30 June 2011

Electricity Free Night Lights

My kids, 2 and 3, like to have a night light. Unfortunately, we have had many unsuccessful experiences of purchasing a special 'night light' and it not lasting for too long for what ever the reason. They've also required electricity to run. I was recently shopping in Target and looking at a clearance section which included 10 small solar power garden lights at a considerably low cost. Walking away my lights suddenly went on: they'll provide just the right amount of light, will not get hot, would be child safe and most importantly, they don't have to be outside at night. So with that, we now use garden solar power lights as night lights, it's saving electricity, is better on the environment and a great toddler task to make sure they're put out side and brought in each morning and night to get the best possible light!
Contributed by Catherine, Box Hill South

29 June 2011

A Surefire Way to Put the Brakes on Spending

The easiest way to control your spending is to work out the real cost in dollars you need to earn to be able to afford what you are buying.  Find out what percentage of every dollar you earn goes in tax. Add this to the price of the item you want. You may find that $10 item you wanted will mean you need to earn $13.70 to be able to make the purchase.

How long do you have to work to earn $13.70?

28 June 2011

Bread Crumb Biscuits

These biscuits are so good and are another delicious way to use up leftover bread crusts or stale bread.

Breadcrumb Biscuits

1 1/2 cups SR flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup skim milk
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup apple sauce
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs*

Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Sift together flour and cocoa, stir in bread crumbs.  Combine skim milk, egg, vanilla extract and apple sauce.  Add to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Drop by spoonfuls onto an a cookie sheet lined with baking paper. Bake 15 minutes until golden.

*Note:  Save crusts in the freezer until you have enough to make 2 cups of breadcrumbs.

26 June 2011

Get regular exercise

This pops up a lot and is really commonsense, but in our busy lives it tends to be forgotten. Regular exercise is a major factor in living longer. Fresh air and sunlight especially provide Vitamin D to the body. Stretching those muscles even for thirty minutes a day stimulates the metabolism, helping with weight control. You don’t have to join a gym or pay for a personal trainer. Housework, gardening, riding your bicycle, bed making, hanging the washing and mowing the lawn are all forms of exercise that cost absolutely nothing.

23 June 2011

The Scent of Spring

At this time of year, when windows are shut tight against winter draughts, our homes can get stale and stuffy.  If you can't open the windows and doors wide and let the breeze blow through, the next best thing is the scent of spring.  Rather than use an artificial room deodoriser make up one of your own.  For the cost of a few drops of your favourite essential oil, a little vodka (yes, real alcohol) and about two minutes you can have a room spray that will have you thinking you've skipped July and August and gone straight to September.

To make your air freshener spray you will need:

1 spray bottle
1 cup cool water
2 tbsp vodka
10 drops bergamot essential oil
10 drops peppermint essential oil

Pour the water, vodka and essential oils into the spray bottle. Put the lid on and shake really well.  Spray into the air for an instant "spring fresh" scent.

You can alter the mood of your spray by using different essential oils. Experiment with your favourites until you find a combination that you love, then use your own unique air freshener liberally to keep your home fresh all winter long.

22 June 2011

Keep Receipts Organized

Tax time is fast approaching and the need to gather receipts, credit card and bank statements is here. This may not get you organized for this tax year, but start now so next year will be easy.

Keep Receipts Organized
An easy way to keep the hundreds of receipts in order every year is to have a file for each credit card, bank account, cash, etc. File the receipts for purchases, statements, etc., in that particular file. When you need to go back and retrieve receipts to return an item or to claim a repair under warranty you'll be able to find it immediately. You may not always remember what month you purchased an item but you can usually remember how you paid for it. At the end of the year, put all the statements, receipts, etc., for each account in its own manila envelope and label it for the year. Makes retrieving and organizing receipts much easier than keeping them in a box somewhere. It also makes getting ready for taxes a little less stressful.
Contributed by Sharon D.

21 June 2011

Eggy Toast

Sometimes you just need comfort food, not the usual hot and stodgy meal full of carbs, but something more nostalgic. Eggy Toast is my ultimate nostalgic comfort food. It brings back memories of winter breakfasts when Mum would make it to fill us up after our porridge and memories of something warm, gentle and easy to eat when life wasn't kind. To me eggy toast says "I love you" in the most delicious way.

Hannah and I had eggy toast for dinner last night. She had a particularly distressing day at school and was in dire need of some comfort and eggy toast fit the bill perfectly. Wayne and the boys had their rissoles and veggies and managed to dispose of the leftovers. Hannah and I made our eggy toast and curled up under the doona on her bed and ate our eggy toast and watched The Princess Diary on DVD and it was nice. And comforting. And my girl went to sleep peaceful, contented and much happier than she had been a few hours earlier.

