla extract. It seems to round out the chocolate flavour. You could use another less bitter cocoa if you have one, in which case you may not need the vanilla.
4.  If you have a double boiler, use it to make this pudding. It will stop it sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.
5.  Whisk, and don't stop until it's finished cooking. You want this pudding to have the same silky smooth texture as the bought Yogo puddings.

I wouldn't make this every day, it has a high sugar content, but as a treat every now and then it is easy, quick and relatively cheap at just 21 cents a serve.

Costings: Chocolate Pudding

1L water
1 cup skim milk powder
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornflour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp vanilla extract
Total Cost
$1.75 (21 cents per serve)

It did occur to me that this might make a good meal for sick tummies or sore throats as it's cool, smooth and quite light. To make it more nourishing, whisk in two eggs before cooking and reduce the cornflour to a quarter cup.

27 May 2011

6 Things You Can Make With a Bread Maker

Owning a bread machine can be a lifesaver when you work, have a family and home to care for and want wholesome, fresh bread. Just toss in the ingredients, set the timer and forget about it until you hear the ding.  I love my breadmakers, yes we have two. One makes a regular sandwich loaf, the other makes the odd shaped loaf of the early bread machines. They both have timers and get used every week, we like our sandwiches and toast in this house.

Wayne found our first breadmaker at a garage sale, brand new in the box, for just $25. The old couple who sold it to him had never used it and couldn't wait to get rid of it. And we've been making bread ever since. Often I'll set it on a Saturday night before I go to bed and wake up Sunday morning to freshly baked bread for breakfast. It certainly makes sitting up in bed extra special when you can enjoy fresh bread and homemade jam for breakfast.

Making our bread doesn't save us a fortune, especially when I could buy 600g loaves from the supermarket for $1.09, but it does let me make the bread that we like, control the amount of salt and additives that go into it (in our house absolutely none) and make it fresh when we need it.

But our breadmaker makes so much more than a loaf of bread. Some of the things it does are:


This is kind of a no-brainer, after all, it is a bread machine. The standard bread machine today has a number of settings for various types of breads, from sourdough and fruit loaves to your standard white bread and rye. Higher-end bread makers have special settings that you can even customize for breads not listed in the manual. Since bread is what bread machines were originally designed to do, it is the set it and forget it setting is the easiest. Just follow the instructions in your manual.

Pizza Dough 

When making bread, the bread machine takes all of the ingredients, combines them and mixes and kneads them to the perfect consistency. So why not allow your machine to do all of your work for your pizza dough? Bread makers usually have a setting for this and the dough will be mixed and kneaded until it is perfect every time.

Specialty Breads 

Pannetone, and other specialty breads can be made with a bread machine. Bread makers are so durable these days that even the toughest of breads to mix can be easily man-handled by these machines. Pick out your favorite recipe and give it a go.


Believe it or not, you can even make jam with your bread maker. With the heating and mixing that bread makers do, it is a perfect environment for making jams, jellies, preserves, conserves and marmalades. Just prep your favorite fruit, toss it all in with the needed ingredients and by the time you get home, your fruit will be properly cooked into jam.

Pasta Dough 

Making perfect pasta dough can be tough by hand because you don’t want to over work the dough. With a press of a button, your bread maker can crank out the perfect pasta dough, ready to roll out, cut and cook.

Bagels and rolls 

Pretty much any type of bread roll can be made in your machine, including bagels. The machine offers the combining, mixing, rising and baking of the perfect bagel. All you have to do is create the round shapes you want and voila, you have the perfect bagel.

After bread, the setting I use most is the dough setting. I use it for pizzas and breads, to make dough for scrolls (sweet and savoury) and to make the dough for the bread rolls we like for Sunday lunches.

There are tons of other things your bread maker can do. Just be sure to read the manual on how to set up the operation for each. If you have any questions about whether or not your specific machine can achieve any of the tasks, call or Google the manufacturer and read up on what your model can do.

The Multi-tasking, Unpaid, Miracle Worker

My fun new apron!

I just have to show you my new apron - it's just gorgeous.  Hot pink, it defines what a Mum is, a:
  • multi-tasking
  • unpaid
  • miracle worker
That defines mothers the world over - who hasn't juggled feeding the baby with reading a story to a toddler while stirring the soup on the stove and wishing desperately for five minutes peace? I know I have, so when I opened the prettily wrapped present from my mother and saw what it was I just smiled.  I still have the smile on my face.

The best job I've ever had is mother. Doesn't that sound trite and patronizing? I don't mean it to be. I mean that I truly love having three human beings call me "mum".  I wouldn't be the person I am if I didn't have them in my life.

If Wayne and I had not had children, for whatever reason, we'd still be living in Sydney, in the hustle and bustle.  I imagine Wayne would still be in the same job, his loyalty is forever. I know I'd have moved on, but I'd be working flat chat at a job I love, that much is for sure.

Our three kids are grown-up now. Hannah is the youngest and she's 15 already.  I'm sure if I turn around she's just 8 months old and taking her first steps to keep up with her big brothers.  She was one little sister who was not going to be left behind.

And wasn't it just yesterday I was watching Thomas through the kitchen window as he played under the magnolia tree, making roads and tunnels and dams for his cars, and settling the argument and wiping the tears when said little sister wanted to play and "wuined my woad Mummy".

I still know all the words to every Wiggles song and I can still repeat word for word the Chubby Engine book.  I don't think I'll ever forget the script to Puff'n'Toot, AJ's favourite cassette. If I've heard it once I've heard it 95,658 times! We played that cassette so many times the first one wore out and we had to replace it.

I remember the absolute joy on Hannah's little face when she announced that when she grew up, she wanted to be a.......SHOPPER! I remember how hard it was not to laugh out loud too.

They were so cute when they were little.

As they grew of course they weren't so cute. But they were interesting. When I first heard my friend Debbie say her children were getting interesting it stopped me in my tracks. But she's right. Babies are gorgeous, toddlers and pre-schoolers are cute. Then they get interesting.

It's been fun watching them grow and their personalities develop.  Seeing how they work things out for themselves and how they like their independence.  How Thomas will always defend the underdog and AJ is a peacemaker, doing his best to stop quarrels and arguments.  Seeing how Hannah is compassionate and caring, generous and loving to everyone. Now the boys are both at Uni and Hannah
is in Year 10.

Yes, they are interesting and I just love being their mother, even if I am a multi-tasking, unpaid, miracle worker.