Eggy Toast

Sliced bread - heavier breads such as wholegrain or sour dough are perfect but any bread will do
Eggs - one for each slice of bread

1.  Use an egg ring or scone cutter to cut a circle from the middle of each slice of bread.

2.  Heat a fry pan over a medium heat, add butter and melt. Drop the bread into the butter, swish it around a little so it soaks up the butter.

3.  Crack an egg into the circle. Cook until the white is set and the bottom of the bread is toasted.  Flip and cook until the egg is cooked.

 4.  Place onto a serving plate.

5.  Add more butter to the pan if necessary, you need enough to toast the bread. Butter the circles on both sides, drop into the hot fry pan and cook until golden, flip and toast other side.

Place the circles on top of the egg, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy.

This toast is best made with butter BUT if you are worried about cholesterol use margarine. I've tried it with cooking spray and olive oil spray in the pan and it just didn't work, butter or marg are needed to get the right degree of "toast".  It's a great way to use up stale bread if you have plenty of breadcrumbs.

Served with baked beans it makes a great Saturday or Sunday night dinner too.

Eggy toast really is the ultimate nostalgic comfort food.

20 June 2011

The Wrapping Box

You have ten minutes before you leave for the party, and you haven't wrapped the gift, or written in the card. In fact, you don't even have a card to write in. What do you do? Panic? Stop on the way to buy wrapping and a card?

Why not be prepared and start a wrapping box? It's a simple thing really. I have a real Cheapskate wrapping box - just a plain, old, brown cardboard box that fits on the top shelf of the cupboard. But this box has saved me a panic over and over again.

What's in the box?
My wrapping box has sheets of wrapping paper (bought at the market 6 sheets for $1) and a variety of cards for all occasions (these are 50 cents each from the thrift shop). It also holds rolls of sticky tape, pretty stickers, and ribbons and bunches of silk and dried flowers to decorate gifts. I use plain scissors and two pairs of fancy scissors to make decorative edges around cards and gift bags. Also in the box are rubber stamps, stamp pads, texta pens, gel pens, glue sticks, liquid glue, tubes of glitter glue and bottles of glitter.

My children love the wrapping box because we save the funnies from the Sunday paper, sheets of butcher paper, coloured cards and envelopes. They love decorating the wrapping for the gifts they are giving.

All of these things have been bought at markets, $2 shops or discount stores on sale. I top the box up once a year, usually between Christmas and New Year when everything is on sale.

It's such a relief to know that you have a stock of wrapping papers, cards and ribbons on hand. Life with a wrapping box on the top shelf of the cupboard is such a joy! And no more last minute, panic buying trips, on the way to the party!

Start a wrapping box for your familythis week (it doesn't have to be glamorous, but you could let the kids deocrate it), and surprise everyone with the gorgeous gifts you present, for only a few cents worth of wrappings.

19 June 2011

Bootees and Babies

I'm knitting bootees at the moment. The family of one of Hannah's school friends has just welcomed a beautiful little girl into their family. As her big sister is 15 and there are 3 big brothers between her and her new sister, pretty baby girl things are in order.

The thing I like to knit best is bootees. Old fashioned I know, but baby bootees are so special. They are such tiny little shoes, for precious, tiny little feet. Bootees are quick to knit too, I can usually do a pair a night if I concentrate on them.

Years ago when I travelled an hour each way by train into the city for work, I could knit a pair of bootees every couple of days. Around that time there was a real baby boom - school friends having their first babies, my cousins having new babies, neighbours having new babies - I spent two years knitting nothing but bootees.

They were then and still are now my favourite "new baby" gift, a selection of bootees, presented in a pretty keepsake box. Colour of course was determined by the gender of the bub and the personality of the new parents. I had the dickens of a time trying to find red, yellow and lime green 4 ply baby wool in the 1970's for a co-worker's new baby. New babies were still meant to be in white or pastel pink or baby blue, not colours!

I've gone through the cupboard and found a ball of 4 ply baby wool I bought on clearance at Spotlight at the end of last year for 99c. It's a 100g ball so I'll get 4 pairs or bootees from it, or two pairs and a bonnet or helmet. 

I knitted dozens of bootees, mittens and helmets for the boys when they were babies and toddlers. Living in Wagga as we were then, the winters were bitterly cold, so helmets and mittens were essential items. We have photos of them playing in the backyard, in snowsuits, helmets and mittens, as happy as Larry. It didn't seem to matter how cold it was, they just wanted to be outside playing. Brrrrrrr some of those days it didn't get above 5 degrees!

Hannah, being our baby girl and a real winter baby, had plenty of bonnets, bootees and matinee jackets, all matching sets.

But I digress.

I've had the knitting for months. The sewing machine has been set up, along with the embroidery machine, waiting to be used. I have a pile of photos to put into albums, I'm just not in the mood.