26 May 2011

Frugal cleaners

Next to food, the biggest grocery cost for most Australians is cleaning supplies. It's no wonder when we are bombarded with ads telling us we need a product for the dishes, one for the floors, another for the baths, yet another for the shower, washing powder, fabric softener and ironing spray, we must have room deodoriser and a carpet deodoriser (who could live with stinky carpets?), furniture polish for light wood, another for dark wood. Then there's the bleaches and disinfectants, the cleaner for the walls and the one for the benchtops. Yikes! To save money, stick to one type of cleaner - the one you make yourself. You'll save hundreds of dollars a year and have a cleaner, healthier home.  Cleaning with the Super Six has some great instructions for making your own cleaning products, that really work and that will truly save you money.

25 May 2011

Spray and Wait

Miracle Spray - the Cheapskate friendly wonder cleaner
Most cleaners need time to work, so while the name may imply that you can simply spray and wipe, you can't if you want the product to work properly.  Instead spray and wait two or three minutes, then wipe over with a damp cloth.  You'll find the product works much better and requires less elbow grease to get the job done.

24 May 2011

You Are What You Eat

I grew up hearing that saying and it came to mind yesterday as I was planting out some more seedlings and watering the in with compost tea. It was a saying my great-grandma and my mother often told us as we'd screw up our faces at the dinner table and suggest that fish and chips would be a better dinner (it was a long time ago, fish and chips and the local Chinese take away were the sum total of fast food available where we lived).  At the time I didn't understand what they were saying other than "stop whining and eat your dinner".

Now I have a family of my own I well and truly understand the importance of eating good food.  We've had a sizeable veggie garden for years and apart from the financial benefits I believe the health benefits have been huge so when I read a blog post this afternoon, wondering if the increased nutritional benefits of certified organic foods were real or just hype, it had me thinking.

The organic food market here in Australia is growing at a phenomenal rate. Even the three major supermarkets (Coles, Woolworths and Aldi) have introduced their own ranges of organic groceries. 

But is the organic hype just that? Are organic products truly better for us, our homes and our world? Or have we all been conned yet again by an incredibly good marketing campaign? Organic produce and groceries are very expensive, adding around 45% (by my calculations, off my grocery list, often more if you stick to organic meat and poultry) to the average grocery bill. That's a lot of money out of a family's budget.

It doesn't have to be so.

If you want organic produce, without busting the budget, skip the media frenzy and supermarket organic hoo haa and eat real organically grown food - from your own backyard (or balcony)!

For the most part, less than 50 years ago, most Australian homes had a substantial veggie garden and mini orchard in the backyard - our grandparents and their parents ate the original organic produce. 

Grown from seed they sowed, fertilised by compost they made. They practised seed saving and thus helped to keep the plant DNA intact.  They didn't rely on chemicals to keep their gardens green and the crops healthy.

Most backyards had a lemon tree and the obligatory plum tree was often a feature of the front yard or even the nature strip. Fig trees were common too.  I think it should be part of every council's building regulations that every backyard have at least a lemon (or some other citrus) tree growing.

With the advent of the supermarket revolution in the late 1950's early 1960's came the niggling little doubt at the back of the housewife's mind that somehow the produce grown at home was lacking the nutrients available from commercially grown produce. And thus began the Australian family's dependence on supermarkets and the farmer's dependence on chemical fertilizers, bug repellents and GM seeds. 

Once again we were brainwashed into thinking that it was easier, cheaper and better for us to buy all our produce from the supermarket.  It's not true. Trust me.

You can grow your own food, at least some of it, regardless of where you live, even if it's just a cherry tomato and a few herbs in pots. You'll be able to cross those things off your shopping list.

And if you have a glut of cherry tomatoes, try oven-drying them with some of those fresh herbs. Keep them in a jar of olive oil and use them on sandwiches, in salads, add them to rice or quiche - you'll be eating gourmet dishes for a fraction of the cost.

Be brave, I dare you. Start growing your own veggies - it's easy, it's cheap, it's healthful! Use heirloom seeds and you'll be sure that the food you put in your mouth truly is organic.

If you want to give growing your own organic food a go, here are a few ideas:

Growing Your Own Greens in a Home Garden

How to Grow Your Own Organic Vegetable Garden

Is It Organic?

Lemon Cheesecake Bars

The lemon tree is full of ripening lemons and one of my favourite ways to use them up is in this delicious dessert slice. It's a really easy to make recipe, but unless you put it away quickly it won't last long.The tart lemon cuts through the sweetness of the topping, making these bars are very, very morish.

1 cup SR flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk powder (skim or full cream)
1/2 cup coconut
Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 egg

250g cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, melted
3  3/4 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
Juice of 2 lemons

Preheat oven to 175degrees Celsius.  For the base, mix together the dry ingredients, lemon zest, butter and 1 egg.  Mix well. The mixture will resemble a dough. Press into a baking paper lined 20 ×30 baking pan and set aside.  For the topping, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla extract, eggs, lemon juice and melted butter.  Mix together well and add icing sugar. Mix until the icing sugar is fully incorporated.  Spread topping over base and bake for 40 minutes, until lightly brown and when gently shaken the centre will only slightly jiggle.   Cool and cut into small bars. Cover and store leftovers (if there are any) in the fridge.

Note: If you chill the slice in the fridge before cutting into bars it will be much easier.

23 May 2011

Hang up your tools

Magnetic knife strips are handy in the kitchen, but did you think they could be handy in the craft room or office too?  Stick them on the wall above your craft table or desk and hang your scissors, pliers, rulers, Stanley knife and other metal tools.  Magnetic knife strips are available from kitchenware stores (where you'll pay a premium) or from hardware shops, but why not buy a length of self-adhesive magnetic strip from your local craft shop (or hardware store - check the prices)?  Cut it into three equal lengths, stick them on top of each other to make a deep, strong magnetic strip to hang your tools from.

22 May 2011

The agony of a lost purse

My mother called me on Friday morning, she'd lost her purse. Understandably she was distraught, more so because this is a woman who in her entire life has never lost anything.

It wasn't the money in it (although there was a lot, she'd just drawn her housekeeping for the fortnight), but the cards. So many cards, for all manner of things. And each and everyone of them had to be cancelled and re-issued.

We spent hours on the phone, calling the bank, Centrelink, Medicare, the Library and a dozen other places to get new cards issued.  Thank goodness she keeps good records, she had all the cards listed in a little notebook, with the oh-so-important details for each one. I shudder to think how long those calls would have taken without those details. She was even able to provide the security/identity answers for each card that required them!

I keep a list of our cards and the details, but this little incident really shook me up. When I finally made it home I counted just how many cards I have in my purse and then, after I'd picked myself up off the floor, found the list and updated it.  When Wayne came home I did the same thing with his cards and suggested the boys might like to update the list in their folders too, not that they have quite as many cards as we do but if they were to lose them it would be painful.

These are the cards I had in my purse:

3 x various bank cards
1 x Flybuys
1 x Ambulance
1 x healthfund
1 x Medicare
1 x Costco
1 x RACV
19 - yes 19! X store loyalty cards! - how I've come to have so many I have no idea - most of the stores I haven't been in for years.
1 x Diggers membership card
1 x drivers licence

That's 30 cards! No wonder my purse was so heavy!  I've culled most of the story loyalty cards, now the back of my purse clips shut easily.

On my list now are:
  • My driver's license
  • Medicare details
  • RACV details
  • Bank details
  • Healthfund details
  • Ambulance details
  • Costco
  • Diggers
  • Myer
  • Spotlight
  • ABC Shop
  • SPC Shop
  • Koorong

Obviously not all of them are finance related, but they are the cards that are most important to me and that are used regularly, so the details for each one are listed. If I ever need to cancel or replace them it should be as easy as a quick phone call.

If you don't have a record of your  cards may I suggest that you take a few minutes this afternoon and make one? I've uploaded a Card Log into the Printables for you to download. All you need to do is copy the details off your cards into the relevant columns and then file it safely away.

Hopefully you'll never need to use it, but if you do have to, it will make a distressing time a little easier.

The Cheapskates cabbage war

With the price of cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli going up and up, it's time to declare war on supermarket prices and grow your own.  If you are worried about not being able to use a whole cabbage or cauliflower before it goes black opt to plant the miniature versions and pick them when they are about the size of a softball.  Loosen the soil in the veggie patch and mix in plenty of compost or well rotted manure. Plant single rows of seeds, two weeks apart for a continuous supply through to summer. Be sure to put down snail bait, water regularly and give a dose of seaweed fertilizer once a fortnight. If you see any caterpillars, pick them off and squash them. Don't have a garden or room for one? That's no excuse! Plant into green bags, one seed per bag and follow the instructions above.

21 May 2011

A big pot of soup

Saturday is my day off - no housework, no cooking or gardening.  I love my Saturdays and look forward to the next one when I wake up on a Sunday morning.

Not cooking on a Saturday can be a challenge, especially when we are all home. The boys especially are usually really hungry, always looking for something to munch on so I try to have enough food prepared to get us through without me having to cook.

In winter I always have a big pot of soup on the stove.  We have it for lunch, for afternoon tea when we come in, frozen from working in the yard and for tea with hot buttered toast or crumpets.  Soup is one of the easiest meals to make, but it's also one of the easiest meals to ruin and there's nothing as unappetizing as horrible soup.

I make soup the way my mother makes it, using stock, good meaty bones and lots of vegetables and beans. It's always a little different, that is I think what makes it such a wonderful meal.  Sometimes the beans and lentils will thicken up until the soup is almost like a stew, other times it will be delightfully thin and light.  However it turns out it's always good.

Here's how I make soup:

First I make the stock. Into a large stockpot put four or five good meaty bones. You can use shanks or shin bones or even lamb flaps if your butcher has them. As long as they are nice and meaty they'll be fine.  Add cold water to cover, a large onion cut into quarters, the tops off a bunch of celery and three or four carrots cut into chunks. Bring this to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for at least an hour, preferably two.  Every now and then skim the foam off the top of the pot. This makes the stock that forms the base of your soup.

When the meat is falling off the bones your stock is ready. Carefully pour the stock through a colander or strainer into a clean bowl. Go through the  colander and pick out the meat and return it to the stock. Now to get the fat from the stock you need to cool it. You can leave it in the fridge overnight or put it in the freezer for half an hour, depending on how much time you have before you want to eat soup!

When the stock is cold the fat will form on the top. You can then just lift if off and put it in the compost.

To make the soup, measure the stock and return it to the stockpot. Now add the same amount of cold water. Dice 2 or 3 onions, 2 or 3 carrots, 3 or 4 celery ribs, 1 parsnip and 1 turnip or swede.  You can dice the veggies by hand, I put them into the food processor and whizz until they are in even sized pieces. Add the veggies to the stockpot. Bring to the boil. Once the stock is boiling add 1 1/2 cups soup mix - the dried lentils and beans - available from any supermarket. There are different styles of soup mix - it doesn't matter which one you use, although we like the Italian mix because of the variety of beans.  Stir the soup mix into the stock and bring back to the boil.

Turn the heat down until the soup is at a rolling simmer. By that I mean not boiling so hard it will froth up and boil over, but still bubbling and moving around. The stock needs to be moving to keep the beans and lentils from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning. Every now and then give it a stir. 

I let this cook away for at least 45 minutes, to ensure the soup mix is properly cooked (you don't want hard beans or lentils) and to develop the flavours.

That's it. Once it's cooked I have a hard time keeping the family out of it.  I don't season with salt or pepper until it's served. Sometimes it needs salt, other times it doesn't. I find it best to leave the seasoning until eating so it's not over-salted or too peppery.  And if there is any left it goes into the fridge for the next day, when it is even better.

That's all there is too it. Making soup is easy. It's also very frugal. A big pot of soup costs around $6 to make, depending on the cost of the bones and easily makes 15 hearty serves.

If you've never tried to make soup give it a go.

20 May 2011

Every wardrobe needs a crochet hook

Even if you don't crochet, you need a crochet hook in your wardrobe.  A fine crochet hook, either 2.5 or 3mm, is the perfect tool for fixing those pulled and loose threads. As soon as you see a loose thread on a garment, get your crochet hook and use it to pull the thread through to the wrong side. Your clothes will not only look better longer, but they'll last longer too.

More creative cushion covers

After the Tip of the Day "Creative Chic Cushion Covers" Robyn McKellar sent me this email:

"Your blog reminded me of a cushion tip I have so I thought I would share.

Had a girlfriend visiting that I hadn't seen for ages, so house was immaculate (you know how it is!  got to make a good impression!), biscuits made, dinner prepped, but I hadn't gotten around to covering that chatty old cushion I had on the lounge.  I had bought the material, a nice bit of Liberty MacIntosh reproduction cotton.  Then I had a brainwave, just while she was here I would cover the cushions and tie the material on.  Problem solved!

I folded the material into a square, placed it right side down on the carpet, placed the cushion so that I had four triangles showing, then folded one triangle over the cushion, folded an "edge" on the opposite triangle and knotted the other two triangles from each side across the front.  I have to say I have never sewn the material into a cushion cover,  and have had so many remarks about how great it looked,  and questions asked as to how I had sewn it to get that effect, etc, I left it.