So instead I've been knitting. The dishcloth basket is overflowing with lovely new dishcloths. I've knitted some and sent them overseas for gifts and given some to a couple of friends who have been a great help while Wayne has been unwell.

I've re-covered old coat hangers and covered some that need doing and used up lots of scraps of yarn in the process. I had lots of fun playing with different patterns and colour combinations. Some are striped, some are plain, others are patterned.

And now I'm onto bootees. As well as Steph's new sister, a dear friend's granddaughter is expecting her first baby, due later this month and she's sent out a call for bootees, mittens and bonnets to keep the baby warm. They live in Goulbourn, where winters are cold (oh so very cold) and wet, so lots of warm knits will make life a little easier for this new mum. I'm thrilled that a young mother wants something that's considered old fashioned and a nuisance for her baby gift, and I'm even more thrilled that she's asked me to knit them for her.

We don't know whether the baby is a precious little girl or a handsome baby boy, so I'm using lots of either-or colours - white, lemon, blue and green, and a few pairs in a pretty pink just in case. I don't know what it is about baby girls, but they do seem to need pink! I've dragged out my pattern books as I said, and yes, it's true, some of them are older than me. Mum used them to knit when she was expecting me and my brother, oh, just a few years ago!

AJ and Tom don't believe they ever had feet so small they'd fit into a newborn bootee. To look at their size 13 planks feet now you'd never believe it either. Thankfully I have photos to prove it to them!

It's time to plant your garlic

If you are planning on growing your own garlic this year and haven't already planted it, now is the time to do it! Traditionally garlic needs to be in the ground before the shortest day of the year, and that is this coming Wednesday, June 22.

To plant your garlic, gently break the heads into cloves. Plant each clove, point end up, about 7cm deep and 7cm apart. Garlic likes well drained soil, soggy soil will cause the heads to rot. Dig in a little compost before you plant to give the cloves a boost. After a couple of weeks the shoots will begin to show through. Treat your garlic to a once-a-month watering of seaweed solution and watch it grow. It is ready to pull when the leaves have died off and the heads have formed their papery outer skin. Hang the garlic to dry for two weeks, this is essential if you want to store it.

And there you have it, your very own home grown garlic, a most undemanding crop if ever there was one, that gives such a wonderful, fragrant bounty.

18 June 2011

Keeping Track of Books

How often have you lent a favourite book to someone, only to never see it again? Keeping a note of who borrowed which book and when is one way to keep track of them and hopefully get them back. Adding bookplates to the inside of your books is added security against their return. Who wants to have a book belonging to someone else on their bookshelf?

Bookplates are readily available from book shops and stationers, but they can be pricey. Instead of buying them, make your own. There are any number of free templates available, Google "free bookplate templates" and choose the design and style that suits you best. Microsoft Office and Avery Labels also have templates you can download, personalize and print. Personalize your chosen design by changing colours, fonts and font size and adding your name and phone number. Then, to save some work and a little time, print your bookplates straight onto labels and stick them straight into your books.

Here are some free templates you can use:
Martha Stewart - Homemade Bookplates

My Home Library - beautiful bookplates especially for children

How to Design Custom Bookplates

17 June 2011

Lemon Scented Furniture Polish

Back in the olden days, before Mr Sheen and O'Cedar, homemakers kept their furniture gleaming and in tip top condition with a simple homemade furniture polish. You can get the same shine with this simple furniture polish you can whip up in your kitchen.

First, take a spray bottle and wash it thoroughly in hot, soapy water. Rinse in hot water and let it air dry (make sure it is absolutely dry). Then mix together 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice and pour into the bottle. Give it a good shake to mix.

To use, take a clean cloth and spray with the polish until it is just damp. Using circular motions, polish your timber furniture.  Respray the cloth as needed (it takes three sprays to polish our TV unit). Take another clean cloth and buff to a shine, again using circular motions.

Your furniture will look lovely and your home will smell lemon fresh.

This polish will keep well if stored in a cool, dark place. Just shake the bottle well to combine the oil and lemon juice before using.

16 June 2011

Trim the wick

Lighting candles makes a room warmer, just perfect for these chilly winter nights. To keep your candles burning brightly and cleanly, you need to trim the wick after each burn. When a candle is in a votive or jar, this can be quite difficult as regular scissors just don't manoeuvre to get the job done. Instead of giving up in frustration use a pair of nail clippers to quickly and easily snip the wick. They are slim enough and long enough to fit in a jar and only need to fingers to operate.