I have attached pictures of that cushion and others I covered using an old table cloth, a woollen shawl and a pashmina (which was a bit of a challenge as it wasn't square).  As you can see, anything can be used, and the effect is instant.  Have a go.  You can change your cushion covers as often as you like, having a smooth side or an “interesting” side.  Some materials, like the shawl, have a centred pattern and this looks good on the “plain” side.  It’s only limited by your imagination and Cheapskaters have lots of that!"

Here are the photos Robyn sent. Isn't she creative and don't her cushion covers look great?  

Just because we're Cheapskates doesn't mean we have to live with ugly belongings. It really doesn't have to cost a lot or take a lot of time to make our homes and surroundings beautiful. When we choose to live the Cheapskates way it changes the way we look at things. Where BC (before Cheapskates) Robyn may have rushed out and bought a temporary cushion cover, now she's a Cheapskate she saw a beautiful fabric and looked for a frugal way to use it to get the effect she wanted. A little change in thinking for a fantastic result and money saved.

I love this idea - think how easy it would be to change your decor for the seasons - just untie the beatiful fabrics and replace them with other squares you have. What a great way to use a vintage tablecloth - tie it over a cushion and use it on a comfy chair in your kitchen or on the sofa in the family room or lounge. Old lace shawls would be lovely used on bed pillows, piled up high. What luxury, and for almost no cost and just a few minutes of your time.

Bunnyrugs could be used to wrap cushions and pillows for the nursery or a toddler's bedroom too.

The possibilities are endless - just use your imagination and the stash in your linen and craft cupboards to give your soft furnishings an instant facelift.

What fantastic frugal decorating idea do you have? Please share it, I know all Cheapskates love great ideas.

19 May 2011

How to Make a Bed

My secret to a comfy bed is  just  making it carefully.  There's only 10 simple steps.  It only takes about 5 minutes to make a queen size bed, 3 or 4 to make a single, not long to ensure a comfortable night is it?


1.Turn the blankets and quilt down and let the bed air while you shower and dress.

2. Smooth bottom sheet of any wrinkles.

3. Pull top sheet up and smooth wrinkles.

4. Pull up blanket, smoothing and turn the hem over. Tuck in the sides.

5. If you have a doona or quilt, shake and lay on top of blanket. Place pillows at head of the bed, openings to the centre.

6. If you have a bedspread, place the pillow at the head of the bed under the sham. Pull spread over the pillow, tucking the excess underneath the pillow.


1. Strip the linen off the bed and put in the wash. Turn the mattress and vacuum thoroughly. This doesn't need to be done weekly, but I lose track of the weeks otherwise. Monthly is probably often enough if you have a good memory.

2. Put the mattress protector (if you use one) on, making sure it is tucked under the mattress on all sides.

3. Lay the bottom sheet over the mattress. If you use fitted sheets, make sure the corners and sides are properly tucked under the mattress.

4. If you use flat sheets (I do) take the bottom sheet and spread it over the mattress. Pull to the top edge, taking the hem over the end of the mattress to the lower edge. You should have just enough at the bottom end of the bed to tuck over the end. Don't worry about holding it in place, the top sheet will do this very well.  Use hospital corners to keep the sheet firmly in place.

5. Put the fleece over the bottom sheet, tucking in the top and bottom. It should be centred on the top of the mattress, it isn't wide enough to tuck in at the sides.

6. Lay the top sheet over the fleece and bottom sheet, patterned side down. This is so the hem and pattern show on the turnback.  Take the lower edge of the hem to the top of the mattress. Make sure the sides are even.

7. Next the blanket goes on, with the top edge of the blanket  going to the bottom of the hem on the top sheet. Make sure the sides are even.  Turn the sheet and blanket down. Tuck the  foot of the sheet and blanket under the mattress and use hospital corners for a neat finish.   Tuck the sides under all the way up.

8. Turn the sheet and blanket down. Tuck the  foot of the sheet and blanket under the mattress and use hospital corners for a neat finish.

9. Give the doona or quilt (if you use one) a good shake and lay it over the top of the bed, making sure the sides are even and the top covers the turnover.  If you use a bedspread instead of a quilt, lay it over the blanket, taking the top edge of the pillow sham to the top edge of the mattress. Make sure the sides are even. Put the pillows under the sham and turn it down.

10. Put the pillows into clean protectors and pillowslips. Lay them on top of the bed, open ends to the centre.

How to make hospital corners
To make hospital corners, tuck the bottom end of the sheets and blankets under the mattress. Then, on the corner, lift the side and carefully tuck the piece left hanging down under the mattress. Drop the side of the blanket and tuck it under the mattress all the way along.  Repeat on the other corner.

18 May 2011

There's Nothing Like a Freshly Made Bed

Good evening!

I am going to write this post and get it onto the blog today, no matter what else happens! Three times this week I've sat down and started a blog post, only to be interrupted and sidetracked by other things.  This week has been busy, busy, busy, but there's nothing unusual in that. As you would know, just living can keep a body busy.

I'm not sure what's gone wrong. The weather has been terrible, so cold and wet. And yes, I gave in and we lit the pilot on the central heating BEFORE Mother's Day it was so cold. There's no point in sitting in a cold, damp house just because it's not the second Sunday in May. So the heater has been going and I am grateful for the warm house and the vents in the floor, they've been drying the washing.

This cold snap came on so suddenly, we've been enjoying such a mild autumn that the summer sheets and quilts were still on all the beds.  But not anymore.

Hannah was so sad and tired yesterday morning and when I finally managed to get her to talk (she really was half asleep) she 'fessed up that she wasn't sleeping very well because she was cold! Now she could quite easily have put another quilt or two on her bed but of course once she was up for the day the idea was gone. It wasn't until the house started to cool down in the early hours of the morning that she'd wake and remember she needed another blanket.

So yesterday I changed all our beds. I remade them all with warm and fluffy flannelette sheets, polar fleece liners, cosy blankets and our winter quilts and it was good to get into bed last night. I just love climbing into a freshly made bed. The sheets are so smooth and the pillowcases have a faint lavender scent to them, I always sleep like a log.

I'm rather particular about our beds and how they are made.  One of the nicest compliments I've ever received was from my mother-in-law, who told me she loves getting into a bed I've made, because it's something special.

It's not really, I'm just fussy about making sure the sheets are clean and smooth, the blankets even and the doona fluffed to within and inch of it's life. I like the pillows to be freshly plumped and the pillowcases hem side to the centre of the bed.

We don't use electric blankets or leave the heating on overnight, so we all have a polar fleece bottom sheet on our beds.  They are so soft and warm on even the coldest night.