15 June 2011

Play the Game and Watch the Savings Add Up

Approximate $ Savings: $2,500 annually
Becoming a seasoned "Cheapskate" has taught me to always be on the lookout for ways to save $$$. At first glance, many things may not seem to be worth the effort, however the results, when combined and calculated over a years time, are significant. For example, a call to the phone company saved me $5, a change in cable service -$13, called the refuse company to discuss rates -$3, closed our Safety Deposit box -$2.10, switched from disposable to reusable (dish rags, napkins, plates, etc.) -$6, eliminated most all junk food purchases -$33 and 5kgs.:), one additional week between hair appointments -$10, cancelled daily newspaper delivery $8.33, on-line bill payments -$3.33, reduced electric -$15.50,natural gas -$8.33, water-$2.50, practice ESSENTIAL spending -$86, use Cheapskates washing powder -$12.50. Combined, these small monthly changes save us (at least) $2,500 annually. Happily, we can add to that another $300, as we are now able to avoid the late penalty on our property taxes! After getting started, it's become a bit of a game, and the savings just keep coming!

Contributed by Laura Toy

14 June 2011

Cornish Squares

A family sized version of a Cornish style pasty, this slice is quick, easy and very economical. It is delicious hot or cold, although keeping it long enough to actually get cold is a challenge in our house, there are never leftovers as the lack of photo shows. I'll make another one and post a picture for you, as soon as I have the house to myself!

500g lean mince
250g sausage mince
30g butter
1 large onion, diced
2 level tbsp  plain flour
2 level tbsp curry powder
1 cup beef stock
2 tbsp tomato sauce
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup grated apple (Granny Smiths are perfect as they are tart)
100g grated tasty cheese
2 sheets shortcrust pastry*

Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees Celsius.  Melt butter and saute onion until clear. Add meat and brown. Drain. Blend flour and curry powder in stock, add tomato sauce and pour into meat mixture. Bring to boil and cook 30 minutes over a low heat.  Add grated carrot and apple. Season with salt and pepper. Grease a lamington tin. Line the base and sides of the tin with the pastry (depending on the size of the tin you may need to add a section from the second sheet).  Add filling. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. Bake at 220 degrees for 40 minutes, reduce heat and cook at 175 degrees for 10 minutes. Let sit in tin 5 minutes before cutting into squares to serve.

Cost: Approximately $7, serves 8.

*If you make your own pastry, the cost will be reduced by around $1.20. Elaine's Easy Pastry is perfect as the base of this slice.

12 June 2011

Time for plotting and planning

Winter is a quiet time in the garden, which makes it the perfect time for plotting and planning.  Use your garden journal to plan where and what you are going to plant for spring and summer.  Remember rotate where you plant to avoid depleting the soil and the spread of plant diseases.

11 June 2011

Keep Kids Content in the Car with Games

Taking off on a road trip is an Aussie long weekend ritual. Keeping the kids amused is one of the challenges of this ritual.  Here are three fun car games kids and adults can play. Playing games in the car keep the kids amused and calm and if anyone tends towards car sickness, it take their mind off the journey and eases the nausea.

Car Colours
Perfect for little kids. Everyone chooses a colour, then has to count the number of cars they see in their colour in a given time frame. When the time is up the person with the most cars wins.

Alphabet Game

Taking turns, each person has 5 kilometres to find the letters of the alphabet. Starting with A, they must find them in order.  A for instance could be on a number plate, B on a road sign, C on the side of a truck etc. When the 5 kilometres is up it's the next person's turn. The person who finds the most letters wins.

The Sightseeing Game
The first person names a letter of the alphabet. Each player must name a tourist attraction or point of interest that begins with that letter in each of these categories: city, state, country, river, mountain, park. Whoever completes the most categories wins.

10 June 2011

Check the Specials Before You Shop

After you've made your  meal plan and shopping list, check the sales flyers for the week. Ours usually arrive in the letterbox on a Wednesday and a Sunday. Compare them with your shopping list.  Look for ingredients you have on your list that are on sale, or ingredients on sale that will do the same job as some you have on your list.  If certain items you like are on sale, use your grocery slush fund to stock up and freeze the excess for future meals.

09 June 2011

Give a room a new look for free

Redecorating, new furniture and accessories may be what you want, but they all cost a lot of money, even when done on a budget. You can give a room a brand new look by simply moving the furniture.  It doesn't take long, require drop sheets or special equipment and best of all it's totally free.

08 June 2011

I'm not dreaming, it's really banana cake!

I made a banana cake this morning, after six months of being a banana-free household. It smells so good, and I know that not a crumb will be left tonight.

Banana cake is AJ's favourite cake, he usually asks my friend Sandra to make him one for his birthday and she always does. Sandra makes the best banana cake you've ever tasted, so moist and full of real banana. But I digress.

I made banana cake this morning because I found two bananas hiding in the bottom of the freezer, wrapped in clingwrap and as black as could be. I almost did a happy dance right there in the laundry. With bananas being so expensive (the cheapest I've seen them locally is $10.99/kg) they have been a rare treat and most definitely have not lasted long enough to even make it to the fruit bowl, let alone go soft for cake!

Now you know why I made a banana cake, and why I was so excited by. It smelt so good while it was baking, it was hard not to cut it as soon as it came out of the oven.

It's a silly thing, really, being so happy to have a simple banana cake, especially when we don't go hungry and have the luxury of eating only foods we love.  We are blessed with more than enough to meet our needs and share and I am so grateful for that.

I just know that we will all really appreciate the sheer luxury of banana cake for dessert tonight.

Banana Cake

60g butter
1 cup sugar
2 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup apple sauce
2 tablespoons milk
1 egg
11/2 cups S.R. flour

Cream butter and sugar, add beaten egg, apple sauce and mashed bananas. Add flour and milk last. Put in greased loaf tin and bake 35-40 minutes in moderate oven. When cold ice with lemon icing (if it lasts that long).

Your Home Movie

It is recommended that you have a detailed inventory of your home contents to help with insurance claims (and police reports if needs be). Of course you can do this the old fashioned way with pen and paper or you can move into the 21st century and turn it into a movie. Just use your video camera to record your furniture, collections, jewellery and anything else you would claim on your insurance or miss if it was lost or stolen. Don't have a video camera? No problem, most phones these days have video function so shoot and download to a DVD or a flash drive.  And if putting everything on film sounds too hard just grab your camera and take photos. They'll help you remember possessions and smooth the claim process.

07 June 2011

Mexican Chicken Impossible Pie

This pie is a quick and easy weeknight meal made with leftover cooked chicken and pantry ingredients, just perfect for zero waste in the kitchen.  Because it's based on the famous Impossible Pie, you don't need to worry about pastry, it bakes it's own crust.

2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1 tomato, seeded and diced
1/2 green capsicum, seeded and diced
1/2 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons taco seasoning*
1 cup SR flour
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese


Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.  Mix chicken, onion, and taco seasoning. Put into a large, greased quiche or pie plate.  Mix milk, eggs and flour and pour into pan. Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes until top is golden and custard is set.

*Note:  You can make your own taco seasoning rather than open a packet. You'll find the ingredients and quantities here, store it in a glass jar so it stays fresh.

06 June 2011

Exit Stains

There are some things I will always make myself, and there are some things I'll only make myself when I can't buy the original product.

One of those things is Exit soap. Never heard of it? I'm not surprised. This funny little bar of soap is probably familiar to my Queensland readers, but everyone else  will be scratching their heads. Exit soap is what I used before I started making my own stain removing soap.  I started making my own because I couldn't always get Exit Soap (and my own is cheaper!)

My great-aunty used to bring me a supply when she'd come to visit, but she passed away a couple of years ago and I've been without the real deal ever since.

Until Sunday. I was in Target with Hannah and as we were on our way out, having picked up nothing, I noticed a little blue box of yellow bars of..... Exit Soap! Woo Hoo! I pounced on that box so quickly I startled a man walking towards me and embarrassed  Hannah (that's OK, that's my job).  To say I was excited is an understatement. I didn't even moan when I saw the length of the queue.

Exit soap is a brilliant stain remover.  On the label it says it "removes grease, biro, lipstick, boot polish, blood, red wine".  I love it because it removes graphite. I have a husband who uses graphite powder every day and I can tell you that it stains. Permanently. Unless you give the marks a rub with Exit soap (or my homemade stain removing soap).  You have no idea the number of uniform shirts that little yellow bar has saved from the rag bag in the 22 years we've been married.

I've used it to clean upholstery and even a berber carpet that had an unfortunate collision with a plate of spaghetti bolognaise with great success.  I even used it to clean liquid paper off a brand new, black shirt of mine. It's amazing stuff.

So, if you need a stain removing soap that really works, and you don't want to make your own, I recommend Exit Soap. And now you can get it in Target, you don't need to wait for your great-aunty from Brisbane to visit or take a trip to Queensland.

Of course if you don't want to buy a stain removing soap, you can always make your own. It's easy, cheap and very effective. You'll get the recipe and instructions here

05 June 2011

Feed the Birds

At this time of year birds can really do with a bit of extra sustenance. This bird seed cake is easy to make and can be frozen in small blocks and brought out as required.

Melt a packet (about 250g) of dripping or lard in a pan. Remove from the heat and pour in 1/2 cup each of rolled oats, bran and wild bird seed mix (available with the pet food at the supermarket). Stir and let cool slightly before pouring into plastic moulds, such as recycled yoghurt or sour cream containers or the small round takeaway containers. Let cool on the bench then set in the fridge until hard. Pop the seed cake out of the mould and place in an onion bag (or similar).