I looked at buying polar fleece sheet sets, but they were way out of our price range, especially as we have four beds to cover. Another thing that put me off was the quality. Rather than being double-sided, they were only fluffy on one side and quite thin. 

Instead I bought four two metre lengths of polar fleece from Spotlight when they had a sale. They just go over the bottom sheet, tuck in at the top and bottom and work like a charm. They wash and dry in no time, and go back on the beds. 

The kids have even stopped using their wheat bags their beds are so cosy.  When the weather warms up they are stored with the winter quilts.

I think it's important to have a comfortable bed. Comfort encourages relaxation and good sleep and recent research has shown that sleep is essential for good health and weight control, so I'm all for getting as much sleep in a comfortable bed as I can!

Stay out of the shops and keep your money

It's simple. Shopping is not a recreational activity. It's not a hobby. Stay away from the shops and you will save money.  I am sure that if I were to go to the shops today I'd find a bargain that would be too good to pass up. If I stay home and away from the shops, I won't even know about it and certainly won't miss it.  If, or when, the time comes for me to buy that item, I'll do my research, shop around and find another bargain. Staying away from shops avoids temptation, stops impulse spending and keeps your money in your pocket.

17 May 2011

Orange Marmalade Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

This slowcooker recipe is just perfect for a chilly winter night. You can substitute marylands for the chicken thighs, choose whichever is cheaper at the butcher.

4 medium sweet potatoes, cleaned and roughly cut even sized chunks
6 chicken thighs, skin off
1 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Put prepared sweet potatoes in crockpot, add salt and pepper to taste.  Arrange chicken thighs on top of sweet potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Mix orange marmalade and chicken broth together in separate bowl, then pour over the chicken.  Set slowcooker to low and cook covered for 6 to 8 hours. Check after four hours, if the sauce is too thick add another 1/2 cup boiling chicken stock. Spoon sauce over top of chicken when serving.

I serve this dish over steamed savoury rice or with mash, green beans and corn.

16 May 2011

Personalise a book for your toddler

Want to make a cheap, personalised book for your toddler? Buy one of those $1 little flip photo albums and fill it with photos of family, friends, pets, favourite places, holidays etc that your little one will recognise.  Use a whiteboard marker to print the names on the photo sleeve and use the album as a beginner reader.  Encourage Junior to make up stories about the pictures as you read the book together and enjoy the imaginative ideas they come up with. When your little one (or you) get bored you can change the photos quickly and easily, creating a whole new book to read.

15 May 2011

Keep Up with the Mending

Every household has mending. It may be as simple as a button off a shirt or a hem on trousers or it could be a more complicated seam or zipper repair. Whatever it is that needs fixing the garment usually finds its way to the mending pile. That pile can quickly get out of control simply because the mending is never done. If you're not going to sew the button on or fix the zipper immediately, put the garment in the rag bag straight away, otherwise it's just taking up space in your cupboard. But if you want a simple system to keep on top of the mending, have a basic sewing kit in the laundry and every week while the first load is washing, do the mending. If it's a complicated repair (like the zipper) make a time to sit down and do it. Some weeks you'll have a few things to mend, other weeks there will be nothing. Either way your mending basket will nearly always be empty and the mending under control.

A lady always has a hanky

One of the "you might also like" links on today's Tip of the Day email was to the post "Who left the tissue in their pocket?"

Oh my goodness do I get upset when a tissue goes through the wash. They make such a mess. I know they have their place, and when the whole family has a head cold they are a blessing.  But for day-to-day use in our home they are banned.

Instead we use old fashioned hankies.  When I was very little my great-grandma would tell me "a lady always has a hanky" and make sure I had one tucked up my sleeve. I've never forgotten and to this day always have a hanky on me.

We all have our own hankies and I can tell you that there is no mess if one gets left in a pocket and goes through the wash, there's just a damp lump in the pocket and that is easily dealt with.

Hannah and I each have a large stash of hankies. I keep two or three in my handbag and always have one tucked up a sleeve or in a pocket. They are so useful, not just for noses, but to wipe hands and faces, to mop up spills, to dust the dash of the car (usually when I'm waiting with nothing else to do) and any number of other little jobs that need a cloth.

I wash our hankies by hand - they are small and it only takes a few minutes to swish, rinse and wring. Before washing though they are soaked in a small bucket, just for this purpose, with a few drops of lavender or tea tree oil in the water.  The oil not only smells nice, but acts as a disinfectant too.   When it comes time to wash them, I empty the bucket and fill it with hot water and a teaspoon of washing powder. Then I use my spurtle to swish and swash them around before rinsing them in clean water and wringing them out by hand.

To dry them I just lay them out flat and then peg them over a rung on the clotheshorse. They dry in no time and because they've been hand washed and dried inside they are so soft.

When I iron them (ladies you must always iron your hankies) I spritz them with vanilla ironing spray (yes, even the boys' get done with this spray) and then put them away in our hankie bags. The vanilla scent is lovely, a little luxury that costs almost nothing and makes me feel good whenever I use a hanky.  Just because we live the Cheapskates way doesn't mean we can't enjoy the finer things of life. Actually that is exactly why we live the Cheapskates way, so we can enjoy the things that are important to us and have the little luxuries we love and that make us smile.

If you're still using tissues, think about buying yourself some pretty hankies. You only need to buy them once, tissues are an ongoing expense. Hankies won't make a mess of your wash and you don't need to try and dispose of them in a sanitary manner. Hankies don't fall apart on you either like tissues do either.

And something else to think about: when you use a hanky you aren't blowing your nose on a tree, as you are when you use a tissue!

Vanilla Ironing Spray

In a clean glass jar put 2 cups of cooled, boiled water. Add 2 tablespoons of witch hazel (available from the chemist) and 5 vanilla beans. Let this mixture sit for a week. Strain the water into a spray bottle and use as you would any ironing spray, it's not just for hankies.

You can start your next lot by adding the vanilla beans to the glass jar and topping up with cool, boiled water and witch hazel.

14 May 2011

Have fun with personalised stationery

Have some fun with free, personalised stationery from Vistaprint. You can choose from business cards (which are so handy to use as address cards, use them when you need to give your contact details to someone), pens, address labels, magnets, sticky notes, even bumper stickers. The choice of designs is great and you get to customise the details on each item. You will need to pay postage and handling and there are options to make it cheaper. These also make fun gifts. Imagine the reaction when you give someone their very own, themed stationery.  Go to www.vistaprint.com.au and click on "Free products" to see what's available.

13 May 2011

Worn-in Denim

Get the lived in look with stiff new denim by adding 1/4 cup of salt to the first wash. It softens the fabric and sets the dye to avoid fading. Hang the garment inside out and dry out of the sun for the first wash. The denim will be as soft and comfortable as if it has been washed a dozen times.