Hang in a nearby tree and watch the birds feast.  You can buy dripping from the supermarket or you can do what Grandma did and drain the fat from the frying pan, baking dish and grill tray into a container and let it set.

Grandma had a dripping dish, I'm guessing that's not something that's in many kitchens these days so use a clean, empty 800g fruit tin to store your dripping. Keep it in the fridge until you have enough to make your seed cake.

04 June 2011

An Apron for Grandma

I love aprons, come from a long line of apron wearing women, so this gift personalized for just for me would really make me smile. Make your own apron from calico or cotton, there are hundreds of patterns available online if you need one.

An Apron for Grandma (or Grandpa, Aunty, Mum, Dad....)
Here's a great idea for cheap but great gifts for grandma. All you need is a cheap calico/cotton apron (pick them up in a dollar shop or Spotlight) and some fabric paints. Pour the fabric paint out onto a paper plate. Draw three stems along the bottom of the apron and get the kids to dip their hands into the paint and make hand prints at the top of the stems. They'll need to make 3 or 4 prints, moving their hands around each time to make a flower effect. Leave the paint to dry and 24 hours later iron on the reverse side to make the paint stay. For best results don't wash for at least a week. Voila! An original and special gift for any one who likes to cook. Another idea is to put loads of random footprints all over the apron and scrawl something like 'my grandkids walk all over me' across the front.

Contributed by Trudy

03 June 2011

A Mixed Up Kind of Day

 I like Friday. It's my puttering day. I putter around the house and garden, tidying up,  doing little cleaning jobs and getting the house ready for the weekend. I often do extra baking and cooking so I don't have to do any over the weekend, after all I like some time off too.

Today was no different. I tidied up the kitchen after breakfast and folded some washing. Put another load on. Had a walk around the garden and checked up on my seedlings, they're doing well, even after this week's frosts. Swept and mopped the kitchen floor and tidied the lounge. 

And at 11 o'clock I put the kettle on for a hot chocolate and realised the jar was empty. If I wanted a hot chocolate for morning tea I would have to make some more mix up, which is what I did. While I was fishing around for the cocoa and milk powder I realised I had enough Weetbix crumbs to make some more shake'n'bake. While I was getting the ingredients for the shake'n'bake out the KFC coating container felt a bit light on so I thought I'd make some more up seeing I was making mixes.

Now all the containers are full of fresh mixes and I did enjoy my hot chocolate. Tom came in just as the kettle boiled so he had one with me and we chatted about the week and the coming weekend. He's really enjoying his studies and we are so proud of the smart, independent young man he has become. He's forming opinions and planning his future and that old saying about watching what you say in front of your kids is true, they do parrot it back to you. He was talking about buying a house and how he'd furnish it. I suggested he might like some of the more modern furnishings only to be told in no uncertain terms that he wasn't wasting his money on cheap modern stuff - he wants what we have. He knows how much it's worth and how to buy it at auction or garage sales, what to look for and how much to pay. Yes, my constantly talking about buying quality second-hand being good value has come back to bite me, but in the nicest possible way.

After our chat I put a load of washing on and realised it was time to make more washing powder. This time I made a double batch and filled the container up. That will see us through winter and spring.

And then I sat down and checked the forum. The excitement about Miracle Spray finally had me itching to make some so now there's a big bottle sitting on the sink, all ready to use for cleaning. I tend to use the Super Six and microfibre cloths for cleaning.  I'm not a huge fan of commercial cleaners but the rave reviews about Miracle Spray have me curious so I am going to test it out - on the boys' shower and the kitchen floor. If it can get those two clean I will be forever a fan. I don't know how the boys manage to get their shower into such a mess, it's cleaned thoroughly every Tuesday, but it's always a scrubbing job.

And of course the kitchen floor just gets grimy from everyday cooking, eating and living. Oh, and from my "experiments", they tend to be messy, but it's all in the name of research.

Ok, I have time to do the shower and the floor before I zip out to pick up Hannah so I'm off to try out the Miracle Spray!

Uses for Old Stockings

Old stockings are great for all sorts of things. In the garden for tying up plants, the stocking is pliable and will not damage the plants. I make my own liquid fertilizer from garden waste and the stockings are great for sifting the fertilizer when it is ready to use. Cleaning - wad up the stocking and it makes a wonderful scrubbing non-scratch cleaning cloth. Left-over soap - cut the toe off the stocking and put in all the little left over pieces of soap, tie the end and it makes use of all those little pieces of soap no-one wants to use. It can be applied directly to skin and makes an excellent exfoliant. Can be used in ways in which you would normally use a cake of soap. I am sure other readers of this wonderful newsletter have more uses. If you don't wear stockings any more, they are readily available at op shops for about 50 cents a bag.