11 May 2011

File It or Fling It

The end of financial year is fast approaching and it's time to get organized for tax time. If you start now to get your paperwork in order now, come June 30 your tax will be a breeze (or at least less stressful). When it comes to paperwork we seem to have more than ever before to deal with. An easy way to decide whether to file or fling is to ask yourself what would happen if you didn't have that particular piece of paper. Would you be able to easily and quickly get a copy? Is the information it contains available online? If the answer to these questions is yes, then fling it. If it isn't file it. A great tip when filing is to put an X in the top right hand corner of every piece of paper you file. Then when you clean out your files you can see immediately how many times you have accessed that piece of paper. No 'X', it's a safe bet you can fling it. If space is short, scan each receipt, invoice, statement, important letter etc and create a file on a portable hard drive or flash drive kept just for filing paperwork.

10 May 2011

Housekeeping on a Monday

I grew up with a mother who always wore an apron in the kitchen and for doing her housework so it seemed only natural that I would ignore such an old fashioned habit when I had my own kitchen. I didn't ignore it for long though. Only a couple of ruined tops had me calling Mum and asking her to send me her apron patterns.

Ever since I've been a devoted fan of the apron. My favourite is a wonderful full length apron, in a butcher stripe, made from oil cloth. I wore that apron for years before it finally fell apart. I loved that if something splashed on it I could just wipe it off with a damp cloth.

Putting on my apron puts me in the mood for housework. It's become my housework uniform and everyone knows when I have my pinny on then I'm in serious house cleaning/cooking/tidying mode.

I'm a little old fashioned in that I have a specific cleaning routine. When I was growing up Monday was washing day, Tuesday was beds and bathroom, Wednesday was gardening, Thursday was shopping and cooking and Friday was cleaning day. Mum had a rest, of sorts, on weekends, when she did the basics. All other housekeeping chores were done during the week and it's a routine that I've adapted to suit us as a family.

So Monday is kitchen and loungeroom cleaning day and a definite apron day. Getting the housework done in the morning leaves me free to do whatever I like for the rest of the day. Usually that's working on Cheapskates putting together newsletters or the Journal, answering emails, doing interviews and so on. Lately though I've been working on the book. It's getting there, slowly but surely. I have to get a wriggle on with it though, it has to be ready for editing by the end of June.

But before I play I work. My Monday mornings go something like this:

In the kitchen:

1.With the cobweb broom dust the cornices, light fittings, tops of cupboards and the skirting boards.
2.Fill the sink with hot water.
3.Load and run the dishwasher.
4.Put any knick knacks into the sink to soak (the teapot trivet, cake dome, plate from the microwave, glass cutting boards, tea set off the window sill etc).
5.Starting on the island bench and move everything off. Wipe over with a damp cloth, dry with a tea towel. Move to the bench next to the stove and repeat. Repeat for the microwave bench.
6.wash the things in the sink, rinse and put to drain dry.
7.Wipe the inside and outside of the microwave, remembering to wipe over the back too.
8.Put the trivets off the stove into the sink to soak. Sprinkle the stove with a little water and a drizzle of dishwashing liquid. Let it sit for a few minutes then wipe over with a wet cloth, dry with a tea towel.
9.Wash, rinse and dry the trivets and put back into place.
10.Wipe over the range hood, and fridge, dusting the top.
11.Check the cupboard doors, wipe over with a clean, damp cloth.
12.Wipe over the kettle, tea and coffee caddies and the utensil jar.
13.Put the boards back into place.
14.Wash the window.
15.Put the tea set back into place.
16.Sweep floor.
17.Wipe over kickboards with a damp cloth.
18.Mop floor.
19.Clean and shine sink.
20.Put the dirty dishcloths and tea towels in the wash, put out a fresh dishcloth and a clean tea towel.

In the loungeroom:
1.Dust the cornices, skirting boards and window sills with the cobweb broom.
2.Wipe over the windows with a microfibre window cloth.
3.Dust and polish the timber furniture.
4.Dust the pictures on the walls.
5.Vacuum the carpet, moving the lounge and the chairs and cleaning underneath and behind.
6. Straighten the furniture, fluffing the cushions.
7.Check the doyleys, if they are dusty, creased or dirty put them in the wash and replace with clean linens.

It's quite a list isn't it? I'm so glad I didn't write it out before I started, it would have been rather intimidating. Thankfully this has been my Monday routine for so long now that it's habit and I don't really think about what I do, I just do it, almost on autopilot.

Really it's not hard at all, it only takes about 40 minutes to get through. I can spend 40 minutes on a Monday morning to keep our kitchen and lounge sparkling. With just a little daily care they stay spic'n'span all week long.

The secret is to just do it - I love that saying - just do it! Once you start it's easy. And each week it gets easier and easier because after a couple of weeks you are just maintaining, not actually doing any deep cleaning. I know there are lots of housecleaning plans and schedules around, but this one works for me. It's not complicated, I don't need cards or folders or special cleaners. I just start at the top and work my way down. Even I can remember to do that.

Once I've finished I take of my apron and sit down with a cup of coffee and a bikkie and relax, enjoying our lovely clean and tidy home. Until around 4pm when everyone starts to get home and it all goes back to normal. Gotta love kids and their trails of stuff.

Quick Marshmallow Slice

This quick slice is great for using up the crumbs in the bottom of the cereal packets. Just store them in the freezer until you have enough to make the slice. I use a mixture of whatever cereals we have in the cupboard. It could be Weetbix crumbs, crushed ricies, muesli, rolled oats, bran flakes in any combination to make up the 5 cups.

250 g pack marshmallows - any colour will do
120 g butter
5 cups muesli*
60g dried apricots
60g glace cherries
60g slivered almonds

Melt marshmallows and butter together. Dice apricots and cherries. Mix fruit and almonds into cereal and stir to combine. Quickly add the melted marshmallow mixture and stir to combine. At this stage you will need to be quite fast as the marshmallow will start to set. Quickly pour into a baking paper lined slice tray. Press down with the back of a wet spoon (this stops the spoon sticking to the top of the slice). Mark into squares and set in the fridge.

*See comment above about using a mixture of cereals

09 May 2011

Aprons, Aprons Everywhere

They're making a comeback, and not before time! An apron is a must have in every kitchen. They not only keep your clothes clean (who hasn't ruined a t-shirt with a splash of oil?) but they can be used to dry hands, carry hot cake tins, even wipe a little face.

Aprons are often quite kitsch, being made from bold, patterned fabrics in a huge range of styles. With that in mind, they make delightful decorator items. Bright, colourful aprons look fantastic hanging up in a dull corner of the kitchen. Pick them up from op shops or make your own (click here for some cute patterns) for a budget decorator item that can be used too.

06 May 2011

Cleaning with the Super Six

I've had some questions about the homemade washing soda (in the May 2011 Journal).

Yes, you can make washing soda at home. And yes, it really is as simple as heating the bicarb.

I spoke to Mr. B. the chemistry teacher at the kids' school to confirm the process. He looked at me a little quizzically when I asked, but he confirmed that yes, you can indeed turn sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate in your kitchen. My oh-so-clever middle son then told me that of course it could be done, it was a very basic chemistry experiment he'd done at school. What can I say - he's a teenage boy, he could have told me before I asked his teacher, or when I was testing the process. He just didn't think of it!

Anyway, according to Mr B. the trick is to get the bicarb up to temperature quickly so pre-heating the oven is essential. It must be up to temp before you put the tray of bicarb in. Then keep the door closed to keep the temperature up.

It's that simple and easy. If you can't find washing soda to make your Cheapskates Washing Powder try making your own, it's a breeze.

You can save hundreds of dollars a year by making not just washing powder, but all your cleaning products at home and you don't need a whole lot of chemicals either.

It is possible to clean your whole house, from top to bottom with just six everyday household products:

1.  white vinegar
2.  bicarb soda
3.  eucaplyptus oil
4.  borax
5.  washing soda
6.  laundry soap or dishwashing detergent

Throw in a few knitted cleaning cloths or some $2 shop microfibre cloths and you have a cleaning kit to rival any chemical cleaners you can buy.

There's something to be said for using simple products to clean your home. Apart from the pride I feel in having a clean home for my family there's the pride in knowing that the products used are as safe as can possibly be for them, for our furnishings and for our environment. It's also the feeling of satisfaction that comes from knowing I haven't washed hundreds of dollars down the drain.

I've been thinking a lot lately about that. About how much money goes down the drain or into the garbage bin in the average household. Waste doesn't just happen in the kitchen. It can be using too much of something or using the wrong thing for a particular job. It can be using what we believe are convenience products when there are better, cheaper alternatives that are just as convenient.

The Cheapskates washing powder is a classic example. So many people like the idea of cutting their laundry cost to around $10 a year, but they don't make the powder because they think it's too hard.

Well hello folks! It takes under 5 minutes of your time - yes, really - and the tiniest bit of elbow grease to grate the soap and mix it with the washing soda and borax. The main reason they give is that it will be too hard to grate the soap. Hmm. I've grated chocolate that's been harder!

And how convenient is it to spend 5 minutes and not have to repeat the process for another year? No lugging heavy boxes home each week. No overpowering scents to make you sneeze and itch. No spending hundreds of dollars for the pleasure of lugging, sneezing and itching. Now that's convenient.

It's just as convenient to make other cleaning products. Window cleaner, bath and basin cleaner, floor cleaners, carpet cleaners, oven cleaners can all be made using the super six above.

 You'll find the recipes and instructions for making window cleaner, drain cleaner, copper cleaner and a good all-purpose cleaner here, at my post on Blog Action Day.

You'll find the instructions for making Cheapskates Washing Powder here.

And if you go to Homemade Cleaning Products, in the Tip Store, you'll find recipes for dozens of other cleaning products you can make yourself. 

For a few minutes of your time, you'll have a clean and healthy house and a lot more money in your bank account.

Organic Groceries at Supermarket Prices

   I like to feed my family organic foods but they are so expensive, so we teamed up with some other local families to form an organic foods co-op. As long as our co-op place a minimum order of $300, we can buy all of our dry goods in bulk (rice, lentils, tinned goods, cereals, flours, nuts, seeds, dried fruit etc) at wholesale prices direct from the distributor. This makes the cost similar to buying non-organic goods at the supermarket. The added bonus is that we can also get substantial discounts on other goodies too like skin care products, homeopathic remedies, herbal teas etc. I would estimate we save $100 per month, depending on the size of the order. We get together once a month to place our order which is also a good excuse to catch up with friends over a glass of wine.
Contributed by Christine

05 May 2011

Creative, Chic Cushion Covers

One way to achieve an individual look for your living room is to revamp old cardies and turn them into stylish cushion covers. Cardies with an Aran or cabled pattern look classy, or look for plain ones with unusual buttons and/or detailing on the front. All you have to do is cut off the sleeves and sew all four sides up. You already have the button up area for your opening. Simple, and very easy to do! For next to nothing, you get an individual, one-off cushion... much more satisfying than paying $35 upwards for mass-produced ones from Spotlight or Freedom. If you don't have any old cardies, check out your local Op Shop, Garage Sale or Swap Meet. Size doesn't matter either - you can make tiny throw cushions for a bed, or larger ones for the living room; your choice.
Contributed by Chris, Bakers Hill

04 May 2011

Start a Wish List

Often we see an ad for something and the marketing guru is obviously doing his job properly because before the ad is over we want it!  A surefire way to increase debt and blow your spending plan is to race out and buy it, only to regret the purchase later on.  A way to stop the spontaneous spending and ensure you only buy the things you really want is to have a wish list.  When you find something you think you'd like write it on your wish list. Then, when you have some Mad Money saved or there is enough cash in the particular Spending Plan category you can shop around for a good price and buy it, guilt and debt free. Start your list in a small notebook and carry it with you so you always add the latest "want" to your wish list straight away. You'll find that with most things as soon as they are on your wish list you will stop thinking about them until you are really ready to buy them.

PS:   See Cath on A Current Affair tonight. She's sharing the secret of her low, low grocery bill.....pantry staples!

03 May 2011

All about Aldi

We love Aldi. I get complaints just about every day from Cheapskaters in South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and Tasmania about the fact that they don't have Aldi. I've tried. I've met with Aldi representatives and told them how you feel. I've had phone conversations with Aldi and told them how you feel.

Last week I was filming a story about Aldi and yet again mentioned how you all feel. I actually went further and suggested that if Aldi were to make the move to go national that they would be the supermarket leaders in double quick time and I really believe that.

When Aldi first opened in Australia they were an unknown, but not for long. Cheapskaters, official and unofficial alike, embraced the  opportunity to feed their families for less, decorate their homes for less and enjoy the latest technologies for less.

I've written quite a bit about Aldi over the years and time has not lessened my love of Aldi.  You can read those articles here and here and here.  You can read a Cheapskates member's experiences here.

If you've never shopped at an Aldi supermarket before there are a few things you should know that will make your first visit a success and start your love affair with Aldi.