Contributed by Hazel, Banksia Beach

02 June 2011

Re-usable Veggie Bags

On a Thursday I take Mum to do her errands, the shopping, bill paying, doctor's visits etc that she has and today was no different, except that it's Zero Waste Month.  I was busy telling her all about my latest challenge to Cheapskaters, explaining how much food is waste each year and how that means that money is just thrown in the bin.

Millions of Australians are working long and hard to earn that money and then it is just dumped, put into landfill to decompose and turn into greenhouse gases, adding to the pollution problems our world faces. Don't misunderstand me, I'm as fond of good food as anyone, I'm not fond of wasting money Wayne and I work hard to earn by dumping perfectly good food in the bin. And I'm certain there's not a Cheapskate on earth who would be happy with that, hence my challenge for June - zero waste.

Mum wastes very little, if anything.  Her magic touch can turn a spoonful of mashed potato, half an onion and a slice of corned beef into enough fritters to feed a family. I don't think I've ever seen my mother put food in the bin so at first this challenge seemed a little ho hum to her, not much of a challenge.

As we were walking around the supermarket and I kept telling her how exciting it would be if every Cheapskates Club member had an empty garbage bin next week, and how much money that would save them, she decided to join us!  I'm thrilled to bits because I know she'll go bowling and swimming and to the club and talk about Zero Waste Month to all her friends and who knows, it could grow like Topsy!

Today was another lovely day, sunny and warm so we ditched the supermarket and headed off to a local orchard to do the fruit and veg shopping. Mum's been buying from this orchard for years, since I was a little girl so she was pleased to be able to visit them again.

They were doing a roaring trade, mind you with beautiful pink lady apples for just 99c/kg I'd have been surprised if they weren't.  I bought 10kg and wondered if I shouldn't buy more because I know they'll disappear in double quick time.

Back in 2007 (I think, it was before Debt Free, Cashed Up and Laughing was released) I made both of us some re-usable veggie bags. I figured we were using re-usable grocery bags and they were doing a great job so having veggie bags was just an extension of that. My veggie bags live in the boot with the grocery bags, Mum's are always in her shopping bag.

As we were shopping it never occurred to us that they were odd, we've used them for so long. Then a young mum with a very cute baby in the trolley seat (yes, this orchard has trolleys) touched my shoulder and apologetically asked me where I found the bags and how much did they cost?

I quickly explained to her that we brought them with us, they weren't a new type of bag the orchard was offering.  She was curious about how much they added to the cost of the produce we were buying. They are really light, about 30g each, so they do add a little to the cost of the produce, about 5 cents or so and that's a cost that I am happy to pay to add any more plastic bags to landfill.

I gave her a two minute "how to" so she could go home and make them, reminding her to use materials she already had, which is when she said she'd have to buy some tulle. No! I suggested she zip across the road to the local op shop and pick up a $2 curtain.  Once it was washed and dried it will be perfect for veggie bags, I've used old curtain to make some of ours and they are brilliant.

And all this time her cute baby was just sitting in the trolley looking at us as we chatted. She was a beautiful little girl and so happy and curious about we grown-ups.

To cut a long story short, well maybe,  that experience had me thing that perhaps it was time, especially as this is Zero Waste Month, to revisit homemade veggie bags.

Most of us have accepted re-usable grocery bags. I'm sure there's very few households in Australia today that don't have at least one "green" bag stashed somewhere. We have dozens of them. I keep the ones for grocery shopping in the boot. Then there are the ones in the laundry cupboard for taking on picnics, carrying library books, taking things to the op shop etc.  We don't even think about them anymore, it's become habit to use them.

And so it has for me with the veggie bags.  This year I'm not shopping too often at the greengrocers or market but they are there for when I do buy potatoes or onions or really nice, cheap apples.   Every plastic bag I don't take is a plastic bag that's not going to end up at the tip. Even re-using plastic bags for lunches or rubbish or to store other things, they will eventually end up in landfill.

I made my first bags out of  white tulle that was leftover from a birthday party. They were my trial run and I'm still using them. The next lot I made out of an old net curtain and they are perfect for soft fruits and vegetables, the tulle can be a little rough.

They're just a simple bag, I measured off a fruit shop bag, with a casing at the top. I ran ribbon through the casing so I can close the bags, sometimes I do, sometimes I don't but the option is there. They cost me nothing but an hour or so at the sewing machine. I recycled materials I already had.  If you don't have netting or ribbon in the house, I suggest you pay a visit to your local op shop, just as I told Diana to. You'll pick up a net curtain for a couple of dollars, they may even have ribbon or twine you can use in the casing.