First off you'll need a gold coin or a trolley token to get a trolley from the trolley bay. The trolleys take $1 or $2 coins or a token you can buy for 99 cents. I keep a $2 coin in the zip compartment of my purse just for Aldi trolleys. Be prepared- getting change from the store isn't that easy.

There is only one way into an Aldi supermarket and one way out. If you don't have change for the trolley you'll need to go into the store and then get in line at a checkout to get a gold coin.

Most Aldi supermarkets only have four aisles and they are wide, wide enough for two trolleys to pass without risk of losing a limb.

Most Aldi supermarkets have the same layout, which makes shopping at different stores easy. And enjoyable. Who hasn't gone into a supermarket in another suburb and not been able to find a thing because the layout was completely different? You don't normally have that problem at Aldi.

When you need to stick to a strict grocery budget, Aldi is the supermarket to visit. The range is limited, and that's a good thing - too much choice costs us too much money. You'll generally find that there will be a "budget" brand and a slightly more upmarket brand of every item in the store.  You'll have two choices of pasta and two choices of dishwashing detergent, two choices of cheese, two choices of baked beans and so on.

The other thing to bear in mind is that you will only get pantry staples at Aldi. No gourmet herbs and spices and many groceries will be seasonal. Mixed dried fruit for instance is usually only available from November through to Christmas so when you see it stock up (it keeps in the pantry and you can freeze it if you want to). Be prepared for seasonal foods to only be available for a short time and if you regularly use them out of season buy enough to get you through.  You'll still save a lot of money.

Start by going to the Aldi website and using their online tool to make up your shopping list. This will give you an estimate of what your groceries are going to cost. I say estimate because you can't get the prices for fresh meat, fruit or vegetables as they will vary depending on the weight of the food you buy. But it's close enough to give you a good idea of how much you're going to spend.

Each week, on a Thursday, the new sale cycle starts. There will be weekly grocery specials and the weekly special buys Aldi is famous for. Expect Thursday to be a very busy day instore and if you don't want a special buy, perhaps shopping on another day would be wise. Oh, and the special buys are usually at the back of the store, on the end of the centre aisles. You need to be quick, they are limited stock and go fast.

When you get to the checkout you'll see the conveyor is long, very long. This is supposed to make checking out faster, I'm not convinced on this. It just takes you longer to get to the cashier.

 You will need to have your trolley fully unloaded before you get to the cashier because you need to pack your groceries back into it. Do not, under any circumstances try to pack your shopping into bags at the checkout. You'll just hold everyone up and end up in major confusion. Instead load them into the trolley and then take advantage of the packing bench to get your groceries ready to take home.

 You need to take your own green bags with you, unless you want to pick up empty cartons as you shop or buy new green bags on your way through the checkout.

And one last thing. You can pay by cash, eftpos or credit card. If you opt for the credit option there is a 1% surcharge on top of your grocery total. Cash or eftpos are the way to go.

That's pretty much it. Shopping at Aldi is an experience and can seem a little strange at first, but once you get use to it (and start counting the money you are saving) you'll be hooked too.

There's a great thread called My first Aldi experience with loads of tips and product reviews that makes great reading in the Member's forum. It's good to get other Cheapskater's perspectives on things before you try them so I suggest you take a look. Use the forum search to find other Aldi threads too, it will be worth your while.

Bread And Butter Pudding

This is a classic winter pudding and a firm favourite in our house. You can use stale raisin bread and leave out the sultanas for a fruity change.

8 slices stale bread, buttered and spread with raspberry or strawberry jam
1/2  cup sultanas
3 level tablespoons caster sugar
1 and 1/2 cups milk
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Grated nutmeg

Heat oven to 160 degrees Celsius.  Cut each slice of bread and butter into 4 triangles. Place 1/3 of the bread in the base of a lightly greased casserole dish.  Sprinkle with half the sultanas and one tablespoon of sugar.  Place half of the remaining bread on top and then the remaining sultanas plus one tablespoon sugar.  Place the remaining bread and butter on the top, buttered side up, trying to ensure all the sultanas are covered by the bread.  Sprinkle the last tablespoon of sugar over the top.  In a separate bowl beat the eggs and  milk together.  Carefully pour over the bread and fruit mix.  Sprinkle on a little nutmeg.  Let stand for half an hour.  Don't worry if the top pieces of bread are not submerged under the milk - these are going to be the nice crispy bits. Bake about 40 minutes until the "custard" has set and the pudding is golden brown on the top.

From the October 2010 Journal

02 May 2011

Quick Homemade Oatmeal Soap

Rolled oats aren't just for breakfast. They can be a part of your beauty routine too. You can add them to the bath for a soothing and skin softening soak or you can use this deceptively simple oatmeal soap for the same result. It literally take 5 minutes to make, it's that quick and easy.

To make the soap you will need:
A food processor, blender or coffee grinder
1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick cook)
1 large bar of natural soap
A large microwave safe jug
1 tbsp  water
Wooden spoon
2 or 3 soap moulds (I use silicone patty pans)

1.  Put the rolled oats in the food processor and process in short bursts until you have a coarse powder (you want to be able to see that it is oats, not a fine powder).

2.  Grate the soap on the zester side of your grater (or use the grater attachment on your food processor).

3.  Put the grated soap into the microwave jug and add the water. Stir. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, watching carefully that it doesn't bubble over. Stir to dissolve the soap. If the soap hasn't completely dissolved microwave another minute and stir

4.  Quickly stir the oatmeal into the soap mixture. It will form a thick ball and begin to set almost straight away, so work quickly.

5.  Pour the oatmeal soap into the soap moulds. Allow to set for 24 hours. Remove from the moulds and allow to air dry to set completely.

01 May 2011

Get free stuff for your garden

We all know that getting your garden landscaped and established can be expensive, very expensive. But it doesn't have to be. You can get most of the things you need and want for your garden free with just a little planning and these handy tips.

Freecycle - put a "wanted" ad on Freecycle for plants and you'll be inundated with offers.  You can also ask for tools and other garden necessities. One Cheapskates family was able to lay new turf in their freshly landscaped backyard free just by asking on Freecycle.  Go to www.freecycle.org to find a group near you.

Swap - swap plants and tools with family, friends and neighbours.  Just remember when you borrow a tool to return it promptly and  in better condition than you received it.

Dumpster dive - Ok, I don't mean you actually have to dumpster dive but I've picked up plants, plant stands, plant pots, tables, chairs and garden tools by scouting hard rubbish (always knock on the door and ask if you can take the items, otherwise it is stealing). You'll be amazed at what perfectly good garden equipment people will put out as rubbish.