Here's how to make a veggie bag:

You will need:
Sheer, light weight fabric measuring 70cm x 50cm – use light tulle, lightweight curtains, nylon etc
1.5 metres of ribbon or strong twine

· Cut the tulle/curtain/netting into a rectangle measuring approximately 70cm x 50cm
· Fold in half widthways – your rectangle should measure 35cm x 50cm
· Measure down 2.5cm from top edge on both sides and mark with a pin
· Stitch down first side, starting at pin, and along the bottom to the fold.
· Turn bag inside out.
· Starting at the pin, stitch around the bag again, this time along the seam. This will strengthen the seams and make the bag a little stronger.
· Make the casing for the ribbon by turning the top edge down 2.5cm and stitching in place.
· This makes a casing on the top of the bag.
· Thread the ribbon through the casing, leaving a length at each end. Knot the ends together. To close the bag, pull up the ribbon and tie a slip knot.

This makes a bag a little larger than a large plastic veggie bag, perfect for family sized quantities of fruit and vegetables.

You can download the Tip Sheet from the Printables page in the Member's Centre.

Zero Waste in the Kitchen - Homemade Pies

These tasty little pies ensure zero waste in the kitchen, especially if you use stale bread as the pie crust. They are just perfect for using up the odd spoonful of leftover sauce, gravy, vegetables and meat.

Homemade Pies
I have a pie maker and when I want a cheap meal I make pies. If I don't have pastry sheets in the freezer I use large slices of bread (less fat). Two tablespoons of any filling is all that is needed per pie. Leftover mince, creamed corn, leftover chicken in a bit of instant gravy, leftovers from a previous dinner, baked beans etc are all suitable fillings. The pie maker will also make quiches and potato topped pies and it makes quite a filling meal. A jaffle maker is also a good option. Pies and jaffles can cost less than $2 per meal.    

Contributed by Bev, Carlingford

01 June 2011

Zero Waste

It's such a nice day today. The sun is shining and looking out the window you'd think it was spring. Take a step outside and you'll know it's June, it is absolutely freezing.

It's such a bright, sunny day I ventured out early this morning and put the washing on the line, rather than over the clotheshorse. I may as well take advantage of the "solar" clothes dryer while it's there. I know that the heavy things will still be damp when I bring them in, but that's ok. I love the smell of washing that's been outside drying in the sun, even if I have to finish it off in front of the fire.

Speaking of which, we can't use ours at the moment and boy do I miss it. We have had the ducted heating on in the evenings and it's just not the same as the fire.  The top of the chimney/flu has come off, we think by one of those absolutely huge magpies that have been bombarding our roof for weeks. Wayne will get up at the weekend and have a look and make the necessary repairs and it will be back in action.

It's the first of the month and as I was uploading the Journal last night I was thinking about the challenge I've set for Cheapskaters this month. Zero waste. Is it possible to go a whole month and have zero waste? I wonder. I think it is, you just need to think ahead and be conscious of your goal all the time.

I think it will be easy to have zero waste in the kitchen. We already compost (we have a bokashi bucket), anything that can't be composted is either re-used or re-cycled. Yes, I'm one of those freaks who re-use foil time and time again and store everything in Tupperware or similar containers. I wash and re-use ziplock bags, glass jars, bottles, paper bags and pill bottles (we have a few of those since Wayne's been unwell).

Leftovers are either planned or eaten.  I can put a plated up dinner in the fridge for another meal and it will disappear overnight.  We have fridge fairies that visit our fridge during the deep, dark hours of the night.  I'm sure we're not the only family they visit, I just wish they'd call ahead first so I can plan to lose the dinner I'd planned on having the next day.

I was reading Amanda's comments on the Zero Waste Challenge thread in the forum and it brought back so many memories, especially the watching water usage.  I remember bucketing the bath and shower water into the washing machine too. Thankfully the bathroom was off the laundry, so not to far to carry the water. And re-using courtesy of the suds save option on the washing machine over and over again.

I'd do the whites first, then the light coloureds, coloureds, dark clothes and then the dirty farm clothes. Sometimes I'd have to top up the water, but not often. When the washing was finished it was carried out to the trees and garden.

Wayne would mark the tank every day so we could show the kids how much water we used. It was a competition to see how much water we didn't use each day. Now that really was zero waste.

I challenge you to join us. This week we're focussing on zero kitchen waste and you can join us here.

Save space and stay organized

If you have a very small wardrobe and limited drawer space, store clothes that are not in season in order to save your wardrobe space for needed items. I use large black garbage bags to line cardboard boxes I've picked up from supermarkets over the years to store out of season clothes.  I line the garbage bags with tissue paper to protect my good clothes while they are in storage. Tuck some lavender sachets or cedar balls into each box to keep everything smelling fresh and ward off pests, then stack them on the top shelf of your wardrobe or in the attic as I do. If you store them in the attic, be sure to label the boxes so you know exactly what they contain, it makes it so much easier to find what you need the next season.